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Archive for the ‘author Marc Bauer’ Category

By Marc Bauer

     I was seventeen years old when the first Toy Story movie came out, (the same age Andy is in the latest installment). I went to a high school for Science and Technology, so the fact that this film was computer generated was something uniquely interesting. I went for the novelty of the film, not thinking anything much of it at the time. I walked out with many new friends; Woody, Buzz, Hamm, Slinky, Rex, Bo Peep and so many more. Toy Story quickly became a favorite film of mine, becoming the first film I saw more than three times in the theatre; a distinction that few films have received.

I was twenty-one when Toy Story 2 came out, and I was amongst the first in line to see the sequel. The first film was so groundbreaking, breathtaking and heartwarming; I couldn’t imagine what they could even do to top the first film. I sat in an afternoon showing, in a theatre filled with children; some younger, some older, but many the same age as I was. We all sat in this room, strangers united by a common theme; childhood nostalgia.

Now I am 32, but I still carry the war wounds of youth. My bedroom has toys from Where the Wild Things Are, Sesame Street and The Muppets on shelves on the wall. My childhood home still has the old games and toys in the closets, and try as I might; I just can’t part with the rag doll that I received the day my parents brought me home from the hospital. (more…)

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By Marc Bauer

The greatest beauty in filmmaking also happens to be one of its most terrible tragedies. Outside of the world of serial films, movies exist in a universe created entirely unto themselves. When you watch a film, you are glimpsing a window into a world created solely for that film. In many instances, the films exist in the same world we are a living; but the films that soar and take us away, those are films that are created so thoroughly that we are totally enveloped in the universe in which they exist. The nuances of the world, the subtleties that make it different from what we are familiar with, are what make it truly magical. It is sad that we only get a visa to these worlds of wonder for a few hours, and then they are gone.  What did the camera leave unanswered? What was down that alleyway there? These worlds are so rich and inviting, you want more time to explore.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet doesn’t work like most directors. He has created a contextual fabric from which he wends all his tales. There is something in his mise-en-scene that he carries between his films. (Let us discount Alien Resurrection from the oeuvre I’m discussing, as he was only the director here.) From film to film, there is certainly an air that carries about. If Amelie were to walk past Clapet’s Butcher Shop, you would not bat an eye; if One and Crank were to appear in Micmacs, again it would seem totally on the level. Is returning to the well a good or a bad thing? In the case of Jeunet, and his newest, Micmacs a Tire Larigot, it is entirely welcome. (more…)

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by Marc Bauer

Note: ‘Leaves of Grass,’ which was a big hit at the Toronto Film Festival, is slated to open nationwide this coming Friday, Apr. 2.

     Leaves of Grass, is something unique; an intelligent drug thriller, featuring identical twins, named after a Walt Whitman poetry collection, with a pro-Israel message. Written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson, best known for playing country bumpkins and rednecks in film. Similar to the character Bill (played by Edward Norton), Tim is well-read, and fled Oklahoma to the hallowed halls of Brown University’s Classics department; Bill is there as a teacher, Tim was there as student. The story, without giving it all away, is of twins Bill and Brady Kincaid. Bill is a well respected professor at Brown University; Brady is a hydroponic marijuana farmer in lower Oklahoma. The dichotomy between the two couldn’t be clearer, but as we learn in the film, it isn’t that cut and dry. Brady is actually the smarter of the two brothers, but Bill is trained into academia. In fact, the film opens on him lecturing a class on Socrates and passion. Once we see our lives as we believe to be in balance, we pretend at divinity, and like Icarus, only to see it all fall apart, crashing to the sea. Balance yields into chaos, and so too, does the story. Bill’s life is quickly changed when he is informed that his brother has been killed via crossbow, whereupon he returns home to find his brother very much alive. It is a simple devise that allows the story to unfold naturally. (more…)

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By Marc Bauer

Cinema is no stranger to films about the creation of art. We’ve seen the subject matter vary wildly and in style. There have been films about food (Ratatouille, Big Night) , about music (Amadeus, Mr. Holland’s Opus), about writing; both of books (Wonder Boys, The Shining) and of plays (Shakespeare in Love, The Producers). There have been movies about artists that cover the range from revered (The Agony and The Ecstasy, Lust for Life) to the recent (Pollock, Basquiat) and the irreverent (American Splendor, Crumb). We’ve experienced movies about making movies, done both serious (Sullivan’s Travels, Ed Wood) and comedic (Be Kind Rewind, Son of Rambow). There are even films about creating animation (Frank and Ollie, Waking Sleeping Beauty).  Yet, for all the myriad mentions of creation as the story devise, I cannot recall a single film about the making of an illuminated manuscript; until now.

The Secret of Kells is that movie; a film that delves into the creation of the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is one of the most famous Illuminated Manuscripts, and the most celebrated example of Insular Art. The book itself is something mere words cannot describe, which in a way, is fortuitous. If words were tools capable of the task of describing this book, perhaps The Secret of Kells would not have been made.  The film itself, with the use of visual vocabulary, attempts to describe the book, but truly focuses more on the story surrounding its creation. (more…)

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by Marc Bauer

Sometimes, when watching a movie, it inspires you with questions. In the best scenarios, these questions are a good thing, you are thinking about the plot, the characters, and where this is going next. In Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, these questions are there, but they are of a different nature. ‘Why did I pay nearly $15 for this?’ is one. ‘The original material was so good, why would they change it?’ is another. Tim Burton has taken a great story, one of the most recognized fantasies, and turned it into something completely different. Imagine, if you will, a 5-year old being given free reign in a kitchen; I’d venture the jellybean sandwich they created to be the culinary equivalent of this movie.

The movie is capped with two scenes in the real world, filmed in flat pastels. These scenes rely very lightly on tinkering and special effects other than some color balancing to wash away anything that resembling human flesh and expanding a few extras into a field full of followers.  Imagine if you will a “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette” inhabited by the undead and you will be able to mentally approximate the ‘warmth’ of this scene. What comes between those capping scenes is brash, colorful, and completely saccharine. These scenes are the ‘white bread’ in the aforementioned sandwich, and the entire time in Underland (more on this in a bit) are the jellybeans betwixt. (more…)

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by Marc Bauer

I typically don’t take the time to write film reviews. I prefer to discuss them once the last reel finishes spinning and talk about the highs and lows at once. This is It is a film that deserves watching, provided you are a fan of the late Michael Jackson. If you are not a fan, or if you still want him tried for the crimes they allege against him, stop reading, turn the page and move on, though I think you would be missing out. Is it hero worship? Without a doubt. But watching the two hours of the film, you never feel that it is contrived, forced or undeserved. MJ is meticulous in his design. He has a tremendous vision, and this film shows what he was working on to see that vision made a reality. In one scene he spends time singing the note he wants the female guitarist to hit. He explains that the band will go silent and the lights will be on her, it is her moment to shine, enjoy it. How many superstars let the background players shine? How many coach them on what to do in order to shine? And this isn’t the only moment where he does this; you can hear him say that the fans are coming for talent, so bring your all. He refers to his team as family, and it doesn’t seem contrived at all. If you are expecting to hear the hits, remember that this was culled together from rehearsal footage, so most of the songs are slower tempos to run through the pacing, and in deference to saving Michael’s voice for the big shows. You will get a good idea of what the show would have been would that it had been, and that show would have rivaled that of Barnum. You find yourself humming and tapping a foot along with the music. The set list was all hits, because, as MJ says it is for the fans, play the songs like the albums, they way they know the songs best.

It is more than MJ in the movie; it opens with the teary eyed interviews with dancers arriving to audition to be back-up dancers back in April. There are candid moments with the musicians working on pieces of the songs. There is footage on the making of the footage that would have been projected on the big screen. Smooth Criminal involved old footage featuring Bogart and Edward G. Robinson chasing MJ in black and white footage; faithfully recreating sets to film and splice together with original film. 10,000 choreographed dancers, 10 human and some great CG work to duplicate and extend the troup to infinity. Thriller used the classing Victor Price narration, but recreated the whole video with 3D footage, floating ghosts, and a haunted mansion feeling. They even take a few moments to talk with the costume designers. MJ has always been known for his style, and this show would have been nothing if it didn’t contain the same couture we’ve come to expect from him. Swarovski crystals and lighting effects, check. One designed ever makes a comment, if it is a joke or not is uncertain, that they have scientists working on new ideas that have never been seen before.

Through out the film you get the impression that This is It, the concert, was a swan song, as MJ said when he initially announced the shows to be, he plays the hits, and he plays them all, including a Jackson 5 medley to boot. There is even lavish pyrotechnical design, a surprise to many who would have thought he to shy away from fire since the famous Pepsi debacle that left him brutally scarred.

For what many will see as a way to recoup the massive losses the AEG were hit with, Randy Phillips and Kenny Ortega deliver a movie that has as much heart and compassion as the icon that it showcases. Sure there were concerns over his health, but this isn’t a movie about that, this is a film about the concert that would have been. This is not the man at his greatest, this is the man preparing to deliver his greatest. 

Final Rating:  *** (of 4)

Note:  Marc Bauer, a friend and member of the Fairview-based e mail network, is employed at The Agency Group, a music talent association based in Manhattan, which has among its clients Jack White.  Wonders in the Dark is thrilled to have Marc’s review of ‘Thi is It,’ a concert film that Lucille and I saw with all the kids last night at the Clifton AMC at 7:00 P.M.  Marc’s review pretty much reflects our own general opinion.

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