Was it a movie I saw since August 22nd, 2009: Yes. #325.
1) I watched this about a week ago - on the actual Day of the Dead - but didn’t have time to write it because I live in Chicago and the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. So my priorities were a little different than usual.
2) Anyone here a fan of “El Tigre”?
Well the creator of that show - Jorge R. Gutierrez - was the writer/director of this film! Some El Tigre characters even cameo in the film’s opening, but you have to REALLY look for them.
3) The framing device of this film (a bunch of kids at a museum being told a story) is a classic fairytale/magical realism device that can be found in films such as Big Fish. It also gives the film a plot driven reason for it’s unique animation style (the characters looking like wooden figures).
4) This film has some really great humor.
Vendor Boy: “Churros! Churros! (A bird poops on the churros.) Frosted churros!”
5) I will talk about La Muerte and Xibalba as individual characters in just a second, but for now I want to focus on their relationship.
I’m not overly familiar with Day of the Dead lore outside of this film, but I think the idea of having the ruler of The Land of the Remembered (La Muerte, everything good and wonderful in the world) and the ruler of the Land of the Forgotten (Xibalba, everything that is negative in the world) be lovers is a great idea. Their relationship is tense, volatile, and can be filled with conflict, but never is it abusive. Never is it hateful. You always get a great sense of love between these two and that’s what makes it work.
6) Ron Perlman as Xibalba.
These two wouldn’t work so well together if they couldn’t stand on their own as characters. And the work so well in that field because of equal parts writing, character design, and voice over work. Ron Perlman is a regular collaborator of Guillermo Del Toro’s, the executive producer on this film, and has worked in a number of animated project before (including VP Lancer in “Danny Phantom” and Clayface in “Batman: The Animated Series”). Perlman brings a roguish charm to all his characters, even when it’s just his voice. He’s interesting, rough, and just likable! And he makes Xibalba all those things. You’re never particularly rooting against him, even though he’s technically the villain. You’re just entranced whenever he’s on screen.
7) Kate del Castillo as La Muerte.
American audiences are not as familiar with Kate del Castillo as they are with Ron Perlman, although she is one of Mexico’s most acclaimed popular actresses. As Perlman does with Xibalba, Castillo brings genuine charm, likability, and charisma to La Muerte. As well as an added fierceness that lets you know this undead ruler can keep her own when head-to-head with her darker lover. You definitely get the vibe that La Muerte is the more dangerous of these two but also the kinder, and so much of that relies on Castillo’s performance.
8) Manolo, Maria, and Joaquin.
We first meet these characters and get a sense of their relationship as children, and it’s great. Yes Manolo and Joaquin both love Maria, but they’re friends first. ALL of them are friends! Later in the film Joaquin and Manolo remain friends even when vying for Maria’s affections, and they are friends with Maria before they are lovers. And I think it’s driven home by this statement from Maria as a child:
Maria [after Manolo and Joaquin fight over who’s she is]: “I belong to no one!”
They don’t belong to each other, they chose to be friends. They chose to be with together because they genuinely like each other. I love that.
9) A huge theme of this film is also seen in Maria’s, “I belong to no one!” line and that is the theme of being true to yourself.
Both Joaquin and Manolo have huge shadows they live in (a line which is actually uttered by Joaquin later): Joaquin’s dead father was a great war hero and Manolo’s father pushes him to be a bullfighter like all the men in their family have been. It makes for a unique conflict and a great message to kids of all ages: be yourself.
10) Maria as a character.
You get a real sense of Maria as a character when we first meet her. Not only does she have the wonderful line, “I belong to no one!” but she also shows her placement of morality over societal values by freeing animals slated for slaughter. Her father sends her off to a convent to become, “a proper lady,” but…it doesn’t really work. At least, she doesn’t become his definition of proper. She is loving, kind, sweet, but fiercely independent and someone who follows her heart above all else. Zoe Saldana voices Maria, and breathes such wonderful life into the character you forget she’s acting. Everything about Maria just feel so real it’s amazing.
11) The decision to compose the film’s soundtrack from popular music recorded specifically for the movie (the mariachi version of “I Will Wait For You” being the earliest example) as well as original songs composed by Paul Williams is a great one. The copyrighted songs never feel out of place and don’t distract from the plot, instead playing perfectly into the emotion of the scene. And the original songs are made for the moments which are purely story and pure character, so they could not possibly be represented by something which was already written because this story hasn’t existed before.
All the characters in this film are written with such life and depth that lead character Manolo couldn’t POSSIBLY be an exception. He has skills as a bullfighter, but is deeply conflicted by his duty to his family and his duty to his heart. But it’s all guided by love, something with is illustrated by the inscription on his guitar (a gift from Maria, nonetheless): “Always play from the heart.” It is Manolo’s defining characteristic and defining struggle: that he wants to be himself, not his father or anyone else.
Diego Luna just…ugh! So I’ve seen Luna in small roles before (The Terminal, Elysium) but this film makes me a HUGE fan of his! I’m really looking forward to his role in Rogue One BECAUSE I loved his performance in this film so much. Manolo sings more than any other character in the film, and Luna infuses each song with such sincerity and warmth it is nearly impossible not to fall in love with his performance as Manolo. And he treats each line of dialogue the same. Like Saldana as Maria, you don’t feel like you’re listening to an actor. You’re listening to Manolo.
13) Grandma is hysterical.
Grandma Sanchez [after Manolo refuses to kill a bull]: “Kids today, with their long hair and no killing stuff.”
Grandma Sanchez [after Manolo’s father says everyone in their family was a great bullfighter]:
She doesn’t have many lines but very nicely embodies the film’s wonderful characters and humor.
14) Manolo’s Father, Carlos.
I have seriously MIXED feelings about Carlos, and I think you’re supposed to. He shows a genuine desire to do the best for his son, he just doesn’t actually KNOW what’s best for his son. He pressures him into being a bull fighter because it’s the Sanchez way, and when Manolo expresses dissatisfaction with this his father shames him into doing it.
Carlos [to convince Manolo to be a bullfighter]: “Don’t you LOVE your family?”
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
(PS, I find this line to be the sign of an abusive relationship but maybe that’s just me.)
BUT Carlos has genuine moments of love with his son. He encourages him to tell Maria how he feels, he comforts him when he’s missing his dead mother, he actually LOVES Manolo. Hector Elizondo’s performance and the writing gets this across in a great way, and I think the film is better for it.
15) Channing Tatum as Joaquin.
I do have to say of the trio of friends, Channing Tatum’s Joaquin is probably the weakest link. BUT that’s like calling one of The Lord of the Rings movies the worst in the trilogy: it was still nominated for best picture! I think it’s definitely because you know Joaquin is the third wheel, you know that Maria loves Manolo, and so it’s hard to get behind it. And you just can see that although they’re great as friends they wouldn’t make a good couple (despite Joaquin’s hopes to the contrary).
It would’ve been easy to write Joaquin as a jerk. And although he can be a bit pig headed here and there, you understand that he’s a genuinely good friend who truly cares for Maria (even though they’re not a great fit). Tatum brings a lot of this to the role, and even though I believe he’s the only non-Hispanic actor playing a decidedly Hispanic character (Ron Perlman gets a pass because Xibalba is an otherworldly creature) he has the same warmth and sincerity as Luna and Saldana have. It’s a nice way to round out the trio of friends.
16) I can’t tell if this joke is stupid or hysterical.
Pepe [when he and his brothers are in danger]: “I’m allergic to dying!”
Pancho: “Especially in the face!”
17) Joaquin’s biggest failing is probably that he buys too much into societal values, and his society’s values are…sexist. He is surprised that Maria reads, expects her to be a doting housewife (as all the high up men do), and that’s not what his heart wants it’s what he thinks should be.
18) “I Love You Too Much”.
This is the song Manolo sings to express his feelings for Maria, and it’s beautiful. Paul Williams has crafted a quiet, loving melody which pulls at your heartstrings and is sung beautifully by Diego Luna. I think it’s my favorite song in the film and one of the best love songs I’ve ever heard.
19) Maria is awesome, if that hasn’t been made clear already.
Maria [stopping a kiss after Manolo’s song]: “Did you think it was going to be that easy?”
She’s not the girl who falls head over heels for someone just because they sang to hear. It’s appreciated, but there needs to be more than that. I love it!
20) This film never subscribes to storied cliches. It’s not like Manolo can’t be an idiot too, as noted when he and Joaquin start to fight over Maria (which she has shown to never truly appreciate).
Maria: “You two are acting like fools.”
Manolo: “Wait, me too?”
You mean me, the nice guy romantic lead, is actually making a mistake? What kind of movie is this? (Hint: a great one.)
21) How long must it have taken to put out all those candles?
It shows devotion on Manolo’s part. As will the rest of the film, honestly.
22) One of the conflicts in this movie that gets me going the most is how unfair everyone is to Manolo. When they were children he stopped a wild boar from hurting people, but Joaquin got credit because he saved the mayor. As adults he’s ready to fight off bandits without a magic medal, but Joaquin gets credit because he does fight them off WITH a magic medal which protects him from harm. And when Maria dies from a snake bite everyone blames him. He’s not the snake! He didn’t bite her! So bug off!
23) My brother and I laughed so hard after we heard this line:
Student [after Manolo dies]: “What is it with Mexicans and death!?”
The only reason that line isn’t racist is because it was written by a Mexican in a film directed by a Mexican which is produced by a Mexican. So it’s okay to laugh.
24) The Land of the Remembered!
The Land of the Remembered is when this film’s visual style really takes off. Gutierrez’s imagination and the animation department’s skill bleeds through every scene in this wonderful place and it really pulls you into it’s world magnificently.
25) I mentioned in my Nightmare Before Christmas recap that Burton and company did a good job of establishing minor character with small introductions, and The Book of Life (although not Burton) follows in that tradition when we meet Manolo’s family.
Each family member - from the brutish Carmelo (voiced by the film’s director) to grandpa Luis (voiced by Danny Trejo) - is given a unique character with just a few seconds of screen time and dialogue which carries through until the end of the film. It works wonderfully.
26) This freaking line, after Jorge is established as wanting to have been a singer.
Manolo [after the two laugh about it]: “They crushed our dreams. Hilarious!”
Immediately there is a difference in what is expected from Carmen Sanchez (his mom) and what there is.
Manolo: “And I became a bullfighter, just like you wanted.”
Carmen: “Me? Are you crazy?”
It turns out Manolo’s father saying his mother wanted that was…uh…wrong, to put it mildly. It’s a nice juxtaposition which establishes her as a character and not just a plot device.
28) Dude, I love this dialogue.
Xibalba [after Luis says La Muerte would never hand over her kingdom]: “She lost a bet.”
Luis: “Oh. She would do that.”
29) You get a lot of Manolo’s tender side and playing from the heart, but it’s easy to forget that he’s still a headstrong Sanchez boy. He still has the fierceness of a bull fighter, even if that’s not what he wants to do. And we see this particularly when Manolo threatens to expose Xibalba. That may not be the smartest move, but it is fierce.
30) Did I mention this dialogue and humor is awesome?
Luis [after his body is knocked away from his head]: “Hey, my arthritis is gone!”
31) The Candlemaker
The Candlemaker rounds out the trio of immortals here, and falls in the middle. He is not about the Land of the Remembered or the Land of the Forgotten, he creates the candles (each candle representing a life). He is this big ball of happy childlike energy which is just fun to watch. And who’d they get to place this super upbeat and positive guy with hope and optimism dripping from him?
It’s a nice change of pace from Ice Cube’s more hardboiled characters to see him play such a wonder filled creature, and to do it so well too! His voice work stands up there with the rest of the cast in that you never think you’re listening to Ice Cube, you’re just watching the Candlemaker. It’s great.
32) ALL THE LADIES IN THIS FILM ARE FIERCE AS HELL!
Maria’s fierceness has been established above.
La Muerte getting pissed when she finds out Xibalba cheated on the beat is fierce!
MANOLO’S MOTHER SLAPS XIBALBA AFTER SHE REALIZES HE KILLED HER SON!!!
It’s a lot of fun to watch.
33) The final fight before Manolo can return to the land of the living is born from a wager he makes with Xibalba (he’ll face whatever challenge is thrown his way and win).
Xibalba: “What, do tell, is your worst fear?”
And then we get this:
But it turns out his greatest fear isn’t killing the bull, it’s being true to himself. This ties into what I mentioned earlier: Manolo’s defining characteristic and his struggle are the same in that he wants to be himself. And we get a wonderful song to tie it up, of the same quality as “I Love You Too Much” and it is simply called “The Apology Song”. (Manolo’s father, who’s dead at this point, said that a Sanchez never apologies but after the fight is incredibly proud of his son.) It’s a nice character climax for Manolo before we get the final fight of the film.
34) When you have no idea this is coming, it’s the funniest line in the film.
35) I give massive credit to the filmmakers for the way they handled Joaquin. He and Maria are set to be married now that Manolo is dead, and he knows Maria doesn’t want it so he’s about to talk to her about it before the town is attacked by bandits. Joaquin could have easily been some Gaston type but instead we got a sincere, honest character who deepens the conflict of the film.
37) The entire final fight of the film is wildly fun to watch.
It’s well paced, well choreographed, brings in all the characters we’ve met so far (living and dead), gives us a nice “dance” with Manolo and Maria, is filled with nice character moments, good humor, and has Joaquin decide he’s going to be his own man and try to sacrifice himself for his friends (it doesn’t work, he survives). It’s a great climax to the film.
38) “No Matter Where You Are”, the final song in the film, is a great ball of energy and love. But more than that, it let me know something I didn’t before…
Zoe Saldana can REALLY sing!
Just thought I’d share.
39) The final reveal, that Christina Applegate’s tour guide and the security guard are really La Muerte and Xibalba, is in classic tradition of magical realism and fairytale stories. It’s a nice ending to the film.
The Book of Life is great, and truly under appreciated. It’s representation of Mexican culture is unique in the animated film landscape, and gives the film a unique visual and musical style. The acting is topnotch, and you can feel through the writing/directing/character animation that it is truly a labor of love for all those involved. A great film which everyone should see.
i don’t think people realize how much this netflix adaptation of a series of unfortunate events means to me, like i’ve been waiting years to get something like this
i remember the movie coming out and seeing it in theaters with so much excitement, then buying the DVD and proceeding to replay it over and over again while rereading the series over and over again - i honestly adored the movie, even though it wasn’t perfect in terms of staying faithful to the books, so i was upset when i found out it didn’t get the response it needed to make a sequel
years later and i find out netflix picked it up and they’ll be creating a show out of it - i didn’t even know all the details and it was very vague and there was no set date for when it’d be released or even filmed but all i knew was that it was being thought about it and there was a second chance of having my childhood put out there on screen… i was so anxious, so excited, so joyful that it was finally getting the recognition it deserved
watching this first season brought me nostalgia and happiness, i couldn’t help but say over and over again “i can’t believe it’s FINALLY visualized, i can’t believe we get to see all these scenes acted out, i can’t believe it’s HERE” because it felt so unreal to me
these books played such a huge role in my childhood, they left an impact on me unlike any other series - because here were these three kids, down on their luck, always running into misfortune, feeling like the world was turned against them… it was honestly relatable in my circumstances (and it still is), but despite all that, these kids stuck together and didn’t lose hope. they remained compassionate, intelligent, and strong. so unbelievably strong.
these books taught me so much as a kid, so i really don’t care what other people think of it. i don’t care how humorous, ridiculous, or unfitting it may seem to some people… it seems perfect to me. it’s all my younger self could have ever asked for and that’s what counts in the end.
1) Not only is this one of my favorite animated movies, it is one of my favorite movies period. I found it while scrolling through Cartoon Network or HBO Family or something and watched it every chance I could get. 12 year old me found it very edgy. The mild swearing, the cigars, the blasphemy, all of it was very enticing and that’s fed my love of the film since.
2) Elton John & Tim Rice, the songwriting duo behind The Lion King, re-teamed for this film and churned out a nice set of songs. But the strange thing is if you listen to the soundtrack most of the songs are recorded differently than how they appear in the film. The one exception I think is “Someday Out of the Blue” which plays during the end credits. Still, they songs add the fun and energetic flavor to the film. The opening song in particular, “El Dorado,” does a nice job of setting up the mythology we need to get the movie started in a very short amount of time.
3) If you’re a fan of voice over work, you’ll recognize Jim Cummings as Cortez.
Cummings is one of the most prolific and talented voice over artists out there. It would be impossible to list everything he’s done, but his most notable work has been as Darkwing Duck, Winnie the Pooh & Tigger too, Hondo on "Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, Razoul in Aladdin, and Ray the firefly in The Princess and the Frog. It’s fun knowing what he sounds like because not only do you hear him in Cortez, but you also pick up the random nameless characters he plays too with his different voices.
4) The heart of the film, the thing that makes it great: Miguel & Tulio.
The bromance between Miguel & Tulio is what makes this film work as well as it does, it’s what makes it fun! Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline voice the pair respectively, and their chemistry is off the charts. It doesn’t hurt that the pair actually got to record their performances with each other, a rarity in animation (although Pixar has done it with Monsters Inc for John Goodman and Billy Crystal).
Their relationship and roles are clear from the start, they balance each other out. Tulio is mildly selfish with a great hunger for gold and an ability to think things through. Miguel’s heart is bigger than their brain, being the dreamer/softie of the group (wanting the map to El Dorado, saving Altivo the horse when he almost drowns, etc.). And they play off each other beautifully.
5) 12 year old me was very fascinated with the slight profanities this film had.
Tulio [when he’s about to roll his dice]: “Come on baby, papa needs that crappy map.”
I thought crap was a real swear when I was twelve. I didn’t lose my innocence until thirteen.
The fight comes into play later in the film too, but is a showcase mainly for the wonderful banter between Miguel & Tulio and - therefore - the excellent writing of screenwriters of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. These guys were my favorite screenwriters when I was twelve, and can you blame me? Their resume consisted of: Aladdin, The Mask of Zorro, Shrek, The Road to El Dorado, every Pirates of the Caribbean film, Treasure Planet, and both National Treasure films. They have a strong penchant for strong dialogue too. Consider the exchange above, and also this:
Miguel: “You fight like my sister.”
Tulio: “I’ve FOUGHT your sister! That’s a compliment!”
I love that.
7) According to IMDb:
The film shares several attributes of its namesake, the "Road” comedies made famous by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby during the 1940s (which helps explain anachronisms such as shared language, pop culture references and lack of historical accuracy).
I just thought that was a fun share.
8) God, I love the banter between these two.
[Tulio & Miguel jump into barrels of water in a chase scene but can’t escape because the barrels are being loaded onto a ship]
Tulio: “What’s happening here?”
Miguel: “We’re both in barrels. That’s the extent of my knowledge.”
9) Even the bad guys have great dialogue!
Cortes (upon discovering Miguel & Tulio on his ship): “My crew was as carefully chosen as the disciples of Christ.”
10) I’m just going to let you know now, so many of my notes here are just quotes from the film I love.
Miguel [giddily, after Cortes tell the pair they will be enslaved in Cuba for being stow aways]: “Alright! Cuba!”
11) For example, another quote:
Miguel: Yes, that’s it Altivo. Find the pry bar!
Tulio: Yes, “find the pry bar”. He doesn’t understand “pry bar”! He’s a dumb horse, there’s no way he could understand…
[Altivo drops keys into the brig]
Tulio: Well… it’s NOTa pry bar.
12) The Trail We Blaze
Animated films are usually short so as to be not too time consuming. It can take years to make 80 minutes of animation. This film has a nice device of compacting what could be very long scenes into neat little montages with the use of a song. We still get Tulio & Miguel’s fun journey through the jungles to find El Dorado, but it’s done in three and a half minutes to a fun Elton John tune. It keep the energy, the adventure, but doesn’t waste the time of the animators or the audience.
13) Immediately Tulio and Chel have great chemistry as they play “pass the golden idol” together!
Immediately upon entering the city the audience is filled with a sense of wonder, achieved through gorgeous animation and also Hans Zimmer’s subtle music which adds for extra bone tingling. You marvel at it with Tulio and Miguel, and you understand how it is such a mythical place.
15) Edward James Olmos does some great voice over work as Chief Tannabok.
I’ve never seen “Battlestar Galactica” so I am mostly familiar with Olmos from his work in Blade Runner, Stand & Deliver, and even “Agents of SHIELD”. I think he shows off a nice amount of range with this addition to his resume. Chief Tannabok is not an angry man. He is kind, soft, gentle, patient, but also you can tell that he’s kinda sad. You don’t HEAR Olmos, you hear the chief and that makes him an excellent addition to the cast.
16) And of course our big bad, Tzekel-Kan
Tzekel-Kan is the opposite of Chief Tannabok. He is angry, an overlord of sorts. He wants blood because he believes it is what’s needed. He believes people are wicked and evil just for enjoying life and being kind, and it is his righteous duty to smite them. He pisses me off way more now than he did when I was twelve.
17) This whole bit with the volcano! Miguel goes too far and says that the gods should not be questioned or else they will be forced to release their awful wrath…but Tzekel-Kan wants to see that. Only they’re not gods! So he and Tulio turn away to try and figure it out and we get this…
There’s an old addage in writing: “A coincidence to get a character out of trouble is lazy.” However in this case I’m 100% okay with that because it’s just funny as hell.
18) How many of us have used this GIF?
Chel is a nice way of making the duo a trio. Voiced wonderfully by Rosie Perez, she is just as crafty and cunning as Tulio (if not more so) but also understand Miguel’s sense of adventure. The pair balance each other out already, bit if Miguel acts too dreamer-y or Tulio is too gold hungry they throw each other out of whack (as this film shows). Chel helps stabilize them by film’s end and is a lot of fun to watch. Also, bonus points for being an animated female character with a body that is physically possible.
Chel [on why she wants a life of adventure]: “You’ve got your reasons…and I’ve got mine. Let’s not make this personal, okay?”
WHAT ARE HER REASONS!?!? WE NEVER LEARN!!! I MUST KNOW!!!
21) So Chel needs to prove to Tulio and Miguel she’s a good con artist…
[Chel shows the pair the dice she stole from Tulio]
Tulio: “How did you get those?”
Miguel: “Where was she keeping them?”
I’m with Miguel, that’s the more important question.
22) Oh Miguel…
23) It’s Tough to be a God.
The only time this film is a traditional musical (ie: the characters themselves break into song & dance), and considering Kevin Kline’s and Kenneth Branagh’s singing here that might not be the worst thing. The interesting thing is that their version doesn’t even appear on the soundtrack. Instead we get a duet with Elton John and Randy Newman.
24) I need to remember this excuse.
Tulio [trying to convince Tzekel-Kan not to make a human sacrifice to the gods/them]: “The stars are not in position for this tribute.”
Miguel: “Like he said…”
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
25) I don’t identify totally with Miguel or totally with Tulio, but with parts of them. Like I identify with Tulio being kind of the dreamer who thinks things are possible, but this is a very me thing to say:
Tulio [after Miguel tells him he worries too much]: “No, I worry just the right amount! You can never worry too much!”
Same, Tulio. Same.
26) Remember how I said this movie was edgy to 12 year old me. Well it features a scene where Chel tries to seduce Tulio. Like, more than wanting a kiss. But like she shows off her shoulders for a back massage, they’re later found on the ground together all disheveled, it’s not even very subtle when you know what’s going on. Twelve year old me was very innocent.
27) I love their banter.
Miguel [when he and Tulio end up in a big arena to play ball for the locals]: “Well don’t blame me!”
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
28) The ball game is a lot of fun to watch, if for no other reason then Chel on the sidelines.
Chel: “Foul! That was a foul!”
And then it’s her idea to use the armadillo as a ball replacement to cheat.
29) So earlier in the film we got this line from Miguel:
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
And then later in the film Miguel tries to convince Chief Tannabok that the boat they are using to leave isn’t good enough (because Miguel wants to stay) when in fact it’s perfect. When Miguel admits his mistake, we got this line from the chief.
Chief: “Hey, to err is human.”
Miguel goes to get in the boat, but then he looks over his shoulder at the chief and the chief looks at him knowingly. And they don’t say anything else about it.
I love that. I love that the chief isn’t an idiot, but he knows. He knows and he knows it’s good for his people and he knows Miguel is a good guy and…I just love it!
30) I love little things like this.
[A giant stone jaguar, controlled by Tzekel-Kan, attacks the city. It grabs a warrior, ruffs him up A LOT, then lets him fall to the ground.]
Warrior [patting himself down]: “I’m okay!!!”
[Jaguar steps on warrior]
Warrior [from under Jaguar’s foot]: “I’m still okay!”
31) Remember how I talked about Chekov’s Fake Fight?
Tzekel-Kan [when he was Miguel & Tulio cornered]: “I know what you are and I know what you are not. And you are not GODS!”
Tulio [after a beat]: “Y-you’re not a god!?”
The pair then continue to have a very real argument where they say some pretty cold things to each other…
Tulio: “You’re buying your own con!”
Miguel: “At least I’m not DATING mine!”
But it has the same effect. Tzekel-Kan is distracted, enjoying their fighting, and the audience is as surprised as he is when the pair work in sync again and punch the guy out. It’s a nice way of playing the scene out.
32) Friends Never Say Goodbye. A very sad song that plays when it seems like Tulio and Miguel are going to take separate paths in life and are really mad at each other. It actually has some nice truths to it, and again is slightly different on the soundtrack. Elton John is backed up by the Backstreet Boys for the song on the album. I hope that didn’t ruin it for some of you.
33) The film ends with the citizens of El Dorado crashing a pillar into their gate so as to keep Cortes from finding the city, only it is falling too soon. So Chief Tannabok grabs some of the ropes and holds it back for a while. And this is probably REALLY mean of me and I apologize in advance but I just thought of this:
I’m so sorry.
34) According to IMDb:
A series of sequels featuring Miguel, Tulio, Chel, Altivo and even the armadillo going after other legends about gold was planned, similar to the Shrek (2001) series, but following the disappointing box-office results they were immediately canceled.
While that would’ve been interesting I’m kinda glad this film just stands on its own. It’s a nice little gem that way.
I love this film, and think a lot of people out there will too. People don’t really talk about it these days except to talk about how no one talks about it. It’s a nice variation from standard Disney fare, the music is great, freaking Miguel & Tulio are just awesome, and it is just such an enjoyable/adventure filled film. I think you should all watch it now! It’s on Netflix if you have it. So go. Go follow that trail! (Too easy?)
- You dream of the stage. The spotlight shines on you, the audience holds their breath for you to speak. Your lines, someone mouths to you. You do not know who, you did not see them, you did not hear them. You cannot remember your lines. You look down, a cold sweat forming on your brow. You notice that you are in your underwear. The audience stares. You are not dreaming.
- Backstage, you wait. Standing alone in the darkness of the wing, a black shape shifts past you. You have no proof of them other than the breeze felt by their passing and the shadow you thought you caught in the corner of your eye. Another shape moves past, behind you. Another, in front. Perhaps they aren’t passing you, perhaps they’re coming closer, together. The techies. They move.
- You wait in center stage for the light to come on. It is only dark. It has been dark for as long as you can remember. A low buzzing can be heard, and the stage lights begin to glow, softly, growing brighter, quickly. They are so bright now. You cannot see the audience. You look down, you cannot see your hands. It is so bright. You can no longer feel your body, you are no longer a physical form.
- You shower after the show, trying to wash off the stage makeup. The water runs flesh color at first, then black. There is so much makeup. Glitter falls from your hair. Why is there glitter? You think. I will never be clean, you whisper into the dark recesses beyond the drain. Eyelashes are falling now, in clumps, whether they are fake or real you do not know. Everything falls, everything is washed away. You become faceless, and yet streaks of waterproof mascara remain.
- You are only called by your character name, you can not remember the last time you were called by your real name. You can not remember your real name. You are changing.
- Red leather, yellow leather, they chant. The step closer to you, circling you. There is no escape. They chant softly at first, growing louder, walking faster. They break into a jazz run, they are screaming now. You try to chant as well, you try to keep up. You are sweating, yelling. Red leather, yellow leather. Red leather yellow leather. They are coming towards you, waiting for you to fail, to fall. Red yellow, leather pleather, you finally slip. They close in. You have lost.
Epic Movie (Re)Watch #109 - Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Have I seen it before: Yes
Did I like it then: Yes.
Do I remember it: Yes.
Did I see it in theaters: Yes.
Was it a movie I saw since August 22nd, 2009: Yes. No.
1) The early 2000s have a lot of truly underrated gems, especially from Disney. Along with The Emperor’s New Groove and Treasure Planet, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is probably one of the most underrated and overlooked films in their catalogue. Which is a true shame because it is such a great film.
2) This film opens with the city of Atlantis being washed away by a great flood, but if there was originally an alternate opening featuring vikings with the Shepard’s Journal in search of the fabled city. I prefer the opening we have, but you can watch the viking prologue if you want.
3) Michael J. Fox as Milo Thatch.
I saw this movie when it first came out in June of 2001. I fell in love with Back to the Future in February of 2009. So when I realized Marty McFly and Milo Thatch were one in the same my love for this film only grew. Fox brings a sincere enthusiasm to Milo, and like with the best voice acting you forget that you’re listening to Michael J. Fox. He BECOMES Milo, the guy who has to deal with everyone doubting him while still clinging true to his beliefs. It is a great character supported by an incredible actor.
4) There is a nice juxtaposition between how Helga sets up Mr. Whitmore (“Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite. Much.”) and the quirky little nut Mr. Whitmore actually is.
An enigmatic man who I would’ve liked to know more of, Whitmore is a little eccentric but comes off as a good hearted man. His relationship with Milo’s grandfather seems to be the defining thing in his life, so much so that he’s funding a multi-million (1914 million) dollar expedition to find a myth. John Mahoney (best known for the role of Frasier’s father on Frasier) gives a strong performance in his little bit of time, but this film is filled with strong voice over performances so it is no wonder his stacks up.
5) This line was improvised by Michael J. Fox:
Milo [after he throws up from being seasick]: “Carrots. Why is it always carrots? I didn’t even have carrots!”
6) Animated films tend to be short and with the added benefit of exaggeration need to establish personalities of supporting characters IMMEDIATELY. This is very true of the expedition’s crew. This starts with Jim Varney as Cookie, a hillbilly type who fits Varney’s comedic styling very nicely. Varney passed away before filming was complete, leaving some lines to have a stand in, but his life is in Cookie all the way.
Helga: “The men need their four basic food groups.”
Cookie [holding up three fingers]: “I’ve got your four basic food groups! Beans, bacon, whiskey, & lard!”
7) Oh my god Vinny.
Every line out of Vinny’s mouth is glorious! Voiced by Don Novello, Novello makes Vinny his own in the same way that James Woods made Hades his own in Hercules. I saw a behind the scenes featurette for this film way back when that said Novello improv-d a lot of lines and most of them are included in the film. Vinny is hysterical, with his penchant for blowing things up and dead pan delivery. The crew is made up of a bunch of great individuals & Vinny is no exception.
Rourke is the captain of the expedition and - after the film’s twist - turns out to be the main villain. Voiced by James Garner, Rourke is honestly at his most interesting towards the end when he can be a ruthless bad guy. Up until that point he’s a pretty good commander and seems like an honest man. But looks can be deceiving.
9) There are so many jokes you don’t get in these movies when you were a kid (just wait until I do Shrek). For example:
Mole [about his dirt from different countries]: “England must never merge with France!”
10) Although Vinny is awesome, there’s a good chance that Sweets is my favorite crew member in the film.
He’s fast talking, genuinely kind, a good doctor, and when the crew needs to start acting like bad guys he’s the first to abandon Rourke and his selfish quest (although much more quietly than the other characters). Phil Morris - like the other actors - breathes such life and personality into Sweets that you don’t even question that he’s real.
11) I love the wit in this film.
Sweets [presenting Milo with the vials presented above]: “Here, I’m going to need you to fill these up.”
Milo: “WITH WHAT!?”
12) And to round out the crew, Audrey.
Like most of the crew, we learn more about Audrey in a pivotal scene later. But when we first meet her she’s already impressive. Just a teenager, Audrey is the head engineer on the expedition and tough as nails. She knows her shit and is tough as hell, but that’s not why she’s awesome. Well, that’s not the ONLY reason she’s awesome. But more on that later.
13) The Leviathan.
Mike Mignola, the creator and artist behind the character Hellboy, is credited as a production designer on this film. Nowhere is his influence more clearly scene than the leviathan, the mechanical sea beast meant to defend the entrance to Atlantis. It is an impressive feat of imagination and animation, a creature which is truly menacing in both size and design. The leviathan and its attack on the submarine crew could quite well be the best part of this film.
13.5) Why does a science expedition have battle stations? I mean, now we know because they’re mercenaries. But did this not raise any red flags?
14) God bless Packard. I’m not even sure what her role on the ship is besides announcer, but god bless her.
15) The pivotal scene for so many of these characters in this film is when Milo eats with them for the first time and we get their backstory.
Sweets’ of mixed descent, part black part Native American (I believe he said he’s Navajo). He studied to be a doctor when he got enlisted in the army.
Audrey’s father wanted sons, one to run his auto shop and another to become world boxing champion. Her sister has a shot at the title.
Vinny’s family owned a flower shop and when the business next door blew up, “It was like a sign from god! I found myself in that ‘boom.’”
And then of course we get this line.
Milo: “What’s Mole’s story?”
Sweets: “Trust me on this one. You don’t wanna know. Audrey, don’t tell him. You shouldn’t have told me, but you did. And now I’m tellin’ you, you don’t wanna know.”
You see THIS is what fleshes out these characters. Its this one scene which makes them more than jokes or stereotypes or archetypes, but real people. We get their conflict, their history. We learn of Audrey’s family, of Vinny’s boredom with flowers, or Sweets’ history in the army. THIS is what makes the film standout in the way it does.
It’s too bad Atlantis didn’t do too well at the box-office, otherwise Kida might take her place among the official Disney Princess line. Along the same lines as Mulan, Kida is a warrior princess. A woman who can kick ass but also loves her father and her people very dearly. Cree Summer is an accomplished actress in the voice over world, with Kida possibly being one of her finest roles. Kida is tough but never mean, curious but never overbearing, capable but able to form a meaningful relationship with Milo (while also not being too over the top lovey dovey), and just an all around great character.
17) Hey look, its Spock!
Leonard Nimoy has had a number of voice over roles, particularly in the 21st century. Its nice hearing him in this, even if we don’t get to spend too much time with the king.
18) So you know the trope of a 100+ year old vampire forming a slightly weird relationship with a much younger woman?
19) The betrayal of the crew wouldn’t have hurt nearly as much as it does if it weren’t for the scene where we get all their backstories.
Notably we don’t get the backstories of the two most evil characters in the film: Rourke & Helga. This is when Rourke becomes REALLY interesting and when James Garner has a lot of fun as the bad guy. He’s a brute! A bully! He’s ruthless, pretty much kills the king, beats on Milo when he’s down, all while cracking a jock and flexing his impressive muscles for a 60+ year old man. Rourke doesn’t get enough credit as a Disney bad guy in my opinion.
20) I love this.
Milo [after Rourke asks him to translate better]: “I know, why don’t you translate AND I’LL WAVE THE GUN AROUND!”
I live for heroes telling bad guys who are “in control” to f*** off.
21) The entire crystal chamber scene is just absolutely gorgeous. The early 2000s were noteworthy for frequent mingling of hand drawn and computer animation, with Atlantis being one of the finest examples of it.
Also this shot is gorgeous:
22) I never got this line.
Rourke (after his crew decide to stick with Milo & the Atlanteans): “PT Barnum was right.”
Only now do I know one of Barnum’s famous quotes is, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” And I had to google it.
22.5) Fun fact: Joss Whedon worked on the story for this film! For you Whedonites out there, doesn’t “PT Barnum was right.” sound like a very Whedon-y line?
23) Okay, as a child and even now I was OBSESSED with crystalized Rourke.
Like that image is just very memorable to me, especially after Rourke was supposedly killed by being encased in crystal. It’s too bad we only got a minute or so of it before the airship crashed, but damn that’s just the coolest thing to me. If there are any Kingdom Hearts fans reading this, imagine this: A Rourke boss fight, where after you beat him the first time you have to fight his crystal form and its an even tougher fight.
24) And of course Milo stays in Atlantis at the end, because it is what he and his grandfather sent their entire lives searching for. What would be the point of returning to the surface where either A) no one will believe him, or B) people will believe him and try to take advantage of this culture they found? It’s a great ending which makes a lot of sense.
I love Atlantis. It’s one of my favorite Disney films, but it maybe wouldn’t be if it weren’t so underrated. If you’re a fan of action, adventure, Disney, animation, or heck, even Stargate, I think you’ll enjoy this film.
Sooo I was tagged by the ever wonderful @dawnofthedusk to make of list of 9 movies I watched for the first time in 2016. And they also just happen to be my favorite 9 movies of the year cause if I didn’t see them in the theater, then I don’t remember.
This year was interesting because while it may not have been the best for blockbusters, there were a lot of good movies that came out. I spent a lot of time at the movies (and also netflix, 13th is a fantastic documentary that you can watch right now!) Also this year, I tried to make my taste of movies a little more diverse and I feel like with this list you can see that?? Maybe?? There are movies not on here that I haven’t had the chance to see (Moonlight, Silence, and A Monster Calls, I’m looking at you!) but as of this moment these are my top 9 favorites.
1) The head of Jeffrey Katzenberg, the head of Dreamworks animation at the time and one of the former big wigs at Disney, had been pitching an adaptation of Moses’ story from Exodus to Disney far before he started Dreamworks with Steven Spielberg. During an early meeting of Dreamworks Katzenberg recalls that Spielberg looked at him during the meeting and said, “You ought to do The Ten Commandments.”
2) I think the opening disclaimer is a nice touch.
“The motion picture you are about to see is an adaptation of the Exodus story. While artistic and historical license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Moses can be found in the book of Exodus.”
3) Music plays an incredibly important role in this film, mostly for setting its grand storytelling and dark tone. This is clearly apparent from the opening song “Deliver Us” which depicts the suffering of the Hebrew people in Egypt and also the hope of Moses.
4) This film also does an excellent job of immediately establishing the brotherly relationship between Moses and Ramses. It’s fun and honest, which makes the following events all the more heartbreaking.
5) Val Kilmer is quite effective in the role of Moses, being able to provide a healthy balance of his youthful joviality and privilege early on and the wisdom that would come to define the character later.
6) This film has three noteworthy actors who have very little lines. The first two of these are Patrick Stewart as Pharaoh Seti and Helen Mirren as The Queen.
Neither of them sing, so their lines are few and unfortunately Mirren feels wasted in the part (less of a comment on her acting, which is top notch as usual, and more from the lack of screen time). Stewart, however, gives Seti some depth. We see him as father and ruler, both roles where he cares about his people, but also murderer of Hebrew babies which gives him a sinister feel.
7) Moses could have been painted as a spoiled brat while acting as prince of Egypt, but he takes responsibility for his actions and mistakes while also trying to shield Ramses from some of their father’s heavy expectations.
8) Tzipporah is established as fierce as heck from the get go.
Kept as a foreign slave in her first scene, she still fights back with great vigor despite being in a room who don’t care if she dies by the hands of the pharaoh. Michelle Pfeiffer imparts some of the strength she brought to Catwoman into the part and it’s a wonderful take on the biblical figure.
9) Sandra Bullock may have more lines than Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, and (later) Danny Glover, but for some reason I’m always wanting more of her and her character Miriam by the time the film ends. I like what I see, I just wish there were more of her in the film (I think).
10) For some reason I don’t feel the way about her brother Aaron, who is voiced wonderfully by Jeff Goldblum. That may be because we see Aaron develop from non-believer to believer over the course of the film (wheres Miriam is consistently good and believing in Moses) and Jeff Goldblum plays both the doubter and the supporter well.
11) Continuing with the excellent music in this film, “All I Ever Wanted,” carries with it that sense of grandeur as well as the heartbreak of Moses denying his true heritage.
12) Moses’ nightmare is one of the most memorable non-musical sequences out of the film (not THE most memorable but one of them), and this is done both through the unique hieroglyphic art style and the lack of dialogue. It is true visual storytelling.
13) Remember how I said Tzipporah is fierce as heck? Well, that continues throughout the film when she decides to drop Moses into a well as a bit of payback for being a prince of Egypt (although she does help him out because he helped her escape the palace).
14) Danny Glover is the third actor who doesn’t have enough lines. He plays the role of Jethro, a character with about ten spoken lines (more or less) and then the rest of his role is in song. And Danny Glover doesn’t sing the song.
In the little dialogue Glover does give though, he is able to establish Jethro as a man who’s heart is as big as his stature. I just wish we’d heard more of him.
15) I mentioned in The Road to El Dorado the effectiveness of using a song to cover large gaps of time. This film is no different, initial with Jethro’s song “Through Heavens Eyes.” It’s a rousing and hopeful number which talks of the Hebrew god and how we can only know our worth when trying to look through (one guess what I’m going to say next) heaven’s eyes. In that time we cover Moses learning what a free life is from these people, his growing humility, and his blossoming relationship with Tzipporah (and eventual marriage).
16) The Burning Bush.
Val Kilmer provides the voice of god in this film, although that wasn’t the initial plan. Originally all the actors in the film were going to voice god at the same time, and were told to whisper so they wouldn’t overpower each other. When the time came to record Kilmer’s lines, they realized someone had to speak louder. It was a happy realization, as the filmmakers later noted that god usually speaks to us as the little voice in our own heads. And it parallels the Cecil B. Demille version of The Ten Commandments where it is said (although I don’t think confirmed) that Charlton Heston also provided the voice of god while also playing Moses.
17) Moses telling Tzipporah about his encounter with the burning bush is another fine example of how filmmaking is primarily a VISUAL medium. We don’t hear a word they saw to each other, but we see him talking and we see her reaction and we know EXACTLY what is happening.
18) Ralph Fiennes performance as Ramses is at its best when Ramses becomes villainous and conceited. Hmm, Ralph Fiennes playing a villainous and conceited villain. Sounds familiar…
19) Playing with the Big Boys is the only real villain song in this film.
Performed by the evil lackeys Hotep and Huy (who are voiced wonderfully by Steve Martin and Martin Short respectively), the song shows off just how dark things in the Egypt really are and how tricky these two “magicians” are. Martin and Short breathe wonderful life and evil fun into the song, and even recorded their dialogue together. And the scenes uses wonderful use of darkness and shadows to make us feel like Moses is in over his head. Which in a way, he is. But the film wouldn’t be interesting if things were easy for the protagonist.
20) The growing conflict between Moses and Ramses is heartbreaking and I give credit to all those involved in this film for that. The directors, the writers, the animators, Val Kilmer & Ralph Fiennes, everyone. We see them go from the best of friends to archenemies and neither of them wants to be in that position. But they are, and they each think they’re doing what is best for their people. It hurts a lot to watch.
21) “The Plagues” is also a great example of how this film condenses what could have been a massive chunk of time into a little two-and-a-half minute song.
It also does not make light of the plagues either. The plagues were horrible. True wrath of god type stuff that ruined people’s lives. And this song is an epic but dark representation of just what those were like while also developing the conflict between Moses and Ramses.
22) I’m not as familiar with my biblical readings as maybe I should be, but I like that this film depicts Moses reaching out to Ramses one last time before he releases the final plague. It is one final reminder that they are or, more appropriately, were brothers. And they almost seem to understand each other, to make peace. But they don’t. Meaning the final and most awful plague is released.
23) I don’t want to get into my own theological beliefs or philosophies, but I am always sickened about the death of the first borns of Egypt.
The scene is animated beautifully but the entire thing is heartbreaking. The idea of a god who will take away the lives of children just to get what he wants, even though he later claims that we are all his children, just never sits right with me. I just…it sickens me. That’s all I can say. It sickens me.
24) “When You Believe” is probably THE song from this film. It won the Oscar for best original song that year, beating out “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith. It is the perfect representation of the power of hope and belief which is the central theme of this film. Michelle Pfeiffer and Sally Dworsky (along with the film’s chorus) do an excellent job performing the song written by Stephen Schwartz, but the pop version performed by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey is just as good.
25) I think the most memorable part of this film has to be the parting of the Red Seas. And it could just be for this image alone:
That is such a powerful image which really gets across the wonder of what we’re seeing. A representation of the scene which few if any adaptations of the Exodus story have ever lived up to and which I think only animation can bring to life so wonderfully.
26) After the Red Sea crashes down and Ramses is washed away, we see Moses looking off in the distance and hear Ramses screaming, “MOSES!” The filmmakers have suggested that this may be in Moses’ head and that Ramses might actually be dead. I like that idea. It shows Moses still has hope for his brother.
27) And since this is an adaptation of Exodus, of course it has to involve the Ten Commandments in some way. I’m just glad that it’s the last shot of the film. A nice way of ending the story.
It makes sense to end a family film there, as opposed to Moses finding his people worshipping a false idol (a golden cow, I think) and smashing the tablet before God destroys the idol and forces his people to wander the desert for 40 years to kill off the rebellious generation. Oh, and Moses didn’t get to go into the promised land.
The Prince of Egypt is a great animated film who’s popularity has unfortunately lost steam in recent years. It represents its story well without beating you over the head with the religion, the animation and music are gorgeous, and the voice acting is top notch (if a little wasted at times). I highly recommend you see it.
You know, sometimes I remember seeing How to Train Your Dragon in theaters for the very first time. I remember seeing the Forbidden Friendship scene and thinking, “this movie is something special. I’m watching what will be a classic.” And the flying scene, where I had my mouth open the whole time. I remember going home and trying desperately to remember how the main melody of the soundtrack went, because it tugged all the right heartstrings.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt movie magic like that. Excitement, yes, awe, yes, but seeing HtTYD really felt like magic.
My dad’s an actor and I grew up in the Labyrinth Theater Company. Philip Seymour Hoffman was the artistic director [and he would give the note] “you’re acting”. And I remember being eleven and being like what? Aren’t we actors?
– Jasmine Cephas Jones (Hamilton) talks a little bit about what she learned from dad Ron Cephas Jones’ (Luke Cage) career. Cool to see them both really break through this year!
I think you can know if an actor has talent if you see him
on stage. Film is weird. I’m not saying you don’t need talent. But in film also
pigs can act, you know? I’ve seen Babe and it made me cry with my kid. You
remember Lassie, for example? What an actor that was, no? But in theater, you
put Lassie there and nothing happens, I promise you!
1) This film holds a lot of personal significance to me. I first saw it when I was 13 in one of the hardest months of my life. I was sick with pneumonia (diagnosed that day) and my great grandmother had just died, so the whole family was over because the funeral was that week. It was late and someone wanted to put in a movie so my dad pulls out Chicago. My mother was a little bit strangely strict about what PG-13 movies I could and could not see, usually forbidding more sexual stuff than anything else. So this was the most sexual film I had seen at the time and I had felt because of that, and the fact I was watching it with all the adults of my family, that I had been promoted to the adult table in some senses. I was really captivated by the music, the story, the moral ambiguity, it was just so different from anything else I’ve seen. I would not be Just Another Cinemaniac without Chicago. In some ways its as important to my film fan identity as Back to the Future.
2) The film opens with an extreme close up on Roxie’s (Renée Zellweger’s) eye, giving us our first inkling on how this is a musical in Roxie’s mind. But more on that later.
3) Note that we never see Velma Kelly’s (Catherine Zeta Jones’) face until she’s on stage giving a performance. This creates the feeling that Velma is ALWAYS putting on a performance.
4) Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma Kelly.
This film is pretty much perfectly cast, I think. 4 of its actors were nominated for Oscars, with another being nominated for a Golden Globe. Zeta Jones actually won her first (and to date only) Oscar for her role in this film, and for good reason to. She IS Velma Kelly. Zeta Jones is totally lost in the role, being able present all of Velma’s different qualities. Her showmanship, her rare vulnerability, her killer instinct, and it all just WORKS. You never EVER feel like you’re watching an actress. Zeta Jones IS Velma Kelly and as the first character we get a nice long look at, it is a great performance to start the film off with.
5) Hey, it’s Dominic West!
6) Renée Zellweger as Roxie Hart.
Roxie is really the lead of this film, the character who we follow along and see the world through. The writing is really interesting. It would have been easy to start Roxie off as some innocent girl who made a mistake and goes on this big journey, but Roxie - despite whatever facade she puts up - is hardly some innocent girl. She readily and passionately has an affair even though her husband is a pretty nice guy (and not a “nice guy” where the guy acts nice but is really a jerk, but is actually pretty kind), murderers her lover just for being a jerk (there are better reasons to murderer someone), all while putting up this act like she did nothing wrong and is the victim. And I honestly think she believes it.
Renée Zellweger captures all these conflicting parts of Roxie’s character with true mastery. She also is able to handle Roxie’s transformation into a more cutthroat and determined creature with the same expertise. Like with Zeta Jones, you never feel like you’re watching Zellweger just giving a performance. She is - for all intents and purposes - Roxie. Originally Charlize Theron was cast in the part but after a change in directors there was a change in casting, and Zellweger had to learn signing and dancing for the film. It paid off wonderfully, as she was nominated for an Oscar for what is possibly her best role ever.
7) John C. Reilly as Amos.
John C. Reilly was also nominated for an Oscar for his performance in this film, and it is clear why. Amos is the only honestly good character in the film, and even then he is not without his flaws. He is not above losing his temper or being able to say when enough is enough when it comes to Roxie (you know, the woman who cheats on him, tries to have him take the fall for murder, and manipulates him in court just to get off). But - because this is Chicago - he’s the only main(ish) character to come out the other side being totally and utterly screwed over. There are some nice layers to Amos (mainly the loss of temper as mentioned above) and Reilly is just totally sincere in the part. It’s no wonder he was nominated for an Oscar.
8) This film sets itself apart from other movie musicals through the idea that the musical is all in Roxie’s head.
This creates a plausible explanation for why character’s burst into song and dance, allows the film to utilize some unique editing and art direction, and finally gives us a nice peek into Roxie’s head. This element allows us to see just how passionate Roxie is not only for the desire to perform but also the desire for fame. It also lets us know how she sees OTHER characters in the film (namely Billy Flynn, but more on that later). I think it is this key element that set the film up for such critical and artistic success, leading to its best picture win at the Oscars.
9) Danny Elfman provides a few nice instrumental pieces of score for the film which feel totally period Chicago. When you are adapting a popular musical such as Chicago adding extra music could be a challenge, but Elfman’s occasional score blends perfectly with the rest of the film.
10) Queen Latifah as Mama.
Latifah rounds out the quartet of Academy Award nominated performances with her portrayal as Matron Mama Morton. I think it’s Latifah’s best performance. She is able to portray Mama as cooperative and a bit soft spoken, but still someone who deals with no bullshit from her inmates. She is as manipulative as any other character in this film, if not as in big a way. You often hear her tell Roxie and Velma EXACTLY what they want to hear knowing that it will lead to a big pay day for her. It is a crafty role which Latifah plays well, and her introductory song “When You’re Good to Mama” shows off not only this characterization but Roxie’s perception of her quite well. It also allows for Latifah to show off her impressive singing chops.
11) The Cell Block Tango.
Where do I even begin with this number? It is by far the most iconic and best part of the entire film. The filmmakers are able to use the idea of “the musical in Roxie’s mind” to create a visually unique and compelling number which is edited together seamlessly with the “real world” of the Cook County jail Roxie finds herself in. Each of the “murderess mistresses” is given enough time to create a unique character and create a sense of the world Roxie (and the audience) finds herself in at this time. I particularly find the use of ribbons to illustrate blood/murder wildly effective, noting that Hunyak’s ribbon (the girl who constantly claims she is not guilty) is white whereas the others are red. This suggest that she is - in fact - innocent.
It is also worth noting that while the first story starts off very much “I’m guilty, here’s what happened”, that by the time we get to the inmate who claims her husband “ran into her knife” ten times the stories have become more and more claiming of legal innocence. This is a trend which continues through Velma’s story, where she claims she blacked out after seeing her husband & sister having sex and came to with blood on her hands. We as the audience have actually seen NOTHING which contradicts this story, further creating a nice sense of showmanship within the film.
12) Okay, I am all for good female friendships on film and television, but I would be lying if I said the catty relationship between Velma & Roxie was not entertaining. I think this is a byproduct from good writing (with what we know about these characters, how ELSE could their relationship go?) and the wildly captivating chemistry between Zeta Jones and Zellweger. Their relationship is one of the key sources of conflict throughout the film and with those two actresses it just WORKS.
13) Richard Gere as Billy Flynn.
The number in Roxie’s head which introduces us to Flynn - “All I Care About” - is a pitch perfect example of expectations vs. reality. After what she’s heard about Billy (which isn’t much mind you), Roxie expects him to be this honest to goodness lawyer who only wants to save women from dying in by the noose in Chicago. What we get however is the craftiest, most manipulative skeeze ball in the film. So why is he so damn likable? Who is he comparable to the roguish Han Solo? Why do we root for him? I think that is all in Gere’s performance. It would be easily to play him as a disgusting slime ball but there is a charisma that Gere brings which I think elevates the character and the film. Originally offered to Hugh Jackman & John Travolta at different parts, Gere’s chemistry with the rest of the cast is great and although the film didn’t land him an Oscar nomination he did receive a Golden Globe for his work.
14) I think it’s worth noting that Roxie does not take too long to adapt to prison. Again evidence that she’s not as innocent as she wants people to think.
15) “We Both Reached For The Gun”
I can never tell if this or “Razzle Dazzle” is my favorite number in the film, but I think for a visual standpoint it HAS to be this. This is once again where the conceit of “the musical in Roxie’s head” benefits the film GREATLY. The imagery of Roxie being a dummy operated by Billy to sell her story not reflects on their relationship in an incredibly clear way (as well as how Billy is literally using people) but also is just visually fascinating. Zellweger is a lot of fun during the number, and if you ever want to know why this film won the Oscar for best editing the year it was nominated just watch this scene.
16) The song “Roxie” when Roxie is at the top of her game is a great character study. It goes even deeper into Roxie’s desire for fame and admiration, a key quality in her character that drives pretty much all her actions throughout the film. It features gorgeous cinematography with its use of mirrors and presents us with Roxie’s ideal self. This ideal self is not a good person (not necessarily), but someone who is adored by her audience. If that doesn’t speak to who Roxie is as a character I don’t know what does.
17) A film is told in cuts, as in cutting from one moment to the next in as clean and clear a way as possible.
Velma [after Mama suggests she kisses Roxie’s ass to maintain some position]: “Over my dead body.”
[We cut to the mess hall, where Velma is seen smiling at Roxie]
Velma: “Mind if I join you?”
18) “I Can’t Do It Alone”
Up until this point we have not seen Velma truly vulnerable. We have peeked more into who Roxie is as a character than who Velma is. That all changes with this number, which shows us that Velma is just as desperate for the spotlight as Roxie is. She NEEDS to stay relevant, she NEEDS the fame and the admiration, and only when it was too late did she realize that the murder of her sister took away one of the key things that made her so desirable to the world in the first place. This song is a fun number that adds nice depth to Zeta Jones’ character and shows off just how talented she can be with Velma’s vulnerability.
19) My heart broke a little when I saw Velma’s face after Roxie’s rejection of her.
And in that moment and that moment alone, I think I shipped the two of them together.
20) Lucy Liu’s glorified cameo as Kitty, the newest jazz killer in Chicago and the one who threatens to take away Roxie’s fame, is a perfect example of how easily Roxie can fall. But here’s the thing, Roxie is smarter than she appears. And more manipulative. It is her greatest strength that people underestimate her, so when she “faints” and mentions “the baby” everyone - from Velma to Billy - are all surprised by her.
21) I was a naive 13 year old. I didn’t understand that the doctor who said he’d testify that Roxie was pregnant had very clearly slept with her (hence Billy’s remark about his fly being open).
22) “Mister Cellophane”
Somehow this song not only shows us how ROXIE perceives her estranged husband as being someone who’s not worth caring about, but also makes Amos into a sympathetic character. He is not particularly whiny about the fact that he’s oft forgotten, he’s just a little sad about it. Reilly’s performance in the song is filled with soft sorrow and vulnerability we don’t always get to see from the actor, an honesty which carries the entire song on its back. It is a truly worthy number to be included with the rest of the film, with its Chaplin like art style and Reilly’s vocals, and I’m glad it made the cut.
23) In a lot of ways Chicago is a noir comedy musical. I say this for two reasons: Amos being kinda screwed over at the end, and the fact that Hunyak - the only innocent girl in the jail - is the only who is hanged. This also reminds Roxie of the fact that she IS on trial for murder and of the fatal consequences she could face.
24) “Razzle Dazzle”
If “We Both Reached for the Gun” is my favorite number in the film from a stylistic standpoint, then “Razzle Dazzle” is probably my favorite from a thematic one. Gere expresses Flynn’s belief that the courts are just a circus, simply entertainment to be manipulated, in a way which is just that: entertaining. I am always totally taken in by the song through its themes of craftiness, playful melody, and fun visuals. It is just a wonderful number which I love watching again and again.
25) If “Razzle Dazzle” doesn’t tell you how Billy sees the court system than this line will:
Hell, the non-musical court room scenes are in a lot of ways more dramatic than the musical ones.
26) This film had a song which was shot but not included in the final cut, one sung between Mama and Velma called “Class”. Still found on the movie’s soundtrack, “Class” had the pair discuss how the world seems to have gone to shit and how no one has any class. It was cut both for pacing issues and - largely - because it did not fit the theme of “the musical in Roxie’s head”. Roxie was at the court house and these two started singing after hearing about what was going on over the radio. It is a wonderful song but I think the film works better without it featured.
27) It took absolutely no time at all for Roxie not to matter. The press didn’t even want her picture after the verdict was read. Another killer, another star.
28) The final number of the film is a dual thing. The first of which is Roxie singing the song “Nowadays” on her own at an audition. The song is sad, somber, and lacks umph. This causes the directors to pass on Roxie. But when Velma and Kelly work together? When they’re able to work with their heat and chemistry and put on a duet of “Nowadays”? The umph is back and it is a wonderful number to end the film on!
I’m obviously biased through my own personal experience with the film, but I think Chicago is quite possibly the best movie musical of the 21st century (yes, even better than Les Miserables). The acting is incredible across the board, with Catherine Zeta Jones and Renée Zellweger being the obvious standouts. The concept of “the musical in Roxie’s head” allows for a musical which is unique and supports a wonderful art style. The songs are fun, the pacing and editing are great, and it’s a technical spectacle in its subtletly. Just a wonderfully entertaining film I think everyone should watch.
Congrats Hamilton on winning the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album 2016!
“Remember, I grew up not seeing Broadway shows, but loving cast albums. So when you have our cast album, you can go home and listen to it and you’re gonna imagine your own version of Hamilton. Because frankly, it’s tough to get a ticket!” –Lin-Manuel Miranda
1) I find it interesting how when the opening credits say, “Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck,” it says Damon’s name over Affleck’s character and vice versa.
2) The first character in the film we really get to know is Stellan Skarsgård as Gerald Lambeau.
You get that Skarsgård has good intentions, even though he is a massive pretentious asshole who hits on his students and judges people not based on how happy they are but more their position in life. A janitor is a failure. A community college teacher is a failure. Any other opinions be damned. He’s not EXCLUSIVELY a bad guy though. You understand his intentions are good and he does learn as the film goes on, but damn if he isn’t just a prick for most of the film.
3) The first tavern scene is a nice way of introducing us to Will and his friends. It creates a sense of community between them and South Boston, a sense of character for every member of the group, and their relationships with each other.
4) Matt Damon as Will Hunting.
Will is a character who you really get to know over time, and that’s very nice. At first he largely keeps to himself and we get that he doesn’t care about power or prestige. At first that’s a noble thing, but then we learn that this is born less out of humility and more out of fear. Will is a flawed character. He convinces himself of all the disadvantages of somethings, of the shame of it, because he is petrified. His world, his life with his friends, that is safe for him. That is home. And he doesn’t really risk to go for more than that because of his fear of rejection (identified by Robin Williams’ Sean Maguire later in the movie). I think this - along with the beatings he sustained as a child - fuels the aggression we see (and later hear about) when he picks a fight with an old kindergarden bully for no other reason than he just felt like it (and then doesn’t stop until the cops show up).
But Will is SMART. And not like a little smart either, but incredibly intelligent. He’s not afraid to show it either, he doesn’t hide it when he feels a need to use it. But he doesn’t brag about it either. He is not in his friends’ faces with it with an, “I’m so much smarter than you,” attitude. Matt Damon - the film’s cowriter with Ben Affleck - plays Will’s many facets very well. This film is incredibly well cast and most of the actors when you’re watching them don’t FEEL like actors. They feel like the characters, totally and completely. Damon as the lead is no exception.
5) Can I just say: I LIVE for scenes in movies and moments in life where some pretentious condescending asshole is put in their place totally and completely? It’s so cathartic!
6) Minnie Driver as Skylar.
Can I just say I LOVE Skylar, even if she is at risk of falling into the category of manic pixie dream girl on paper. Minnie Driver’s academy award nominated performance in this film just makes her so much MORE than that! I love everything about Skylar: how she approaches Will at the bar and calls him an idiot for not asking her out, how she is able to hold her own against Will’s sense of humor and occasional bullshitting, her laugh, her honesty, her heart! The first time I watched this film I was in awe - more than anything else - with Driver’s realism in the part. She and Damon have knockout chemistry that not only suggests to you their heat but their friendship. It is totally believable that they fall in love in such a quick time, and that is because they work so fucking brilliantly with each other. There is sincerity, trust, comradery, humor, an ability to be themselves around each other. I believe Damon and Driver dated for a while after meeting on this film, and that chemistry shows. I just…gah! I love it so much!
Will [to the douchebag from the bar]: “Do you like apples?”
Will [placing Skylar’s phone number on the glass between them]: “Well I got her number.”
8) The way Lambeau treats Will is…interesting, to say the least. At first it seems like he looks down at him. Like he’s his savior and he knows it. There’s a scene where after they’re done doing math together, Lambeau ruffles Will’s hair. Who the hell does that? It changes as the film goes on. You realize that Lambeau grows to understand that Will is truly an unmatched genius, but early on it’s…weird.
9) The string of psychiatrists Lambeau takes Will to see is very telling and very entertaining. It shows how smart Will is, but also how abrasive he is. How he scoffs at authority and the need for help. It’s a funny scene but it greatly tells to Will’s deeper struggles.
10) Robin Williams as Sean Maguire.
Williams won his first and only Oscar based on his performance in this film, and damn if it isn’t clear why. Williams is chameleonic. Yes you know its Robin Williams playing him, yes he brings some of his trademark improv comedy (more on that later), but you don’t SEE Williams. All you see is Sean, and that is incredible. Damon and Affleck took a character who could have easily been just the token mentor. The Obi-Wan to Will’s Luke Skywalker. But they did more. They gave Sean his own struggles, his own grief, his own desires, his own conflict, his own arc, and made a truly compelling character who can hold his own against Damon’s Will.
You learn a lot about Sean as the film goes along. You learn how his life is defined by his love and loss of his wife, you see that he is able to relate to actual people, that he hates the MIT snobs. The dude chokes Will out for insulting his wife at one point and is the first therapist to kick Lambeau out of his session. Meaning he takes his time with Will far more seriously than the other therapists.
The chemistry between Williams and Damon is on par with the chemistry between Driver and Damon, although of a fundamentally different nature. Williams as Sean is able to sift through Will’s bullshit, knows when he doesn’t need to put up with it, and is able to slowly make this character who is so afraid of rejection comfortable around him. I think it’s the key relationship in the film, and I love it.
11) Danny Elfman’s score in this film is beautiful. Elfman is known for his more macabre work through collaborations with directors like Tim Burton and Sam Raimi, but here he creates a hopeful and sincere melody which carries you through the film like a leaf on the wind. I think it’s great.
12) The scene where Sean is talking to Will on a park bench is somewhat iconic, but I think it is very powerful for one key reason: the filmmakers decided to keep it on William’s performance for most of the scene. They did not cut between him and Damon, they let his acting and his heart carry those minutes and it is incredible I think. You can watch for yourself if you so desire:
This is my favorite line from that monologue:
Sean: “You’re an orphan right. Do you think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been - how you feel, who you are - because I read Oliver Twist?”
People like to say they know what other people are going through, but unless they have personally they don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. Thank you to this film for having that line in there. I love it.
13) According to IMDb:
The lines in the scene when Sean talks about his late wife’s farting antics were ad-libbed by Robin Williams. That is why Matt Damon was laughing so hard. If you watch the scene carefully you can notice the camera shaking a bit, possibly due to the cameraman laughing as well.
14) This film does an excellent job in balancing the aspects of Will’s life. We get the perfect looks at his relationship with his friends, with Skylar, with Sean, and with Lambeau. There’s not too much and there’s not too little, it’s just right.
15) It is interesting to see how Will lets his guard down with Skylar in some regards while also keeping it up in some ways (namely, lying about how he has 12 brothers).
16) I love Skylar’s story with Will’s friends.
Minnie Driver is gold.
Lambeau [after Sean says they should let Sean go down his own path]: “It worked wonders for you didn’t it?”
Sean: “Yeah it did you arrogant fucking prick.”
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
WHETHER OR NOT SOMEONE HAS LIVED A GOOD LIFE IS NOT BASED ON THEIR STATURE. IT IS NOT BASED ON THEIR JOB, THEIR WEALTH, THEIR LOOKS, NOTHING LIKE THAT. IT IS EXCLUSIVELY BASED ON HOW HAPPY THEY ARE LIVING THEIR LIFE AND HOW MUCH PAIN THEY ARE OR ARE NOT CAUSING OTHERS!!!!
I have a lot of strong feelings on this matter, can you tell?
18) I love how Will explains the way his brain works. How he says Mozart and Beethoven could just look at a piano and play, that’s how his brain works with history and numbers and science and stuff. It actually makes a lot of sense despite being pretty vague.
19) Get ready to have your heart broken by Will being a fucking idiot.
GODDAMN IT WILL!!!!!
20) Will’s whole monologue about why he doesn’t take a job with the NSA because of what COULD happen and one hypothetical leading to another is just a perfect example of him using his intellect to rationalize his fears in a bullshit way.
Will [in a session with Sean]: “Why shouldn’t I work for the N.S.A.? That’s a tough one, but I’ll take a shot. Say I’m working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I’m real happy with myself, ‘cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin’, “Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area” 'cause they don’t give a shit. It won’t be their kid over there, gettin’ shot. Just like it wasn’t them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin’ a tour in the National Guard. It’ll be some kid from Southie takin’ shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he’ll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain’t helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they’re takin’ their sweet time bringin’ the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin’ play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain’t too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy’s out of work and he can’t afford to drive, so he’s got to walk to the fuckin’ job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin’ him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he’s starvin’, 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they’re servin’ is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I’m holdin’ out for somethin’ better. I figure fuck it, while I’m at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.”
21) One of my favorite scenes in this film is Chuckie’s reaction after Will says he’s going to stay in south Boston his whole life.
Chuckie: “Look, you’re my best friend, so don’t take this the wrong way but, in 20 years if you’re still livin’ here, comin’ over to my house, watchin’ the Patriots games, workin’ construction, I’ll fuckin’ kill ya. That’s not a threat, that’s a fact, I’ll fuckin’ kill ya.”
He is like the only one - between Skylar, Sean, and Lambeau - to actually get through to Will. And that is because he speaks Will’s language. It’s one of my favorite character moments in the film.
22) I do really love the climax of the film (Sean telling Will, “It’s not your fault,” for his foster dad beating on him and Will breaking down into tears) even if I’m aware of some of it’s flaws. This is a turning point for Will, but if he were in therapy in real life this wouldn’t be the end. Also most therapists don’t treat their patients this way. But that’s the beauty of fiction: we have this thing called suspension of disbelief which makes movies fun to watch! :D
23) I think the ending for this film is quite lovely. So many different ideas from earlier play into effect, Will goes to make up with Skylar (headcanon: he gets her back after much groveling and attempts to convince her he’s changed), and what Matt Damon said was Robin Williams’ best improvised line in the film.
Will [in a note he leaves for Sean]: "Sean, if the Professor calls about that job, just tell him, sorry, I have to go see about a girl.“
Good Will Hunting is a classic of cinema. It features excellent writing that features a heartwarming story, supported by incredible performances across the board. Williams, Damon, and Driver are all particular standouts, but the film is just so good. Perhaps a little overrated, but still incredible. Go see it!