N Luv 4Evah

When I was a kid, I collected and traded comic books (Thor, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Archie, and many others) with my best friend, and another friend who lived in the house behind mine, and watched Saturday morning cartoons with my brothers. As I grew up, I never lost my love for stories told through images—print or animated. I’ve already posted about my love for the films of Hayao Miyazaki and series like Avatar and The Legend of Korra. (Well, I probably just mentioned Korra when I posted about my love for the Avatar series.)

I’m a sucker for stylized animation and clever scripts involving extremely quirky characters. To quote a Jessica Rabbit line from the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, “I’m just drawn that way.”

This post is about three favorites of mine. Now, there are many great blogs discussing in-depth the movies of great animation studios. I’ve read and enjoyed these posts, especially the great trivia and technology facts given. But if you’re looking for that level of savvy analysis here, sorry. I’m too middle grade in my thinking.

So, this post isn’t exactly a you-have-to-watch-these-because kind of post, though by all means do so, if you haven’t already. Actually, if I were in middle school, this would be an I heart So-and-so text or some other hastily written note to my BFF describing my latest crush. (“He’s 2 hot and I M N luv 4evah.”) Call it a love postcard.

The following are 2 hot and I’m N luv 4evah. Y? Bcuz.

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Un Vie de Chat (English release title: A Cat in Paris)
A 2010 Folimage Studio film, written and directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli; the 2012 Academy Award nominee for best animated feature. Zoe has a cat, Dino, which she lets out at night. But where does Dino go? I went along for the ride and discovered a quirky film with the suspense and savoir faire of To Catch a Thief, the 1955 Cary Grant thriller. Gangsters, thieves, Notre Dame, betrayal—they’re all here. The jazz soundtrack by Serge Besset fits the mood. Ooo la la!

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Samurai Jack
The 2001—2004 four-season, Emmy award-winning series on Cartoon Network, created by Genndy Tartakovsky, features a young prince from feudal times sent forward in time by the antagonist of the series: Aku, an evil shape-shifting spirit. Samurai Jack has trained most of his life to fight Aku, and has the only weapon that can defeat him—a mystical sword. Unfortunately, he can’t get home, though he desperately tries and is thwarted by Aku and his robotic minions.

I’m an Akira Kurosawa fan, especially his 1954 classic, Seven Samurai. A series of episodes in the first season are an homage to that movie. The gorgeous, hand-painted landcapes in each episode have inspired many artists. A feast for the eyes, as they say. Normally, I love dialogue, but each episode uses dialogue sparingly and effectively. I’ve seen every episode in this series multiple times, and I’m still holding out hope for a Samurai Jack movie.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
A 2009 film by Sony Pictures Animation, written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, adapted from the book by Judi Barrett (illustrated by Ronald Barrett). Intrepid inventor Flint Lockwood comes up with a machine to turn water into food. But that’s when all the trouble starts.

There are few movies that make me laugh out loud every time. This is one of them. Thanks to Flint, Steve the Monkey, “Chicken Brent,” and the ratbirds, I fell hard for this one with the first viewing. And yes, I plan to see the sequel in September!

If you’re jonesing for animation, go here for a blog on why animation rocks. Go here for a forum with a great discussion on why people like animation. Go here and here for Disney film discussions.

TTFN!

“No. Don’t Speak”

Movie buffs will recognize the title as a line spoken by actress Dianne Wiest, who played Helen Sinclair in the 1994 Woody Allen movie Bullets over Broadway. (Another character also echoed the line.) It perfectly encapsulates my thoughts on a movie I saw recently.

I decided to watch The Artist, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2012. Normally, you couldn’t pay me to watch a silent movie, no matter how award-winning or iconic. And I’m a huge fan of Samurai Jack, the award-winning 2002—2005 animated series created by Genndy Tartakovsky, and famous for having very little dialogue.

You see, I love dialogue. Give me a movie like The Front Page, Born Yesterday, or It Happened One Night any day. But I decided to break out of my comfort zone and give this one a try. The premise on the Netflix envelope seemed familiar in that Star Is Born sense: one star descends while another ascends during the transition from silent movies to the era of the talkies.

George, the reigning king of silent films does the “meet cute” thing with Peppy, a fledgling actress. In one scene, the director even used a staircase showing the ascent of one and the descent of the other as a foreshadowing of what was to come’

I admit I had extremely low expectations as I began my viewing, even though the film won five Oscars, including Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius) and Best Actor (Jean Dujardin). I told myself I’d give it 20 minutes. If I wasn’t engaged in 20 minutes, back into the envelope it would go.

Perhaps it was Jean Dujardin’s gorgeous, engaging smile in the role of George Valentin, the pathos of Bérénice Bejo whenever she crosses paths with George (Peppy Miller), or Uggie the Jack Russell terrier’s incredible performance (love that dog), but I absolutely loved this movie. I couldn’t stop watching it. To employ a cliché, it kept me on the edge of my seat. In one viewing it broke through the walls of my prejudice toward silent movies.

As in other silent films (and SPOILERS this film is silent 99% of the time), Dujardin, Bejo and the other actors couldn’t rely on scintillating dialogue to help them keep viewers engaged. Their faces and gestures had to tell the whole story. Even props like newspaper headlines, marquee signs, and intertitles were used sparingly. So Dujardin and Bejo showed the story, rather than told it (spoke it).

I won’t go TOO spoilery by talking about the ending (though I sat through it three times). But I came away from my viewing of this film with a desire to write something equally as memorable and wall-busting as this film was for me. But as a writer, however, words must be my tool. Yet many times in the writing of my young adult fantasy work in progress, I struggle with those words. How do I help readers see the world and keep them engaged?

Many writers follow the adage “show, don’t tell.” We use words to show the story, rather than explain it. Like the directors and producers of silent films, we help our viewers (in our case, readers) gain a full experience: the tastes, smells, etc. of the worlds within the pages of our books through the use of well-chosen imagery. We’re artists (heh heh, had to sneak in that film title), painting a picture in our reader’s minds, one we hope is a vivid, lasting image.

Well, that’s my hope for my manuscript: choosing the right words to help a reader “see” that smile of my character; to experience the agony of another. So, I’ll keep plugging away at it. But at the back of my mind is the artistry of The Artist, a film that won me over and made me a believer in the power of story in any form. Even silence.