maxmary

I’m not that fascinated by contemporary animated films. I love what Aardman Animation does (Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep), but aside from that, most animation of today leaves me yearning for the non-computerized animation of the past…where tedious work was done all by hand to bring to life a spectacular finished product. This is why when a colleague recommended an animated film for adults and older kids entitled Mary and Max, I was highly skeptical. And, boy was I surprised at what awaited me.

Mary and Max is done in the “Claymation” style of animation, meaning CLAY animation. Claymation has advanced since the days of watching Davey and Goliath in grammar school (if you are not familiar with D&G’s stop-motion style of Claymation, don’t worry – it was not worth remembering). This movie’s animation, in addition to the sweet, touching story, is most definitely worth remembering, and even savoring. Mary and Max are both endearing characters that will stay with you for a long time. I do tend to gravitate towards holding “sad sack” characters in higher esteem…Eeyore was always my favorite Pooh character, as well as the Looney Tunes’ Elmer Fudd, and the ever-pathetic Dopey, the silent dwarf. Mary and Max both fall into that category…each being sad, lonely and lost in their own unhappy worlds.

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BEFORE-MIDNIGHT-stills

The third and last (?) in the Richard Linklater directed and Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke starring series, Before Midnight again features more dialogue and banter between characters than plot. But, after three movies, we are used to that and we know these characters so well, we pretty much know what they are going to say and do. Not that this is a good or bad thing…but it’s comfortable. Like an old pair of slippers, these films have charmed us, endeared us, and romanced us. A little refresher on the series: Before Sunrise (1995) is set in Vienna and has Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) meeting on a train and taking a risk by spending the whole day with each other. They talked and walked and laughed and talked and walked and laughed some more. As they fell in love, so did we with them.

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BY FAR the best Romeo and Juliet adaptation out there, this film is a classic for The Bard himself would be proud of. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring two then-unknown teenage actors as the star-crossed lovers, this movie oozes sensuality, humor and utter despair. Set, as the play is, in Verona, Italy, Romeo Montague meets Juliet Capulet and they fall in love at first sight. One MAJOR problem is that the Montagues and the Capulets are major enemies. We all know the rest of the story…what’s special here is the way Zeffirelli captures the passion and the intensity of the romance. And by using teenagers, we focus on what their young, impulsive relationship might really have been like. After-all, no one is more impulsive than an adolescent. And, then there is the music Zeffirelli picked (probably the most famous part of the movie) and the way he shot the film with such lush colors and muted lighting. Basically, if you’ve never seen an adaption of this story, this is the one to watch. And if you have seen others, this one will surpass all!

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Not being the biggest fan of multiple vignette movies, I didn’t have high expectations here. I find that usually, in vignette ensemble movies like this one, ala Short Cuts, Crash, I get so upset with one story that no matter what is happening in the others, I lose interest in the whole thing. But, this had such a great cast, how could I pass it up? And, thankfully, it’s MUCH sweeter and more enjoyable than I expected. The storylines are all pretty much what you would expect from a Garry Marshall-directed romantic comedy. They are all about love in its various forms…broken love, falling in love, old love, love that’s not really love at all, friendship love, etc. The sweetest storyline would have to be the two friends who THINK that are having great fortune in the love department. Then, all of a sudden, one of the relationships crashes and the other soon does as well. The friends come together to find solace in each other and end up finding love as well. Also, the plotline with an older couple (played by Marshall rom com regular Hector Elizondo and the fabulous Shirley MacLaine) finding their way back together after a past betrayal is heartfelt and endearing. Basically, this film lives up to its goal…to make us all feel like going out and falling in love! If only it were that easy…

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