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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

 

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Entries in animated films (209)

Thursday
Oct302014

The Honoraries: Hayao Miyazaki

Welcome to "The Honoraries" a daily miniseries honoring the careers of the three Honorary Oscar recipients of 2014 (Maureen O'Hara, Hayao Miyazaki, Claude Carriere) and the Jean Hersholt winner (Harry Belafonte). Here's Tim...

It’s annoying when people who already won competitive Oscars get tapped to receive an a Honorary award, as in the case of Hayao Miyazaki (his win was in 2002’s Best Animated Feature category, for Spirited Away, and it was hugely deserved). But, on the other hand, it’s Hayao Miyazaki. His body of work is among the strongest of any working director, and his recent retirement has caused a fundamental shift in the landscape of international animation. I can’t imagine anybody who has seen more than a couple of his films (or even just one, if it’s the right one), could possibly deny that his talent is of a magnitude that even two Oscars is… well, it’s “fine”, but maybe three would have been okay, too.

And for those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, I am happy to take this small chance to tell you what makes him so wonderful. Not by focusing on one film, as other entries in the Honoraries have done (but if you want my picks for The One You Have To See, it would be My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, in that order. And that’s three, not one, but it’s Hayao Miyazaki), but by touching on some of the career-wide trends that have made all of his films, without exception, worthwhile and important and beautiful.

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Tuesday
Oct212014

Top Ten: Best of The Boxtrolls

Because it was so much fun last week, another all top ten tuesday to celebrate our new season as the awards will soon come rushing at us...

People aren't talking about The Boxtrolls enough. It's a true mark against the world's parents that numerous animated mediocrities, The Peabodys, Nutjobs and Rios regularly and considerably outgross inventive Laika's awesome stop-motion films. While it's true that Laika's features have elements of the grotesque or macabre that are tougher sells to nonadventurous families, one only has to look at the perennial universal love for Nightmare Before Christmas to know that people are okay with that once they acclimate.

Which is very much my personal experience with The Boxtrolls. It's less immediately sympathetic than ParaNorman, less hook-laden than The Corpse Bride, less immediately fantastical than Coraline but once you get past the initial shock of the character designs (which has undoubtedly been an obstacle): blotched, deformed, dirty, jagged teeth and so on, the movie grows on you. It's another technical triumph in the service of a story that works on both juvenile and adult levels. Sure, it's not their best film but it's still a singular one in the current animated marketplace.

Since I never reviewed The Boxtrolls, consider this one of those in top ten form and a plea for those of you who haven't seen to correct that. To any awards voters reading who are just beginning to consider the Animated Feature Film category just know that it could be very rich with variety if you choose well this year.

THE BOXTROLL'S GREATEST HITS
after the jump...

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Thursday
Oct162014

Interview: Jorge Gutierrez & Guillermo del Toro on "The Book of Life"

Jorge Gutierrez has won two Annie awards and an Emmy, but in order to get his passion project The Book Of Life (which opens tonight!) onto the screen, he needed a little help. Gutierrez found it in Guillermo del Toro. The Mexican fantasy director has been using his production company to foster new visions in genres like horror and animation. A little bit Orpheus and Euridice, a little bit Dia de Los Muertos, and a little bit musical theater, The Book Of Life is anything but ordinary.

Anne Marie here. I was lucky enough to interview Guillermo del Toro and Jorge Gutierrez when they came to San Diego Comic Con in July. But before I could even start asking questions, del Toro noticed the squid design on my necklace, and launched into a rhapsodic monologue about his favorite movie, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. From that point on, I basically just held on to my seat as del Toro and Gutierrez riffed on each other with the ease of good friends and partners. They discussed everything from Ray Harryhausen to the purpose of a director to whether children’s movies need bad guys.

Here's how it went...

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: [20,000 Leagues Under the Sea] is a magnificent movie. And to this day I collect models of the Nautilus.

ANNE MARIE: Of the Nautilus?

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: Yeah. I have, I think I have most every one, except the ten meter one, which is too big for me... But I have the 3 ft one. I have the little ones, the medium ones, the electric ones, the ones that light up [JG laughs] the ones that make a little noise, all of that. That and The Time Machine are my two favorite sort of steampunk-y pieces of design.

JORGE GUTIERREZ: It’s awesome. It holds up, too. Anyways! [Laughs]

ANNE MARIE: You’ve both described The Book of Life as a personal pet project. Can you talk a little about the process of getting it going?

JORGE GUTIERREZ: Absolutely! Fifteen years I’ve been working on this, based on a student short I did at Cal Arts. When I graduated I pitched it everywhere. Everyone said, “Nah, you’re just a kid out of school. No one wants to see this stuff.”

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: “You don’t understand.”

JG: “You don’t understand. We need talking animal movies.” Literally, that’s what I was told at every meeting.

[More...]

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Friday
Oct102014

Tim's Toons: the Best of Isao Takahata

Tim here. The Tale of Princess Kaguya , which could well compete for the animated Oscar this year, opens next week. But at that point I will be deep down in the pits of film festival madness (the Chicago International Film Festival starts today). So I want to talk about this now, lest I forget.

And that is the last thing I’d ever want to do, since Kaguya’s director, Isao Takahata, is (was?), along with Hayao Miyazaki, one of the twin gods of Studio Ghibli, though a director whose work was never as widely-known in the English-speaking world as his colleague’s. They're smaller in scale and less fantastic; one of his absolute best Ghibli-era works has never been released in the States, because the rights lie with Disney and one scene involves a discussion of menstruation, and we can’t have filthiness like that in our animation here, now can we!

He is, regardless of the difficulty in seeing his films, an unequivocal genius who deserves more attention for the wide range of styles he's explored in his films, and the graceful humanity of the stories he's told within those styles. Thus I have put together this little primer to celebrate the 78-year-old's newest film, and the career that led up to it.

[His three best films after the jump]

 

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Thursday
Oct022014

Tim's Toons: Latvia's animated submission to the Best Foreign Language race

Tim here. The cut-off date for countries to choose their official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was October 1, and while the list hasn’t been officially confirmed by the Academy yet (and there’s a good chance of one or two titles falling out), it gives us something to work with.

And, wonder of wonders, there even happens to be an animated feature among this year’s official submissions, something that has only happened around a dozen times in the past (only once of that dozen times did the animated picture make the final nominee list: in 2008, Israel’s submission of Waltz with Bashir made the cut, losing to Japan’s Departures). The film is the semi-fictional Rocks in My Pockets, directed by New York-based Signe Baumane, and I will suggest right off that it has a an unhappily good chance of being disqualified: spoken entirely in English by the filmmaker, and made on a mixture of American and Latvian money, it has all the feel of those movies that the Academy rejects for being insufficiently native to the country making the submission.

All the more reason for me to sing its praises right now, while it’s still making its nigh-invisible crawl across the U.S. For it’s a pretty special little film, all in all: a personal recollection of Baumane’s history battling depression, nestled into a family history by which she traces how suicidal thoughts and other mentally imbalances have plagued women in her family since Latvia in the days before it was absorbed into the Soviet Union.

Cheery stuff for a cartoon. But one of the best things about Rocks in My Pockets is the way that Baumane brings in a sense of frank humor to discussing terrible subjects, such as the amount of energy she’s put into the way she’d kill herself to avoid making too much mess if her bowels vacated. That’s the series of observations that opens the movie, in fact, setting up some immediate rules for the film to follow: one is that we can expect her to hold absolutely nothing back and refuse completely to hide behind clinical language or euphemisms; two is that she’s not angling for any kind of sympathy or asking to be treated delicately. It’s a film that invites us to dive right in and confront the reality of depression and suicide candidly, but without nervous solemnity.

It helps that the stories Baumane recounts about her family (the film ends with the standard “some characters and incidents were invented” disclaimer, so it’s not absolutely clear how much of this is truth and how much is an interpretive version of truth) are so damn compelling. Most of the film isn’t about Baumane, but her paternal grandmother Anna, whose life as a mother of eight children in Soviet Latvia provides the usual range of anecdotes about the grinding poverty of life in the USSR, so horrifying that it’s almost impossible not to start laughing at the sheer absurd awfulness of it.

And while Baumane’s thick accent ends up forcing her into some weird emphases of words and whole sentences, she’s an enthusiastic, engaging storyteller, relaying even the ugliest stories with briskness and humor, and employing a range of voices to give personality to the various relatives whose lives she relives.

The film’s mixed-media style – papier-mâché sets over which are layered character drawings that have the look of colored pencils, for the most part – pairs neatly with Baumane’s ebullient way of reciting. Weirdly, given the content, Rocks in My Pockets ends up being awfully like a bedtime story: soft figures, lots of bunnies, comic voices, a tendency for the narrator to start laughing at her own punchlines as our cue that it’s okay to laugh, too.

 

And yet for all that, it’s still a really smart, potent discussion about depression. The light style and conversational approach, all making sure that it doesn’t get too grim and confessional, has given Baumane the freedom to share bleak truths without having to dwell on them in anguish. The sketchbook-style artwork allows her to visualize the sensations of depression using visual symbolism and distortions that hammer home the sense of broken perception that comes along with depression. No matter how funny and energetic the film gets, it goes to some really shattering, serious places. Baumane is a terrific memoirist, both honest in her observations and witty in her expression, and while I’d put Rocks in My Pockets as having something like no chance of making it all the way to the Academy’s finalist list, I think that even the little bit of exposure it now has is a wonderful thing it if puts more people in line to watch this insightful and discomfiting psychological portrait.

16 Foreign Oscar Submissions Reviewed To DateArgentinaAustraliaBelgiumBrazilCanadaCuba,FranceGermanyIcelandLatviaMauritaniaNorwayPolandPortugalSweden and Venezuela

Thursday
Oct022014

Bette Davis, Always the Animated Star

Each time Bette Davis's name comes up here or there (surprisingly often) I feel waves of guilt that I never completed that Seasons of Bette series. And here I was planning my own series, as its follow up, inspired by "A Year With Kate" in which I would do 52 episodes on someone. (FTR Anne Marie and I are both brainstorming how to follow up that amazing beast of a project).

But I couldn't let this new episode of Blank on Blank pass by without our attention. If you haven't seen the series it's a terrific time waster from PBS in which celebrity voices play on the audio and an animator interprets them for a unique short film. Bette talks about her intelligence and the gender politics of 1963 in this fun short... 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep252014

Tim's Toons: Why Laika is the most exciting animation studio right now

Tim here, wondering if the time has come to start saying very hyperbolic things. This weekend sees the release of The Boxtrolls, the third feature released by the animation studio Laika, also responsible for 2009’s Coraline and 2012’s ParaNorman. I find myself, almost certainly to my eventual disappointment, wondering if this trio of technically audacious and unusually sophisticated stop-motion films has put the studio in line to fill the hole left when Pixar stopped being the most reliable movie-creating force in America, and instead became that place which makes pretty solid cartoons when they can be bothered to stop focusing on Cars pictures.

It’s begging the question from the get-go: there wasn’t a Pixar before Pixar, so there’s no clear reason that there has to be another one now. But Laika’s work so far has been at a level that encourages such dangerous optimism.

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