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?

 

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Did the Right Film Win? 2013 Animated Oscars

Hi guys!  We are up to 2013 in my series on the Animated Oscars and I have a special treat for you! Queen Elsa has come to visit to review all 5 films!

elsa2I admit in my review for the Disney Canon of Frozen I was a little defensive and perhaps overly concerned with trolls.  This time I took a different approach and just decided to have fun with it. I know people feel all kinds of ways about Frozen and I explained it as best as I could.   But there are plenty of great animated films for everyone so hopefully you can enjoy hearing my thoughts on one I enjoy.

The other 4 films are also worth seeing (no Shark Tale skunks in this year!).

Ernest and Celestine- Done by some of the same team that did The Illusionist and The Triplets of Belleville.  This is a watercolor sketchbook style story about an unlikely friendship between a mouse and a bear.  They kind of become bandits and the friendship evolves over time and then when both are put on trial they teach their societies something important about love, labeling and racism.  A real gem of an animated film (and can also be very funny).

Despicable Me 2- I think the Despicable Me movies are just ok and I wasn’t a big fan of Minions, so I wasn’t sure what I’d think of Despicable Me 2 on the rewatch.  I think the disappointment of Minions actually made me appreciate this film even more.  It has a lot of solid laughs, which didn’t happen in Minions.  I really like seeing Gru with the 3 little girls and being an overprotective Dad.  The Minions are also funnier in small doses than the main attraction.  It’s no masterpiece but a decent comedy for kids.

The Wind Rises- The strongest competition for Frozen.  A great film that just gives us the life of a man and we decide what we think of him and his dreams.  It is a story about hope and how a dream can carry you through tough times.  It is a magic-free film from Miyazaki about the life of a airplane designer named Jiro during World War II.  It made my top 50 animated countdown so clearly I love it.   It goes without saying the animation is stunning.

The Croods-  This was a new one for me from Dreamworks.  I’d heard bad things about the film and you know what? I actually enjoyed it.  I liked it was about a family and thought the script was pretty funny.  I liked how the created new animals and world for them to meet.  It made it unpredictable and surprising.  I liked the voice cast especially Nicholas Cage who has a freak-out even animated!  It’s not a masterpiece but liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

I’d still give the Oscar to Frozen because I think it has the best characters, music, story and everything else.  One of my favorite animated films from Disney.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  🙂

Did the Right Film Win? 2005 Animated Oscars

Today we get to one of the hardest years I think I will face in this analysis of the films nominated for Best Animated Academy Award each year.  I love all of the 3 films nominated and can see going with any of them.

Check out my video where I talk about the films and decide- did the right one win?  If you like the video give it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

Picking my favorite was difficult because they are all so strong.  In the end I went with Corpse Bride because I love the Danny Elfman music and being a lover of musicals that will always put a movie over the top.  I particularly like these 2 numbers.

What would you pick? Please put in the comments section. Thanks.  I’ve really loved this discussion on both  my channel and here on the blog from this series so thank you for contributing!

 

Did the Right Film Win? 2002 Animated Oscars

Hey guys! Today I finished video 2 in my series on the Animated Oscars.  It is 2002 and so I asked Did the Right Film Win?

For this video I rewatched Ice Age and wasn’t very impressed.  I found the animation to look very amateurish and the story very predictable.  I’ve always felt it was a bit of a Monsters Inc copycat (studios loved doing that to Pixar in those days).  It’s harmless but I was surprised I didn’t enjoy it more on rewatch.

I also saw Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron for the first time and really enjoyed that.  It’s got striking animation and I liked they didn’t have the horse talk like in Bambi or other films.  The narration is all you need.  It’s kind of like Black Beauty in the Old West and I liked it. Definitely one of the better Dreamworks films and great music by Hanz Zimmer.

The rest are less a surprise to my readers.  Lilo and Stitch has really grown on me each time I see it.  Treasure Planet is beautiful but for some reason puts me to sleep. And Spirited Away is a complete masterpeice.

I’d love for you to put your comments on the nominees and winner.  If you watch the video and think it is good give me a thumbs up. Thanks!

Rachel’s Top 50 Animation Countdown (20-11)

Now we are getting down to the cream of the crop. Pretty much all of these movies could be first place on this list because I love them all for different reasons.  So, don’t get too caught up in the rankings from here on out.  They are all most beloved to me. 🙂

20. Finding Nemo– A film that has it all- real heart, humor, gorgeous animation, amazing vocal performances and more.  They manage to keep both storylines of  Nemo’s world in the tank and Marlin hunting for his son with Dory equally engaging and fun.  So many moments surprise me like the AA sharks. It’s probably Pixar’s most rewatchable film and being a lover of the water it is a total delight.

finding nemo519. Tale of Princess Kaguya– A movie that grows on me each time I see it.  I loved it on an initial watch but have seen it several times since and now I LOVE it.  Parts that seemed a little slow now feel like poetry.  It’s one of the most unique and visually stunning animated film I’ve ever seen and I love the way it uses music to tell the story.  It’s a very Japanese story of a woman who chooses to be obedient to her father no matter the personal cost.  At times it is quite tragic and the ending is intriguing.

tale-of-princess-kaguya-118. Wall-e– Another movie that grows on me each time I see it.  I just reviewed it in my Pixar series but I think it is just about perfect.  I love the love story between Wall-e and Eva.  I love the artistry of their space ballet.  I love the message about hope and that anyone can be a hero.

walle and eva17. 101 Dalmatians- My favorite movie from the sketch era with one Disney’s most iconic villains in Cruella Deville.  What makes her so great is she has this insane plan of killing all these puppies.  It’s not a boring motive like Radcliffe or Clayton who just want money.  No she just wants a dalmatian coat.  She is also powerful and nearly wins time and again.  I love little moments of humor thrown in and the real tension that is developed in scenes like when they are loading the van.  Small characters like Sergeant Tibbs are a total delight.

DalmatianPuppies16. Incredibles– a unusual combination of a movie about work and a superhero story.  Bob is not happy in his life because he isn’t doing what he is called to do.  His unhappiness affects his marriage which is portrayed in such a realistic way that I think is great for kids to see.  I love the messaging and the villain is very evil (again almost wins which makes him menacing).  Great voice casting, terrific pacing and story.  I wouldn’t change a thing.

incredibles915. Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh– A criminally underrated film that is viewed by many as a movie only for small children.  Each of the 3 stories is sweet and layered with great voice casting. They say Elmo means love whenever he is on stage and I think Winnie the Pooh means childhood.  He is simple and yet thoughtful with a never ending desire for honey.  We get the dry narration which is so funny and the ending in this film is perfect.  It makes me cry every time I watch it.  ‘Will you ever forget me Pooh Bear”.  Not me!  I won’t forget you on this list! 🙂

winnie the pooh ending14. My Friend Totoro- Perhaps Studio Ghibli’s most iconic film and for good reason.  It is in many ways like Winnie the Pooh, the story of in this case 2 little girls with a sweet lovable friend, the wood spirit Totoro.  Totoro flies the girls around and just wants to protect them from harm or negative influence.  It’s so inventive and good-natured I don’t mind the simpler story.  Like Ponyo it is a Studio Ghibli film you can watch with even your youngest children and they will love it.   It’s an adorable movie.

totoro13. Inside Out– Don’t cry recency bias I loved Inside Out.  I’ve seen it twice and the layers of character development are amazing.  What Joy goes through in her understanding of happiness and Riley in dealing with the emptiness of having neither sadness or joy is so engrossing.  I love how the entire world is 11 with Imaginationland changing and morphing before them.  I love the islands of personality and their connection to memories.  I love the other emotions especially Anger and Fear and how funny they were.  The ending is perfection when Riley’s parents see her as an emotional equal and they bond.  What they were able to do with Bing Bong is remarkable.  And it’s also very funny to boot.

inside out512. Princess Mononoke- One of Miyasaki’s most ambitious works with a battle between the humans and the spirits of the forest.  Princess Mononoke is torn between both sides of the battle and we feel it as viewers.  All the characters are layered and interesting and it looks so beautiful.  It’s brutal at times and even violent but one of the most original fairytales I’ve ever seen.

princess mononoke11. Tangled– Disney’s first romantic comedy is so well done.  I love Flynn and Rapunzel’s relationship.  I love Mother Gothel and I think the songs are great.  It has probably Disney’s biggest plothole but I will forgive it.  I love the lanterns and the artistry throughout.  I saw it in 3D and it blew me away.   Great side characters as well and just a terrific rewatchable movie with real heart and lovely message about finding a new dream.

tangled flynn and rapunzel

When Marnie was There Review

Get out the tissues for more than just a heart-wrenching movie.  I have now seen what is evidently the last Studio Ghibli film.   This is my response to that reality:

ghibli gifThe last film is called When Marnie was There and I’m happy to say if they are going to go out this is a great one.  I LOVED it!

Here’s my youtube review.  I’d love if you guys give it a watch and a thumbs up. (I said wrong name on my youtube review. Sorry)

It’s about a girl named Anna who is clinically depressed.  So much so she wishes she was dead.  As a foster daughter she is deeply loved but still struggles with feeling unwanted and unloved.  She says at the beginning ‘there are some people who fit in the circle and there are some that are outside”.  She has resigned herself to being an outsider and thinks she is incapable of both giving and receiving love from anyone.  I was really impressed with how deep they were willing to go.  This is no cliched ‘down in the dumps’ kind of depression.  This is real despair.

when marnie5Worried about her, Anna’s mother sends her to a relative in the country to try and help her with her asthma and get her emotions back from this dark place.  The animation is gorgeous in the countryside, some of Studio Ghibli’s best.

when marnie6The sound mixing is also excellent.  When she walks through grass it sounds like someone walking through grass.  The rain and water sounds are so authentic.  I don’t normally notice things like that but in this case it was wonderful and really gave a lush rich and textured feel to the movie.

Anna likes to sketch and one day she stumbles upon a marshland with a big mansion at one end.

when marnie3Eventually she notices a teen like herself at the house. She has long blonde hair, blue eyes and seems like almost a ghost on the lake. She comes and goes at odd times and there is something other-worldly about her.
when marnie4Anna dives further into the mystery of the marsh and the mansion and as she does a relationship between her and the girl named Marnie develops.

Some might see it as a lesbian romance but because of things we learn I think it is a deep and abiding friendship.  Regardless they love each other and through the experience Anna begins to realize she is worthy of love and that she has great love in her life.  She learns her value to the world and that’s a story arc that almost always works for me.

I was bawling my eyes out!  I would say more but I really don’t want to spoil it for all of you.  It is very clever and does not wash away her mental illness too easily.  She grows little bit by little bit over a summer and really comes to know who she is. She even can be a jerk at times because she is so nervous about being rejected. That all felt totally authentic to me of someone dealing with a mental illness.

I felt like Anna was very close to hurting herself (like I said very dark) and Marnie is the equivalent of an angel sent to rescue a lost soul. I also loved the mystery element and like all good Studio Ghibli films I wasnt quite sure where it was all going. The climax in a silo was exciting and heart wrenching.

when marnie2If I was going to nitpick I wasn’t that crazy with the US dubbing they did.  It just didn’t seem to fit and normally Ghibli does a great job.  I also thought the music was just ok (Kaguya had one of the best scores I’ve ever heard). The Priscilla Ahn song is nice during the credits. I love her but the score was average by Ghibli standards

But other than that I loved it.  I thought it was bold and took a girl from a dark place to one of joy and happiness in a believable way.  It’s a movie about hope and how we all have people rooting for us. Friendship and a knowledge of our eternal worth is what gives us hope and makes life worth living and Anna realizes that and is a new vibrant woman as a result. (In a way it is kind of like Field of Dreams. Other worldly message from the past to heal wounds and move forward).

The mystery surprised me at times and kept a brisk pace.  The love overwhelmed me and the animation is stunning.  It is definitely one I will want to get on blu-ray and it holds its own with the Studio Ghibli greats.  If you can find it near you please go and see it.  These studios need to know we love their work.  Maybe someone else will pick up the banner with Studio Ghibli leaving us?

Here’s the trailer

Overall Grade A

Until then bye, bye Studio Ghibli.  I love you!

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Tale of Princess Kaguya Review

kaguya horizontal 1Lets talk some Studio Ghibli specifically their latest film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.  Studio Ghibli if you are not aware is the Japanese animation team that has produced anime films such as Spirited Away, My Friend Tottoro, Howls Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke.  They are most known for the works by Hayao Miyazaki, the amazing artist and director.

There has been some talk of Studio Ghibli taking a break with the retirement of Miyazaki but he has talked of retirement before and then finds a reason to make another film so we will see what happens.  In the meantime there is still plenty of talent at Studio Ghibli to draw upon as can be seen by Kaguya which is directed by Isao Takahata.   By the strength of this film, I am very excited to see what Takahata has for us in the future!  (I guess Takahata directed Grave of the Fireflies which is also dark and beautiful).

This is a very different kind of movie than the Miyazaki films and honestly it is going to be a tough sell for some western audiences.  It is very slowly paced.  The only thing I can think to compare it to is maybe Bambi.  There isn’t a strong plot to Bambi but it is beautiful and it tells the tale of a deer growing up to be a prince.  Kagayu is kind of like that.

It has a very different look than other Studio Ghibli films and reminds me more of The Secret of the  Kells or Ernest and Celestine the way it uses watercolor and hand drawn animation to tell the story.  Some may have issues with the film but, nobody can deny that Kaguya looks stunning.

Take a look at the trailer.

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It tells the story of a bamboo farmer who finds a little girl in the bamboo.  It looks like a doll but he takes it home to his wife and the baby miraculously grows very quickly as it is taken care of.

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Kind of like with Bambi when you see him learning to skate or playing with Thumper, in this story you see the baby called Little Bamboo frolicking with her friends.  There are multiple scenes with babies bottoms and women breastfeeding which I guess could bother some people but I think breastfeeding is beautiful so that didn’t bother me.  You see Bamboo playing with frogs, eating melon, chasing pigs, scenes like that which are sweet but some may want more story.

breastfeeding

Little Bamboo’s father finds gold in the bamboo and great silks and kimonos and he feels this is a sign from the Gods that she is of noble birth and must be trained as such.  This leads us to the second half of the movie (it is a very long 2 hours and 17 minutes and it is slow paced so like I said some will find it boring) where Little Bamboo is trained as a lady and renamed by the naming man to be Princess Kaguya.

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This part of the movie is so Japanese and may be a tough sell for western audiences.  In Western films such as Mulan or  Little Mermaid, our heroines Mulan  and Ariel rebel against their fathers and cultural customs and find happiness.  In this film Kaguya repeatedly agrees to do as her father directs whether it is moving to the city, painting her teeth black, listening to suitors, or plucking her eyebrows .

tale-of-princess-kaguya

There is only one moment where she refuses to submit to the Emperor and be his concubine (all the suitors in the movie have multiple wives and concubines so that’s not the reason she refuses).  She has a moment of free spirit that is gorgeously drawn but in the end even the God’s force her to submit.

princess-kaguya conte-princesse-kaguya-extrait_6wi0p_37j55y

This is such a different character arc than I am used to and it was challenging because it didn’t seem like she was a happy person.  She’d have glimpses of happiness but then it would be taken away from her a second later; however, I know that is because I come from a culture that see’s happiness and life very differently, so I try to learn from this culture presented and not be too judgmental of their choices.

To Western eyes the ending feels very bitter-sweet.
To Western eyes the ending feels very bitter-sweet.

Like I said I think The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a tough sell for the average American audience.  It is long.  It has minimal plot and the characters make choices that go against our modern sensibilities.  However, if you can set all that aside you are in for a treat.  It is so beautiful.  The music by Joe Hisaishi is one of the best scores I’ve ever heard.  There are whole sequences when Kaguya is running or when a character is at sea and faces a monster that are stunning.

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There is also something to be said for obedience and submitting your will to a higher power’s plan, even if it makes you temporarily unhappy . As a Christian, I certainly believe that is often the case.  There are many things I do not do which at least seem to give others pleasure because I want to be obedient.  So it does have a valuable lesson to teach.  It’s just not the independence and strong will power we value so much in Western and particularly American culture.

I’d be very curious to know what any of you think if you get to see it.  The US Dubbing is good with Mary Steenburgen, Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, Lucy Liu, Beau Bridges, James Marsden and others.  As with all Studio Ghibli films they manage to merge the languages so that it feels like the characters have always been speaking English.

It certainly strengthens my argument of how wonderful 2014 has been for animation because nobody can deny The Tale of Princess Kaguya is one of the most beautifully animated films of this or any other year.  It is gorgeous.  Some people will definitely have issues with pacing and character’s choices but I was able to move past those barriers and really was blown away by it.

See it in the theater if you can not only to get the most beautiful viewing experience, but to support hand drawn animation when you can because the box office is where it really counts.  DVD and blu-ray sales help but when studios are deciding whether to produce movies they look at box office sales, so if you love hand drawn animation it’s time to put your money where your mouth is like I did.  If it is not playing at a city near you (25 cities so far) than follow them on facebook and contact your local theaters.  Let them know you want to see it.

It is going to be extremely difficult to determine this year’s Best Animated Feature for the Oscars because I don’t know how you don’t include this film.  It is awe-inspiring to look at. I think either Boxtrolls or Book of Life is going to lose its spot which is a shame because they are both so inventive and great to look at. I don’t care if I’m the only one who feels this way I just love this year’s films! If Song of the Sea is as great as people say than the Oscars noms are likely to be Song of the Sea, Tale of Princess Kaguya, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Big Hero 6 and The Lego Movie. I would love to see Hisaishi get a nom for best score because it really is outstanding but it’s been a great year in that department too.  A great year for movies!

Here are some more clips if you are still trying to decide whether to see it or not.

As far as a recommendation for kids it is tough.  Certain kids will be very rambunctious throughout the film and like I said there are breasts, baby butts and talk of wives and concubines if that is a concern for parents.  Other than that there isn’t any content that would be offensive.  Nothing is scary or violent.  There are some kids who really love artistic films and sometimes it’s the adults that get antsy! I’ve seen that happen many times.

My niece who really loves Japanese culture and art I think would love it, so it just depends on the kid.  Maybe watch the trailers with them and gauge their interest? But I think it is good for kids to see challenging films on occasion and not the easy to digest but fun films mainstream Hollywood gives them. It’s good for the brain to have to work a little bit harder to appreciate what we view from time-to-time.

Overall Grade- A