Classic Cinema

“Fantastic Voyage”

(© 20th Century Fox)

I watched the debut on Turner Classic Movies of the sci-fi adventure film Fantastic Voyage (20th Century Fox, 1966) this month. While it’s definitely a period piece and a bit kitschy, I was impressed with the film’s visual effects and its unique story.

Set in the heart of the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, the film tells the story of five scientists who, along with a fancy customized submarine, are miniaturized and placed within the body of an injured man who possesses valuable and timely military secrets. The scientists have only 60 minutes to remove a blood clot in the man’s brain before they return back to normal size. 

What follows is an adventure against time within the human body. As the miniaturized submarine travels through the blood stream and human organs, the filmmakers have a bold interpretation of what the inside of the human body would look like from the perspective of a teeny tiny person. And there are many challenges and intrigues along the way to keep the plot mostly interesting and moving along.

Original theatrical poster (© 20th Century Fox)

Directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Donald Pleasance, and Edmond O’Brien, Fantastic Voyage is an enjoyable 1960s-style sci-fi adventure.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

Here’s the original trailer courtesy of the 20th Century Fox YouTube channel.

Classic Cinema

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

November’s entry in the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Big Screen Classics series was Paramount Pictures’ 1961 dramedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s

(© Paramount Pictures)

Socialite Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) and aspiring writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard) live in the same apartment building in New York City. Both are also involved in other relationships that are ones of convenience and/or survival–and definitely not love. Sparks (and confusion) start to fly as the two get to know each other better and begin to look realistically at who and what they really are and what they want out of life. And while the film is primarily focused on Holly G. (and those incredible Givenchy-designed clothes), both Holly and Paul have interesting character arcs and have interesting decisions to make.

Directed by Blake Edwards, the film also has an iconic score by Henry Mancini. The classic song “Moon River” makes its debut in the film (and Audrey sings it in a lovely way, too).

Seeing this classic film on the big screen was a total treat. Audrey Hepburn is luminous, as always. I learned from Tiffany Vazquez’s outstanding introduction that Truman Capote, the author of the source material, wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the role. Still, it’s difficult to picture anyone other than Hepburn as Holly Golightly. As advertised, TCM screened the beautiful digital print in its original aspect ratio. It was a happy ending for the film’s characters and for the film goers, too.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Thanks again for the Big Screen Classics series, TCM! Keeping my fingers crossed that it will return in 2017.

Thoughts on Movies

“The Magic of Aardman” Museum Exhibit

I had the pleasure of seeing Aardman Animations‘ “The Magic of Aardman” exhibit at the Deutsches Filmmuseum while in Frankfurt, Germany a few months ago (sorry that I’m a bit slow on this one). The exhibit is a terrific retrospective of the incredibly creative work done at Aardman Animations. I love anything that provides a glimpse into creative endeavor, particularly filmmaking, and this exhibit definitely did not disappoint.

The exibit was created by Aardman Animations in partership with the Art Ludique-Le Musée in Paris, France, where it had its debut in 2015. The Aardman website provided this introduction about it:

“Over 400 concept drawings, character and background studies, watercolours, and storyboards will complete this exceptional exhibition, where one can even discover Nick Park’s sketchbook as a student, containing the first drawings of Wallace and Gromit, never before seen by the public. The exhibition will display numerous screens, allowing visitors to discover as a family the incredible creativity of the studio, through extracts of its most famous films, but also with more than 60 short and feature films, hilarious advertisements or magical video clips.”

Here are a few of my favorite images from the exhibit. (All artwork © Aardman Animations.)

I believe this is a photo of Peter Lord, David Sproxton, and Nick Park–the founders of Aardman Animations

One of my favorites pieces in the exhibit: a set from “Shawn the Sheep–The Movie” with lighting and camera

The exhibit next opens at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne, Australia in June 2017. Here’s a promotional video:

Thoughts on Movies

“The Films of Ron and John” Film Festival

Ron Clements and John Musker are two of my favorite animation directors at Walt Disney Animation Studios. The directorial duo are responsible for making two of the great films of the Disney Animation renaissance during the late 1980s-early 1990s, specifically 1989’s The Little Mermaid and 1992’s Aladdin (one of my all-time personal favorites). 

Ron and John have directed five other films for Walt Disney Animation Studios: 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective, 1997’s Hercules, 2002’s Treasure Planet, 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, and 2016’s Moana (which was just released last weekend and it’s fantastic).

To celebrate the pending release of Moana, Walt Disney Animation Studios put on a retrospective of Ron and John’s films at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California last month. 

I attended two screenings in person at the El Capitan–Treasure Planet on October 10th and The Great Mouse Detective on October 11th–and I watched the other films at home on Blu-ray. I had the distinct, geek-out pleasure of meeting Ron and John before the Treasure Planet screening where they signed some stuff for me and the other 49 people that were first in line. As a happy and unexpected bonus, they then watched the film in the row immediately in front of me after they introduced the film onstage (many thanks to the ticket lady at the El Capitan who happened to sell me a ticket on that row). I felt like I had died and gone to Disney Animation heaven.

Waiting to meet Ron and John (sorry about the blurry pic)

Cool art cards were given out at every screening. Here’s the one for “Treasure Planet.”

Art from the specific film was on display, too. Here are some of the pieces from “Treasure Planet.”

Ron and John talking “Treasure Planet” before they sat in right in front of me for the film’s screening

The screening for The Great Mouse Detective was really enjoyable and informative, too. While Ron and John didn’t attend in person (they gave their remarks in a pre-recorded video played before the film), in attendance were co-director and Disney Legend Burny Mattinson and director and animator Rob Minkoff. 

Waiting in line (and geeking out) to meet Burny Mattinson and Rob Minkoff

Signed art card for “The Great Mouse Detective”

Art from “The Great Mouse Detective” on display

The “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ at the El Capitan

Burny and Rob talking about the production of the film

My only regret is that I couldn’t stay in California for a week to see all six films on the big screen. My thanks to Walt Disney Animation Studios and the El Capitan Theater for putting on such a classy and cool event.

All images © Disney