March 29, 2002

Ice Age

Ice Age is a Disney movie for the 21st century- even if it’s not a Disney movie. Ice Age takes the conventions, story, and characters from the Disney playbook and gives them a tweak, thanks to Blue Sky, a computer animation studio (via Fox animation).

While the new generation of animated films like Shrek and Monsters, Inc. differ from old-school Disney movies in their form (computer animation) and content (irony, pop culture), Ice Age feels like a Disney movie without looking like one.

iceageThe three lead voices are all comedians who have gone Hollywood. Ray Romano, comedy king of suburban television (now that Home Improvement is off the air), plays Manfred the mammoth as a grumpy, overburdened soccer dad after a long trip in the minivan with too many bratty kids. John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge!), the spastic, twitchy, eccentric, diminutive NY comic, plays the chatterbox sloth Sid with a heart of gold and a bad accent- the character’s teeth clearly inhibit some vocal sounds. Denis Leary, the chain smoking, anti-PC, counter-establishment comic, plays the carnivorous saber-tooth tiger Diego, with a low-octave rumble only unfiltered Luckies can produce.

The film is an odd-couple road trip, as this threesome are forced together to return a lost infant to its family. They trek across an almost monchrome snowscape (nicely rendered by Blue Sky- the snowflakes look as good as the Himalayas sequence in Monsters, Inc.), and take a roller-coaster slide through a glacier, reminiscent of Aladdin's magic carpet ride and Indiana Jones's escape from the Temple of Doom. Just imagine a wooly mammoth sliding down an ice chute, and you can understand why I almost choked to death on my popcorn.

The story doesn't break any new ground. The conflict is familiar, and the characters develop in safe and comfortable ways. We know everyone has a backstory, and while the kids may not see them coming, the adults will be able to safely predict the turns of the plot.

Most computer generated films deal with bugs or toys, with organic characters as supporting roles only. In contrast, Ice Age’s principal characters are all covered in fur. The film feels like it was created with watercolors and charcoal rather than plastic. Blue Sky has taken the step PDI-DreamWorks and Pixar haven’t taken yet- challenging the medium. Creating plastics, bugs, and monsters are easy in CGI- the surfaces are easy to create, when compared to fur and skin.

Ice Age is a pleasant, amusing movie for parents and kids to enjoy. Computer-animated films will not truly compete with ink-and cel animation until they successfully trancend the limitations of the medium. Ice Age pushes those limitations in its form, if not its content.

March 25, 2002

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: The 20th Anniversary

etThis new revision mucks about with my childhood nostalgia. (Showcase Cinemas Randolph)

March 24, 2002

078 Two Tall Ones

Named after two tall beers!
  1. Stevie Ray Vaughn "Pride and Joy" [unplugged]
  2. Bob Dylan "Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys
  3. J. Geils Band "Angel In Blue"
  4. The Jayhawks "Take Me With You (When You Go)"
  5. Ryan Adams "Answering Bell"
  6. Maria McKee "Opelousas (Sweet Relief)" McKee is the former lead singer of Lone Justice. This is a Victoria Williams cover for the benefit album Sweet Relief.
  7. Bruce Hornsby "Walk In The Sun" So melancholy! Such Nineties Drums!
  8. John Wesley Harding "Movie Of Your Life" JWH sounds so much like Elvis Costello it's unreal. This is a rewrite of "Everyday I Write The Book" with a movie metaphor.
  9. Barenaked Ladies "Box Set" written from the perspective of a cynical 1970s "classic" rocker...on BNL's debut album.
  10. Chris Isaak "Please"
  11. John Hiatt "Riding With The King"
  12. ZZ Top "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide"
  13. Liz Phair "Baby Got Going" a inventive hybrid of the old-school "train song" style, complete with harmonica accompaniment, and a very 1990s vibe (modern lyrical flourishes, synthesizer bassline) from Whitechocolatespaceegg
  14. Pete Townshend "Jools & Jim"
  15. Talking Heads "Girlfriend Is Better"
  16. Smithereens "A Girl Like You"
  17. Wilco "Monday"
  18. Indigo Girls "Peace Tonight"
  19. 10,000 Maniacs "Few & Far Between"
Conceived March 15, 2002; Recorded March 24, 2002

March 10, 2002

George Harrison: Nat's Picks

I've been watching the George Harrison documentary "Living In The Material World" and it has inspired me to unearth this mix I assembled circa 2002. I was happy to find a hi-res photo of "Rocky", George's handpainted Stratocaster, to use as the cover art.
  1. "I Want To Tell You"
  2. "Old Brown Shoe"
  3. "Taxman"
  4. "Handle With Care"
  5. "All Things Must Pass" (demo)
  6. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (demo)
  7. "If I Needed Someone"
  8. "Something"
  9. "What Is Life"
  10. "Heading For The Light"
  11. "Not Guilty"
  12. "Piggies"
  13. "When We Was Fab"
  14. "Cloud Nine" (live with Eric Clapton & Band)
  15. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
  16. "Here Comes The Sun"
  17. "My Sweet Lord"
  18. "All Those Years Ago"
  19. "Savoy Truffle"
  20. "Devil's Radio"
  21. "Roll Over Beethoven"