Animation Short Films Best Animation Online Portal IContent Media Platform Sun, 17 Nov 2019 11:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Animation Short Films 32 32 140865691 Sunday Reading: Legendary Hoaxes | The New Yorker Sun, 17 Nov 2019 11:00:00 +0000

Stories of hoaxes fascinate and outrage us; when we’re tracing the genesis of a mysterious tale, we often become less skeptical and more willing to believe in implausible narratives. This week, we’re bringing you a selection of stories about intriguing and legendary hoaxes. In “The Jefferson Bottles,” Patrick Radden Keefe examines how one man was able to amass an unimaginable collection of rare and fine wines. In “Fantasia for Piano,” Mark Singer writes about the mystery behind the pianist Joyce Hatto’s astonishing music career. St. Clair McKelway chronicles the life of a Brooklyn man who assumed multiple identities over several decades, and Judith Thurman recounts a scandal involving an Italian tabloid and a counterfeit interview with the novelist Philip Roth. In “Dutch Master,” Peter Schjeldahl explores the tale of Han van Meegeren, one of the boldest art forgers in history. Finally, in “Friend Game,” Lauren Collins reports on an online hoax that ended in tragedy for a teen-ager in the Midwest. We hope that these tales bring a sense of unnerving adventure to your fall weekend.

David Remnick

The Jefferson Bottles

How could one collector find so much rare fine wine?

Fantasia for Piano

Joyce Hatto’s incredible career.

The Big Little Man from Brooklyn

Stanley Clifford Weyman impersonated everyone from a doctor to an official with the U.S. State Department. How did he do it?

Friend Game

Behind the online hoax that led to a girl’s suicide.

Dutch Master

The art forger who became a national hero.

Counterfeit Roth

Fake interviews with famous novelists and the Italian freelancer who fabricated them.

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‘S.N.L.’ Turns Impeachment Inquiry Into a Soap Opera Starring Jon Hamm Sun, 17 Nov 2019 08:14:00 +0000

You knew that “Saturday Night Live” would tackle the impeachment inquiry into President Trump in its opening sketch this week, and that it would include an unannounced appearance from a celebrity ringer. (This time it was Jon Hamm as William B. Taylor Jr., the top United States diplomat to Ukraine). But were you expecting it in the form of a melodramatic daytime soap opera?

This weekend’s “S.N.L.” broadcast, which featured Harry Styles as its host and musical guest, began with a voice-over lamenting the fact that this week’s impeachment hearings were criticized by the news media as “‘lacking in pizzazz,’ ‘dull’ and ‘not ‘The Masked Singer.’”

“So to make sure people are paying attention,” the voice-over continued, “we now present the hearings in a way that underscores how scandalous these revelations really are.”

Thus began “Days of Our Impeachment,” a soap opera parody that featured Alex Moffat as Adam Schiff, Mikey Day as Jim Jordan and Cecily Strong as Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine. As the announcer explained, “the only thing at stake is democracy.”

Strong began by testifying, “I’m only here today because I was the target of a smear campaign by President Trump and Rudy Giuliani that left me publicly humiliated and without a job.”

Day retorted: “Enough! This witness is clearly here because she loves attention.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Strong. “I love the glamour and the spotlight. That’s why I spent my career in Ukraine and Somalia.”

Kate McKinnon appeared in her recurring role as Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. “I’ve got an insurance policy in case the president turns against me,” she explained. “I’m going to die in a mysterious boat explosion.”

Hamm asked her, “So you’re going to fake your own death?”

“Oh, I can fake it?” McKinnon replied. “Oh, great, I’ll do that.”

The parade of impressions continued with Beck Bennett as the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell (“The Senate has voted. Acquitted”); Kyle Mooney as Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union; Pete Davidson as the lawyer Michael Avenatti (“You haven’t seen the last of … who am I playing again?” Davidson said); and even Kenan Thompson as the Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, who was suspended indefinitely from the N.F.L. for pulling off an opposing quarterback’s helmet and striking him with it. (“President Trump just pardoned me, too, for the war crimes. He said I could bring a helmet to Afghanistan and just go nuts.”)

Melissa Villaseñor appeared as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who in the sketch was implied to be in a steamy affair with Taylor. “I didn’t expect to see you here,” Hamm’s Taylor said to her.

“And I didn’t expect you to be such a low-key daddy,” Villaseñor replied.

Over at the “Weekend Update” desk, the anchors, Colin Jost and Michael Che, continued to riff on the impeachment inquiry hearings.


Former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified yesterday at the impeachment hearing, and you know she made Trump nervous because he tweeted this during her testimony: “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” Well, as long as we’re talking about track records, Trump started off in Atlantic City. How did that go? Even Fox News thought attacking Yovanovitch was a bad move. [Video plays of the Fox News personality Kennedy saying, “It makes him look like a big, dumb baby”]. And that’s what they’re saying on his favorite channel. That’s like if your kid turned on Nickelodeon and Dora was like, “Hey, you’ll never learn to read, fatty.”


That impeachment hearing was crazy. I was watching it at home, like we were supposed to, and I was like, “What?” I didn’t watch it per se, but I got the gist of it, just now, when you were talking about it. Can I be honest? I don’t think I care if Donald Trump is actually guilty. I just want something to happen to him. O.K., hypothetically, if you found out for a fact that Donald Trump was actually innocent but they were sending him to jail anyway, would you mind?

McKinnon reprised her role as Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, who was quizzed by Jost about Sessions’s plans to pursue a Senate seat in Alabama and about a kickoff campaign video that has been criticized as overly deferential to the president. “Don’t forget, I was the very first person to endorse Mr. Trump,” McKinnon said. “I’m a pioneer, like Neil Armstrong. Only instead of flying to the moon, I dug straight down to hell.”

Over the course of her exchange with Jost, McKinnon continued to record more campaign statements that groveled before the president. (“When you called animal control on me, I just got right in that little cage,” she said.)

Finally, Jost asked her: “Where is your dignity? How do you sleep at night?”

McKinnon answered: “Why would I sleep at night? That’s when everybody throws out their apple cores.”

Styles was featured in this segment about a British intern and his dismayed co-workers (including Thompson and Ego Nwodim), who try to make clear to him that he is taking on more than he realizes when he volunteers to buy Popeyes chicken sandwiches for the office.

“So you want to go to a Popeyes, alone, in the middle of lunch rush, then buy up all the chicken sandwiches?” Nwodim asked him.

Styles said that, if necessary, he would raise his voice, “even if the cashier’s a woman.” To which Chris Redd, playing a janitor, replied, “Son, I don’t even know you, but I don’t think I can let you do this.”

After Styles voiced a few more bad ideas, like wearing a big backpack and a long coat for the pickup, Thompson pulled him aside: “I’ve got to level with you,” he said. “There’s not many things in this country where our people get first dibs, but the Popeyes chicken sandwich, that’s one of them.”

“Imagine if I went to a Whole Foods,” Nwodim added, “and bought up all those White Claw seltzers you all like.”

It may not be immediately clear what this segment featuring Aidy Bryant as a newly single woman named Joan is about, but give it a moment to reveal itself for what it is: a song in which Bryant announces that her new boyfriend is her dog, a 12-pound Chihuahua named Doug.

Not weird enough? Watch as Bryant’s fantasy goes to the next level and Doug is transformed into Styles, who serenades her in appreciation and is astonishingly committed as he acts out dog-like behavior (like eating out of a garbage can and cowering in fear at a vacuum cleaner).

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My second animation! Sun, 17 Nov 2019 02:37:20 +0000

My second animation!

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Disney’s Team On How They Approached The Story, Design, And Animation Sun, 17 Nov 2019 00:16:20 +0000

Story and characters

With the original film’s immense success came huge pressure to take the sequel in certain directions. The team made a concerted effort to ignore that. As co-director Jennifer Lee tells Slashfilm, “If we don’t do it true to where the characters are right now, who they are, you’ll feel the lack of authenticity.”

At the outset, Lee spent months writing journals in the characters’ voices, as a way to explore how they might develop after the first film’s happy ending. The results were revelatory, Lee explains to Collider:

There are these things that come back, that you’ve forgotten. We learned, very much for Elsa, that she didn’t know what it was like to be accepted. She’d never experienced that … And wow, that’s a place to start … And then, for Anna, having a character who was fearless and had nothing to lose for our first film, and now she’s at a place where she has everything she’s ever wanted, but in that place, has the fear of losing that.

© Disney

Every detail of the characters was revisited, not just their personalities but also their physical appearances, as costume designer and visual development artist Brittney Lee describes to Blackfilm:

[W]e tried modifying and updating hairstyles from the first movie, and on Elsa, we were trying to update her braid to get more play in the wind. And it ultimately didn’t work because it was too close to the braid that we know, but not close enough. So it looked like a mistake. And we knew that, so we knew the audience would feel that. So we decided to go with her original braid, but there’s an extensive amount of testing that’s done, putting them through their paces. There’s something called a “rollercoaster test,” and that’s more for the short hair characters like Kristoff. You basically have their face in front of you, and it looks like are locked in a camera right on them as they go through a rollercoaster. And that’s meant to show you where the gaps are in their hairstyles and where we need to finesse more.

During script development, another talking point was the ways in which — and the extent to which — magical elements would feature in the story. As Lee tells Collider:

I think the thing that really spoke to me was this notion of Elsa getting to understand that her powers come from nature … Originally, there were very few magical creatures. The elements were a tug of war. And then, the breakthrough in the story, to really look at Elsa, as she learns about her magic and confronts her magic, and these antagonistic forces that keep driving her forward were magical, that felt really great.

Research took the team to Norway, Finland, and Iceland. The landscapes of Scandinavia inspired locations in the film like the Dark Sea. The general sense of adventure — particularly during a hazardous hike in Iceland — fed into the narrative, as Lee recalls to

This was this incredible land that was alive. It could kill you at any turn … We realized we’re like Anna and Elsa on the trip [to Iceland] … A lot of story in terms of Elsa’s journey came out well on that trip.

More than in the original, nature itself is personified and integrated in the storyline. Normand Lemay, the head of story, discusses the film’s enchanted forest with

There was always this idea of this symbolism of the forest as a place of transformation … When we meet those characters now, who are three years older in their early 20s, [there’s] this idea of a pivotal change, this big moment in most people’s lives where big decisions are to be made and everything seems to be at stake … So having the forest as this setting of change felt right.

© Disney

Kristen Bell, who voices Anna, singles out another aspect of the film’s characterization. As she tells The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon:

The thing I think I’m proudest of [is] the way that they represented Kristoff. In the first one, it’s like two females, it’s great. But in the second movie Kristoff has a song that is going to blow your mind … it’s about his big feelings for Anna. Little boys don’t often see representation of other boys having really big loving feelings.

Animation and VFX

The team stresses that this production called for close collaboration between departments, not least because of the unprecedented challenges posed by elemental characters like Nokk the water horse and Gale the wind spirit. Screen Rant quotes animation supervisor Svetla Radivoeva:

You usually stay in the bubble of animation or bubble of effects. But it was interesting to come out of that and start conversations with our colleagues and learn more about each other. The more you learn about them and their work, the more you can become a better animator, knowing what they’re looking for and what they’re aware of.

© Disney

Steve Goldberg, vfx supervisor, elaborates on Gale’s design in an interview with Befores & Afters. He says that the team developed a new tool for Maya, which they named Swoop:

In the past, wind has been something just the [vfx] department does. But in our film, it’s a character … We ended up having our technology department create a wonderful tool that allowed for a real-time interaction with curves in space. And you could see how things were traveling on that all in real time. It was really easy and intuitive to edit. You could change the shape of it. You could change the timing of it and get feedback, all in real time.

Goldberg also talks about the approach to Nokk. The character was developed in tandem by the art and vfx departments: the former focused on designing something that looked beautiful and fit the story, while the latter ensured that the water that makes up the Nokk’s body moves in a plausible way. He outlines the vfx team’s approach to water dynamics:

We started out with the fluid [simulation] … We ended up having a cloth sim going through our tech anim department and feeding that into [vfx]. And then as the water would break apart, coming off the mane, that’s where [vfx] go ahead [and] break it apart into some larger water droplets and smaller water droplets. And then into a fine mist. Then in motion you really buy that it’s flowing water.

© Disney

Erin Ramos, another vfx supervisor, notes that the water simulations on Frozen 2 are far more elaborate than in Disney’s 2016 feature Moana. As she says in the Screen Rant article:

I think Moana, the challenge was just getting the water to feel very gentle. It’s actually pretty hard to tame simulations. But then for this, just getting the right size of these waves, getting the scale — nailing that was the big challenge here.

Technological progress enables more photorealistic natural effects than ever before. But Frozen 2 doesn’t aspire to be Jon Favreau’s The Lion King: its characters are relatively cartoonish, and this imposes rules on the rest of the design, as co-director Chris Buck tells Slashfilm:

Sometimes the computer can make things so realistic that [the marriage with the characters] doesn’t quite work. So we do have to pull back, and there’s a stylization that happens with any of our elements like that, just to make sure our character still fits in that world.

Animation supervisor Trent Correy echoes Buck’s comments, telling Screen Rant that realism wasn’t always the guiding principle:

Salamanders move very slow. And we wanted a little more speed with the salamander [character]. So, I looked at a ton of different reference of iguanas, lizards, basically anything. But, really, I mean, it’s such a fun, cute, cartoony character. A lot of it just kind of came from the heads of the animators. There wasn’t a ton of reference used.

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Review: Bauschian Mortal Themes With a Light Touch Sat, 16 Nov 2019 16:24:44 +0000

A quizzical-looking man removes his clothes and lies on his back. He might be sunbathing, except that he appears to be in a graveyard. Another man covers him with a shroudlike white sheet. Then a third man drops a thin panel, displacing air that blows the sheet away. This exposes the quizzical-looking man, but only briefly, until the second man vehemently covers him again.

This sequence repeats many times at the start of and throughout “The Great Tamer,” an adroit dance-theater work by the Greek director Dimitris Papaionnou that had its New York debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Thursday. The sense of circularity, at once fated and capricious, proves representative, as do the intimations of mortality. But what the sequence establishes most distinctively is a light, comic tone. Like the sheet, this work floats.

Mr. Papaionnou has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in Greece, but if he is known to New York audiences at all it is probably as the first choreographer to create a new full-length work for Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal since her death. That 2018 piece, “Since She,” not yet performed here, was reportedly lacking in Bauschian existential comedy. “The Great Tamer,” made in 2017, is not.

It is close kin to one kind of Bauschian dance-theater: a dreamlike succession of vignettes, sometimes connected by associative logic, sometimes not, but almost never including any conventional dance. Its generally slow pacing and painterly composition recall the work of Robert Wilson, and the sprinkling of acrobatic balances and contortion is a little cirque nouveau. The circularity, though, is echt-Bausch, as is the preoccupation with things being done to impassive people, minus the Bauschian edge of cruelty.

The set could easily be one of hers, too. It’s an uneven, sloping hill tiled with a surface of thin, removable panels. Peel one up, and you might find a body, or a body part, or a pool. It’s like a graveyard, but also like an Advent calendar.

Surprise is part of the comedy. Most of the work is accompanied by a stretched-out arrangement of Strauss’s “Blue Danube” waltz, fitting the drawn-out pacing and riverine flow of overlapping, cross-fading images and recurrent characters. But quick reveals have the impact of punch lines.

A group in black lays a nearly naked man on a table. With an instant addition of ruff collars, they become Rembrandt’s “The Anatomy Lesson.” Pushing that idea a step further, they pull out some fake guts. Then they set the table and eat them.

Sure. Why not? The light tone diffuses the pretension of this and other art-historical allusions. Although some images are spectacular (a profusion of panel-piercing arrows, a hell’s mouth filled with penises), “The Great Tamer” is less potent in substance than impressive in orchestration and execution. The 10 performers are expert puppeteers of themselves. Sometimes dressed in black with one part exposed, they combine into a single misshapen body. When that body explodes and each part crawls off on its own, much of the wit lies in how openly the trick is done.

Bodies fall apart, bodies are reassembled, as in “Frankenstein” or a vision of heaven. What remains constant here is breath: heard from the people in spacesuits that pass through, nearly seen in the final image of a man trying to keep a piece of foil aloft by blowing on it from underneath.

The Great Tamer

Through Sunday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music;

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3 Key Impeachment Developments This Week Sat, 16 Nov 2019 12:52:54 +0000

“Impeachment by its nature, it’s a political process.” “What people think is going to happen can turn out to be very different from what happens.” “Because it has to do with elected officials holding another elected official to account for their conduct.” When the framers of the Constitution created a process to remove a president from office, they were well … kind of vague. So to understand how it’s going to play out, the past is really our best guide. “I think we’re just all in for a really crazy ride.” Collectively, these New York Times reporters have covered U.S. politics for over 150 years. “I’m also a drummer in a band, so …” They’ve reported on past impeachment inquiries. “Yea, I’m lost in Senate wonderland.” And they say that the three we’ve had so far have been full of twists and turns. “The president of the United States is not guilty as charged.” In short, expect the unexpected. First, the process. Impeachment is technically only the initial stage. “Common misconceptions about impeachment are that impeachment by itself means removal from office. It doesn’t. The impeachment part of the process is only the indictment that sets up a trial.” The Constitution describes offenses that are grounds for removing the president from office as bribery, treason and — “They say high crimes and misdemeanors, which, really, is in the eye of the beholder.” “The framers didn’t give us a guidebook to it. They simply said, that the House had the responsibility for impeachment and the Senate had the responsibility for the trial.” One of the things missing from the Constitution? How an impeachment inquiry should start. And that has generally been a source of drama. Basically, anything goes. “In fact, in the Andrew Johnson case they voted to impeach him without even having drafted the articles of impeachment.” For Richard Nixon, his case started with several investigations that led to public hearings. That part of the process went on for two years, and yielded revelation after revelation, connecting Nixon to a politically-motivated burglary at D.N.C. headquarters — “… located in the Watergate office building.” — and its subsequent cover-up. “Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?” “I was aware of listening devices. Yes, sir.” “This was a shocker. Everybody in the White House recognized how damaging this could be.” As the House drafted articles of impeachment, Nixon lost the support of his party. “O.K., I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.” “I was asked to write the farewell piece that ran the morning after Nixon resigned. And this is what I wrote: The central question is how a man who won so much could have lost so much.” So for Nixon, it more or less ended after the investigations. But for Bill Clinton, that phase was just the beginning. “This is the information.” An independent counsel’s investigation into his business dealings unexpectedly turned into a very public inquiry about his personal life. “The idea that a president of the United States was having an affair with a White House intern and then a federal prosecutor was looking at that, it was just extraordinary.” That investigation led to public hearings in the House Judiciary Committee. “When the Starr Report was being delivered to Congress it was a little bit like the O.J. chase, only a political one. There were two black cars. They were being filmed live on CNN. They were heading towards the Capitol. We were watching it and a little bit agog.” Public opinion is key. And the media plays a huge part in the process. This was definitely true for Clinton. “You know it was just a crazy time. We worked in the Senate press gallery.” “All your colleagues are kind of piled on top of each other.” “We had crummy computers, the fax machine would always break. The printer would always break.” After committee hearings, the House brought formal impeachment charges. “It was very tense. I thought that the Saturday of the impeachment vote in the House was one of the most tense days I’d experienced in Washington.” And it turned out, also, full of surprises. “The day of impeachment arrived, everyone’s making very impassioned speeches about whether Bill Clinton should or should not be impeached and Livingston rises to give an argument for the House Republicans. He started to talk about how Clinton could resign.” “You, sir, may resign your post.” “And all of a sudden people start booing and saying, ‘Resign, resign’!” “So I must set the example.” “He announced he was resigning because he had had extramarital affairs and challenged President Clinton to do the only honorable thing, in his view —” “I hope President Clinton will follow.” “— to resign as well, so there was all this drama unfolding even in the midst of impeachment.” Then it went to the Senate for trial. The Constitution gets a little more specific about this part. “The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is supposed to preside over that trial.” “Rehnquist, he showed up in this robe he had made for himself, which had gold stripes on the sleeves because he liked Gilbert and Sullivan.” “The Senate is the actual jury.” “You will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws. So help you, God.” “This is a copy of the rules of the Senate for handling impeachment. They’re actually very specific.” “Meet six days a week.” “Convene at noon. The senators have to sit at their desks and remain quiet in their role as jurors. And not talk, which trust me, is going to be a problem for some of the senators who are used to talking all the time.” It’s just like a courtroom trial. There are prosecutors who present the case against the president. “That was perjury.” Only, they’re members of the House, and they’re called managers. Then the senators, or the jurors, vote. And things are still, unpredictable. “The options are guilty or not guilty. But there was one senator —” “Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania.” “Under Scottish law, there are three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty and not proved.” “— which is not a thing.” “And everybody just looks, you know, how do you even record that vote?” In the end, there were not enough votes to oust Clinton. “What’s amazing about this whole thing to me wasn’t so much the constitutional process. It was that it felt to me like the beginning of really intense partisanship, the weaponization of partisanship.” And here’s the thing: An impeachment charge has never gotten the two-thirds majority it needs in the Senate to actually oust a president from office. “So you could end up having a situation where the president is impeached, acquitted and runs for re-election and wins re-election.” And that would be a first. “This is my ticket to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. I don’t think you’ll find these on StubHub.”

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Feel like this guy is pretty underrated Sat, 16 Nov 2019 03:19:23 +0000

Feel like this guy is pretty underrated

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‘The Report’ and the Untold Story of a Senate-C.I.A. Conflict Sat, 16 Nov 2019 02:21:46 +0000

The Adam Driver film dramatizes a contentious investigation into post-911 torture. But it leaves out a tense episode that could have buried the results altogether.

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Second Trailer Unveiled For Music-Packed ‘Trolls World Tour’ Sat, 16 Nov 2019 02:04:08 +0000

In an adventure that will take them well beyond what they’ve known before, Poppy and Branch discover that they are but one of six different Troll tribes scattered over six different lands and devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop, and Rock. Their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder.

A member of hard-rock royalty, Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom), aided by her father King Thrash (Ozzy Osbourne), wants to destroy all other kinds of music to let rock reign supreme. With the fate of the world at stake, Poppy and Branch, along with their friends — Biggie (James Corden), Chenille (Caroline Hjelt), Satin (Aino Jawo), Cooper (Ron Funches), and Guy Diamond (Kunal Nayyar) — set out to visit all the other lands to unify the Trolls in harmony against Barb, who’s looking to upstage them all.

Other cast members not cited above include returning stars Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, as well as Mary J. Blige, George Clinton, and Anderson Paak (representing the Funk tribe); Kelly Clarkson, Sam Rockwell, and Flula Borg (Country); J Balvin (Reggaeton), Ester Dean (Pop), Anthony Ramos (Techno), Kenan Thompson (Hip-Hop), Jamie Dornan (Smooth Jazz), and Gustavo Dudamel and Charlyne Yi (Classical).

The sequel is directed by Walt Dohrn, who served as co-director on the original Trolls, and Gina Shay returns to produce. The film is co-directed by David P. Smith and co-produced by Kelly Cooney Cilella, both of whom worked on the first feature. Theodore Shapiro (The Devil Wears Prada, 2016’s Ghostbusters) is scoring.

Trolls World Tour opens in U.S. theaters on April 17, 2020.

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At the Boston Symphony, Andris Nelsons Still Seeks an Identity Fri, 15 Nov 2019 19:36:09 +0000

BOSTON — What is the mission of the Boston Symphony, the most generously endowed orchestra in America?

We are six seasons into Andris Nelsons’s tenure as music director of this storied ensemble, which appears at Carnegie Hall on Monday, but the answer to that question is still unclear.

When he arrived in September 2014, Mr. Nelsons, then just 35, was a young, safe, healthy pair of hands after the drama of James Levine, who had stepped down in 2011 after years of illness and cancellations.

Mr. Nelsons has led plenty of good performances — some very good — and has produced a number of fine recordings, including an ongoing Shostakovich survey that has rightly won him three Grammy Awards. Though his tenure has not been without controversy — including some frictions generated by an overhaul of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and persistent issues surrounding the orchestra’s commitment to gender parity — two years ago I wrote that “there is probably no current music director in the country I would rather hear conduct on a weekly basis than Mr. Nelsons.”

Now I am not so sure. As orchestras from Los Angeles to New York stride forward into the 21st century, and ensembles in Cleveland and Pittsburgh set new standards in the music of centuries gone by, Mr. Nelsons’s Boston Symphony seems content simply to abide. Supporting new music without really championing it, and advocating the canon without really innovating within it, his orchestra is lately taking so few programmatic and interpretive risks that it sounds a bit lost.

Part of the problem is that Mr. Nelsons is still trying to pin down his own musical identity. His style is not demonstrative, nor overtly shaped — the aim seeming to be to make things appear as uninterpreted as possible.

Sometimes that works, as in a memorable pairing of Beethoven’s Fourth and Fifth symphonies a year ago; in the Strauss that peppers programs; and, above all, in opera, in which he seems most comfortable. Even there, showing no interest in aping the innovative operatic stagings put on by the Cleveland Orchestra or the New York Philharmonic, he has stuck to concert performances, none of which — not even his formidable if noncommittal accounts of Wagner — have come close to a sensational “Elektra” at Carnegie Hall four years ago.

Mr. Nelsons’s reluctance to take a point of view, and his reliance instead on the undoubtable competence of his players, has become wearing. An old-school “Christmas Oratorio” of Bach last November could have made a statement, but turned out to have nothing to say. His Mahler has become particularly frustrating, as in a wary “Resurrection” Symphony last October, an unsteady Third in January 2018, and the “most by-the-book reading possible” of the Fifth, as my colleague Joshua Barone put it, last November.

The result is that I often come out of a Nelsons concert thinking that it was admirable, but rarely feeling shaken or stirred.

What is especially odd is that there is no doubt this conductor can live up to his glowing reputation in the standard repertoire. Boston proved it by inviting Mr. Nelsons’s other orchestra to perform at Symphony Hall.

Since 2017, Mr. Nelsons has split his time between Boston and Leipzig, Germany, where he serves as chief conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Early concerns that the arrangement would detract from his commitment to Massachusetts have proven unfounded, and the two orchestras have made the most of their modest maestro by plotting a partnership that has led to special programs in both cities, co-commissions, musician exchanges and educational offerings.

The alliance started slowly, but it picked up at the end of October, when the Gewandhaus arrived for two concerts of 19th-century repertoire, plus three joint appearances with the Boston players. If the merged appearances were of dubious musical value, the Gewandhaus’s own concerts were more revealing.

With Mr. Nelsons at the helm of an ensemble offering more Old World heft, any doubts were blown away. Possessing an antique sound colored darkest walnut, and throwing their whole bodies into communicating with one another and with the audience, the Leipzig players enthralled with their innate sense of phrasing, their variety and unity of attack, their use of every inch of hair on their bows, their ability to invest each bar with dramatic meaning.

The conductor’s avowedly anti-didactic, deliberately neutral style came sensationally alive. And I found myself asking where that spirit has been in Boston of late.

The orchestra continues to click with many of the guest conductors who take up the podium when Mr. Nelsons is away. Excelling like past guests such as François-Xavier Roth, Gustavo Dudamel and Sakari Oramo, Susanna Malkki has found remarkable depth this season in Debussy’s “La Mer” and other French music, and Dima Slobodeniouk has brought vigor to Sibelius and Nielsen. Their programs also had the benefit of being more carefully put together than Mr. Nelsons’s, which have become puzzlingly incohesive.

And the composer and conductor Thomas Adès’s quirky tenure as the orchestra’s “artistic partner” is a reminder that if Mr. Nelsons has stalled in the old, he is also a less than thrilling spokesman for the new. He has given 17 world or American premieres at Symphony Hall, all of a more or less conventional kind, as can be heard on a Naxos disc of commissions released this month. His work in this area has been more promising than many expected but still, you sense, dutiful.

Only two of those premieres have been by women — though guest conductors are doing more this season, and there will be new pieces by Sofia Gubaidulina and Julia Adolphe next season. But that problem is worsened further by Mr. Nelsons’s incuriosity about expanding our sense of the past, Shostakovich’s clunkers notwithstanding. He has learned his Copland and his Bernstein, but if even Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra feel moved to perform Florence Price these days, what have Mr. Nelsons and the Boston Symphony got to lose by doing right by their city’s own, overlooked Amy Beach?

Money, apparently. When local musicians met with Symphony Hall authorities in December 2017 to ask them to diversify their programming, The Boston Globe reported that one of the responses they received, beyond a plea for time, was that market research suggested that changes could not be made “without alienating significant portions of our audience and affecting the BSO’s well-being.”

Given that the orchestra sits on net assets of well over half a billion dollars and just raised $70 million to open the lovely new Linde Center for Music and Learning at Tanglewood, such timidity ought to worry anyone who cares about what was once among the most progressive orchestras in the world.

The question isn’t whether the Boston Symphony can afford to recover its pioneering spirit, but whether, with resources other orchestras can only dream of, it can afford not to.

Mr. Nelsons, who is will probably sign a contract extension beyond 2022, will have to decide what he wants. Will he be the Koussevitzky of today, and take his place among the greatest and most visionary of the Boston Symphony’s directors, or will he merely preside over complacency?

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