Yesterday I saw the oldest new release of the year. In a strange turn of events Isao Takahata’s 1991 anime film Only Yesterday is finally getting its US debut. So, 25 years later how does it hold up? It’s cute. I liked it but it didn’t wow me if that makes sense.
Only Yesterday is about a 27 year old single woman named Taeko. She decides to get out of the city and work on a communal farm for the summer. While traveling and during her stay, she is reminded of herself as a little girl in the 5th grade in 1966.
The movie then switches back and forth between stories of her childhood and her time on the farm. There’s really not much else to talk about plot-wise. It’s just about this woman’s life.
I personally love movies about ordinary life but some people will find Only Yesterday to be very boring. Even I nodded off once during an adult segment.
It’s all very simple. Taeko goes through puberty, learns about periods, has a crush, sticks up for a poor kid, gets a spot in a play, and the family tries pineapple for the first time. Aside from her Dad being a jerk and slapping her once there’s really no drama- just ordinary life.
Adult Taeko I found less engaging because it felt more generic and a little preachy in spots. You could tell it was made in 1991 with the talks on organic farming and how the earth is part of us and we should live in harmony (that’s where I dozed off for a sec).
There are a few moments where Taeko daydreams of flying and rainbows but for the most part it’s just her memories without much fantasy. Memories like struggling with math and her sister trying in vain to help her, getting a cold and sitting out from gym etc. You get the idea.
It probably goes without saying the animation is lovely. It has Takahata’s watercolor style, which I enjoy. Everything in the film looks adorable especially Taeko as a little girl. She’s so cute!
Little girl Taeko was also a really well developed character. She’s quirky but not too quirky. She’s shy but not abnormally so. She has friends but also disagrees with them. A lot of the traditional tropes of coming of age films are forgotten and instead we get a little girl facing typical problems little girls face.
Adult Taeko is more of a generic yuppie trying to find herself on the farm. There’s a romance between her and a man named Toshio, which is sweet but a little bland. And like I said some of the adult sections can be preachy.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a hair disappointed in Only Yesterday, but maybe that’s because I was expecting something grand and got something simple instead.
There is a lot that feels very Japanese- particularly a segment where Toshio’s Grandmother talks to Taeko about marriage. This is fine but something about Japanese customs can feel a little cold and distant at times for a coming of age story.
The music is the most dated aspect of the film. The synthesizer and Japanese pop songs (including a rendition of The Rose by Janis Joplin) feel very 1991 but it works fine. It just didn’t wow me like the scores from other Ghibli films by Joe Hisaishi (Only Yesterday’s score is from Katz Hoshi).
Overall, I’d say Only Yesterday is good but not up there in the best of Studio Ghibli. The animation is lovely. The childhood segments are very cute and charming but the adult sections drag a bit and are a little preachy. It’s kind of strange to see adorable Taeko turn into a bland adult, but that’s the way life is. Most of us are far more interesting as children than grown ups!
I certainly recommend seeing Only Yesterday but just calibrate your expectations to something very simple and sweet. If you do, I think you’ll enjoy it even if it isn’t a favorite.
The English dub with Daisy Ridley as Taeko and Dev Patel as Toshio is fine. No issues there.
It will be interesting to see how Only Yesterday does at the Oscars given it is a 25 year old film but Oscars bases off of US release date which makes it a 2016 release. Crazy!
What do you think of Only Yesterday? Do you find it charming or boring? I personally liked When Marnie was There much better but that’s just me.
I just posted this week’s episode of Animated News! I would love if you guys took a look at it. I’m still learning but I think it is getting better.
Here’s a run-down of the news
Zootopia grosses 50 million- only dropping 33% from week 1 and that is really good. The film has made 83 million overseas, 288 foreign total, 431 total.
Storks Trailer- For some reason all of these comedies I’m liking the teasers better than the full trailer but this looks ok. A little generic but ok.
Wild Life Trailer- This was a new film I learned about and I must say not that impressed. It’s being distributed by Lionsgate who gave us Norm of the North. Hopefully it will at least be better than that. Robinson Crusoe on an island run by animals- the idea has potential.
Long Way North Trailer- Another project that was new to me, but this one I’m really excited about. From animator Remi Chaye who worked on Secret of the Kells. It looks beautiful and sounds like a good story. I predict this will be in the running come Oscar season.
Sausage Party Trailer- I’m not impressed with the humor or animation in this adult comedy. To me it looks very lazy. Won’t even share the video with you guys but if you want to watch it here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VoNgLnjzVg
April and the Extraordinary World- I’m very excited for this film that comes to my cinema 4/22. It has a cool steampunk look to it. The 2D animation looks great and I think the story sounds interesting.
Little Prince Gets Dumped- In a bizarre action Paramount Animation has dumped the US release of The Little Prince a week before it was to premiere. Even though I had issues with the film, it certainly deserves to be seen by American audiences. I can’t fathom why they did this?
Power Puff Girls- The new reboot of Power Puff girls debuted at SXSW film festival to great reviews. The intro and other clips I’ve seen look promising.
What in this news interests you? What in all those independent trailers looks the best to you? Why do you think Paramount dumped Little Prince? Are you a Power Puff Girls fan? If so, what do you think of this reboot?
Put in the comments section here or on the video and let’s talk! 🙂 And if you like my video please give it a thumbs up!
I’m very excited to announce my next video reviewing the Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature Film is up! I have reviewed every year from 2001-2015. Here’s the entire playlist and the Animated Oscars Tag videos people have done. It’s a long video, so perhaps a good one to listen while doing another task. If you like it please give it a thumbs up. Thanks!
A beautiful hand drawn animated film by Ale Abreu that tells the story of a little boy looking for his father. Using basically no dialogue Abreu creates a kaleidoscope of colors and textures as the boy ventures into the city and confronts war, waste, commercialism and fear. Sometimes it can be heavy handed and a bit self-indulgent but it’s also bright, colorful and fun. The music is infectious and will make you smile.
A somewhat cynical yet thought provoking stop motion animated film from Charlie Kaufman for adults. The animation is fluid and smooth as it focuses on a man named Michael who has become disenfranchised with the people in his life. Everyone looks, behaves and even sounds the same. Then he meets Lisa who is different and this excites him. Some of the adult content I felt was distracting from what really made Lisa special. We could have dug deeper but instead we get superficial differences like a scar or voice. Still, it will definitely make you think and if you can handle the content worth a watch.
I don’t know how I could say more about this film. It was my favorite film of 2015 and it is rapidly becoming one of my favorite animated films of all time. I have found myself watching it most weeks since I got it on blu-ray. There’s just something about the dual stories of Riley and Joy that doesn’t age for me. It improves each time I see it. I love the humor, visual splendor, and heart. The end when Riley admits to her parents ‘I miss home’ is perfect. Joy’s journey when she finally realizes that happiness requires sadness is equally strong. Perfection from Pixar.
A delight from the team at Aardman. A spin off from the TV show (which is great and you can watch on Amazon Prime) Shaun is tired of his boring routine and wants a day off. So him and his friends go to the big city and have an adventure. It has the spirit of a silent comedy with minimal dialogue and some great visual jokes. I loved when the Farmer becomes a barber to the stars. It’s a sweet, simple, endearing film. And of course, the animation is wonderful as is usually the case from Aardman. I wish more people in US saw their great films.
This film really impacted me emotionally. Seeing the journey of Anna as she struggles with deep depression and her family’s effort to save her is very beautiful. The main message is that we all have love in our lives. The key is recognizing that love, both here on earth and from those who have passed on. We all have love, and that love has power to rescue. The animation is stunning. I particularly loved the sound mixing and how lush everything felt. The ending may not work for everyone but I thought it was pure truth. Great way for Studio Ghibli to go out. The music and song by Priscilla Ahn is gorgeous.
So 5 wonderful films! It’s funny looking over these 5 nominees I feel 2015 is a bit of a an underrated year. It certainly was a diverse year especially when you consider 2 very strong films, Peanuts Movie and Good Dinosaur, that were not nominated. And how amazing is it to have a year with only 1 CG film nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. 2014 only had 2. Take that 2D animation is dead crowd! 😉
Anyway, I think you guys know Inside Out is the clear winner in my books; although, I think all 5 are quality films. As I said earlier, Inside Out is a game changer for me. A film I will never forget.
What about you? What do you think of the nominees and do you think the right film won?
Do you ever have those movies that are well regarded but are hard for you to sit through? Atonement is such a film for me. It’s pretty but oh does it annoy the heck out of me. It’s like a tedious set of Downton Abbey episodes but without any of that show’s soapy fun. And at least with Downton Abbey I care about the Crawleys. In Atonement I couldn’t care less about any of these people.
Atonement is directed by Joe Wright with a lot of empty style and it is based on the novel by Ian McEwan. The film stars Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy and Romola Gerai and Vanessa Redgrave. They are all good. It’s just the story that is annoying.
Basically Saoirse plays Briony, a little girl who has a girl’s crush on the servant’s son Robbie. She see’s 2 scenes with her sister Cecilia and Robbie, one which is innocent and one where they are intimate with each other. She intercepts some letters and convinces the police that Robbie is responsible for a rape that occurs. Long and short of it this act of a child ruins everyone’s lives.
The problem is we aren’t invested in the couple or the relationship. We don’t get to see the courtship or really care about them as people. Briony is a horrid little girl and then a flat older woman. We see the couple so briefly and then rest of the movie we get bland war, bland hospital scenes, bland staring across the room at what might have been. I’m sorry but one makeout session does not a compelling couple make.
I also found it annoying when the movie tries to be artistic with 4th wall breaks like characters staring directly at the camera for long periods or when we see the same scene from multiple perspectives. That could be interesting in a book but especially in a movie where a couple is going to be separated for most of the film, I needed more dialogue, more fleshed out characters. It does not make Briony more interesting because she stares at the camera for long periods. It makes me the viewer want to punch her in the nose- and not in a gripping way but in a ‘stop staring and tell me something about who you are!’ way.
In the end, it feels like about 20 minutes of story stretched out into 2 hours. I needed more evidence of why it all mattered. Why is this couple soooo special? Why does this love matter soooo much? I get that a man went to prison, but I didn’t know this man and the film doesn’t give me much of a reason to care for him. Maybe if the film had been told from his perspective it might have been more compelling but as it is he just felt flat.
Anyway, Hit Me with Your Best Shot is about picking a favorite shot even in movies we don’t particularly like, and to its credit Atonement does look nice. There are lots of cool pieces of cinematography but the one that captured my feeling for the film is this:
Robbie is a soldier and he is thinking about that great kiss in the library. He passes a screen with a movie playing for the soldiers and I can’t help but think- I wish I was watching that instead…
Overall Grade- C- just because it looks nice and the acting is good
My friend AJ joined me to talk all about Zootopia today. We dive into the nitty gritty talking about the plot in detail, so this is very spoilery! We talk about the messaging and some of the complaints between both sides of the political spectrum. We talk about the imagery, character design, story and Zootopia’s place in the history of Disney animation. I am going to write up this breakdown in essay format later in the week in a spoilery review but I thought you might enjoy listening to the video.
It’s more the kind of video you listen to while doing other things or driving because it is an hour and half.
Let me know what you think of our discussion and the points we bring up.
For a while watching The Little Prince I was ready to come on here and be pretty harsh on it. Until the first hour mark, the movie was honestly driving me crazy but then it somehow turned itself around and became a decent flick. Usually the ending of films is where they really tank but not in this case. I kind of wish it had been a short 45 minute special because really the first hour is just two characters talking a lot and telling you why what they are saying is so important.
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD! (I couldn’t talk about some of my issues without spoiling because it lay within the story).
So let’s talk about that first hour. My big problem was way too much exposition. At times it felt like a Shyamalan film there was so much talking and not showing!
The plot of the movie is a Little Girl is trained by her mother to keep a tightly planned study schedule. Truly it seemed a little over-the-top it was so micromanaged. I mean what kid would want to plan a play date for the next summer? It strained credulity and made the Mother look really mean.
The goal of the Mother is for Little Girl (that’s her name) to make it into a prestigious school called Werth Academy. They even move just to be in the school boundaries.
However, Little Girl wants to explore and is drawn to an elderly neighbor known as The Aviator. He tells her about the Little Prince who had a rose that he loves and tries to protect. As he tells the story we see it played out in beautiful animation that looks like stop motion.
The problem is not enough happens in the story to be compelling on its own so it becomes a lot of talking about dreams and bold living. As pretty as it was I grew weary of it.
Then The Prince in the story dies for The Rose at the hour mark. This causes Little Girl to become angry at The Aviator for the story and it ending so sadly. She stays away but then he gets sick and she must fly The Aviator’s plane and find the Little Prince on his asteroid. This is when the story starts going. We actually see things happen to our lead character!
When the Little Girl gets to the asteroid, she finds a world where everyone has grown up- kind of an opposite Neverland. The Little Prince has forgotten his past and has been turned into a workaholic adult. He is ruled by a man called The Businessman who is hoarding all the stars to steal all the light and happiness from the world. Now this is a story!
Little Girl then must bring the Little Prince back to his planet and he gets some closure on his lost rose. Little Girl gets a reminder that she cannot grow up too soon.
When she reunites with her Mother they have a new understanding and she is allowed to be a child a little bit longer while still going to the prestigious school.
Once the action in the story started going I was entertained by the Little Prince, but almost like a fable, the metaphors are very heavy-handed. The Businessman clearly is meant to symbolize the Mother and her routine for Little Girl (they even have a similar chalkboard with tasks listed out), but I didn’t mind it. I kind of wish the entire movie had started at that point because I really didn’t need the background on the Prince, The Rose, The Girl and The Mother.
Even in the boring sections there is a nice heart to the film, and I did feel attached to Little Girl and her struggles to be understood by her Mother. I just needed something more concrete to happen sooner to get the plot going. The first hour felt a little like reading a greeting card. Sure it looks nice and has a nice message but I needed more story!
The vocal performances are all wonderful, providing a real warmth to the sometimes one-note characters. Mackenzie Foy (Little Girl), Jeff Bridges (The Aviator), Rachel McAdams (The Mother), Paul Rudd (Mr Prince) are great. Marion Cotillard is heavily billed and I thought would have a big part but she is The Rose and only has a few lines.
The animation is stunning throughout The Little Prince and it is worth seeing for that reason alone. And it does end with real heart that made me tear up a few times. I just wish I could condense the first hour into 15 minutes! In some ways after that reminded me of Neverending Story in its messaging and tone. Still, I can’t ignore an hour of tedious exposition.
Overall Grade- C+
Also why this movie took forever and a day to get to a US release is beyond me. It was written in English originally so it didn’t need dubbing or subtitles. Why the delay? That was very annoying.
Hey guys! I’m excited to share with you a new video series I am trying out. It’s a video where I cover all the news in both animated TV shows and movies. I thought of this because I don’t really like reviewing trailers, so it seemed like a good way to cover the trailer but also other topics that I think are interesting. I figured I could make my viewers aware of smaller projects or shows that might be off their radar.
There are obviously going to be room for improvement but I think it is a pretty good start. Let me know if you have any suggestions.
Also, what do you think of this week’s news? In the video I cover:
Box office for Zootopia and Boy and the Beast
Trailers for Kubo and the 2 Strings and Red Shoes and the 7 Dwarves
Movie announcements for animated Ghostbusters and Surfs Up 2: Wave Mania
Utah release of Boy and the World and Only Yesterday
Aaron Springer Billy Dilly Show
Ducktales reboot image review
Cancellation of Wander Over Yonder
Tangled Before Ever After series
Big Hero 6 series announcement
Does any of this news interest you? Let’s discuss it in the comments section here or on the youtube video. If you feel so inclined give it a thumbs up! Thanks so much. 🙂
Since viewing it in January, I have struggled with the best way to share my thoughts on 2015 Oscar nominee Anomalisa. Mainly how could I post a review of a film that I skipped large portions of for content reasons? Finally, I just decided to post my thoughts rather than a review. I think I saw enough of Anomalisa to give an opinion on the style and overall production, but can’t in good conscience give a traditional review.
Anomalisa was the brainchild of director Charlie Kaufman. He originally wrote it as a ‘sound play’, which I must confess I had never heard of before researching this film. I didn’t know people went to plays just to hear dialogue? Cool.
So, eventually Kaufman decided to put up a kickstarter for an Anomalisa short and the decision was made to use puppets and change it to feature length film. The puppets were made using 3D printers and 18 Michaels and 6 Lisas were designed. There are only 3 vocal performances in Anomalisa- Michael (David Thewlis), Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Everyone else (Tom Noonan).
According to Kaufman the goal of the film was to “forget they were looking at something animated and just get wrapped up in the scene,” further explaining that “the challenge we felt with so much animated stuff is that you’re always conscious of the animation, and we kept asking, ‘What if we could escape that? What would it be like?”
After viewing the film several times I would say they achieved their goals. The animation in Anomalisa is gorgeous. I’m a huge stop motion junkie and to see the fluidity and expressions of the characters is remarkable. Also it has this unique mix of artistry and realism that I haven’t seen before. Like there are times when you forget you are watching stop motion but then the lines around the characters faces remind you. So at one moment you are both immersed in the world and reminded it is art. I don’t know if that makes sense but there is definitely that dichotomy in the art design.
The main story behind Anomalisa is it’s about a man named Michael who is traveling to Cincinnati to deliver a speech on his book on customer service. To Michael everyone appears, even sounds the same. The world has become streamlined and boring and he has lost hope in anything but a robot-like existence.
He ends up making his way to his hotel, briefly having dinner with an old flame and then meeting a woman named Lisa who has come to hear him speak. She fascinates Michael because of a scar on her face and something different in her demeanor and personality. As they get to know each other better he refers to her as Anomalisa (an anomaly named Lisa). They become more intimate and then the story plays out more or less how you might predict.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room. As someone who doesn’t usually watch a lot of rated R content, there was a lot in Anomalisa I had to skip over. That is why I didn’t feel I could give it a true ‘review’. I skipped at least 20 minutes of the film. The sensuality and language in Anomalisa is extremely strong. Even with skipping I was still shocked at how R rated it truly is.
I actually think this is more than just a moral problem with the film. The first 2/3rd you have interesting character development and then the final act with all the sexuality becomes kind of expected and one note. I wonder if being sexually daring may have created a distraction on the core story and message? Needless to say, I didn’t feel I missed anything by skipping over it and if that’s the case was it really that important?
Charlie Kaufman’s messaging in Anomalisa is a pretty cynical one and definitely won’t be for everyone. Michael loves Lisa because she is different, an anomaly; however, when they eat breakfast together her mannerisms start to drive him crazy. He then starts to see her as everyone else and has a kind of manic episode while delivering his speech. Kaufman seems to be asking ‘are we all the same’ and if we are- what’s the point in living in all that sameness?
I’m not really sure Kaufman has an answer, which is very depressing. Maybe it’s just to have sensual experiences or to hope to find an actual anomalisa one day? That if we keep trying we will find something unique? Like I said, it’s a pretty cynical message.
That said, I do relate to the message in a certain way. When I was unhappy in my work the world did feel the same- just rows of cubicles and repetitive acts with no meaning or love attached to them. I was miserable and it’s hard to be hopeful when mundanity has taken over your life. I know I would rather do anything than work at desk with a cubicle like the scores of Lisas do in Michael’s dream.
There’s even a philosophic concept behind Kaufman’s visuals. It has to do with the reality of ‘the other’. When we meet another human being we are immediately struck by their sense of being or their humanity. Then we, in an attempt to order what’s around us, turn them into the same. So, a person is human but then they are a more of the same- a woman, an ethnicity, age, race, religion etc. We all do it. It’s human nature.
Once someone is the same they can be treated differently than when they are a unique being. We can see that in Michael’s treatment of Lisa. When she is an anomaly she is prized but as soon as she is the same he is done with her.
I guess where I wonder about Kaufman’s cynicism is can you really know someone’s sameness or uniqueness from one night of sex? Most of what Michael is depressed over comes from kind of superficial observations and even with Lisa he really doesn’t get to know her very well before judging her as both an angel and then a bland bore. But then again, that’s kind of what happens when we are depressed so maybe that’s what Kaufman is trying to show?
It’s another reason I think the sensuality becomes a distraction in the last third of the story. I really wanted to find out more of why Michael is so cynical and depressed. I mean we’ve seen the morose suburbanite contemplating sameness so many times (American Beauty, Birdman…) that aside from the stop motion I’m not sure what is so new about Kaufman’s insight here?
Even his wife’s attempt to throw a surprise party is seen as more of the same to Michael. What could make him happy? Evidently it is finding more Anomalisa’s but since the Anomalisa was a disappointment it seems a hopeless endeavor? I don’t think Michael will ever find what he is looking for, which is very depressing.
My final thoughts on Anomalisa is it is striking and beautiful in many ways. I like the core idea of examining sameness and the other but it’s not exactly new to cinema. Sure the animation is different and the adult content shocking, but Kaufman is so relentlessly cynical it becomes frustrating. In many ways the cynical answer is kind of easy where a more hopeful one takes work and a more complex view of human beings.
I wish instead of spending the final third act shocking the audience with sexual content Kaufman had explored some kind of solution for Michael. I’m not saying he has to be happy and everything be solved but maybe a more complicated answer than we are all robots and there is no hope would be more thought provoking?
But that said, I do appreciate the artistry and ambition of Anomalisa. It’s definitely something that will make you think about your own life and if you are an Anomalisa or just like everyone else. (Also are you judgemental like Michael and TURN everyone into the same when they are actually unique?). I appreciate the questions the film asks and the way it is animated. I think the third act gets distracted with the adult content but as I skipped over some of those segments there may be insight I missed.
No grade from me for Anomalisa, as this is not a review, but I hope that insight was helpful. Make sure you know this is a strong R rated film and definitely not for everyone. Even skipping the sexual content, there is a lot of profanity and vulgarity, so be forewarned.
So what did you think of Anomalisa? I will definitely be curious for your thoughts on this one!
I am very excited to inform you guys the Hit Me with Your Best Shot series over at The Film Experience is back up and running with a new season. This is a super fun blogging series that Nathaniel sets up where he picks a film and then we select a screenshot from the movie that we feel captures it best.
How to play
1. Watch the movie
2. Pick its best shot
3. Post it somewhere online with why you chose it on March 8th
4. Let us know you did so and we link up that Tuesday night!
It’s really fun to see the different choices all the participants come up with. You can see some of my picks from last year here
This week Nathaniel has chosen the 1984 classic Ghostbusters (he does a good job mixing box office favorites with artistic films).
The last time I saw the film it was in the theaters in 2014 for the 30th anniversary. I thoroughly enjoyed myself then and had the same experience this weekend. It’s not a movie I’m overly sentimental about or have a lot of nostalgia for but I think for popcorn movies it is very entertaining.
What makes Ghostbusters work is similar to what makes a lot of blockbusters work- a charismatic cast and a witty script. It’s pretty much what has made all the Marvel films successful. It’s not like there are great special effects or a complex plot like Inception or something like that to draw people in. This is personalities and clever writing.
Ghostbusters is a simple story about 4 paranormal activity investigators (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson) who hunt down and capture ghosts in New York City. It is directed by Ivan Reitman and the script is written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.
The script is very dry and sarcastic with a lot of opportunities for the comics to feed off of each other. They are also assisted by Sigourney Weaver as a woman who seeks their help and Rick Moranis as her nerdy neighbor. Everyone involved is likable and funny and makes up for a frankly silly story with special effects that have not aged well.
My favorite character in the film is Peter Venkman played by Bill Murray. He is very sarcastic and overly-confident but there is something that is likable about him. Maybe it is his smile or his chemistry with the other actors? I’m not sure, but I always laugh whenever he is on screen.
This is where I get to my shot. He has just visited Dana for the first time alone and kind of believes her but is skeptical at the same time. Either way he wants a date with her:
And then you’ll say, “Pete Venkman’s a guy who can get things done!”
“I wonder what makes him tick!”
“I wonder if he’d be interested in knowing what makes me tick?”
I bet you’re going to be thinking about me after I’m gone.
I bet I am! Pushes him out the door. He sticks his face back in.
That’s when we get this shot of him peering around the door and we all wonder along with Dana ‘I wonder what does make him tick?’