I was not sure I wanted to see this movie. I like Marvel movies for the most part but they are normally live action while this was not only animated but not a very traditional story – for example Peter Parker dies right at the start. The premise of the film is the creation of a new Spider-man, Miles Morales, the son of a black New York cop and a Latino mother. The villains are the traditional Marvel baddies like The Kingpin and some variations like a female Dr. Octopus. The Kingpin has built a device to create a bridge to other dimensions which draws several spider-men/women into our universe and who team up to train Miles to use his new powers and save our universe from destruction. I was prepared not to like this movie but ended up loving it. The animation was great, the script had humour and paid great homage to the original comics and to the Marvel live action films that preceded it. Some have suggested it is one of the best ever super hero movies and I would not disagree. There is even an animated cameo of Stan Lee. Just perfect. You do have to be a bit of a Marvel comics fan to get into this one but even if you are not I recommend having a look. If it is not obvious from this review, I suspect this is a cinch to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It has already won the Golden Globe and BAFTA so… not likely it can lose.
Category Archives: Animation
2019 Oscar Animated Shorts Nominations – Directors, various
Nominees: Bao, Weekends, Animal Behaviour, One Small Step, and Late Afternoon
The Short film categories are always interesting and a refreshing break from the feature film categories which this year are, for the most part not very memorable or have been sullied by the behaviour of the actors, writers or directors. This year’s nominees for Best Animated Short film are all very different from each other in style and design. Three are from Canadian directors and if you are from Toronto you will recognize the skyline in Bao and Weekends despite both being credited as from the USA. Animal Behaviour comes from the perennially nominated National Film Board. So comments. With the exception of Animal Behaviour all the other nominees have some heart-breaking elements to them which gives them a dimension that some, who are not fans of animated films, may find difficult.
Lets start with One Small Step which was I think the weakest of the five nominated films. It’s a story about a young girl from humble origins that realizes her dream of being an astronaut and going to the moon. The story about her dreams and her relationship with her father is engaging but there is nothing very surprising or interesting in the story so while it is pleasant to watch it is not the winner.
Late Afternoon is more touching as it shows a young woman helping her mother pack up her belongings. It is clear that the mother has early dementia and the packing up is the packing up of her life. At first she doesn’t seem to recognize her daughter but at the end the connection is made making the film bittersweet. Still I would say more sweet than bitter.
Weekends is about a young boy whose parents are divorced and he has to deal with visiting his father on the weekends and coping with his mother as she enters a new relationship. I am not sure the writers and directors knew what they really wanted to do with the story but the animation was very interesting to watch. It speaks somewhat to the issue I have with animated films. This is not the sort of animation you are used to with Pixar or Disney films but it is still excellent and interesting and evocative of the theme of the film.
Animal Behaviour is the NFB entry and was a bit of a relief from the heavier themes of the other films. It is set in a group therapy session with a dog as the therapist and slug, a pig, a small bird, a cat, and a female praying mantis. All goes relatively normally until a huge gorilla with anger issues joins the group. Hilarity follows. I liked it a lot but must admit that this may have had something to do with having something to laugh at.
Bao is likely the best of the lot although I confess, I found the story a bit difficult to follow and I am not sure I like the fact that it is a Pixar production. The animation is exquisite as one would expect from Pixar and it has a sense of humour but some sort of shocking elements as well. It focusses on a Chinese family making bao (a steamed bun with a vegetable or meat filling). One of the bao comes alive and becomes a child that grows up into its difficult teens. I will not spoil the rest but while it sounds humourous I would warn you that it has some heavier elements to it. I suspect it will win the Oscar but I think maybe I would prefer Weekends or Animal Behaviour.
Isle of Dogs – Director, Wes Anderson
I will start this review with full disclosure. In my opinion Wes Anderson has not made any bad movies and has made many great movies. This one is one of his best. The hard bit is assessing his animated features and comparing them to his live action films but one constant is that none of the films are conventional.
If you are dog lover this movie will be good reinforcement. It is set in Japan and a city where the mayor is a dog hater. An epidemic spreads among the dogs in the city and the mayor uses this as an excuse to exile all the dogs to an island off the coast that is used as a garbage dump. The dogs are left to fend for themselves but a young boy – the adopted son of the mayor – has lost his pet dog to the island and he goes in search of him gaining the support of a pack of exiled dogs. They explore an immense wilderness of waste, garbage and processing Meanwhile scientists are working on a cure for the epidemic and there is a resistance among the young people in the town who support repatriation. The story is very complex and the film is a wee bit too long but the animation is superb and the story is ultimately charming and engaging. I particularly like the personalities of the dogs we meet as performed by the likes of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.
This film is up for a 2019 animation award as Best Animated feature film. I find it hard to evaluate animated films. They are all so different in style and design and of course there is the script and acting to evaluate. I feel like they are not adequately respected by the industry or at least by the academy. They get their own category but it’s a bit of a nod to a group not to be taken to seriously. Few are ever nominated for Best Picture and never win. I think they should be considered for Screenplay, Directing, most of the technical awards and of course, Best Picture. This ends my short rant.
Christopher Robin – Director, Marc Forster
I really liked this film which managed only a visual effects nomination despite its charming storyline and writing. The story is about Christopher Robin all grown up with a wife and daughter and who is totally lost in his work and increasingly isolated. He is still a good man who, charged with coming up with a way find efficiencies at his firm, sends his family away for the weekend while he works. Luckily he is found by an old friend. Winnie-the-Pooh crawls into his isolation and calls him back to the 100-acre wood to save his old friends from a rampaging Heffalump. The encounter results in Christopher’s redemption as he returns to the real world and reengages with his daughter and wife. He also finds a way to save his firm from downsizing and instead grow and find new direction to the dismay of some of his superiors. If you are entranced by A. A. Milne’s old stories I think you will find this movie captures the language and the characters very well. That said I am disappointed that this film did not get nominations for animation, writing, or even Best Picture. I note that on most film websites it is highly rated and much more highly rated than other films like Bohemian Rhapsody for example. I suspect that the film awards need to rethink some of the categories. There may need to be one for films aimed at children for example. I think this may require me to write a blog post about this issue and it will be forthcoming. The other point to be made here relates to my review of Incredibles 2. There I was critical of Disney studios for milking old franchises with mediocre sequels. While this is true of the Incredibles and some Star Wars sequels, this time they scored with a quality product.
Incredibles 2 – Director, Brad Bird
This is terrible movie and has no reason to exist. I confess that I liked the original film which I found to have a great sense of humour and successfully poked fun at super hero films. It stunned me somewhat to find that the original is now 14 years old. It came out at a time when super hero movies were beginning to dominate the screen and it played with this well. However we are now inundated with such films and they vary from good to awful. This sequel is a very poor reboot I assume with the hope that those who liked the first one will love seeing the lovable family again. Reviews have been positive for the most part but there are some excellent negative reviews around. The risk of sequels is that they simply replay the good bits of the originals rather than taking us anywhere. One reviewer I liked took a crack at Disney who have bought up the rights to many successful franchises and are churning out sequels with a thought only to banking on old fans coming back. It may be a sad future as he says: Incredibles 2 could be the future; a future in which every movie is polished but beige, beautiful but bland, fun but fawning, amusing but dull. Have to agree.
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
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.