We’re in the midst of the Sundance Film Festival, where tiny films —or, usually, well-funded faux-indies with lots of familiar faces —get hyped, sometimes deservedly, sometimes not. Speaking of which, one film that a year ago looked like a massive crossover was this Irish musical dramedy, which largely obscures its most famous face: the one belonging to Michael Fassbender, who plays a vaguely troubled singer who fronts his avant-rock band underneath a fat papier-mache head.
But like its central musicians, it’s not a film for a mass audience. Viewed with expectations hovering around “normal,” it’s a weirdly charming (if not to say quirky) look at how bands are shaped by social media, and the damage never more dialed-up commercial awareness can do to delicate artists seeking only to ply their trade. Initially a very silly film, it definitely goes too far into darkness and pathos, only to rally with a final, unexpectedly moving final number.
Simultaneously one of the most pompous and most beautiful films ever made, Walt Disney’s opus was meant to class up a populist joint, using their name —and, briefly, Mickey Mouse —to lure the masses into gnawing on some cultural vegetables. It didn’t work, and plans for a constantly evolving franchise — with some segments dropped out for new ones every so often — were scuttled. (Six decades later “Fantasia 2000” picked up the mantle for an iffy one-off.)
What’s left, though, is some of the most beautiful animation, performed by a house working at their arguable creative zenith, one ready to show off the breadth of its powers: from pure abstraction to their usual cute animals to scary monsters to the very beginnings of the universe and infancy of the planet.
Remember when some claimed the Sony leak and subsequent almost international incident wrought by this Seth Rogen-James Franco assassination comedy was an inside job, meant to bolster box office? After making only its $40 million budget back from online rentals (impressive for the Internet, but a pittance for theatrical), it can now be streamed by anyone with an Instant subscription. So much for that theory.
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