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Entries in animated films (217)

Thursday
Nov062014

Your 2014 animated Oscar contenders

Readers, an apology. Here I am, the Film Experience's resident animation expert, and I'm late with news twice over. First, on Tuesday, the Academy annouced the full list of 20 contenders for Best Animated Feature. Nathaniel prepared a post discussing this development, but wasn't able to publish it before traveling to California. Here are his thoughts on the subject:

As expected we will have a full five-wide Best Animated Feature category this year. It only takes 16 contenders to trigger that and we have 20. This branch is definitely not the most predictable when it comes to nominees -- or even, sometimes winners (remember how competitive the Brave year was?) --  often opting for a few little seen critical and foreign darlings. The internet seems to be rooting for The Lego Movie which is by a significant margin the most popular animated film of the year in the US. What's interesting is that it's uniquely American appeal means that internationally the numbers are much different and How To Train Your Dragon 2 is, globally, the biggest cartoon of the year. It's also probably the frontrunner for Gold but you never know. It's not as undeniable as Toy Story 3 (a universally acclaimed capper to a hugely beloved trilogy that wasn't able to be honored with the competitive Oscar until then since the category hadn't existed).

Disney's Big Hero 6, opening this week, I can't personally see winning the category but it's a likely nominee and, what's more, the short before it called Feast, which tells the tale of a human's love life through his hungry puppy, is a strong contender for the short film Oscar. It was love at first sight for me and I'm not even a dog person.

THE ELIGIBLE 20 (plus 10 eligible animated shorts after the jump)...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Nov052014

Threads: "I love her to death"

Jose here, each Wednesday in "Threads" we'll be obsessing over a single costume we're fixated on that week. This week, because we're coming down from a Halloween candy sugar rush, we discuss the exuberant elegance of La Muerte in The Book of Life (which Nathaniel had already suggested as a great Halloween costume). 

 
Clad in tight-fitting red fabric from top to bottom, La Muerte’s (voiced by telenovela superstar Kate del Castillo) outfit only truly comes to life through its accessories; particularly that larger than life hat adorned with hanging skulls, flowers and candles, all of which are dazzling to behold from an aesthetic perspective, but are fascinating because of their symbolic meaning. La Muerte, which is Spanish for “death” is a festive representation of the Mexican Day of the Dead, in which family members visit the graves of their deceased ones and bring them offerings which include chocolate skulls, sugar bread and tequila.

This particular vision of death, not as a Grim Reaper, but a beautiful, even sexy skeleton, became iconic after illustrator José Guadalupe Posada created it as a satirical representation of Mexicans who had adopted foreign traditions and were betraying their culture. The Catrina, as it’s known in Spanish (“catrina” also means “well dressed”) featured in the film combines several cultural elements (notice the Aztec prints on her dress and the altar on her hat) and also pays homage to one of Mexico’s greatest screen legends: María Félix, who was known for her larger than life personality, unique sense of style and her memorable performances.

Félix inspired artists like Diego Rivera, Bridget Tichenor, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and the jewelers at Cartier, who designed a now legendary snake necklace just for her. She also inspired Francis Cabrel to write the song “Je l'aime à mourir” for her, literally “I love her to death”, talk about coming full circle...

Related: this year's Oscar race for animated feature
Anne Marie interviewed Book of Life exec producer Guillermo del Toro and director Jorge Gutierrez
Previously on "Threads": Snowpiercer 

Wednesday
Nov052014

The Way Big Hero Looks in the Moonlight

As you read this I am en route to L.A. to join Anne Marie & Margaret at the AFI this week so expect coverage of A Most Violent Year and The Gambler premieres, a sneak peek at Selma, a Sophia Loren tribute, and more. But before that all start, and as I fly over some of you, brief thoughts on...

THREE SCREENINGS

THE WAY HE LOOKS 
Opens November 7th in limited release
Glenn has already smiled upon this Brazilian coming-of-age film in our ongoing Oscar foreign film race coverage but I wanted to offer my own thumbs way up, too. Like all niche audiences, LGBT people are sometimes too forgiving of bad movies so long as they meet their particular niche needs. But you can love The Way He Looks without any of the guilt that sometimes accompanies pleasure because it's very good.

This affecting high school drama is a love triangle of sorts that plays, smartly, more like a friendship triangle... since all three of its leads are still feeling their way toward their own futures, figuring themselves out. That's particularly true of Leonardo, who is blind and painfully aware that that limits his options. He still dreams of moving out of his parents house and really wants to do a foreign exchange program. His two best friends are Gabriel, a new boy in town who immediately puts him at ease, since he's unphased though sometimes a bit confused about the blindness, and Giovana his best girlfriend since childhood who walks him home every day from school and is so protective that she's become entirely codependent. Giovana resents Gabriel's growing place in Leo's life and nobody ever understands quite what anybody else if feeling. They're all immediately bruised by each other but still walking tightly arm in arm which makes for a hugely sympathetic totally relatable tale of first loves, young friendships and heartbreaks. It's endearing and, like Big Hero 6 (discussed next) it admires the good natures of its characters and their capacity for kindness and love. I don't mind sounding Pollyanna about this: I love seeing basically decent loving people dramatized on film.  That seems to be out of fashion in film and television characters so it's a special treat now when you see it, like a unicorn. B+

BIG HERO 6
Opens November 7th
Daring the long long shadow of The Incredibles, one of the best animated films and one of the best superhero films of all time, this initially very charming movie is about a genius robotics nerd named Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) whose older supremely good-natured brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney), also a tech wizard, convinces him to develop his skills at college instead of wasting them on robot fights. Take that Real Steel! Tadashi's best invention is that white inflatable marshmallow like A.I. you've seen in the trailers named Baymax. A fateful series of events, which I won't spoil though I'm betting the trailers I haven't watched already did, changes everything and suddenly Hiro is furiously reconfiguring Baymax with armor and jetpacks and taking him far from his original purpose as an inhome nurse. Hiro teams up with his new college friends (hence the plurality of the title) to fight off a supervillain in a kabuki mask. The second half of the movie is quite a deflation, sadly. You can feel the pandering for all demographics and senses of humor and like so many visual effects movies the climax is just a mess of OVERLONG NOISY ACTION SETPIECE without much character weight, steering this movie towards "fun but predictable/disposable action-comedy".

But, you know, the things it does well are awfully hard to shake. And boy does that initial brotherly bond stick in the heart. The movie is decidedly pro education (nice to see in a movie), the animation is beautiful, and it's nothing short of wonderful to see a blockbuster family movie led, unambiguously, by people of color. They even used Asian actors for the voices. Well done.  B


MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT
Coming to DVD/BluRay in December
I had remembered this getting relatively mild reviews, inspiring neither loving nor loathing, so it was a surprise to discover a quite emphatically bad movie dully staring back at me. I didn't buy one single moment of it from Emma Stone's strangely lackluster star turn, to Colin Firth's mannered fussiness to the various relationships and plot "twists". I amend: I didn't buy one single moment of it that didn't involve Eileen Atkins as "Aunt Vanessa" who is the film's sole bright light, totally charming and authentically aunt-like both emotionally involved and appropriately removed from whatever is ailing her incorrigible celebrity nephew's heart and soul. That's really too bad because the core idea of the movie is "fun" if you will and there's a whole slew of good actors standing around with nothing good to play with. What's more the real life magician its riffing on, an Englishman who was globally famous, not as himself but in yellowface as a Chinese illusionist named Wei Ling Soo, is also richly fertile ground for a screenplay. It's easy to imagine a pretty great movie emerging from that historical figure and obviously several pretty great movies have emerged in the romantic comedy genre by pitting competing agendas against each other in the form of a man and a woman for whom falling in love is a gigantic inconvenience. But it doesn't remotely work, the romance especially (Firth & Stone have zero chemistry) and the smothering atmosphere is one of laziness... like no one is trying at all (particularly Stone & Allen) or like they're trying too hard (Colin Firth, Hamish Linklater) sensing the inconsequential piffle around them or like they're standing around wishing someone would ask them to try at all (Marcia Gay Harden). D

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.

Click to read more ...

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...

Click to read more ...

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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