Did the Right Film Win? 2006 Animated Oscars

Hey guys!  So 2005 was a very strong year.  Can’t say the same for 2006.  It is a very eclectic kind of strange group of nominees but they all have problems.

You all can read my thoughts on Cars here on the blog. It is a weird world of all Cars but if you can get past that it is a nice little movie with a good message about the loss of Main Street USA.  It looks great and the humor is well done.  It is definitely a little bit too long and drags in sections but I can see why kids love it.

Monster House was done by Image Movers and it has the pasty look of that studios films.  The animation in general I am not a big fan of .  Also, they made a mistake and had the movie go big in feel when it should have stayed small.  It turns into a Godzilla like film and it is so crass in its humor it didn’t work for me.  I can see why it has its fans but it just wasn’t for me.

Happy Feet is another strange offering.  It starts out so cheerful with the penguins singing and Mumbles dancing.  But then half way through they forget the singing and it turns into this message movie with the penguins going to tell the humans to stop over-fishing.  The last 30 minutes feel like a different movie.  It is also way too long.  But the enjoyable sections are very adorable and fun so not a total loss.

What are your thoughts?  I have loved the discussion this series has stimulated both on the channel and blog so thank you! If you like the video please give it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

Anastasia Review

This blog is from my column on ldsblogs.com. I would love if you guys checked that out. http://ldsblogs.com/30014/family-movie-night-anastasia

This week’s choice for Family Movie Night is the 1997 animated film Anastasia.  It is not a perfect but I find it very entertaining and I think your family will as well.

Anastasia was one of only two films from Fox Animation Studios which was formed in a merger with Sullivan Bluth Studios after their Thumbelina hadn’t done very well. Unfortunately neither of the films were big successes and they closed in 2000 but Anastasia has remained popular among animation fans and with good reason.

Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, Anastasia combines a real story with a fairytale feel, which is normally something I do not enjoy.  For instance, I have big problems with Disney’s Pocahontas.  The reason I think Anastasia fares a little bit better is most of the characters are fictitious where nearly all are real people in Pocahontas.  Plus in Anastasia the characters are a little more nuanced than the ‘natives good, white people bad’ you see in Pocahontas.   I don’t give it a complete pass on the inaccuracies but Anastasia does not make me as uncomfortable as other films.

What’s especially peculiar about Anastasia as source material is it is not about the princess but about the woman Anna Anderson who in the 1920’s claimed to be the princess.  It’s a strange place to start a story but it works as kind of a mystery.

Basically the plot starts when the Romanov family led by Tsar Nicholas are murdered by a military coup led by Rasputin.  This is done mostly in flashback and is not as scary or bloody as it sounds.  The youngest daughter Anastasia is rescued by a kitchen boy and flees the city.  Next, we jump ahead 10 years and Anya is an orphan who doesn’t remember who she was or where she came from.

Meanwhile the Dowager Empress Marie, Anastasia’s grandmother, has put out a reward for anyone who can find the princess.  Tempted by the prize, two con-men, Demitri and Vladimir, hold auditions Anastasia_Goldento find a princess they can pass off to Marie and get the money.  Anya stumbles upon them and naturally gets the part.  They begin training her on the ways of the royal family and house and start a road trip to Paris to meet with Marie.
Rasputin is naturally the villain in the picture and he is voiced by Christopher Lloyd.  His song ‘In the Dark of the Night’ is very well done even if it does look a lot like Be Prepared from The Lion King.  Rasputin in this version has sold his soul to the devil in order to remove the Romanov family from the earth, so deep is his hatred for them   Once he finds out Anastasia may be alive and going to meet her Grandmother he of course tries to kill her.  One especially dramatic sequence involves a train crash which is so well animated.

The animation in Anastasia is lush, vivid and beautiful.  I kind of wish Don Bluth hadn’t completely abandoned his signature more sketchy style but it cannot be denied how good the movie looks.  The plot is also tightly paced and engrossing.  They did a good job with the chemistry between Demitri and Anya and aside from a lame liar reveal subplot they are believable as a couple.

All the vocal performances are good except it is annoying to me that aside from Lansbury and Grammer nobody does their own singing.  In a film like this celebrity voices aren’t necessary.  They don’t add anything to the story and I think they should have just gone with the singers for all the vocals.  Let’s put it this way: nobody went to Anastasia to hear John Cusack’s vocal performance, so at best it is an unnecessary expense.

That said, the songs are the real standout to Anastasia.  It feels like a Broadway play and that is probably because they are written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty who have done many shows including Ragtime, Once on this Island and My Favorite Year.  In some cases the lyrics are actually stronger than Disney offerings such as Tarzan or Hercules (which I adore both).  The score is also good by David Newman.  I think if Anastasia had been a bigger hit they could have had a great Broadway musical out of it.

To see the rest of Rachel’s reviews, click here.

Overall, Anastasia ends up being a very entertaining animated film.  There is a nice heart to the picture and the romance really works.  The songs are well done and the animation is lush and vivid.  If you watch it with your family it might be a good chance to talk about some of the true history and the adaptation process within different mediums.  You can also discuss honesty, self-discovery and the importance of family.  In the end it will be a great choice for the entire family for Family Movie Night.

Overall Grade B

Did the Right Film Win? 2005 Animated Oscars

Today we get to one of the hardest years I think I will face in this analysis of the films nominated for Best Animated Academy Award each year.  I love all of the 3 films nominated and can see going with any of them.

Check out my video where I talk about the films and decide- did the right one win?  If you like the video give it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

Picking my favorite was difficult because they are all so strong.  In the end I went with Corpse Bride because I love the Danny Elfman music and being a lover of musicals that will always put a movie over the top.  I particularly like these 2 numbers.

What would you pick? Please put in the comments section. Thanks.  I’ve really loved this discussion on both  my channel and here on the blog from this series so thank you for contributing!

 

Did the Right Film Win? 2004 Animated Oscars

Continuing on with my series analyzing the Oscar nominated animated feature films each year I am at 2004.

I’d love if you could take a look at the video and if you like it give it a thumbs up.  It’s a bit longer than any of my other videos but I had lots to say on The Incredibles!

My thoughts on the other films is basically Shark Tale is a complete failure.  I didn’t like the animation. The lead character is a complete jerk.  The world building isn’t good.  They don’t look like fish and there are no bubbles.  Most importantly I didn’t laugh once.  I personally think Home on the Range was a better film that year! I had never seen Shark Tale before last night and I can see why I avoided it.

Shrek 2 I think is the strongest of the series.  It has the most interesting story, more of the jokes work and it has a pretty good villain.  I still have some of the same issues as Shrek and it could have been about 15 minutes tighter but it definitely deserves the nomination.  Oh and I did like the music especially Jennifer Saunders.

What do you think of 2004?  I’m guessing most of my readers will agree with me The Incredibles was the correct winner for the year.

Ranking the Pixar Shorts

pixar shorts collage2

So I finished reviewing all the Pixar shorts and had a blast.  Honestly there isn’t any that I dislike and I think the lowest score I gave is a B.

That said, them all being so great in a way made the task of ranking them a little bit tricky.  What is especially tough is how to do you gauge something that is a huge technical achievement like Luxo Jr against a visual storytelling delight like La Luna?  They are special in different ways.

I normally hate rubrics for scoring movies because I feel they can force you to give you grades or scores to things that don’t jive with your actual views and feelings.  Other people like them but  I couldn’t feel right about giving something a grade I don’t think it deserves.  Plus, I also don’t like that with a rubric there is no way to give a perfect score. I feel like the focus can become what are the problems instead of the overall great experience I had at a top-tier film. For other people it works but not for me.

However, in this case where I like them all but for different reasons,  it seemed like the best way to go.  So, here’s what I came up with.  Each short had the potential of 20 points- 5 for Technical Achievement, 5 for Story, 5 for Artistry and 5 for Overall Enjoyment.  You can see how each film worked out below points-wise.

pixar shorts

These are also only the original shorts.  I only reviewed 2 of the spin-off shorts based on or including characters from their feature films but I did not include either of them in my ranking.

All that said, here’s how I rank the shorts.  (You can find reviews of all these shorts here)

16. Adventures of Andre and Wally Badventures of wally315. Blue UmbrellaTHE BLUE UMBRELLA14. One Man Bandone man band213. Luxo

luxo12. Knick Knack

knick knack211. For the Birds

for the birds210. Lava

lava9. Day and Night

day and night38. Lifted

LIFTED7. Partly Cloudy

partly cloudy76. Tin Toy

tin toy5. Boundin’

boundin74. Red’s Dream

reds dream3. Presto

presto32. Geri’s Game

geris-game1. La Luna

la luna6But like I said they are all great so thanks to Pixar for such lovely works of art!

Pixar Review 32: The Blue Umbrella

blue umbrella3Well guys I did it!  With this review of The Blue Umbrella I will have seen and reviewed all the original Pixar shorts (that is until Sanjay’s Super Team comes out in November).  I hope you have enjoyed these reviews as shorts are too often ignored or forgotten by the average filmgoers.   I will post a ranking later this week of all the Pixar shorts but start thinking about what your favorites are and share in the comments below.

Anyway, back to the Blue Umbrella.  This is one of the Pixar shorts I would put in the ‘technology advancing’ category.   Like Luxo Jr or some of the early shorts the story is pretty simple but it is the animation which makes it stand out.  I think it is pretty safe to say it is the most realistic looking animation I’ve ever seen.blue umbrella4This photorealism  was a result of a new rendering system called Global Illumination and I think it could be very exciting for the future of CG animation.  I particularly wonder if they’ve used the technology in the new Jungle Book movie which I’ve heard from more than one source the trailer had the most realistic CG animals they’ve ever seen.

THE BLUE UMBRELLAThe Blue Umbrella is a simple story of a red and blue umbrella who fall in love and get separated on a rainy day in a big city.    That’s all there is to it.

The music by Jon Brion with Sarah Jaffe vocals adds a lot to the story because like most Pixar shorts there is no dialogue.

In many ways it is a lot like the hat short in Make Mine Music.  In my review of that I said “The whole thing is strange.  I can feel for ducks, mice, parrots but hats…”.  The same thing goes for umbrellas.  I guess I just don’t have that great of an imagination to get into umbrellas falling in love (or hats).

blue umbrella2But I do think the music in The Blue Umbrella is much better than the Andrews Sisters (they are fun but kind of corny).

That said, the animation is what is really special in this short.  It’s really quite stunning.  Here is a little clip of it to give you a feel:

What do you think of The Blue Umbrella?  What is your favorite Pixar short?

Overall Grade- B

Did the Right Film Win? 2003 Animated Oscars

Today I uploaded the next in my Animated Oscars: Did the Right Film Win series.  We are on to 2003 and we get 2 special films and one that I hate.

If you guys follow my blog you know I did not like Brother Bear.  You can read my full review to find out why I felt it made the wrong choice every time and got a rare F from me.

The two worthy nominees are Finding Nemo and The Triplets of Belleville.

Finding Nemo is the wonderful Pixar film about a father fish searching for his son who is in an aquarium miles away.  It is funny, creative, very well paced with beautiful seascapes.

The Triplets of Belleville is not for everyone.  It is challenging 2D animated film from Sylvain Chomet.  The story is about a woman who’s Grandson becomes a cyclist but then is abducted.  She meets a famous vaudville act The Triplets of Belleville who help her find her Grandson and sing a lot of catchy songs along the way.  There is no dialogue for the most part and it is very strange but I like it.  The animation is stunning and the music will make you want to dance.  It made my Most Artistic Animated Films list.

So what do you go with the artistic film with great music or the crowdpleaser with great heart and good jokes?  Watch the video and find out. 🙂

What would you pick? Would love your thoughts on if the right film won in 2003.

Did the Right Film Win? 2002 Animated Oscars

Hey guys! Today I finished video 2 in my series on the Animated Oscars.  It is 2002 and so I asked Did the Right Film Win?

For this video I rewatched Ice Age and wasn’t very impressed.  I found the animation to look very amateurish and the story very predictable.  I’ve always felt it was a bit of a Monsters Inc copycat (studios loved doing that to Pixar in those days).  It’s harmless but I was surprised I didn’t enjoy it more on rewatch.

I also saw Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron for the first time and really enjoyed that.  It’s got striking animation and I liked they didn’t have the horse talk like in Bambi or other films.  The narration is all you need.  It’s kind of like Black Beauty in the Old West and I liked it. Definitely one of the better Dreamworks films and great music by Hanz Zimmer.

The rest are less a surprise to my readers.  Lilo and Stitch has really grown on me each time I see it.  Treasure Planet is beautiful but for some reason puts me to sleep. And Spirited Away is a complete masterpeice.

I’d love for you to put your comments on the nominees and winner.  If you watch the video and think it is good give me a thumbs up. Thanks!

The Man from UNCLE Review

UNCLE

Let’s start out this review by saying I am not a Guy Ritchie fan. Why? Well, simply put I don’t like the way he directs action in a movie.  I hated the way he turned Sherlock Holmes into a bullet dodging, explosion jumping action hero in his Sherlock Holmes movies and I really didn’t like the action in his latest film The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  He uses lots of shaky cam, whip pans, split screens (sometimes 5 or 6 splits) and jerky cuts with extreme closeups like on someone’s eye or cheek in the middle of an action scene! All of that I hate.

That said, I liked The Man from UNCLE.  It’s not going to be a favorite of mine but it almost worked in spite of Guy Ritchie not because of him.  Ignoring the action, I had a fun time with the movie.

The Man from UNCLE is based on a British TV show from the 60s that evidently was an homage to 007 and James Bond style films.  Henry Cavill rescues this movie with tons of charisma and charm as secret agent Napoleon Solo. He reminded me of Cary Grant or Clark Gable.  That old movie star kind of persona you need for this kind of part.

guy ritchie set in rome with henry cavillHe has good chemistry with Armie Hammer who cheesy Russian accent and all he makes it work as agent Illya Kuryakin.

UNCLE2

UNCLE4
The two must work together with Alicia Vikander (who overnight is in every movie and is always great) to get her father’s computer disk for a nuclear weapon from an Italian crime donnette played by Elizabeth Debicki (who makes an icy vileness.) It is kind of funny in this movie you have a Brit playing an American.  An American playing a Russian.  A Swede playing a German and an Australian playing an Italian!  Oh well!

UNCLE7Hugh Grant also shows up in about 3 scenes and I wish we had gotten more of him.  If they do a sequel I hope they make him a bigger character.

UNCLE5

The plot is pretty silly and a lot of realizations and twists don’t make sense but I didn’t mind that for this type of spy movie. It’s incredibly stylish with great clothes and pithy dialogue and one liners. That all worked.  The tone can be a little uneven at times and again I blame Guy Ritchie for that.  He stays in scenes too long to a point where it becomes uncomfortable.  For example, several scenes Armie Hammer’s character gets very angry and the scenes go on very long and it causes him to lose his bubbly charisma he has in other scenes.

It could have been easily 20 minutes shorter and been much better but I loved seeing the foreign settings especially Rome and the actors were generally very likable and entertaining that it worked for me.

UNCLE3This is the kind of movie if you see it is on cable give it a watch.  In fact, it might be better that way because the shaky cam and jerky editing of the action scenes works better on a small screen.  It at least is an action movie which doesn’t try to explain everything and just kind of moves from one set piece to another.  You get the feeling it is in on the joke and the camp factor of the film.

If you hated Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes like I did you will definitely see some of the same techniques and it is nauseating and annoying here too but at least suits the project a little bit better.  Plus, the plot doesn’t verge into the supernatural or other eye rolling escapes like in Holmes movies (and no slow motion dodging bullets that they must have done 30 times in the last SH movie).

Perhaps fans of the original show will be annoyed (I’m a massive Sherlock Holmes fan) by his style on their franchise, but as I had never heard of the show it didn’t bother me.  Over all, I had a good time watching this movie despite the terrible action and directing choices.

Overall Grade- C

As far as content it keeps the language to a minimum and the action is so choppy I don’t think it is very upsetting.  There is implied sex but nothing is shown and characters are shot and tortured for a fairly long sequence.

Content Grade- B