Diversity is what we’re all about here at MIGHTY MOVIE PODCAST. Actually, what we’re all about these days is trying just to get the frakking show out in the midst of all the other stuff going on in our lives (hence the lateness this week), but when we’re not pulling our hair out about that, yup, diversity is our beat. And this week’s episode is nothing if not diverse, featuring as it does a documentary about that most hallowed of family-friendly institutions, the Disney animated feature, and an erotic thriller by the guy who’s managed to turn the form into a complex, challenging exploration of the human condition.
This episode features interviews with Don Hahn and Peter Schneider of WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY, the documentary that looks at how, in 1984, the Disney Company – newly running under the command of Michael Eisner and backed up by Jeffrey Katzenberg and host of others, including Messrs. Hahn and Schneider — sought to revivify their moribund animation division. The film’s a detailed, and admirably candid, exploration of how the company eventually wound up creating such classics as THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and THE LION KING before a couple a tragic deaths and some corporate politics threw a spanner into the works.
Then we sit down with Atom Egoyan, to talk about his new film, CHLOE, wherein an uptight Julianne Moore hires call-girl Amanda Seyfried to report on wayward husband Liam Neeson, with everyone eventually dealing with more than they bargained for. If you know your Egoyan (EXOTICA; THE SWEET HEREAFTER), you know that the guy can juggle the sensual and the suspenseful like no other. CHLOE is no exception.
Another double-up of good stuff for ya. Click the player to hear the show.
I’m not sure when I first heard of THE SECRET OF KELLS. Probably last year, likely through AICN, definitely way before it wound up on the Oscar nominee list for animated feature (and everybody started going, “The what of who?”). At that time, the buzz was growing around this small, exquisitely designed film out of Ireland. Who imagined it getting any further than a small band of passionate geeks?
I got to finally see it courtesy of my friend Russ, who imported a U.K. region DVD and through channels too sinister to mention (I may be exaggerating a bit), had it converted to a U.S. region disk. The distributors announced press screenings not too long after, but I still felt Russ was well-justified in going to all that the effort. Over at Cinefantastique, we like to champion films with “a sense of wonder,” and THE SECRET OF KELLS meets that standard on nearly every front. Beautifully animated — imagine the simple but expressive designs of Genndy Tartakovsky (SAMURAI JACK; STAR WARS: CLONE WARS) wedded to the elaborate illuminations of the Book of Kells — and imbued with that rarefied magic that seems the sole domain of Ireland, the film well-earned its buzz, not to mention the Oscar nom and hopefully a growing audience as it is rolled out across the U.S. in the next few months.
I got to talk to KELLS’ Tomm Moore — who directed the film with Nora Twomey — a few days after the Oscar ceremonies, and we delved into matters both cultural and technical, as well as discussed the current state of the animation industry in Ireland. Click on the player to hear the interview.
The embargo on the SHUTTER ISLAND press conference has lifted, so I’m putting it out for your entertainment and enrichment. However, I believe the embargo on criticism is still in place, so I can’t really set this up in the way that I’d like. You’re just going to have to wait for the BRAND NEW Cinefantastique Podcast to get my opinion (as well as that of editor Steve Biodrowski) on the film.
Suffice it to say that SHUTTER ISLAND is Martin Scorsese’s latest work, a dark exploration of the human psyche that has Leonardo DiCaprio’s U.S. Marshal going to the titular island to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from a hospital for the criminally insane. There, he discovers more than a smattering of sinister doings, and a couple of doctors — played by Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow — whose ministrations may or may not figure in the conspiracy. Curiosity piqued? The film opens on February 19th.
Click on the player to hear the New York press conference that featured Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ben Kingsley.
So you go into this room at New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s Tim Burton exhibit, and it’s like striking gold: the Jack Skellington figure is there, along with a choice selection of the replacement heads that were used to animate dialogue; there’s the creepy, completely covered baby Penguin wicker stroller from BATMAN RETURNS; you can see a MARS ATTACKS stop-motion figure and some test footage shot before Burton decided to go CG; plus the headless horseman figure and the EDWARD SCISSORHANDS outfit and ED WOOD’s angora sweater. Film geek heaven — and a must-have for MMP’s second video podcast.
I pull out my camcorder and power up, and am instantly intercepted by a MoMA PR person, who politely but firmly informs me that practically nothing in the room, save for Edward and Headless and a vitrine with some figures from THE CORPSE BRIDE, can be filmed.
“Including,” she points out, “the angora sweater.”
Okay, I can dig that, for whatever reasons legal or contextual, stuff may be off-limits (fortunately, no such prohibitions existed for the rest of the exhibit, and, as you’ll see in the video, it’s a big durn exhibit). But specifically throwing the barbed wire up around the angora sweater? Really? Is there some sort of legal constraint, or is this humble strip of fluff so iconic of… something… that dissemination of its presence here could completely blow the intent of the exhibit?
So sorry, all you PLAN 9 maniacs. You want to worship at the alter of the angora, you’re just going to have to make a pilgrimage to New York. Happily, once you’ve performed your obeisances, you’ll then have an opportunity to drink deeply of Tim Burton’s mad genius. There are tons of concept work here, drawn by Burton’s own hand, plus a stunning variety of original and heretofore unseen artwork, sculptures and installations created specifically for the exhibit, and a copy of the hard-to-see HANSEL AND GRETEL adaptation that Burton directed for Disney in 1982.
A lot of the film stuff — including concept designs for ALICE IN WONDERLAND and the aborted Burton version of SUPERMAN RETURNS — was not verboten, so you get a taste of it in this podcast, along with a good sampling of original art, some thoughts from the exhibit’s curators on the director’s life and work, and some footage of Burton’s very Tim Burtonesque appearance at the press presentation. Click on the player above to get a look.
Okay, you could look at PIRATE RADIO (aka THE BOAT THAT ROCKED) as something of a fantasy, seeing as it deals with an historical phenomenon — how in the sixties U.K. broadcasters parked in boats outside the three mile limit gave rock-starved Britishers their music fix — in a totally fanciful, romantic, and comic way (with great costumes!). But actually, the reason why you want to listen to this episode of MIGHTY MOVIE PODCAST is to hear Tom Sturridge discuss his experience in the legendary 007 water tank, Talulah Riley talk about her participation in the stellar DOCTOR WHO episodes “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead,” and Nick Frost provide some insight into working with Steven Spielberg on THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN.
Plus, Nick Frost (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ) is just cool to talk to.
Click on the player below to hear the interviews.
“Lars von Trier doesn’t like to fly.” “Lars von Trier isn’t going to talk to a lot of press.” Yeah, yeah; yadda-yadda. But just because he isn’t talking to us doesn’t mean we can’t talk about him, particularly about his childhood. I have it on good authority that he refused to eat his sandwiches until the crusts were cut off, and he slept with a night light until he was fifteen.
Seriously, though, I came out of ANTICHRIST — von Trier’s latest film which has been freaking out audiences from Cannes forward — aching to delve further into it. And with the director (did you know he got atomic wedgies every day after gym?) unavailable, I decided to carry on the conversation with a couple of people who could provide some intriguing perspectives on the film: Monika Treut, director of SEDUCTION: THE CRUEL WOMAN, GENDERNAUTS, and GHOSTED; and Steve Biodrowski, editor of Cinefantastique Online.
You can click on the player below to hear the discussion. And Lars, next time, we really want to get your insights directly. We promise we won’t mention how you were subjected to swirlies on a weekly basis.
The Coen brothers are at it again. They’ve already sicced existential hit men, lunkheaded convicts, and over-ambitious hula hoop manufacturers on the populace, now they’ve gone and recruited God as chief tormentor. The target this time: Some poor, midwestern schlub who isn’t gonna know what hit him.
A SERIOUS MAN is a comedy, but a comedy in the Coen tradition, which means humble, Jewish physics professor Larry Gopnik (Broadway actor Michael Stuhlbarg) is going to go through royal Hell for our amusement, and maybe enrichment. Set in 1967, the film plagues Larry with the turmoils of the time, including but not limited to sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, moral relativism, and an unemployed brother (Richard Kind). This all could be very painful… aw, hell, it is painful. But it’s pain in the laughing-through-tears tradition that the Coens — once nice, midwestern Jewish boys themselves — know all too well.
SPOILER ALERT: This version of the podcast contains minor plot spoilers at the end of the round table interview. If you want to avoid these spoilers, please go to mightymoviepodcast.com and download the spoiler-free version.
So… more li’l doll people. Been a good year for that kinda thing — CORALINE, $9.99. And now there’s 9, in which a group of burlapy, goggle-eyed humanoids struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic waste heap. Would it surprise you that Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov were co-producers on this project? Would it further surprise you that the CG animated film — directed by newcomer Shane Acker, based on his deservedly highly-praised short film (which we have embedded here) — has tons of grotty atmosphere and an overall dark attitude?
And monsters. Really weird, disturbing monsters (if the giant, soul-sucking spider robot doesn’t freak you out, the hypno-snake will). Which is a good thing, because the story itself isn’t really anything to speak of. Shame that a voice cast that includes Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, Elijah Wood, and Martin Landau doesn’t have better lines to deliver, but when you’ve got little burlap people defending themselves against a robot pterodactyl, snappy patter can sort of take a back seat.
Click on the player below to hear Tim Burton talk about the film.
Thank you, Glenn McQuaid, for letting us laugh at the desecration of holy ground again.
Shot on a tight budget, with New York City — mostly Staten Island — standing in for the British Isles in the nineteenth century, I SELL THE DEAD has pretty much nothing going for it except a neat cast, plus the visual inventiveness and sheer, audacious wit of its director, Mr. McQuaid. Fortunately, that’s more than enough.
Essentially a depiction of what would happen if Laurel and Hardy had to stoop to a less-savory profession to make their living, the film tells the tale of Arthur Blake (LOST’S Dominic Monaghan) and Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden, better known as the director of such films as WENDIGO), two legendary grave robbers who specialize in the acquisition and redistribution of, shall we say, product that is very dead yet also quite animated.
Yup, not satisfied merely with portraying the finer points of digging up cadavers, McQuaid rallies zombies, vampires, and a few other creatures brought in from way left field to his cause, and throws in Ron Perlman as an inquisitive priest and Angus Scrimm as, what else, a big, scary guy. Granted, there’s not much in the way of a strong, narrative through-line here — watching the film, you’ll well understand how, at one point in its voyage to the screen, the script became a comic book — but I SELL THE DEAD’S approach is so infectious that you can’t help but relish every last, silly, episodic minute of it.
Click on the player below to hear my interview with McQuaid.
Will the public option cover soul extractions? As if TOTAL RECALL and THE ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND weren’t warnings enough that technology should be employed prudently when messing with the human mind, now comes Sophie Barthes’ COLD SOULS, a comic fantasy in which getting your soul removed may do wonders for your acting career, so long as you don’t mind running the risk of having said soul wind up on the black market in St. Petersburg.
The guy learning the lesson firsthand is Paul Giamatti, playing an actor named, curiously enough, Paul Giamatti. He’s supposed to be starring in a Broadway production of Uncle Vanya, but a bout of professional (or maybe it’s just general) angst is keeping him from hitting his stride. Enter Soul Storage, a company that for a price will remove that nagging impediment to conscience-free happiness and store it safely away. The process is quick and painless; the problem is that the backers are based mostly in the Russian underworld, and you don’t necessarily want to be putting your soul under their care. That’s especially true when the boss’ girlfriend will do anything to get a jump-start in show-biz, including asking her loving S.O. for an extra infusion of contraband, American talent.
Sophie Barthes shot the film in New York and Russia, and was willing to give us some insight into her definition of soul, what it’s like dealing with actors raised in the land of Stanislavski, and how one can relish the pleasure of having one’s life-partner also be a film’s producer and cinematographer. Click on the player above to hear the interview.