Showing posts with label Wes Studi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wes Studi. Show all posts

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Review: Takes a Bit, But Pixar's "Soul" Finds its Soul

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 30 of 2021 (No. 1768) by Leroy Douresseaux

Soul (2020)
Running time:  100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes0
MPAA –  PG for thematic elements and some language
DIRECTORS:  Pete Docter with Kemp Powers (co-director)
WRITERS:  Pete Docter, and Mike Jones, and Kemp Powers
PRODUCER:  Dana Murray
CINEMATOGRAPHERS:  Matt Aspbury (D.o.P.) and Ian Megibben (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Kevin Nolting
COMPOSERS: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross with Jon Batiste (jazz compositions and arrangements)
Academy Award winner


Starring:  (voices) Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, Donnell Rawlings, Ahmir-Khalib Thompson a.k.a. Questlove, Angela Bassett, Cora Champommier, Margo Hall, Daveed Diggs, Rhodessa Jones, Wes Studi, Sakina Jaffrey, Ochuwa Oghie, Jeannie Tirado, Dorian Lockett, and Marcus Shelby

Soul is a 2020 American computer-animated, comedy-drama, and fantasy film from director Pete Docter and co-director Kemp Powers and is produced by Pixar Animation Studios.  Soul is also the first Pixar film to feature an African-American protagonist.  Soul focuses on a jazz pianist who finds himself trapped in a strange place that exists between Earth and the afterlife.

Soul introduces Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a pianist living in New York City and who dreams of playing jazz professionally.  He is also a middle school music teacher at M.S. 70, and the school's Principal Arroyo (Jeannie Tirado) has just offered to make him a full-time teacher.  Joe's mother, Libba, (Phylicia Rashad) insists that he make teaching a full time job, fearing for his financial security as a jazz musician chasing gigs and sessions.

One day, a former student, Lamont “Curley” Baker (Ahmir-Khalib Thompson a.k.a. Questlove), who is now a jazz drummer, tells Joe that there is an opening in the jazz group, “the Dorothea Williams Quartet,” and that auditions are being held at “The Half Note” jazz club.  Dorothea Williams is a legend, and playing in a jazz outfit like hers has been Joe's dream for years.

But an accident causes Joe's soul to be separated from his body, and Joe ends up trapped between “the Great Beyond” and “the Great Before.”  And perhaps the only thing that can save Joe is helping a wayward soul known as “22” (Tina Fey).

Soul may feature Pixar Animation Studios' first African-American lead, Jamie Foxx's Joe Gardner,, but it is not really a “black film.”  The film is not a celebration of ordinary black people, but it dares to imagine black people as ordinary folks who have the same ups and downs, successes and failures, and hopes and dreams as everyone else.  Also, Soul is the most adult film that Pixar has produced to date.  I think children could enjoy it, but Soul deals with the kind of existential questions that adults face.  In fact, I found that the film's story seemed to confront me about my life on more than a few occasions.  I also like that the film asks a lot of questions, but bluntly and stubbornly refuses to answer all of them.

I did find the first 50 minutes of Soul to be muddled in terms of the narrative.  Everything about it is technically proficient, but the story lacks … soul.  It is not until Joe and 22 reach Earth that Soul really begins to grapple with the struggle between living a life with a purpose as in goals and living a life in which once enjoys living.

Whenever I review a Pixar film, I really don't get into the quality of the animation.  From the standpoint of technology and art, Pixar has practically always been astounding and awesome.  For a long time now, Pixar's computer-animation (or 3D animation) has been so good and so beautifully rendered and colored that it makes me forget that I am watching an animated film.  Soul, in its dazzling colors, inventive characters, and imaginative settings (“the Great Beyond” and how it welcomes a soul), is about as strong as its predecessors

Soul's film score recently won an Oscar.  Jon Batiste's jazz compositions and arrangements are captivating, and made me feel like I was right there in the performance.  Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score, especially when the story moves into the realms of the soul, is ethereal, magically, and futuristic, and sounds like music from another world.

I like the voice performances.  Jamie Foxx does not fully sound like Jamie Foxx, and, in that, he makes Joe Gardner feel like a genuine character.  What more can I say about Tina Fey?  As “22,” she shows, once again, that she has talent to burn.  Also, I think Phylicia Rashad makes the most of every line she has in the film; she makes Libba Gardner seem like a real mother.

Ultimately, Soul reminds me that I really need Pixar Animation Studios in my life.  Pixar's feature films find the best of humanity and emphasize the beauty in us all.  This time, Pixar gives us Soul to remind us to look up and notice the beauty in us and in the world around us.

8 of 10

Sunday, May 2, 2021

2021 Academy Awards, USA:  2 wins:  “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Score” (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste) and “Best Animated Feature Film” (Pete Docter and Dana Murray); 1 nomination: “Best Sound” (Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott, and David Parker)

2021 Golden Globes, USA:  2 wins: “Best Motion Picture – Animated” and “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste)

2021 BAFTA Awards:  2 wins: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Pete Docter and Dana Murray) and “Original Score” (Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross)
; 1 nomination: “Best Sound” (Coya Elliott, Ren Klyce, and David Parker)

The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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Monday, November 30, 2020

Negromancer News Bits and Bites from November 22nd to 30th, 2020 - Update #31

by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

Support Leroy on Patreon:


BOX OFFICE - From Deadline:   The winner of the 11/27 to 11/29/2020 weekend box office was DreamWorks Animation's "The Croods: A New Age" with an estimated take of 9.7 million dollars.

POLITICS - From GuardianUK:   Why Biden shouldn't extend an olive branch to Republicans

CULTURE - From YahooLife:  If it isn't the most unusual location for a McDonald's restaurant in America, it is one of the most.  See the Ace Hardward-McDonald's in Washington D.C.

MOVIES - From Time:   "Time Magazine" names the "Ten Best" acting performances in film for 2020.

SPORTS/CULTURE - From NPR:   Sarah Fuller of the Vanderbilt Commodores football team becomes the first woman in history to play in a "Power 5" conference football game.  Vanderbilt is a member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) as is their opponent in the game played on Sat. Nov. 28th, 2020, the University of Missouri Tigers.

SPORTS/MUSIC - From ESPN:   Grammy-winning, Canadian recording artist, "The Weeknd," will be the headlining act at the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show.

From CoS:  "The Weeknd" did not receive one 2021 Grammy nomination when they were recently announced, although he seemed to be a lock to receive several due to the smash success of his 2020 album, "After Hours."  Sources close to him believe that this lack of nominations is due to him performing at the Super Bowl LV halftime show.

STREAMING - From IndependentUK:   Acclaimed director David Lynch is apparently working on a series entitled "Wisteria" for Netflix.

OSCARS - From Variety:   Netflix could break an 85-year-old Oscar record.  That would be for the studio with the most "Best Picture" nominations in a year - held by MGM with five in 1937.

From Variety:  If you don't like the Academy Awards diversity standards, comedian and actor, Andy Samberg, says that you can f**k off.

CULTURE - From Yahoo/NYT:  A new generation of rich kids wants to tear down capitalism.

TELEVISION - From Deadline:   Actor Idris Elba will interview rock music legend and former Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney for a BBC One special, "Idris Elba Meets Paul McCartney."

MOVIES - From WeGotThisCovered:  Disney is apparently considering or developing a spinoff of 20th Century Fox's "Alien" franchise that involves a younger version of the beloved character "Ellen Ripley," made famous by Oscar-nominated actress, Sigourney Weaver.

STREAMING - From Deadline:   Netflix has removed Comedy Central's "Chappelle's Show" from its streaming service at the request of the series' star, Dave Chappelle.  Chappelle claims that ViacomCBS

POLITICS - From YahooNYT:  The things Donald Trump really liked about being President of the USA.

MOVIES - From Collider:  Writer-director Chris Columbus provides an update on "Gremlins 3," which would be the second sequel to "Gremlins," the beloved 1984 he wrote.

GRAMMYS - From THR:   Trevor Noah, the host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," will host the 2021 Grammy Awards.

From ETOnline:  South Korea's musical act, BTS, has become the first K-Pop (Korean pop) act to receive a Grammy Awards nomination in a major category - "Best Pop Duo/Group Performance" for their English-language single, "Dynamite."

TELEVISION - From Deadline:  Sports journalists, Jemele Hill, formerly of ESPN, and Kelley Carter, are  joining Gabriele Union and Sony Pictures TV to develop the half-hour comedy, "New Money," for Showtime.

MOVIES - From YahooEntertainment:   Cherokee American actor Wes Studi revisits the Oscar-winning film, "Dances With Wolves" (including winning "Best Picture"), in which he appeared and also talks about the changing depictions of Native Americans in film and television

TELEVISION - From YahooEntertainment:   "Saturday Night Live" writer reveals how Eddie Murphy saved the late-night show 40 years ago.

BOX OFFICE - From Deadline:   The winner of the 11/20 - 11/22/2020 weekend box office is "Freaky" with an estimated take of 1.2 million dollars.

CELEBRITY - From THR:   Tyler Perry's giveaway of food and gift cards at Tyler Perry Studios on Sunday, Nov. 22nd attracted thousands.  People started lining up in their cars on Saturday...

MOVIES - THR: Tyler Perry, Melanie Lynskey and Ron Perlman are the latest stars to join the all-star cast of Adam McKay’s satire, "Don’t Look Up."

MOVIES - From ShadowandAct:  Grammy-winning recording artist and actor, Nelly, will portray seminal rock 'n' roll musician, Chuck Berry, in "Clear Lake," an upcoming biographical film about the late Buddy Holly.

CELEBRITY - From ShadowandAct:   Taylor Simone Ledward, the widow of actor Chadwick Boseman ("Black Panther"), is the administrator of the late actor's estate.

POLITICS - From Truthout:  President Joe Biden should cancel student debt on "Day One" of his administration.

MOVIES - From THR:   Channing Tatum has reunited with his "21 Jump Street" collaborator, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, for a "tongue-in-cheek" thriller based on the "Universal Monsters" franchise.


From YahooHuffPost:   The British actor and weightlifter and bodybuilder, David Prowse, has died at the age of 85, Saturday, November 28, 2020.  Prowse was best known for playing "Darth Vader" in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, beginning with "Star Wars" in 1977.  Prowse wore Vader's costume, but actor James Earl Jones provided Vader's voice.

From ESPN:   Argentine professional football (soccer) player, Diego Maradona, has died at the age of 60, Wednesday, November 25, 2020.  Considered one of the greatest players of all time, Maradona captained Argentina to the 1986 World Cup championship.

From YahooEntertainment:   The brother of actors, Bill Murray and Brian Doyle-Murray, Ed Murray, has died at the age of 76, Monday, November 23, 2020.  Ed was one of the inspirations for the iconic sports movie, "Caddyshack" (1980), which Brian co-wrote and in which Bill starred.


From CDC:   The Centers for Disease Control has a "COVID Data Tracker."

From YahooNews:  Why does COVID-19 kill some people and hardly affects others?

From YahooNews:  Yahoo has a dedicated page of links updating news about COVID-19.

From Deadline:  The news site "Deadline" has a dedicated page for news about coronavirus and the film, TV, and entertainment industries.

From TheNewYorker:  The venerable magazine has a dedicate COVID-19 page free to all readers.

From YahooNews:  Re: the federal government's response to COVID-19: What if the most important election of our lifetime was the last one - 2016?

From YahooLife:  What is "happy hypoxia?"  And do you have this COVID-19 symptom?

From JuanCole:  Remember when President Donald went crazy and suggested that we ingest household cleaning supplies and UV light to fight COVID-19.  Here is the video and commentary from Juan Cole.

From TheIntercept:  The federal government has ramped up security and police-related spending in response to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, including issuing contracts for riot gear, disclosures show. The purchase orders include requests for disposable cuffs, gas masks, ballistic helmets, and riot gloves...

From TheAtlanticThe Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying. The pandemic has exposed the bitter terms of our racial contract, which deems certain lives of greater value than others.

From ProPublica:  Hospital's Secret COVID-19 Policy Separated Native American Mothers From Their Newborns

From TheGuardian:  More than 20 million Americans could have contracted COVID-19, experts say.

From RSN/WashPost:  The COVID-19 mutation that has taken over the world.

7/13 - From YahooSports:  Maybe a pandemic means that there will not be college football this fall.

7/13- From YahooNews:  The CDC adds four new symptoms (including nausea and purple or blue lesions on feet and toes) to the list of COVID-19 symptoms.

7/19 - From YahooFinance:  Harvard Public Health professor Dr. Howard Koh says the U.S. "needs to regroup" to find COVID-19.

7/22 - From YahooNews:  A public health employee predicted Florida's coronavirus catastrophe — then she was fired.

7/22 - From YahooLifestyle:  Florida mom loses son, 20, to coronavirus, and then days later, her daughter.

7/23 - From TheWrap:  The site has a list of movie and TV stars, entertainment and sports figures who have tested positive for COVID-19

From Bloomberg:  Will the COVID-19 pandemic turn Millennials into socialists?

7/27 - From CNN:   Chief of critical care at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center, Dr. Joseph Costa, passes away due to Covid-19 complications... after treating the hospital's sickest COVID-19 patients.  He was 56 and leaves behind family, including a husband of 28 years.

7/31 - From Slate:  COVID-19 is airborne - for reals!

8/9 - From YahooAFP:  According to the real-time tally kept by John Hopkins University, the United States has hit 5 million cases of COVID-19.

8/16 - From Truthout: COVID Deaths Continue to Surge in Countries Led by Far Right Authoritarians

9/19 - From WashPost:  U.S. coronavirus death toll reaches 200,000

9/23 - From CNBC:  Mark Cuban, who owns the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and star of ABC's "Shark Tank," suggests that every household in American get a $1000 check every two weeks for the next two months.

11/7 - From YahooNews:  "It's a slaughter," doctors say of new coronavirus wave.

11/13 - YahooNews:  "We blew it": U.S. reaches 'explosive' COVID-19 spread as virus is nearly impossible to control, experts say.

11/29 From LATimes:  California sets record with most COVID-19 hospitalizations since pandemic began


From RSN:   Judge's Blistering Opinion Says Courts Have Placed Police Beyond Accountability

From TheGuardian:  Yusef Salaam, one of the "Central Park Five," says in an interview, "Trump would have had me hanging from a tree in Central Park."

From NPR:  Prosecutors' plea deal required drug suspect to name Breonna Taylor a "co-defendant."

From ChicagoSunTimes:  Rev. Jesse Jackson: America has millions of people in poverty because Americans choose not to demand the policies that would lift them out of poverty.

From APNews:  No one will be held accountable for the killing of Louisville African-American resident, Breonna Taylor.

From Channel4:  Revealed: Trump campaign strategy to deter millions of Black Americans from voting in 2016

From GuardianUK:  California is going to consider paying reparations to the descendants of African slaves after adopting a landmark law to study and to develop proposals around the issue.

From TheRoot:   What to Do When Your Country Turns Into a Dumpster Fire

From Vox:  It's True: 1 in 1,000 Black Americans Have Died in the Covid-19 Pandemic

From CBS:  Breonna Taylor's boyfriend certain cops didn't identify themselves

From DonaldTrump:  Well, because it has been in the news a lot lately (via Ice Cube and Li'l Wayne), here is "The Platinum Plan."  It is impressive, but no Republican Congress would go along with even 10 percent of this plan which is basically a long list of promises to the Black Americans - individually and as a group.

From Truthout:   Yes, 55 Percent of White Women Voted for Trump. No, I’m Not Surprised.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Negromancer News Bits and Bites from June 1st to 8th, 2019 - Update #23

Support Leroy on Patreon:

COMICS - From Newsarama:  Apparently (X-Men:) "Dark Phoenix" was being rewritten daily during its production.

MOVIES - From MovieWeb:  Sigourney Weaver says that she will appear in Jason Reitman's upcoming "Ghostbusters 3" film.

COMICS-FILM - From TheWrap:  "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" apparently does not have a post-credits scene.  When the credits role, the movie is over.

MOVIES - From Collider:  Producer Jason Blum and actress Jamie Lee Curtis tease a sequel to last year's hit, "Halloween" (2018).

TELEVISION - From TheWrap:  NBC is developing a TV series based on Dan Brown's novel, "The Last Symbol."  Entitled "Langdon," the series will focus on Robert Langdon, the character best known as the lead in Brown's worldwide bestselling novel, "The Da Vinci Code."

MOVIES - From THR:  Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving will play the onscreen children of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, respectively.

TERMINATOR - From CBR:  James Cameron said that he would return to the "Terminator" franchise (for "Terminator: Dark Fate") on one condition.  Arnold Schwarzenegger had to also return.

BLM/STREAMING - From YahooNews:  Regarding the Central Park Five and Netflix's "When They See Us," former prosecutor Linda Fairstein is discovering that God don't sleep.

SPORTS - From NFL:  NFL announces new social grants recipients.

TELEVISION - From YahooEntertainment:  Mindy Kaling says she was a diversity hire at "The Office."

MOVIES - From Variety:  Woody Allen will begin shooting his 51st film this summer in Spain.  Amazson shelved Allen's last film, "A Rainy Day in New York," and ended its deal with im.

TELEVISION - From Variety:  There was word that writers for Fox's TV series, "Empire," were working on ideas to bring disgraced actor, Jussie Smollett, back to the series.  However, series co-creator Lee Daniels says Smollett will not return.

SCIENCE - From ScienceMag:  What cats do with their time.

STREAMING -  From Deadline: Joe and Anthony Russo ("Avengers: Infinity War" and "Endgame") will executive produce an animated series based on the tabletop trading card game, "Magic: The Gathering" for Netflix.

From ShadowsandAct:  Octavia Spencer credits NBA superstar LeBron James with making sure she got paid right for her Netflix limited series about Madam C.J. Walker.

OSCARS - From Deadline:  Actor Wes Studi and directors David Lynch and Lina Wertmuller will receive Honorary Oscars and actress Geena Davis (The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award).  They are the winners of the 11th Annual Governors Awards as voted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Board of Governors.

MOVIES - From Deadline:   Barry Jenkins ("Moonlight") is in talks to direct a biopic about Alvin Ailey, one of the most important and influential choreographers of the 20th century.

BOX OFFICE - From BoxOfficeMojo:  The winner of the 5/31 to 6/2/2019 weekend box office is "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" with an estimated take of 49 million dollars.

From Deadline:  "Godzilla: King of Monsters" trending lower than expected, here and abroad.

ANIMATION - From THR:  Japan's Studio Ghibli ("Princess Mononoke," "My Neighbor Totoro") announces plans to open in theme park in 2022.

TECH - From TechRader:  5G and film: how will the tech change how we consume movies?

MOVIES - From WMagazine:  Summer Movies: An Official Guide to the Non-Blockbusters, From Plus One to Ready or Not


From Deadline:  New Orleans singer, songwriter, and pianist, Dr. John, has died at the age of 71, Thursday, June 6, 2019.  A six-time Grammy Award winner, Dr. John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.  His best known single was the 1973 hit, "Right Place, Wrong Time."

From NOLA:  Celebrated chef and civil rights activist, Leah Chase, has died at the age of 96, Saturday, June 1, 2019.  Known as the queen or matriarch of New Orleans Creole cuisine, Chase career spanned seven decades, she fed everyone from ordinary people to the famous, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Baldwin.

From RollingStone:  Former Harlem drug kingpin, Frank Lucas, has died at the age of 88, Thursday, May 30, 2019.  Lucas was immortalized in Ridley Scott's 2007 crime film, "American Gangster," with Denzel Washington playing Lucas.  Lucas claimed he imported heroin from Southeast Asia in the coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in Vietnam in the 1970s, a gambit known as the "Golden Triangle."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review: "Planes: Fire and Rescue" Flies Past Original

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 50 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014)
Running time:  84 minutes (1 hour, 24 minutes)
Rating: MPAA – PG for action and some peril
DIRECTOR:  Bob Gannaway
WRITERS:  Jeffrey M. Howard; from a story by Jeffrey M. Howard and Bob Gannaway (based on characters created by John Lasseter, Klay Hall, and Jeffrey M. Howard)
PRODUCER:  Ferrell Barron
EDITOR:  Dan Molina
COMPOSER:  Mark Mancina

ANIMATION/ACTION/DRAMA/FAMILY with elements of comedy

Starring:  Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, John Michael Higgins, Hal Holbrook, Wes Studi, Barry Corbin, Regina King, Fred Willard, Kevin Michael Richardson, Rene Auberjonois, Jerry Stiller, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Cedric the Entertainer, Danny Mann, John Ratzenberger, and Brent Musburger

Planes: Fire & Rescue is a 2014 computer-animated fantasy action film and drama that was produced by DisneyToon Studios.  It is a direct sequel to the 2013 film, Planes.  The Planes film series is a spinoff of Pixar's Cars film franchise.  Planes focuses on Dusty, a cropduster plane who dreams of competing in a world-famous aerial race.  In Planes: Fire & Rescue, Dusty learns that he may never race again and begins training as a firefighter to help his hometown.

As Planes: Fire & Rescue opens, Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) continues his successful aerial racing career that took off after he won the Wings Around the Globe Rally.  However, the high rates of speed at which Dusty flies leads to some internal damage that may end his racing career.  After an accidental fire closes the airport in his hometown of Propwash Junction, Dusty offers to undergo training to be certified as a firefighter.

He travels to Piston Peak National Park to train under Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), a veteran fire-and-rescue helicopter, and the crew he commands, the Piston Peak Air Attack.  Dusty, however, is over-anxious and his training proves to be a difficult challenge, even as a major fire strengthens and threatens the entire park.

There is no way that I expected Planes: Fire & Rescue to be a better film than Planes, which I really liked, but the sequel surpasses the original.  Why is that?   Fire & Rescue has heart; it's that simple.  Dusty Crophopper's problems:  the dilemmas he faces, his conflicts with his new colleagues, his self-doubts, his grief over a possibly lost career, and his desperation to prove himself all over again make for surprisingly gripping drama.

Yes, I said drama.  Pixar's films are strongly dramatic, even when there is a lot humor or at least a strong undercurrent of humor.  The Planes films are a spinoff of a Pixar series, but are not produced by Pixar.  They are produced by another Disney unit (DisneyToon Studios).  Still, Fire & Rescue feels kind of Pixar-ish, and that is, of course, a good thing.  This film is more of a heartwarming drama than it is a comedy for children.

Fire & Rescue is also a topnotch aerial action film.  It is still hard for me to believe that computer-animated air planes and helicopters in action could be as exciting to watch as live-action airplanes and jets, but it is true.  My interest in the story soared with each new flight scene.

Once again, the voice acting cast supporting Dane Cook is good, and that means a good film for family viewing and a good film in general.  In fact, I think that if more adults gave Planes: Fire & Rescue a chance, they would like it.

7 of 10

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Terrence Malick's "The New World" Poetic and Spiritual

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 121 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The New World (2005)
Running time: 135 minutes (2 hour, 15 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some intense battle sequences
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Terrence Malick
PRODUCER: Sarah Green
EDITORS: Richard Chew, A.C.E., Hank Corwin, A.C.E., Saar Klein, and Mark Yoshikawa
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis, Yorick van Wageningen, Raoul Trujillo, Michael Greyeyes, Kalani Queypo, Ben Mendelsohn, Noah Taylor, Ben Chaplin, John Savage, Janine Duvitski, Irene Bedard, Eddie Marsan, Roger Rees, Myrton Running Wolf, Jonathan Pryce, and Jesse Borrego

Director Terrence Malick’s (The Thin Red Line) shot over 1 million feet of film for his most recent movie, The New World. Originally released on Christmas Day 2005 with a run time of 150 minutes, Malick pulled the film and edited it down to 135 minutes for re-release. This is the definitive version – reportedly the version Malick prefers.

The story begins in North America in the early years of the 17th century. The continent is as it has been for the previous five thousand years – a vast land of seemingly endless primeval wilderness with the only inhabitants being an intricate network of tribal cultures (Native American who speak Algonquin). In April of 1607, three small seagoing vessels from England sail into this Eden. On board one of the ships is John Smith (Colin Farrell), a once-promising young officer and soldier of fortune, now chained below decks and destined to be hanged for insubordination. Captain Christopher Newport (Christopher Plummer), however, pardons Smith because he realizes that he will need every able-bodied man he has in this new world, and Smith, in particular.

Newport and his men have landed (in what is now Virginia) in the midst of a sophisticated Native American empire ruled by the powerful chieftain, Powhatan (August Schellenberg). While this is the new world to the Englishmen, North America is an ancient world to Powhatan, and he and his people are wary of the Englishmen, believing they intend to stay. The Englishmen struggle to survive in their new home, so John Smith seeks assistance from the local tribes. During this trip, he encounters a young native woman who at first seems like a woodland sprite or perhaps something not real. However, this willful and impetuous creature is real, and she is Powhatan’s daughter (Q’orianka Kilcher), known as Pocahontas (although she is never called that in the film). Smith and the young woman form a bond that transcends ordinary love, and it tests the strength of their bonds with their respective people. However, their love story would become one of the best-known American legends.

The New World is really two stories. One is a character driven narrative about the relationship between John Smith and Pocahontas, and the other is an entirely visually conveyed story about North America as it was just as the English settlers were arriving. The former is internally driven. Smith and Pocahontas speak mostly in voiceovers, and the film leaves the audience to guess at what thoughts and images run through their minds as the two bond. It’s a poetic courtship based on shared feelings, in which the audience might understand the spiritual connection, but is often left yearning to share the obviously intense physical connection. Malick takes an odd approach to filming romance and love in this movie; it is impressionistic – at least from the point of the view of the audience. However, it can intrigue, can make the viewer interested in understanding why these two people from vastly different worlds are so in love with one another.

The latter tale is visually driven. Malick and his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki (who earned an Oscar nod for his work), present the new world as an expansive verdant forest of fertile, intensely green plant life; wide-open, deep blue skies; and dreamlike waterways. Shot almost entirely with available (natural) light, the film has an ethereal quality like something trying and almost succeeding at being real, although it isn’t. Malick stages the battles between natives and newcomers with a sense of poetry that could pass for a kind of violent ballet or interpretive dance in the right light. In the end, Malick presents these confrontations as a sort of pastoral, historical recreation, and it has a natural feel to it – verisimilitude, perhaps.

The performances are excellent. Colin Farrell and Q’orianka Kilcher have magical screen chemistry, and Kilcher is quite a find, giving one of the best performances by an actress in 2005. Farrell takes his bad boy attitude and quality and transforms himself into a thoughtful man who has lived a life of adventure and enormous responsibility – a rebel who also understands consequence and responsibility. Christian Bale also makes a nice turn with a small role in the last third of the film. Malick, one of the few American directors not only totally dedicated to the idea that film is art, but also dedicated to making film that is actually high art, does make a few missteps (too many voiceovers, a few abrupt jumps in narrative, some dry spots, etc.). However, he brings his talented cast and crew together and creates in The New World an outstanding poetic, visual feast that speaks softly to our souls.

8 of 10

Friday, June 02, 2006

2006 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Emmanuel Lubezki)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Review: "AVATAR" is the Best Picture of 2009

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 (of 2009) by Leroy Douresseaux

Avatar (2009)
Running time: 162 minutes (2 hours, 42 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language, and some smoking
PRODUCERS: James Cameron and Jon Landau
EDITORS: James Cameron, John Refoua, and Stephen Rivkin
Academy Award winner


Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Laz Alonzo, Dileep Rao, and Matt Gerald

Because he has directed such Oscar-winning films as The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and Titanic (1997), I believe that James Cameron is one of the few directors who, using whatever advances in film technology available, can make any kind of movie and always make it a good movie. [Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are the other two.] Cameron has even developed advancements in film technology, and that makes me wonder if anyone other than he could have created the new film, Avatar.

Avatar is everything good that you have heard about it and more. Cameron has cast a titanic spell of movie magic that will immerse the viewer in an adventure that pits eco-harmonious blue warriors against a mechanized, imperial war machine. The center of Avatar, however, is a surprisingly simply story about an alien warrior who fights not for his own world, but for the world of the woman he loves.

Avatar takes place in 2154, a time when Earth has run out of oil. A moon called Pandora (one of many moons orbiting a giant gas planet) has a rare mineral called Unobtainium, which is the key to solving Earth’s energy problems. This alien world materializes through the eyes of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic former Marine. Even with his body broken and being confined to a wheelchair, Jake’s DNA makes him useful.

The RDA corporation recruits Jake to travel light years to the human outpost on Pandora, where it is mining Unobtainium. Because humans cannot breathe Pandora’s atmosphere, a group of scientists and researchers, led by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), have created the Avatar Program, in which human “drivers” have their consciousness linked to Avatars. An Avatar is a remotely-controlled biological body that can breathe the lethal air. These Avatars are genetically engineered hybrids of human DNA mixed with DNA from the natives of Pandora, a humanoid race called the Na'vi. The Na’vi are 10-feet tall, with tails, bones reinforced with naturally occurring carbon fiber, and bioluminescent blue skin. They live in Hometree, a gigantic tree that sits on top of the largest deposit of Unobtainium on Pandora. RDA Administrator Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) wants the Na’vi to relocate, but they have fiercely resisted.

Reborn in his Avatar form, Jake can walk again. He is given a mission to infiltrate the Na'vi. A beautiful Na'vi female, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), saves Jake’s life and also witnesses a sign that makes her think that Jake is special. Neytiri convinces her clan to take Jake into the tribe, the Omaticaya. However, the chief charges Neytiri with teaching Jake to become one of them, which involves many tests and adventures. Jake’s relationship with his reluctant teacher deepens, and he learns to respect the Na'vi’s way of life. When Selfridge becomes impatient and moves to force the Na’vi out, Jake must decide whose side he will take.

Watching Avatar, with its world of phantasmagorical creatures and plants, one cannot help but marvel at the technology used to create this film, but the audience shouldn’t be fooled by this panorama of color and movement into focusing solely on the marvels of scientific cinema. Avatar is indeed an extraordinary story, one that recalls Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves. In Wolves, a solider wounded in spirit finds healing amongst a Native American Indian tribe, and then sheds his skin (his military uniform), becoming one of the tribe. In Avatar, a marine wounded in body, Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully, sheds his body for a new one, but it is his soul that is transformed.

Like Dances with Wolves, Avatar has a romance that is the heart of the story. Behind the CGI that created so many of the things we see on screen and past the motion-capture and performance capture that created the Na’vi, Jake Sully meets Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri and practically everything that is Avatar hinges on their love story. The narrative offers messages in support of environmental conservation and biodiversity against the cold, insatiable hunger of imperialism. This gives Avatar plenty of dramatic conflict, but as usual, Cameron finds the human center of his own technological, cinematic spectaculars. There was the mother-daughter bond in Aliens and the star-crossed lovers of Titanic. Now, warrior boy meets sexy tribal princess and technical virtuosity has a heart. Cameron makes you feel what his characters feel – the joy, the anger, the sorrow, the chills, and, when the battle begins, all the thrills. Avatar may be a monumental achievement, but it is also a fantastic tale.

10 of 10

Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Academy Awards: 3 wins: “Best Achievement in Art Direction” (Rick Carter-art director, Robert Stromberg-art director, and Kim Sinclair-set decorator), “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Mauro Fiore), and “Best Achievement in Visual Effects” (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, and Richard Baneham, and Andy Jones); 6 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (James Cameron and Jon Landau), “Best Achievement in Directing” (James Cameron) “Best Achievement in Editing” (Stephen E. Rivkin, John Refoua, and James Cameron), “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (James Horner), “Best Achievement in Sound” (Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, and Tony Johnson), and “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle)

2010 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Production Design” (Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, and Kim Sinclair) and “Best Special Visual Effects” (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, and Andy Jones); 6 nominations: “Best Cinematography” (Mauro Fiore), “Best Director” (James Cameron), “Best Editing” (Stephen E. Rivkin, John Refoua, and James Cameron), “Best Film” (James Cameron and Jon Landau), “Best Music” (James Horner), and “Best Sound” (Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Tony Johnson, and Addison Teague)

2010 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Supporting Actress: (Zoe Saldana)

2010 Golden Globes: 2 wins: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (James Cameron) and “Best Motion Picture – Drama;” 2 nominations: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (James Horner) and “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (James Horner, Simon Franglen, and Kuk Harrell for the song "I See You")



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