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Entries in animated films (261)

Thursday
Jun112015

Tim's Toons: A century of dinosaur movies

Tim here. Jurassic World opens this weekend, tapping into our unflagging cultural love of dinosaurs. How unflagging? In 2015, we celebrate the 101st anniversary of the first dinosaurs in the movies, in the form of Winsor McKay's animated Gertie the Dinosaur and D.W. Griffith's live-action Brute Force. The enormous prehistoric creatures have had a grip on filmmakers' imaginations ever since.

To celebrate that history, I present this short tour of four different animated movies about dinosaurs from across the ages, bearing witness to all the scientific and artistic evolution that went by in the course of dino-cinema’s first century. The tour is after the jump...

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Thursday
Jun042015

Review: When Marnie Was There

Tim here. No one movie should have to deal with the pressure of being "The Last (Probably) Studio Ghibli Film", but that's inevitably the aura that surrounds When Marnie Was There, the company's 20th theatrical feature, and the second movie directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. It's no accident that there's such a big gap in those numbers: one of the biggest problems Ghibli has faced for nearly all of its existence has been cultivating a new generation of directors to take over after Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata finally retired, which is exactly how they found themselves in their current situation.

Even granting all that, and while it's obviously true that When Marnie Was There is rather quiet and small for a farewell gesture from one of the world's premiere movie studios, I find myself entirely satisfied by it anyway. Ghibli has not been, historically, all that concerned with grand narratives and high-stakes storytelling; in fact, one of the best things about the studio for most of its history has been the simplicity and humanity of its films, with their characteristic lack of villains and relative domesticity. With its concerns set no broader than the depression and loneliness of a 12-year-old girl named Anna (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld in the English dub), When Marnie Was There fits right into the tradition of low-key dramas about the inner lives of young women that has included some of Ghibli's best work, from the fantasy My Neighbor Totoro to the more sober realism oft the underappreciated Whisper of the Heart and the unavailable-in-English Only Yesterday.

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Thursday
May282015

Tim's Toons: Sex in clay

For The Lusty Month of May, we're looking at a few sex scenes. Here's Tim...

Say "animated sex", and two things immediately leap to mind. If you’'e hung up on American cinema, it's the self-consciously edgy and smutty underground animation of the '70s - Fritz the Cat and its heirs. Or, God help you, maybe it's the legendary (and, to be fair, very much exaggerated) cult of anime tentacle porn out of Japan. We are not going to talk about either one of those things.

Though in fairness, the particular animated sex scene I have in mind isn't much less disturbing than mythological Japanese fetish porn. It's the second segment of Jan Švankmajer's 1982 short Dimensions of Dialogue, one of the most important works of Czechoslovakian animation. I promise that Czechoslovakian animation is definitely a thing.

The whole movie is available online, and it’s pretty NSFW even for totally non-sexual reasons. If you have a reasonably strong stomach for grotesque manipulations of synthetic bodies in stop-motion animation, I'd beg you to watch the whole thing, but the sex is only in the second part starting at 5:02, "Passionate Dialogue". Or "Dialog vášnivý" to the Czech speakers in the crowd.

And boy, if that still doesn't promise a totally appealing and pleasant film below the jump, I don't know what...

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Friday
May222015

Tim's Toons: Animated Features at Cannes

This week, the Cannes Film Festival was home to the premiere of Inside Out, the new film by Pixar Animation Studios, and one of its best-reviewed pictures. The film is playing out of competition, as has been the recent tendency of most Hollywood products, and animation in particular. It has been a special habit of films made by DreamWorks Animation in the 21st Century, with all sorts of things from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron in 2002 up to How to Train Your Dragon 2 last year muscling their way onto the Croisette.

There has, however, been a small but meaningful history of animated movies to have been given slightly more honorable treatment, and allowed to play in the big kids’ sandbox. Since the festival’s first edition in 1946, there have been seven animated features entered into the main competition, if my count is right, and they make for a fascinating cross-section of how the international cinema scene regarded the state of that particular art across the years. Here, in order, are those seven films.

Make Mine Music (1946)
The eighth feature made by the Disney studio, and the third of that company’s dubious “package films”, attempts to make entire features by jamming a bunch of short films into one vague thematic frame. Like any anthology, it has peaks and valleys, though the latter dominate, and the film is infinitely less impressive than its quasi-sequel Melody Time. Let us not be baffled by its Cannes slot; this was the fest’s first year & they were figuring it out, everybody loves Disney, and it’s a nice post-war feel-good effort. It won Best Animation Design, a discontinued award.

six more after the jump including Persepolis and... Shrek 2 (!?)

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Thursday
May212015

YNMS: Shaun the Sheep Movie (and more from Aardman)

Tim here. If it’s possible for a little boutique studio with the most self-selecting audience imaginable to engage in a “media blitz” Aardman Animations (creators of Chicken Run and the Wallace & Gromit shorts) is having a very media-blitz sort of a day. 

First, they’ve released the first image from Early Man, director Nick Park’s upcoming caveman adventure that’s currently pre-selling distribution rights at Cannes (it will be Park’s first directorial effort since the Oscar-nominated 2008 short A Matter of Loaf and Death; I imagine that I’m not alone in finding his return to filmmaking something of a religious event).

Next up, Lionsgate has released the poster and trailer for their release of Aardman’s impending feature, Shaun the Sheep Movie (yes, that’s its actual, grammatically disastrous title). After the jump we break the trailer down using TFE's famed and authoritative Yes No Maybe So system.

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Thursday
May142015

Tim's Toons: Biking through Belleville

Tim here, to celebrate National Bike to Work Week in the only way I possibly could. Because when it comes to animated movies about bikes, there's nothing that can top 2003's The Triplets of Belleville, Sylvain Chomet's lightly mocking love letter to the most quintessential elements of French and American culture. Wine and frog-eating on the one side, obesity and urban rudeness on the other, and most importantly for our current purposes, the Tour de France, the most famous bike race in the world.

The bubbly, convoluted story pivots on Champion, raised by his grandmother, whose only interest as a lonely child was in biking. This translates, years later, into his competition in the Tour, from which he's kidnapped by the French mafia as part of their underground gambling ring, from which his grandmother can only rescue him with the help of a trio of elderly cabaret performers. I said "convoluted", right? Because that's a nice word to describe how random and weird Triplets of Belleville can be in its pileup of absurd plot developments. But also, always, delightful and beguiling.

Chomet's tribute to the bike culture in France is, like everything else, predicated on outrageous grotesquerie: in a movie where the entire cast have impossible, distorted body shapes, Champion himself is one of the most extreme examples.

It only takes one glance at his rail-thin body and enormous legs to grasp that this is what a lifetime of single-minded dedication to competitive bike-riding looks like. It might seem like a nasty-minded commentary on athletes destroying their bodies, except that the whole film is based on exaggerated caricature; we could just as easily say that Champion's malformed body is the expression of a soul-consuming passion that's so important to him that he doesn't even realize when the mafia has him chained in front of a movie screen, biking on an endless loop.

That went and got a little nihilistic on me, so let me switch tracks over to the film's other big biking-related sequence: the Tour de France itself, a beautiful little parody of the over-the-top, carnivalesque enthusiasm that crops up when a small town has a great big national event to celebrate, going out of its way to realign everything around this one chance to shine.

And on the more generous side of things, the film also shows off the undulating beauty of its animated countryside, a tribute to the landscape of France that wonderfully shows off the justification for having an internationally well-known biking tour all throughout that country in the first place. The films resting state is to be sardonic as all hell, as often as possible, but it doesn't lack for heart, or even a kind of sentimental affection for the textures of rural France.

The fair concession to make is that The Triplets of Belleville isn't really "about" biking in any sustained way; it's not about any one thing at all. But those things it chooses to glance at get treated with quite a lot of imagination and flair. This might not be cinema's most probing, deep consideration of bikes and the Tour de France, but it's certainly one of the most memorable.