Hey friends! This has been a very long couple of weeks for me. There have been highs and lows but one of the highs was a very special interview I was able to do with animator Tomm Moore.
If you are unfamiliar with Moore he is one of the founders of Cartoon Saloon over in Ireland, and he is my favorite living animator. Especially his film Song of the Sea is one of my favorite animated films of all time. I love the animation, music, story but mostly how it deals with themes of loss and grief in such emotionally true ways. When I first saw it I balled my eyes out in the theater. In fact, it was the first time I ever cried on youtube talking about it on my channel.
To my delight Tomm remembered my little video and once we followed each other on twitter I asked and he agreed to come on my podcast. Before the interview we did an episode of Obscure/Indie animation covering both of this films.
I loved talking with Stanford about these films (Secret of the Kells, Song of the Sea) and I loved interviewing Tomm. It’s moments like these all the hard work pays off by letting me do something truly special.
I hope you all enjoy the podcast and interview. Let me know what you think. Thanks!
The Sundance Film Festival is fast approaching! To be more precise it begins tomorrow! Last year I attended the festival for the first time purchasing a ticket package and seeing 10 films. One that I saw, STEP, proved to be my 2nd favorite movie of 2017, so I am excited to see what 2018 holds in store for me. This year I bought the SLC Pass which allows me to see any film screening in Salt Lake City as opposed to Park City. It limits things a little bit but there are still plenty of movies to see. Right now I have 19 films on the schedule and the only thing that could mess things up is if my cold gets worse so fingers crossed it will improve!
I thought I would give you a little preview of the 19 films I am aiming to see and then I can do a recap at the end of next week. I will try and post daily recaps on my youtube channel but it depends on if I have much of a voice (right now I can’t talk much because of my cold).
Won’t You Be My Neighbor-
This is a documentary about Fred Rogers who was the host and creator of Mr Rogers Neighborhood. I like these kind of biopic documentaries and always enjoyed MRN as a kid so this should be very interesting.
This is a Brazilian film about a couple that must emancipate their teenage son so he can go and play professional hand ball in Germany. The trailer looked sweet and enjoyable so I figured it was worth a shot
Lu Over the Wall-
This is probably my most anticipated film of the festival. It has some Ponyo vibes about a little girl that meets a mermaid named Lu. I know GKIDS has already picked it up so I have high hopes that it will be great
This is a documentary about 9 students competing in the ISEF or International Science and Engineering Fair. As STEP shows, I love inspirational documentaries so this should be right up my ally
I don’t know a ton about this movie but that it is about a 13 year old girl at the end of middle school and particularly her life on social media. I know it is an A24 film and they usually do intriguing stuff like A Ghost Story so I will give it a shot.
This is another animated film at the festival and it has some good early buzz. It is based on the classic Jack London novel and features Rashida Jones and Nick Offerman as voice actors.
This is another documentary about the kids preparing for the ISEF like Science Fair. The blurb says “Watch these passionate innovators find the courage to face the planet’s environmental threats while navigating adolescence. It will be interesting to compare the two documentaries.
The Price of Everything-
This is a documentary about how the price of artwork is determined. The blurb makes it sound pretty exciting- like “holding a funhouse mirror up to our values and our times where everything can be bought and sold”. We will see if it lives up to such a build-up!
This is a psychological thriller about a woman who becomes increasingly convinced she was abducted as a child. This is a little bit out of my comfort zone but it sounded intriguing. Evidently it focuses on fake news and people who lie to get what they want. Here is an interview with the director.
This is a ‘re-imagining of Hamlet, told from Ophelia’s perspective.’ I love Hamlet and am really excited to see Daisy Ridley in this role. The rest of the cast is solid with Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Tom Felton and more.
This is a documentary about a young culinary prodigy named Flynn McGarry. He begins running a supper club in his home and then turns into a celebrity as the ‘Teen Chef’. Some embrace him and then others resent his quick success. I’m a big foodie so this looked interesting.
This is a Turkish film about 3 strangers who find out they all have the same father when they must go and bury him. Through this experience they learn about him, themselves and each other.
Minding the Gap-
This is a documentary about 3 young men who leave their families and enter the big city. It looks like a sweet heart-warming documentary, so I figured it was worth a shot.
A Polar Year-
This is another documentary about a man named Anders who moves up to a small town in Greenland to teach for a year. They struggle with preconceptions of each other but it looked like a cute movie.
The Oslo Diaries-
It seems 2018 is my year for documentaries at Sundance. This one is about the “secret negotiations leading up to the 1993 Oslo peace agreement. I figured it would be quite interesting!
This stars John Cho and Debra Messing and is about a man who breaks into his daughter’s laptop after she goes missing only to find she’s been leading an entirely different life online. Early buzz is pretty good on this one so I decided to watch it.
This is a documentary about a famous artist named Yayoi Kusama and how she became who she is. Evidently it includes interviews with Kusama who lives in a mental hospital and continues to create art. It sounds interesting to me so why not?
Animation Shorts Spotlight-
I actually thought the animated shorts were kind of lame last year at Sundance but they can’t always be that way? As an animation girl I knew I needed to watch these shorts and hopefully they will be more original and better than last year.
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind-
I am not sure if I am going to see this documentary because of church commitments but it has gotten great early buzz and I do love Robin Williams.
So there you have it! That is my current schedule for Sundance 2018. What do you think? What looks interesting to you? Let me know in the comments section and I will keep you up to date as the festival continues. Thanks!
2017 has been a banner year for independent animated films. I wouldn’t be surprised if my top animated films ranking at the end of the year has 7 or more indies in the top 10. They have just been that good. All that said, now we get to one of my most anticipated indies of the year, Loving Vincent, and I must own to being a little disappointed. What the animators have accomplished is a great achievement but unfortunately it is not a great movie.
Let’s talk about the great accomplishment first. Loving Vincent is the first animated film to be made entirely with oil paintings. The creators gathered 115 different artists and made oil paintings for all 65,000 frames of the movie! It is a bold, audacious project and visually it pays off. This movie looks gorgeous and the movement of the animation really captures the feel of a Van Gogh painting. You can see in this trailer how amazing the animation is:
They also got a strong vocal cast for Loving Vincent including Chris O’Dowd and Saoirse Ronan.
The problem lies with the story. I’m fine with artistic movies with little plot like A Ghost Story or Knight of Cups; however, Loving Vincent isn’t that kind of art film. No, it has a plot. It’s just not a very good one.
Basically it is about a man named Armand who is assigned the task to deliver a letter to the estate of Vincent Van Gogh. The artist has died via suicide along with his brother Theo. As Armand tries to deliver his letter he begins to suspect maybe it wasn’t a suicide after all…
The problem is it doesn’t have much to say about life, death, suicide, art or anything else. It’s just Armand interviewing a bunch of people and them reciting back facts. If this was a live action film it would never see the light of day. There just isn’t enough meat on the bones here to enjoy the story.
The characters are also not very compelling. Armand is very bland and most of the other characters are kind of cold and cruel. Van Gogh isn’t even compelling because we get so little of him and it is mostly through cliches. This is a man who cut off his own ear and mailed it to someone. Certainly his story must have been more interesting than this?
Loving Vincent is certainly not a bad film and I recommend seeing it if only for the visuals. It’s just disappointing because it could have been great and it isn’t. But hey at least we got something fresh, new and beautiful to look at. I’ll take that deal any day.
I’ve mentioned it many times on my blog that I’m not particularly excited about this years animated films. Depressed would be a better word but one of my hopes is that indie animated films would swoop in and save the day. Well, the first promising indie entry comes to us from distributor GKIDS and animator Dash Shaw called My Entire High School is Sinking IUnto the Sea.
On first glance it is easy to dismiss this film as indie hipster crap but I think that is selling it short. In High School… you get a good script with engaging dialogue, some inventive animation and nice riffs on the disaster and teen movie genres.
The animation has a rough quality, which I enjoyed. Some will find it too simplistic and juevenile for them, but I appreciated the different approach.
The narrator of High School… is a boy named Dash (Jason Schwartzman) and his best friend Assaf (Reggie Watts). They are both hard workers in the school newspaper and intent on getting the big scoop at the school. To start off the movie the two friends get in a quarrel over an article and a girl named Verti (Maya Rudolph). This seems very petty but isn’t that the way high school is? Full of petty arguments?
Dash becomes convinced he needs to find the next big scoop and diescovers the high school is built on an earthquake fall and my be sinking into the ocean. Unfortunately before he can do anything about this the high actually does start sinking!
It’s at this point High School… becomes a parody of disaster movies with Dash, Assaf, Verti, a gir named Mary (Lena Dunham) and Lunch Lady Lorraine (Susan Sarandon). With each floor the group faces new obstacles from sharks to anarchist students. It is pretty entertaining and surprising. The dialogue is also sharp and reminded me of other indie hits like Juno and Napoleon Dynamite.
High School… also reminded me of Me Earl and the Dying Girl especially the character of Dash who was very similar to Greg in Earl. He’s sarcastic and comes dangerously close to being unlikable but he just wins you over. Same thing with Assaf. They both can be pretty selfish which makes sense in a disaster when you are thinking mostly of yourself.
The voice cast felt very Wes Anderson inspired to me and they all did a good job. Even Lena Dunham who I normally can’t stand was fine in this. Her character is pretty minor. I liked Susan Sarandon as the lunch lady. She got some really fun lines responding to all the sassy teens.
You have to give a lot of props to Dash Shaw for this movie because he wrote, directed and produced it. I liked how he never let the disaster stuff overpower the student body stuff. This allowed it to still be a sharp teen movie and a riff on a disaster movie. Dash Shaw did a tremendous job on this and I will be excited to see what he comes up with next!
The soundtrack by Rani Sharone is also very catchy and fits the style and tone of the movie very well.
If you are willing to try something small and unique then I would say give My Entire High Scool is Sinking into the Sea a shot. I think you will like it. The film is rated PG-13 and there are some crude elements but nothing too harsh.
If you are open to new and different styles of animation and a more adult story (PG-13) I think you will like My Entire High School is Sinking into the Sea. It’s a long title to a fun movie! Only real downsides is the harsh language and sarcastic tone may bother some more sensitive viewers.
Give it a shot! Support independent movie theaters in your area! Try something with an indie flare and I bet you will be glad you did!
It might seem crazy but this year is my first time attending in mass the Sundance Film Festival! Last year I went as a guest of rotoscopers.com to review the film Snowtime and interview the creators but I didn’t really attend the festival. This will be my first time really attending every day and I’m very excited!
The reason I have been reticent to attend in the past is the lack of ratings for the films. Sundance films are more artistic in nature and so I worried I would be wasting my money on films I wouldn’t want to see content-wise. Well, this year I figured I’d give it a shot and if a film is super bad I can always leave. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right? 🙂
Make sure you follow me on snapcat @smilingldsgirl and on other social media because I will update throughout the days on how my experience is going and what I think about the films I see. But I thought it would be fun to give you a preview of what I am seeing.
My Life as a Zucchini-
The first and probably most highly anticipated is the animated film My Life as a Zucchini. This is a stop motion animated Swiss film about a little boy who deals with his grief while becoming a part of a new group home.
I’m a little nervous about this one because it looks pretty steamy but I love Macbeth so much and I thought it looked like a good film. The tagline is “Alfred Hitchcock meets Wuthering Heights” caught my interest. I would share the trailer but it is very spoilery and so I’d rather you not see it. The movie is about a shut in in 1865 who is basically kept inside by her husband. She meets and falls in love with a servant and the story goes from there.
This is a documentary about a group of high school seniors from Baltimore who are part of a step dance team and their struggles to get into college and compete.
Billed as a docuseries, RISE is 3 episodes about the struggle of Native Americans and indigenous citizens. There is a Q and A after so I hope it is good! I see both RISE and Step on my birthday so another reason to hope they are good.
Of course I had to see this. It is 10 shorts in a variety of styles and subject matter. I think they will be pretty great!
The Good Postman-
A documentary about a Bulgarian man who helps the Syrian refugees who are coming into his town.
This has an engaging cast and it looks like it could be a fun dramedy. It is described as about “a couple who can’t stop fighting embark on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage: turning their fights into songs and starting a band”. I hope it will be good! Could it be 2017’s Sing Street?
This film is about an aging western movie star played by Sam Eliot who gets a cancer diagnosis and has to face his life. It looks like it could be very sweet.
The Yellow Birds-
This Iraq war story was mostly sold to me on the people behind it. It is written by David Lowery who did Pete’s Dragon, which I loved and stars Alden Ehrenreich and Tye Sheridan who I also love. Jennifer Aniston plays Sheridan’s Mom which I can’t really imagine but I’m looking forward to it.
Rebel in the Rye-
I don’t know much about this one but it stars Nicholas Holt and is about JD Salinger before he wrote Catcher in the Rye.
I had a ticket for Wilson staring Woody Harrelson but after seeing the trailer it really doesn’t look like my thing, so I think I will try and exchange it.
So there you have it! Do any of my selections intrigue you? I wanted to see A Ghost Story which is directed by David Lowery but it is at the same time as Yellow Birds so I picked the latter.
I’m definitely the most excited for My Life as a Zucchini and the animation spotlight! I hope they are great!
As much as I love complex movies that take large artistic risks, I also love simple movies that execute their vision well. Such is the case with the recent UK export Ethel & Ernest. What a lovely portrayal of a marriage and life. It might be too simple for some but that’s what makes is so special.
Ethel & Ernest is based on the graphic novel of the same name written by Raymond Briggs about the life of his parents. Starting in 1928, Ernest a simple milk man, falls in love with a house-maid named Ethel. They decide to get married and end up having a son named Raymond.
Their love is simple and yet it carries them through the tough times including the trials of World War 2. They work through these hardships together and we see Raymond grow into an adult making his own choices of love and a career. The whole thing is completely adorable and I defy anyone to not be able to relate to some part of their lives.
Some people might think such a story is boring but not me. I love seeing stories about life and it gives me hope that good things can come when life is hard. It gives hope that the life of simple men and women like Ethel and Ernest actually matter and that there is beauty in their simplicity.
The animation in Ethel & Ernest is a simple hand drawn water color style but I loved it. It was refreshing and added to the sense of wistful nostalgia in the story. The vocal work by Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn is top notch (two of my favorite actors). You really can’t imagine these characters with any other voices.
I guess if I was going to fault Ethel & Ernest it’s probably not something I will remember in 10 years, but I don’t know if I care about that. While I was watching it, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The music is also excellent including a new song by Paul McCartney!
So if you are looking for something to brighten your day and make you feel hopeful than give Ethel & Ernest a watch. I think you will really enjoy spending time with this wonderful couple and learning about their life together.
Directed by Rémi Chayé, Long Way North, is like nothing else you will see this year in animation. It is a small 2D animated adventure that uses color blocking to create a unique visual style.
Rémi said about the style:
“What interests me is the emotion. I want animators to spend time on the characters’ emotions. I don’t want them to spend time tracing details or pulleys. That’s why the graphic style is so simple. No buttons, no laces, no folds in the clothes. So for the ship, the train, the dog sleds, the carriages, we made 3D objects”
This was so beautiful to watch!
The story is set in 1882 Russia where a girl named Sacha is worried about her grandfather who left for the North Pole and never returned. His failed expedition has become a joke and her family is disgraced. She then sets out on an expedition to find her grandfather and redeem her family name.
My favorite part of the story was Sacha as a character. She is a strong female character but not in a cliched way. She has diva moments where she doesn’t want to let go of her aristocratic ways and I liked that. She felt human and was fallible and grew over the course of the movie.
I also liked once they got to the North Pole how things didn’t play out exactly the way I thought they would. Honestly I could have spent even more time there as the adventure really got going then.
The animation is stunning. I loved, loved, loved, loved it. There was a roughness to the lines and a brightness to the color palate that was so refreshing and beautiful. I think Rémi is right. The simplicity did help me to focus on the emotion of the scenes and Sacha as a character. It’s funny with everything trying to be realistic these days (ala Jungle Book) I get much more emotional truth out of animation like this that is mostly shape and color.
I also really enjoyed the music by Jonathan Morali and a rock band called Syd Matters. It felt modern but as Sacha was a modern voice in this world it worked for me.
Unfortunately, there were some negatives to Long Way North. I love a good adventure story but some will find Sacha’s story to be predictable. This wasn’t a big problem for me but I do think they could have introduced more conflict earlier to make it a bit more interesting. For example, it does not take the narrative risks that April and the Extraordinary World takes.
Also I think the middle segment in the boat lasts a bit too long and I got a little bit bored (also that section was the least visually interesting in my opinion). Once they get to the North Pole it picks back up again and I was engaged.
Even with a few issues, I think it is a very strong feature film for Rémi Chayé and he and his 2D animated team deserve tons of applause. Long Way North is a 100% European production with a studio in Paris of 20 animators, 15 layout artists and 20 cel painters and the staff is equally male and female (how refreshing is all of that!). I love what they produced here and can’t wait to see what comes next!
We need independent visually unique voices in animation so I hope you will seek out films like Long Way North and give them your support. Don’t be surprised if you hear about this one come Oscar season!
Overall Grade- B+ (I’ve gone back and forth between B and B+ but it is so pretty I will go with B+)