Coraline the book is a magical, creepy children’s story from Neil Gaiman about a girl who finds a hidden doorway in her house that leads to another world. Coraline the film is both a wonderful translation to the screen, a work of art, and another proud testament to the fact that stop-motion animation, while dying out, is far from gone yet. I’m going to start out with a request: please do yourselves a favour and go see it soon while it’s still in 3D screens. This will be quite unlike the gimmicky effects to which you are used, with “this is the 3D bit” moments. Instead the entire thing was shot with stereoscopic cameras so it’s all just… 3D. As if that were totally normal. The difference is that it generally adds depth by moving into the screen rather than trying to burst out of it, which is when the illusion tends to break.
Given the couple of 3D trailers preceding the film, this is a tipping point. Ice Age certainly seems to have embraced it just as fully and naturally. In fact the 3D view confused me at first, my eyes straining as I struggled to take everything in at once as I normally would with a film. Instead you should look around the scene unfolding before you, focusing on one layer at a time, just as in real life. However I’m not about to start saying that this is the future for all films, because you’re losing something too: the vibrant colours do appear washed out through the polarised glasses and I suppose you lose that big screen spectacle where you can take in everything at once in a detailed 2D shot. Not to mention the unnecessary surcharge for the privilege of 3D, a bit steep for glasses they’re collecting up afterwards (okay, and a digital two-level projector, but that’s an investment).
There is far more to the film than this effect, of course, and more than enough to make a 2D viewing worthwhile. Stop-motion always offers something tantalisingly different from the now-standard digitally animated fare, though it is often hard to put one’s finger on. And the calibre here is the very highest, directed by the legendary Henry Sellick who also helmed The Nightmare Before Christmas (despite the fact it tends to be Tim Burton of whom people first think since his writing and design permeates much of it). The painstaking process of shooting and adjusting in individual frames is almost impossible to imagine, but the result is somehow more grounded, with more precise movements and a sense of weight. It is truer here than in Corpse Bride where, arguably, the pursuit of smooth visual perfection resulted in something that looked digital. The love and care from the team at Laika often permeate the world on display before you which is a joy to behold. As their marketing revealed, these guys are artisans. And so it is that what really sticks with you from the film are the stunning environments even moreso than the characters and story which meander through them.
I won’t bother dealing with the “controversy” of scaring kids, since you know my thoughts. Young kids will undoubtedly be frightened from time to time by the strangely dislocated other world which Coraline discovers. The Other Mother is suitably creepy incarnation and a perfect realisation of Coraline’s adversary. Bottom line is: it’ll probably scare kids and they’ll love it. I must admit I was perplexed, however, by the Sellick’s choice in the corpulant geriatric mild nudity of Spink and Forcible’s act in the other world. While there is much for adults to enjoy, Coraline is still clearly a kids’ film so it feels awkwardly out of place. On the other hand kids may not even notice.
I’ve been reading Lily’s I Invent The Future blog for a while now, but only just added it the links page. It’s broadly about women in technology, written with a considered and non-sensationalist voice.
Cheat codes for everyday life is an interesting collection of things you may not have known you could do. But you can. Incidentally the opening of the article is a reference to the now legendary Konami Code, which was recently discovered as an easter egg on Facebook.
I have not said a great deal about my experience with Windows 7 since installing the beta a while ago. The reason is pretty simple: it’s just been incredibly smooth with very little to report. The general interface has undergone minimal change since Vista, with most of the changes under the hood. Subtle changes like the new Super Bar and AeroPeek are well-implemented evolutions of the Aero interface, but hardly revolutionary. Unlike the experience of early adopters of Vista, most software will already be fully compatible, particularly since most vendors now support 64-bit releases (yes, with 4 gigs of RAM in the laptop I’m using a 64-bit version of Windows 7). The result has been a very stable operating system that acts just as it should: generally stays out of your way and lets you get on with what you want to do.
So when the Release Candidate arrived earlier this month I didn’t jump at it. In fact, my experience with the beta has been so hassle-free that I probably won’t upgrade before my trip to the States either, since reinstalling all that software will be time-consuming. In fact my chief reason for switching to the RC will be to take advantage of its generous trial period, lasting until March 2010 (full expiration is technically June 2010 but forced shutdowns every 2 hours essentially render it useless in that period).
Several people have asked me whether I plan to see Twilight. Because it “has vampires”. The truth is that Twilight is a vampire film in much the same way that Titanic was a sailing film. Its purpose lies elsewhere. In fact the inclusion of vampires in the Twilight story can be viewed in only two ways: incidental or else an exploitation of a profitable subgenre. I do not intend to indulge its creators, though I am fascinated by the success of its marketing. In the States the books are undeniably popular in a Potter-esque way (by which I mean Harry, not Beatrix), though at least the boy wizard’s adventures were reasonably well written. Here, to my knowledge, they never really took off in the same way. And yet somehow the film’s marketing has convinced the public at large that this film is an event, part of a hugely popular franchise. So successfully, in fact, that it could be self-fulfilling.
Interestingly there is a vampire film I am highly anticipating, and while it too features young protagonists, it could not really be more different. Let The Right One In seems at once chilling and warm, a Swedish film about a fragile, bullied 12-year-old boy named Oskar who meets a pale, peculiar girl named Eli. By the time he discovers she is a vampire, a subtle romance has already blossomed between the pair. The image of an adult trapped within the body of an eternal child has fascinated me ever since Interview with the Vampire’s Claudia, and here both the film’s brooding palette and young actors seem able to convey the disconnection beautifully.
The release of the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s delightful children’s story Coraline, directed by stop-motion master Henry Sellick, is now imminent. So to celebrate you can read the entire book online for free. Neil is certainly one of the folk who understand that giving things away for free actually serves to make more money as well as generally making everyone happier, and I suppose Harper Collins make enough out of him that they’re willing to give it a go.
On a related note, the Open Rights Group have put together a short informative video on the suggested European copyright duration extension and exactly why this won’t help artists or consumers. It’s an issue worth considering, discussing, spreading and generally opposing. Particularly in that all the major independent IP bodies who have conducted studies oppose it, and yet the European Commission has mysteriously ignored them.