Posts from 24th March 2005

Mar 05

The Physics Detective Part Ten — The Mystery Is Solved (and I Hate to Say I Told You So, But …)

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 467 views

The Physics Detective Part Ten — The Mystery Is Solved (and I Hate to Say I Told You So, But …)

I told you so.

We have now reached the end of this two-month mini-blogging journey. Now I can go back to writing to amuse others rather than to amuse myself. A return to dedicated posts about science rather than embedded science stories within installments of the Physics Detective! For instance, I never got around to discussing last week’s huge announcement about the sequencing of the X chromosome. Let the wild conjecture begin!

Is it cynicism that drives local voice casting in animated films?

Do You SeePost a comment • 777 views

Is it cynicism that drives local voice casting in animated films? I felt it was in Shrek 2 (but then as one of the few anti-Shrek people I find almost all aspects of those films cynical). In Robots though the cynicism is probably so up-front and central that it can almost be applauded.

In Shrek 2 Jonathon Ross voices a very minor character: UK only of course. Now Mr Ross is the UK’s most watched film critic. Can he be trusted to review it fairly, clearly the personal connection makes it difficult? Looking at the list of UK voice talent in Robots it is clear that a similar policy is being adhered to. Here is list to mull on (remember none of these roles have much more than three lines and a completely peripheral to the plot)

Chris Moyles: Radio 1 Breakfast DJ
Terry Wogan: Radio 2 Breakfast DJ
Eammon Holmes: Breakfast TV Presenter
Vernon Kaye: Youth TV Presenter & DJ
Cat Deeley: Youth TV Presenter

Now none of these are film reviewers but all of them have some sort of media outlet where what they generally talk about their interesting celebrity lives. In particular when a soon to be big movie is out, they will probably refer to their minor roles, the filming process, how great the film is. This is the best kind of free publicity (especially as much of it is on the BBC). Ironically in Shrek 2 the excuse for using celebrity voices in this way is slightly more justifiable, a like for like substitution of minor US celebs for a UK equivalent (considering Shrek 2 is a stab at a celebrity parody it is vaguely forgiveable: though is Kate Thornton really the UK’s Joan Rivers?) Another excuse could be just that these are all voice artists in their own right, with distinctive and useful tones. Somehow I cannot see Pixar using this argument, but then they do not cast celebrity voices for the sake of it.

The use of actors/stars to voice animated characters is a double edged sword. In Robots (which is otherwise a charming and really rather good animated feature) the leads (Ewan MacGregor, Halle Berry) employ thoroughly anonymous voices which work well for storytelling. Robin Williams is the main bit of stunt casting, and they pretty much wind him up and let him go in his own subplot. But it is the decent supporting actors like Stanley Tucci who allow the film not to be subsumed by their star personas. Which is why hearing Terry Wogan halfway through seems all the more jarring.

Hostage is Die Hard with Bruce Willis outside the enclosed space

Do You SeePost a comment • 277 views

Hostage is Die Hard with Bruce Willis outside the enclosed space. Which kind of takes the point out of the whole affair. It is also the first season of 24 without any sense that the moral dilemma Willis is put in will ever really be put to the test. Indeed the plot machinations are so nonsensical that you start to get the feeling that Willis does not particularly want to save his family (and with his moody, badly acted daughter played by his moody, bad acting actual daughter Brownie Ranger Willis who would blame him). It is po-faced, noisy and thoroughly acceptable entertainment, until the someone discovered the slo-mo button on the AVID machine.

Remember : budding directors and editors: taking longer over the same scene will not imbue it with any more meaning. Except the less than subtle coding of “this is getting boring”.

You can tell there is a lot of subsidy going into FACT in Liverpool.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 206 views

You can tell there is a lot of subsidy going into FACT in Liverpool. A multi-purpose art gallery, cinema and media centre it is a Scouse ICA in a barn. The building is so open, airy and large that you do slowly start thinking about wasted space. Not least with the Sarah Kent curated “Critics Favourite” exhibition which finally allows me to completely disregard her writing in Time Out. That said the Vito Acconci exhibition in April may be worth a special visit (it looks like an expanded version of the exhibition me and Tim saw in New York last year).

The very airiness of the building did make me wonder about the prevailing trend in galleries. Its does seem that white, plain and uncluttered is the preferred option: and you can see the argument for the surroundings not interfering with the art experience. However since the surrounds always will, why is white any more preferable to any other backing? And why high ceiling, big rooms and enormous unthreatening entrance foyers?

I liked FACT a lot, and happily spent the lions share of the day bouncing from gallery, to cinema, to cafe with free wi-fi. The cinemas were some of the nicest I have seen in Britain and are a triumph for the Picturehouse chain, (as much as that chain threatens to annoy me: arthouse gatekeepers are still gatekeepers). But without subsidy places like FACT could not exist, and I am not sure providing huge atriums is the best spend for our artsy money.

Gloria Goes To The Movies

Do You See1 comment • 328 views

Gloria Goes To The Movies

Good ideas are not restricted to one blog round here, and an agitated pub discussion (what else) last Friday suggested Gloria might want to come to Do You See. After all the concepts of authenticity, pretension and critical knee jerk showing off is just at home in visual media. And to start off we have a lovely case of cross-media synergy.

The Case Of The Dark Knight’s Returns:

A three way Gloria this, pitting film, film/tv and television against each other. To start with we have box office success. For all the over emphasis on Jack Nicholson, the lousy Prince sound track and lack of Robin: it cannot be denied that Tim Burton’s Batman was an immensely successful film. Trading on the late eighties grim and gritty comic stylings, and with occasionally audacious casting, the film revolutionised movie marketing and launched Burton the maverick director that Hollywood liked to use (not always to good effect). This franchise of films launches a mini-gloria of its own of course: which of the nineties Batman films is the best. Schumacher however is not the focus of this Gloria.

Why? Because there will be entertainment purists who will say that the One True Batman is the sixties TV series and its spin-off movie. And a strong argument can be advocated. Sure the acting was wooden, the campness factor was turned up to ten and it was not exactly respectful to its source. But wait, the source is a man dressed up as a bat fighting crime and you have to earn respect right? And BIFF! POW!! and lest we forget Bat Anti-Shark Repellent: the fans of this version say sod the Dark Knight, lets have some fun.

But hold: who is that in the corner? There appears to be a further option in this bun fight, and its fans use terms like “the real actual one true Batman” or the only faithful adaptation. These are the fans of Batman: The Animated Series. It certainly exceeded its original remit of being a spin-off of the Burton film, creating a look and feel all of its own. It even had its own theatrically released film: Mask Of The Phantasm.Gothic designs, clarity of writing and simplicity was its key selling point. Or alternatively over-simplified character designs mixed with a violent dourness that has no room in kiddie cartoon land.

So what is it to be? I will be leaving you Easter to mull this one over as we try and work out a way of fixing the Poptimiser to a DVD machine. Is it Tim Burton’s box office bonanza, the camp classic from the sixties or mature animation from the nineties? You decide. And then the Poptimiser decides and you find out if you were right.