Continuing on with my series analyzing the Oscar nominated animated feature films each year I am at 2004.
I’d love if you could take a look at the video and if you like it give it a thumbs up. It’s a bit longer than any of my other videos but I had lots to say on The Incredibles!
My thoughts on the other films is basically Shark Tale is a complete failure. I didn’t like the animation. The lead character is a complete jerk. The world building isn’t good. They don’t look like fish and there are no bubbles. Most importantly I didn’t laugh once. I personally think Home on the Range was a better film that year! I had never seen Shark Tale before last night and I can see why I avoided it.
Shrek 2 I think is the strongest of the series. It has the most interesting story, more of the jokes work and it has a pretty good villain. I still have some of the same issues as Shrek and it could have been about 15 minutes tighter but it definitely deserves the nomination. Oh and I did like the music especially Jennifer Saunders.
What do you think of 2004? I’m guessing most of my readers will agree with me The Incredibles was the correct winner for the year.
I’ve mentioned on this blog I have only recently gotten into the superhero movie genre. For years they were too explosion heavy and stupid without any interesting characters. With Avengers started a new trend (at least for me) of charismatic actors playing likable characters with interesting stories. Each year it seems they get stronger till last year we had 3 excellent entries with X-men Days of Future Past, Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Each of these movies were puzzles with entertaining characters and good stories.
During the superhero dry spell there were 2 movies that poked through the dreck Spiderman 2 and The Incredibles. Hercules was actually Disney’s first attempt at making a comic book movie but Pixar’s The Incredibles was their first true superhero movie. But like any good genre movie The Incredibles rises above it to be great on so many levels.
I think every movie fan has certain touchpoints in movies that when they are there it is almost always a win. Some of mine are flying, the ocean, true love, musicals, work, and feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. The last two are particularly prevalent in The Incredibles but perhaps not messages people first think of. But I know for me The Incredibles is great because it is a movie about work and coming to terms with your own story. It’s also a great movie about family and the power of a strong marriage.
Like any good movie about work The Incredibles starts out showing Bob and Helen Parr’s potential to do great things- to be super. But through a brilliant opening montage we learn they must hide their abilities and attempt to live a normal life. For Helen this means be a housewife to her 3 children which she can tolerate enough. However, for Bob it means working in what I call ‘cubicle hell’ in a job selling insurance policies.
This is not who Bob is. Other people could be perfectly happy selling insurance but he is miserable because he was made for better things. I know how that feels. I’ve been in that cubicle knowing I could do more, be more, and it is the worst feeling ever. Sure bad things happen all the time but it is a different kind of awful to be stuck permanently with an unhappy mediocre life.
Bob’s boss is this tiny little shrill man which makes for the greater contrast with Bob and their interactions are very funny. He wants to do something good with his life. He wants to tell the story he’s supposed to tell. It’s the same reason I love The Little Mermaid. Ariel isn’t happy because she isn’t being the person she knows she is supposed to be. I really believe it is an important part of human existence to find out what you are supposed to give the world and then do it. And I’ve been in the Ariel/Bob spot where I knew I didn’t belong and had to make a change.
I also relate to Dash Parr, Bob and Helen’s youngest son who has the gift of being super fast. He wants to use his gift but he can’t. He is told to not express that. He makes the brilliant point “when everyone is special, nobody is”. (You all can see why I like Frozen so much right…same message of a child told to hide their gifts). I can remember as a little girl feeling like I couldn’t share my heart very well. I told my family in one argument “I’m the weird one here but at school I’m the normal one”. Just like Ariel and Dash didn’t quite belong. I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling.
But then Bob (Mr Incredible voiced by Craig T Nelson) gets the opportunity to start using his skills again. And what happens? He is happy. He gets in shape. He smiles more. He and his wife (Elastigirl voiced by Helen Hunt) don’t argue as much. He’s telling the right story so he is in a good place. He’s doing the work he was made to do. He even gets a new flashy supersuit from the hilarious fashionista Edna (director Brad Bird).
Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as he at first hopes. It turns out a young boy who was bothering him during the glory days has grown bitter and wants to enact revenge on all superheroes especially his former idol Mr Incredible. He wants to be the hero but with his own inventions not the help of super powers. He is a very chilling, scary villain, partly because he knows all the villain cliches. At one point he says ‘you got me monologuing!”
Eventually the entire family becomes involved in fighting Syndrome and it is in the last third the movie becomes more of a standard superhero movie but still entertaining. Both Violette and Dash are instrumental in saving the day and using their powers along with the Parr friend Frozone (Samuel L Jackson). I love when Helen tells the kids “Your identity is your most valuable possession”. That’s a main message of the film.
I love the sense of family and camaraderie with the Parrs and it is so fun to see each family member blossom in their own unique ways. Most Disney films are about people meeting and falling in love. Incredibles is one of the only one’s I can think of about how important marriage is. It shows a couple fighting, getting along, and working together. Violette at one point says ” Mom and Dad’s lives could be in jeopardy or worse- their marriage”. I love that!
Like in Finding Nemo there is some terrific dialogue in between the action- along with some real moments of heart. I love when Bob rants about graduation. It reminds me of when President Obama wanted to outlaw 8th grade graduation- the one item we probably agree on most!
Helen: I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation!
Bob: It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the fourth grade to the fifth grade.
Helen: It’s a ceremony!
Bob: It’s psychotic! People keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…
Ha! That cracks me up every time!
There’s a lot of witty dialogue like that and that keeps it from feeling too predictable or stale. Edna especially gets a lot of the great laughs.
Syndrome might be a little scary for small children (I’m so bad at gauging that). Some of the work and marriage drama might be a bit over their heads but it is surrounded by the kids who I think children will really relate too. They will enjoy the action and the story is simple enough for them to understand.
The Incredibles is a movie you can watch with your entire family because it is about a family. They are dysfunctional at times and quarrel but so does every family. In the end they all want what is best for each other . They all want their family to be safe and happy. the movie is the journey that gets them a little closer to that goal.
I love it. And like I said if you piece it apart it is one of the best movies about work I’ve seen.
Overall Grade- A+
So Incredibles 2 is the next project for Brad Bird. Are we excited? I am!
Now that I’ve been thoroughly depressed by the Oscars let’s talk about movies that will never get a live action Oscar- superhero movies. I have actually not been a huge superhero movie fan. In fact, in 2011 I wrote a post on my other blog called ‘Thumbs Down to Summer Movies’. I had recently seen Green Lantern and it was the tipping point. Here’s what I said
“It’s at this point I must make a confession- I don’t like super hero movies. It’s hard to explain why but I have never liked them. With the exception of Harry Potter, I can’t think of a super hero/fantasy franchise I’m a fan of (I’m a marginal fan of Lord of the Rings). I also like the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but they have been sullied by mediocre follow-ups in recent years.
Despite all the special effects I find most super hero movies boring and I don’t like 3D”
So, yes I had sworn off superhero movies and all their progeny but then Avengers happened and I smiled at these likable fun characters with witty dialogue. And we got 2014 and I saw Captain America 2 which was actually a spy movie, Xmen Days of Future Past which is actually a time travel story, Guardians of the Galaxy which is actually a space opera, and Big Hero 6 which is a movie about loss and grief in the guise of a superhero movie.
It was then I had a revelation ‘I like superhero movies when they aren’t superhero movies’. Ding, ding, ding! Fortunately for me Hollywood has figured this out and aside from the odious Man of Steel and the cluttered Amazing Spiderman 2 they have had a remarkable track record of late to the point where I’m actually looking forward to superhero movies now (although highly skeptical about Batman v Superman but we will see). Marvel at least has made me a believer.
I feel like I also have to give a caveat that I am actually not a big Dark Knight fan. It’s super well made and acted but it was just too violent for me and I found it cynical, dark and Batman is such a bore. I wanted him to lose the whole way through. You can all hate me now but it’s really how I felt….
So with all that what are my favorite superhero movies? Here goes.
10. Superman- Christopher Reeves is so charming as Superman and he makes an ok Clark Kent. It doesn’t get bogged down in exposition but is light and fun with great music and decent if hokey special effects. Gene Hackman is good as Lex Luther . Superman is kind of a boring superhero because he’s so perfect but this film finds the balance of embracing the silly while not being too silly (aka Superman 3 and 4…). We also don’t get too much of the Savior metaphors like we do with Man of Steel or Superman Returns that take themselves way too seriously.
9. Batman Mask of the Phantasm- Yep friends this is my favorite Batman movie. Maybe that won’t be a surprise because I love animation but I honestly think this is the best movie depiction of Batman. He’s not just a bore but he gets jealous, frustrated, happy, a mixture of emotions. Kevin Conroy is great as Batman and perhaps it is only in animation that you can pull off the mixture of Bruce Wayne and Batman because you can draw whatever you want it to be where an actor may just be better at one side than the other (same problem so far with Peter Parker). Mark Hamil is wonderful as Joker. It’s a well written script with a bit of a mystery involved but it isn’t too grim or violent. Now I just wonder when the heck it will come out on blu-ray!
8. The Rocketeer- A movie too often forgotten but a very sweet homage to 40’s action movies. It stars Billy Campbell as a stuntman who finds a rocketpack that was designed by Howard Hughes. Jennifer Connely plays his girlfriend and the rest of the cast is stellar with Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton as our Nazi bad guy, Terry O’Quin and more. I defy you to not be charmed by it.
7. X-men: Days of Future Past- Of the big franchises Xmen has always been my favorite. Even when I had sworn off the genre I still kind of liked the X-men movies. Maybe partly because they are the only franchise to pull of interesting female characters and they almost always deal with something thoughtful and complex without getting mean spirited and who doesn’t like Hugh Jackman? I think the recent X-men Days of Future Past is the best of the 7 (including the Wolverine movies) to have come out. It has it all- amazing ensemble (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassender, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McEvoy I could go on. Almost every member of the cast has an Oscar nomination or win. Not bad for a superhero movie).
But its also the Inception of Superhero movies. The time travel element creates layers of a puzzle to figure out and Quicksilver is an amazing villain with special effects. It’s great!
6. Spider-man 2- For my money it is the only good Spider-man movie that has come out so far. The others have good elements but this is the only one that fires on all four cylinders. The special effects still hold up, the large set pieces like the train fight is gripping, Tobey McGuire is charming enough to get me to ignore Kirsten Dunst and James Franco and him have good rivalry. But really the reason the movie is special is Dr Octopus who is such a great, engaging villain. He has really positive motivations through a lot of the movie but he has no self control . It makes him very interesting and fun to watch.
5. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier- A great superhero movie because it’s not really a superhero movie. It’s a spy flick like Mission Impossible with an amazing villain for Winter Soldier, great action fight sequences, a car crash sequence which felt so real, Robert Redford is great (that’s the quality of actors we are getting now!). The Nick Furry twist was very clever and it is so well paced. It never lost my interest or got boring. They build the case with very minimal exposition typically housed within a trip to the museum or some other outing so it doesn’t feel like exposition. Captain America is likable and Chris Evans keeps the character innocent like a man from the 40s might be while still being tough.
4. Big Hero 6- I just got Big Hero 6 on blu-ray and watched it and loved it all over again. It is a superhero movie with real heart. I loved the connection of the two brothers through Baymax. It reminds us that those we love never really leave us because the love continues on. I also loved the diversity of the Big Hero 6 and I thought the motivation of the villain was really clever and surprised me. Also Sanfransokyo was gorgeously drawn and a fun new setting. Overall a huge win for Disney.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy- Don’t worry this is my last from last year. Guardians has everything I want in my superhero movie. It is a likable band of misfits that are gathered together to fight a bad guy. I love the friendship between Groot and Rocket. Chris Pratt is great as Starlord. It’s fun, keeps you guessing and has the best soundtrack I’ve heard in years. It really reminded me a lot of Star Wars with a much weaker villain, and that’s really its only mark against it. I think they actually picked the wrong villain. Nebula is much more complex than Ronan. Still I loved it!
2. Incredibles- Even when I had sworn off Superhero movies I still loved The Incredibles. What’s so great about this movie is it includes so many of my favorite genres all in one. It’s a family movie with a stay at home Mom and her 3 kids who all have their struggles, it’s a movie about work and how when we aren’t doing what we are made to do we aren’t happy, and its gorgeous animation. Every choice they made works. The villain is very scary with a believable and brief backstory. Edna is hilarious (no capes!), and the ending is perfect with everyone learning just the right lesson. Also love Samuel L Jackson as Frozone! It’s actually the first movie I saw when I came home from my 20 month mission for my church and it was a great choice to get reintroduced to cinema.
1. Avengers- This actually came out when I was in my ‘I hate superhero movies’ phase but it was the biggest movie ever so of course I ended up seeing it and to my surprise I loved it. What I liked most is it didn’t take itself too seriously. It was fun without being stupid. I hadn’t seen most of the precursor films leading up to Avengers except Ironman but I don’t think you need to enjoy the movie. Joss Whedon is such a great writer creating likable characters that we can root for and a team dynamic that is unpredictable.
I like that the destruction isn’t too bad and its not really trying to teach us anything. Just give us a team we can root behind and see them seriously challenged by a formidable villain in Loki, who I love. Tom Hiddleston is my favorite performance in the movie. He has motivation behind what he is doing and he never gets mean or too violent like the Joker can. He’s probably my favorite comic book villain, maybe because he doesn’t really see himself as a villain. In the end the script is well written and funny with good action. That’s enough to get 1 on my list.
So there you go! What do you think of my list? I know all of you would put the Dark Knight so maybe give me some other one’s besides Dark Knight you would have included? I’d love to hear.
What are the worst superhero movies? Well, I haven’t seen all of the worst but I’d probably say (does Howard the Duck count as superhero movie? If so than he’d be 1):
Halloween is coming so it seems only appropriate that we talk about some Disney scares! This is not limited to the canon although there are a few movies with scares I have not seen or have not seen in a while, so this is by no means definitive. It is also not necessarily the scariest movie just scenes. Make sure to read my piece on Darkness in Disney to see where I draw the line on good scares and too much for kids (and me. I’m a wimp!).
Some of these are more funny scary than terrifying scary if you know what I mean.
13. Bear- Fox and the Hound- I have an animal phobia so the look of this bear is enough to give me the creeps!
12. Night on Bald Mountain- Fantasia- I mean it’s the devil and his minions with power and fury. Not terrifying in a jump scare kind of way but in a ‘better repent now’ way…
11. Snow White Forest Scene- Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs– Snow White holds up extremely well including this scene when she is spooked in the forest. I think most of us can relate to that feeling of being watched and that the trees may stretch out and grab you!
10. Headless Horseman- Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad- The story of Ichabod is the perfect ghost story for kids. It’s dark and scary but not too scary. Enough to make them feel excited and giggle but not give nightmares. I couldn’t find a great clip but look at the face of the horse. That should tell you something!
This imagery with the pumpkin and the horse with the red eyes. That’s pretty scary stuff!
9. Crazy Donald- Fun and Fancy Free- Crazy Donald is Disney’s version of The Shining. I mean he goes completely insane, axe wielding and all. Best part of Fun and Fancy Free by a long shot.
Get this duck some food!
8. Mob Song- Beauty and the Beast- Think the delusions of crowds and mass hysteria is most terrifying thing of all than Mob Song from Beauty and the Beast is the scare for you! The thing that makes this song particularly scary is the way it escalates and it actually feels like there is little hope for our friends. How can they defeat the entire town? It is also scary because Gaston has reached full madness. He couldn’t get what he wanted and pride made him snap. That is a very human villain.
7. Syndrome- Incredibles- One of the most human villains in all of Disney and that’s what makes him so scary. I mean he has the whole family captured and nobody knows where they are. He’s bitter and resentful but clearly smart. The voice performance is chilling. He even tries to take the baby at the end!
6. Kidnapping- Great Mouse Detective- If this scene were with people instead of mice it might be too much for me. It is really scary and certainly starts the film off with a bang.
5. Remains of the Day- Corpse Bride-
(Found out this is not a Disney! Oh well. It’s still scary!)
This is more funny than scary but it is a great song and ghost story. I love the brilliant animation. If you listen to the tale it is pretty grim stuff. ‘At the end of the day we are all remains of the day!’ Kids will probably laugh but be a little scared too. I love it!
4. Incinerator Scene- Toy Story 3- This is a scene that is not scary in the traditional sense like Remains of the Day or the Headless Horseman. This is scary because it really feels like they are all going to die. My nieces were all very upset by it. I mean they get awfully close to that incinerator!
3. Heffalumps and Woozles- Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh- I had to pick either Pink Elephants on Parade or Heffalumps and Woozles because they are very similar. I went with the latter because it is aimed at smaller children which makes it bolder and scarier. Also I think the song is scarier in the lyrics and way it is sung. Pink Elephants on Parade is more trippy than scary (same with Alice in Wonderland). Plus, creepy toys are always effective in scary movies!
2. Boogie Man’s Song- Nightmare before Christmas- a gambling burlap bag of bugs gambles on whether to kill Santa. Yes, I think that makes the list!
1. Pleasure Island- Pinocchio. Was there any doubt? This scene is nuts! Pinocchio is a morality tale designed to teach children sin is bad and the wicked are punished. And boy does it teach it effectively. I remember as a kid being terrified of the kids turning into donkey scene. They were bad kids but couldn’t you send them to reform school? I mean how many donkeys do these salt mines need?
As an adult the most terrifying thing about Pleasure Island is the kids stay donkeys! There is no redemption or forgiveness to the kids. That’s it. They are done! And the Coachman is never punished. Pinocchio escapes and we assume the Coachman continues to rake in the cash. Yikes!
This is a bad clip but it’s the only one I could find with the scene.
13. Honorable Mention- If I was doing live action I would include Return to Oz on the list even though I hate it . It’s too scary, dark and grim. Not a fan but can’t deny it is very scary Disney! (I’m also a Wizard of Oz purist. I love the original and hated, hated, hated, hated every other version that has been made)