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Born: January 22, 1993.
Hobbies: Avid reader, watching movies and TV, surfing the net.
Favorite movie genres (listed in IMDB): Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Fantasy, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Action.
Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)
The "conceptual mother" of every character in animation after it. This is how I define this extravagant creation of Winsor McCay, another great animator from the beginnings of cinema.
Originally used as a vaudeville act, the short in fact, is quite enjoyable that way, with a Winsor acting as a circus tamer and giving orders to his creature to do tricks (all with on-screen cards). The funny thing is, obviously, that it is not a lion or a bear, or anything like that, but instead the titular female sauropod, which as indicated by the tag-lines "(she) lived millions of years before man inhabited this earth". In other words, an already extinct animal, now alive thanks to the hands of McCay. Gertie is probably the first animated character with a distinctive personality: childish, playful, a kind of a "rebel". And she immediately gains the sympathy of the audience. Several animated characters that would come after would adapt many of these characteristics; in this case, as it is the first example in this area, it gives the short film a fitting sense of innocence.
What follows is a routine of tricks, with great moments such as the interactions with the mammoth (poor "Jumbo"!), or the exaggerated but funny "drink" Gertie enjoys. At the visual level, there is a fluid mobility of both Gertie and the other creatures that appear, even those with a few seconds on-screen, but other details like the the earth and rocks that tremble as the giant animal walks through are well put and carefully added.
The prologue and epilogue with McCay and other animators like George McManus is also entertaining, but said prologue can feel a little stretched before the main act.
A true animated classic, as awesome and still amusing after all these years.
The Haunted Hotel (1907)
Well, I have to say that among so many silent supernatural horror short films I've seen recently, this is another outstanding addition I recommend, and not exactly for its originality (remember that Méliès had already experimented with the genre before, and even the director J. Stuart Blackton here also aimed to impress rather than cause fear), but for its strong way to show incredible special effects and develop a fast-paced, yet thoroughly engaging story.
A traveler arriving to a haunted hotel and staying while finding himself haunted by spirits in his room. He tries to avoid these "visions" and stay calm, probably thinking everything is in his head, possibly due to the long way he may have come. But he then learns things may not be what they seem, until concluding in a somewhat dark note (I can easily imagine people back then being freaked out by that ending, and I even dare to say that a couple of moments and characters are still creepy nowadays).
The atmosphere and ambient of the house and the room are well delivered. While on the other hand, the make-up for the main character was very good but a little distracting: I didn't get why he had a big pointy nose, unless they wanted him to be as creepy-looking as the ghosts and monsters in the house.
Great production values and visual style, with a fantastic use of stop motion (pay attention to the breakfast scene, and that subsequent scary miniature figure) and trick photography effects (the freaky dancing ghosts scene), and atmospheres makes for another great experience by J. Stuart Blackton that makes me appreciate the silent era of film a little bit more.
Le manoir du diable (1896)
Méliès, the Devil.
Georges Méliès was more like an experimenter, who took advantage of the invention of the first film cameras to create innovative techniques in this art. This is what, as we see, he had more in common with other filmmaking pioneers of that time, such as Lumiere brothers, only the difference is that the latter were "scientists" experimenting with their new creation, while Méliès, who was also a professional magician, aimed to impress the audience with their tricks, something that in this case, he greatly does.
This short, while it has a simple set-up (but there was a clear intention to tell a story after all, something that was not very common in other "films" at that time), is quite interesting and reasonably entertaining, and it allows the showcasing of very good special effects.
It has a few comic relief characters, such as the cowardly cavalier, whose final scene has a bit of dark humor, or the villain's assistant (a possible precedent of Igor from Frankenstein?), which work all right.
Perhaps some will find it confusing due to the pace being too fast but the results are worthy.
Even though he would end up doing more notable works, in this one, you can already perceive Méliès' talent to entertain and amaze, something that many directors today do, or at least try. And the fact that it is said that he played a cunning mastermind (the Devil itself), brings a bit of irony to the table.
Drawings Full of Life
And here I am. Still reviewing some key examples of early animation on celluloid. Today, I decided to focus on another more recognized work from film genius James Stuart Blackton, the renowned Father of Animation, which I find much more elaborated, but equally effective, than his previous work on animation: the remarkable "The Enchanted Drawing".
"Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" not only is as captivating as the aforementioned film, but it also nearly surpasses it, especially considering the creativity that Blackton put in the drawings, in which new techniques already used still shine in this one, such as cut-out and stop-motion, this time used in a more natural and fluid way, helping to bring a new level of realism to their creations.
As if that were not enough, this time we do not see Blackton in person, but only his hands, giving the drawings the absolute protagonism.
The effort and dedication that was put to make this short is indeed admirable, besides being a meaningful contribution to the development of animation in film, in a time when it was developed slowly, until it became what we know today.
The Enchanted Drawing (1900)
The Father of Animation
While one may think it is difficult to review a short that lasts only two minutes, no matter how much of a cinephile you are, the fact that you may witness the beginnings of animation in this art, is a reason enough to be "passionate" about the challenge.
The short uses precise (though somewhat obvious) camera cuts to give the illusion of drawings being taken off and returned to the canvas by the artist. This could be considered as an early use of special effects that combine two-dimensional drawings with real people and objects, a clear precedent of what we would later see in films like Roger Rabbit and Space Jam. In its time I'm sure it must have surprised audiences. It is not a minor detail, therefore, that one of the people responsible for this little gem is James Stuart Blackton, a major producer and director of that time, who is also considered as "The Father of Animation", and plays the drawer. I highlight his name, since he was a pioneer that worked with revolutionary techniques, and gave birth to one of the most important and popular genres of cinema (despite this work not being completely animated, like his "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" from 1907, considered the first film almost entirely drawn that was shown in cinemas).
With a sense of humor present throughout the very brief footage, and a good use of special methods, one can't help but feel enchanted (no pun intended) to this little, but remarkable gem.
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920)
A simple plot, but with a great execution, a gem every cinephile must discover, "The Cabinet...¨ is among the best of the best, even for its time.
One can easily perceive why it became a classic: not only for the superb visual style, with those surreal, curved decorates that give the feeling of being trapped in a nightmare, but also for its dark, engaging and suspenseful plot (highlight scenes are the kidnapping of one of the main characters, and the last 20 minutes). A psychological thriller, which even has its moments of horror, as it's normally considered to be the first of that genre, at least in full-length format, if we compare it with, for example, short films such as "Frankenstein" from 1910. The uses of colors, framing, lighting, makeup, shadows, are all perfectly executed in order to give life to a nightmarish atmosphere.
It is also important to note that it has the honor to be the film that founded the German Expressionist Movement, which would give us other treasures such as Nosferatu, The Hands Of Orlac, and Metropolis.
Superb are also the performances, especially Conrad Veidt as Cesare and Werner Krauss as his master the doctor, who are already very creepy not only by their physical appearance, but also because they imbue an aura of mystery.
And last but not least, the final plot twist (being also the pioneer film in using this device) encourages debate, and (why not?) further viewings. This twist, if it was not enough, was used in some later and recent modern films, with more or less variations, but I have no doubt that in its time it shocked audiences.
A truly amazing experience. And it is already among my favorite silent films.
Inside the Guitar Case
A young hitchhiker carrying a guitar case (which he jealously guards) and a bedroll, heading to a beach in the coast, is accompanied in his journey by a beautiful and free spirited female traveler he meets on the road. A love story in the Hippie Era.
Interesting work from one of the most famous directors of this time (whether you like it or not). A very simple plot, followed by the constant camera of Spielberg, and a careful (though not totally) direction makes it for something that should be watched at least once.
The film has its visual merits: the cinematography is quite good and the viewer gets to see some great shots of the desert landscape the protagonists travel through. Some other takes, framings and the use of close-ups are neat, while some others need a few improvements. There's some effective use of tracking shots. The editing is also well managed. The weird part is the use of a couple of jump cuts and freeze frames that give a feeling of being watching some 60's hippie sitcom credits (sorry, I'm not a big fan of these techniques in films). The soundtrack by Michael Lloyd goes well with the scenes.
For a movie without dialogue, where expressions are important, both Richard Levin and Pamela McMyler put a great effort in their respective acting, where they "say" a lot without speaking a single word. Their roles are not so memorable or special, but they give their best without disappointing.
Symbolism is also present. And it is important to understand some of the context in which this was filmed: the late 60's, where hippie movement and free love were often found here and there. The personality of the girl (who represents the free spirit and slovenliness of hippies) has an impact on the boy (who represents something more reserved and quiet), who during his journey to the beach (who could be also seen as a personal journey to an ideal of the society he lives in), he "learns" from her, but at the same time she appears to project some thoughts and ideals of him. This is the strongest point of Amblin': their interaction and how it affects to each other.
It's not a perfect film (it gets very amateurish at some points), but it has some interesting messages and great production values. Recommended for those who want to discover the beginnings of one of the most prolific directors in Hollywood.
Gulliver's Travels (2010)
Colossus of Manhattan
I watched it knowing what to expect: an absurd comedy for the whole family, starring Jack Black (who by the way, doesn't bother me, although I'd say I'm not a big fan of his either), and based very slightly in the ultra-famous satirical book by Jonathan Swift. Even with all that, I dared to take a look, waiting to find something entertaining and with a certain charm, but ... are at least those goals achieved? Let's say "so- so".
It's not a completely bad and unwatchable film, but I would be unfair to myself if I say it's completely good.
There are some jokes that work, especially those related to popular culture (Glee, Kiss, Prince, Calvin Klein, and Guns N' Roses) and the most successful movies in history (Star Wars, Avatar, Titanic, X-Men: Wolverine), but they are few, and the rest of the humor consists in not so memorable and overused jokes: Slapsticks, exaggerated gestures (mostly courtesy of Black), silly dances, etc.
The pace is uneven: during the second half it seems so endless, repetitive and monotonous. It's a 85-minute flick, but sometimes 5 minutes felt like one hour; and then, in the last 20 minutes, everything happens so quickly, until concluding in a very accelerated ending, like if the fast-forward button on the DVD was automatically pressed and before you realise it, the movie is over and the end credits roll on screen.
The acting isn't good either: Jack Black plays himself... again, Amanda Peet has got not so much to do, Jason Segel embarrasses himself, Emily Blunt is wasted. Only Chris O'Dowd seems to enjoy his character, easily the best thing about this.
The special effects aren't anything special, and sometimes they're even mediocre (the use of green screen looks fake, specially in the scene where the enemy army attacks Lilliput).
Maybe some kids will like it, or at least will have a good time, but also, it is possible they'll rapidly forget about it afterwards. While on the other hand, moms and dads, may get easily bored.
Christopher Nolan is one of the most popular filmmakers these days, and his works always arouse passions in people who admire him, including me.
This highly anticipated movie delivers a story that kept me interested, combined with a great visual treatment, a very good script and spendlid performances.
I can understand if people find it slow or too extensive in its runtime (being nearly three hours long, it's obvious a lot of people would be afraid of it), but personally, I never felt bored, even though the 170 minutes were sometimes noticeable, but overall the rhythm and pace of the scenes was very fluid, thanks to the editing by Lee Smith.
Now, as for the cast: what else can I say with a movie with this cast? A notable and symphatetic John Lithgow, an incredible, sweet and sincere Anne Hathaway, a believable Michael Caine that has some great moments... everyone contributes to carry this story with professionalism and looseness. Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, and Casey Affleck do decent jobs, even though their characters aren't so developed, but fit the story with naturality. There's even a couple of surprises in the cast I wouldn't want to spoil here, since is better to discover by yourself if you decided to watch it, but you probably know by now. But the real outstanding roles are the central ones: Matthew McConaughey, who does by far the best job in the movie, he transmits you everything he feels from the beginning to end. Then Mackenzie Foy, who gains your symphaty since you first see her, and then breaks your heart in a couple of scenes. She even has a good chemistry with Matthew, making his father-daughter bond fell very natural. And finally, a remarkable Jessica Chastain you want to join through her personal journey.
The dialogue uses too much complex terminology and theory, but in fact, the script successfully simplifies much of it for the (at least) attentive viewer. So, popcorn-flick lovers, stay away of this!
The cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema, the production design, and the special effects are all outstanding. Visually, it is amazing as hell!
The musical score by Hans Zimmer is so intimist, dramatic, haunting, and epic. It expresses both the vastness and coldness of the space as well as the emotional story.
There's also some good homages to "2001: A Space Oddisey", "Solaris" and "Apollo 13".
And then, there's the twist... Yes, near the end, there's a twist that feels a bit out of place and carries the movie to another direction, thought it ultimately serves a purpose in the plot and it isn't exactly bad and doesn't affect what has been building up to that point.
But overall, "Interestellar" provides an incredible experience to everyone who wants something different, challenging and emotional, as well as fans of Nolan in general.