A Celebration of Life: Adrian Molina on Pixar’s “Coco”

A Celebration of Life: Adrian Molina on Pixar’s “Coco”

Pixar’s new release is “Coco,” inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos, when people share family stories and invite the spirits of their ancestors to visit. In the film, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) makes a journey to the dazzlingly animated Land of the Dead and finds his family, who must give him their blessing so he can return home. 

In an interview with RogerEbert.com, co-writer/co-director Adrian Molina talked about the fun and the challenge of animating skeletons and how celebrating those who are gone is a way of celebrating life.

Advertisement

Is Pixar going to make us all cry again?

If you have a heart I think so. But it’s also going to make you laugh. We’re putting all the emotions into this one. 

I was impressed with the distinctive and very endearing skeleton characters you created.

People initially think of skeletons as spooky and scary and I think a lot of that kind of comes from the fact that maybe they all look the same. Deep down underneath we’re just these anonymous piles of bones, which made it all the more important that for this film we really needed them to be characters and we needed them to be specific and expressive and lovable. So the way we went about doing that is we created characters out of them. They each have their own outfit that says something about them about who they were when they were alive. They’ve got really expressive faces and a sense of humor. They’re family members. They’re ancestors. All of that created design challenges to make sure they fun they to watch. So much of how engaging they can be comes from the eyes. We knew a lot of skeletons aren’t represented in film history with eyes and that gives you an effect but once you give them the eyes it really is the window to the soul. All of a sudden you have this connection to someone when you look in their eyes and so that was very important for the skeletons as well.

The way you manipulated the bones took me back to Disney’s early Silly Symphonies cartoons with the dancing skeletons.

We had that Silly Symphonies story on loop as we were in the early stages of development because it’s a really great way to remember the type of fun you can have and the type of humor that’s specific to characters who aren’t held together by anything. All of a sudden that’s a completely different way of interacting with the world because you can fall apart or be pulled apart at any moment. So maybe you could use that in certain circumstances or maybe it becomes a problem in other circumstances. We’re always looking for the humor and the thing that makes our world unique and skeletons really bring that in spades.

What was the biggest animation challenge?

There are so many complicated moments in this film. When you’re pitching it, and even when you’re creating it, you don’t really know whether or not it’s possible. The skeletons are one example. There are certain moments where they completely fall apart and come back together and it’s so many pieces to keep track of. We put an animator on one for three weeks because it’s such a complicated shot. The world that we’ve created is this gorgeous vertical world that’s filled with generation upon generation and it’s populated by thousands and thousands of skeletons. To be able to create something of that scope and that beauty is just a challenge that we have never encountered before. So it took a lot of creative thinking to be able to bring that to fruition but over and over we’ve had these challenges that have seemed really tough but really creative really artistic minds have kind of stepped up to the plate and made this one of the most stunning movies that I’ve ever worked on.

Advertisement

And then there is the tongue of Dante, the street dog who accompanies Miguel. It’s the opposite of a skeleton, all moveable.

A lot of that is inspired by the research. Dante is a Xolo dog and that’s short for Xoloitzcuintli, the national dog of Mexico. In real life they have a propensity to lose their teeth which results in their tongues kind of lolling out of their mouth. We thought that was a cute and charming detail for Dante. That was a technical challenge, that’s another one of those things that might seem easier than it actually was but we depended a lot on the breakthroughs that we made in Finding Dory developing Hank’s tentacles. There are so many dimensions a tongue; it’s the strangest muscle in that it’s not constricted by movement in any particular direction. It can do anything.

It is very unusual to name a film, especially a children’s film, after a character who is not in most of the movie, especially a very elderly woman with dementia. Tell me about Miguel’s great-grandmother, Coco.

So much of this film is about family and the importance of family and being connected to your family. A good part of my upbringing as a Mexican-American was in a multi-generational family and there are challenges when you have a household full of kids and adults and elderly people, and sometimes those challenges are age-related disabilities like dementia or limited mobility. Being upfront about those things really brings into focus the value of that family connection that even when it’s hard, the thing that you hold on to are those family relationships and the fact that you are there for each other. I love that Miguel lives in this multi-generational family and he’s got a great-great grandmother.  He describes it “sometimes Mama Coco forgets things but that’s okay I still tell her everything” because it’s important to feature the hard parts of being a family. That is what makes it all worthwhile; those show us what it means to be there for each other through thick and thin.

I loved the effects at the very beginning of the movie with the paper doilies illustrating the background of the story. Where did that come from? 

This art form is called papel picado and they are the cutout paper flags that you’ll see for all sorts of celebrations in Mexico, especially for the Day of the Dead. It’s such a beautiful art form and we needed a way for Miguel to talk about a history that he wasn’t there to witness. These are just stories that he heard growing up about his great-great grandmother Imelda and the family history. So we thought, “Oh, what a beautiful way to express a young kid’s understanding of the family history than in this folk art form that really kind of boils these moments down into these kind of symbolic elements.” It was just a great moment to marry the culture and the folk art and the storytelling in a way that is completely unique to this film.

Advertisement

It’s also unusual to do a movie for kids and families that deal so forthrightly the topic of death; so what do you want the families to take from this?

On the Day of the Dead you will see a lot of imagery of skeletons taking part in everyday activities, riding bikes or driving cars and that kind of thing. What I think is so beautiful about this celebration is it’s really about the joy of celebrating the lives of the people you loved and keeping them in your memory. I hope people who see the film talk about those fond memories and share those stories, maybe something that they never had the opportunity or never thought to share with each other. I hope it gives them the freedom to just really live in the joy of their family and the people who came before them and the ancestors who maybe the little kids never met but maybe they remind the parents of and talk about those types of things. I always say if people leave the theater and if their first impulse is to call up their grandmother or call up their great-great grandmother, and ask them for stories about their childhood and stories about how they grew up, and to learn where they came from, we will have done a good job.

Popular Blog Posts

Stop watching movies made by assholes. It’ll be OK.

A review of two of the biggest games of 2017, a pair that use World War II in very different ways.

A review of Netflix’s new Marvel series, “The Punisher.”

Hela and Valkyrie are unusual for Marvel and blockbuster movies in general. Both are messy, complicated figures not n…


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Source: http://ift.tt/2yZbehO

A Celebration of Life: Adrian Molina on Pixar’s “Coco”

A Celebration of Life: Adrian Molina on Pixar’s “Coco”

Pixar’s new release is “Coco,” inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos, when people share family stories and invite the spirits of their ancestors to visit. In the film, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) makes a journey to the dazzlingly animated Land of the Dead and finds his family, who must give him their blessing so he can return home. 

In an interview with RogerEbert.com, co-writer/co-director Adrian Molina talked about the fun and the challenge of animating skeletons and how celebrating those who are gone is a way of celebrating life.

Advertisement

Is Pixar going to make us all cry again?

If you have a heart I think so. But it’s also going to make you laugh. We’re putting all the emotions into this one. 

I was impressed with the distinctive and very endearing skeleton characters you created.

People initially think of skeletons as spooky and scary and I think a lot of that kind of comes from the fact that maybe they all look the same. Deep down underneath we’re just these anonymous piles of bones, which made it all the more important that for this film we really needed them to be characters and we needed them to be specific and expressive and lovable. So the way we went about doing that is we created characters out of them. They each have their own outfit that says something about them about who they were when they were alive. They’ve got really expressive faces and a sense of humor. They’re family members. They’re ancestors. All of that created design challenges to make sure they fun they to watch. So much of how engaging they can be comes from the eyes. We knew a lot of skeletons aren’t represented in film history with eyes and that gives you an effect but once you give them the eyes it really is the window to the soul. All of a sudden you have this connection to someone when you look in their eyes and so that was very important for the skeletons as well.

The way you manipulated the bones took me back to Disney’s early Silly Symphonies cartoons with the dancing skeletons.

We had that Silly Symphonies story on loop as we were in the early stages of development because it’s a really great way to remember the type of fun you can have and the type of humor that’s specific to characters who aren’t held together by anything. All of a sudden that’s a completely different way of interacting with the world because you can fall apart or be pulled apart at any moment. So maybe you could use that in certain circumstances or maybe it becomes a problem in other circumstances. We’re always looking for the humor and the thing that makes our world unique and skeletons really bring that in spades.

What was the biggest animation challenge?

There are so many complicated moments in this film. When you’re pitching it, and even when you’re creating it, you don’t really know whether or not it’s possible. The skeletons are one example. There are certain moments where they completely fall apart and come back together and it’s so many pieces to keep track of. We put an animator on one for three weeks because it’s such a complicated shot. The world that we’ve created is this gorgeous vertical world that’s filled with generation upon generation and it’s populated by thousands and thousands of skeletons. To be able to create something of that scope and that beauty is just a challenge that we have never encountered before. So it took a lot of creative thinking to be able to bring that to fruition but over and over we’ve had these challenges that have seemed really tough but really creative really artistic minds have kind of stepped up to the plate and made this one of the most stunning movies that I’ve ever worked on.

Advertisement

And then there is the tongue of Dante, the street dog who accompanies Miguel. It’s the opposite of a skeleton, all moveable.

A lot of that is inspired by the research. Dante is a Xolo dog and that’s short for Xoloitzcuintli, the national dog of Mexico. In real life they have a propensity to lose their teeth which results in their tongues kind of lolling out of their mouth. We thought that was a cute and charming detail for Dante. That was a technical challenge, that’s another one of those things that might seem easier than it actually was but we depended a lot on the breakthroughs that we made in Finding Dory developing Hank’s tentacles. There are so many dimensions a tongue; it’s the strangest muscle in that it’s not constricted by movement in any particular direction. It can do anything.

It is very unusual to name a film, especially a children’s film, after a character who is not in most of the movie, especially a very elderly woman with dementia. Tell me about Miguel’s great-grandmother, Coco.

So much of this film is about family and the importance of family and being connected to your family. A good part of my upbringing as a Mexican-American was in a multi-generational family and there are challenges when you have a household full of kids and adults and elderly people, and sometimes those challenges are age-related disabilities like dementia or limited mobility. Being upfront about those things really brings into focus the value of that family connection that even when it’s hard, the thing that you hold on to are those family relationships and the fact that you are there for each other. I love that Miguel lives in this multi-generational family and he’s got a great-great grandmother.  He describes it “sometimes Mama Coco forgets things but that’s okay I still tell her everything” because it’s important to feature the hard parts of being a family. That is what makes it all worthwhile; those show us what it means to be there for each other through thick and thin.

I loved the effects at the very beginning of the movie with the paper doilies illustrating the background of the story. Where did that come from? 

This art form is called papel picado and they are the cutout paper flags that you’ll see for all sorts of celebrations in Mexico, especially for the Day of the Dead. It’s such a beautiful art form and we needed a way for Miguel to talk about a history that he wasn’t there to witness. These are just stories that he heard growing up about his great-great grandmother Imelda and the family history. So we thought, “Oh, what a beautiful way to express a young kid’s understanding of the family history than in this folk art form that really kind of boils these moments down into these kind of symbolic elements.” It was just a great moment to marry the culture and the folk art and the storytelling in a way that is completely unique to this film.

Advertisement

It’s also unusual to do a movie for kids and families that deal so forthrightly the topic of death; so what do you want the families to take from this?

On the Day of the Dead you will see a lot of imagery of skeletons taking part in everyday activities, riding bikes or driving cars and that kind of thing. What I think is so beautiful about this celebration is it’s really about the joy of celebrating the lives of the people you loved and keeping them in your memory. I hope people who see the film talk about those fond memories and share those stories, maybe something that they never had the opportunity or never thought to share with each other. I hope it gives them the freedom to just really live in the joy of their family and the people who came before them and the ancestors who maybe the little kids never met but maybe they remind the parents of and talk about those types of things. I always say if people leave the theater and if their first impulse is to call up their grandmother or call up their great-great grandmother, and ask them for stories about their childhood and stories about how they grew up, and to learn where they came from, we will have done a good job.

Popular Blog Posts

Stop watching movies made by assholes. It’ll be OK.

A review of two of the biggest games of 2017, a pair that use World War II in very different ways.

A review of Netflix’s new Marvel series, “The Punisher.”

Hela and Valkyrie are unusual for Marvel and blockbuster movies in general. Both are messy, complicated figures not n…


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Source: http://ift.tt/2yZbehO

A Celebration of Life: Adrian Molina on Pixar’s “Coco”

A Celebration of Life: Adrian Molina on Pixar’s “Coco”

Pixar’s new release is “Coco,” inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos, when people share family stories and invite the spirits of their ancestors to visit. In the film, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) makes a journey to the dazzlingly animated Land of the Dead and finds his family, who must give him their blessing so he can return home. 

In an interview with RogerEbert.com, co-writer/co-director Adrian Molina talked about the fun and the challenge of animating skeletons and how celebrating those who are gone is a way of celebrating life.

Advertisement

Is Pixar going to make us all cry again?

If you have a heart I think so. But it’s also going to make you laugh. We’re putting all the emotions into this one. 

I was impressed with the distinctive and very endearing skeleton characters you created.

People initially think of skeletons as spooky and scary and I think a lot of that kind of comes from the fact that maybe they all look the same. Deep down underneath we’re just these anonymous piles of bones, which made it all the more important that for this film we really needed them to be characters and we needed them to be specific and expressive and lovable. So the way we went about doing that is we created characters out of them. They each have their own outfit that says something about them about who they were when they were alive. They’ve got really expressive faces and a sense of humor. They’re family members. They’re ancestors. All of that created design challenges to make sure they fun they to watch. So much of how engaging they can be comes from the eyes. We knew a lot of skeletons aren’t represented in film history with eyes and that gives you an effect but once you give them the eyes it really is the window to the soul. All of a sudden you have this connection to someone when you look in their eyes and so that was very important for the skeletons as well.

The way you manipulated the bones took me back to Disney’s early Silly Symphonies cartoons with the dancing skeletons.

We had that Silly Symphonies story on loop as we were in the early stages of development because it’s a really great way to remember the type of fun you can have and the type of humor that’s specific to characters who aren’t held together by anything. All of a sudden that’s a completely different way of interacting with the world because you can fall apart or be pulled apart at any moment. So maybe you could use that in certain circumstances or maybe it becomes a problem in other circumstances. We’re always looking for the humor and the thing that makes our world unique and skeletons really bring that in spades.

What was the biggest animation challenge?

There are so many complicated moments in this film. When you’re pitching it, and even when you’re creating it, you don’t really know whether or not it’s possible. The skeletons are one example. There are certain moments where they completely fall apart and come back together and it’s so many pieces to keep track of. We put an animator on one for three weeks because it’s such a complicated shot. The world that we’ve created is this gorgeous vertical world that’s filled with generation upon generation and it’s populated by thousands and thousands of skeletons. To be able to create something of that scope and that beauty is just a challenge that we have never encountered before. So it took a lot of creative thinking to be able to bring that to fruition but over and over we’ve had these challenges that have seemed really tough but really creative really artistic minds have kind of stepped up to the plate and made this one of the most stunning movies that I’ve ever worked on.

Advertisement

And then there is the tongue of Dante, the street dog who accompanies Miguel. It’s the opposite of a skeleton, all moveable.

A lot of that is inspired by the research. Dante is a Xolo dog and that’s short for Xoloitzcuintli, the national dog of Mexico. In real life they have a propensity to lose their teeth which results in their tongues kind of lolling out of their mouth. We thought that was a cute and charming detail for Dante. That was a technical challenge, that’s another one of those things that might seem easier than it actually was but we depended a lot on the breakthroughs that we made in Finding Dory developing Hank’s tentacles. There are so many dimensions a tongue; it’s the strangest muscle in that it’s not constricted by movement in any particular direction. It can do anything.

It is very unusual to name a film, especially a children’s film, after a character who is not in most of the movie, especially a very elderly woman with dementia. Tell me about Miguel’s great-grandmother, Coco.

So much of this film is about family and the importance of family and being connected to your family. A good part of my upbringing as a Mexican-American was in a multi-generational family and there are challenges when you have a household full of kids and adults and elderly people, and sometimes those challenges are age-related disabilities like dementia or limited mobility. Being upfront about those things really brings into focus the value of that family connection that even when it’s hard, the thing that you hold on to are those family relationships and the fact that you are there for each other. I love that Miguel lives in this multi-generational family and he’s got a great-great grandmother.  He describes it “sometimes Mama Coco forgets things but that’s okay I still tell her everything” because it’s important to feature the hard parts of being a family. That is what makes it all worthwhile; those show us what it means to be there for each other through thick and thin.

I loved the effects at the very beginning of the movie with the paper doilies illustrating the background of the story. Where did that come from? 

This art form is called papel picado and they are the cutout paper flags that you’ll see for all sorts of celebrations in Mexico, especially for the Day of the Dead. It’s such a beautiful art form and we needed a way for Miguel to talk about a history that he wasn’t there to witness. These are just stories that he heard growing up about his great-great grandmother Imelda and the family history. So we thought, “Oh, what a beautiful way to express a young kid’s understanding of the family history than in this folk art form that really kind of boils these moments down into these kind of symbolic elements.” It was just a great moment to marry the culture and the folk art and the storytelling in a way that is completely unique to this film.

Advertisement

It’s also unusual to do a movie for kids and families that deal so forthrightly the topic of death; so what do you want the families to take from this?

On the Day of the Dead you will see a lot of imagery of skeletons taking part in everyday activities, riding bikes or driving cars and that kind of thing. What I think is so beautiful about this celebration is it’s really about the joy of celebrating the lives of the people you loved and keeping them in your memory. I hope people who see the film talk about those fond memories and share those stories, maybe something that they never had the opportunity or never thought to share with each other. I hope it gives them the freedom to just really live in the joy of their family and the people who came before them and the ancestors who maybe the little kids never met but maybe they remind the parents of and talk about those types of things. I always say if people leave the theater and if their first impulse is to call up their grandmother or call up their great-great grandmother, and ask them for stories about their childhood and stories about how they grew up, and to learn where they came from, we will have done a good job.

Popular Blog Posts

Stop watching movies made by assholes. It’ll be OK.

A review of two of the biggest games of 2017, a pair that use World War II in very different ways.

A review of Netflix’s new Marvel series, “The Punisher.”

Hela and Valkyrie are unusual for Marvel and blockbuster movies in general. Both are messy, complicated figures not n…


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Source: http://ift.tt/2yZbehO

A Celebration of Life: Adrian Molina on Pixar’s “Coco”

A Celebration of Life: Adrian Molina on Pixar’s “Coco”

Pixar’s new release is “Coco,” inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos, when people share family stories and invite the spirits of their ancestors to visit. In the film, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) makes a journey to the dazzlingly animated Land of the Dead and finds his family, who must give him their blessing so he can return home. 

In an interview with RogerEbert.com, co-writer/co-director Adrian Molina talked about the fun and the challenge of animating skeletons and how celebrating those who are gone is a way of celebrating life.

Advertisement

Is Pixar going to make us all cry again?

If you have a heart I think so. But it’s also going to make you laugh. We’re putting all the emotions into this one. 

I was impressed with the distinctive and very endearing skeleton characters you created.

People initially think of skeletons as spooky and scary and I think a lot of that kind of comes from the fact that maybe they all look the same. Deep down underneath we’re just these anonymous piles of bones, which made it all the more important that for this film we really needed them to be characters and we needed them to be specific and expressive and lovable. So the way we went about doing that is we created characters out of them. They each have their own outfit that says something about them about who they were when they were alive. They’ve got really expressive faces and a sense of humor. They’re family members. They’re ancestors. All of that created design challenges to make sure they fun they to watch. So much of how engaging they can be comes from the eyes. We knew a lot of skeletons aren’t represented in film history with eyes and that gives you an effect but once you give them the eyes it really is the window to the soul. All of a sudden you have this connection to someone when you look in their eyes and so that was very important for the skeletons as well.

The way you manipulated the bones took me back to Disney’s early Silly Symphonies cartoons with the dancing skeletons.

We had that Silly Symphonies story on loop as we were in the early stages of development because it’s a really great way to remember the type of fun you can have and the type of humor that’s specific to characters who aren’t held together by anything. All of a sudden that’s a completely different way of interacting with the world because you can fall apart or be pulled apart at any moment. So maybe you could use that in certain circumstances or maybe it becomes a problem in other circumstances. We’re always looking for the humor and the thing that makes our world unique and skeletons really bring that in spades.

What was the biggest animation challenge?

There are so many complicated moments in this film. When you’re pitching it, and even when you’re creating it, you don’t really know whether or not it’s possible. The skeletons are one example. There are certain moments where they completely fall apart and come back together and it’s so many pieces to keep track of. We put an animator on one for three weeks because it’s such a complicated shot. The world that we’ve created is this gorgeous vertical world that’s filled with generation upon generation and it’s populated by thousands and thousands of skeletons. To be able to create something of that scope and that beauty is just a challenge that we have never encountered before. So it took a lot of creative thinking to be able to bring that to fruition but over and over we’ve had these challenges that have seemed really tough but really creative really artistic minds have kind of stepped up to the plate and made this one of the most stunning movies that I’ve ever worked on.

Advertisement

And then there is the tongue of Dante, the street dog who accompanies Miguel. It’s the opposite of a skeleton, all moveable.

A lot of that is inspired by the research. Dante is a Xolo dog and that’s short for Xoloitzcuintli, the national dog of Mexico. In real life they have a propensity to lose their teeth which results in their tongues kind of lolling out of their mouth. We thought that was a cute and charming detail for Dante. That was a technical challenge, that’s another one of those things that might seem easier than it actually was but we depended a lot on the breakthroughs that we made in Finding Dory developing Hank’s tentacles. There are so many dimensions a tongue; it’s the strangest muscle in that it’s not constricted by movement in any particular direction. It can do anything.

It is very unusual to name a film, especially a children’s film, after a character who is not in most of the movie, especially a very elderly woman with dementia. Tell me about Miguel’s great-grandmother, Coco.

So much of this film is about family and the importance of family and being connected to your family. A good part of my upbringing as a Mexican-American was in a multi-generational family and there are challenges when you have a household full of kids and adults and elderly people, and sometimes those challenges are age-related disabilities like dementia or limited mobility. Being upfront about those things really brings into focus the value of that family connection that even when it’s hard, the thing that you hold on to are those family relationships and the fact that you are there for each other. I love that Miguel lives in this multi-generational family and he’s got a great-great grandmother.  He describes it “sometimes Mama Coco forgets things but that’s okay I still tell her everything” because it’s important to feature the hard parts of being a family. That is what makes it all worthwhile; those show us what it means to be there for each other through thick and thin.

I loved the effects at the very beginning of the movie with the paper doilies illustrating the background of the story. Where did that come from? 

This art form is called papel picado and they are the cutout paper flags that you’ll see for all sorts of celebrations in Mexico, especially for the Day of the Dead. It’s such a beautiful art form and we needed a way for Miguel to talk about a history that he wasn’t there to witness. These are just stories that he heard growing up about his great-great grandmother Imelda and the family history. So we thought, “Oh, what a beautiful way to express a young kid’s understanding of the family history than in this folk art form that really kind of boils these moments down into these kind of symbolic elements.” It was just a great moment to marry the culture and the folk art and the storytelling in a way that is completely unique to this film.

Advertisement

It’s also unusual to do a movie for kids and families that deal so forthrightly the topic of death; so what do you want the families to take from this?

On the Day of the Dead you will see a lot of imagery of skeletons taking part in everyday activities, riding bikes or driving cars and that kind of thing. What I think is so beautiful about this celebration is it’s really about the joy of celebrating the lives of the people you loved and keeping them in your memory. I hope people who see the film talk about those fond memories and share those stories, maybe something that they never had the opportunity or never thought to share with each other. I hope it gives them the freedom to just really live in the joy of their family and the people who came before them and the ancestors who maybe the little kids never met but maybe they remind the parents of and talk about those types of things. I always say if people leave the theater and if their first impulse is to call up their grandmother or call up their great-great grandmother, and ask them for stories about their childhood and stories about how they grew up, and to learn where they came from, we will have done a good job.

Popular Blog Posts

Stop watching movies made by assholes. It’ll be OK.

A review of two of the biggest games of 2017, a pair that use World War II in very different ways.

A review of Netflix’s new Marvel series, “The Punisher.”

Hela and Valkyrie are unusual for Marvel and blockbuster movies in general. Both are messy, complicated figures not n…


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Source: http://ift.tt/2yZbehO

A Celebration of Life: Adrian Molina on Pixar’s “Coco”

Thumb coco interview 4 5

Pixar’s new release is “Coco,” inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos, when people share family stories and invite the spirits of their ancestors to visit. In the film, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) makes a journey to the dazzlingly animated Land of the Dead and finds his family, who must give him their blessing so he can return home. 

In an interview with RogerEbert.com, co-writer/co-director Adrian Molina talked about the fun and the challenge of animating skeletons and how celebrating those who are gone is a way of celebrating life.

Is Pixar going to make us all cry again?

If you have a heart I think so. But it’s also going to make you laugh. We’re putting all the emotions into this one. 

I was impressed with the distinctive and very endearing skeleton characters you created.

People initially think of skeletons as spooky and scary and I think a lot of that kind of comes from the fact that maybe they all look the same. Deep down underneath we’re just these anonymous piles of bones, which made it all the more important that for this film we really needed them to be characters and we needed them to be specific and expressive and lovable. So the way we went about doing that is we created characters out of them. They each have their own outfit that says something about them about who they were when they were alive. They’ve got really expressive faces and a sense of humor. They’re family members. They’re ancestors. All of that created design challenges to make sure they fun they to watch. So much of how engaging they can be comes from the eyes. We knew a lot of skeletons aren’t represented in film history with eyes and that gives you an effect but once you give them the eyes it really is the window to the soul. All of a sudden you have this connection to someone when you look in their eyes and so that was very important for the skeletons as well.

The way you manipulated the bones took me back to Disney’s early Silly Symphonies cartoons with the dancing skeletons.

We had that Silly Symphonies story on loop as we were in the early stages of development because it’s a really great way to remember the type of fun you can have and the type of humor that’s specific to characters who aren’t held together by anything. All of a sudden that’s a completely different way of interacting with the world because you can fall apart or be pulled apart at any moment. So maybe you could use that in certain circumstances or maybe it becomes a problem in other circumstances. We’re always looking for the humor and the thing that makes our world unique and skeletons really bring that in spades.

What was the biggest animation challenge?

There are so many complicated moments in this film. When you’re pitching it, and even when you’re creating it, you don’t really know whether or not it’s possible. The skeletons are one example. There are certain moments where they completely fall apart and come back together and it’s so many pieces to keep track of. We put an animator on one for three weeks because it’s such a complicated shot. The world that we’ve created is this gorgeous vertical world that’s filled with generation upon generation and it’s populated by thousands and thousands of skeletons. To be able to create something of that scope and that beauty is just a challenge that we have never encountered before. So it took a lot of creative thinking to be able to bring that to fruition but over and over we’ve had these challenges that have seemed really tough but really creative really artistic minds have kind of stepped up to the plate and made this one of the most stunning movies that I’ve ever worked on.

And then there is the tongue of Dante, the street dog who accompanies Miguel. It’s the opposite of a skeleton, all moveable.

A lot of that is inspired by the research. Dante is a Xolo dog and that’s short for Xoloitzcuintli, the national dog of Mexico. In real life they have a propensity to lose their teeth which results in their tongues kind of lolling out of their mouth. We thought that was a cute and charming detail for Dante. That was a technical challenge, that’s another one of those things that might seem easier than it actually was but we depended a lot on the breakthroughs that we made in Finding Dory developing Hank’s tentacles. There are so many dimensions a tongue; it’s the strangest muscle in that it’s not constricted by movement in any particular direction. It can do anything.

It is very unusual to name a film, especially a children’s film, after a character who is not in most of the movie, especially a very elderly woman with dementia. Tell me about Miguel’s great-grandmother, Coco.

So much of this film is about family and the importance of family and being connected to your family. A good part of my upbringing as a Mexican-American was in a multi-generational family and there are challenges when you have a household full of kids and adults and elderly people, and sometimes those challenges are age-related disabilities like dementia or limited mobility. Being upfront about those things really brings into focus the value of that family connection that even when it’s hard, the thing that you hold on to are those family relationships and the fact that you are there for each other. I love that Miguel lives in this multi-generational family and he’s got a great-great grandmother.  He describes it “sometimes Mama Coco forgets things but that’s okay I still tell her everything” because it’s important to feature the hard parts of being a family. That is what makes it all worthwhile; those show us what it means to be there for each other through thick and thin.

I loved the effects at the very beginning of the movie with the paper doilies illustrating the background of the story. Where did that come from? 

This art form is called papel picado and they are the cutout paper flags that you’ll see for all sorts of celebrations in Mexico, especially for the Day of the Dead. It’s such a beautiful art form and we needed a way for Miguel to talk about a history that he wasn’t there to witness. These are just stories that he heard growing up about his great-great grandmother Imelda and the family history. So we thought, “Oh, what a beautiful way to express a young kid’s understanding of the family history than in this folk art form that really kind of boils these moments down into these kind of symbolic elements.” It was just a great moment to marry the culture and the folk art and the storytelling in a way that is completely unique to this film.

It’s also unusual to do a movie for kids and families that deal so forthrightly the topic of death; so what do you want the families to take from this?

On the Day of the Dead you will see a lot of imagery of skeletons taking part in everyday activities, riding bikes or driving cars and that kind of thing. What I think is so beautiful about this celebration is it’s really about the joy of celebrating the lives of the people you loved and keeping them in your memory. I hope people who see the film talk about those fond memories and share those stories, maybe something that they never had the opportunity or never thought to share with each other. I hope it gives them the freedom to just really live in the joy of their family and the people who came before them and the ancestors who maybe the little kids never met but maybe they remind the parents of and talk about those types of things. I always say if people leave the theater and if their first impulse is to call up their grandmother or call up their great-great grandmother, and ask them for stories about their childhood and stories about how they grew up, and to learn where they came from, we will have done a good job.

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Will 2018 Have More Female Oscar Contenders Than Ever?

Will 2018 Have More Female Oscar Contenders Than Ever?

2018 is already shaping up to potentially be a history-making year when we finally see more than one woman nominated in the category of Best Director at the Oscars. This victory will not come as a result of political sentiment fueled by the sexual harassment scandals committed against females in the industry, though it will be most welcome in light of it. How wonderful would it be to see multiple women nominated in the Best Director category in the same year that saw the highest-grossing female-directed blockbuster of all time, Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman“? 

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Upon its debut this month, Greta Gerwig’s critically acclaimed, semi-authobiographical coming-of-age comedy, “Lady Bird,” earned the highest per theater average of the 2017 box office. Audiences are clearly hungering for an authentic, richly textured portrait of the female experience, and Gerwig’s film delivered just that with Oscar-caliber performances by Saoirse Ronan (channeling her director with uncanny precision) and Laurie Metcalf (so moving as the teen heroine’s tough love mother). 

Other potential female contenders in the Best Director category this year include Dee Rees for her wrenching period drama, “Mudbound“; Kathryn Bigelow for her brutally affecting factual film, “Detroit“; Aisling Walsh for her touching character study of a naive artist, “Maudie“; Angelina Jolie for her bracing film about Cambodian genocide, “First They Killed My Father“‘; and Valerie Faris for her timely and entertaining tennis dramedy “Battle of the Sexes,” which she co-directed with her husband, Jonathan Dayton. Sorely deserving of more attention is “Novitiate,” Margaret Betts’ powerful ensemble film set in a Catholic church during the Vatican II reforms.

Amanda Liptz, a first time director with her inspirational documentary, “Step,” about a high school girls’ dance team in inner-city Baltimore, could also emerge as a frontrunner in the Best Documentary race. I loved this film so much because it made me root for the dogged resilience of these high school seniors and their families in negotiating the slings and arrows of life, while not dimming their persistence and determination to seek a higher education. And on top of that, it is just downright entertaining. Another of the year’s best documentaries is “Whose Streets?“, a street-level view of the uprising in Ferguson, co-directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis. (Two other documentaries I hope make this year’s shortlist is Steve James’ “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” and Ben Lear’s “They Call Us Monsters“).  

Rachel Morrison also deserves to be in contention for her striking cinematography in “Mudbound” (she also lensed “Fruitvale Station” and the upcoming “Black Panther”). You don’t hear much about women cinematographers and it is good to see that she is amassing an important body of work.

Many films this year contain Oscar-worthy performances from women, both in the leading and supporting categories.

In addition to Ronan, some of the key contenders for Best Actress include Sally Hawkins for her transformative turns in both “The Shape of Water” and “Maudie”; Jessica Chastain’s magnetic work as Molly Bloom in “Molly’s Game”; Emma Stone’s transformation into tennis great Billy Jean King in “Battle of the Sexes,” Margot Robbie’s stunning portrayal of Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya”; Annette Bening’s dead-on turn as Gloria Grahame in “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”; and Frances McDormand’s crowd-pleasing performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” McDormand commands the screen at every turn. 

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Earning considerably less buzz though no less deserving of contention are past Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence in “mother!”, Cate Blanchett in “Manifesto” and Anne Hathaway in “Colossal.” Other potential Dark Horse candidates could prove to be Cynthia Nixon in “A Quiet Passion,” Florence Pugh in “Lady Macbeth,” Lois Smith in “Marjorie Prime” and Salma Hayek in “Beatriz at Dinner.” 

I also cherished Tatiana Maslany and Claire Foy’s portrayals of devoted caregivers in “Stronger” and “Breathe,” respectively. And we still have yet to see two eagerly anticipated performances slated for a Christmas release: the fabulous Meryl Streep in Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” and Lesley Manville in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.”

Joining Metcalf in contention for Best Supporting Actress this year are Allison Janney’s scene-stealing mother in “I, Tonya”; Holly Hunter as the angry protective mother in “The Big Sick“; Elisabeth Moss in “The Square” (among my top three favorite films of the year); Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water,” Melissa Leo’s galvanizing Reverend Mother in “Novitiate”; and deeply moving work from Carey Mulligan and Mary J Blige in “Mudbound.” I also want to give an honorable shout-out to Laura Prepon in “The Hero,” whose presence made her romantic scenes with Sam Elliott interesting and believable. 

There are also plenty of young female newcomers deserving of recognition, including Brooklynn Prince in “The Florida Project,” Sareum Srey Moch in “First They Killed My Father”, Seo-Hyun Ahn in “Okja” and McKenna Grace in “Gifted” (she also plays the young Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya”).

And though this performance may not have enough screen time to be in contention, let’s not forget Betty Gabriel’s bone-chilling performance as the maid in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out“, my #1 movie of the year. It’s been months since I’ve seen that movie and I cannot get her Oscar-caliber, off-kilter performance or her haunted face out of my head. In fact, Academy, let’s not forget her. 

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Will 2018 Have More Female Oscar Contenders Than Ever?

Will 2018 Have More Female Oscar Contenders Than Ever?

2018 is already shaping up to potentially be a history-making year when we finally see more than one woman nominated in the category of Best Director at the Oscars. This victory will not come as a result of political sentiment fueled by the sexual harassment scandals committed against females in the industry, though it will be most welcome in light of it. How wonderful would it be to see multiple women nominated in the Best Director category in the same year that saw the highest-grossing female-directed blockbuster of all time, Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman“? 

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Upon its debut this month, Greta Gerwig’s critically acclaimed, semi-authobiographical coming-of-age comedy, “Lady Bird,” earned the highest per theater average of the 2017 box office. Audiences are clearly hungering for an authentic, richly textured portrait of the female experience, and Gerwig’s film delivered just that with Oscar-caliber performances by Saoirse Ronan (channeling her director with uncanny precision) and Laurie Metcalf (so moving as the teen heroine’s tough love mother). 

Other potential female contenders in the Best Director category this year include Dee Rees for her wrenching period drama, “Mudbound“; Kathryn Bigelow for her brutally affecting factual film, “Detroit“; Aisling Walsh for her touching character study of a naive artist, “Maudie“; Angelina Jolie for her bracing film about Cambodian genocide, “First They Killed My Father“‘; and Valerie Faris for her timely and entertaining tennis dramedy “Battle of the Sexes,” which she co-directed with her husband, Jonathan Dayton. Sorely deserving of more attention is “Novitiate,” Margaret Betts’ powerful ensemble film set in a Catholic church during the Vatican II reforms.

Amanda Liptz, a first time director with her inspirational documentary, “Step,” about a high school girls’ dance team in inner-city Baltimore, could also emerge as a frontrunner in the Best Documentary race. I loved this film so much because it made me root for the dogged resilience of these high school seniors and their families in negotiating the slings and arrows of life, while not dimming their persistence and determination to seek a higher education. And on top of that, it is just downright entertaining. Another of the year’s best documentaries is “Whose Streets?“, a street-level view of the uprising in Ferguson, co-directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis. (Two other documentaries I hope make this year’s shortlist is Steve James’ “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” and Ben Lear’s “They Call Us Monsters“).  

Rachel Morrison also deserves to be in contention for her striking cinematography in “Mudbound” (she also lensed “Fruitvale Station” and the upcoming “Black Panther”). You don’t hear much about women cinematographers and it is good to see that she is amassing an important body of work.

Many films this year contain Oscar-worthy performances from women, both in the leading and supporting categories.

In addition to Ronan, some of the key contenders for Best Actress include Sally Hawkins for her transformative turns in both “The Shape of Water” and “Maudie”; Jessica Chastain’s magnetic work as Molly Bloom in “Molly’s Game”; Emma Stone’s transformation into tennis great Billy Jean King in “Battle of the Sexes,” Margot Robbie’s stunning portrayal of Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya”; Annette Bening’s dead-on turn as Gloria Grahame in “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”; and Frances McDormand’s crowd-pleasing performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” McDormand commands the screen at every turn. 

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Earning considerably less buzz though no less deserving of contention are past Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence in “mother!”, Cate Blanchett in “Manifesto” and Anne Hathaway in “Colossal.” Other potential Dark Horse candidates could prove to be Cynthia Nixon in “A Quiet Passion,” Florence Pugh in “Lady Macbeth,” Lois Smith in “Marjorie Prime” and Salma Hayek in “Beatriz at Dinner.” 

I also cherished Tatiana Maslany and Claire Foy’s portrayals of devoted caregivers in “Stronger” and “Breathe,” respectively. And we still have yet to see two eagerly anticipated performances slated for a Christmas release: the fabulous Meryl Streep in Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” and Lesley Manville in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.”

Joining Metcalf in contention for Best Supporting Actress this year are Allison Janney’s scene-stealing mother in “I, Tonya”; Holly Hunter as the angry protective mother in “The Big Sick“; Elisabeth Moss in “The Square” (among my top three favorite films of the year); Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water,” Melissa Leo’s galvanizing Reverend Mother in “Novitiate”; and deeply moving work from Carey Mulligan and Mary J Blige in “Mudbound.” I also want to give an honorable shout-out to Laura Prepon in “The Hero,” whose presence made her romantic scenes with Sam Elliott interesting and believable. 

There are also plenty of young female newcomers deserving of recognition, including Brooklynn Prince in “The Florida Project,” Sareum Srey Moch in “First They Killed My Father”, Seo-Hyun Ahn in “Okja” and McKenna Grace in “Gifted” (she also plays the young Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya”).

And though this performance may not have enough screen time to be in contention, let’s not forget Betty Gabriel’s bone-chilling performance as the maid in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out“, my #1 movie of the year. It’s been months since I’ve seen that movie and I cannot get her Oscar-caliber, off-kilter performance or her haunted face out of my head. In fact, Academy, let’s not forget her. 

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Stop watching movies made by assholes. It’ll be OK.

A review of two of the biggest games of 2017, a pair that use World War II in very different ways.

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A Disappearing Act: Gary Oldman on “Darkest Hour”

A Disappearing Act: Gary Oldman on “Darkest Hour”

With roles like Lee Harvey Oswald, George Smiley, Dracula and Commissioner Gordon in his resume, Gary Oldman has made a special career out of his chameleon-like approach to acting. His latest endeavor is none other than the British Bulldog himself, Winston Churchill, in a film by Joe Wright that looks at the prime minister in the early days of World War II. Oldman is impeccable as the iconic leader, treating his many speeches with fascinating vigor, and looking exactly like him, thanks to prosthetics work and precise physicality. While the role has Oldman designated as an official front runner for this year’s Best Actor Oscar, it’s already a home run for an actor who has made so many distinctly different characters shine on the silver screen.

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Oldman spoke with RogerEbert.com about the physical and mental process of getting into the character, looking at Churchill as a type of performer and more. 

I’m very curious about your chameleon-like approach to acting. What kind of skill do you think gives you the ability to recognize so many different lives and then portray them? 

I think for an actor you need … it’s about observation. I think a lot to do with it is one’s concentration and focus. I sort of have a good ear, a facility for that kind of thing. It’s all the things that you need as an actor. I think you can hone and sharpen intuition, but you kind of have to have it. It’s in the choices that you make. I suppose I was a bit of an impersonator when I was a kid. Even as a young kid. But I do have an ability to meet people and I could very … not with everyone, and not that I consciously do it, but I can meet people and find that I can do an impersonation of people very quickly. 

But with Winston, it was exactly that. It was not only the reading material, which is of course voluminous. But the footage of the man, there’s actually more there than I thought. And so it was a case of really just watching and re-watching and studying everything from speech patterns to mannerisms to how he used his hands how he moved through a space. I think that we have an idea of who Churchill was, and I’m not sure if that idea of him is not influenced by other people that have played him, so you feel that you have an idea of who he is because you saw Robert Hardy, or Albert Linney. For me it was to really go back to the man, and avoid all of the other … I watched Robert Hardy at the time when it was programmed, but I didn’t want to be contaminated sort of by anyone else’s performance. 

In this telling of Churchill, there’s this angle of him being a type of performer or an actor. There’s even a sort of line about, “which ‘Sir’ am I going to be today?” Did you ever look at him as an actor or connect with him like that? 

I think he had a real sense of branding, of marketing. He was an unusual, he was a bit of a dandy. As time moved forward he seemed to sartorially stay in that sort of Victorian attire with the button boots and the waistcoat and the fob watch and that kind of thing and the hats. The cane. The walking stick. So he had a certain affectation, and obviously was a great orator and had a great sense of language. And we have recordings of him, speaking those sort of speeches and three or four of the most glorious speeches ever written over a short period of time. But they were all done after the event, they were all done, some of them, years later. He either went to the BBC and recorded them or the BBC came to him and he recorded them. So, my thinking was, is that when you’re in Parliament, in front of 600 people, that you would do them with more gusto than you would two, three years after the war and record them in a cold, dry setting. My feeling was that he had such a sense of who he was, with the cigar, the Churchill. That he was a bit of an actor. He had a public persona. And loved language, loved plays, loved poetry. I just felt that someone who loved words that much would have performed for the house. 

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I had heard in a previous interview you’ve done for this film where you said something along the lines of “Joe saw only Winston for three months.” What is your own pitch as to why method acting is a productive idea on set? 

It wasn’t so much a conscious decision to do it. What it was, was that I came in four hours before everybody else, to have all the … by the time Joe and the other crew arrived, and the other actors, for rehearsal, I was already Winston. I was completely made up and dressed. Some of the actors I rehearsed with had curlers in their hair, and were half made-up and wore dressing gowns over their street clothes. But I was always on the set as the prime minister. It wasn’t a sort of method thing, it was just the way it worked out. So that Joe would meet me in the morning as Churchill, we would wrap, and then everybody would leave and then it was of course 45 minutes to an hour to take [the prosthetics] off. He would never see me as Gary. He saw me once as Gary at Christmas. My wife and I, he cooked Christmas lunch for us. That was the only time he had seen me as Gary in two months. 

Is Joe Wright a good cook? 

Yes. He did a good spread [laughs]. 

The amount of time to put on the prosthetics, does it provide a type of artistic clarity? Could you imagine doing this type of role without prosthetics? 

The overriding thing, at the very beginning, was the physicality. It was not so much the getting into the psychology of the character or play the character or move like the character or sound like the character. But could one look like the character? And he is such an iconic figure, he’s so particular looking, that was the hurdle. That was the road block that one had to get around. Yes, I think it would probably be a lot easier in the theater to do it without, but for this film we all felt it was a necessity and there was only one man in my mind that could even remotely pull it off, and that was Kazuhiro [Tsuji]. And then of course, on the day to day running of the show, I had Lucy and David who were my … once Kazuhiro had come in and set it up as it were, then they took the training wheels off and then Lucy [Sibbick] and David [Malinowski] were with me through the whole shoot and they were applying and painting it. But it’s quite a remarkable make-up, I think. 

Film artists are always trying to avoid that uncanny valley when portraying old-age with performance and makeup. It seems like a very precise craft here especially, even in how you talk with food in your mouth or with the cigar going in and out of your hands. 

And it’s odd with this because, going back to the idea of concentration or focus, you couldn’t watch a movie or be on your phone and fidget, because the make-up was so delicate that you had to surrender to it every morning and focus. As good as the make-up was, David said, “As good as the make-up is, and as good as we are, if you weren’t so patient, this could look like shit.” It’s one of those things, and people roll their eyes when I say it’s three-and-a-half hours in makeup, and they ask, “Did you go crazy?” It’s knowing about what you’re getting into. We had tests, I wore the makeup, with the tests that we did I wore the makeup 63 times. And I wore it 48 consecutive days in the shoot. You know what you’re getting into. You have to surrender to it and enjoy it as enjoy it as part of the character and the whole process of this. Otherwise, I know actors who are kicking and screaming and going crazy, and they can’t bear the claustrophobia. But it’s oddly very freeing. It doesn’t restrict you, it’s not uncomfortable. It’s hot. 

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Does it ever get more comfortable to do these mountainous monologues, once you’ve been Churchill for 30 days in prosthetics? 

Yeah. Yes. But see, also, I had a year to prepare it. And also we had rehearsal, which is a huge help. Because once you get to the set, and you’re very comfortable in the skin. In the artificial skin, I should say with this one. 

What were you thinking about when you were in that make-up chair for all of those hours? Are you in a zen place? 

Zen place. You close down, because you know then that you’ve got a ten-hour, twelve-hour day ahead of you, on top of the four hours that you’re there. So you just kind of shut the engine down.

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A Disappearing Act: Gary Oldman on “Darkest Hour”

A Disappearing Act: Gary Oldman on “Darkest Hour”

With roles like Lee Harvey Oswald, George Smiley, Dracula and Commissioner Gordon in his resume, Gary Oldman has made a special career out of his chameleon-like approach to acting. His latest endeavor is none other than the British Bulldog himself, Winston Churchill, in a film by Joe Wright that looks at the prime minister in the early days of World War II. Oldman is impeccable as the iconic leader, treating his many speeches with fascinating vigor, and looking exactly like him, thanks to prosthetics work and precise physicality. While the role has Oldman designated as an official front runner for this year’s Best Actor Oscar, it’s already a home run for an actor who has made so many distinctly different characters shine on the silver screen.

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Oldman spoke with RogerEbert.com about the physical and mental process of getting into the character, looking at Churchill as a type of performer and more. 

I’m very curious about your chameleon-like approach to acting. What kind of skill do you think gives you the ability to recognize so many different lives and then portray them? 

I think for an actor you need … it’s about observation. I think a lot to do with it is one’s concentration and focus. I sort of have a good ear, a facility for that kind of thing. It’s all the things that you need as an actor. I think you can hone and sharpen intuition, but you kind of have to have it. It’s in the choices that you make. I suppose I was a bit of an impersonator when I was a kid. Even as a young kid. But I do have an ability to meet people and I could very … not with everyone, and not that I consciously do it, but I can meet people and find that I can do an impersonation of people very quickly. 

But with Winston, it was exactly that. It was not only the reading material, which is of course voluminous. But the footage of the man, there’s actually more there than I thought. And so it was a case of really just watching and re-watching and studying everything from speech patterns to mannerisms to how he used his hands how he moved through a space. I think that we have an idea of who Churchill was, and I’m not sure if that idea of him is not influenced by other people that have played him, so you feel that you have an idea of who he is because you saw Robert Hardy, or Albert Linney. For me it was to really go back to the man, and avoid all of the other … I watched Robert Hardy at the time when it was programmed, but I didn’t want to be contaminated sort of by anyone else’s performance. 

In this telling of Churchill, there’s this angle of him being a type of performer or an actor. There’s even a sort of line about, “which ‘Sir’ am I going to be today?” Did you ever look at him as an actor or connect with him like that? 

I think he had a real sense of branding, of marketing. He was an unusual, he was a bit of a dandy. As time moved forward he seemed to sartorially stay in that sort of Victorian attire with the button boots and the waistcoat and the fob watch and that kind of thing and the hats. The cane. The walking stick. So he had a certain affectation, and obviously was a great orator and had a great sense of language. And we have recordings of him, speaking those sort of speeches and three or four of the most glorious speeches ever written over a short period of time. But they were all done after the event, they were all done, some of them, years later. He either went to the BBC and recorded them or the BBC came to him and he recorded them. So, my thinking was, is that when you’re in Parliament, in front of 600 people, that you would do them with more gusto than you would two, three years after the war and record them in a cold, dry setting. My feeling was that he had such a sense of who he was, with the cigar, the Churchill. That he was a bit of an actor. He had a public persona. And loved language, loved plays, loved poetry. I just felt that someone who loved words that much would have performed for the house. 

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I had heard in a previous interview you’ve done for this film where you said something along the lines of “Joe saw only Winston for three months.” What is your own pitch as to why method acting is a productive idea on set? 

It wasn’t so much a conscious decision to do it. What it was, was that I came in four hours before everybody else, to have all the … by the time Joe and the other crew arrived, and the other actors, for rehearsal, I was already Winston. I was completely made up and dressed. Some of the actors I rehearsed with had curlers in their hair, and were half made-up and wore dressing gowns over their street clothes. But I was always on the set as the prime minister. It wasn’t a sort of method thing, it was just the way it worked out. So that Joe would meet me in the morning as Churchill, we would wrap, and then everybody would leave and then it was of course 45 minutes to an hour to take [the prosthetics] off. He would never see me as Gary. He saw me once as Gary at Christmas. My wife and I, he cooked Christmas lunch for us. That was the only time he had seen me as Gary in two months. 

Is Joe Wright a good cook? 

Yes. He did a good spread [laughs]. 

The amount of time to put on the prosthetics, does it provide a type of artistic clarity? Could you imagine doing this type of role without prosthetics? 

The overriding thing, at the very beginning, was the physicality. It was not so much the getting into the psychology of the character or play the character or move like the character or sound like the character. But could one look like the character? And he is such an iconic figure, he’s so particular looking, that was the hurdle. That was the road block that one had to get around. Yes, I think it would probably be a lot easier in the theater to do it without, but for this film we all felt it was a necessity and there was only one man in my mind that could even remotely pull it off, and that was Kazuhiro [Tsuji]. And then of course, on the day to day running of the show, I had Lucy and David who were my … once Kazuhiro had come in and set it up as it were, then they took the training wheels off and then Lucy [Sibbick] and David [Malinowski] were with me through the whole shoot and they were applying and painting it. But it’s quite a remarkable make-up, I think. 

Film artists are always trying to avoid that uncanny valley when portraying old-age with performance and makeup. It seems like a very precise craft here especially, even in how you talk with food in your mouth or with the cigar going in and out of your hands. 

And it’s odd with this because, going back to the idea of concentration or focus, you couldn’t watch a movie or be on your phone and fidget, because the make-up was so delicate that you had to surrender to it every morning and focus. As good as the make-up was, David said, “As good as the make-up is, and as good as we are, if you weren’t so patient, this could look like shit.” It’s one of those things, and people roll their eyes when I say it’s three-and-a-half hours in makeup, and they ask, “Did you go crazy?” It’s knowing about what you’re getting into. We had tests, I wore the makeup, with the tests that we did I wore the makeup 63 times. And I wore it 48 consecutive days in the shoot. You know what you’re getting into. You have to surrender to it and enjoy it as enjoy it as part of the character and the whole process of this. Otherwise, I know actors who are kicking and screaming and going crazy, and they can’t bear the claustrophobia. But it’s oddly very freeing. It doesn’t restrict you, it’s not uncomfortable. It’s hot. 

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Does it ever get more comfortable to do these mountainous monologues, once you’ve been Churchill for 30 days in prosthetics? 

Yeah. Yes. But see, also, I had a year to prepare it. And also we had rehearsal, which is a huge help. Because once you get to the set, and you’re very comfortable in the skin. In the artificial skin, I should say with this one. 

What were you thinking about when you were in that make-up chair for all of those hours? Are you in a zen place? 

Zen place. You close down, because you know then that you’ve got a ten-hour, twelve-hour day ahead of you, on top of the four hours that you’re there. So you just kind of shut the engine down.

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Call Me by Your Name

Thumb call me

Luca Guadagnino’s films are all about the transformative power of nature—the way it allows our true selves to shine through and inspires us to pursue our hidden passions. From the wild, windswept hills of “I Am Love” to the chic swimming pool of “A Bigger Splash,” Guadagnino vividly portrays the outside world as almost a character in itself—driving the storyline, urging the other characters to be bold, inviting us to feel as if we, too, are a part of this intoxicating atmosphere.

Never has this been more true than in “Call Me By Your Name,” a lush and vibrant masterpiece about first love set amid the warm, sunny skies, gentle breezes and charming, tree-lined roads of northern Italy. Guadagnino takes his time establishing this place and the players within it. He’s patient in his pacing, and you must be, as well. But really, what’s the rush? It’s the summer of 1983, and there’s nothing to do but read, play piano, ponder classic art and pluck peaches and apricots from the abundant fruit trees.

Within this garden of sensual delights, an unexpected yet life-changing romance blossoms between two young men who initially seem completely different on the surface.

17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is once again visiting his family’s summer home with his parents: his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an esteemed professor of Greco-Roman culture, and his mother (Amira Casar), a translator and gracious hostess. Elio has the gangly body of a boy but with an intellect and a quick wit beyond his years, and the worldliness his parents have fostered within him at least allows him to affect the façade of sophistication. But beneath the bravado, a gawky and self-conscious kid sometimes still emerges. By the end of the summer, that kid will be vanquished forever.

An American doctoral student named Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives for the annual internship Elio’s father offers. Oliver is everything Elio isn’t—or at least, that’s our primary perception of him. Tall, gorgeous and supremely confident, he is the archetypal all-American hunk. But as polite as he often can be, Oliver can also breeze out of a room with a glib, “Later,” making him even more of a tantalizing mystery.

Chalamet and Hammer have just ridiculous chemistry from the get-go, even though (or perhaps because) their characters are initially prickly toward each other: testing, pushing, feeling each other out, yet constantly worrying about what the other person thinks. They flirt by trying to one-up each other with knowledge of literature or classical music, but long before they ever have any physical contact, their electric connection is unmistakable. Lazy poolside chats are fraught with tension; spontaneous bike rides into town to run errands feel like nervous first dates.

Writer James Ivory’s generous, sensitive adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel reveals these characters and their ever-evolving dynamic in beautifully steady yet detailed fashion. And so when Elio and Oliver finally dare to reveal their true feelings for each other—a full hour into the film—the moment makes you hold your breath with its intimate power, and the emotions feel completely authentic and earned.   

The way Elio and Oliver peel away each other’s layers has both a sweetness and a giddy thrill to it, even though they feel they must keep their romance a secret from Elio’s parents. (Elio also has a kinda-sorta girlfriend in Marzia [Esther Garrel], a thoughtful, playful French teen who’s also in town for the summer.) One of the many impressive elements of Chalamet’s beautiful, complex performance is the effortless way he transitions between speaking in English, Italian and French, depending on whom Elio is with at the time. It gives him an air of maturity that’s otherwise still in development; eventually his massive character arc feels satisfying and true.

But Oliver’s evolution is just as crucial, and Hammer finds the tricky balance between the character’s swagger and his vulnerability as he gives himself over to this exciting affair. He’s flirty but tender—the couple’s love scenes are heartbreaking and intensely erotic all at once—and even though he’s the more experienced of the two, he can’t help but diving in headlong.

And yet, the most resonant part of “Call Me By Your Name” may not even be the romance itself, but rather the lingering sensation that it can’t last, which Guadagnino evokes through long takes and expert use of silence. A feeling of melancholy tinges everything, from the choice of a particular shirt to the taste of a perfectly ripe peach. And oh my, that peach scene—Guadagnino was wise when he took a chance and left it in from the novel. It really works, and it’s perhaps the ultimate example of how masterfully the director manipulates and enlivens all of our senses.

There’s a lushness to the visual beauty of this place, but it’s not so perfect as to be off-putting. Quite the opposite. Despite the director’s infamous eye for meticulous detail, cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s 35mm images provide a tactile quality that heightens the sensations, makes them feel almost primal. We see the wind gently rustling through the trees, or streaks of sunlight hitting Elio’s dark curls through an open bedroom window, and while it’s all subtly sensual, an inescapable tension is building underneath.

Guadagnino establishes that raw, immediate energy from the very beginning through his use of music. The piano of contemporary classical composer John Adams’ intricate, insistent “Hallelujah Junction – 1st Movement” engages us during the elegant title sequence, while Sufjan Stevens’ plaintive, synthy “Visions of Gideon” during the film’s devastating final shot ends the film on an agonizingly sad note. (You’ll want to stay all the way through the closing credits—that long, last image is so transfixing. I seriously don’t know how Chalamet pulled it off, but there is serious craft on display here.)

In between is Guadagnino’s inspired use of the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way,” an iconic ’80s New Wave tune you’ve probably heard a million times before but will never hear the same way again. The first time he plays it, it’s at an outdoor disco where Oliver feels so moved by the bouncy, percussive beat that he can’t help but jump around to it and get lost in the music, lacking all sense of self-consciousness. Watching this towering figure just go for it on the dance floor in his Converse high-tops is a moment of pure joy, but it’s also as if a dam has broken within Elio, being so close to someone who’s feeling so free. The second time he plays it, toward the end of Oliver and Elio’s journey, it feels like the soundtrack to a time capsule as it recaptures a moment of seemingly endless emotional possibility.

They know what they’ve found has to end—we know it has to end. But a beautiful monologue from the always excellent Stuhlbarg as Elio’s warmhearted and open-minded father softens the blow somewhat. It’s a perfectly calibrated scene in a film full of them, and it’s one of a million reasons why “Call Me By Your Name” is far and away the best movie of the year.

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