WFF 2016 – Nazywam się Cukinia

Szwajcarska animacja autorstwa Claude’a Barrasa jest wprost urokliwie banalna – opierając się na nieskomplikowanym dialekcie z widzem, Nazywam się Cukinia chwyta za serce mocniej z każdą kolejną sceną. Ostatecznie, to tryumf prostoty – ujmującej, wzruszającej i w pełni angażującej widza emocjonalnie.

Chłopczyk samotnie mieszkający z mamą alkoholiczką, pewnego dnia zostaje osierocony. Nie rozumie swojej sytuacji, nie rozumie także swojej winy w tym, dlaczego zostaje zabrany z pustego domu. Jednak gdy trafia do sierocińca, poznaje kilkoro innych dzieci – wszystkich dotkniętych, tak jak on, pewną traumą. Cukinia powoli zaczyna się zatem oswajać z nowym życiem.

Nazywam się Cukinia to nie typowa animacja z XXI wieku, do których przywykliśmy. Próżno szukać tu inspiracji kinem akcji (Zwierzogród), czy rozlicznych odniesień do popkultury (niegdyś popularny Shrek). Mimo to, Claude Barras fenomenalnie buduje relację widza z tytułowym Cukinią. Hołdując zasadzie od ogółu do szczegółu, po pobieżnym zarysowaniu dramatycznej sytuacji chłopczyka, reżyser powoli nakreśla nam jego głębsze „ja”. Gdy Cukinia otwiera swoją szafkę w sierocińcu, zawiera się w niej cały dobytek jego dotychczasowego życia – własnej roboty latawiec z rysunkiem jego taty oraz puszka po piwie, którą zabrał swojej mamie, by o niej pamiętać. Używając takich drobnych detali, Barras porusza poważną problematykę – temat odrzucenia, niezrozumienia i izolacji w dzisiejszym świecie. I mając do dyspozycji świetnie nakreśloną postać Cukinii, jego film trafia w samo sedno.

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Siła tkwi bowiem w doskonale zbalansowanej przemianie głównego bohatera. Z przestraszonego, skrytego i wyobcowanego, Cukinia rozkwita na naszych oczach – przeżywa dziecięcą miłość, radzi sobie z „hersztem” gromadki dzieci z sierocińca. Otwiera się przed widzem, poznając świat w innych barwach, jednocześnie nie porzucając swojej tęsknoty za domem. Wszystko to, chociaż nosi brzemię reperkusji z wielu innych filmów, w Nazywam się Cukinia jest wyjątkowo prawdziwe i wzruszające. Czuje się tu ducha bajek Disneya z dawnych lat, właśnie dzięki tej fenomenalnie ujmującej narracji – prostej, bez fajerwerków, ale szczerej i niewymuszenie bliskiej sercu.

Ogromnie ważnym atutem Nazywam się Cukinia jest również strona techniczna. Wykonanie, chociaż odbiega od wymuskanych wizualnie filmów Pixara, wpisuje się w sposób prowadzenia historii – jest proste, nieinwazyjne, przypominający stare bajki z naszego podwórka, które osobiście pamiętam z dzieciństwa – np. Misia Kolargola. Animacja poklatkowa przypomina także zeszłoroczny hit Anomalisa Charliego Kaufmanna, jest tutaj obecny Wallace i Gromit Nicka Parka i kilka innych, bardziej niszowych perełek.

Nazywam się Cukinia było chyba najbardziej zaskakującym seansem tegorocznego z warszawskiego festiwalu filmowego. Wobec tendencji do kręcenia coraz brutalniejszych, kontrowersyjnych historii, rebootów, remake’ów i filmów o piętrzących się konfliktach na świecie, szwajcarska animacja jest niczym kojący balsam – pięknie pachnący i pozostawiający przyjemne uczucie zapomnienia o tym całym brudzie naszej rzeczywistości.

UMP Review- Sausage Party

Quoting one of Bob Dylan’s songs – times, they are changin’. Sausage Party is off the rails in all terms, being a proof of how valid this quote is. And truth be told – once in a while, it’s good to lower oneself to such level of nasty humor. 

The food in a supermarket dreams only about being picked by the so-called gods a.ka.a humans. Yet, they don’t really know what happens behind the doors of the shop, blindly believing in a story of a paradise awaiting. But by mistake, a sausage named Frank (Seth Rogen) and a bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) begin a journey to discover the terrible truth about their insignificant lives.

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Sausage Party is a nasty piece of vastly-circled criticism, packed in a form of a vivid animation. The script by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir is an unstoppable artillery of punchlines, fired at every direction possible, without confining it within any sort of boundaries. The band of brutal scoffers doesn’t know any traces of mercy, thus the heavy humor touches classism, racism, gender-based discrimination, but goes far beyond that. Therefore, a Jewish bagel and a Palestinian Lawasz become closer than we could suspect, out of nowhere pops out a food-type version of Stephen Hawking (which is the most hilarious piece of the film to me), whilst the whole “sausage in the bun” wordplay gets only messier and messier, only dirtier and dirtier.

However, Rogen and the crew did not want to be percepted hollow in the topic, making a trippy, controversial piece of adult animation. There’s a whole lot of intelligent criticism, cleverly hidden behind low-level, sex-oriented jokes. Rogen hammers the mechanisms behind consumptionism, the irrational inducements behind waging religious wars and – most surprisingly – the ubiquitous presence of sex in modern world. He goes to extremes, but most of the time, it pays off. In taking an aim at all of these heavy topics, Rogen walks on a thin line, frequently losing his balance, but eventually gaining a significant victory. Because Sausage Party could be crude, vulgar and nasty, but it’s also strikingly truthful. As a society in a global village, we are those blood-thirsty predators, fueled by the urging need to gain more and more of whatever we can, aren’t we?

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What I also adored about Sausage Party was undoubtedly the stylistics of the animation. It was lively and build a brilliant contrast with the grungy humor pumping from the speakers. Rogen’s team inserted also some terrific references – when a drug addict skin-pops bathing salt into his veins, we immediately hear Little Green Bag in the background, a classic known from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. There’s also a wink towards Desperado, war movies genre and tons of pop-culture’s elements in general. Which is certainly what could be expected from clowns like Rogen.

Finally, the voice acting in Sausage Party was an ace in the hole. Rogen’s laugh remains untouchable and joined by Saturday Night Live favorites like Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig and Rogen’s buddies – Jonah Hill and James Franco – the cast was a huge part of how satisfying this movie happens to be. The cream of the cream was obviously Edward Norton as the shy, fearful sausage Sammy – even for that particular role, it’s worth to give Sausage Party a shot.

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The key to have fun at Sausage Party is to forget about all the confines we are burdened with today. There’s no excuses and no exceptions – everyone gets their share of the nasty pie that our dear scoffers prepared. Maybe the times are changing, but I like this change – we finally learn to grow some distance towards some of the convenances. And it takes a guy with balls like Rogen to make a movie about a sausage that dreams to be in a bun, right?

What’s cool: the voice-acting, the animation in visual terms and the only-and-remarkable STEPHEN HAWKING.

What’s not cool: the vulgar humor might be deterring for some viewers…

UMP Grade: 37/50

UMP Review – The Killing Joke

The Killing Joke is a

The Killing Joke, which settled itself among the best comic books regarding Batman, never got close to being adapted to the screen for many reasons. Nevertheless, DC broke out of the shackles of the childish Batman years ago and Sam Liu’s animation is the best proof for it. It’s dark, well-structured and sometimes looney in some really bizarre ways, but most of all – it’s a beautiful tribute to Mark Hammill and Kevin Conroy – the legendary voices of DC.

Sam Liu begins with a short back story of the Batgirl – Barbara Gordon – and her rather intensive relationship with Batman, that leads both a rushed end of their common good-deeds-work. Only then, the director introduces us to the ultimate nemesis of Batman – the Joker – who captures Jim Gordon and drives him mad, trying to brake Batman’s self-righteousness.

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All it takes i just a one… bad… day– this one diabolical line became the definition of the Joker’s obsession over breaking the will of Batman. The Killing Joke is one-of-a-kind story in the Batman universe, a classic story for the die-hard fans of the Batsy. Known to be the most compelling and surprisingly touching origin story of the Joker, the comic book discovers the truly pathological relationship that binds Batman and the Clown Prince of Crime.

Sam Liu’s adaptation is very consistent with the original material and that – at the same time – consitutes its strength and flaw. On one hand, the scenes are the flesh of the comic book, with all its graphic oddities and Joker-themed, vivid weirdness, but on the other – the narration of the film suffers from this greatly. The several scenes from Joker’s past are rushed and feel out of the blue, whilst too much time is spent on the forced-out prologue.

As a matter of fact, the prologue part, which introduces Barbara Gordon as the Batgirl, feels as if it was cut from another film. And this is the biggest drawback of Liu’s adaptation. The Killing Joke is therefore divided into two parts. One, which perception is constrained to waiting for the Joker and the second part – luckily much longer – that digs into the most harrowing interdependence of two individuals known to mankind. And from that particular point, once we see the Joker entering an abandoned theme park, The Killing Joke arrives at the right stop.

So, although the drawbacks of The Killing Joke are undisputable, this animated R-rated spectacle delivers the chills it promised in the first place. Mark Hammill returning to his iconic Joker role is at his finest, a bit similar to the one from Mask of the Phantasm. This Joker, sketched with the vintage “line” of the old animations, is portrayed like in the comic books, with all his masterfully malicious attitude, witty and mordant humor and demonic laughter. He’s paired up with equally-legendary Kevin Conroy, reprising the role of the Batman – stoic, fed up and doing his utmost to end the maddening rollercoaster that the Joker adores so much, he is the perfect anti-match for the aforementioned.

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Yet what I really loved in The Killing Joke was that it’s truthful to the original source material in how the story reaches its climax. It proves, that Batman and Joker are two sides of the same coin – the concept on which the Dark Knight was based too, with the memorable “hanging upside down” scene with Heath Ledger. Batman allows the crimes to happen out of the vague presence of the self-righteousness, whilst Joker never meant to kill the “Batsy” – without him, he would be simply bored to death. And that peculiar, open-to-intepretation ending was the peak of The Killing Joke.

The transition of the Batman target audience proves, that DC seeks major changes – once a childish and lively comic-book graphics became darker, sinister and psychologically-oriented. Even though The Killing Joke is far from being flawless, it’s a step towards the DC Comics I would personally crave to see more of.

 What’s cool: The Joker, the story that is consistent with the novel, the cool “vintage” graphics that remind of the old Batman animations.

What’s not cool: the narration that is not adapted to the screen accurately, the boring prologue.

UMP Grade: 32/50

 

Star Wars: Rebels – Season 1

The animated Star Wars series is a fun-to-watch treat for the fans of Lucas’ franchise.

The Star Wars franchise has sparked a plethora of by-products, either written, directed or animated. Yet, some of these works stand out as more viable and that is the case of Disney’s Star Wars: Rebels – sweet treat for the die-hard fans of George Lucas’ masterwork.

A regular day in the galaxy – the fraction of the rebelliants fighting the greater evil of the imperial oppressor exists and manages to make the Emperor’s life a misery. The Jedi knights, vanquished after the infamous Order 66 was executed, are shattered, but there comes a ray of hope. One of the rebel ships finds Ezra – an orpahned kid from planet Lothal – who taught by Kanan and the rest of the crew, grows strong with the force.

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Star Wars: Rebels follows the well-known pattern of George Lucas’ understanding of the good vs. evil topic – the sides are very coherently defined. Ezra and the rest of the crew deal with squillions of vapid stormtroopers, take on an evil cousin of Darth Maul named the Grand Inquisitor, but this is only the background for the “real thing” – the Jedi being reborn. The creators put an emphasis on that, bringing in classics like Master Yoda and sketching a broad picture of what the Jedi fraction went through, what it used to be and what the future looks like. What’s more, Star Wars: Rebels offer lots of stuff we love Star Wars for – there are spectacular lightsaber duels, TIE fighters whistling in the galaxy and numerous creatures known from the prequels and original trilogy.

The characters are also convincingly motivated and likeable. Ezra, an orphan zealously craving to avenge his parents’, quickly gained my whole-hearted support, just as Kanan did – an Obi-Wan type of Jedi knight, struggling with the burden of the responsibility he carries as the last Jedi master. A remarkable addition to the team is the droid named Chopper, which not only “fills in” the space of R2D2, but happens to be more “human” than other members of the crew – Sabine, Hera or Zeb. On the other side comes the aforementioned Inquisitor – a malicious being, which definitely stands in the line with the already known Sith warriors.

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What possibly could discourage from soaking into the Star Wars: Rebels is the graphics. Although the specific atmosphere of Lucas’ magnum opus is transferred and sustained in an impeccable manner, the animation itself is somehow B-grade. At times it feels as if we’re watching a cinematic interlude from one of the Star Wars games – not a content-packed sidestory of the franchise. Majestic things doesn’t happen in the music design too, yet hearing the Imperial March weaved swiftly as some of the iconic characters of the franchise appear, brings out a sheer smile.

I wouldn’t call Star Wars: Rebels a must-see for the fans of Lucas’ franchise. Die-hard fans will obviously feel delighted, but the animated series are more like the ones in the DC universe starring Batman. They are a sweet treat for those, who sink deep into the lore – otherwise, it’s just a cartoon, that doesn’t exactly target children, but might fail to attract ordinary audiences.