Sunday, July 1, 2018

Neither Halloween nor summer

I'm used to movies coming out at times of the year in Australia that are completely opposite to, and sometimes anathema to, the times of the year they come out in America. It's a natural consequence of the flipped seasons. While Americans see the latest Jurassic Park movie in shorts and a t-shirt, as happy to have the air conditioning as the dinosaurs, I'm bundled up in a winter jacket and scarf.

But it's pretty weird when a particular movie is twice-removed from its most logical context on the calendar.

The first two Hotel Transylvania movies were released in conjunction with Halloween in the U.S. That's a bit of a disconnect for Australians, but less so even in the time since I've been here. As recently as five years ago, those in our neighborhood didn't even know what they were supposed to do when a trick-or-treater came to their door; I can still remember the woman who nervously gave my son half a sleeve of cookies and then closed the door, saying "I don't have anything else!" Now, the people who hang an orange balloon outside their house, indicating that they are indeed participating in Halloween, have got it down pat and even sometimes wear costumes to the door.

For the third movie, which my family and I saw yesterday, it was released in June, not in early autumn. (Which would be early spring here.) That makes sense given the theme, which is that the monsters we know and love (yes, we love them) are taking their leave of Transylvania for a summer cruise. So, summer is the more logical time to release the movie. (Plus, kids are out of school in America, theoretically boosting the box office.)

They're out of school here too, as two weeks of school holidays have just begun. The thing is, it's not summer here. It's winter. Exactly a month in, in fact. (They start seasons on the first of the month down here in the southern hemisphere. Don't ask me why.)

So not only is this movie starring vampires and mummies not being released at Halloween, but this movie featuring people going on a cruise is not being released during the summer.

Which is why the American title of this movie -- Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation -- makes doubly little sense.


Well obviously summer is wrong, but Australians could figure that one out. But the word "vacation" is not used down here either. It's called "going on holiday" down here.

Hence: Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Holiday.

Ha, that would have been great. But I just looked and it's actually Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation.

Well, I'll leave the previous comment. I guess they thought Australians couldn't translate the season, but they could translate the word "vacation." After all, there was that Ed Helms remake of the Chevy Chase movie that came out a couple years ago. They didn't call that one "Holiday."

The movie? Diminishing returns as the series has rolled on, it would not surprise you to hear. I actually do really like the first two, but my star ratings have dropped from four to 3.5 to 2.5. I almost gave this one a 3, but it's just too scattershot, despite some nice moments. I laughed a number of times. I'll have a review up in a couple days if you want to check it out.

While I have you, I want to talk about something else: the eye hair of these characters.

We don't of course call it "eye hair." We have the word "lashes" for that purpose. But having noticed them in previous films, I again became fixated on the lashes, which seem to be a curious obsession of the animators in their question for realism. (Especially strange since realism is not otherwise what they are going for at all.) They weird me out enough that "eye hair" describes them more accurately than "lashes."

What am I talking about? Here:

I'm actually a fan of the expressionistic, elastic, Loony Tunes style animation of these movies, and I wouldn't quibble with most of the details. But the eyelashes ... I just get fixated on them and I can't stop noticing them. There's a reason most animation studios don't bother with eyelashes below the eyes ... they just look weird.

And it's not just the goth girl Mavis, where accentuated lashes are part of her look. It's also in her dad, Dracula:

And in her husband, Johnny:

So basically, all humans and vampires. The mummy, Frankenstein and the invisible man all avoid this particular design detail. I was especially surprised that you couldn't see the invisible man's lashes. That'd be great -- in addition to the eyeglasses, which are the only thing that helps us identify where he is, he could also have sets of upper and lower eyelashes, just hanging out there in space.

My wife, who was seeing her first Hotel Transylvania movie, confirmed that she had become distracted by the "eye hair" as well. She thinks the reason it's weird is that this is not the real shape of the human eye. So instead of having upper and lower lashes, as a real human does, these characters have like a lash perimeter that goes all the way around.

They'd have been better off just leaving off the lashes, or maybe only giving Mavis only upper lashes.

Here's how Pixar handles it, for example:

They recognize Riley's got to have something below her eyes, but it's more like a thin smudge suggesting the lower lashes.

Nothing that you could describe as "eye hair."

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