Some films change your life; they say deep and abiding things about human nature, and make you think long and hard about the world. Trollhunter is not one of those films. The mock-documentary about three student filmmakers who stumble upon a Norwegian government secret while trying to make a film about bear poachers is at its heart deeply silly. Trollhunter succeeds though because it plays its premise completely straight. The temptation in a film about a man who hunts trolls for a living would be to camp it up with a knowing wink at the audience, but to the credit of director André Øvredal and star Otto Jepersen everything is laid before you simply and solemnly; the humor is found in the context, or in the words of Øvredal, “[it adds] to the absurdity of everything to insist so intensely that it’s real.” (Chris Eggertsen Bloody Disgusting, 5/6/11) Continue reading →
The pitch meeting for Chicken Run must have been rather out of the ordinary, but by the time the directors, Nick Park and Peter Lord of the Bristol based Aardman Animations Studio, sat down to lunch with DreamWorks founder Steven Spielberg in 1997, they had six Oscar nominations between them, resulting in three Best Animated Short Oscars for Wallace and Gromit director Nick Park. That kind of hardware comes with a certain amount of leverage, plus they were lucky – Spielberg owned chickens. “We hit it off really well. Our first meeting with Spielberg was in a restaurant eating chicken, talking about chickens,” Nick Park recalled when the film was released three years later in June of 2000. (Paul Fischer Dark Horizons, 6/23/00) Continue reading →
Sometimes a film can subvert expectations that you didn’t even know you had going in. The first time I saw Exit Through the Gift Shop I thought that I was a pretty blank slate. All I knew was that it was a documentary about Banksy, and quite frankly at that point I wasn’t all that sure of who Banksy was, but from the first few seconds of the opening credits all expectations were upended. Here was a documentary, ostensibly about graffiti, opening with the smooth lounge-inflected voice of Richard Hawley, whose song “Tonight the Streets are Ours” so perfectly complimented the ebullient footage of street artists at their nocturnal rituals that you never question how radical the selection is. Banksy’s work is about the unexpected; the serendipity of turning a corner to find something beautiful, or challenging, or funny in the mundane mix of city-walls and pavements. Exit Through the Gift Shop is no different, but what Banksy found was Thierry Guetta. Continue reading →
Your Sister’s Sister is a gentle romantic comedy, an exploration of grief, and a loving tribute to siblings. Jack, played with genial melancholy by Mark Duplass, is not doing well in the year following his brother Tom’s death, after hitting rock bottom his best friend and Tom’s sometime girlfriend Iris (Emily Blunt, warm and sardonic) prescribes a solitary retreat at her family’s cabin on Puget Sound, there he meets Iris’ half-sister Hannah (a charismatic, prickly Rosemarie DeWitt) licking her wounds after being left by her girlfriend of seven years. The plot that follows wouldn’t be out of place in a modern screwball comedy, but instead of spiraling out of control it is reeled back in with restraint and naturalism.
When I was 11 I caught a tantalizing glimpse of Audrey Hepburn in a pink nightie, a dish towel tied incongruously round her waist, bandaging the arm of a “tall, blue-eyed, slim, quite good-looking” man in evening clothes. By the time she applied iodine to her wincing patient with “Don’t be such a baby, it’s only flesh wound,” and he drawled back “Happens to be my flesh,” I was in love with all three of them: Audrey, the tall blue-eyed Peter O’Toole, and the film. Sadly my delight was rather abruptly cut short when the whole thing turned into a Ronald Reagan speech at the White House. The copy of How To Steal a Million my mother, my great aunt (whose son was a presidential speechwriter in the 80s) and I were watching had been poorly taped off of television (the scene we watched is twenty minutes into the film) and then equally poorly taped over. Still my appetite was whetted, I was going to hunt down this film even if I had to go to all the video stores in Berkshire County. Continue reading →