“Connection” in Movies.

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”

A simple phrase on its own, but knowing the connection behind it makes all the difference. The phrase “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” is widely considered to be one of the most emotionally resonant quotes in cinematic history. Because it relies on the emotional relationship between the central characters of the film and the arc they endured together. They had a “connection.”

Connection is a difficult word to describe when it comes to the topic of movies. Because its all about relationships the characters have with one another. Connection in a weird sense is all about the individual…in the beginning at least.

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Connection is a basic storytelling device that is seen in almost all films. It is heavily used in the 1986 Disney Film The Fox and The Hound. 

It can be illustrated perhaps more simply in the 1986 Walt Disney film The Fox and the Hound. The movie’s main characters are a red fox and a hunting dog. The films tagline reads “the story of two friends who didn’t know they were supposed to be enemies”. They meet, form a connection before societal roles can apply to them, there forced into those antagonistic roles in adulthood…you get the picture.

There connection is strained, and almost completely severed. However, there’s a pivotal scene in the movie that proves the friendship between the two is real. A single look of anguish and honesty that brings the old feelings of amity rushing back.

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In this key moment of The Fox and The Hound, Tod is distraught to see his former best friend Copper about to be killed by a savage black bear. Despite the venomous falling out the two had, the connection of friendship the two strong is strong enough for him to overcome his anger. 

Connection between characters is what makes films so strong. Solid relationships and characterizations can carry a film’s plot to new heights. Connection makes good movies great, and solid stories exceptional. If you can write characters with real connections, you can do anything.

 

 

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Everyone’s Talking About the Oscars!

“Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.”

– How John Negron Begins Every “Snarcasm” Blog Pst

I gotta admit, that’s a pretty clever way to begin a sub-genre of posts on your blog. John Negron’s “Snarcasms” are witty posts that make, as you would probably guess, sarcastic and snarky remarks about articles and ideas from various artists and authors. The particular “Snarcasm” we’re discussing today is “Let’s Talk About How the Oscars Don’t Matter (Again)”.

In a humorous light, Negron analyzes sentence by sentence another article by Joanna Connors titled “Oscars 2016: Why the Academy Awards Matter, and Why They Don’t”. Connors discusses the cultural relevance of the Oscars, the concept of ranking, and how the Academy is just a bunch of old white men that don’t even watch the films they’re voting. It’s these generalized concepts that Connors writes about that Negron criticizes.

The ultimate conclusion of Negron’s work is that while the Oscars aren’t flawless, it’s a large ceremony that honors the best films of the year as selected by some the most talented, hand picked individuals in the field of cinema. Just because they may not matter to one individual doesn’t mean that they have no importance to another.

It’s 2016, and it’s no secret the Oscars has been losing viewership and popularity over the past several years. This years show brought a new layer of tension with the underrepresentation of black actors in the leading actors categories. As Chris Rock fantastically called the show in his opening speech, “the white people’s choice awards.” The Oscars are going through troubled waters right now, but Negron is cautiously optimistic in his opinion that the Academy can change, and will change with time.

After all, movies are a reflection of culture and ideals. How can we expect the Oscars to change, if we can’t change first?

 

 

Blurring The Lines: The Case for Motion Capture in the Oscars

Gollum. The character that started in all.

Portrayed by English actor, Andy Serkis, Gollum was the first character in film history to have been portrayed by motion capture performance. Andy Serkis, decked out in a full body suit, provided the voice, facial expressions and the movements for the Gollum character. His work was met with critical acclaim. With the advent of motion capture becoming increasingly prevalent in films, there has been a call for the Academy to recognize motion capture in the Oscars. Some call for action, others aren’t even sure where the character creation even begins.

You can take for example, the incredibly dismissive words of Amid Amidi, as the man takes credit away from the actors who are providing the emotional template for the character performances, and instead says it is the starving artists who are creating these rich characters we see on screen. The animators are vital, undeniably so. The work wouldn’t exist without them, but is it fair to write the actor out completely?

Serkis himself isn’t wholly in the right either. In this interesting little interview by Meredith Woener for io9, Serkis says that the actors “author” there performances. Now that seems a little unfair. He doesn’t outright dismiss the animators role in character creation, but he does seem to cheapen it, even if its unintentional.

So if both sides have friction with each other, where does the Academy stand in on this? Well, thats a tricky area. No one seems to have a clean cut answer on the issue. One of the definitive voices on the debate I’ve found is Mark Mill’s stance on “No”. In the post, Mills writes

“Merriam-Webster’s definition of acting is: “the art or practice of representing a character on a stage or before cameras.” This is exactly what Serkis does. He creates a voice, expressions, mannerisms and a style of moving that allows the audience to feel they are watching say Gollum. Motion-capture performance is a sub-set of acting not an alternative to it.”

It’s a solid argument, but not enough to sate the public who want recognition for the motion capture, or as its alternatively called, performance capture. I do believe the advent of a new category, one that awards the lead animators and actor, is good enough. It’s a new form of movie acting, and character creation. It’s the perfect blend of digital effects and full body acting, “Best Digital Performance” is what it can be called.

Maybe that’s all we need.

The Iconic Cameos of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

1988 was an incredibly significant year for American animation.

In this historic year, Walt Disney subsidiary Touchstone Picture released “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, a live-action/animation drama adventure film adaptation of the novel “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?”. The film stars Bob Hoskins, Charles Fleisher, Christopher Lloyd, and Joanna Cassidy. In the universe of the film, cartoon characters co-exist with real life people and live in their own fictional “Toon Town” in Hollywood. A-list toon, Roger Rabbit (Voice and Body Stand by Fleisher), is framed for a crime he did not commit. Detective Eddie Valiant (Hoskins) is hired to look into the case, and the two find themselves uncovering a large conspiracy that threatens the existence of “Toon Town.”

While the plot of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” is heavily focused on the adventure of its two protagonists, Valiant and Roger, the film is most famous for its iconic cameos. In order to convey a sense of realism, Walt Disney acquired the licenses to have several well known cartoon character cameo in the film. Executive Producer Steven Spielberg held extensive creative control of the project, and had several well standing relationships with different film studios.  Warner Bros., Fleischer Studios, King Features Syndicate, Felix the Cat Productions, Turner Entertainment, and Universal Pictures all loaned there well known character to have appearances in the film. The following is a shortlist from the films more significant and iconic appearances. 

Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse First Official On Screen Appearances Together: 

This above scene marks the first time in animation history that Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse have appeared on screen together. Warner Bros. lent the use of Bugs Bunny to Disney under strict provisions. He must share the exact amount of screen time and dialogue as Walt Disney’s mascot, Mickey Mouse. Warner Bros. wouldn’t accept more or less, they wanted the two icons to stand as equals. Disney agreed to these demands, and took it a step further by having the characters appear together, and sharing the exact same amount of screen time down to the frame. Mickey Mouse appears as the innocent one of the two, while Bugs is the mischievous stinker. 

An interesting aspect of this scene is that this is last time Bugs Bunny’s original voice actor, Mel Blanc, would provided the voice for the wascaway rabbit. Blanc died a year after the film was released. 

Daffy and Donald Duck’s Piano Duel 

In addition to having the two giants appear on screen together, the films also features a hilarious piano duel between the rival studios dastardly duck characters. Similarly to Bugs and Mickey, both characters appear on screen together and share the same amount of dialogue. 

Response to “Why Rafiki?”

The following is a pingback response to Nick Anthony’s blog post “Why Rafiki?.

Anthony’s blog post is as much fascinating, as it is insightful into the philosophy of everyones favorite mandrill from The Lion King. For those potentially unfamiliar, Rafiki is a character the 1994 Walt Disney Film “The Lion King”, portrayed by Robert Guillome. Rafiki is the wise shaman of the pride lands, and serves as an adviser to the Lion King and is in charge of ceremonies. In the movie, Rafiki plays a critical role in the redemption of protagonist Simba’s character. It’s through Rafiki’s gentle, eccentric and philosophical guidance that forces Simba to confront the guilt and pain from his past, and return to Pride Rock where he is to reclaim his birthright as king.

Anthony analyzes and presents musings on the methods that Rafiki employs to help Simba come to epiphany, specifically the buddhist overtones and subtexts of Rafiki’s actions. Rafiki councils Simba, an emotionally repressive young lion who’s guilt ridden over the supposed role he played in the death of his father, Mufasa. While Rafiki is unaware of Simba’s exact role in the death of Mufasa (it was actually a set up by Simba’s villainous Uncle Scar), he knows the young lion is struggling with his identity and his past. Anthony writes about Rafiki’s philosophy as “A lot of it is about the illusions of self and the folly of dwelling on the past”, which is true. Simba had constructed himself a carefree personality that didn’t take responsibilities seriously, a defense mechanism brought on by the trauma of the death of his father. Rafiki shatters this illusion by smacking Simba on the head, and telling Simba “the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it!

If you want to look more into specifically what Anthony writes about, check out his post! It’s incredibly insightful and worth the read.