Saturday, November 30, 2013

Awesome Snow Demo Video from Disney

Unless you're well-versed in computer animation or general physics, don't expect to understand the first minute or so of this video. However, once that's over, watch all the cool snow demo's that display all different kinds of snow types and reactions that Disney used in Frozen. It's super cool!

Whaaaaa? How did they even do any of this? I love it! Makes me want to watch the super snowy scenes in Frozen again in slow-mo... or should I say, "snow-mo" am I right???? I'm not right? Ok.

[via /Film]

Nine Things Progressives Can Be Thankful For

ThinkProgress has a great list of Nine Things Progressives Can Be Thankful For this year. They're all excellent points, and it's important to remind ourselves that despite the setbacks and growing insanity of the GOP, there are still big things out there moving in the right direction. That alone is something to be thankful for.

Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving!

I almost forgot to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! Here it is: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

I'm grateful for the (seven or so?) of you who read this blog, because I'm 99% sure I know who all of you are, and I really appreciate that you care enough about to me to keep my page views above zero. It's just you and people Googling "artful stews" looking for elaborate soup recipes and clicking on this by accident. Honestly, though, I'm grateful for those soup lovers and their mistaken clicks, too.

I've been crazy-blessed this year (and every year!), and I hope that I maintain enough perspective to share my blessings with everyone around me and appreciate what an incredibly lucky and wonderful life I lead. Thank you.

TPM's Realist's Take on Obamacare

Another well-written piece of perspective on Obamacare, this time from Talking Points Memo. Oh, Josh Marshall, how you soothe the soul with logic.

Alert! Possible Dino DNA in Existence!

A 2005 discovery of soft tissue from a T-Rex has been confirmed to be legit! And there may be dino DNA inside!! It's like time traveling to the past!! Without getting eaten by a T-Rex.

Paul Krugman on Obamacare's Secret Success

This is what I'm talking about! Also this! Gotta love when Krugman doesn't have to wear his "this is how we're destroying America and/or the world" hat. Yay, Affordable Care Act!

'Catching Fire' and 'Frozen' Kick Box Office Ass + Thoughts on 'Frozen'

'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' and Disney's new 'Frozen' have proven (for the billionth time) that having well-rounded female protagonists in big studio movies pays off. Both are on track to break all kinds of records - Catching Fire is the third movie ever to break $250 million on or under eight days (the other two: The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers - so basically, Katniss is equal to the entire Avengers team) and Frozen may pull in $100 million in its first five days, shattering Thanksgiving weekend records.

What makes me even more happy about this is that both films are really good! I've already commented on Catching Fire (though I could go into further detail: I haven't even mentioned Jena Malone's perfect depiction of Johanna!). I just saw Frozen this afternoon, and I really loved the strong story of sisterhood, the delightful takedown of traditional Disney princess romances, and the way the hero, Anna, completely leads the film. She is not a passive protagonist: She constantly makes bold choices and gets herself into and out of trouble. Without spoiling anything, the ending proves this point to the nth degree. An extra perk? The movie passes the Bechdel Test within the first five minutes.

Bonus! Jennifer Lee, the screenwriter/animator behind Wreck-It Ralph wrote and co-directed Frozen. She's the first female director of a Disney animated movie, and I think the influence is both clear and welcome. I say this not to take away from Ms. Lee's individuality as a writer/director (I'm sure Kathryn Bigelow would HATE it if someone said that her directing clearly had a "female influence"), but simply as a woman who has experienced a lot of the same emotions, relationships, and thought-processes that I saw onscreen today that have not been present in any previous Disney features, which makes me think (logically) that Ms. Lee may have had something to do with that.

Sidenote to anyone else who saw Frozen: how much did you love the "You fell in love in one day!?" takedown (yes, I realize Anna and Kristoff kiss at the end of the film, but they have a very different "one day" than Anna and Hans, plus they only kiss and aren't getting married or anything rash like that)? And Anna telling Kristoff, most assuredly, that the way to end the eternal winter was simply to talk to her sister (and work things out like two normal human beings, instead of blowing the whole thing out of proportion like they'd do in another movie)? Loved it.

Oh! And I'm SO HAPPY that Kristen Bell is finally in a good movie. That lady deserves it!! Way to go, Woman Formerly Known as V-Mars!

Everyone's a Musician on 'The Simpsons'

Not just a musician, but also their own musical instruments! It's based on an old Silly Symphonies cartoon, "Music Land."

Pretty weird, but I guess also cool? You have to wonder who pitched that and how he/she decided that, "Yes, this MUST be a [couchless] couch gag!"

[via /Film]

Vulture Tries to Convince Alfonso Cuaron to Direct Harry Potter Spin-Off

Yes, please!

(Although, having just re-watching HP 6, 7.1, and 7.2, I am reminded that David Yates did an admirable job, and how important the consistency of those last films really was to the overall cohesion of the series. That being said, Alfonso Cuaron + Fantastic Beasts = Amaze-pants)

New Trailer for Laika's 'The Boxtrolls'

I can't figure out how to embed Apple Trailer videos, but here's a link to the latest trailer for Laika's (the stop-motion company) new feature, The Boxtrolls, out next September. While I have no idea or clue if this movie is going to be any good, I love the trailer. It's basically just stop-motion porn: gorgeous shots of stop-motion animation in progress. I could watch that all day! You can read a little more about it at /Film.

Amy Schumer's 'Train Wreck' To Be Directed by Judd Apatow

We already knew Judd Apatow was producing Amy Schumer's feature writing-starring debut, Train Wreck (though I'm not sure we knew the title or the plot details yet), and now we know he's directing it, as well! The super vague plot is that the film follows "a basket case as she tries to rebuild her life" - generic, I know, but with Amy Schumer writing and starring and Apatow directing, it's likely to be anything but a (wait for it) train wreck.


'The Heat' Spinoff in the Works

We may never see a The Heat sequel (at least according to Sandra Bullock), but we very well may see a The Heat spinoff starring Melissa McCarthy's character's two sisters (or sisters-in-law or girlfriends-in-law, I don't remember the exact details, but regardless they're related to her in some way), Beth and Gina. For whatever reason, Boston-based comedy is having a real moment right now, so I say go ahead and capitalize on it. I can't say I totally understand it, but being a Texas girl in New York, I don't think I'm necessarily the target audience for all the inside jokes. So for me, as long as the characters have a great arc and the non-insider jokes are funny, I'm game!

To give you a refresher on the characters:

[via /Film]

Kids' Books: All About the White Boys

File this under "Blaaaarg":

According to a comprehensive study of children's literature from the last 100 years by the University of Florida:

  • 57% of children's books published each year have male protagonists, versus 31% female.
  • As with television and film, books with animated characters are a particularly subtle and insidious way to marginalize based on sex, gender and race. In popular children's books featuring animated animals, 100% of them have male characters, but only 33% have female characters.
  • The average number of books featuring male characters in the title of the book is 36.5% versus 17.5% for female characters.
Isn't that completely nutbar? It's unsurprisingly worse for children of color:
  • Of an estimated 5,000 books released in 2012, only 3.3% featured African-Americans; 2.1% featured Asian-Americans or Pacific Islanders; 1.5% featured Latinos; and only 0.6% featured Native Americans. 
This is 2012, not 1912! White and/or male writers need to gain some perspective and include great characters who are women and people of color. Furthermore, we need to inspire and nurture and encourage women and people of color to become children's authors and illustrators in the first place. The same holds true, of course, for children's TV, video games, and movies. 

Entertainment is a two-way mirror on society: the more society changes, the more entertainment must change, and I guarantee you that the more entertainment changes, the more society will change, too. Children are sponges. They absorb what they see. We need to make sure what they see reflects an equitable and multi-faceted world filled with the people who actually populate it, not just the ones who happen to be in charge right now.

[via HuffPo]

Obama Visits Dreamworks

President Obama visited DreamWorks Animation on Monday to praise the film industry (and, of course, key campaign donor Jeffrey Katzenberg). LA Times has a nice write-up of the event. Below are a couple of videos from the meeting (warning: poor audio) of Obama watching mo-cap in action and meeting Steve Martin (elbow-to-elbow, since Steve had a cold).

Obama learning about mo-cap:

Obama watching an animated character use his voice!

[Videos via /Film]

Actor Paul Walker Has Passed Away

At age 40, actor Paul Walker (most well known for his Fast and Furious series), died in a car crash while attending a charity event north of Los Angeles today. A friend of his, driving the car, also perished. Walker was known for using his fame and fortune to help causes he cared deeply about, especially shark conservation. /Film wrote about the accident and a little about Walker himself, and included a statement from his representation. Variety has a full obituary. It's horrible when anyone so young passes away. He will be missed. My thoughts go out to his friends and family during this terrible time.

'Muppets Most Wanted' Trailer

The new Muppets movie's first trailer was released. Check it out!

I like the badge joke, Tina Fey's character, and evil Kermit's weird voice. Plus, it looks like there will be at least one musical number! What do you think?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Slate's The Hunger Names

In case you were curious as to the meaning behind all the wacky names in The Hunger Games. One Slate writer attempts to decipher them. Plus, a little textual analysis. Because why not?

New 'Sherlock' Trailer!!

New trailer for season three of Sherlock on the BBC!

Is it ok that I am way more impressed by the size and fluffitude of Martin Freeman's 'stache than the meta "Sherlock lives" social media aspect of the trailer?

Is he going to shave it!? Will it be there all season!? I MUST KNOW!

Albuquerque Preserves Women's Right to Choose

Voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico reaffirmed women's right to choose, striking down a provision that would have limited women's right to have an abortion after twenty weeks. Support for such measures (which legislators have passed in over a dozen states - including Texas) is based on medical misinformation and callous disregard for women's lives, as well as their - often times very much wanted - fetus' lives. Way to go, New Mexico voters, for not buying into the hype and understanding that one in three women have an abortion for a variety of reasons - all legitimate, and all their choices to make.

International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women

Today is the International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women. You can read more about it here and here. Important stuff.

THR: Animals Were Harmed

This Hollywood Reporter feature on the complete inadequacy of AHA regulations and oversight is both revealing and horrifying. I had heard rumors about this for years. I'm glad that THR was bold enough to print this. I hope the outrage it causes effects the changes that are clearly necessary to get this reprehensible problem under control.

HBO + Oprah + Diablo Cody = Yes, Please!

I'm excited to see what this combination of talents comes up with. Interesting premise!

Disenfranchisement Gets Real

Now that Texas' voter ID has gone into effect, we're already seeing a microcosm of the disenfranchisement of women, minorities, and poor voters it's causing. It's truly a disgrace that Texas Republicans devalue the lives of so many people in so many ways: from restricting women's control over their own bodies to believing that just because someone is poor or Black, he or she doesn't deserve to have his or her voice heard in this republic. Clearly, they understand that the only way to hold onto power is to strip it from everyone else. It's a sad, desperate move, that I hope will be remedied. The question is, will it be remedied soon enough to avoid catastrophic consequences?

Dallas is Getting Sunnier with Solar!

A group called Solar City teamed up with a home-builder in Texas, PSW, to build 80+ homes in the Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) area with pre-installed solar panels, tankless water heaters, and all kinds of energy efficiencies (i.e. Energy Star appliances, etc) built right in! How cool is that? They're part of two communities, one around 1600 Kings' Highway (which I'm not familiar with) and the other in the Bishop Heights community, which is in a really cool, up-and-coming part of town. Consider it the Greenpoint of DFW.

The homes are pretty big - 1700-2700 sq. ft. with 3-4 bedrooms and 2-3 baths, priced around $300,000 - great for new families. The ThinkProgress article I linked to above does point out that $300,000 is not affordable for most of the Dallas community, but I think this is a solid start. Once one or two of these communities are built, I'm sure the demand will increase and the cost will decrease.

Way to go, Dallas, for being a leader in the green communities movement!

NPR's Take on Gender Roles in The Hunger Games

I appreciate NPR's short article on gender roles in Catching Fire. It is an exploration of the "traditionally feminine" aspects of Peeta's character, especially in relation to his relationship with Katniss. Peeta reveals a different side of masculinity that is not often shown in teen films. I think the film is successful in many ways, despite its hindrance of being a funhouse mirror of the first (blame the book), and this is one of them.  Others are the emphasis on Katniss' PTSD, the varying and realistic reactions of the other former victors to the situation they're tossed into, and the way that emotionally raw scene between Katniss and Cinna was handled.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

First Trailer for Disney's 'Malificent'

Disney released the first trailer for its darker, Snow White and the Huntsman-esque take on Sleeping Beauty, Malificent.

The film's supposed to be from the (apparently) used-to-be-good-turned-evil fairy Malificent's point of view. The trailer doesn't give us any of that, instead showing us the live-action version of the original Disney animated movie. I hope that's just to keep all the fun parts of the movie from being spoiled. Despite so many movies (Hunstman again)/episodes of Once as evidence to the contrary, I still think the darker, fleshed out, feminist re-tellings of fairy tales can work. Maybe this one will do it, maybe it won't. This trailer's not giving us enough information to make a guess either way, but maybe that's the point.

'Divergent' Trailer

A few days ago, they released the new trailer for Divergent, the latest dystopian YA novel adaptation.

When I heard it was getting a film version, I figured the series was worth reading. I give it major credit for going in super weird places and taking bold choices (unlike the second Hunger Games book, this series doesn't retread its past plots), but that doesn't necessarily mean the choices are successful. More importantly, the whole premise of the novel is super illogical and, though explained in the third book, never quite coalesces for me. That being said, who doesn't love a steamy teen romance, especially with the promise of some sweet shirtless random hot guy scenes? Plus, we all know Shailene Woodley can act, so she'll probably elevate the movie about its original text.

[via /Film]

The 'Simon's Cat' Story

Simon Tofield, the creator of the "Simon's Cat" series, posted a short video about his background as an animator and his inspiration for his art and stories. Sounds like his four cats are quite the handful! But how wonderful that he gets to do what he loves professionally.

[via Neatorama]

New Wes Anderson Short, "Castello Cavalcanti"

Wes Anderson has a new short out (courtesy of Prada) set in Italy, 1955. Jason Schwartzman stars as a race car driver (of an adorable race car). It's got some nice music and is pretty sweet overall. Ended kind of abruptly, but otherwise I enjoyed it.

[via /Film]

Tribute to Kumar Pallana

A favorite scene-stealer in Wes Anderson's films, Kumar Pallana passed away last month at the age of 94. Below is a tribute to him courtesy of Dallas Morning News, assembled and broadcast at a screening of Bottle Rocket and book signing for the recently released The Wes Anderson Collection. It's a loving tribute to a great actor and a greater person.