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Entries in animated films (189)

Saturday
Aug302014

Review: Robin Wright at "The Congress"

Amir is here with your second review of the weekend...

The Congress, Ari Folman’s follow-up to his brilliant debut feature, the animated documentary Waltz with Bashir, starts rather normally. The opening shot is a staggeringly beautiful close-up of a tearful Robin Wright (playing an imaginary version of herself) as her agent Al’s (Harvey Keitel) voiceover informs us that her career is in tatters. Robin has hit the film industry’s glass ceiling age of 45 and with an already troubled reputation as a difficult actress to work with, her options are quickly dwindling. Al is trying to convince her to sell her digital image rights to the Miramount studio headed by Jeff (a remarkably greasy Danny Houston). This would mean that the studio will use her scanned image to create characters in future films in exchange for a fat paycheque and her right to ever act again.

Everything about this opening setup is promising, signifying a film that is aware of the fears and tensions within the entertainment industry. The Congress is ripe with smart ideas and astute observations about the challenges that technology presents to the men and women active in cinema. [more...]

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Friday
Aug292014

Tim's Toons: In praise of the long-dead Osamu Tezuka

Tim here. Bear with me for a moment: we’re just about done with our month-long look at 1989 in cinema, about which I already had my say. But one of the other things that happened in animation that year was that the great Japanese animator and illustrator Osamu Tezuka passed away in February of that year, at age 60. Which is absolutely no legitimate pretext for anything, but Tezuka is an artist I’ve wanted to talk about in this space for ages, and there’s never been anything remotely resembling a good excuse to do so. So this shall have to do. It’s no fun having a bully pulpit if you can’t spread the Good News with it.

And oh, what very Good News the career of Tezuka is. You might not have ever heard his name, but you know his work: he’s largely regarded as the godfather of both manga and anime, two media with a shared stylistic backbone that’s still mostly intact a full 62 years after Tezuka began drawing the original comic book version of Astro Boy.

Which is all very important and impressive, of course – that one man’s innovations could trickle down in a readily-detected lineage to things as diverse as the nuanced fantasy epic/family drama Spirited Away to the internet’s favorite whipping post, tentacle porn...

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Thursday
Aug212014

Tim's Toons: All Dogs Go to Heaven, the strangest animated film of 1989

Tim here. We’re talking 1989 this month at the Film Experience, and as any dabbler in the history of animation knows, 1989 is most important for being the year that Walt Disney Feature Animation get back on track after some two decades in the wilderness with the smashing success of the fairy tale musical The Little Mermaid.

That’s not what we’re here to talk about. The Little Mermaid doesn’t need me: it’s a stone-cold all-time classic that everybody reading this has an opinion on already. Instead, I would like to take you to the other animated feature that opened on November 17, 1989, and which crumpled in the face of Mermaid’s juggernaut performance at the box office. That day, y’see, also bore witness to All Dogs Go to Heaven, a film which shriveled up and died in the face of Disney's singing crabs and diva octopodes.

This was the fourth feature made by Don Bluth, who had once been the heir-apparent to the Disney studios until he fled that company during the joyless production of The Fox and the Hound in 1979. Throughout the ‘80s, he and his succession of companies had represented an old-fashioned, back-to-basics alternative to the confused, often unpleasant films Disney was miserably trying to hawk, and his two biggest successes – 1986’s An American Tail and 1988’s The Land Before Time – found him effectively beating his old employers at their own game.

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Friday
Aug082014

Tim's Toons: The quickly-forgotten Ninja Turtles animated movie

Tim here. I hate to even mention Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the new film that looks like it copies all of producer Michael Bay’s bad habits while compounding that with director Jonathan Liebesman’s clumsy hand and lack of Baysian visual style. So soon after Nathaniel went to all the work of updating the Oscar charts, it feels a little like being the guy who takes a crap in the punchbowl.

And yet, we are driven by the tides of history, and like it or not, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the big new release this weekend, because that’s how August works. So rather than pout and moan and try to find anything else to talk about (“Hey you guys, it’s the 75th anniversary of the Popeye Short Hello, How Am I this week!”), I shall play the hand I have been dealt, which means that we now to get to talk about the one and only time that the famous of martial artist reptiles were in a completely animated feature film.

That being TMNT, which despite its sort of ‘90s-ish X-treem title, actually came out in 2007. Honesty requires me to say up front that, from any objective standpoint, TMNT is not very good at all. [More...

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Monday
Aug042014

Studio Ghibli is taking a break

Tim here. The story over the weekend as far as popcorn movies go might have been the monstrous over-performance of Guardians of the Galaxy, but for those of us who like a little more personal artistry and a little less big-budget sizzle out of our movies, Sunday's biggest news was the apparent revelation by Toshio Suzuki, general manager of Japan's Studio Ghibli, that the company is ceasing to produce animated films.

Or maybe not. The internet, in its glorious need for news, News, NEWS, has perhaps jumped the gun on some ambiguous words that have slightly different weight in Japanese than in English. They're merely talking about restructuring and re-evaluating their business and production strategies in the wake of Hayao Miyazaki's retirement. That certainly could mean that they're going to close; it doesn't mean they've closed yet (though that "yet" might well be nothing but diplomacy talking). What is certainly the case is that following the newly-released in Japan When Marnie Was There, Ghibli has no future plans involving animated features. So even if it's not The End, it's not a very good day for lovers of animation or just top-quality world cinema.

While we stew and wait for more news on the Ghibli front, I'd like to invite everyone to share their favorite movies from the studio. I'll start off: if I wanted to showcase to a newbie the breadth of Studio Ghibli's artistry (and today of all days, that's exactly what I want to do), these would be the five movies I'd pick:

  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - a generous children's fable filled with a love of nature
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988) - a deadly serious examination of the human cost of war
  • Porco Rosso (1992) - a clever spin on an animal fable and loving tribute to the beauty of flight
  • Whisper of the Heart (1995) - a quiet, beautiful story of adolescent curiosity and self-knowledge
  • Spirited Away (2002) - the perfect gateway drug: bold visions, fearless storytelling, impeccably clear characters

What are your favorite Studio Ghibli films? And how sad are you going to be if this really is the end?