Monday, August 20th, 2007
So, Ratatouille wasn’t the only premiere I went to on Saturday at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. In the evening I came back to the same cinema and screen, this time to see a rather different film (to say the least), Quentin Tarantino‘s ‘Death Proof‘. In the US, ‘Death Proof’ was shown as part of a double-bill called ‘Grindhouse‘, but unfortunately there are no firm plans to show the other film in the UK yet, or for both of them to be shown together at all. Nonetheless, ‘Death Proof’ has more than enough clout to be seen on its own, and if you’re a Tarantino fan, you couldn’t ask for a better film to sum up what makes his films so unique. It’s pretty violent, but if you take a step back and enjoy the humour of it, you can’t help but like it.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. When I arrived at the cinema, the red carpet was out, albeit with sheeting on it to protect it from the rain (Edinburgh couldn’t have been any wetter and miserable if it tried that day). Camera in hand, I joined the other press photographers to see if I could find out who was expected, and maybe get some good shots myself. Alas, Tarantino couldn’t make it, but it turned out someone called Zoe Bell was coming, an actress from the film. Nobody seemed to really know who she was, but they were going through a lot of trouble to give her a good welcome. I hung about in the rain for a bit, listening to the organisers frantically radioing ahead to see if the car with her in it was almost there or not, but decided that it was getting too close to the start time, and that a better seat was preferable to a photo opportunity. If I’d hung about, this is what I would have seen, as Zoe arrived in style.
If you click on the above photo, you’ll see some other photos taken at the premiere. My rather grim take on how things were before I went inside for a comfy seat, is rather different:
Once everyone was there though, the aforementioned (rather pretty as it turned out) Zoe Bell came out and introduced ‘Death Proof’ for us all, explaining that she knew Tarantino would have loved to introduce it himself, but she would have to do. She realised no one would know who she was, but told us we certainly would by the end of the film. And she was certainly right on that front. Before ‘Death Proof’, Zoe was only known as a stuntperson, doing work in the Kill Bill films as a stand in for Uma Thurman, amongst other things. In this film though, she was both stuntperson and actor, and between her and Kurt Russell (who does some fantastic acting here), they really stole this film and made it their own.
Make no mistakes, this is a pretty unusual film, even for Tarantino, he’s obviously had a lot of fun putting it together, really going to town. But it’s no less enjoyable because of it. In fact, it’s pretty bloody brilliant. You’ll probably agree too when the words “The End” come up on screen at (you guessed it) the end of the film in a particularly silly moment. I won’t spoil anything here, the tagline for the film, ” These 8 Women Are About To Meet 1 Diabolical Man!” sums up the ridiculous nature of the whole thing, and summarises essentially what the film is all about.
When the credits rolled, and we’d finished cheering, Zoe came back on stage to a much more receptive audience. Zoe did a great job taking questions for an audience that had gone from not knowing her at all, to becoming her biggest fans in the space of a couple of hours. She was asked if anything actually scared her, to which she responded that “Houses, and mortgages and shit like that” do, but although the stunts she does are scary, she just enjoys doing the thrill from doing them. Zoe seems to be very proud of the work she did in Death Proof, and rightly so – going from a stuntperson to actor/stuntperson was quite a step, but it really paid off. I don’t know of any other film that has the actor and stuntperson as the same person. There’s something oddly brilliant about being able to clearly see that a character in a film is actually doing these crazy stunts, rather than seeing the back of a different person’s head. Zoe said the hardest part about acting was having to act as though she was actually scared of these stunts. She did a great job though, and helped round Tarantino’s quirkiest film yet.
Monday, August 20th, 2007
On Saturday I was in Edinburgh for the UK Gala premiere of Pixar’s latest film, Ratatouille, being shown as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The film isn’t out in the UK until October for some reason best know to the film distributors, but as a big Pixar fan I was glad to not have to wait until then to see Ratatouille.
On entering the cinema, I discovered a nice little souvenir on my chair (and everyone else’s for that matter, although obviously I didn’t take theirs). Everyone was given a rather classy Ratatouille card (see below) outlining the film, along with some nice Ratatouille artwork. It was a nice touch certainly, and I’ll certainly be treasuring mine. I noticed the odd person leaving their card behind, but foolishly didn’t run over to grab another one on the way out. I don’t know that it would have had too much ebay value anyway, but we’ll never know now!
So anyway, the film was introduced by Pixar’s Dylan Brown who was the Supervising Animator for Ratatouille, and has been animating with Pixar since ‘A Bug’s Life’. There’s an interview here by ‘The List’ magazine related to this premiere. Dylan seemed to be equally as enthusiastic about being able to introduce the film as he was with his time spent in Scotland over the last week. Dylan told the audience later that John Lasseter had commented when they were in Paris for the international premiere of Ratatouille, that they should really make films that are set where they’d like to visit, so perhaps we’ll see a Scottish-based story from Pixar in a few years!
As per Pixar tradition, Ratatouille was preceded by a trailer for next year’s film (Wall-E in this case, which from what I’ve heard and read about, sounds like a fantastic story), followed by a short film. This year’s short is Lifted, about a trainee UFO navigator who can’t quite control his ship enough to abduct his target. It’s funny, it’s brilliantly animated, it’s Pixar basically. I think Boundin’ is still my favourite Pixar short, but ‘Lifted’ was a great little film, that shows what can be done with a simple idea.
Onto Ratatouille, which is really a return to form for Pixar. I love all Pixar’s films, but Ratatouille really sits nicely with my favourites, ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Monsters Inc’. Pixar have always been about the story, and this one shows they’ve still got it in that department. I’m not really going to review the film here, and wouldn’t want to spoil anything for those that haven’t seen it yet, but it’s a film with a great pace that certainly didn’t leave me bored. The whole film is set in a particularly nice looking Paris, at a famous restaurant, that’s going down hill. The main characters Remy (the rat), and Linguini (who reminds me a little of Fry from Futurama), have been so lovingly animated and provide such great (and in the case of Linguini, often stupid) character, it’s hard not to warm to the film. The stars of the show really are those two, but in true Pixar style, the ‘evil’ character of the film, Antono Ego (who’s a food critic) gets some of the best lines, and biggest laughs, particularly when we see his home.
As I’m a bit of a CG fan, I have to comment on not just the wonderful animation, but also the look of the film. The food (of which there is a lot in this film) looked eerily realistic (perhaps too realistic in places give the general cartooniness of the characters), and Pixar have certainly taken things up yet another notch from their previous films.
At the end of the film, Dylan Brown came back on to give us a 20 minute presentation on how they put together Ratatouille. Dylan started by talking about how every Pixar film starts from a simple idea. You can see a drawing of this idea from the photo I took of his first slide, at the top of this post. Dylan talked us through the stages they went through in animating a couple of scenes, and had a funny demonstration of how some beginner animators put together their walk cycle. He suggests that the best way to visualise such things is to think of every step as a way to stop the character from falling, aided by some silly walks on his part.
He then went on to talk about the animation rigs the animators use. He pointed out that there are no limits on some aspects of each character, nicely demonstrated with Remy’s arms:
I missed some of the amusing faces he had Remy making as his arms were stretched, but you get the idea. He then finished with talking about a couple of easter eggs hidden in Ratatouille (there are as ever, many to be found apparently). One nod to Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’ came in the form of a performer miming on the bridge as Linguini walks by, who was Bomb Voyage in that film. The other was unlikely to be spotted by most people, and you’ll see a grainy shot of it below – the Pizza Planet truck from ‘Toy Story’ crosses over a bridge in the distance at one point in the film along with other cars. Blink and you miss it.
A question and answer session then followed. Dylan confirmed the forthcoming Pixar films already known about, and seemed to wish he could talk about what would follow. When asked about whether Pixar would do 2D, he said he didn’t think Pixar would go that route, but he was excited about the other Disney studios returning to such things, particularly with John Lasseter overseeing things now across Disney. Questions were also asked about Pixar doing a joint live action film with others, which seemed to be mostly wishful thinking, as Dylan said it was news to him, and that he’d definitely be signing up for it were it actually true. But it would seem it’s not.
Dylan did a great job of enthusing the audience over Pixar, and was a great guest to have at the premiere. Altogether it made for a great few hours of Pixar love. The Edinburgh International Film Festival is also polling audiences as they leave film screenings to vote via a card handed out on how many stars you’d give the film (up to four stars). The ‘Audience Award’ will be given to the best rated film by audiences, and as you can see on their site here, so far Ratatouille is taking the lead. Suffice to say, one of those votes was for the full four stars option, and I’m sure you can work out who gave it that.