Sweet Coraline…

March 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Posted in animation, movies, music | 3 Comments
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Coraline Jones: How can you walk away from something and then come towards it?
Cat: Walk around the world.
Coraline Jones: Small world.

CORALINE (in 3D)
AMC Metreon – March 8, 2009

As a starter for Organized Confusion’s week long Animation Review Fest, I joyfully embarked on a new three-dimensional journey… The last 3D movie reviewed by Orgconfuz was Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Brendan Fraser. Though a fun adaptation of the original, its effects were ultimately forgettable. At times, it seemed as though Journey merely treated the third dimension as a scapegoat for barf and spittake humor, coraline_movie_logo_therefore neglecting to move the story forward or even enhance the action around the scene. This is never the case in Henry Selick’s new 3D animated feature, Coraline. Even though my roommate and I were seated up in the third row due to a packed Sunday afternoon showing, it was clear that Coraline is truly a visual wonder to behold!

I enjoy the work of author/screenwriter Neil Gaiman, most famous for his graphic novel series of The Sandman (which I have not personally read but have heard excellent things about.) His last two movies, Mirrormask and Stardust, are among my top 100 films of the past decade. Not only are they beautifully constructed from the sets to the costumes and the cinematography, but the plot drives home a deeper meaning than the average children’s movie. Both story lines include journeys of triumph, self-discovery and travels between reality and fantastical worlds. Though dark overtones aid in the surreal and sometimes frightening subject matter, it is always engaging and refreshing to watch. No longer are we subject to the Damsel in distress fables, glorifying helpless victims needing to be saved. In these tales, you are your own hero… which may be the greatest lesson of all.

Coraline is no exception. Based on the poster advertising, coralinethe preconceived expectation was an Alice in Wonderland type of adventure. A girl who’s bored and/or unsatisfied with her life, goes exploring and finds a rabbit hole (or a wallpaper covered door). Through said door is an parallel universe, except that everything objectionable or “wrong” in the real world is now reversed and wonderful. The tagline “Be careful what you wish for” truly applies in this adventure. As Coraline gets trapped between these worlds, she must overcome the consequences and outwit her adversary to return to the life she once had. Again, what I particularly enjoyed about the character development here was that though Coraline may have felt fear, I never once perceived her as helpless. I knew she would find a way. I was rooting for her through every tricky situation. As with Gaiman’s other work, the story is less about the tale’s ultimate morale and more about the strength of the characters themselves.

In an interview, Neil Gaiman always knew that he wanted Coraline to be an animated film. He personally sent the manuscript to Henry Selick510_selick, eight months before it was published. He appreciated Selick’s directing approach on… The Nightmare before Christmas. It seems prudent to mention here a confusing discrepancy. Many moviegoers I have encountered are/were under the impression that Tim Burton had directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, as its unique style is widely attributed to his body of work. In fact, Tim Burton acted only as the writer and executive producer, but Henry Selick actually directed the film. This discrepancy is caused primarily by the movie’s promotional title, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare before Christmas – intrinsically linking Burton’s name with the film. Nowadays, it is not unheard of for one person to be credited on several levels: director, screenwriter, producer… all important and critical roles in the creative process. However, it stands to reason that many members of the general public might just automatically assume that the person presenting the film is and should be the film’s director, aka the person ultimately responsible for the film’s creative vision and style. As if this person is saying, “Here is my film as I intended it…” Not to suggest that a Hollywood film can be executed by one person alone, but why bother pointing it out at all? For the record, this acknowledgment is by no means meant to discredit Burton’s originality or talent. All I’m saying is I’d like to give credit where credit is due. I guess my underlying question here is: When Hollywood associates a name with a film, is it the responsible thing to also include the person’s title as well, merely for confusion’s sake? Or maybe I am just botching industry terminology here and “Presented by” is really a polite way of saying “Arranged to be Paid for by” which ultimately means the film’s producer? Do we consider “Spirited Away” a John Lasseter film because Disney/Pixar imported the brilliant work of Hayao Miyazaki? No, we don’t. Through Nightmare’s collaborative efforts, it appears that Burton’s vision was acheived, but where do we draw the creative line? Even after James and the Giant Peach was released, it was widely promoted – at least by word of mouth – as a “Burton film” but again was directed by Selick. While watching Coraline, I couldn’t help but wonder who’s influence had prevailed… Is Selick now showing his true brilliant colors? Hopefully, Coraline will just put an end to all this confusion and recognize Henry Selick as a visionary entity. (Wow, haven’t had a good rant in a while… lol) Incidentally, I also found out that Neil Gaiman was responsible for the English translation of Princess Mononoke – a nice sidebar tangent, but circles the point back around nicely.

coraline_movie_image__1_1-1

Super Props for casting John Hodgeman (aka PC of the Mac commercials!) TRIVIA: The singing voice of Other Father is actually John Linnell from They Might Be Giants, who composed the little "Coraline ditty" used in the film.

All this is relevant because while watching Coraline, one can’t help but be engrossed visually, regardless of previous work. This film succeeds in breaking new ground in the world of stop-motion animation. According to an interview at Studiodaily.com, Selick revealed that though stop-motion animation was utilized in 90 percent of the film, the entire film was shot digitally, Selick’s first attempt at combining traditional techniques with all the advantages of the digital format.”There are many reasons to do this but the best for me was the workflow—to be able to shoot a test and see it immediately rather than waiting for dailies. It made the whole process more fluid. I could do dailies four times a day and at the end, all day. It was liberating for that flow of imagery to have been enhanced so much by shooting digitally.”

All in all, a fantastic film! GO SEE IT NOW!! I want to see it again before it goes out of the theaters soon… My roommate also loved it and she hasn’t been to a 3D film since she was a kid!

RATING: 5stars
Recommendation: So excellent in fact that I’m afraid the 2D version just won’t live up to the Live 3D experience. Perhaps a DVD follow-up is in order.

coraline_poster

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3 Comments »

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  1. Coraline… what can I say except that it was great and now I want to read the book.

  2. I wonder what the book is like.

    When I think Tim Burton I don’t think of directing. I think of a mood, a style – something much more the result of art direction and writing. In an animated movie this is even more true – directing the voice acting and overseeing the animated are two very different jobs and it’s not at all like directing a live action film.

    In any case when a movie has someone’s name on it it doesn’t imply anything about their role in the movie. All it implies is that they were involved in some way and have a bankable name.

    And let’s be honest, whatever Tim’s role might be, when you hear he’s involved you pretty much know what to expect. I don’t see a major discontinuity in the final product of his live and animated projects, despite any change in roles or involvement he might have had.

  3. But see that’s not the point… Tim Burton was not involved in Coraline, and yet I felt there was a similar visual style to it that people have accredited as being a primarily Burton-esque vision. At the very least its a collaboration and should be recognized as such! Point is, he is a great talent and I want to be able to attribute and discern his style over others, particularly when the general public is mistaken about his prior achievements… give props where props are due. That’s all I’m saying.


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