What, exactly, does "Tintin" mean to you? There’s a very good chance that for you, "Tintin" is simply the title to Steven Spielberg’s new, mo-cap animated film that opened in theatres this past week… and nothing more. But for me "Tintin" isn’t just a funny sounding name for a character or movie. Tintin is a passion that has been with me for most of my life. Tintin was my gateway drug to the world of comics, a medium that I grew to adore as much as any other, and that I still love today.
Tintin in America is the first comic book that I can recall reading. Well, there had always been the comic strips in the daily newspaper, but that’s not quite the same. I discovered a few Adventures of Tintin books in a dark, neglected section of a local book store back in 1983 or ‘4. Back then, graphic novels and other comic collections just weren’t stocked at traditional book stores so finding comics—especially comics that I’d never even heard of—felt like a wondrously odd and magical discovery. I was in second grade—eight years old, or about to be. In the years that followed, I picked up copies of all the Adventures of Tintin books; I’ve probably read each of them a dozen times. And now, 28 years since my first encounter with the character, we have a Tintin movie created by one of our greatest filmmakers. My expectations for the film are high. Unreasonably so. No current film project is dearer to my heart than this one.
This week, the Large Association of Movie Blogs (The LAMB) is running a contest around the concept of "If A Movie Character Ran For President." The idea is for members to create and submit a poster (or modify an existing one) to match the theme. I don’t typically participate in such contests because my busy schedule prohibits it. But this time, I just couldn’t resist creating a submission. You see, I’m a big fan of Akira, both the 1988 film and Katsuhiro Otomo’s comic series (or manga, as comics are referred to in Otomo’s native Japan). I quickly realized that Akira‘s film’s power-mad protagonist, Tetsuo Shima, would be a great subject for this theme. Below, I’ll walk through the concepts that influenced my design, and then reveal the final poster that I submitted.
Jane Campion’s In the Cut is a film designed explicitly as an example of feminist filmmaking. The film might be classified as a thriller or even a slasher film, but viewing the film with such genre expectations would only lead to dissatisfaction. In terms of plot, In the Cut is a film about a serial killer. But the film dodges narrative convention at every turn in order to present something entirely different. There are no clues to drive the audience towards a suspect; to guess at his identity would be arbitrary and beside the point of the film. In fact, the serial killer plot is relegated to the background. To view the film in terms of its plot and the conventions of the thriller genre can only lead to frustration as the film does not work through such a reading. Instead, if we are to connect with the film, In the Cut must be read as a study of the psychoanalytic theory of cinema presented by Laura Mulvey in her landmark essay, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." I have no intention here of providing a value judgment on Mulvey’s theories. Instead, my aim is to illustrate how director Jane Campion integrated Mulvey’s theories into her film, and then subverted them in order to strike another blow against "the monolithic accumulation of traditional film conventions" that Mulvey was so interested in breaking down. Director Jane Campion uses the language of cinema and the machinations of plot to render the film around the subjectivity of a woman, to challenge the myth of romantic love and the "cult of the female star," and to establish a world where the male gaze is presented not as a pleasurable vantage point for the audience but a viewpoint to be feared.
Earlier this week, I received my first-ever IKEA catalog. At nearly 400 pages and about a half-inch thick, it’s easily the largest piece of direct mail marketing I’ve ever seen show up at my house. There’s been steady talk about the new store all year. Some simply marveled at the shear size of the building that was being erected. For those who have never seen an IKEA, try to imagine an immense, bright blue warehouse of a building with the enormous words "IKEA Home Furnishings" christened in bold yellow letters on all four sides of its exterior. It’s kind of like the country of Sweden just planted a 415,000 square foot flag right next to the interstate. Some people buzzed about the new store constantly as though the appearance of a new brand in town promised to positively effect the quality of their lives. In fact, hundreds of people lined up several days ahead of its grand opening, not unlike the throng of Star Wars geeks who camped out for the premier of The Phantom Menace. Fight Club‘s Narrator, an unnamed, wispy shell of a man played by Edward Norton, would probably be there as well if he actually existed here in the real world. He’d be among his people. People who had become "a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct."
"The opening shot of Robert Altman’s ‘The Player’ establishes the film as a self-reflexive deconstruction of the Hollywood system and those who run it. With its prolonged shot length, the take is also designed as a means to introduce the bevy of players who work on the lot and to setup the film’s general plot—or at least its tone—as a thriller/murder mystery."
So begins my essay on the opening shot of Robert Altman’s The Player, just published over at Jim Emerson’s Scanners blog as part of his ongoing "Opening Shot Project."
Future generations, please note the date of publication on this article
In a surprise announcement, Warner Bros. pictures has revealed that the original edit of the climactic scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest has turned up in the studio’s archives. This newly found footage, a far less subtle—and far more vulgar—version of the film’s classic "train entering the tunnel" joke (a visual pun referring to the couple’s sexual activity) existed mostly in film circles as a rumor of mythic proportions. Few have heard of the original ending because it has not only been long lost in the Warner archives, but because the only reference to the footage exists in the first editions of the interview book, Hitchcock/Truffaut (later editions of the book omitted the reference to the original North By Northwest ending because of Hitchcock’s disparaging words about the film’s star, Cary Grant). Because of this, first editions of the book have become a hard-to-find collector’s item. The following exchange regarding the original ending occurs on page 257:
So says Larry Gopnik’s wife, Judith, in the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man. But can we really be so sure about that? In "The Search for Answers in A Serious Man," I wrote that "A Serious Man exists as a parable about humankind’s inability to understand the will of God and how we must learn to deal with this lack of understanding." I still believe that and see it as the dominant reading of the film, but what if we look at the film through a different lens and consider that, perhaps, Larry’s real problems are more… primal.
Following up on last month’s post on Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies title cards from 1948-49, I bring you a gallery of title cards from 1950-51. Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll start with the title card for The Wearing of the Grin. While I wouldn’t call this one of the great title cards in the set, it does feature the iconic clover leaves that are so closely linked to today’s holiday. The cartoon itself involves a pair of leprechauns who torment Porky Pig in order to drive him away from their castle and prevent him from finding their pot of gold. Along the way, Porky is given a pair of magic shoes that force him to dance and that eventually chase him through a surreal, Dalíesque wasteland. The Wearing of the Grin was to be the final cartoon to feature Porky Pig in a starring, solo role and it’s a great one. Porky had been Warner Bros. animation’s first major star but had been supplanted first by Daffy Duck (a phenomenon that was even satirized in toon form in Friz Freleng’s You Ought to Be in Pictures), and then by Bugs Bunny. After The Wearing of the Grin, Porky was relegated to the role of "straight man" in pairings with Daffy Duck or the non-speaking, house cat version of Sylvester.
I have a real fondness for the title cards that precede animated shorts, especially those found in Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Such title cards tend to feature the characters and settings in painted form which gives them a distinctly different look than how they appear within the cartoons themselves. The artists who worked on Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies produced some of the most stylish and iconic title cards I’ve ever seen. Most of them are elegant works of art that feature terrific design work in composition, layout, and typography (which was lettered by hand!). They’re just plain fun to look at!
Did I say this blog was going to be about cinema? Well, it is… mostly. The primary goal of this site is to explore movies, but you can expect the occasional deviation into other realms of interest. Like hockey. It’s not unusual for me to watch a movie every single day of the week, but on those nights where I don’t take in a film it is most often because I am watching hockey. This past weekend, the National Hockey League (NHL) presented their annual "Winter Classic," an outdoor game aimed at drawing in new fans. The unfortunate reality is that the Winter Classic is actually televised hockey at it’s worst.