Wednesday, March 7, 2012

F This Movie! - The Iron Giant

Patrick and Doug discuss Brad Bird's first film, lament the disappearance of cel animation and argue about reanimating dead relatives.

Download this episode here. (33 MB)

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Also discussed this episode: Tower Heist, Notting Hill, Like Crazy, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, JCVD


  1. I was on a flight once from London to Chicago that had, I swear to god, U-571 and the Jamie Foxx vehicle Held Up as the options. Let's just say Held Up was the better option.

  2. Hey, I love "Notting Hill." It's unabashed old-school star-power fueled Hollywood romantic magic at work with Julia Roberts looking the part of a big movie star (to me at least) and Hugh Grant doing his dumb likable chap schitck to near-perfection. I normally reject this type of hokum, but the supporting cast and pace keep things lively. Who doesn't tear-up on that last scene of the two of them in the bench? It gets me every time, and I know better. And based on Patrick's recommendation I now really want to see "JCVD."

    If you get the burning passion for a particular type of movie I'd say feed the beast (like Patrick is doing with his action obsession) 'till its happy and content. I went through a French New Wave movie phase last year and watched every Godard, Truffaut, Breson and just plain French movie I could get my hands on. Same with B&W silents, raunchy comedies, 70's conspiracy movies, film noirs, etc. Like Patrick said in one of the podcasts quoting a movie (don't remember which), 'IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD, DO IT.'

    I also own a DVD of "The Iron Giant" (the one with bonus features and a commentary, not the bare-bones one released in 2000) that I haven't seen yet. I've seen "Iron Giant" twice on TV and twice in theaters (first when it came out in '99 and last December at a Christmas week-long theatrical run in New York's Film Forum). Can't say that I love the movie but I appreciate what Brad Baird was going for and that its aim is higher than just entertaining little kids. The 'Duck and Cover' parody within the movie is laugh-out loud hilarious, the only trace of Brad's "Simpsons" background sneaking into the story. I wish you guys hadn't spent so much time talking about the ending (I'm with Patrick that it robs the previous scene of its impact, but on the grand scheme of things it's not that big of a deal that it happens) but I appreciated the history lesson about other studio's efforts to start animation divisions that went down the crapper ('Titan A.E.' came in 2000 BTW, and it marked the end of Fox in hand-drawn animation). Back when "Iron Giant" came out if a kid's movie (live action or animated) didn't have the Disney name in front of it it was the kiss of death at the box office. You mentioned the animated victims of this parental bias toward Disney kid's movies, but it also affected great movies like Alfonso Cuarón's "A Little Princess" (1995) that were quality movies for the whole family that bombed theatrically.

    Still haven't seen "The Incredibles" (own it on DVD since it came out in 2004... sound familiar Patrick? :-P), "Ratatoille" on Blu-ray is awesome and "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" is overrated (though well-directed and a kick-ass action flick). I went to see "M:I-GO" just because you guys put it in your top 10 of the year. I'm sorry, but any movie that HAS to play a stereotypical song from the nation that we're going to when a title card identifies the country (scary Russian march when we see the Kremlin, Sitar music when we go to India, stereotypical Muslin chants when we first see Burj Khalifa tower, etc.) cannot ever be Top 10 of the year for me. I value my intelligence too much to give Top 10 status to flicks that need to pander to audience's stereotype-driven mentality. It's a good action flick (was Paula Wagner weighing Cruise down?), and Brad at least shows he can use his animation skills to make live action stuff seem cartoony-yet-believable (like Ethan Hunt surviving at least two clunks to the head while jumping that should have killed him). Still, "M:I-GP" is no "Iron Giant." :-)

  3. Good podcast as always! I have to see Iron Giant again, it's been a while. It's one of those movies that I think I wanted to 'love' but I really just 'like'. It sort of lives in my memory better than it does when I am watching it.

    Did you guys see The Illusionist? That's a recent example of a hand-drawn animated movie that is very good and much more for adults than for kids.

    Also, thanks for taking down Like Crazy. That movie made me laugh a lot towards the end because it was so overwrought and nonsensical. The scene (spoiler) where the girl's new bf proposes to her (in front of her parents who know she's married) is what broke me. It's hilarous and very Jerry Springer. The reaction on the parents face is priceless like they realize that their daughter is an emotional terrorist. The Jennifer Lawrence character is a complete idiot too for sticking around Anton Yelchin with the way he's treating her. The two leads are both AWFUL people. That being said, I think the last scene of the movie is very well done (and funny) and also deserving of a much better movie to put in front of it.

    1. ^^^ Actually, a lot of "The Illusionist" (the Tati-as-a-cartoon one, not the magic movie starring Edward Norton :-P) is CG but its meant to look like hand-drawn animation, just like "The Iron Giant" with the robot. Instead of being limited to just the robot though, in "The Illusionist" the backgrounds, foreground/background characters and moving foregrounds were all rendered on computers before being 'traced' for the hand-drawn look by human computer animators. All of these info comes from the director's mouth, Sylvain Chomet, who used the same technique (to also make it seem like his CG-rendered imagery is hand-drawn) in the crude-looking 2003 French animated flick "The Triplets of Belleville."

      Bottom line: hand-drawn animation is a dying breed, left mostly to TV toons and an odd Disney movie (2009's "The Disney and the Frog" used a lot of it) but even those use CG extensively as backgrounds (no more matte shots as backgrounds) or to speed-up the animation of 'in-between' character movements. It's gotten to the point that a mostly-CG movie like "The Illusionist" can pass for hand-drawn animation, at which point economics dictates that CG is the way to do these things. That's why "The Iron Giant" (a non-Disney, non-musical, non-kiddie animated flick) stands out even today as a rarity.

    2. @Adam - Thanks! I'm probably in the same boat as you re: Iron Giant right now, but a) I've only seen it once, and it was less than 48 hours ago and b) I went into it with sky-high expectations. I need to see it for the movie it is and not the movie I thought it would be (which is actually kind of the movie it is).

      Good to know I'm not alone on Like Crazy. I just really don't understand what the cheerleaders of that movie were responding to. It reminded me a little of the Twilight movies, minus the supernatural elements, in that the relationship was just fraught with invented drama (in that respect, I guess it does speak to a younger generation raised on this stuff, who seem to believe this is what relationships are supposed to be). And if you want us as viewers to root for these two characters to get together -- or at least invest in a 90 minute question of whether or not they will -- you should, at some point, show us why they even like one another. Or why we should like them. I don't get it.

  4. Just started listening, so no idea what all this Iron Giant talk is about.

    But, another point on the "On The Kick" topic. I side with "watch it all at once" for the reasons stated, but also because once the kick is over you will be left with a feeling that you are a fan of the given genre/actor/other/etc or at least knowledgable of that area whether you follow through with your kick or not. So unless you watch it all at once, you will not end up watching all the films you intended to (like you both said on the show) but you will also think that you have a knowledge of the topic that you arent really basing on the entire body of work.

    Or at least this is what I have experienced, hence my current kick of going back and trying to watch a whole bunch of Blaxploitation films, because Superfly, The Mack and Coffy doesnt make me as knowledgable of the genre as I like to think I am.

    1. Yeah, that's pretty much the approach I've ended up going with. If it wasn't for the fact that I want to keep the "Heavy Action" column going, I wouldn't worry about burnout at all. I just don't want to be sick of these movies before I get around to writing about Action Jackson.

      I need to see more blaxploitation. I loooove Coffy, but I'm sorry to say I've still not seen The Mack (my biggest frame of reference for it is that Gary Oldman is watching it in True Romance). Have you come across anything really good you can recommend?

  5. The Mack is good, for, and in spite of, a cracked out Richard Pryor. Part of the fun of these films these days is spotting how its been referenced and influential since its release, and the Mack is great for that. "Stick your self" "yo bitch chose me" etc.

    So far my kick has only taken me as far as Cotton Come To Harlem. Not overly bad, relativly speaking, but I wouldnt reccommend it yet. It has a couple memorable scenes (white cop is asked to put a paper bag over his head to have have sex with a black woman...and its done with very few words, like its an actual "thing" people do) and the big reveal near the end of the film is given away in the actual title of the film (dont pay attention to the cotton).

    On my to do list is: Hell up in Harlem, Cool Breeze, Across 110th Street, Truck Turner, Blacula (gigidy), Black Caesar and Black Belt Jones.

    If im not filled with white self hate by the end of this then I dont have a soul. Can you dig it!

    1. I've had a couple of those on my Netflix queue for a long time, so I better get around to seeing them so we can hate on whitey together. I like Black Caesar a lot, but found Black Belt Jones to be pretty tedious -- which I say as a fan of Jim Kelly.

  6. Man, I do enjoy Iron Giant. I actually believe I saw that one in theaters way back when, but I'm not 100 percent sure, that was a long time ago. I've lived with that movie for a long time and I really appreciate a lot of elements of it. When he says "Superman" at the end, I well up like a tweener watching Breaking Dawn. I also really love that period of cold war paranoia, the Outer Limits/Twilight Zone kind of era, so I dig the vibe in the movie.

    Man I love London. I swear one of these days I'm going to go all ex-pat and end up living there. I feel more comfortable there than I do pretty much anywhere else. The food, the culture, the weather, I dig it. Sounds like Doug E. Doug had a great time there, which makes me happy.

    I also really enjoy Notting Hill. You know who lives in Notting Hill in real life? Alan Effing Rickman, that's who. Alan Rickman would have made that movie even better. What if Alan Rickman was the movie star Hugh Grant fell in love with? It'd be a better movie, that's what.

    As far as the action movie kick, it seems like it's been resolved by now, but I definitely also am in favor of going balls to the wall and wearing it out. I find that, for me, it's impossible to slow down and use moderation when I'm feeling passionate about a particular thing. It's way more fun to just dive in and wear yourself out. I know you're concerned about running out of steam on the Heavy Action column, but you can't fake it when your enthusiasm has run its course, and this streak can't last forever. When you eventually do burn out, you could always just put the column on hiatus and start another column about whatever moves in to take its place. I tend to move pretty fast on things, but I've started referring to things as my "wheel of interests" because I can be crazy about something in January, and by February I've moved on to something new. But eventually, a few months later or a year later, it all comes around again and starts over, like a big wheel. When you run out of steam on Heavy Action, you could just shelve it until you get interested again. That reminds me of JCVD. When I went through my Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren phase last year, I bought JCVD on DVD but I burned out before I watched it. Now Heavy Action has got me wanting to watch more action movies, and that's definitely on the list. But you could just as easily have a column about cold war paranoia movies of the 50s and I'd be wanting to watch those too. You're influence is mighty.

  7. Just came back from a matinee of "The Secret World of Arrietty," which is 95% hand-drawn animated (and the 5% that is clearly CG is done so smoothly as backdrop it doesn't really call attention to itself). Hand-drawn animation is alive and well, but not in America. Only an established mini-major like Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli (Japan's equivalent of Pixar) can push its weight around to keep their output hand-drawn. Most animated movies in Japan look like "Summer Wars" (another anime feature that had a limited theatrical release in the States): mostly hand-drawn, but with lots of obvious CG rendered backgrounds/camera swipes/effects (about 25-40%) to keep production costs down. Plus Japan's CG animation studios also produce movies/scenes for videogame intros besides their TV/movie output. Still, anime on TV and direct-to-video OVA (except for special cases like "Ghost in the Shell" or the new "Evangelion" remakes) is where hand-drawn animation still reigns supreme... for now.

    So, recap: feature hand-drawn animated movies are dead in America and still exist in Japan (mostly Studio Ghibli's output) but most of them with a lot of CG-enhanced look to keep the budgets within reason. Television (TV programming or commercial animation) on both territories still keeps hand-drawn animation alive, at least for now. And for the record, "Secret World of Arrietty" is a fine but rather uninspired 'little people in an adult world' anime take on "The Borrowers." It was fine while it lasted but for Miyazaki (who only wrote/produced "Arrietty") I expected better than just 'fine.'

  8. I haven't listened to the podcast yet but I just watched The Iron Giant and I really loved it - both the animation and the story. Like Heath said, the Superman thing - damn, I'm not crying it's just raining on my face, OK?!

    Also agree with JM (and by the sounds of it Patrick) on the ending (let's call it the "second ending" - it has a first perfectly fine ending) - it makes the soft, squishy parts of me happy, but the movie would be better off without it.