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« Eddie Redmayne starts his Oscar Campaign | Main | HBO’s LGBT History: Elephant (2003) »
Wednesday
Aug122015

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Chicken Run" 

With Shaun the Sheep currenty struggling at the box office, it's an ideal time to give a round of thanks to Aardman animation for all their wonderfully specific aesthetic and the painstaking stop motion or stop-motion-like CGI shorts and features they've made over the years. This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot travels back to 2000, the year before Oscar added a Best Animated Feature category, to the film that surely would have won it had they started just a year earlier: Chicken Run.

This delightfully British comedy is about a tenacious 'hard boiled' leader Ginger who wants to rescue her fellow hens from their egg-making enslavery at the farm before they become roasts. Mrs Tweedy (perfectly voiced by Miranda Richardson), tired of the farm's low profits, decides to make them pies instead. Cue slapstick action, a sly morbidity, repetitive but highly effective sight gags and lots of jokes about prisoner of war films, organized labor, groupthink, and, you know, chickens.

Here are the Best Shots chosen by our informal club. Click on any of the images to read the accompanying article. My choice is at the end of the post.

CHICKEN RUN (2000)
8 shots chosen by 10 participating blogs 

I’m impressed with their smart set and costume designs that imitate the war time, including concentration camp (the chicken farm), clothing and even the gas chamber (the pie machine)...
-Chirapat

My favorite moments are the slightly darker and somber ones that really give this film its depth...
-Sorta That Guy

I always say when I judge a comedy the number one factor is- Did it make me laugh?  The answer for Chicken Run is Yes!  I laughed back in 2000 and I laughed today watching it. 
-54 Disney Reviews 

 There's a great mastery of visual grammar at work here, and directors Park and Peter Lord show a strong hand in their feature debuts.
-The Entertainment Junkie

The mixture of round, soft and mostly appealing character designs with its detailed and bleak world is jarring at first, but the mixture of the two give the film quite a striking look...." 
-Magnificent Obsession, um blog de cinema 

A very traditional movie in terms of plot mechanics, but it becomes something much more sentimental and endearing by telling this story from the perspective of a group of claymation chickens..." 
-Coco Hits NY 

The shot above is one of the many great sight gags in the film..."
-Film Actually 


More like people than the absolute dread of the Tweedies in their midst, the chickens quite quickly caught me off-guard with their stock yet recognizable personalities...
-Movie Motorbreath

The content and framing of this shot being rather conventional, save for the chickenification of it. Which is no sin, of course..."
Antagony & Ecstasy

As for my shot...

This is not it, but I have to share it because it was my heartiest laugh in 2015 (and I didn't remember it at all from 2000). A throwaway reaction shot during Ginger's planning meeting...

Now, i know our last escape attempt was a bit of a fiasco… 

The "acting" in this super brief cutaway is nothing less than perfection.

I normally select my shot before I've seen any from the contributors but I was late this week and of all the images I saved, two of the three I was struggling to choose between were Babs with her knitted noose, a great morbid sight gag, and that beautifully eery overhead shot in the oven, which is so bold design wise and unlike much else in the movie. Amusingly they happen to be the two shots that were both chosen more than once! Or perhaps it's telling considering that the film relies heavily on highly conventional, even cliché, shot types -- see Tim's article for a good description of why this is

The best shot in Chicken Run is not a single shot but the repeated motif of entire groups of chickens staring directly at the camera, blinking round eyes, dimbulb groupthink, and unified emotions, whether its awe, hope, or hysteria. But it's so much funnier in motion, so here is my choice.

Also funnier in motion, as the farmer does a double take with his flashlight, and the real chicken, hiding under the bed making awkward chicken noises. It's a great meta joke about this entire movie; a movie painstakingly crafted by humans with anthropomorphic clay chickens as their stand-ins, with the chickens themselves play-acting animal behavior for "humans" inside of it, with their own crafted objects. It's smart but, even better, it's sublimely silly.

NEXT WEEK: ANGELS IN AMERICA (2003) - Here are the details

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  • Response
    Response: ukcvwritersreviews
    I am getting a lot of interesting points here after reading this thefilmexperience blog, I am very happy to use this points. This hit me with your best shot, based on well chicken run points keep it up.

Reader Comments (9)

Here's my pick:

http://magnificaobsessao.blogspot.pt/2015/08/hit-me-with-your-best-shot-chicken-run.html

August 12, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterca

I missed the deadline this week! But here's mine: http://antagonie.blogspot.com/2015/08/best-shot-chicken-run.html

August 12, 2015 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

ca & tim -- you've both been added

August 12, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

God I really should have started participating with this one. One of my favourite movies as a ten year old (obnoxiously showing my age) - I own the VHS and DVD of this and it's on my harddrive. The scenes inside the pie machine are nothing short of genius and the amount of work it must have taken!

Thanks for shining a light on this strangely unappreciated gem!

August 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMorganLambert

"...the year before Oscar added a Best Animated Feature category, to the film that surely would have won it had they started just a year earlier: Chicken Run."

Funny that you mention that, because according to the film's IMDb Trivia page: "There was a major push to get the film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The failure to get the nomination, and the popularity of the film among Academy members led to the inclusion of Best Animated Feature for the next Academy Awards..."

So, according to this, we have this film to thank for the inclusion of the category. Whether that's something positive or not, well, I'm sure everyone will have a different answer to that (though I do find it rather odd that they say the film was popular among Academy members, and yet it couldn't manage a single nomination. If any animated film deserved a Production Design nomination, this one was it, and an Original Screenplay nomination would have been great)...

August 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

Morgan -- It was one of my favorites as an 11-year-old! The first movie ever that I went to see in the cinema twice.

stop-motion >>>>>>>> CGI

August 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJan

I'm actually more of a Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit fan, but this week's HMWYBS is making me want to revisit Chicken Run. What a wonderful gem of a film.

August 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

I'd forgotten how really funny this movie is until I watched it last weekend on Netflix with the kids. Aardman never fails to delight.

August 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

So much fun to see everyone's pick. What a hilarious film. Everyone go see Shaun the Sheep!

August 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

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