Life of Pi reviews

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:39 am

In previous years, I also suffered from Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera and Rent denial, too. That doesn't mean Les Miz will follow in their footsteps. Unless something goes terribly wrong, I expect it to be a box office hit. But isn't it an unpromising sign that the songs and scenes Universal leaked have only been Anne Hathaway's and no one else's?
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Greg » Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:53 am

I think Sonic is suffering from Les Miz denial.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:22 am

OscarGuy wrote:I'd like to know where the hell this book even came from?


The Life of Pi is a Man Booker prize-winning novel which spent over a year on the New York Times bestsellers list in 2001-02, and according to the interwebs, sold seven million copies worldwide. Not Dragon Tatoo numbers, but not bad. And it's one of my very favorite books of the new century. I'm usually allergic to worldwide literary sensations (if a book is loved by everyone, it's a guarantee that I'll hate it) but Life of Pi is the exception, maybe because it was only a minor sensation in comparison to Harry Potter and the like. It's not really an adventure book since so much of the story is held in stasis. But if ever the term "spiritual adventure" applied, it's with this book. It's my kind of humanism, although I can imagine some cynical visigoths being turned off by it for this very reason. (It seems like the sort of book Damian would have hated, I'm guessing.) And although the protagonist is a teenager, it's very much adult literature as written (although it can appeal to so-called "young adults" much like, for example, "The Old Man and the Sea" or "Huck Finn"), with some wickedly funny barbs towards organized religion and some very intense, gruesome violence.

As much as I like the book, I was dismayed when I learned it was being made into a movie, inevitable though it was, and even more so when I learned Ang Lee was making it since he has a knack of bringing a story to a standstill, and in a way much of Life of Pi is at a standstill already. And I was furthre turned off by the previews, which looked more like a Thief of Baghdad tribute. So when the reviews came out, I was relieved. Okay, maybe the game isn't over, but to me this has the calculations of an Oscar winner: popular, much-loved book + unique plot + universal themes and story-line + excellent reviews + epic filmmaking and visuals with magnificent 3D and CGI (although the TV commercials don't look all that convincing to me) + highly respected veteran director + lingering bad feelings from Brokeback's robbery (granted, Ang Lee himself isn't exactly hurting for an Oscar, but Brokeback's loss is an ongoing PR disaster among many) = Best Picture. Of course there are many unseen variables to contend with (suppose the film flops? how will the rest of the competition fare?), but what good is a prediction if you can only make them two weeks before Oscar night? Sometimes you gotta be bold.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Sun Sep 30, 2012 10:16 pm

I'd like to know where the hell this book even came from? Everyone seems to know about it but me. I've never heard of the damned thing and maybe I've watched too many trailers in the past few years, but the trailer looks very much like a children's film.

Whether it's a children's film or not, it doesn't look like the kind of film the Academy would give a Best Picture or Best Director Oscar to. But I can see that I'm in a very small minority on this one, so I'll just bow out of the conversation entirely.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:21 pm

OscarGuy wrote:Funny. It looks like a kids movie and is being marketed like a kids movie. It may not BE one, but that will be the perception.

Except, of course, to the many millions of people who read the very famous book.

Can Ang Lee finally win best picture/best director? He's had the unenviable poor luck so far of two DGA prizes leading to just one best director trophy. This certainly sounds like a movie that hits the Academy sweet spot.

If this were a traditional/five nominee year, I'd say we have three near-certain contenders in Argo, Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook. Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Master feel more like lone director possibilities, but in today's up-to-ten environment, they'd probably both make the top list, as well. That's a pretty solid base, with half a dozen big ticket items still to come.

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Sun Sep 30, 2012 8:01 am

I've seen one version of the trailer a couple of time at the cinema over the last few weeks which focuses on just the young man and the tiger.

However, today at the cinema (I never watch trailers on-line) I saw a completely different trailer which was has a 'whole story' focus.

I'm looking forward to the film as both trailers appealed to me and neither struck me as something aimed at children.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:20 am

Funny. It looks like a kids movie and is being marketed like a kids movie. It may not BE one, but that will be the perception.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:33 am

OscarGuy wrote:When was the last time a children's-themed film won Best Picture?


I don't know, but it's irrelevent since The Life of Pi isn't children's-themed.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Sat Sep 29, 2012 7:45 am

When was the last time a children's-themed film won Best Picture? Even an ode to filmmaking like Hugo never had a chance at Best Picture.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat Sep 29, 2012 1:47 am

Game over.

Might 2012 be the year where the U.S. presidential race and the Best Picture race are two of the easiest calls in history? Okay, maybe it's too soon to say for the latter...
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Sabin » Fri Sep 28, 2012 7:53 pm

This bodes very well. Don't know why, but I was expecting to hear slightly flabbier returns from this one. Just sounds kinda wonky and dull.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Sep 28, 2012 4:02 pm

Hollywood Reporter

Life of Pi: New York Film Festival Review
11:00 AM PDT 9/28/2012 by Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line
A gorgeous and accomplished rendering of the massive best-seller.

Ang Lee achieves an admirable sense of wonder in this tall tale about a shipwrecked teenager stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.
Technology employed by sensitive hands brings to vivid life a work that would have been inconceivable onscreen until very recently in Life of Pi. That great chameleon among contemporary directors, Ang Lee, achieves an admirable sense of wonder in this tall tale about a shipwrecked teenager stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, a yarn that has been adapted from the compellingly peculiar best-seller with its beguiling preposterousness intact. Like the venerable all-purpose entertainments of Hollywood’s classical era, this exceptionally beautiful 3D production should prove not only accessible to and embraceable by all manner of audiences, signaling substantial commercial possibilities domestically and probably even moreso internationally. The Fox release is having its world premiere as the opening night attraction at the 50th New York Film Festival, with general release to follow on November 21.

Yann Martel’s 2001 novel was one of those out-of-the-blue one-shots, a book with a madly fanciful premise so deftly handled that it both won the Man Booker Prize and sold seven million copies. Part survival story, part youthful fable, part grade school spiritual rumination and assessment of humanity’s place in the animal kingdom, it’s man versus nature with a quizzically philosophical spin that’s easy to digest even for kids.

It’s not surprising that it took producer Gil Netter a decade to get the film made, as technology would not have permitted it to be realized, at least in anything close to its current form, until the last few years. Shot on location in India as well as in a giant tank in Taiwan where the open water effects scenes were made, Life of Pi is an unusual example of anything-is-possible technology put at the service of a humanistic and intimate story rather than something that smacks of a manufactured product.

The first enchantment is the town of Pondicherry, a former French colony in southern India that looks like paradise on Earth, nowhere moreso than at the zoo run by the father of young Pi. The nimble and faithful script by David Magee (Finding Neverland) packs a good deal of character and cultural background into the first half-hour, humorously sketching the odd watery and mathematical implications of the protagonist’s name, neatly relating his unconflicted adoption of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam at age 12, portraying the warm family life he enjoys with his parents and older brother and topped off with a taste of budding first love.

But hard times prompt his father to announce a move to Canada, where he will sell all the animals. A full hour is set at sea, beginning with a nocturnal storm and horrible shipwreck. When the air clears, the only survivors sharing space on a 27-foot lifeboat are Pi, an injured zebra, a maniacal hyena, a dour orangutan, a rat and, hidden from sight for a spell under a tarp, a large tiger.

Hunger and the law of the jungle assure that the population onboard is shortly reduced to two. To nonreaders of the novel, incredulity over Pi’s ability to co-exist with the tiger, which goes by the name of Richard Parker, is carefully addressed, and it’s essential that Pi proves adept at fashioning a makeshift raft that connects to the tiger’s lair by a rope.

Still, 227 days is a very long time to keep fed and maintain your wits on the open sea for both man and beast, and this floating journey is marked by ordeal (this must be the first film to present the spectacle of a seasick tiger) and startling sights, such as a sudden flurry of flying fish, luminous jellyfish setting the nighttime sea aglow, a breaching whale and another enormous storm that looks to spell the end for Pi and Richard Parker.

But the final half-hour offers an other-worldly pit stop before coming to roost in a framing story in which the adult Pi tells his tall tale to a wide-eyed writer in a literary conceit that, at the very end, spells things out rather too explicitly.

Meticulous care is evident in every aspect of the film. All three actors playing Pi are outstanding. The lion’s (or tiger’s) share of the burden falls on 17-year-old Suraj Sharma, the only human being on view for half the time, obliged to act in a vacuum and convincingly represent all the physical demands. Lee looked at 3,000 candidates for the role (deliberately avoiding Bollywood talent) and found an unknown whose emotional facility is quite impressive. Ayoush Tandon is captivating as the sponge that is young Pi, but absolutely imperative to the film’s success are the heart, lucidity and gravity Irrfan Khan provides as the grown-up Pi looking back at his experience.

Gerard Depardieu is in briefly to embody hulking menace as a nasty French cook aboard he ill-fated cargo ship.

Creating a plausible, ever-changing physical world was the first and over-arching technical challenge met by the effects team. The extra step here was rendering a tiger that would be believable in every way, from its violent movements and threatening stares to its desperate moments when, soaked through and starving, it attempts to claw its way back on board the small boat. With one passing exception—a long shot of the tiger making its way through a sea of meerkats that’s a bit off—the representation of Richard Parker is extraordinarily lifelike.

The leap of faith required for Lee to believe this could all be put up onscreen in a credible way was necessarily considerable. His fingerprints are at once invisible and yet all over the film in the tact, intelligence, curiosity and confidence that characterizes the undertaking. At all times, the film, shot by Claudio Miranda and with production design by David Gropman, is ravishing to look at, and the 3D work is discreetly powerful. Mychael Danna composed the emotionally fluent score.

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Life of Pi reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:57 pm

Variety

Life of Pi

By Justin Chang

A literal crouching tiger is merely one of many visual wonders in Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," a gently transporting work of all-ages entertainment that melds a harrowing high-seas adventure with a dreamy meditation on the very nature of storytelling. Summoning the most advanced digital-filmmaking technology to deliver the most old-fashioned kind of audience satisfaction, this exquisitely beautiful adaptation of Yann Martel's castaway saga has a sui generis quality that's never less than beguiling, even if its fable-like construction and impeccable artistry come up a bit short in terms of truly gripping, elemental drama.
Following its opening-night world premiere at the New York Film Festival, the Nov. 21-slated Fox release should find itself in exceedingly friendly B.O. waters at home and abroad. That the film was lensed in 3D should further boost its prospects, and discerning viewers will be pleased to note that the format has been used here to artistically as well as commercially productive ends.

Published in 2001, Martel's Booker Prize-winning bestseller was widely deemed unfilmable due to its allegorical thrust and, more crucially, its prolonged focus on a teenage boy and a tiger spending 227 days adrift in the Pacific. Fortunately, Lee and scribe David Magee ("Finding Neverland") have extracted the book's inherently cinematic qualities, turning Martel's vivid wildlife descriptions into a feast for the eyes; the film's sheer beauty is so overwhelming, so vibrant in its use of color, as to become almost cloying at times.

The visual lushness is apparent from the opening shots of Pondicherry, India, a former French colony where Santosh Patel (Adil Hussain) and his wife (Tabu) operate a zoo. The younger of their two sons is Piscine (played by Gautam Belur and Ayush Tandon at ages 5 and 11, respectively), a bright, curious child whose sense of mischief is tempered by his unusual reverence for God.

The humorous highlights of the boy's upbringing -- how he wisely shortens his name to Pi and becomes a devout Hindu, Christian and Muslim -- are recounted by his middle-aged, modern-day counterpart (Irrfan Khan). Dreamlike dissolves help ease the script's shifts between past and present, which feel clunky and prosaic even as they lay the groundwork for the slippery metaphysical questions that will arise later.

Fortunately, the framing device disappears almost entirely at the 40-minute mark, as the story proper starts and the picture truly begins to cast a spell. Having decided to sell the zoo and move to Canada, the Patels find themselves, along with a few remaining animals, aboard a Japanese freighter that swiftly capsizes in a thunderstorm, leaving 17-year-old Pi (Suraj Sharma) the sole human survivor as he manages to climb into a lifeboat.

It's an astonishing sequence, rendered all the more so by the lucidity of the direction; rather than resorting to herky-jerky lensing and editing, Lee uses relatively long takes, smooth cuts and seamlessly integrated f/x to navigate the viewer through the action. Even as the waves heave and roll (to especially fearsome effect in 3D), the film finds room for isolated moments of haunting poetry, such as the sight of the ship's ghostly white lights descending into the abyss.

Once the storm retreats, Pi realizes a few zoo denizens have made it onto the lifeboat, although the food chain soon dictates that the only remaining animal onboard is a ferocious 450-pound Bengal tiger, incongruously named Richard Parker. Pi realizes he's going to have to tame the tiger, a thinly veiled metaphor for his own inner beast, and as the days stretch into weeks and months, the relationship between these two unlikely companions shifts movingly, and almost imperceptibly, from mutual wariness into something as close to love as the laws of interspecies friendship can allow.

Even under such severe dramatic limitations, there's no shortage of incident, tension and surprise, even when Lee isn't rattling the audience with shots of the tiger lunging at the camera. The film's engrossing, often amusing midsection amounts to a practical illustration of survival-at-sea strategies, as Pi constructs a raft that provides some physical distance and protection from Richard Parker and finds ways to supplement his dwindling store of water and rations. Sharma, a non-pro making a terrifically engaging screen debut, underwent considerable weight fluctuations for the role, and he compellingly manifests Pi's physical sufferings while achieving a persuasive rapport with his four-legged co-star (achieved almost entirely through CGI and modeled after four actual Bengal tigers).

Lee and d.p. Claudio Miranda approach the technical challenges with similarly intense commitment. Shooting in the world's largest self-generating wave tank (with a capacity of 1.7 million gallons), they turn their visual restrictions into virtues. The nimbly circling camera is forever finding compelling angles on the action, sometimes bobbing gently above and below the water's surface, conveying a sense of perpetual motion that might test some of the more sensitive stomachs in the audience. Yet the images just as often have a classical stillness and grandeur, as in a scene of bioluminscent fish illuminating the water at night, or an otherworldly shot of the boat gliding atop the ocean's smooth, glassy surface.

In these moments, "Life of Pi" embodies its protagonist's spiritual devotion, infusing a tale of peril, isolation and loss with a genuine sense of grace and awe at the majesty of creation. The overall effect of such exalted yet artificially achieved visuals is to loose the boundaries of conventional realism and steer the picture into a magically heightened realm, immersing the viewer in the story without losing sight of the fact that a story, in fact, is all it is.

For all the splendor of the craftsmanship on display, from David Gropman's eye-popping production design to Mychael Danna's Indian-inflected score, what's missing is a certain in-the-moment urgency. Compressing nearly eight months into roughly 75 minutes of screentime is a tricky task, and one never gets a sense of the agonizing duration of Pi's experience, especially since the film tastefully sidesteps most of the raw, physically extreme details that made the novel so visceral. As much as it teems with color and creativity, "Life of Pi" could have used a bit more grit, substance and a touch of the grotesque. Even its warm-hearted plea for religious faith feels, in the end, like so much pantheistic fairy dust.

The film was reviewed from an unfinished print (identical to the version that will play NYFF) with complete end credits and excellent sound and picture quality, apart from some infrequent aspect-ratio disparities that will likely be finessed before release.


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