Dueling Film Reviews - Round Two: WHayes on JDub

Posted 11/19/2010 by WHayes in Labels: , , , , , , , ,
Firstly, I dig your point on how bringing a physical camera to an otherwise animated world adds an element of realness to the fantasy. Knowing that at some point the sets and characters were solid objects that you could shape or take home sounds like the underpinning of every fantasy, be it by a child or adult.

That said, exactly what defines "breathtaking" in cinema is too porous to make valuable sense of, because what makes Mary and Max so appealing to one person may be the exact thing that made me turn the movie off three times before finishing it. It's an ugly-ass movie, inside and out. They've created a consistently-realized world, yes, but one where nothing is pleasant to look at. Everyone has the same distended paunch, the same Peanuts-style squiggle of a frown, and the same ill-fitting clothes. I've personally understood that grotesque art direction speaks more to the director's desire to create a world reflective of the "ugliness" he sees within real life, versus a want to create something breathtaking. Then again, maybe the inner-beauty depiction is breathtaking, to which I'd counter that there's other claymation fare even more capable at portraying the off-kilter and "unpretty" without the crutch of slimy world-building: see Coraline, and The Nightmare Before Christmas as two examples of such.

Really, I take issue with this idea:
As one Web reviewer has already noted, nothing Pixar or Dreamworks could create can touch this painstaking attention to detail, as "the computers couldn't render it, or only ass slow." What's more, these details ooze with character and fascinating imperfection, adding quirk and charm to the film.
I'll concede that CGI is a time-consuming process, but let's not forget that claymation is equally tedious, since -- as pointed out last week -- each object must be built and shot on a reasonable enough scale for the filmmakers to get maximum use from it. Yet while the inherent crudeness integral to claymation is central to said charm, animating three million individual hairs for one CGI creature defines painstaking. Then, once an audience grows accustomed to the baseline level of spectacle, they can look beyond the glitz to parse out the heavier elements of a story. Because of this, I'd argue that it's precisely the level of detail good CG brings that can make for a more emotionally grounded, more "real," experience. The animators paradoxically create something so incredible that it becomes effectively invisible -- something Mary and Max's blunt clay doesn't here achieve.

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