30 June 2011

The Films of Jonathan Lynn: Nuns on the Run

Since the internet can't produce any SFW pictures of
"young Camille Corduri" here is some compulsory fan art

Nuns on the Run, released 1990 by 20th Century Fox, produced by Handmade Films, Written by Jonathan Lynn.

Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane dress as brides of Christ in a scenario largely reminiscent of “Some Like It Hot” in a movie released a full two years before “Sister Act” with a small amount of “Blues Brothers” thrown in with at least one direct shout out to “Charlie’s Aunt”.

Most guys will recognize that dude from Monty Python and Hagrid straight off the bat, but the third lead is none other than Jackie Tyler herself, Camille Coduri. I’d surmise that it’s very hard to combine sexy and comical, so that a comedienne you can spank to is a valuable and rare find, but It’s probably because I’m really into hot chicks who tell jokes. Either way, Corduri really is this movie’s hidden treasure. Her character, Faith, plays very much like Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot: the bombshell love interest. But unlike Monroe’s “Sugar Kane”, Faith is comically near sighted (making her “blind faith”, a visual punning gag used nine years before Shannon Elizabeth’s character Justice in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”). When she isn’t naively and appealingly falling in love with a guy twice her age, she’s taking pratfalls and gunshot wounds, making her a true participant in the farce, rather than a detached outside observer.

On the whole, ‘Nuns on the Run’ is a better film than Clue in many ways: better ADR and continuity for instance, but it’s got crap villains. Brian Hope (Idle) and Charlie Mc Manus(Coltrane) dress in drag to hide from the mob. But the gangsters just aren’t that threatening. The main antagonist, Casey the gangleader (played by ), always accompanied by an “evil” guitar riff, fails to intimidate or believably come across as a guy who could head up a London gang. The rival gang, the Triads, come a across as little more than “evil asian” stereotypes. I wouldn’t call the stereotypes hateful, or intentionally offensive, but there’s no believability in the possibility these thinly drawn bad guys might win, killing a great deal of the tension in the film.

Oh yeah, and God’s pretty much an active character. Like in John Landis’s “The Blues Brothers”, the characters make mention and even supposition of divine intervention. But while Jake and Ellwood Blues were protected by a diety who would send literal illumination from above. God works differently with Brian and Charlie. Pretty much every coincidence in the movie can be interpreted as an act of God, from Brian and Charlie’s getaway car randomly running out of fuel to (SPOILER), the nuns of the Training school getting a suitcase full of much needed money for their drug rehabilitation clinic, Jonathan Lynn’s version of God works in strange ways. My favorite gag in the movie is when Casey has the heroes dead-to-rights at gunpoint in a hospital. When he’s about to pull the trigger, he’s smacked into by a crash-cart team. Deus Ex Machina, with a real machine no less!

Sure, 'Nuns' may not have the best jokes or comedic setpieces that hit the highs I mentioned in 'Clue', but it's got a solid plot construction, charming and likeable actors (important for light comedy), and served as enough of a commercial and artistic success to get Jonathan Lynn his next directing project with Fox, "My Cousin Vinny".

19 June 2011

The Films of Jonathan Lynn: Clue

So here's the first in my own little mini series, a profile and reviews of the films of Jonathan Lynn, known in the UK for the series "Yes Minister", sadly unappreciated in the United States despite his two decades of film directing, hopefully, this will make more sense as I go along. First up, is Clue.

Here's some obligatory fan art of Lesley Ann Warren.

Released 1985 by Paramount pictures, Screenplay by Jonathan Lynn and John Landis, based on the board game.

Six blackmail victims are given color-coded pseudonyms and collected at a New England mansion for an intervention by Wadsworth , a Butler, then people die. The movie was released with multiple endings so that, like the board game, the culprits are interchangeable, also notable is the all-star cast which includes Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd and freaking Tim Curry at what may be the height of their comedic prowess.

Clue has great rising action. The first fifteen minutes are deliberate, complete with awkward- pause gags. By the end of the film, the pacing is frenetic with everyone running at full speed around the mansion as Wadsworth explains the whole damn movie at fever pitch.

However, the different endings screw everything up. Only the third ending is satisfactory and logical: every murder is committed by a different guest, Wadsworth is really Mr. Boddy, and Mr. Green is a government agent. In the other versions, the rest of the cast goes sadly unused as the plot hones in on a single murderer. The VHS release and TV cut of the film play all three endings in succession, extending the finale longer than it should (and screwing up the pacing). Though the film seems to make some solid observations about the nature of reconciling a private and political life, the whole point of the film gets lost in the conflicting resolutions.


By the way, Michael Kaplan’s costumes kick ass! Everybody’s wardrobe reveals information about their character, from the obvious (Mrs. White is in mourning) to the subtle (Col. Mustard wears a tailored suit, indicating undeclared income). Kaplan works the character’s namesakes into their appearance without being over-the-top; Professor Plum’s vest, for instance. The only character unlike his game piece is Mr. Green, who dresses in navy blue. Going by the third ending, this is positively brilliant: he’s not really Mr. Green.

Though Clue didn’t make a domestic profit in it’s initial release, the movie has since developed a fan following, and remains popular enough to warrant never-ceasing rumors of a remake. Clue is smart and hilarious, but will never be remembered as a “classic” since the multi-endings confuse the hell out of everybody.

But this movie rocks, anyway.

09 June 2011

Look who's (not) talking.

Here's a trick. Watch a movie or TV show or whatever. Look for a two-shot or group shot.
Somebody will usually be talking. The fun part is... look at who isn't talking. (mind blowing, isn't it?).

In this scene from Back to the Future, it's Doc Brown's line. But Michael J. Fox doesn't stop acting because he's not speaking, he's still present in the scene: reacting to what the other players say and to what's going on.

I find this a pretty good litmus test for character animation.

Can you still see what's going on in the character's head when another player is speaking? What would you think is Santa Claus's inner monologue right here?

How About Daffy, or Elmer Fudd?

I find looking at the nonspeaking characters, and gauging their reactions and acting in those moments, in a two-shot or group shot is a good way to determine between what's good animation...

...and what I would consider otherwise.

04 June 2011

OMG Ponies!!!

Recently, I've started loving "My Little Pony :Frienship is Magic" (Hereafter referred to as "MLP:FIM" because that's a damn long title) developed by Lauren Faust.

A lot of people have praised the show, and drawn some terribly, terribly disturbing fan art but MLP:FIM's real strength isn't so much the witty exchanges, the slapstick humor , better than average flash animation or even the phenomenon of male adult viewers shucking their masculinity to watch a horsie show

Not that I'm insecure, of course

...But it's the same thing that animation gurus Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston claimed made (their) Disney feature cartoons so wonderful...

and honestly, how can you not trust these guys?

Which is a focus on Character Personalities, first off, that they have different personalities.
Compared with earlier pony shows, certainly

...and those personalities motivated the plot, like in Die Hard!

not like I'm compensating or anything...

In movies like North By Northwest and Raiders of the Lost Arc, stuff just kinda happens to the hero for no real reason; cropdusters from nowhere, posion darts from the wall. The absurdity of it all is part of the entertainment value of those films. But Die Hard's slightly different.

What would otherwise be walking plot devices: antagonism, exposition, a plot twist , are made interesting and believable through characters with compelling personalities and clearly distinguished motives. The villain, exposition guy and the second-act end plot twist become Hans Gruber, Officer Powell and Dick Thornburg, the effect is the scenarios on the screen are not arbitrary, but created by the actions of the characters.

MLP:FIS's best episodes focus on the naturally occurring friction between the members of the "mane" cast.

In "Sonic Rainboom", Rarity's massive vanity both heightens the conflict and provides a catalyst for the resolution. Kinda like Shakespeare, actually.

...Specifically A Midsummer Night's Dream. Absent of bewitching prophesies, vengeful ghosts or other external means to kick-start the plot, stuff happens because a group of people happen to be in the same place at the same time. From serious crush issues to a really bitter marriage between supernatural monarchs and Puck's love for trolling, it's like what did you expect when these guys are all thrown into the mix?

Here's a link to Hasbro's official site: a clip from the MLP:FIS episode Applebuck Season. Note that in a show where time and budget demands a lot of work done from templates...

and sometimes it shows

...That every character is unmistakably distinct. Not only do the leads has a different speaking voice and attitude, but different ways of approaching the podium. Twilight shuffles index cards, Rainbow Dash simply barges in, Fluttershy slouches and Pinkie Pie jumps up from nowhere.

The reason why the entire internet (or maybe just 4Chan) has gone ballistic for this show over the past few months is because, like good fiction and great drama, from the Looney Tunes to Moby Dick, everything in it is grounded in and motivated by the characters' personalities. Which I think is worth getting excited over.

.... BTW my favoritest pony ever is Fluttershy

02 June 2011

Yeah, some more sketches

Even though as of late, it seems all I post here are sketches, I might as well post something and that something being more sketches here goes.

Here are some birds from a pretty kick ass aviary at the local zoo. I'd enjoy going to the zoo more if it weren't for children always being there. For a guy who would do anything to produce children's entertainment, I sure spend a lot of time hating and resenting the little brats.

Here is a car. In order to widen my range, I've picked out several spots to sketch on site at, and since I live in a central coast 'burg complete with beaches and a harbor, I've decided to draw cars at the freeway overpass.

The really interesting thing about this fellow is that he actually had no ears and big flippers for hands, making this study in brush tip marker more accurate that you could ever suspect!

I was watching "Son of the Mask", so here's some caricature impressions from TV; Jaime Kennedy et all. The very valuable lesson I learned from all of this is: Don't watch "Son of the Mask".

Annnd that's some sketches done from March to the present.I'm planning a big project for this fall, so some finished artwork will be appearing soon.