HOT TOPICS


NOW PLAYING

in theaters



new on dvd


review index

 

Welcome

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

Powered by Squarespace
What'cha Looking For?
Keep TFE Strong

Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference to The Film Experience in terms of stability and budget to dream bigger. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience

THANKS IN ADVANCE

For those who can't commit to a dime a day, consider a one time donation for an article or a series you are glad you didn't have to live without.

Subscribe

Entries in animated films (222)

Thursday
Jan152015

Tim's Toons: The newly wide-open animation race

Tim here. As you’ve probably heard, unless this is literally the first thing you’ve read on the internet all day, the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars got thrown for a loop when the prohibitive frontrunner, The Lego Movie, was unexpectedly denied a nomination. In the blink of an eye, one of the most boring races suddenly turned into the most unpredictable of all 24.

So why don’t we start hacking away at the five titles, and see what we can make of them, now that we’ve suddenly got some excitement on our hands?



BIG HERO 6
Directors: Don Hall (1st nomination), Chris Williams (2nd nomination)
Studio: Walt Disney Animation (8th nomination)

Nathaniel kind of liked it, I kind of liked it a bit less. Which mostly describes the reception that the film has received from everybody: nobody much dislikes the genial adventure-comedy about a boy and his charmingly soft robot, but it hasn’t inspired the kind of culture-devouring passion that Disney’s Frozen was enjoying a year ago at this point.

Path to victory: If the glow of the Disney brand name, so recently rejuvenated by Frozen’s enormous success, convinces people that this one was probably good enough to get by in an uncertain year.



THE BOXTROLLS
Directors: Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable (1st nomination for each)
Studio: Laika (3rd nomination, 4th if we include the pre-Laika Corpse Bride)

With The Lego Movie out of the picture, this has abruptly become the critics’ baby in the race. And it’s not an unfair position for the film, which bears its rough, handmade aesthetic with pride that shades into showing-off. Those of us who love stop-motion animation really love it, and the studio has done an outstanding job of positioning itself as the home for high-tech revisions to the most ancient of animation forms. The Boxtrolls is certainly not their most sophisticated piece of storytelling, but it’s a technical masterwork. For more praise, check out this top 10.

Path to victory: It’s in a great position to do some of the "look at our wonderfully fussy homey craftsmanship" campaigning that Laika does so well, and CEO Travis Knight has deep pockets. The film will have to work for it, but it’s work that I think can be done.

 

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
Director: Dean DeBlois (3rd nomination)
Studio: DreamWorks Animation (11th nomination)

A sequel that many people liked and only some people particularly loved. A lot of that is the side effect of having two movies' worth of plot crushed down into one, cramping things and having unfortunate repercussions in the department of making Cate Blanchett's awesome character feel like an afterthought. It's also a little too desperate to make things feel grander and more epic, at the expense of the character-driven charm of the first. Still...

Path to victory: ...it feels like the default pick, right? DreamWorks proper hasn't won since the category's very first year in 2001, and voting for HTTYD2 can retroactively feel like rewarding the original, which surely would have won against any competition less fierce than Toy Story 3. The box office and the critics are fine without being in any way exceptional, though, so this is less the one that's surely going to take the Oscar, than the one that only takes the Oscar if nobody else can be bothered.

 

SONG OF THE SEA
Director: Tomm Moore (2nd nomination)
Studio: Cartoon Saloon (2nd nomination)

I must confess to having not seen it. Both Nathaniel and Margaret were pretty high on it, though, and on the strength of 2009's The Secret of Kells, I feel that following Moore down the rabbit hole of brightly-colored Celtic mythology is a pretty safe bet. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to look at this one a bit more closely in the next few weeks.

Path to victory: Margaret puts it bluntly: "breathtakingly stunning artwork". Being the most traditional, and probably also the most striking, of the nominees can only help. The big uncertainty here is that distributor GKIDS ended up with two nominees, and it's hard to guess if they have the resources to handle two campaigns. One of them almost certainly has to give.

 

THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA
Director: Isao Takahata (1st nomination)
Studio: Studio Ghibli (4th nomination)

As you perhaps know - because I won't shut the hell up about it - Takahata is one of the great living directors of animation, and Princess Kaguya is a gorgeous, challenging (potential) swan song. Retelling the most ancient story in Japanese storytelling using digtital animation techniques designed to mimic pencil sketches and watercolors, the film is a smart blend of fable and domestic drama without any anachronistic modern attitudes but also without old-fashioned fustiness. It's my favorite animated feature of the year, so I get a little over-passionate about it; it's also the only one of the nominees mostly meant for an adult audience.

Path to victory: See the above issue with GKIDS' split loyalties. These seems like the stronger play - it has more critics' awards, it's probably the last Ghibli film that will have a real shot at winning, the same for Takahata - but the category hasn't favored grown-up animation yet. And this is way Japanese. Besides, how many Academy members can possibly find "But Takahata might not ever make another movie!" a compelling argument?

 

Alright, so if you had to pick, right now, what do you think will end up winning? And was The Lego Movie robbed, or is that just the cost of making a feature-lenth toy ad? Sound off in comments!

Friday
Jan092015

Animated Feature Contenders: Henry & Me

Tim here. With the Oscar nominations coming in just under a week, this is our last chance to look at the little odds and ends on the list of 20 films submitted in the Best Animated Feature category, and pretend that the race isn’t down to The LEGO Movie and five movies vying for four runner-up slots. And of all the odds and ends, they don't come a whole lot odder than our final subject, Henry & Me.

Henry & Me is a direct-to-DVD feature that finagled a courtesy theatrical release, no doubt in part so that it would show up in articles like this one, and win some free publicity as a calling-card for young Reveal Animation Studios, and raise the profile of a release that’s seeing a healthy chunk of its sales going to charity. The risk of such a gambit is that it relies on the reviewer playing nice with a sweet-minded but rather dim bit of nonsense.

More...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan032015

Tim's Toons: The Best Voice Acting in 2014

Tim here. Year-end listmaking mania tends to skip right by animation, with only a glance in the direction of a solitary film that doesn’t tend to reveal much imagination on the part of the listmakers (probably, if you are a critic in 2014, your favorite animated feature was The Lego Movie, unless it was The Lego Movie. But I hear some folks really liked The Lego Movie). The Annie Awards do what they can, but they’re weirdly over-politicized.

All of which is to say, it’s the perfect time, before 2015 has a chance to warm up, to throw a little more light on animated film in the year that was than just rubber-stamping a Best Animated Feature award and moving on. May I present to you this unranked list of

Six Great Vocal Performances from 2014

Alison Brie as “Princess Unikitty”, The Lego Movie
Yes, the exact same Lego Movie I just complained about showing up everywhere. It’s a chronological list, it had to come first. And of the many things that make this movie so delightful, Brie’s sugary embodiment of the flightiest fantasies of children’s playtime is the one that’s stuck the most for me, all through the year. Manic enthusiasm delivered at machine-gun, and outbursts of scorching anger in the same high-pitch register: it’s a straightforward comic turn, but a singularly enjoyable one.

Will Arnett as “Batman”, The Lego Movie
Okay, so I’m a hypocrite. Anyway, Arnett’s self-amused, gravelly take on the Dark Knight is as much a parody of Christian Bale’s growly Batman as anything else, which is a big part of the joke. But it’s also a pretty great performance of the iconic comic book character by itself. Mocking and sarcastic, of course (that is the primary mode of the film’s humor), but with enough puffed-up importance and overclocked drama that it’s absolutely easy to believe that this is a entitled rich guy putting on a show to fight crime.

Cate Blanchett as “Valka”, How to Train Your Dragon 2
Not every A-list award winner has what it takes to do voice acting, and history has witnessed more dreadful celebrity roles in animated features than wonderful, revelatory ones. But Blanchett brings nuance and depth by the bucketful, making a frustratingly under-written part one of the densest animated characters of the year. The social awkwardness that comes from years away from humans, and nervous romanticism while meeting her long-lost husband are all Blanchett’s contribution, not the script’s, and she carries it off while nailing a Scottish accent.

Signe Baumane as “Narrator”, Rocks in My Pockets
Stretching a definition: Baumane is also the film’s writer and director, and it’s not entirely clear that what she’s doing is “acting”. It’s more like sitting down to hear her tell us a story. But what a storyteller Baumane proves to be! Jabbing at punchlines with ebullient good humor, clucking at tragedies with mournfulness that doesn’t turn into outright misery, and pulling out a whole ensemble of affected voices to give life to her characters, Baumane’s treatement of her family history is even more involving and energetic because of her words than her images.

Ben Kingsley as “Archibald Snatcher”, The Boxtrolls
A gutter-born Cockney accent is enough to make Kingsley’s crisp voice almost totally unrecognizable, which is impressive enough to begin with. What elevates this beyond mere success as a bit of celebrity casting gone right is the pathos with which Kingsley invests the character: villains in children’s movies aren’t known for their ambiguous shading, but Snatcher, as performed by Kingsley, has just enough self-deluding desire to fit in with a world that doesn’t want him to come across as deserving our pity as much as our scorn. If I were going to rank these performances, there’s an excellent chance Kingsley would be my #1. (With a shout-out to Sean Patrick Doyle as well who did his singing, too.) 

Takeo Chii as “The bamboo cutter”, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
The late Chii’s final performance in a career stretching longer than 40 years is a nimble execution of a stock character rather than an attempt to seriously expand the limitations of that character. He’s a blustering, overbearing dad who bullies the world in attempt to get his daughter all the things she doesn’t actually want. But even through the language barrier, the sweetness of Chii’s performance, and the desperation as he tries to impress and bluff his way into social respectability, come through with touching sincerity and simplicity, the adjectives that best describe Princess Kaguya as a whole.

Who did I miss? What were your favorite vocal performances this year? For the record the Annies nominated these four for Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature:  Cyndi Lauper as the voice of Nurse Cyndi - Henry & Me; Andy Garcia as the voice of Eduardo - Rio 2 ; Sir Ben Kingsley as the voice of Archibald Snatcher and Dee Bradley Baker as the voice of Fish in The Boxtrolls

 

Friday
Dec262014

The Animated Feature contenders: Minuscule - Valley of the Lost Ants

Tim here. Our journey through the list of films submitted for the Best Animated Feature Oscar now takes us to France and Belgium and the utterly beguiling children’s film Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants. Cumbersome title notwithstanding, it’s a light and breezy little lark, with a simple fairy tale-esque story so elemental in its particulars – an infant ladybug separated from her parents falls in with a colony of black ants and helps them in their war against aggressive red ants - that the movie can get away without having a single word of dialogue to be found anywhere in its running time.

Writer-directors Thomas Szabo & Hélène Giraud have adapted the movie from their television series Minuscule (which I understand to be terrifically popular in places that aren’t the United States), made up of 6-minute comic shorts in which a variety of insects get into comic scrapes. Expanding from such a brief running time up to almost an hour and a half is not for the faint-hearted and Szabo & Giraud haven’t done it flawlessly: the film suffers some redundancy and stretched-out plot developments.

But at the same time, the filmmakers fully exploit the scope of a feature, both visually and in terms of story ambition. There are wide shots all throughout the whole length of the movie that present the ants’ valley as a series of endless vistas of woods and mountains, giving Minuscule the feel of a limitless universe of a sort that only shows up in the very best fantasies...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Dec192014

Bag O' Links: Pitt, Cruella, Annie, Viola, Lisi, Potter, Etc...

We haven't done a link roundup in so long this one is super-duper-quadrupled size. Please to enjoy these articles or catch up with this news...

FAREWELL
NYT, BBCVariety remembers the great Italian actress Virna Lisi who has died at 78 years of age. Best known stateside for the Jack Lemmon comedy How To Murder Your Wife (1965), and maybe that iconic Esquire cover by George Lois (left) which has been homaged ever since, this baby cinephile right here writing to you first fell for her in the French film Queen Margot (1994). She was brilliant as the most ruthless of royals. She won the Cannes prize for Best Actress for her supporting role which probably didn't make Margot herself Isabelle Adjani too happy but they were at odds in the film, too. 

RANDOMNESS
Guardian doesn't like the new Annie but what makes that little orphan so durable in pop culture? 
Comics Alliance a fresh way to illustrate "superhero fatigue" -- by spending a day with fatigued Joss Whedon on the set of Age of Ultron
Coming Soon walks you through Jon Favreau walking fans through the making of The Jungle Book. All I'm here for is the cute photo of ScarJo recording the voice of Kaa.  
Grantland has a piece people like a lot on The Babadook. People aren't done talking about that
Playbill The Exorcist (1973) will be moving to the stage. Not a musicalized version.  Well, it does all take place in one house so you don't have to worry about that part of stage transitions.
Pride Source adorably frank interview with Russell Tovey from Looking (and other shows) on his sex scenes with Jonathan Groff and what he wants for the show's drama


Playbill Audra McDonald will recreate her Tony winning "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" for HBO. Here comes her Emmy!
Comics Alliance Viola Davis rumored to be joining the cast of the supervillain film Suicide Squad as Amanda Waller. FWIW this is the role that Angela Bassett was utterly wasted in in that piece of poo Green Lantern movie
Grantland Ugh. I can't believe i missed this oral history of Boogie Nights when it was first published 

STAR WARS: THE INTERNET AWAKENS (THOUGH IT NEVER WENT TO SLEEP)
/Film Andy Serkis responds to speculation about his Star Wars: The Force Awakens role. 
CHUD wonders what Star Wars fans will have to left to complain about when the original trilogy is released without all the fussy changes that messed with its purity on Blu-Ray 
Nathaniel R and I sneak-peaked on Twitter that when I interviewed Oscar Isaac (coming soon) he assumed that's what I wanted to talk about. Haha 
Pajiba believe it or not, the Star Wars trailer is NOT the most viewed trailer of 2014
The Film Stage the character names from the new film 

OUTRAGE, CONT'D
Remember yesterday how I said I couldn't feel that outraged about this week's topic o' outrage (The Interview) but here are two topics that usually push my button but good and often enrage me.

1. Towleroad has a piece on author J.K. Rowlings recent admission that there were gay students at Hogwarts in her Harry Potter books.

If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one should live in a closet.”

I know how Harry Potter fans are and they'll applaud their icon for this but real talk: Saying after the fact that characters were gay in your mammoth culture-dominating best-sellers in which you could have gotten away with virtually any storytelling flourish is cheap lip service. It's wanting the gays to worship you without actually having supported them in any way other than in easy 'nothing to lose now' sound bites.  It's also insulting to use the closet metaphor since that's where all of her supposed gay characters were!

2. Variety has an article on five things we learned about moviegoing this year. I agree with #2 about Women in Hollywood but I'm so sad that the writer ruins his point by again bringing up the foolish 'there aren't 5 worthy women for Best Actress' business. Dear reader, I don't know how to stop this internet wide self-perpetuating sexism epidemic. And, yes, I believe it's completely sexist to ignore the existing actual contributions of women in order to complain about sexism and the lack of contributions of women. The only thing I feel I can do is keep pointing at the lie and hopefully shaming a few writers here and there with "God, did you only see the marketed to teen boys movies this year or what?'

And if you're going to bitch that we need more female themed movies you're going to have to support the ones we have now by, you know, ADMITTING THAT THEY EXIST. 

 

TODAY'S MUST-READ
Ayn Rand, that hard right conservative icon, reviews children's movies! A hilarious article from the New Yorker's Mallory Ortberg. Since it's impossible to pick a favorite I'm just picking two random ones to share but you must read the whole thing!

“101 Dalmatians”
A wealthy woman attempts to do her impoverished school friend Anita a favor by purchasing some of her many dogs and putting them to sensible use. Her generosity is repulsed at every turn, and Anita foolishly and irresponsibly begins acquiring even more animals, none of which are used to make a practical winter coat. Altruism is pointless. So are dogs. A cat is a far more sensible pet. A cat is objectively valuable. —No stars.

“Toy Story”
At last, a full-length feature about the inherent value of possessions. —Four stars.


LIST-MANIA

Towleroad "80 Most Powerful Coming Outs of the Year" I love that they do this list annually and that the number of coming outs mentioned keeps growing. It used to be a big deal every time someone came out. it's like *yep, another one*.
Pajiba "10 Most Forgettable Movies of 2014" Ouch
Film School Rejects best movie music of year 
Out "10 best TV gay scenes of the year" 
Slate "10 best books of the year" 
The Atlantic "Best TV episodes of the year" from Joe Reid and team 
The Dissolve "Best Films of the year that made under $100,000" 

 

 

FINALLY
Our beloved Brad Pitt (he was so good in Fury, wasn't he?) was recently released from Jury Duty in Los Angeles because jurors and lawyers would find him too distracting! In related news look at this unintentionally awesome paparazzi shot (above) from an Unbroken premiere. "Unbro" teehee

 

Thursday
Dec182014

The Animated Feature contenders: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Tim here. This week's look at one of the 2014 Best Animated Feature Oscar contenders takes us someplace entirely new: to a film that might actually be able to swing a nomination. The film is The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the penultimate film made by the late Studio Ghibli, and probably the final work directed by the great Takahata Isao, who hasn't officially announced his retirement, like friend and colleague Hayao Miyazaki; but when a director is 79 years old and has reached the "enormous gaps between features" stage of his career (his previous film, My Neighbors the Yamadas, came out in 1999), it's time to make some assumptions.

If it's a valedictory work that Princess Kaguya is to be, it's a brilliant one, right down to an ending about the pain of saying farewell when we're not ready to. The film adapts "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter", a folktale that is thought to be the oldest extant work of Japanese literature, telling of a little girl found in a glowing stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter one day. Convinced by this and other signs that he has been tasked by giving her the life a noble princess, the bamboo cutter focuses on pushing her into the upper crusts of society despite how clearly the girl, Kaguya, resents this life, and would prefer to be left in the peaceable wilds of her adoptive home.

Click to read more ...