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December 23, 2009


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I found the whole thing terrifically creepy. I seem to be very susceptible to the "uncanny valley" effect. Motion capture's close-but-not-close-enough look worked perfectly for Gollum in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films, but makes for very disturbing human characters.

I felt the same way, watching Zemeckis's other motion-capture movie, Polar Express. If I had seen that one as a kid, it'd have given me nightmares.

You may want to avoid Christmas Carol, then. Little Fan looks like she's a female version of the horror movie doll, what's its name, Chucky? Like she's about to open her mouth wide to reveal BIG SHARP TEETH and fasten them on young Scrooge's throat and shake him like a terrier...ahem. Motion capture faces, very disturbing, yes.

I skipped Polar Express because of this.

I'm not willing to ever watch A Christmas Carol again. I don't like the plot and nobody seems to be better than that.

I've never read Dickens's original, but I've seen most of the known adaptations. My favorite remains the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim. Speaking of which, what did you think of that one's rendition of Fezziwig's ball?

Haven't seen it, so don't know!

I'm partial to Patrick Stewart's one-man theatrical version.

I liked the Alastair Sim a lot, but it's so long since I've seen it that I have no opinion on the dance material (and indeed, no memory if it). It was on TV in the 1970s and kicked off an Alastair Sim phase where I was watching anything that came by which he was in.

I saw the Patrick Stewart live here - he did a one-off as a benefit for Shakespeare Santa Cruz. The performance surmounted various technical difficulties and was quite compelling.

If you click here, you'll be taken to YouTube. Sim's version of Fezziwig's ball starts at the 3:08minute point.

It's interesting that you mention the name of Sir Roger de Coverley. I've been hunting down the character (not the dance*) since we came here and I happened upon an old copy of The Roger de Coverley Papers in the for-show books in the shelves at the inn we stayed at coming to town. They were pieces from The Spectator. I looked all over for a copy at one of the used book stores in town. I sometimes think I might just go back to the hotel and ask if they'll sell me theirs; it's a nice little copy. I did finally get a selection of the stories from good old Project Gutenberg, so I at least have some to read. I can put them on my Sony Reader, I guess.

*The Complete Dancing Master has a piece called "Sir Roger" and another called "Roger of Coverley." I imagine the latter might be the one that was used in the movie, but they may both be named for the character, who was quite popular in, and after, his day.

That (Sims version) is actually a pretty good representation of Sir Roger de Coverley, though once again they've got the set improper (men on the women's side and vice-versa). The actual dance figures are quite good and the liveliness is very good. That's what most Jane Austen-film dance scenes should look like, and don't.

If you mean the one in later editions of Playford (here), then I believe that is the same tune, but the dance figures given are not the ones they were using at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. I wrote an article about the latter figures on my dance blog here, if you want details. And yes, the tunes are probably named for the character.

The answer to your question, "Why motion capture?", is pretty much "Because Robert Zemeckis". He's apparently made some sort of philosophical commitment to make all his films that way from now on.

Hopefully that will mean more work for my friend Matt.

Paul A... It's a good thing the technology wasn't ready in 1997 otherwise Zemeckis would have used motion capture for Contact.

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