Sunday, January 31, 2010

One for All.

Recently I've seen a handful of movies before I viewed Julie & Julia and instead of letting my thoughts on them slip away I thought I might try and grasp onto them before the need to watch them again. First up will be Chicken Run (2000), a stop animation flick from the fine people at Aardman studios, who are most famous for the popular Wallace and Gromit series.

Chicken Run is a welcome addition to the long line of escape movies such as Grand Illusion (1937) and The Great Escape (1963), and I'm quite serious about this. The movie follows a group of hens confined to lay eggs for retail sale in a chicken farm. When one of these hens begins to falter on egg production they get the axe. Ginger, the self appointed leader of these hens continues in her attempts and determination to set every last chicken free from the farm. Her attempts continue to fail though hope arrives with Rocky, a suspected flying rooster who in return for hiding and safekeeping agrees to teach the hens to fly in a way to escape their impending fate.

Like Aardman's Wallace and Gromit series, Chicken Run is full of wit and cleverly accurate comedic timing. Also, Aardman Studios has a great grasp on their animation style, it's immediately identifiable and somehow retains a casual charm yet remains professional and well crafted. I've really fallen for the style of their animation (Though I've been a huge fan of Wallace and Gromit before I ever saw Chicken Run).

The Character Progressions are not something we all haven't seen before. Ginger is a determined dreamer and the real drive of the story from a character's stand point, Rocky is a reluctant hero who in the end makes up for his deceit and faults, and the way it gradually reveals their affection for one another is nothing new as well. But the movie makes up for these slight short comings with it's execution. These characters are maturely handled and the movie is able to round them out and give them personality better than most live action films. Plus the humor is always clever and catchy, and there is even a rousing action sequence involving Ginger and Rocky escaping from an intimidating doom machine which makes chicken pies. This is really a movie I could recommend for anyone. The humor is smart and accessible and it's something parents wouldn't have to dread viewing with their children. In short, it's got something for everyone and never cheapens itself which is a welcome relief to say about any animated film that comes out today.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bon Appétit.

No one is reading this... yet, but for those in the future this is the beginning of my attempts to corral my thoughts on films into some arbitrary quantifiable understanding. In short, I'll probably be talking a lot though most likely saying very little. This will consist mainly of reviews for various movies (and perhaps some shorts as well) that I will decide to use as company during late night hours when honest, decent folk are asleep. Besides reviews I will most likely display lists of various favorites from certain years or decades and any other movie related posting I will see fit. So I hope you future viewers will bear with me here even with my inevitable grammatical errors, misspellings, and general pontification.

So to start things off I'll begin with my thoughts on a movie from last year that I happened to watch earlier today. So without further delay the first movie I will discuss is Norah Ephron's Julie & Julia (2009). This seems to be an oddly fitting movie for my first post considering the nature of the beginning of Julie Powell's project, it began as a blog. The movie covers two books. First, My Life in France following Julia Child's mastery of her talent and working on her famous book of recipes for those "Servantless American cooks" and second, Julie & Julia, Julie Powell's book covering her undertaking to prepare over 500 of Child's recipes in the span of one year. Amy Adams and Meryl Streep portray the title roles. Adams while never exceptional as Mrs. Powell does what is needed with the role and elicits enough sympathy to drive her portion of the story. I've heard others complain that this half of the movie becomes too self centered but I found her quite likable in her "everywoman" kind of position. However, Julie Child's half of the story is the real butter to the movie in that it's rich, delicious, and you really want more (though perhaps you shouldn't, which I will return to later). Streep is marvelous as usual. I'm sure there is no lack of praise already floating around for her but I have to say right now, if there wasn't already such a word as 'charming,' one would have to be created to describe her turn as Julia Child, she's a sheer joy to watch.

One of the main aspects of the movie is taking control. Julie and Julia both take control over their lives with cooking and where would there be a better place to display such a thing than the chaos of the kitchen? Even the simplest recipes could result in disaster without the proper attention. Like taking control of one's life it requires dedication, determination, and ultimately fearlessness to fail and to pick yourself up and try again. Also, it will sometimes require you to put down your guidelines and forge ahead into the unknown with only your wits and experience and the movie thankfully delivers this in a way that it comes off for the most part as a lighthearted comedy and/or drama and rarely becomes burdensome.

Now back to a previous statement about wanting more of Julia Child's side of the picture. I've noticed several reviews that state a full film on Child's life in France would have been much more enjoyable but I'm not sure I would agree (Well, perhaps it would be a good film but it would be a completely different one). Part of Powell's story is how she comes to terms with her understanding of how she sees her hero, Julia Child, and it's something we could all reflect upon and it accentuates the romantic notions behind the Child's portion of the film and in a way I'm not sure how much more enjoyable it could be before it would become tedious. However, I'm just speculating because I have no other option.

To wrap things up I find Julie & Julia to be a very enjoyable movie, it's a lighthearted affair that I would quickly recommend to pass the time on a dreary weekend and would probably fall somewhere between my favorite ten and twenty movies I've seen from 2009.