Category Archives: Animation

The Breadwinner – Director, Nora Twomey

I think this should win the Oscar for being the by far the best animated film I have seen in a long time. I am basing this not only on the quality of the animation art itself which is superb but also on the importance of the story and the need for us to see more stories that make us think about Islamic culture and people. I would compare this to the live action short Watu Wote which you can read about here: https://wordpress.com/post/movie-rants-and-raves.net/1241

The film tells the story of a young girl who disguises herself as a boy to get a job and support her family after her father is arrested by The Taliban and her mother is beaten for going out after curfew for women. The story is full of hope and courage and while open to a young audience is a moving story for adults as well.

I am making this judgement on the basis of only seeing one of this year’s nominees but I am not going to vote for Boss Baby or likely even see it, I am totally opposed to Disney or Pixar winning anything in the animation area despite Coco being the likely winner this year. When our choices to recognize films are so limited in areas like animation and documentary we need to support and recognize people and films that take a bit further than simply making $200 million dollars as Coco did. That shows its popular, well promoted and put in many theatres. The Breadwinner made less than $230,000 or .01% of what Coco made. I suppose it is lucky the film even got a nomination but it clearly deserves more in my opinion.

The Animated Short Films 2018 Oscars

I was not that impressed with the films chosen for consideration in this category in 2018. The picture above is from the film I think should win. Lets start with why the others shouldn’t. Dear Basketball is Kobe Bryant’s good bye to the game. A great player with an ego to match. This film is just dumb. Two films – Negative Space and Garden Party are just weird from the story perspective particularly Garden Party which has stunning animation but is about a bunch of frogs cavorting around what emerges is a murder scene in the garden of a mansion. This only comes to light slowly but is just totally strange and pointless. Negative Space is about the relationship of a father and son over how to pack luggage. It ends with a very bad joke at the father’s funeral. Finally there is a film called Lou which is a Disney/Pixar production which should lose just for being that. It is very professional and about bullying getting confronted but totally lacking any insight or new perspective. So – the winner is Revolting Rhymes from the UK. Based on a Roald Dahl story and illustrations by Quentin Blake it is a very funny, witty take on Snow White, the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. Just made the audience with me laugh out loud several times. Voices included Dominic West of The Hour and The Wire and Rob Brydon from The Trip film series. Great stuff. I will be very disappointed if it doesn’t win.

2017 Oscar Nominated Short Animation Films

pear-cider-vinegar

I got a chance to see the short animated films nominated for an Oscar this year. Lucky for us TIFF Bell Lightbox plays these for us along with the short live action films. I have still to see the latter. At any rate because some the animated films are so short they enhance the showing with some honourable mentions. The five nominated films are: Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl, and Piper. Two are done by Pixar and one, Blind Vaysha, by Canada’s National Film Board. The image above comes from the longest and most adult of the five, Pear Cider and Cigarettes. This one is a very dark story of a man in total decline due to addiction, injury and depression. I suspect the latter will be the winning choice but I much preferred Borrowed Time which is also very serious but better animated and a more tightly told story. The animated films are definitely worth seeing if you get the chance. In fact, the short films are often more interesting than the feature length films. Even if you don’t get a chance to see these movies before the awards ceremony make an effort to track them down. They are often available on iTunes after the awards are done. I will not go into a description of each of the films other than to say that they are not necessarily for children and especially not Pear Cider. Brief descriptions of each film are below with my rankings.  I think animation is going to be an increasingly important film medium and it will not be long before they show up in the Best Picture category rather than relegated to their own animated film group. Do not assume that cartoons are only for kids.

Borrowed Time – dirs. Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj, USA, 7 minutes, English

A weathered sheriff returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With each step forward, the memories come flooding back. Faced with his mistake once again, he must find the strength to carry on. My favourite.

Pearl – dir. Patrick Osborne, USA, 6 minutes, English

Pearl follows a girl and her dad as they crisscross the country chasing their dreams. It’s a story about the gifts we hand down and their power to carry love, and finding grace in the unlikeliest of places. Boring

Piper – dir. Alan Barillaro, USA, 6 minutes, No Dialogue

Directed by Alan Barillaro and produced by Marc Sondheimer, Piper tells the story of a hungry sandpiper hatchling who ventures from her nest for the first time to dig for food by the shoreline. The only problem is the food is buried beneath the sand where scary waves roll up onto the shore. Very cute and very funny. Kids would love it.

Blind Vaysha – dir. Theodore Ushev, Canada, 8 minutes, English

With one eye that can only see the past and one that can only see the future, a girl is tormented by two irreconcilable realities. Blind Vaysha is a vivid and gorgeously crafted 3D fable about living in the present. Interesting philosophical look at the nature of life.

Pear Brandy and Cigarettes – dir. Robert Valley, Canada and UK, 35 minutes, English

Drink and smoke – that’s what Techno Stypes liked to do. Drink, smoke… and fight. Except he was in no condition to fight. He was sick. Really sick. His disease had whittled him down to a shadow of his former self. Yeah, he was broken alright, what the hell was he fighting for anyway, and what was he still doing in China? His father had given me two clear instructions: get Techno to stop drinking long enough to receive his liver transplant, and get him back home to Vancouver. This was not going to be easy. This is maybe the favourite for an award but it is in my opinion too impressed with itself as a tough look at a tragic figure. I was not impressed and felt it was really pretty empty. The animation is interesting however.

Shaun the Sheep Movie – Directors, Mark Burton, Richard Starzak

This movie has received rave reviews and very much deserves its nomination as Best Animated Feature although I suspect it will not win. It is aimed very much at a very young audience and since the Academy is not made up of kids it will be smiled at but not garner many votes. The animation is stop action which I also suspect is not everyone’s favourite. I liked it and the animation is great but again it raises several questions for me. Should there not be some recognition of the range, techniques and styles of animation and shouldn’t these be recognized with their own separate awards? Again we have a movie with no dialogue which again creates a style and approach that is not common in live action. Finally this is a kids movie. Is there any problem with having a category for children’s films? Live action or animated. It really doesn’t matter. Just so long as the very talented people who devote themselves to this kind of film get some recognition. Just saying.

2016 Academy Award Best Animated Short

While I could see the merits in all the nominated animated shorts this year only two really caught my eye, World of Tomorrow and We Can’t Live without Cosmos. Both are science fiction and use very different animation techniques. World of Tomorrow is a US film that follows a young girl on a somewhat mind bending look at her far distant future. The script and acting is excellent and to some extent is dependent on that more than the animation itself – a problem I will address shortly. Still I really enjoyed the film and hope it is the winner this year. The second film is We Can’t Live without Cosmos and is from Russia. It follows the story of two friends who train to be cosmonauts. The story is humourous until the end which takes a dramatic turn. Again the animation is maybe a bit dated but the story is great and told entirely with images and no dialogue. Very entertaining and surprising. Certainly deserves the nod if World of Tomorrow doesn’t get it. The other nominated films are in my opinion mediocre or in the case of Prologue completely unnecessary.

Animated films are a real challenge for me. I like them but having to arbitrarily pick one for best picture either feature length or short is next to impossible. Unlike live action films which use… live action…, animated films are very individual works of art that use very different styles of images and reflect the vision of an artist much more so than do live action films. I suppose many will jump all over this as nonsense but I find I can’t get away from it. Also live action films have many more categories in which to be judged and maybe that is my struggle. Animated films don’t get to be nominated much for their artistic qualities (cinematography, effects etc) or for the story or acting (best actor, screenplay) or music (soundtrack or song) They could be so nominated but almost never are. As a result, one is forced to pick one movie and that seems so unfair.

Boy and the World – Director, Ale Abreu

This is a wonderful and surprising film. It depends pretty much entirely on the animation with no dialogue and only a music soundtrack. It follows the adventures of a small boy from a rural community in Brasil. After his father leaves to work in the city he decides to chase after him and reunite his family. His adventures reveal the complexity of modern Brasil including the good but mostly bad aspects of urban life. The animation art is beautiful and ranges from the very simple to very complex as the urban landscape is revealed. In watching the film I could not help but think that animation is an increasingly important part of all film making now. Not only the animated feature like this one but many live action films now as well. The Oscar category of Best Animated Feature Film (for which this is one of the nominees) seems hardly adequate anymore. I suspect this will not win the Oscar which I am guessing will go to Inside Out however I sort of wish there was something else it could win. I am not sure whether the time has come for animated films to be considered in other categories at the Oscars but ever since Disney created Snow White there has been a need to better recognize the talent and art that goes into these films.

I fear also this film will not get much attention. I saw it at the TIFF Lightbox and I was only one of 5 people in the theatre. Disappointing for what is a very beautifully created film. I may not get to see any of the other nominees except Inside Out which is also disappointing. There were many other Hollywood animated features this year that are not on the list so at least the Academy added some diversity here if not in other categories. If you like animation try to see this one.

The Wind Rises – Director, Hayao Miyazaki

This was my last film of the week and was one of the best. For those who may not know him, Miyazaki is the founder of Japan’s best animation studio — Ghibli Studios. He and his studio have created some of the most beautiful animated films of recent years including Ponyo, Spirited Away (Academy Award winner), From Up on Poppy Hill, and The Secret World of Arrietty (based on the Borrowers stories). Many of these films are oriented toward children but the stories are so sophisticated and the films so beautiful to look at that they attract audiences of all ages. This film is aimed an adult audience and tells the compelling story of the man who designed one of the world’s most successful planes – the Zero fighter plane used by the Japanese in World War II. The plane was revolutionary in design and changed aeronautical engineering forever. The movie however focusses on the man and his life and despite the focus of his career the film has a major pacifist message while acknowledging the brilliance of Jiro Horikoshi the engineer. It is also a charming but tragic love story and explores the tension of love and career in time of war. From what I can find out it will be given limited release in the US to allow for Academy Award recognition and full release in early 2014. I recommend it to everyone and in the meantime if you have not already become a Ghibli/Miyazaki fan be sure to look at the other films listed above.