Did the Right Film Win? 2014 Animated Oscars

Well my friends I have finished my series of watching all of the Oscar nominated films for Best Animated Feature Film.  Last year I said 2014 was one of the best years in animation in a long time and now after seeing films going back to 2001, I stand by that claim.  You can make an argument for 2009 and 2010 but for not having a Pixar movie it was pretty darn good- and really diverse in style, tone and everything else.

So here is my video breaking down my thoughts on the 2014 nominees:

This is the first year I was doing this blog and have reviews for all of these films, so my thoughts probably aren’t a surprise to any of you.  Nevertheless, here is a little summary:

How to Train Your Dragon 2- A rare sequel that improves upon the original.  An epic feel to the story and some of the best animation Dreamworks has ever done.  I find the story with the 2 alpha dragons to be a little confusing and I think they give the Mother too much of a free pass for leaving her family.  But still a very satisfying, entertaining, exciting film.

Big Hero 6- A film with real heart from Walt Disney Animated Studios.  I love the character of Baymax and the relationship of Hiro and Tadeshi.  I found the villain to be clever and surprising and Sanfransokyo was extremely creative.

Boxtrolls- A wonderful stop motion film about a town whose leadership gets to wear white hats and eat cheese.  Snatcher the villain wants to wear the white hat and be respected which I think is a unique motivation and a good lesson for kids about labeling through clothing and other items.  The Boxtrolls are sweet and the humor worked for me.  The ending didn’t 100% work for me and the lead Eggs is a little flat and I don’t love the drag queen segment but it is very entertaining.

Tale of Princess Kaguya– A movie that has improved each time I’ve seen it.  A true artistic masterpiece and a story unique to Japan.  It is about a girl found in a bamboo stalk who is trained to be a princess.  She has independent instincts but she chooses to be obedient.  At first that was challenging to accept but now I love it’s different perspective.  It is so gorgeous to look at and uses music very well.   It’s a little bit of an artistically challenging movie but worth the effort.

Song of the Sea- A true masterpiece.  Even with Inside Out, Song of the Sea is the best film I’ve seen this year.  It’s got the emotional depth of Inside Out with Ben trying to deal with the loss of his mother but the hand drawn animation is stunning.  Ben’s sister is a Selkie and Ben must get her back to the sea before it is too late.  Along the way they meet an Owl Witch and other creatures so it is exciting, heartbreaking and tense.  It made my Top 10 Favorite Animated Films.  The music is stunning and I wish I could convince everyone to see it.  I love it so much .

So if I was giving away the award I would pick Song of the Sea, despite my liking all 5 films.  Of the mainstream nominees I do think Big Hero 6 is the best so in that sense the right film did win; however, I think Song of the Sea is the best of 2014.

What about you?  What do you think of these 5 films and which would you pick as best of the year?

 

Rachel’s Top 50 Animation Countdown (50-41)

So I have a fun series I am going to be doing over the next 5 few weeks.  I have meticulously came up with my top 50 animated films.  This isn’t the most impactful or the best made.  It is just my favorite.  For example, I know Pinocchio is a masterpiece and I do appreciate it.  It’s just not a favorite of mine.  So you will disagree with many of these but you can make your own list ;)!

Nevertheless, love to hear your feedback.  It was very tough to do.  I also am still working through anime so there may be some of your favorites I haven’t seen.  Pretty much any movie on this 50 I would give an A too so I love them all even if it is 50th place.

I tried to keep this list in general order of my Disney Ranking but there may be a few things I’ve changed so don’t hold me to that.

50. Watership Down- dark, disturbing, violent and has a lot to say about political systems, social structures and how we rationalize away the dignity of others.

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49. Ponyo- Gorgeous take on Little Mermaid by Studio Ghibli is weird, different and incredibly creative.  A movie I could watch with the sound turned off and still love.  It is also cute and Ghibli’s most child-friendly film outside of Totoro (which is coming later). You know me- I love anything to do with the ocean.

artistic648. Lady and the Tramp– An underrated Disney gem.  A sweet and simple story of the dogs from different sides of the track falling in love.  I love the Norman Rockwell artistry and the jazz Peggy Lee soundtrack. And spaghetti is my favorite food so cant go wrong with that!

Lady-and-the-Tramp-247. Wallace and Gromit:  The Curse of the Were Rabbit- Based on the characters from Nick Park’s animated shorts, we get a witty, sweet claymation story of crazy inventor Wallace and his wise dog Gromit as they try to rid the town of a mutant rabbit eating all their vegetables.

wallace and gromit46. How to Train Your Dragon 2- A rare sequel that is better than the original.  The flying sequences are gorgeous, real heart with the family drama and an epic quality that is tough to pull off in animated films.  For kids that are too young for Lord of the Rings this is a great option.

How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-2-Hiccup-Toothless45. Charlotte’s Web- EB White’s story of the plucky pig and his spider friend comes alive with songs from the Sherman Brothers and great voice casting including Debbie Reynolds and Paul Lynde.

charlotte web44. Atlantis: The Lost Empire– I know I’m in the minority on this one but I love Atlantis.  I love the diversity of the team and how hilarious they all are.  I love the fight sequences and the steampunk look to everything.  I think the culture and language they created is great.

atlantis243. Paranoman- An underrated movie that is legitimately scary yet sweet and full of good laughs.  Made more for teenagers than little children (especially the humor) but not too grown up.  It’s hard to believe it is stop motion it is so seamless. The message at the end is a unique take on bullying with the bullied girl becoming the bully and how they can talk her down.

paranorman42. Land Before Time-   Beautifully animated tail of dinosaurs little one’s making it to the promised land of sorts.  Sweet, sad with nice music.

land before time41. Toy Story 2– I know woefully low for this movie but what can I say this is where it landed. Toy Story 2 is a great movie.  With great humor, camaraderie and an interesting dilemma for Woody about how he wants to live his life.

toy story2-4Get ready next week for the 40-31!

Here’s my youtube video on it.

Best and Worst of 2014

Overall 2014 has been a great year for movies.  I haven’t seen every movie by a long shot but I have seen my fair share.  I am still planning on seeing Annie, Into the Woods and Interstellar but I figured I’d go ahead with this post anyway.  I will do posts on those movies and add an addendum to this post in the notes.

Remember this is just my opinion.  If you liked movies I didn’t than that is awesome.  I want people to enjoy their time at the movies, so if you saw value in something that I didn’t I think that is great. If I liked something you didn’t I hope you can respect my opinion.

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Live Action

10.  Noah

9. God’s Not Dead

8. Chef

7.  100 Foot Journey

6. Captain America: Winter Soldier

5.  Xmen Days of Future Past

4. Edge of Tomorrow

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

1.  Boyhood.

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Animation

10. Planes: Fire and Rescue

9. Rio 2

8. Book of Life

7. Mr Peabody and Sherman

6. Penguins of Madegascar

5. How to Train Your Dragon 2

4. Boxtrolls

3. Tale of Princess Kaguya

2. Big Hero 6

1. Lego Movie

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And now for the worst of the year.  I try to not see bad movies but I did slog through a couple this year just to know if they were really that bad.

10. Ride Along

9. Tammy

8. Muppets Most Wanted

7. Godzilla

6. Amazing Spiderman 2

5. The Other Woman

4. Transformers: Age of Extinction

3. Nut Job

2. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return

1. Maleficent

Best documentary Life Itself (also the only documentary I watched this year so need to catch up on some!)

life-itself-poster

Annie Award Nominees

Today the Annie Award Nominees were released.  These awards celebrate the best in animated films.  I still say this has been an amazing year for animation.  It’s certainly been one of my favorites that’s for sure. I have seen all of the nominees but 2- Song of the Sea comes out Dec 19th, and I will hopefully see it, and Cheatin I must admit I hadn’t heard of but it looks awesome.

Cheatin trailer (this is clearly an animated feature for adults but I’m ok with that.  In fact, sometimes I prefer they go all adult instead of trying to make it appeal to kids and adults (ala Hunchback):

Anyway, the nominees are:

Big Hero 6,

The Lego Movie,

How To Train Your Dragon 2,

The Boxtrolls,

Book Of Life,

Cheatin’,

Song Of The Sea (here’s Song of the Sea trailer if you haven’t seen it yet. It looks amazing)

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.

What an impressive list.  I LOVED Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2 (even more than original), Lego Movie, Boxtrolls and Kaguya (gave A’s to all 5 of those!).  Book of Life I really liked despite some problems (got a B). They are all so different it is tough to compare.  But again what a great year especially when you consider no Pixar and some highly entertaining films didn’t even make the list (Mr Peabody and Sherman and Penguins of Madagascar were really fun comedies).

Well, what would you pick to win?  I’d be happy with any of them winning but if I had to pick I’d go with The Lego Movie.  I know all of you weren’t as crazy about it as I was but this is my blog and my opinion so for me it was the most creative, visually inventive, had heart, showed how kids play, their randomness and fun, and it made me laugh a lot.  But I was really moved and dazzled by Big Hero 6 also, so I would love to see it win.  Same with Kaguya, which was so beautiful, and The Boxtrolls, which had a great look, and a story that makes kids (and me!)  think while charming them.  How to Train Your Dragon was an epic adventure and dazzled me from beginning to end.  Plus, I loved the flying sequences.

But push come to shove I would still pick Lego Movie.  What was your favorite? (And remember there are no wrong answers it’s just an opinion)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

htyd2What a year in animation 2014 has been!  If Big Hero 6 is the masterpiece it looks to be (currently 100% on Rotten Tomatoes!) than I wonder if this is the best year in animation since the renaissance?  2010 was a also great year too with Toy Story 3, Tangled, Secret World of Arriety, Megamind and the original How to Train Your Dragon.

That film was a fun adventure about an underdog kid named Hiccup in a viking culture that thinks Dragons are an enemy.  He befriends a hurt dragon named Toothless and realizes they are kindly, peaceful creatures.  Unfortunately nobody including his father Stoick will believe him and they insist upon hunting down the nest of the dragons. Eventually Hiccup helps the dragons prove their worth and they win over the town including Stoick.

how to train your dragon cast

For this update Hiccup is now a young man and expected to follow his father Stoick as Chief of the town.  His girlfriend Astrid is a winner in the dragon races.  The plot gets going when an enemy named Drago threatens to conquer them and take all of their dragons.

Hiccup wants to talk to Drago but his father says it is madness and they must prepare for war.  It is a great very grown up discussion for kids about whether seeking peace is correct or appeasing your enemy.  When do you fight for your family or seek peace at all costs?  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes had a similar debate and I LOVED that movie.

I don’t want to spoil it for any of you but this is an epic movie.  If your kids are frustrated they can’t see Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter this is a perfect option for them.  It feels like that kind of  epic fantasy.  As fun the first one is, this sequel is even better.  It’s bolder, it says more and has a very meaty story.

New characters are introduced including a special relation to Hiccup.  And the villain Drago and his hypnotizing Beast called the Alpha are very effective.   It does a good job of making things seem without hope for our heroes which is key to this type of movie.

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Drago and Alpha

The animation is stunning.  I still wish they wouldn’t make the dragons so separated from the styling of the rest of the film.  All the fluorescent colors don’t seem to fit in well. I love in animated movies when characters fly and in this movie Hiccup even does some base jumping!

base jumping

While I am still not in love wiht Jay Baruchel as Hiccup’s voice, he is fine.  Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera and Jonah Hill all return and do a good job as their characters.  Cate Blanchett and Djimon Hounsou are new to the cast and both good; although the inconsistencies on accents is a little annoying.  Why does Hiccup and Astrid sound like  Americans,  Blanchett’s Valka sound British and the rest Scottish?  But that’s a nitpick.  It’s a good cast .

stoick

The disappointed Dad storyline is a little tired but there is so much else going on I didn’t mind it.  It might be a little complicated for some kids but there is enough excitement that I think they will still enjoy it.  There are also some scenes of real heart and not to repeat myself it is an epic fantasy story!

The score is phenomenal by John Powell who earned an Oscar nomination for the first movie and he should win another.  It was so good in building tension and excitement without being overbearing.  Evidently they used an array of Viking and Celtic instruments including harps, uileann pipes, tin whistles and bagpipes and you can hear it.  It’s gorgeous.

The official trailer gives away a big spoiler so I wouldn’t watch it if you care about spoilers.  This one just shows the amazing flying sequences.

Aside from a few squabbles it is a very strong film and should be a huge hit for all ages of kids and adults.  I loved it!

For very emotional kids there are a few moments of death and sadness and battle that gets intense.  It’s also probably a little long for very small kids at 1 hr 41 minutes.

Have any of you seen it?  What did you think?

Overall Grade A   Content Grade A