Blind Spot 24: We’re No Angels

It is very exciting we have reached my last Blind Spot pick for 2017. I hope you have enjoyed the 12 films I have reviewed this year and I look forward to picking 12 more for next year. If you have a blog I encourage you to participate in the series and finally check some of those films off your list you have been wanting to see.

Unfortunately it’s too bad I can’t end the year on a more positive note. My pick for this month is a supposed Christmas film called We’re No Angels. This is the original 1955 version not the 1989 remake. I know other people love this dark comedy but it was not for me. I honestly found it pretty hard to get through.

The story is about 3 convicts (Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, Peter Ustinov) who escape from prison just before Christmas.  They go to a shop and after spying on their daughter (Joan Bennett) they decide to steal from the family and then escape off of the island. Things get complicated when a snobby relative (Basil Rathbone) comes in and wants to take over the store.

I said in my 3 Billboards review that dark comedies are not my thing and it is true here. I know these men are supposed to be bad guys, convicts, but I found them uncomfortable, awkward, perverted and not the least bit funny. They literally are staring at the family and daughter through a window for a good chunk of the movie. They bicker and are cruel in ways that didn’t amuse me at all.

The only person who worked for me a little was Peter Ustinov who always gives a funny/strange performance. But even he couldn’t save this film because the writing wasn’t good and the characters are so unlikable.

Basil Rathbone’s character is supposed to be a character of ridicule but I frankly thought the 3 anti-heroes were much worse. They are manipulative, cold and worst of all boring. This movie is dull and sorely lacking in charisma or fun. It certainly has no Christmas charm or cheer.

I can see how those that like dark comedies will enjoy it but it was not for me. I really didn’t enjoy it and will never watch it again. The costumes were nice so I guess there is that but I can’t think of anything else to praise.

If this is a Christmas film you love please tell me why you like it. I just didn’t get it.

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Lady Bird Review

Coming of age movies are some of the most important yet tricky movies to master. The teenage experience is so unique and sacred in a way that capturing it in film so many people can relate to is very difficult. For example, I love Perks of Being a Wallflower. It felt completely authentic to my experience, like someone had been filming my friends and I in high school; yet, I know others who that film rings completely false. I also love Juno, which many people find overwrought and annoying. To me it is funny and sweet, and I love it. Dazed and Confused and Dirty Dancing are two more favorites. However, other films like Edge of 17 or The Breakfast Club that others love don’t work for me. Today I went to see the latest entry in the genre, Lady Bird and for the most part I enjoyed it. I didn’t LOVE it like many seem to but it was good (I have a feeling this movie will be this year’s La La Land where merely liking it isn’t enough for some people. Sigh).

Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan (who I adored as an older character in Brooklyn) as a senior in high school in Sacramento (my parents lived in Sacramento for 9 years so I recognized many of the locations!). She is a sullen, angry teen who hates Sacramento and mostly hates her Mother. This is similar to the character in Edge of 17 but with a little bit more warmth than that film. I’m not going to lie I find this type of teenage character very uncomfortable to watch as it was totally me as a teen. I was pretty grumpy and hated my small town/parents who had a small baby at the time. I wanted nothing more than to get away from all of them and spread my wings (luckily I was also a die hard Mormon so didn’t get into much trouble!).

Still, whenever I watch these kinds of movies I want to call my Mother and apologize for how horrible I was. I remember one time throwing a book at my Dad because I was so angry at him. Another time storming up the stairs in one of the rare instances of my life I used profanity against my Mother. I remember feeling like nobody was listening to me. One time I screamed at my whole family “you’re the weird ones. I’m the normal one except in my own house”. LOL.  I was not pleasant to live with. I’m not saying this as a knock against the movie. I’m just trying to give some context into my response.

Lady Bird’s mother is played brilliantly by Laurie Metcalf. In fact, I kind of wish the movie was about her rather than her daughter. She’s a very interesting character where Lady Bird I’ve seen many times before. She loves her daughter but also finds her a royal pain, something most parents of sullen teenagers can relate to.

I also loved Lucas Hedges in this as Lady Bird’s first boyfriend. He is rapidly becoming one of my favorite young actors with his performances in this, Manchester by the Sea, and 3 Billboards. He felt very authentic and gave the movie some of the warmth I was missing in Edge of 17.

I know some people don’t like the glib dialogue in Juno and if that is the case then you will love Lady Bird. It’s very well done and feels authentic and natural. I prefer the more comedic, heightened dialogue of Diablo Cody but this is executed well.

I do have some negatives for Lady Bird. First, I did not feel the second boyfriend played by Timothee Chalamet worked. He didn’t feel authentic or real to a high school student and it was just bland. Perhaps this is because I loved Lucas Hedges’ raw performance so much that the new boyfriend fell flat? I’m not sure, but I didn’t like those scenes.

Also the movie should have ended with her leaving for college. Instead it goes on for another 15 minutes or so and this was anticlimactic. They had the perfect ending and stretched it on too long. I don’t know if I completely bought Lady Bird, with her personality, going for the popular girl either and leaving her best friend for a time. That didn’t quite feel true.

But that’s about it on the negatives. Lady Bird is worth your while if you like coming of age films and certainly if you are raising a teenager watch it! It will be very cathartic for you!

Overall Grade- B

Lady Bird is rated R for some sensuality, drug use but mostly language. It is fine for teenagers.

3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri Review

If I was going to subtitle this review I would say 3 Billboards: Voyeurism in 2017 Film. What I mean by voyeurism is the sense of glee we feel in watching the pain or difficulties of another person. This can be in dramatic or comedic form and it has long existed on television in shows like Snapped or sensationalized murder dramas. I personally felt there was a sense of voyeurism in Martin Scorsese’s Silence- that watching these Christians suffer for nearly 3 hours was somehow cathartic for some (I found it repulsive). The Glass Castle, which I hated, also had a sense of voyeurism and false heroism in the father and the treatment of these children. In comedy it has taken a different turn where the voyeurism is focused on a particular class of people- Middle American Trump voters.

There’s no doubt that most in Hollywood are angry at anyone who elected Donald Trump. Meryl Streep in her Golden Globes speech described the attitude of most when she said:

So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if you kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing else to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”

It’s kind of ironic because Hollywood has been doing a pretty good job lately of kicking themselves out with all these sexual abuse scandals! But listen to the disdain she holds for the middle America, average American with their football and mixed martial arts “which are not the arts”. She doesn’t care about mixed martial arts. It was her way of taking a dig at a class of people she finds beneath her and is repulsed by.

Many who feel this way are angry and want revenge and since marching doesn’t seem to be doing much good they work it into their art, which they have every right to do. However, I don’t have to like said art! Earlier in the year we got Beatriz at Dinner, which actively irritated me. There is literally a dream sequence  in that film where the character gets to murder the Trump/1% clone. If that’s not voyeurism in film then I don’t know what is.

The latest journey into voyeurism is from writer and director Martin McDonagh called The Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. In the dark comedy Frances McDormand plays a grieving Missouri mother who is angry at the lack of progress in her daughter’s case, so she buys 3 billboards outside the town.

Without giving too much away the film becomes a revenge piece with McDormand as the supposed anti-hero. She reams out the clergy, police (literally setting the station on fire), her ex-husband and even young teenagers. The sheriff played by Woody Harrelson is supposed to be her antagonist, but he’s pretty unlikable too. He’s the heart of the movie but then does distasteful stuff, which make him hard to root for.

The anger at cops continues as Sam Rockwell plays a loveable racist cop if there is such a thing. He is an angry character who commits an act of violence against a gay character I had a hard time chuckling along with. The only character I liked was played by Peter Dinklage who is a little person who doesn’t care what others think about him. Lucas Hedges was also solid in the few scenes as Mildred’s son.

It’s not that every character needs to be likable for a film to work, but even an anti-hero needs to have moments of warmth that draw you in. There’s a scene in this film where Mildred kicks young teens in the groin and that is supposed to be funny. It felt more uncomfortable to me.

If you look at many of the reviews you can see this kind of voyeurism. One critic, Katie Walsh, who gave the film a perfect score said ”

“…a cathartic wail against the zeitgeist of rape culture and state brutality. It’s a rallying cry, a right hook to the jaw, and wow, does it ever hurt so good.”

There’s a catharsis in seeing police, religion and other institutions assaulted and torn down. That feels good to people that are angry at said institutions. It’s not helpful or entertaining in my opinion but it feels stimulating for some. Faith based communities have a similar catharsis when institutions and people they hate are torn down in their films. It’s stimulating and even arousing but not what I want out of film.

To be honest Three Billboards wasn’t made for me. In fact, I’m one of the people the movie is mad at with my conservative values and traditional religion. So people would probably get a kick out of seeing a revenge piece against me. More power to them but it didn’t work for me. The performances were all strong and it is well made but I didn’t care for it. They try to tag on a redemptive ending but it didn’t feel earned to me and didn’t work.

I didn’t find Three Billboards to be funny, insightful or have anything interesting to say about religion, politics, art, crime, police brutality or anything like that. I didn’t laugh much; although most of my theater was in stitches. I guess some find repeated assault on characters and on Middle American values to be funny.

I did not…

Last Flag Flying Review

After summer months of superheroes, minions, and talking animals, I often find myself yearning for human stories from the cinema by autumn. Thankfully, directors like Richard Linklater step up to the camera and provide us with such films on a regular basis. I loved his recent entries Before Midnight, Boyhood, and Everybody Wants Some. These films allow us to spend time with humans, walk in their shoes, and become better for the experience. Linklater’s latest entry, Last Flag Flying, while not quite as strong, continues this tradition and is a beautiful depiction of male friendship in America.

Last Flag Flying is billed as an ‘unofficial sequel’ to the film The Last Detail with Jack Nicholson. Set in 2003, the film follows three Vietnam War veterans played by Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and Laurence Fishburne; Cicely Tyson also has a lovely small role as the mother of one of their marine corps friends. These three men haven’t spoken since the war but are reunited when Carell’s son is killed in the war in Iraq, brought together because Carell purposely seeks them out. Evidently, he doesn’t have anyone else to assist him with this difficult task or, at least, it is never really explained why they lost touch or why he needed them in particular.

At first, they are planning to go to Arlington, and then events take them all up to Delaware and further. All along the way, the men talk about war, faith (Fishburne plays a minister), women, raising kids, and everything else. This is where the movie shines, as expected. The three actors have wonderful chemistry and Richard Linklater is a master at realistic dialogue. It felt emotionally true to the way men deal with friendship and support one another in these difficult circumstances – especially men who are not used to supporting each other.

We also see J. Quinton Johnson as a young marine, an honest voice of the government, who knew Carell’s son. The rest of the military is painting a glossy picture of heroism but he is willing to tell the truth to a grieving father.

Some viewers become frustrated with Linklater’s thin plots and consequently may actually find that Last Flag Flying has more structure, and therefore is more satisfying. However, I felt the film grew a little repetitive at times with the men learning the same lessons over and over again. Also, Bryan Cranston’s character bordered on caricature at times, and his ‘tough guy’ persona got a little old.

In spite of that, there is much to like in Last Flag Flying. The ending particularly worked well and had me tearing up. I also appreciate that it is not an anti-war or pro-nationalism film, but is instead focused on these three men and their friendship, and that is definitely worth watching.

Overall Grade: B

The Son of Bigfoot Review

 

I’m not going to lie to you guys. There are times when I get on here and think ‘ugh I’ve got to tell them about the latest mediocre….movie.” However, other times I approach the keyboard with great anticipation because I can tell you about something that surprised me. It’s like I heard a great secret and can’t wait to share it with all of my friends. Today is such an experience.

Let me tell you about the recent European import The Son of Bigfoot. This movie was not only way better than I expected it to be but it was legitimately a good animated film with tons of heart, humor and an entertaining story.

It’s perhaps especially surprising I enjoyed The Son of Bigfoot so much because it was made by the team who brought us such classics as Fly Me to the Moon and The Wild Life (which I didn’t hate as much as others but this is a huge step up!). It’s certainly much better than such mainstream animated films as The Emoji Movie, The Star and Despicable Me 3.

The story focuses on a very likable teenage protagonist named Adam. His main attribute is his bushy thick hair. His father died when he was little and his Mom struggles to help him deal with bullies and corral his need for adventure.

One day he gets a clue that perhaps there is more to his Dad’s story than he was told. Could he be the mysterious Bigfoot that has prowled the nearby forests? He, along with his buddy animals, set off to find out and in the process he learns a lot about his father, family and himself.

Here’s the trailer if you want to see more:

There is so much to like about The Son of Bigfoot. I really liked Adam as a character. He felt like a typical teenager without being annoying. The relationship between him and his Dad develops in a touching way as he comes to understand himself more in the process. He also has to learn to forgive both his Mom and his Dad and that journey felt authentic and real. There are no celebrity voice actors in the film (yay!) but the professionals they got worked and the dubbing seemed natural. The sidekicks didn’t feel like Minions clones (for once) which was nice and the humor in the film mostly worked for me. The action scenes were fun. The animation was pretty impressive for a small budget. I even liked the music by a band called Puggy!

If I was looking for downsides I guess the evil corporate villain is a bit of a snooze and not every joke lands. It can feel a little overstuffed at times with storylines like the bullying being unnecessary but these are all nitpicks.This is a thoroughly entertaining film that the entire family will enjoy. It also has a sweet message without being a MESSAGE movie.

I don’t want to oversell The Son of Bigfoot. It’s not Your Name or something earth shattering, but I was very excited after seeing it. I even got emotional at certain sequences. Like I cried! This was a really sweet, funny, pleasant movie that I hope you give a chance on demand or from your local library. It’s one I will be picking up for sure.

Justice League Review

This weekend our latest superhero movie, Justice League, came out, and I’ve been hesitant to post a blog review. I did a video review right after I saw it, which I would love for you to check out.

Basically I have really mixed feelings about Justice League, which makes it a hard film to write a coherent review about. Let me just give you a few thoughts:

First of all, I have not enjoyed Man of Steel, Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. I loved Wonder Woman but that had the benefit of director Patty Jenkins over the more problematic Zack Snyder. So needless to say I went into Justice League with pretty low expectations, which always makes me a little more forgiving of its many flaws.

The positives to Justice League is I enjoyed the heroes and I’m a hero girl when it comes to comic book movies. The Flash was fun. Wonder Woman was of course great. Batman was fine and Aquaman was better than you’d expect. I am also so happy to be able to say they finally got Superman right! This is a Superman who is joyous and positive not mopey and ashamed of who he is. This is a Superman that fights for truth, justice and the American way!!! I have been waiting for that ever since Man of Steel made me depressed for days. I had a huge smile on my face for particularly the last 30 minutes of the movie, which gave Superman the time to shine I’ve been hoping for.

I also thought the Joss Whedon influenced dialogue was fun and I laughed a fair amount. One scene in particular between Wonder Woman and Aquaman was especially funny. The Flash had a lot of funny lines and the entire team had a nice chemistry together.

Unfortunately that’s where my praise has to end. A lot of Justice League is a hot mess. The plot is tough to defend with a villain that is poorly developed and  a structure that is incoherent and sloppy at best. It wasn’t as badly put together as Suicide Squad but it was close.

Also the action was an orange and gray mess. It looked like a video game especially any fighting with the villain. If you like Zack Snyder’s aesthetic than you will enjoy it but I’ve never been a fan and this was really rough to look at. A lot of people complained about the action at the end of Wonder Woman. This is much uglier than that but throughout the movie. The only movie I can think of that looked worse this year as far as action was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The CGI was also poorly executed and once again looked like a cheap video game. It was also a bummer to see his leering camera over Wonder Woman and the skimpy outfits the girls wore in Themiscyra.

Much was made about Danny Elfman using the original Superman and Batman scores for Justice League but nothing really stood out to me music-wise.

But all this aside I can’t deny that when I saw Superman fighting for truth and justice it made me really happy. I’m just so torn on this one.

I guess since it did make me smile I will give it a smile worthy but just barely.

Wonder Review

Adapting a popular novel is always a tricky undertaking for a film studio. They could stay close to the source and please the die-hard fans, of which there are many, or they can make changes that work better for a cinematic experience. In the new film, Wonder, the creators have chosen the former and stayed very close to R.J. Palacio’s 2012 novel of the same name. Therefore, I can only imagine that fans of the book will be very happy with the adaptation. Unfortunately, as someone who was meh on the book, I had a lot of problems with it.

Wonder tells the story of Auggie (Jacob Tremblay), a little boy who has a facial deformity that makes it hard for him to fit in with other boys and girls his age. His parents, played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, have finally decided to put him in public school. This is scary for the entire family, including Auggie’s long-suffering sister Via (Izabela Vidovic). Just as in the book, the film alternates narrators, and we see perspectives of Auggie’s schoolmates and family as he experiences a year of school.

All of these experiences have nice moments but, as a victim of childhood bullying myself, others rang false. Firstly, the film creators reduced Auggie’s deformity; he’s supposed to be so disfigured he barely has a functional face. If you look at the cover of the book, you can see that his eye is the only ‘normal’ part of his face. I had a hard time buying that kids would bully the adorable looking Tremblay. He’s also not that socially awkward either. He’s a little shy but nothing crazy. I think the pudgy girl or girl with an accent or something like that are far more likely to get picked on than Auggie for his mildly abnormal face.

But let’s go with his face is so horrific that he is bullied, which isn’t shown to us in a compelling way either. This is going to sound unfeeling but I often wanted to tell Auggie to buck up a little more. He is extremely sensitive and expected to be treated with unreasonably soft kid gloves, rather than simply expecting to be treated like a normal kid. In fact, almost all the students and staff seemed to go out of their way to be nice to him. The school even has kids, including the bully, take time from summer break to give him a tour of the school. At the end of the year, he is given an award for courage, which I didn’t think was earned. Frankly, the kids who gave him the tour and were nice to him probably deserved it more.

There is one point where Via says to Auggie, “not everything in the world is about you,” and this needed to be said much more frequently. In fact, I often felt like all of the characters were more interesting than Auggie, especially Via. Izabela Vidovic is excellent in the role and she’s a character that is constantly ignored in favor of her high-maintenance brother. She plays this with the right amount of kindness and irritation. Her romance subplot is also really sweet.

This is the risk a movie takes in having more than one narrator. It may expose the flaws of one narrator and leave the viewers preferring others. Like I said, I liked all of the characters more than Auggie and was disappointed whenever we went back to him.

It’s not good in a movie like Wonder when the bullies’ parents are explaining their point of view and I, a former bully victim, actually agree with them. Auggie is never asked to see things from others’ points of view, or to try to help those around him. It’s all about how he is hurt from the slightest things and, if such a hurt occurs, those ‘guilty’ people need to be punished and removed. Shouldn’t he be taught to deal with difficult people or to turn enemies into friends? That takes real courage.

I suppose there are some kids with facial deformities like Auggie who are as sensitive but it didn’t feel authentic or emotionally true. If he really was so fragile, it probably isn’t a wise time for him to be entering public education. Maybe even a private school would have been a better choice?

Nevertheless, if you like the book Wonder, then you probably will enjoy this movie. The acting is good, and it’s well-made by Stephen Chbosky, who also made one of my favorite movies, Perks of Being a Wallflower. Yet, in the end, the film was just too vanilla with a plucky kid that was more self-absorbed than wonderful.

Overall Grade: C

26 Eligible Oscar Animated Feature Films Announced

Today the Oscars released their list of the eligible films for the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar. There are 26 films up for the 5 nominations and I’ve seen 19 of them. I thought I would share with you my quick thoughts on the list. Overall it covers the feature and indie films with the exception of My Little Pony: the Movie and Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature- both films I liked especially MLP. Both films are certainly better than The Emoji Movie which is under consideration. Oh well. At least every indie film I loved that was eligible is on the list (Louise by the Shore and Your Name were technically 2016 releases).

So here are my thoughts:

The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales… (French: Le grand méchant renard et autres contes…)- Haven’t seen this one but very much looking forward to it. The buzz out of festivals is that it is very hilarious and GKIDS has picked it up and they rarely pick up bad films.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (Spanish: Psiconautas, los niños olvidados)- I must admit hadn’t heard of this one but the trailer looks pretty great and GKIDS has picked it up so that is a good sign.

The Boss Baby- This movie was very popular amongst Americans seeking to laugh at Donald Trump as a baby (I’m convinced that was the reason it made so much money). It does have some nice animation so I’m fine with it being on this list but I will be very annoyed if it is nominated. It will be a sign that the new nomination rules are looking at ticket sales more than quality.

The Breadwinner- I will be posting a full review next week but this is a beautiful animated film about a girl in Afghanistan who has to pretend to be a boy to save her family. It’s a little rushed in spots but the animation is gorgeous and I found it very moving.

Captain Underpants The First Epic Movie- It’s still the best mainstream animated film of the year. I love the animation, humor and the relationship between the 2 lead boys. I can’t imagine it actually winning but would be cool to see a smaller budgeted mainstream animated film get a nomination.

Cars 3– I honestly don’t know if Cars 3 will be nominated. It has some pacing issues but I loved the animation and especially loved the heart and the story of Cruz getting her chance. I feel like voters will pick Coco over Cars 3 but wouldn’t be shocked if both get nominated.

Cinderella the Cat (Italian: Gatta Cenerentola)- This comes out of Italy and is a crime film noire musical take on Cinderella. I love Cinderella so it looks fun. Variety said “Slick, creative animation and largely enjoyable music make “Cinderella the Cat” one of the best Italian animated films of recent years” Sounds great!

Coco- Anxiously awaiting seeing this and so jealous of all those who have. My worries have been assuaged after early reviews.

Despicable Me 3Even though this was a small step up from Minions I’d be pretty annoyed if DM3 gets nominated. It will show the new nomination system is alive and well because it made a lot of money. It just didn’t work as a cohesive story despite a few funny elements.

The Emoji Movie- Even if the nomination process skews mainstream I don’t see The Emoji Movie having a ghost of a chance at a nomination. It had some decent animation but the message was muddled and story derivative.

Ethel & ErnestI loved this little sweet portrait of a couple out of England and would be thrilled to see it get nominated. I guess if the Brits weigh in heavily it has a chance but unlikely.

Ferdinand- I like Blue Sky but so far I have not been impressed with the Ferdinand trailers. They have looked so generic of plots we have seen a million times. We’ll have to see if it turns out any better than that.

The Girl without Hands (French: La Jeune Fille sans mains)- An amazing film created by one man from practically start to finish. I love the way the animation moved and flowed and the dark yet hopeful parts of the story. One of my favorites of 2017.

In This Corner of the World (Japanese: この世界の片隅に)- I admit I’m a little biased in favor of this movie because I got to interview the director but it’s a beautiful film nonetheless. It is a slice of life story about a family and woman going through WW2 in Japan. Some will find it boring but I liked it. It’s unlikely to be nominated since the only anime that gets attention seems to be Studio Ghibli.

The Lego Batman Movie- This movie hasn’t really stayed with me the way I thought it would. The middle sags a little but it’s still a pretty entertaining parody film and has a chance but I feel like voters have already forgotten it so WB will have to mount a campaign to get nominated.

The Lego Ninjago Movie- Any chance a lego movie has to get nominated lies with Lego Batman. I was pretty underwhelmed by Lego Ninjago with most of it boring me except for the cat sequence. It just didn’t do it for me. If it does get nominated that will show the new system voted for mainstream over indies.

Loving Vincent- This film is a tremendous achievement for the animation so I wouldn’t be upset if it gets nominated; however, I thought it was disappointing in the story department.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Japanese: メアリと魔女の花)- I have seen it but can’t talk about it yet but I’ll just say I’m glad to see it on this list and if it gets nominated I will be happy

Moomins and the Winter Wonderland (Finnish: Muumien joulu)- I love Moomintrolls but didn’t know they were getting their own movie! This looks like a really sweet Christmas story for kids with cool stop motion. The trailer is 7 minutes long which is unusual.

My Entire High School Sinking into the SeaThis is a very original take on the disaster movie with a very funny script and creative animation. It has GKIDS behind and I would be happy to see it get nominated.

Napping Princess: The Story of the Unknown Me (Japanese: ひるね姫 〜知らないワタシの物語)- this is an anime for little kids with some really creative animation but it dragged a little bit for me. Still I woldn’t be upset if it got nominated. I’d honestly be happy to see any non- Studio Ghibli anime get nominated as none ever has.

A Silent Voice (Japanese: 映画 聲の形)- the best animated film of the year by a long mile. Beautiful animation, stirring story and a groundbreaking female director. I would love to see this get nominated and it would heal my bitterness at Your Name getting snubbed. It is a little long so that may turn off some voters as well as the painful subject matter. Come on voters!!

Smurfs: The Lost VillageI still think the most underrated animated film of the year. This has some issues but I enjoyed it and the animation is stunning. Definitely the best cg animation of the year so far. It’s chances are slim but glad to at least see it on the list.

The Star- I see it next week. Heaven help me!

Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (Japanese: 劇場版 ソードアート・オンライン -オーディナル・スケール-)- I haven’t seen this one but want to . I’ve heard nothing but praise.

Window Horses The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming- One of my favorite animated films of the year. It tells a moving story with very inventive animation. It is very culturally relevant and it involves over a dozen different animators. With the right campaign it is possible for a nomination because of its relevance.

So there you go! That is my thoughts on the Oscar list. I’ve got 7 more movies to watch!

Blind Spot 23: Giovanni’s Island

There are some movies that have universal appeal. They move people of all races, backgrounds and religions. Then other films have more of a regional appeal, which can be valuable. While placating audiences is not a good thing, I also believe not every movie needs to be for every group. In today’s Blind Spot pick we have a movie, Giovanni’s Island, that I have a feeling appeals to the Japanese in a way that doesn’t translate super well to American audiences- or at least this American.

When I first heard about Giovanni’s Island I was hopeful it would be a new Grave of the Fireflies but unfortunately it comes across like a lightweight copy of Fireflies more than an update. It has some powerful moments and beautiful animation but it never really connected with me.

Let’s start with the positive. The animation directed by Mizuho Nishikubo is wonderful. The fantasy sequences with a ‘galactic railroad’ are particularly strong.

It also has some moments of genuine heart. The story is about two brothers, Junpei and Kanta who live on an island in 1945 Japan. The early parts of the movie show them frolicking happily around the island, going to school, meeting new Russian families including a girl named Tanya and trying to find enough food. They have a father, a nare-do-well uncle named Hideo, an old-school fisherman Grandfather and a teacher named Sawako. All of these characters play out basically the way you think they will.

The island ends up getting taken over by the Russians and the Japanese get sent away to camps. This causes the boys to go on a journey to find their father and survive the war. There are moving moments but even those can feel a bit heavy-handed and played out.

The dubbing is also incredibly bad. They don’t even bother to translate the Russian or all of the Japanese. It is extremely lazy, so I would watch it with subtitles instead.

I can imagine in Japan this piece of their history is very important and so they may be more forgiving of this films flaws. It has a nice heart to it and like I said the animation is amazing, so it is not a total loss. It wasn’t awful just nothing special either.

The music by Masashi Sada, with a mixture of Japanese and Russian themes,  is another standout.

The ending of Giovanni’s Island feel particularly mawkish and ham-fisted, but I can see how it would mean a lot to the Japanese. It was just too much for me. I’d recommend watching Grave of the Fireflies instead.