movie

Blacksad vs. Rango

Let’s call this the battle of the animated animals. NO, the battle of the genre’d animated animals.

In one side of the ring we have Blacksad, the noir graphic novel starring a giant black feline private eye named John Blacksad. In the far side of the ring, we have plucky Rango, a laissez-faire chameleon who ends up deep in the heart of a Western movie.

Blacksad

Blacksad will draw you in with its art, done by Juanjo Guarnido, a Spanish-based illustrator who used to draw for Disney. For adults of a certainBlacksad, courtesy Dark Horse generation, this means all of the animals feel slightly familiar, like they are echoes of childhood animated movies you can’t remember. Of course, the effect can be a bit creepy, as these are meant for adults, and there are definitely some adult situations for your run-of-the-mill cartoon dogs and cats.

The book it reminded me of most was Maus, the Pulitzer-Prize winning Holocaust memoir by Art Spiegelman. Blacksad doesn’t address the same dark issues, or have the same level of sophistication, as Maus, but several plot points rely on the “species as race” divisions for their conflict.

As far as the stories go, if you’re a fan of private eyes and the like, you’ll be well pleased. It’s really the amazing illustrations that set Blacksad apart. I’d recommend it to any casual comic reader to show that there really is something for everyone.

Rango

In all honesty, I caught Rango on a plane, so I may have missed some precious jokes.

Rango is crazy. Director Gore Verbinski must have got real sick of the pirate genre, because he crammed every film reference he could into his first animated movie. It was more Tarantino than Tarantino; I counted: Apocaplyse Now, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Chinatown, The Big Lebowski, True Grit, any spaghetti western you can name, and, indeed, Pulp Fiction.

Rango, courtesy Movie-listA tangent that shall become related soon enough: my dad always used to complain about kids’ movies that pander to the adults that have to watch them too (Shrek being a key culprit). Watching this movie, with its filmbuff asides and prostrate jokes, did make me wonder who this film was for (sleepy twenty-somethings on planes?).

Luckily the characters have enough loopy charm (although Johnny Depp! are you ever going to play normal again!) and the plot is just simple enough that the film works. Plus, the animation is really captivating, with scenes of a (rodent-sized) Western town and the surrounding desert.

Winner?

I’d say Blacksad by the whiskers of his chin.

Want more?

Check out the Dark Horse preview for Blacksad.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes video for Rango.

A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noël)

Ever had a Netflix movie hang around your neck like an albatross? (Literary allusion explained here, for those who fell asleep in 10th grade English class).

In my defense, A Christmas Tale (in French Un conte de Noël) seemed to sneak up in my queue. It was meant to arrive around the holidays LAST YEAR, but instead got co-opted by repeated Party Down (RIP) viewings. The disc arrived around April, and I had been putting off watching it. So many excuses: it’s long, in French, and Christmas-themed.

The disc seemed destined to return unwatched, but a cold front in the Bay Area sometime in August inspired me to make some tea and watch it. (That’s right, this post is fraught with procrastination, from watching, to writing, to posting).

Now that it’s actually the holidays, I can justify a recommendation, for it’s a lovely, rich movie, if perhaps more melancholy than your typical Christmas cinema (although It’s a Wonderful Life is quite dark when you think about it).
Mid-way through watching, it struck me how much A Christmas Tale reminded me of The Royal Tenenbaums. There’s a sick parent, an elegant matriach (Catherine Deneuve, natch), a killer soundtrack, depressed grown-up siblings, a suicide attempt, a family hanger-on, even a play put on by children.

The two movies would make an interesting side-by-side viewing. Anderson’s films have such wonderful, tightly manicured art direction but the characters verge on being caricatures. Any sort of real emotion on their part creeps in on the edges. A Christmas Tale, directed by Arnaud Desplechin, has  similarly beautifully shot scenes in French hospitals and the wonderful, rambling family home, but the  characters in A Christmas Tale wear their childhood  traumas on their sleeve and always seem ready to erupt.  One especially harrowing scene has Deneuve and her grown son  joking about how much she didn’t love him after the childhood death of another son. Another example of Gallic cruelty: if a partner of mind slept with someone else under my nose, would I be able to wake up and breakfast with them both? Is this another of those Gallic things? Yes? OK.

In short.  It’s a rich and devastating movie. Recommended pre or post actual holiday interactions with family (i.e. good for some perspective).
Plus, it introduced me to this Otis Redding song, which I’ve listened to 8 times a day so far this month:[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBmPIQvovD0]