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Massawyrm marvels over the stop motion masterpiece CORALINE!!

Hola all. Massawyrm here. I am not what you’d call a “process guy.” If there’s one major difference that separates the way Harry and I enjoy movies, it is that one, rather important fact. I quite simply see a project on the merit of the whole, the experience watching it, not the specific artistry that went into it. Harry on the other hand delights in how things were made, the techniques that went into it. And while I appreciate that kind of thing, it never has managed to sway my opinion on a piece. The reason I mention this is that for quite some time I’ve simply not been enthusiastic about seeing stop motion films. I think back to my review of THE CORPSE BRIDE (which I was really disappointed with) and remember remarking how I didn’t understand why it wasn’t simply made with CG – afterall, it LOOKED like good CG. Who cares if it was really miniatures on not pixels if they look the same? Henry Selick is a custodian of history, the protector of a dying art. Personally I think that’s cool. That said, there are better, easier ways to do what he’s doing. Or at least there was – until he added 3-D into the mix. You see, if there’s anything that validates stop motion animation as a valid technique, it is that these miniatures, these sets, well, they really exist. When you shoot them in 3-D, there’s an actual, existing depth of field. When you move around things, they look different from alternate angles. They have a real, honest to God geography about them. So seeing it in 3-D produces something VERY DIFFERENT than 3-D generated for a CG film. You have never seen a film like CORALINE before. It is a unique, beautiful, occasionally jaw dropping wonder that transports you to another world and treats you to a very special one of a kind experience. There are viduals here that words alone cannot truly wrap themselves around, locations that you have to see with your own eyes in 3-D to even understand what it is I’m talking about. Selick has created some truly alien, magnificently disturbing images that can only be compared to his own, earlier work. Nobody has an imagination quite like Henry Selick. He dreams in worlds unlike any of our own, and once every few years he’s allowed to take us with him. CORALINE is one of those films you have to see just so you can have it in your cinematic vocabulary. It simply doesn’t compare to other stop motion films – nor does it appropriately compare to anything anyone else has done with 3-D. Selick never uses the 3-D as a gimmick. Shit doesn’t fly out at you from the screen. I took some crap from Herr Knowles a few weeks back for not giving a pass to MY BLOODY VALENTINE because he had fun with the 3-D, despite it being a shitty movie (at which point we disagree on how intentional the overt shitty-ness was.) That film, love it or hate it, rested on using the 3-D as gags. It never puts you in the movie – it brings the movie to your seat. It is the antithesis of CORALINE. CORALINE pulls you into the film, takes you into a world you’ve never seen and then shows you around the various nooks and crannies hidden there. And like MBV, it is also a horror film – this one aimed at children. And a lot of the images in the film are disturbing, on a similar level to that which you saw in MONSTER HOUSE. There are some very creepy ideas and some brilliant execution that will no doubt fuel a number of nightmares in the younger members of the audience. But if the film has one flaw, it is in the story. While a thoroughly beautiful film, it is still a feature length film adapted from a children’s book – and it suffers from the same problem as THE CORPSE BRIDE and a number of other expanded works. There are a few points where it feels like it is spinning its wheels, like it should be moving faster but has nowhere to go. You can tell the story of CORALINE in minute or so without really leaving anything out, so when you aren’t busy marveling at the garden or the jumping mouse circus or the Scotty Dog amphitheater, you hit the occasional moment where you feel a definite stall. Fortunately for the film, every time it seems to fumble the ball it bit, it quickly picks it back up and begins to run with it again. It never gets boring – it only occasionally threatens to do so. I feel like it could have been trimmed a bit for pacing and might end up almost entirely flawless. That said, despite its pace, it is still an incredible movie that has things to show you that you have yet to imagine for yourself – and that is as much a reason to see this as the fantastically inventive story. This is a prime example of where 3-D filmmaking is headed. There’s a reason 3-D has popped up every 25 years or so only to disappear back into the woodwork where it slumbered, waiting for the next generation. It’s because once you’ve seen one implement of destruction fly out at you from the screen, you’ve seen them all. What is going to keep it around this time is not the gimmicky gags, but the ability to immerse you in worlds in a way the cinema has never been capable of doing before. Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:14 a.m. CST

    by Automaton Overlord


  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:17 a.m. CST

    I hope this movie is good in 2D

    by Animation

    There are not any 3D places where I live, at least not that I am aware of. Ah well.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:18 a.m. CST


    by Nerdboy1423

    There are viduals in this film? I can't wait to see and find out what those are.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:21 a.m. CST


    by DOGSOUP

    ...not especially normal whatsoever. This movie is testiment of what people accomplish if they do things the hard way because it's fucking awesome. CGI is cool and all but DON'T LET PRACTICAL EFFECTS DIE!!! CGI blood just isn't the same. You know it, I know it, the dog knows it. I personally would like to see a movie on this scale that's fully stop-motion animated that's a hard R. Coraline is a step towards that dream! I know I know that's a dream that's definitively WEIRD. In conclusion, The Hunted with Tommy Lee and Benicio, despite being filmed partly in Portland, did NOTHING to KEEP IT WEIRD.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:30 a.m. CST

    Looks great

    by Coma Baby

    and a good review. Visual art and craft (as long as it has heart) can sometimes trump story for me, so hearing that it's a satisfying story as well as nice to look at makes me really want to see this. <P> I think some reviewers (like at Slate) are warning parents about kids possibly being freaked out by the creapy replacement parents with button eyes thing. But kids can handle a lot more than parents think in a movie (as long as they're there to answer questions and the like). Might be more of a case of parent reviewers creeped out by the thought of being replaced - and their kids not being freaked out by it.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:45 a.m. CST

    Will the Academy remember this movie next year?

    by Sequitur

    Or is Pixar's UP the clear choice in 2009

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:52 a.m. CST


    by DOGSOUP

    Wouldn't it be interesting if this upset Pixar for once? I want to see that cranky old guy be irritated by the hyper boy scout and some business with a squirrel as much as the next fan of things animated and incredible, but just once wouldn't it be a nice change of pace?

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 10:57 a.m. CST

    This will be my favorite CGI movie ever

    by ArcadianDS

    that's right, every single individual frame of the entire film contains CGI elements. Anyone trying to tell you otherwise is a fat liar and probably has a Heat Miser hairdo.

  • Both claims are specious, and it's because you're not a process guy. I'm presuming you consider that CG would be better, so I'm proceeding from there. I've done a bit of both CG and Stopmo, so there's some experience backing my statements. Easier: The credit list on a CG film is very long because the amount of effort that goes into a CG film is huge. Read about and fully internalize R&D, demands on balancing image quality with processing capability, the full task list that is required to get the image in the computer and render it. Stopmo requires a different kind of huge effort. Better: "They have a real, honest to God geography about them." This is why CG still doesn't look "right". That's not opinion, that's fact. Hence continued R&D on CG. Hair and cloth and skin translucence and other things are always noted as being "better than in previous films" but never "right".

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:21 a.m. CST

    The flaws are Gaiman's

    by criticalbliss

    Gaiman never establishes a clear line of action for any of his characters. He's like and ADD mongoloid marveling at some colored bits of paper. Yes, he scatters a lot of color around, but there is no through-line, consistency of character or focus in plot. It works better for a graphic novel, but not in moving pictures and certainly not in a novel. Sad, because I like Gaiman's IDEAS, just not his execution.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:28 a.m. CST


    by I am the most horrible

    I think that's what he meant. It's more properly called craft services.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:30 a.m. CST

    or vittles

    by greyspecter

    Snack Cart!

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:43 a.m. CST

    Coraline Looks Tasty and Satisfying

    by lonestaricon

    This movie actually has me excited enough to go see it in a theatre. While I am always excited after reading a good review, the true test for me is whether I find it tantalizing enough to see on the big screen. Most films I wait to view on dvd because I will get just as much joy from watching on my analog tv repeatedly. However Coraline is a special film that will temporarily take my mind off the plunging economy, futile bailout program and excessive taxation.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 12:12 p.m. CST


    by drave117

    Well, if you are going to use that argument, you might as well call almost every movie that hits theaters a CGI movie. In my opinion, the fact that they digitally erased the gigantic horizontal seams splitting the characters' faces in half IN NO WAY diminishes the level of hand-crafted artistry that went into this film. I mean, c'mon! All those cute little sweaters Coraline wears? KNITTED BY HAND WITH TINY KNITTING NEEDLES! If that doesn't earn your respect, well, I can't imagine what would.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 12:17 p.m. CST


    by drave117

    I don't know how most of the flaws can be Gaiman's, when his book is little more than a rough outline that inspired Selick to tell his own story. Sure, there was communication between them, but this movie is definitely Selick's creation. Gaiman has made that very clear in his blog.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 12:22 p.m. CST

    but is this a musical?

    by Bouncy X

    cant even explain how horribly disappointed i was when i went to see Nightmare Before Christmas and they started singing. the animation was great but had the original tv spots mentioned it was a musical i wouldnt have gone. so now this movie looks really pretty and i like dakota fanning so thats another plus....but is there singing? because that would just ruin it.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 1:04 p.m. CST

    Harry enjoys process

    by BobParr

    because he needs to come up with excuses to slobber over every crappy movie.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 1:15 p.m. CST

    Get Nick Park a 3D camera

    by palimpsest

    I want some 3D Wallace and Gromit. Now.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 1:19 p.m. CST

    Well, I'm in.

    by Anti-fanboy

    Going tomorrow. Thanks, M.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 1:21 p.m. CST

    Thank you ArcadianDS!

    by animation_lady

    Wait what? They used computers to make this movie? You are shitting me? Please everyone stop enjoying the hand-crafted puppets and frame-by-frame stop-motion animation!! ArcadianDS has informed us that there were computers used in this supposedly "hand" "animated" "production". Its all a fucking sham!! Everything the animators and modelers did is meaningless because the footage they created was run through a computer's dirty disgusting harddrive! Its CGI people!!! CGI!!!!! A computer created it, people!!! A COMPUTER!!! NOT HUMAN BEINGS!!!

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 1:26 p.m. CST

    to answer your question

    by kilik777

    it would be just ok in 2d. The movie really does come to life in 3d. The review is pretty much spot on but i disagree that My Bloody Valentine was a shitty movie. The story did suck but the 3D made it worth it. Full review of Coraline here:

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 1:52 p.m. CST

    gaiman is a god

    by bacci40

    if you dont believe me, explain to me why the man doesnt age

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 2:47 p.m. CST

    thanks guys

    by ArcadianDS

    you just made me super-turgid. If it last 3 hours, I'll call you.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 3:44 p.m. CST

    I'm curoius about the 3D process

    by Bass Ackwards

    I had read that they didn't use a fancy 3D camera, but rather, sinceits stop mo, just basically picked the camera up and moved it to capture the same again from the alt. angle to make their 3D. I'm wondering if that actually makes a difference, guess I'll have to see to find out.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 9:19 p.m. CST

    Re: Curious about 3D process

    by Mooseboy

    There will be no difference. The technique they used is functionally identical to using a fancy 3D camera. Moving the camera in Coraline was computer controlled.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 9:27 p.m. CST

    Massawyrm has a good point.

    by Hamtaro Hentai

    Just get there early enough to watch the 3D CGI trailers, then compare the quality to Coraline in 3D. The trailers are fun, but the 3D is 'extra'. In Coraline, it seems like, "This is the way the movie was meant to be seen."

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:09 p.m. CST

    One Gripe...

    by Alexndrph

    Good review, but I've got one big gripe... "...these miniatures, these sets, well, they really exist. When you shoot them in 3-D, there’s an actual, existing depth of field. When you move around things, they look different from alternate angles. They have a real, honest to God geography about them. So seeing it in 3-D produces something VERY DIFFERENT than 3-D generated for a CG film." I work in CG, and I'm telling you that, for the most part, our sets and characters exist in a "real world" space within the computer. We build sets/worlds that are every bit as detailed as a real-world set, and just as painstakingly assembled. When a CG film is done in 3D, 2 cameras are placed side-by-side, just as they are in the real world, and capture those different angles, etc. I think the main difference you're seeing is how the 3D was implemented... Selick manipulated the 3D in a way that served his storytelling in a fantastic way. Some directors are better using the technique than others.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:13 p.m. CST

    Re: Curious about 3D process

    by Alexndrph

    Mooseboy's right, the technique's no different. The benefit they had by using a single camera, and moving it, is the distance between the "eyes". Typical 3D camera rigs have a lot of space between the lenses, which is generally wider than the space between human eyes. Using a single camera negates that flaw.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:20 p.m. CST

    One point where I disagree with Massawyrm...

    by John Maddening

    While yes, this is a children's book, it's a 162-page children's book. This isn't making a 90 minute movie out of THE CAT IN THE HAT or HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, this is a good length book for a feature film. If the movie meanders, it's because the book did. It takes its time getting there. Gaiman believes that kids still have attention spans and can deal with grown-up topics without being talked down to. For heaven's sake, the man just won the Newberry Medal for a children's book about a family murdered by a serial killer!

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 12:48 a.m. CST

    Bouncy X

    by drave117

    There is only one song, and it's about a minute long, and it's done by They Might Be Giants, therefore it gets a pass. In fact, you can see the song in its entirety on the website if you want to prepare yourself in advance. It's in Mr Jones' study. Click on the record player.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 6:50 p.m. CST


    by quentintarantado

    Call me a nitpicking asshole jerk, but, well, yes I am.

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 12:21 a.m. CST

    Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction

    by Horace Cox

    This should be a solid contender. Amazing job.