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  1.  (7265.1)


    http://andrenavarro.wordpress.com/

    "A Christmas Carol" is the first 3D movie I've actually watched in 3D, since it took a long while for Rio de Janeiro to implement the technology (and considering how gimmicky and overused 3D currently is, I can't say I was looking forward to it). As you can probably guess, I'm not a fan of 3D. I find it to be the exact opposite of what it should be -- it's unnimersive.

    The very composition of a shot is hurt by any foreground object calling too much attention to itself, and if a character points something at the camera, like a finger or a gun, instead of noticing the action you notice the way it seems to be jumping out of the screen -- while what's relevant is the action. Sure, this can be a matter of getting used to it, but I fail to see the point. I do not find it visually dazzling, I do not see many narrative opportunities for 3D and it doesn't sit well with modern cinematic language, requiring a complete re-thinking on how to film -- and why? Because people want to see more depth in the screen? Am I the only one who was perfectly happy with a 2D screen?

    Once again, though, I must admit Robert Zemeckis is not the ideal director to introduce me to the world of 3D. Despite his genius, he is probably the guy who has the wrongest idea of how to use it. Before I really form my opinion on this technique/gimmick, I'll have to wait for films like "Avatar". After all, when a man of James Cameron's brilliance decides to use 3D, there must be a good reason. And also, I'm told some films like "Coraline" have used 3D cleverly (the film has two worlds, and one of them was depicted in 3D, which is a simple, but rare narrative use for it -- but the movie theatre I saw it in wasn't equipped with the technology, and if I remember correctly, no theatre nearby was).

    So, "A Christmas Carol". I mentioned Zemeckis has the wrongest idea of how to use 3D. The reason for this is that, when given 3D, Zemeckis acts like a hyperactive child given a toy. He always was an inventive cameraman, but while this was motivated by narrative needs, in the latter stage of his career Zemeckis just started showing off. I loved "Beowulf" mostly due to the script by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, because Zemeckis' direction, albeit full of inspired moments, also had its share of exaggerated camera angles, like the hideous moment a guard points a spear at us, and Zemeckis ridiculously pushes the depth of field back to make the spear jump out of the screen, then changing it abruptly to pan the camera to Beowulf's face in that which must be one of the worst camera movements in Zemeckis' career.

    I had hoped he'd be more restrained in "A Christmas Carol". Which just proves why I should give up trying to be an optimist.

    He always finds some way to distract the viewer from whatever's going on, like slowly moving his camera around a talking character until a lit candle appears on the foreground -- a composition that not only calls attention to itself (especially in 3D), but makes no sense, because the character in the background is usually the bitter Ebenezer Scrooge -- and showing him next to a warm candle kind of goes against the nature of the character as far as symbolism goes (unless the candle puts itself out eventually, but I cannot remember if it does -- yeah, this movie left a strong impression on me, no doubt).

    But that's mild next to the way Zemeckis introduces the victorian London where the story happens, making his camera fly past chimneys and smoke at insane speeds, and never missing the chance to make something pointy jump out of the screen, like the only reason we put on those ridiculous goggles is for the illusion of having our face impaled.

    Sadly, as a storyteller, Zemeckis doesn't show much common sense either. I was, after all, under the impression this is a movie for children. And while I think children can be shown much more than they're usually allowed to see, when the first image in your story is a rotting, pale corpse inside a coffin with a coin in each eye (coins which Scrooge promptly pockets to pay himself back from another debt), you kinda kickstart the movie on the wrong tone right away.

    And yet, throughout the film, Zemeckis goes for a constant slapstick humor that makes absolutely no sense, considering Scrooge's age. He's portrayed as the most athletic old man ever, capable of falling on a set of stairs and just getting up, no harm done. Even worse is the moment a spirit dislocates his own jaw, making it hang from his face, and then uses his hand to move the jaw up and down as he speaks.

    And wait until you see a fat guy being reduced to a skeleton while he laughs maniacally. This was the point where a kid started crying in the movie theatre, if memory serves. I thought I heard it sob "THIS IS -- THE WORST -- FILM I'VE -- EVER -- SEEN", but probably just my imagination.

    "A Christmas Carol" has a brief moment of inspiration, when Scrooge visits his old home from when he was a child, but that's the only moment the film hits the right emotional note, getting everything else wrong. It's particularly pathetic the way Scrooge becomes Mr. Nice after his experiences, laughing at everything and being so kind it was sickening. Apparently, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future succeeded in turning the worst man in London into the stupidest man in London.

    Visually, the film is a failure thanks to bad cinematography that forgot to take the 3D glasses into account. As a result, the entire film is so dark I felt tempted to try and watch it without the glasses, and man do I look forward to the day that choice will be actually possible. The animation achieved through performance capture is decent, but the moments the film relies on "handmade" animation (a ridiculously overdone dance sequence, for example) can be painfully obvious and mediocre. However, the art design is at least competent, from the depiction of London to the visual of the characters.

    I can't really comment about the performances because the session I went to was dubbed in Portuguese, despite the ticket stating very, very clearly it was only subtitled. But the film left me too bored to actually complain about it to the theatre staff, plus I was with my sister, who urged me not to, afraid it would result in confusion (which I doubt, I'm not the shouty kind, but I didn't want to waste her time).

    "A Christmas Carol" is an overdirected mess that never decides on a tone. Someone take the 3D from Robert Zemeckis before he remakes "Back To The Future" in depth-o-vision.
    • CommentAuthormunin218
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2009
     (7265.2)
    Too dark?
    Intended for children?







    are you familiar with Dickens' Christmas Carol?


    Personally, I thought the story was told with the proper touch of darkness to it. This is not a fluffy story by any means, and any film versions that shy away from the action shies away from the original message as intended. This is a horrible, horrible man living in an awful time. He learns a valuable lesson because he has the shit scared out of him via the threat of death and hell.

    I thought it had a bit of balls to it, and I've seen far worse uses of 3D.

    And hell, the Marley seen was gruesomely neat.

    The whole film brought back memories of seeing the play every year when I was little. I think Disney has gone softer and softer since Little Mermaid, and it's nice to see them being real, impacting stories again. They'd lost their real sense of empathy and morality taleweaving. It had all gone to princesses and toys for awhile there-- I'd missed the old Grimm's style stuff.
    • CommentAuthormunin218
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2009
     (7265.3)
    er, being==bringing back.

    it wont let me edit the damn thing, and evidently today i cannot type worth a shit.

    :P
  2.  (7265.4)
    Too dark?
    Intended for children?


    VISUALLY too dark, it was. I could hardly make out most of the scenery.

    Narratively too dark... Let me reiterate two paragraphs as a response:

    Sadly, as a storyteller, Zemeckis doesn't show much common sense either. I was, after all, under the impression this is a movie for children. And while I think children can be shown much more than they're usually allowed to see, when the first image in your story is a rotting, pale corpse inside a coffin with a coin in each eye (coins which Scrooge promptly pockets to pay himself back from another debt), you kinda kickstart the movie on the wrong tone right away.

    And yet, throughout the film, Zemeckis goes for a constant slapstick humor that makes absolutely no sense, considering Scrooge's age. He's portrayed as the most athletic old man ever, capable of falling on a set of stairs and just getting up, no harm done. Even worse is the moment a spirit dislocates his own jaw, making it hang from his face, and then uses his hand to move the jaw up and down as he speaks.


    I'm mostly touching on the difference of tone. Considering the film wildly jumps from dark moments to slapstick humor, the former appear out of place and the latter REALLY out of place. It's a bizarrely badly-written mix. The way Scrooge, as I said, becomes Mr. Nice on the ending is overdone to the point of embarassment. It's like Zemeckis is trying to appeal to a younger audience, so partially, this is a children's film. Whether or not the same is true for the source material, in this case, is a moot point. It's a 3D animation film with Jim Carrey on it featuring slapstick humor and dark moments, without any kind of subtle transition between them.

    are you familiar with Dickens' Christmas Carol?


    Familiar, yes. Did I read it? No. Reading the source material upon which a film is based is not a pre-requisite to enjoy the film. That's already starting on the wrong foot when it comes to film-making. A movie should stand on its own.

    As for why I have not read it: no idea. Growing up in a difficult culture, perhaps. Never introduced to Charles Dickens, only by name and legacy. Which doesn't mean I won't read his books, but up to now, I have not read "A Christmas Carol". But I don't consider "you haven't read the book upon which the film is based" a valid counter-argument.

    This is a horrible, horrible man living in an awful time.


    Also a guy with great athletic skill and a tendency to be hit by things constantly, it seems.

    I thought it had a bit of balls to it, and I've seen far worse uses of 3D.


    I'd say "having balls to it" would be for Zemeckis to use the 3D as part of his visual structure and not as its focus, and choosing one of the two tones (slapstick comedy or dark drama with comedy touches to it) and sticking with it.

    "Coraline" was a movie with balls. I can't speak for the 3D (having seen it in 2D), but that film utterly mastered the tone it wanted.
    • CommentAuthormunin218
    • CommentTimeDec 2nd 2009
     (7265.5)
    Mostly I posed the question over some of your criticism of story elements. Most representations of "A Christmas Carol" that are faithful to the Dickens story even minorly contain much the same elements, and in many areas, the identical dialogue. The story *is* one of dramatic change-- the guy is horrid and doesnt enjoy life. Guy is threatened with death and eternal punishment and makes an *extreme* turnaround. Criticism of this does make the argument of being unfamiliar with the material rather relevant, as it's not an invention of Zemeckis--its the original material.
    • CommentAuthormunin218
    • CommentTimeDec 2nd 2009
     (7265.6)
    The bit with Marley's jaw was inspired by the original text:

    "At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon. But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear indoors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!"
  3.  (7265.7)
    The story *is* one of dramatic change-- the guy is horrid and doesnt enjoy life. Guy is threatened with death and eternal punishment and makes an *extreme* turnaround. Criticism of this does make the argument of being unfamiliar with the material rather relevant, as it's not an invention of Zemeckis--its the original material.


    In the original material, does that extreme change look embarassingly ridiculous instead of funny and/or believable? Because the way it looks ridiculous in the film (in my opinion, of course) IS Zemeckis' fault. I wasn't criticizing the structure of the original story, because I don't have a right to without having read it, I was criticizing the clunky and exaggerated way Zemeckis depicts this character arc.

    Also, another thing, which I present as a general thought and personal writing philosophy, not related to "A Christmas Carol" but adaptations in general: when you adapt a story, you can be held accountable for its shortcomings regardless of what was or wasn't in the original material. Since you're adapting the story, you can make whatever changes you feel are necessary, so what stays in and what doesn't is up to you.

    Say, if I saw a crucial scene in a book that is actually kind of mediocre and had to adapt it to film, I'd have to find a way of making that scene work -- it would be my job to find a way around it. Failure to do so would be my failure, and pointing a finger to the original material is no excuse.

    The bit with Marley's jaw was inspired by the original text:


    Well, yes. Inspired. The jaw drops. In the movie, he moves the jaw up and down with his hand, which was done so histerically it felt like Zemeckis was just trying too hard to make the audience laugh.
    • CommentAuthormunin218
    • CommentTimeDec 2nd 2009
     (7265.8)
    Weird. My impression was that the action there was intended to be grotesque.

    I think our perceptions are colored by our respective experiences with the material. My being overly familiar with it comes with certain expectations for certain scenes, and is in turn colored by all the other adaptations I've seen.

    Either way, I liked it. I thought it was a nice departure from the usual fluffy schlock put out this time of year. It didnt flinch at what would be considered dark material.

    Beats the hell out of "Santa Buddies". ;P
  4.  (7265.9)
    I think our perceptions are colored by our respective experiences with the material. My being overly familiar with it comes with certain expectations for certain scenes, and is in turn colored by all the other adaptations I've seen.


    Indeed. This is the only Christmas Carol adaptation I've seen (that I can remember), even though I'm growing more interested on one of them because it has Patrick Stewart as Scrooge and who the fuck can miss that.
    • CommentAuthormunin218
    • CommentTimeDec 2nd 2009
     (7265.10)
    Go check out the Patrick Stewart one, and the George C Scott one. Those are both fairly good. George C Scott has always done a very good grumpy loudmouth. LOL.