How to Train Your Dragon

When I sat down to watch How to Train Your Dragon, I was coming off of Despicable Me and Toy Story 3. My hopes were high, as How to Train Your Dragon beat out Despicable Me for an Oscar nod, and I thoroughly enjoyed Despicable Me. Several times.

The story starts off a bit slow. Our hero, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), is giving us a tour of Berk, the island he lives on. Being surrounded by beefcake vikings and being the son of the beefiest one, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), is no easy task for a scrawny lad like Hiccup. Why, dear old dad is rumored to have popped a dragon’s head clear off it’s body. My word.

The island doesn’t have a bug problem, a rodent problem, or even a grizzly bear problem. It has a dragon problem. I’ve lived in many apartments with pests of all kinds. I’ve visited Austin, Texas, where the cockroaches are, well, everywhere. I have not, however, been surrounded by an infestation of dragons. They are fire-breathing beasts with razor-sharp teeth. Oh, and they can fly. Much like the roaches in Texas, only slightly bigger.

Hiccup just wants to fit in, as all outcasts do, and knows how he’ll do it. He’s going to kill a Night Fury. The Night Fury is the most ferocious dragon and the hardest one to spot much less kill. With a wish in his heart and an implausibly lucky shot, Hiccup takes down a Night Fury. When he goes to find this Night Fury that he is going to kill, he is presented with a problem that is so predictable that it hits you in the face before the movie even gets going: he can’t do it.

His father, doubtful that Hiccup will ever become anything but a nuisance, wants to find the dragon’s nest where all of these dragons are coming from. After a meeting with his fellow vikings, his friend Gobber the Belch (Craig Ferguson) talks him into letting Hiccup enter dragon training.

Little does everyone know, Hiccup has managed to bond with his Night Fury. It’s the classic story of a boy and his, uh, dragon. Learning the secrets of the dragons, he finds that they are not what the vikings think they are. He means to teach this to his father, but dad has already gone off to try to find the nest again.

In training with Astrid, Snotlout, Fishlegs, Tuffnut, and Ruffnut (voiced in order by America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig) Hiccup is the loner until he starts to work his magic with the dragons they are trying to defeat. His success in training comes from the time he is spending with Toothless, his Night Fury.

Upon his father’s return, Stoick is greeted with the excitement about his son’s sudden, miraculous success. Finally proud of his son, he attends the final exam in which Hiccup must fight and kill a dragon.

I don’t want to reveal the two biggest secrets of the movie, so I will not say much more. I was impressed with this movie and was completely sutured in by the end. A couple of tears may have even slipped out.

How to Train Your Dragon holds its own against this year’s Oscar contenders and contains a unique story that deserves to be heard.

My first published review!

Today, readers, I was on the train coming home and picked up yesterday’s RedEye because, for some unknown reason, I did not read it yesterday.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I saw my tweet (I am @katiekapoww on twitter, if you hadn’t figured that out already) quoted in the paper! Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes on my glorious first published review!

Cheers to you, RedEye, for making this girl’s day.

 

Alice Guy

The question may never be answered whether or not Alice Guy was the first director or the first female director, but I am just going to say she was the first director. Male or female.

Her impressive body of work has been nearly forgotten. This is sad because she was a remarkable woman.

Alice Guy worked in France for a still-photographer. When introduced to the idea of motion pictures, Alice was the first to suggest that people might really enjoy it if these moving pictures told a story. While most brushed off the idea and thought nothing of it, Alice proceeded. She created the title of Director. When directing and working the camera became too difficult and she could not work closely enough with the actors, she appointed a camera operator.

She pioneered so much of what we know of film now. This is why her story ending on such tragic terms is heart wrenching.

After Alice married, her husband was sent by her former employer to New York to run a studio. Being a faithful wife came with the dreadful task of leaving behind her tremendous success in France. After some time in New York, Guy decided that her husband could have been making more pictures and felt the studio was going to waste. She asked for some creative control and was eventually given a lot more responsibility.

She and her husband created their own studio called Solax. This was a personal endeavor for the couple and was successful in its own right.

Sadly, the success in New York did not last long, and eventually, Guy’s husband ran off with a younger actress. Guy was left with no work. She traveled back to France to look for work there and was unable to find any.

I think this story is the epitome of the phrase “Life isn’t fair.” I hope that anyone who reads this learns a bit about what an amazing person Alice Guy was. Funny that the male-dominated motion picture industry we know today started off with one brilliant woman.

On behalf of all movie lovers: Alice, we thank you!

(Click on the photo above to read more of her amazing story.)

Chronophotographic Rifle

I have started taking a World of Cinema class and within two meetings with the class I have learned so much! I want to pass some of this new knowledge on to you, my readers. Your brains will grow and you can impress your friends!

Movies have gone through quite a few changes over the years. When motion pictures were born just over a hundred years ago, they were just a series a photographs that were arranged one right after the other to appear as though the image in the photographs was moving in fluid motions.

The technology for a camera that would allow the picture to move more quickly came from the military. The way a machine gun shot over and over again very quickly inspired a new technology that would revolutionize the way film was recorded.

The Chonophotographic Rifle was created. Chrono – referring to time and succession – and photographic referring or course to pictures. That paired with the continuous motion of the rifle made motion pictures flow more smoothly. The term “shooting a picture” is no accident, folks.

Drop Chronophotographic Rifle into a sentence today. Your peers will applaud you!

Oscar Nominees 2011: And the Oscar goes to…

Cinephiles unite! It is that time of year again! The Academy Awards have returned with some wonderful surprises, some well-earned nominations, some nominations that were not so well-earned, and some downright shocking snubs. Matt Pais of the RedEye covered all of the bases very nicely here.

Let’s get on with it already! Here, ladies and gentlemen, are my picks. Twenty-four categories, twenty-four educated predictions.

Actor in a Leading Role:

Javier Bardem –  Biutiful
Jeff Bridges – True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
James Franco – 127 Hours

And the Oscar goes to…

Actor in a Supporting Role:

Christian Bale – The Fighter
John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner – The Town
Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

And the Oscar Goes to…

Actress in a Leading Role:

Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

And the Oscar goes to…

Actress in a Supporting Role:

Amy Adams – The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

And the Oscar goes to…

Animated Feature Film:

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

And the Oscar goes to…

Art Direction:

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception
The King’s Speech
True Grit

And the Oscar goes to…

Cinematography:

Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

And the Oscar goes to…

Costume Design:

Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King’s Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

And the Oscar goes to…

Directing:

Black Swan – Darren Aronofsky
The Fighter – David O. Russell
The King’s Speech – Tom Hooper
The Social Network – David Fincher
True Grit – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

And the Oscar goes to…

Documentary (Feature):

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Gasland
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

And the Oscar goes to…

Documentary (Short Subject):

Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

And the Oscar goes to…

Film Editing:

Black Swan – Andrew Weisblum
The Fighter – Pamela Martin
The King’s Speech – Tariq Anwar
127 Hours – Jon Harris
The Social Network – Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

And the Oscar goes to…

Foreign Language Film:

Biutiful – Mexico
Dogtooth – Greece
In a Better World – Denmark
Incendies – Canada
Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) – Algeria

And the Oscar goes to…

Makeup:

Barney’s Version – Adrien Morot
The Way Back – Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
The Wolfman – Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

And the Oscar goes to…

Music (Original Score):

How to Train Your Dragon – John Powell
Inception – Hans Zimmer
The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat
127 Hours – A. R. Rahman
The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

And the Oscar goes to…

Music (Original Song):

Coming Home – Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
I See the Light – Alan Menken and Glenn Slater
If I Rise – A. R. Rahman, Dido and Rollo Armstrong
We Belong Together – Randy Newman

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Picture:

Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

And the Oscar goes to…

Short Film (Animated):

Day & Night – Teddy newton
The Gruffalo – Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
Let’s Pollute – Geefwee Boedoe
The Lost Thing – Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) – Bastien Dubois

And the Oscar goes to…

Short Film (Live Action):

The Confession – Tanel Toom
The Crush – Michael Creagh
God of Love – Luke Matheny
Na Wewe – Ivan Goldschmidt
Wish 143 – Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

And the Oscar goes to…

Sound Editing:

Inception – Richard King
Toy Story 3 – Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
Tron: Legacy – Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
True Grit – Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
Unstoppable – Mark P. Stoeckinger

And the Oscar goes to…

Sound Mixing:

Inception – Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
The King’s Speech – Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
Salt – Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
The Social Network – Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
True Grit – Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

And the Oscar goes to…

Visual Effects:

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Hereafter
Inception
Iron Man 2

And the Oscar goes to…

Writing (Adapted Screenplay):

127 Hours – Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 – Michael Arndt
True Grit – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

And the Oscar goes to…

Writing (Original Screenplay):

Another Year – Mike Leigh
The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
Inception – Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King’s Speech – David Seidler

And the Oscar goes to…

_________________________________________________________________________

Click on the photos below to read a bit about why I think they deserve to take home the coveted Academy Award of Merit.

Did you know?

Who has won the most Academy Awards? With great actors and actresses who have been in the business since you and I were in diapers, you might be surprised to find out just who the record holder is.

Walt Disney has won the most Oscars in history with a staggering twenty-two awards. He also holds the record for most nominations with fifty-nine nods.

Mr. Disney has also been awarded four honorary Oscars. His last honorary and competitive awards were both posthumous.

Wilhelm Scream

I was watching Despicable Me last night — for the fourth time — and I heard a Wilhelm Scream!

The Wilhelm Scream is a very commonly used stock sound effect in the world of cinema.

Below is a great compilation of Wilhelm Screams throughout movie history. Now that you know what it is, you’ll surely hear it all over the place.

Despicable Me

It seems to me that with every year we get smarter, funnier animated features. Those just for the kiddos, and those for kids and adults alike. Despicable Me is amusing for all ages. I love a good change of heart plot. In Despicable Me, the hilarious Steve Carell voices Gru. Gru is an evil genius of sorts who is being shown up by someone who keeps getting to all of the good heists before he can.

In an effort to get the spotlight back, Gru goes to the bank to get a loan for his newest project: shrinking and stealing the moon, of course. While at the bank we meet Vector. Vector (Jason Segel) is obnoxious and appears immature and incapable of being a great villain.

After being turned down by the bank, Gru discovers that Vector is miraculously the one behind the latest great heists. In order to infiltrate Vector’s lair, Gru seeks out the girls he saw selling cookies at Vector’s house. They live in a local orphanage and are adopted by Gru to carry out his master plan.

Margo, Edith, and Agnes (Voiced in order by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and the extra adorable Elsie Fisher) come to live with Gru and you can imagine what happens then. Picture it: three young girls in the house of an evil genius. With weapons, ray guns, potions, and trap doors at every turn there is plenty of mischief for them to get into.

Let’s not forget the minions. The minions are many and they are all over the place causing trouble and acting as guinea pigs to Gru and Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) as they build their rocket ship.

Despite his best efforts, Gru starts to become attached to the little girls. Particularly enjoyable is the scene where Gru takes the girls to an amusement park. Agnes, who had a little stuffed unicorn that was disintegrated when the girls arrived at Gru’s house, sees another, much bigger stuffed unicorn and shouts “He’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!” I hope I’m not ruining anything for anyone, but Gru wins the unicorn for little Agnes.

Adorable, I know.

No kids movie would be complete without some sort of gas-passin’ joke. This one comes in the form of a gun that when fired emits a large greenish cloud and makes a farting sound, to which Gru says “I said dart gun, not…” well, you get it.

With laughs, warm fuzzies, bad guys, cute kids, and little green minions, Despicable Me gets the recipe for a great animated film just right. Bon Appétit!