Thursday, December 18, 2014

TEASER: Vol, a Graphic Novel

We're excited to announce the release of VOL, the new graphic novel from the Cinemologists' own Alex Lattanzi! Available now on CreateSpace and

Sunday, August 31, 2014

VLOG: Going Through the Condorman Pressbook

We took a break from putting together our latest review to take a closer look at the pressbook for the 1981 Disney classic, Condorman!

(Review coming very soon)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Habfurdo (1979)

György Kovasznai may not be a familiar name (granted, his films are just about as famous as he is outside of obscure animation circles), but his work deserves to be more widely known. A Hungarian painter and filmmaker, Kovasznai used painterly techniques to illustrate life in Budapest at the time. His animated feature Habfurdo (or Foam Bath) is a masterpiece of multi-styled animation. Delightfully unique for animation is the fact that it is a romantic musical comedy, one that works incredibly well. I was first informed of its existence by an article on Immediately watching the film on YouTube, I found it irresistible.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

WATERSHIP DOWN (1978) Available for Preorder from the Criterion Collection

We've discussed the Criterion Collection's relationship with animation before, and it looks like another chapter is unfolding in that saga. Martin Rosen's Watership Down (1978) is now available for pre-order on Criterion's iTunes page!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gravity and Robinson Crusoe on Mars: 4 Similarities

Gravity is a recent science fiction thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It was a financial smash and runaway critical success, garnering rave reviews across the board and seven Academy Awards. Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a 1964 sci-fi adventure starring Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin, relocating the action of the Daniel Defoe classic to the planet Mars.

Now I don't like to make unfair comparisons. After all, Gravity is a slick, big-budget movie with state-of-the-art special effects and two award-winning lead actors, and Robinson Crusoe on Mars is an 1960s movie with a cheesy title. What I mean to say is... Robinson Crusoe on Mars is way better.

Like, it's not even close.

Do you want inspirational schmaltz or a pet monkey? It's up to you.
Seriously though, I very much enjoyed Gravity in the theater. Though it occasionally got bogged down in sentimentality, there's a lot to like about Alfonso Cuarón's space epic in my opinion. I thought Sandra Bullock was very respectable in the lead role, the CGI was detailed and pretty, the action sequences were pulse-pounding, and the 3D was surprisingly effective.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars, however, really does take the cake, and it's one of my favorite sci-fi movies ever. The atmosphere, the sense of isolation, the compelling search for oxygen and drinking water, the wonderfully realized Martian environments, Paul Mantee's solid performance, and the capable direction of Byron Haskin all add up to the perfect late-night viewing experience. It's a bonafide classic of the genre.

"So," you may be thinking, "two good science fiction movies exist. What's the big deal?"

Well, dear inquisitive reader, allow me to inform you. Upon revisiting these two films recently, I couldn't help but draw a few rather odd parallels between them. For example...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Happy Father's Day from The Cinemologists!

From us here at The Cinemologists to you, we would like to wish everyone a happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

3 Ways Pixar Changed How I Watch Movies

Allow me to state the obvious. We at The Cinemologists love movies. I think we've made that point pretty clear by the almost 200 articles and videos we've made on the subject, but I thought I should mention it in case anyone missed the memo. Recently though, I've been thinking about where I started down that road. There were a lot of cinematic influences in my childhood, from watching Alfred Hitchcock films on public television as a tot to seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark over and over again at my grandmother's. I'm sure I'll get to writing about those experiences at some point. But, much like a lot of people my age, I grew up with the wonderful films of Pixar. The first movie I ever saw in theaters was A Bug's Life, and I just about wore out my VHS copies of the first two Toy Story films and Monster's Inc. When I was bored on summer afternoons, I'd marathon through all the special features on The Incredibles and Finding Nemo DVDs, where I learned much about the filmmaking process.

As such, these wonderful movies influenced me a lot, both as a viewer and in my ambitions as a filmmaker (which formed very early on thanks to the family VHS camcorder). With that in mind, here are three of those influences... 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lifeforce (1985)

A recent, and wonderful, Cinemologists discovery is Beaux Arts Video on the corner of 10th and Spruce in Center City, Philadelphia.  Currently, it is mostly an antique store, however, the store houses around 10,000 VHS tapes in a backroom but only about a couple hundred videos actually in the store itself, and more are always being put out.  The videos are all very cheap so, a few days ago I grabbed myself five.  Two of them I watched the following night with some friends. A great time was had and I'd like to quickly go over the first film I watched. (At a later date we will get to talking about the whole video store experience, so stay tuned for that!)

Lifeforce is one of those movies where even looking at the trailer, I knew I would at least appreciate it.  I suspected that I would be amazed by it and, more than that, I was blown away.  So many moments in this film caused my jaw to drop.  It definitely has all the makings of cult classic and yet it feels like a blockbuster, one that takes plenty of risks.  The film itself hits the ground running with a shuttle mission to Haley's Comet and soon we are introduced to the stunning, vast interior of an alien ship with corpses of bat creatures floating throughout, Henry Mancini's brilliant score vaulting my imagination into overdrive.  Astronauts find three human beings in suspended animation and bring them back, not knowing what they will unleash onto Earth.  The film could have gone in so many different directions from there and, in some ways, it does.  Mostly it's a vampire film, but it also manages to include sci-fi, zombie elements, and even a Van Helsing type character (Frank Finlay), who probably would have been played by Peter Cushing had the film been made a decade earlier.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why You Should Still Watch The Oscars (Even If You Hate Them)

The 86th Annual Academy Awards are still weeks away, but bloggers and critics everywhere have taken it upon themselves to make predictions, bash the "undeserving" nominees, defend the select handful of films they enjoyed, and relentlessly attack the Academy for "losing its way". This is nothing new, as the Oscars have, at least through most of my lifetime, been a subject of heated scrutiny that comes from both sides of the spectrum. For purposes of convenience, I'll label one of those sides "film people" and the other side "movie people".

Wes Anderson on the set
of "Moonrise Kingdom"

Film people consist of anyone who watches, writes, produces, directs, studies, and consumes cinema as an art form. They see the cultural importance of making better, more daring stories told in more creative and unexpected ways; and how the writing, cinematography, actors, special effects, etc. lend themselves to the bigger, more beautiful picture. They expect a takeaway.

Christopher Nolan on the set of
"The Dark Knight Rises"

Movie people love movies (think summer blockbusters). They watch to be entertained and to be impressed and view film not so much as an art form, but as a perpetually changing fad that needs to be kept up with in order to stay relevant. As opposed to film people, movie people expect an experience or an escape - but only for the amount of time that the film runs.

These are both gross generalizations, but when it comes down to peoples' criticisms of The Academy Awards, it's important to know that not all criticisms have equal footing. Film people and movie people both watch the awards with different expectations in mind, and because of that their complaints are often very different. So while we hear all of these complaints and suggestions coming from both sides of the spectrum, how are we (and by we, I mean the Academy) supposed to remedy them? It's like having your mom yell at you to clean the house and then twenty minutes later having your dad yell at you for hiding everything you put away while cleaning.

So, keeping that in mind, let's get to the point: What's wrong with the Oscars?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989)

Whenever I first started college, a lot of my friends and fellow film students and I began revisiting films that we had seen as little kids, but had since long forgotten. The list of hazy childhood nostalgia ranged from The Iron Giant, Disney’s The Black Cauldron, and even to such obscure depths as the 1970’s adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (AKA nightmare-fuel). The list goes on and on, but what all of these films had in common was the overall lasting impression of disturbing us enough to eventually push them out of the forefronts of our memories. Until now.

All of a sudden, I started to piece together snapshots of things I thought I remembered about a movie that I was fairly convinced was real. Flying beds. A princess. Dancing toys. A supernatural circus. I became fairly certain that all of these psuedo-memories belonged to one film - but which one?

Luckily I live in the age of the internet, where such vague google searches as “kids’ film with floating beds” are met with immediate answers. My quest did not take long, as I instantly encountered forums where hundreds of other young adults were asking the same sorts of questions. Apparently a great multitude of us were being regularly haunted by memories of the same movie. The culprit? Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

9 Animated Movies We Want in the Criterion Collection

Today Alex discusses that wonderful home video company the Criterion Collection and their relationship with animation over the years, before counting down nine animated films that should be in the Collection!


This was a review that took us quite a while to put together, and a number of events changed the final video from what we had originally planned. When we started work on it back in October, Criterion had not yet announced that they were releasing Fantastic Mr. Fox, and so integrating that into the topic was a necessity.

We also had envisioned doing a big collaborative segment, incorporating our thoughts on the Criterion Collection and animation with those of other cinematically-minded bloggers and YouTube people. However, that sadly fell through, due entirely to our own mismanagement and the fact that we had the great idea of launching such a collaboration right in the middle of the busiest time of year for most people (November and December). With that said, the talented reviewers we approached were all incredibly friendly and supportive, and Dean of DVD (a really cool presence on YouTube) put together an excellent video segment intended for this part of the review.

Below is Dean of DVD's video presented in its entirety. This works really well as a thoughtful contrast to our more "pro-animation" stance in the final video and cites a lot of great points as to why Criterion may have stayed away from animation for so long. Check it out!

As a bonus, below are a couple more unedited portions from our first attempt, showing among other things Y2K reporting on the Criterion Collection's vaguely positive response to our email on animation (the announcement of Fantastic Mr. Fox made this part somewhat out-of-date and redundant in the final version). However, any chance to show off more of Y2K's reporting shtick must be seized.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

You know, all it takes is a little time-travel to show you what really matters...

When I was a freshman in college, I began developing an interest in silent film. That pioneering time in film-making always intrigued me, but back then I had only seen a few movies from the era and never on the big screen. At the time, I was watching a wonderful documentary series called Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film. This show went into great detail about not only the movies themselves and their productions, but also the experience of seeing a silent film in the theater. I thrilled to tales about picture palaces, militarily-efficient ushers, and the transporting power of the silent motion picture.

Around the same time, I coincidentally heard of a silent film screening put on by The Secret Cinema (a repertory film organization in the Philadelphia area) and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology of all things. The film they were showing was The Thief of Bagdad. I hadn't heard too much about it, save that it was from 1924 and starred Douglas Fairbanks Sr., but the opportunity to see such a film on the big screen was too exciting to pass up. And that's not to mention the promise of a live organist!

When we got there, my friend Y2K and I  found our seats in the luxurious theater-room. The lights dimmed, and the magnificent sound of a film projector kicking into gear greeted our excited ears. The organist may have disappeared into the darkness, but his music remained, fused to the images projected on the screen. The film began, and we were introduced to Douglas Fairbanks's thief character.

Let me tell you: the effortless way Fairbanks moved across the screen astounded me. He never walked,  ran or jumped. He flew. Flew with a grace like you wouldn't believe. Bounding from the bottoms of water-wells to the tops of roofs, he made every gorgeous set in the film his playground. His incredible stunts caused me and my fellow viewers to gasp in amazement, and he made it all seem so easy. I began to root for him straight away.

Here's the plot...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Destino: Unconventional Disney

I'm surprised I haven't made any mention of the short film Destino (1946-2003) here before.  If you're not familiar, Destino was a short film originally begun between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali, and because of different reasons from budget to Dali's crazy imagination, it never saw itself developed to any more than a few seconds of footage.  The incredible designs made by Dali for the project were later rediscovered by Roy Disney and it was decided to finish the short.  I've spent many a time trying to convince people of its worth.  It certainly must be appreciated, for some people, including Disney itself seem to have trouble grasping the fact that this beautiful, surreal work of animated art was birthed in their studios. Disney apparently, at first, did not know what to do with this odd-one-out of a short film. The marketablility of Dali in today's culture brings vast sums of money, as can be seen with any major Dali exhibit of the past decade-or-so. This marketing prospect should appeal especially to Disney, since they seem to be the king-pins of mass marketing. Destino was put on the Blu-ray of Fantasia 2000, which was packaged with Fantasia.  This seemed like the logical step, since Destino was originally intended for release in a musical package film akin to Fantasia.  Also, quite fortunately, we were given a splendid documentary on the making of the film, one which is a real pleasure to watch.  However, the home video release didn't get much press, neither did the film when it was circulating thears and festivals, winning numerous awards. Nothing seems to be able to convince Disney now that Destino (and films of its kind) are worth making more of. 
Speaking of Dali's friendship with Disney, it was certainly considered odd at the time, as well as today. But they were both artists and they knew what they wanted. Reacting to the criticism of the collaboration, Walt Disney said that "the thing I hate most is people trying to keep me in well worn grooves." The Disney of today has certainly worn those grooves to the ground. Walt Disney never wanted to limit the kind of films he made, if one watches the old animated or live action films produced during his lifetime one will see their accessibility to any generation or age grouping. Certainly the Disney films made today are enjoyed by many, but they do not push the envelope in terms of story and material as Walt did during his life. The Disney of today should not be afraid to follow suit, as they seem to be, for I do not see any sign of real proactivity of the kind exemplified by Destino
If there are to be more shorts, or even a feature film, akin in nature to Destino then there must be shown to the Disney company an interest in these kind of productions that really further the art of animation in America beyond something to be shelved as "kid's entertainment".  The way animation has been treated in many countries indicates a kind of unwillingness to elevate it completely alongside live action.  Certain attempts to make it "adult", like Heavy Metal (1980), fall flat on their faces because, in such a fervor to not be considered kiddy fare, they push the sex and violence to a point where it becomes juvenile.  I feel like this is why there are so few animated films that progress beyond the family market and actually do well in the theaters.  This is one of my great passions, to see animation properly appreciated, and perhaps, someday, I will have the chance to help accomplish that.