Who Framed Roger Rabbit (dir. by Robert Zemeckis)


WhoFramedRogerRabbitPosterI can’t quite remember how I found out about 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Growing up, most of my movie news came from four major sources – Entertainment Tonight, Siskel & Ebert, the occasional movie poster you’d see at a bus stop or cinema. If you were really lucky, the production company would sometimes create a “Behind the Scenes”/”Making of” showcase a little after the movie premiered. If possible, I would read the billing block of a poster to see if I could recognize anyone familiar, Just seeing Amblin Entertainment meant you’d have Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall involved. Nothing new there. I knew Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri from Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future. Movies have had mixes of animation and live action – Bedrooms & Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, etc., but the big buzz here was the film planned to somehow involve both the Disney and Warner Bros. animation studios. It was an alien concept for me, because they couldn’t be more different from each other. Historically, animation on the WB side of things were edgy and almost dared to be even raunchy if they could get away with it. Disney, on the other hand, was pristine and extremely  kid friendly. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse? Daffy Duck vs. Donald Duck, all on the same screen? It was the 1980’s equivalent of asking Marvel (which ironically, is owned by Disney now) and DC (which the WB has owned for decades) to write a single Justice League / Avengers crossover story.

At the time, Steven Spielberg was already well known for blockbusters like the Indiana Jones films and E.T., but did he really have enough clout to bring two major companies together like that? It blew my 13 year old mind and I became completely obsessed.

Around the time Who Framed Roger Rabbit came out, I picked up anything I could find about it. I had Alan Silvestri’s soundtrack, a poster, a stuffed Roger doll, and the video game when it came out. I even read Gary Wolf’s novel. I begged my parents to let me see it, and it was one of the rare times where my Mom took my sis and I to the movies instead of my dad (the major movie buff, who took us to see Robocop twice the year before). I think she went in part to shut me up, and to give herself a break from my nearly 2 year old brother. It remains one of the two best movie related memories I have of her.

In the world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, humans and cartoons share the same space in Los Angeles. Cartoons live in Toontown, owned by Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye). It’s the story of Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins – Hook, Mermaids), a Los Angeles Private Eye with a bit of a grudge against toons. For a quick buck, Valiant is hired by R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern – Firefox, Little Shop of Horrors) to snoop on Acme. Valiant’s work puts him in the path of Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer, Back to the Future Part II), after Eddie takes some racy pictures of Acme playing patty cake with Roger’s wife, Jessica (Kathleen Turner, Romancing the Stone). Roger angrily swears they’re still a happy couple and that Acme somehow coerced her before running off into the night. The next morning, Eddie is informed that the Marvin Acme’s been killed overnight. To make things worse, Acme’s Will is missing, leaving the fate of Toontown up in the air. All of the evidence points to Roger, but Roger asks for Eddie’s assistance in clearing his name. Can Eddie save Roger before Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future) and his pack of weasels get their hands on him?

The production for the film required jumping over a number of hurdles. Zemeckis, himself a cartoon fan, wanted to bring some of the Warner Bros. characters along with Disney characters. Even better, he also wanted to add some of Tex Avery’s classic style to the film. Similar to what he did with Ready Player One, Spielberg negotiated with some of the studios, and while he couldn’t get everyone, he did manage to get Disney, WB and a few others to commit. With this in place, they had to somehow merge animation with live-action in a way that made it look like the cartoons were interacting with their environment.

This would require one really huge magic trick, made up from an assortment of parts.

Since it was around 1986-1987, there really was no CG, yet.. James Cameron made 6 stuntmen in Alien suits look like 600 through the use of Oscar Winning Editing, and the technology that gave us the paradigm shifting dinosaurs of Jurassic Park wouldn’t occur for another 3 or 4 years. For Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the approach was a mix of robotics, puppetry, sleight of hand gadgetry, and a lot of imagination.

The art was handled by Richard Williams and his team, who would go on to win a Special Achievement Oscar for his contribution to the film. They had to draw every cell/frame by hand, on paper and then have them inked. These would then go to Industrial Light & Magic, who would add shadow, highlights and special effects To make things harder, the artists had to work around Zemeckis’ filming style and figure out how to fit the characters into each scene.

Take Jessica Rabbit’s performance of “Why Don’t You Do Right?”, sung by Amy Irving (Carrie, The Fury). At first glance, it seems a really easy shot. Girl steps on the stage, performs and leaves, right? However, there are so many things happening here on an effects level that I still don’t fully understand how they did it after all these years. ILM handled the lighting, from the sparkles in the dress, the use of the handkerchief and the great moment where Jessica blocks the spotlight in her walk from Acme to Valiant. I had to later explain to my mom that the “Wow” I whispered in the theatre during that scene had little or nothing to do with puberty. It was because I hadn’t seen anything like that before with a cartoon, and I’d hate the Academy forever if the movie didn’t win an Oscar for that.

Having cartoons on screen is one thing, but making it feel like they were interacting with people is another. Hoskins was the anchor that tied most of it all together. Having to work with nearly nothing – not even a green screen – and perform the physical actions required of the role was quite a feat compared to what some actors do with the motion capture rooms and digital walls we use today. Near lifesize models of Roger were created to help Hoskins handle some of the physical “grab and move” sequences, and actor Charles Fleischer actually spent time dressed as Roger on set (but off camera, of course) to feed his side of the conversation to Hoskins when filming a scene.

Puppeteers were brought on for moments were toon characters needed to hold objects, such as guns or knives. There is a moment of the movie where you can see one of the holes for the guns that the weasels, but it’s a pretty minute hiccup with all of the great work that was done. For the car sequences with Benny the Cab (also Fleischer), they used a special mini-car with a driver in the back. The car and driver were painted over (still, frame for frame) by the animators.

And ff course, it wouldn’t be a Zemeckis film without Alan Silvestri at the helm, musically speaking. Silvestri’s score for was a mix of detective noir and cartoony antics, which made for a perfect fit for the film. Overall, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of those films I cherished growing up, and it’s almost impossible for me to avoid recommending it.

 

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Kurt Russell Edition


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, we wish a happy 69th birthday to the patron saint of all thing that are cool about the movies, the one and only Kurt Russell!

And here to help us do that are:

4 Shots From 4 Films

Used Cars (1980, directed by Robert Zemeckis)

Escape From New York (1981, directed by John Carpenter)

Stargate (1994, directed by Roland Emmerich)

Death Proof (2007, directed by Quentin Tarantino)

Here’s The Trailer For Welcome To Marwen!


When it comes to Robert Zemeckis, there seems to be two different types of film lovers.

There are those who feels that, as a director, Zemeckis makes films where relatively thin and sentimental stories are used as an excuse to show what he can do with CGI.

And then there are those of us who love Zemeckis’s brand of sincere, effects-driven storytelling.  I was in tears by the end of The Walk and, as much as I tried to resist, the trailer for Welcome to Marwen brought tears to my mismatched eyes as well.

Of course, it helps to know something about the true story that this film is based on.  Welcome to Marwen was inspired by a documentary called Marwencol.  Here’s the description of Marwencol‘s plot, which I lifted from Wikipedia because I’m lazy:

On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was attacked outside of a bar by five men who beat him nearly to death. After nine days in a coma and forty days in the hospital, Mark was discharged with brain damage that left him little memory of his previous life. Unable to afford therapy, Mark creates his own by building a 1/6-scale World War II-era Belgian town in his yard and populating it with dolls representing himself, his friends, and even his attackers. He calls that town “Marwencol,” a portmanteau of the names “Mark,” “Wendy” and “Colleen.”

Mark was initially discovered by photographer David Naugle, who documented and shared his story with Esopus magazine and then his work was shown in a New York art gallery. But having the label of “art” applied to his intensely personal work forces Mark to make a choice between the safety of his fictional town and the real world he’s avoided since his attack.

It’s hard to think of any actor that embodies wounded humanity quite as well as Steve Carell.  (You even felt kinda sorry for him in Foxcatcher.)  Welcome to Marwen (which was originally announced as The Women of Marwen) has been mentioned as one of two Oscar contenders featuring Steve Carell, the other being Beautiful Boy.

Here’s the trailer:

 

Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions for January!


How early can one predict the Oscars?

Well, it depends on how you look at it.  You can predict the Oscars at any time during the year.  However, predicting them correctly is next to impossible before October.  That said, I’m going to give it a shot!

Now, to be clear, this is not an attempt to predict who and what will be nominated later this month.  Instead, these are my predictions for what will be nominated next year at this time!  I’ll be updating my predictions every month of this year.

So, with all that in mind, here are my way too early predictions for what will be nominated in January of 2019!  As of right now, these predictions are a collection of instinct and random guesses.  For all we know, some of these films might not even get released in 2018.  In all probability, we’ll look back at this list in December and laugh.

 

Best Picture

Chappaquiddick

First Man

Lizzie

Mary Queen of Scots

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Mortal Engines

A Star is Born

Widows

Wildfire

The Women of Marwen

 

Best Director

Desiree Akhavon for The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Damien Chazelle for First Man

Paul Dano for Wildfire

Steve McQueen for Widows

Robert Zemeckis for The Women of Marwen

 

Best Actor

Steve Carell in The Women of Marwen

Jason Clarke in Chappaquiddick

Ryan Gosling in First Man

Jake Gyllenhaal in Wildfire

Joaquin Phoenx in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

 

Best Actress

Viola Davis in Widows

Chloe Grace Moretz in The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Carey Mulligan in Wildfire

Saoirse Ronan in Mary Queen of Scots

Chloe Sevigny in Lizzie

 

Best Supporting Actor

Jeff Daniels in The Catcher Was A Spy

Bruce Dern in Chappaquiddick

Sam Elliott in A Star is Born

Robert Duvall in Widows

Hugo Weaving in Mortal Engines

 

Best Supporting Actress

Elizabeth Debicki in Widows

Claire Foy in First Man

Leslie Mann in The Women of Marwen

Kate Mara in Chappaquiddick

Kristen Stewart in Lizzie

 

Horror on TV: Tales From the Crypt 1.2 “All Through The House” (dir by Robert Zemeckis)


For tonight’s excursion into the world of televised horror, we have the 2nd ever episode of the HBO anthology series, Tales From The Crypt!

In this one, a woman (Mary Ellen Trainor) kills her husband on Christmas Eve, just to discover that she can’t properly dispose of the body because a psychotic escaped mental patient (Larry Drake), who just happens to be disguised as Santa Claus, is hanging around outside of her house.  It’s a bit of a mess, especially since the woman’s daughter is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa herself.

This originally aired on June 10th, 1989 and it’s an enjoyably insane package of holiday cheer and menace.  And, of course, it was directed by none other than Robert Zemeckis!

Enjoy!

4 Shots From 4 Holiday Films: Bad Santa, Elf, The Polar Express, Four Christmases


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

4 Shots From 4 Holiday Films

Bad Santa (2003, dir by Terry Zwigoff)

Bad Santa (2003, dir by Terry Zwigoff)

Elf (2003, dir by Jon Favreau)

Elf (2003, dir by Jon Favreau)

The Polar Express (2004, dir by Robert Zemeckis)

The Polar Express (2004, dir by Robert Zemeckis)

Four Christmases (2008, dir by Seth Gordon)

Four Christmases (2008, dir by Seth Gordon)

Film Review: Allied (dir by Robert Zemeckis)


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Earlier today, after deciding to take a break from watching the Lifetime films that have been steadily accumulating on my DVR, I went down to the Alamo Drafthouse with my BFF Evelyn and we watched the new World War II romantic adventure film, Allied.

Now, you should understand that I’m an Alamo Victory member and one of the benefits of my membership is that I get a free movie for my birthday!  (My birthday was on November 9th.  The offer’s good for up to a month after the big day.  Pretty nice, no?)  I have to admit that there’s a reason why I wanted to see Allied for free.  I knew that, since this big movie with big stars and a big director was being released at the start of Oscar season, I would have to see it eventually.  Add to that, Allied is current somewhat infamous for being the movie that contributed to the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  Apparently, Brad had an affair with Marion Cotillard while making this movie.  I knew I had to see Allied but I didn’t want to pay for it because, quite frankly, I wasn’t expecting it to be very good.

I mean, the trailer looked awful!  The trailer was a collection of war film clichés and, as happy as I was to see Brad without that raggedyass beard that he tends to have whenever he’s trying to be a serious actor, it was still hard to ignore that he essentially looked like a wax figure.  Then you had Marion Cotillard, looking as if she’d rather be playing Lady MacBeth.  Judging from the trailer, Allied just didn’t look very good.

Having now seen Allied, I can say that the trailer does the film a great disservice.  Not only is Allied far more entertaining than the trailer suggests but the trailer also gives away the film’s big twist!  Seriously, this twist occurs about 75 minutes into a 120 minute film and, if it was sprung on you without warning, it would totally blow you away.  It would leave you reeling and reconsidering everything that you had previously seen.  But since the twist is highlighted in the trailer, you instead spend the first half of the movie impatiently waiting for it.

You probably already know the twist.  But I’m still not going to reveal it because maybe there’s one or two of you out there who have managed to avoid the trailer.  Instead, I’ll tell you that Allied is a World War II romance.  It opens in Casablanca, with Canadian secret agent Max Batan (Brad Pitt) working with Marianne Beausojour (Marion Cotillard).  Marianne is a legendary member of the French Resistance.  It doesn’t take long for Max and Marianne to fall in love and soon, they’re having sex in the middle of the desert, making love in a car while a sandstorm rages all around them.  Max eventually marries Marianne and they have a daughter.  But around them, the war continues and both of them find themselves struggling to determine who they can and cannot trust.

allied-brad-pitt-marion-cotillard

As directed by Robert Zemeckis, Allied is a big movie, one that is frequently entertaining and yet occasionally and frustratingly uneven.  Allied feels like its less about recreating history and more about paying homage to the World War II and espionage films that Zemeckis watched when he was growing up.  It’s a technical marvel, featuring not only sandstorm sex but crashing airplanes and a painstaking recreation of Europe in the 1940s.   The film is full of seemingly random details, many of which don’t add much to the narrative but they do contribute to Allied‘s oddly dreamlike feel.  This is the type of film where espionage is discreetly discussed at a party while Gershwin plays on the soundtrack and British airmen casually snort cocaine in the background.  When Marianne gives birth to Anna, she does it outside while bombs explode around her.  When the baby is finally delivered, a group of nurses applaud.  It’s all wonderfully over the top but, occasionally, the narrative lags.  Zemeckis sometimes seems to be torn as to whether or not he’s paying homage to or deconstructing the genre.  As a result, some scenes work better than others.  (There’s a lengthy sequence involving a note containing false information.  It’s obvious that Zemeckis is trying to pay homage to Hitchcock’s Notorious but he never quite manages to pull it off.)

Despite what I previously assumed as a result of seeing the trailer, both Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are well-cast.  Cotillard is one of the few actresses who feels at home in a throwback film like this one and she does a good job keeping the audience guessing.  (Of course, if we accept that Allied is essentially Zemeckis’s cinematic dream of World War II, Cotillard serves to remind us of Inception and its multiple layers of dream logic.)  Brad Pitt, meanwhile, should consider playing more roles without his beard.  After watching Daniel Craig sulk through four James Bond films, it’s nice to be reminded that, occasionally, an actor can actually have fun while playing a secret agent.

Allied is uneven but entertaining.  Don’t let the trailer fool you.

brad-pitt-allied-trailer-3-01

Horror on TV: Tales From The Crypt 6.15 “You, Murderer” (dir by Robert Zemeckis)


To be honest, tonight’s episode of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt isn’t really a horror story.  Instead, it’s a somewhat satiric homage to film noir.  But I’m going to share it anyway. Halloween is about more than just ghouls and ghosts and goblins, right?

You, Murderer is an experiment that doesn’t quite work but is interesting all the same.  This episode is basically one long POV shot.  Whenever our protagonist sees his reflection, we see Humphrey Bogart staring back at us.  Actual footage of Bogart was used in the show.  Sometimes it work, sometimes it just looks strange.  But it’s always interesting!

This episode originally aired on January 25th, 1995.  Enjoy!

Film Review: The Walk (dir by Robert Zemeckis)


The_Walk_(2015_film)_poster

If you didn’t get a chance to see Robert Zemeckis’s latest film, The Walk, in a theater and, at the very least, in 3D, you really missed out.

In fact, I’m actually a bit surprised that The Walk hasn’t gotten more attention than it has.  Over the past year, whenever I would see the trailer play before another movie, it always seemed like a palpable sense of excitement descended over the theater.  Then, The Walk was released, it got wonderful reviews, and …. nothing.  Down here in Dallas, it played in theaters for three weeks and then it went away.  Since I was on vacation for two of those weeks, I nearly missed it!

But I’m glad that I didn’t miss it.  I say this despite the fact that I’m beyond terrified of heights and The Walk is all about creating the experience of balancing on a wire that’s been suspended between two of the tallest buildings in the world.  As I watched the film, there were many times when I struggled to catch my breath.  I had to put my hands over my mismatched eyes a few times.  But I’m still glad that I saw the film.

The Walk is based on a true story.  In 1974, French street performer Philippe Patet (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is even more adorable here than usual if that’s possible) and a group of accomplices manage to suspend a high wire between the twin towers of the just constructed World Trade Center. High above New York City, Philippe walked across the wire a total of six times.  In the film, Philippe narrates the story while standing on top of the Statue of Liberty.  From the minute that we see Gordon-Levitt and he starts to speak in a theatrical (but never implausible) French accent, we immediately like and relate to Philippe.  By the end of the film, his triumph is our triumph.

At the same time, we also feel his sadness.  Up until the film’s final line, when Philippe makes a subtle reference to it, 9-11 is never explicitly mentioned in The Walk but the shadow of that monstrous attack still looms over frame of the film.  By recreating both Philippe’s act of daring and the Twin Towers themselves, Zemeckis attempts to reclaim the legacy of the World Trade Center from the asshole terrorists who destroyed it.

And The Walk really does put you right there on that wire.  If ever there’s been a film that you must simply see in 3D, it’s The Walk.  Just be prepared to watch some of the movie through your fingers.

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for July!


Sicario

It’s shaping up to be a strange Oscar race.  Here we are halfway through the year and, yet, there are no front-runners.  Some very acclaimed films have been released this year and yet, few of them seem to be getting the type of buzz that usually accompanies a surprise Oscar nomination.  Last year at this time, there was cautious buzz for Grand Budapest Hotel while almost everyone felt pretty safe assuming that Sundance favorites like Boyhood and Whiplash would be players in the Oscar race and many of us were highly anticipating the release of films like Birdman and The Imitation Game.  (For that matter, a lot of people were also still convinced that Unbroken would win best picture.  The buzz is not always correct but still, the buzz was still there.)

This year, some people are hoping that Mad Max: Fury Road will somehow break through the Academy’s aversion to “genre” filmmaking.  (And seriously, the Doof Warrior deserves some sort of award, don’t you think?)  Quite a few are hoping that Ex Machina will not be forgotten.  Personally, I have high hopes for Inside Out.  The buzz around Bridge of Spies is respectful, largely because it seems like the type of film that usually would be be nominated.  (That said, this film also seems like it could bring out the worst impulses of both Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, leading to a movie that will have more in common with The Terminal than with War Horse.)  Carol was beloved at Cannes.

So there are definitely possibilities out there.  When I made my Oscar predictions for this month, I didn’t quite have to blindly guess as much as I did way back in January.  But still, it cannot be denied that — as of right now — this race is wide open and there’s a lot of room for surprise.

Below, you’ll find my Oscar predictions for July.  You can also check out my previous Oscar predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture

Black Mass

Brooklyn

Carol

I Saw The Light

In The Heart of the Sea

Inside Out

Sicario

Suffragette

The Walk

Youth

Best Actor

Michael Caine in Youth

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Tom Hiddleston in I Saw The Light

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Marion Cotillard in MacBeth

Sally Field in Hello, My Name Is Doris

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin in Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Albert Brooks in Concussion

John Cusack in Love & Mercy

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario

Harvey Keitel in Youth

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

Best Supporting Actress

Joan Allen in Room

Helena Bonham Carter in Suffragette

Jane Fonda in Youth

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol

Best Director

John Crowley for Brooklyn

Todd Haynes for Carol

Ron Howard for In The Heart of the Sea

Denis Villenueve for Sicario

Robert Zemeckis for The Walk

tom-hiddleston-hank-3