Brief Thoughts on the Films Nominated for Best Animated Feature

I don’t know much about the film industry. I know that I like movies, usually bad ones. I also know that in the early months of the year movie types gather together to pat each other on the back and give each other little gold statues. The best films, actors and all around movie types rarely win or are even nominated. I’ve only seen one of the films that’s been nominated for best picture, granted, it was a pretty awesome movie. If you’ve read any amount of this blog, then you know that I much prefer animation to live action.

Luckily, there’s an awards show just for animation. The 43rd annual Annie Awards are happening this Saturday and I wish that there was a way that I could watch it. On top of working a double shift, I’m not even sure if it’s a televised event. Either way, I much prefer reading about the Annie’s to the Oscars. One, it covers a wider range of movies and two, it’s about more than what people are wearing. Last years Oscars didn’t even bother to show clips of each of the films nominated for Best Animated Feature. This only leads to my suspicion that the Academy doesn’t really care about the category, but with everything that’s been going on with them lately, we all know they suck.

So awards show, I’m bad at predicting them. Last year I was convinced that Lego Movie was going to take the Oscar and it wasn’t even nominated. Then I was sure that How to Train Your Dragon 2  was going to win because the original How to Train Your Dragon, should have one instead of Toy Story 3(and it won the Annie). While I was pleasantly surprised that Big Hero 6 one, Song of the Sea was the best animated film hands down and I really wish it would have won. Which brings me back to my earlier point that the best film rarely wins.

I want to say that I think the Good Dinosaur was the best animated film of the year. It was so heart warming/ wrenching and it was every western ever made and it had dinosaurs and it was perfect. So I was pretty choked that it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, but at least it got a nob at the Golden Globes and is nominated for the aforementioned Annie. In the case of both the Oscars and the Annies, I think Inside Out will win. Not only is it superbly animated and a really innovative idea, but it’s also a feel good movie that helps erase the stigma of depression. But I’m pretty awful at picking winners, so I’m probably dead wrong. So in the likely chance that I’m wrong, so for a runner up I’d pick Anomalisa. Personally I found this film a little disappointing, but it’s probably one of the most technically impressive animated movies ever made. It’s one of the few films that came out this year where the characters actually look like real human beings instead of automated fashion dolls.

So  here are some thoughts on the films nominated for Best Animated picture in both the Oscars and the Annies.

I like to find themes in things and last year there was a specific theme in the films nominated for best animated picture last year and that was loss. Four of the five films dealt with the death (or apparent death in the case of Boxtrolls) of a family member, while the tale of Princess Kaguya dealt with the loss of self. This year the theme of the best animated films is largely about identity, finding out who you are and where you fit into the world (All except for maybe Boy and the World as it’s the only one I haven’t seen).

Boy and the World: This is the only film of the nomanies that I haven’t seen. It looks amazing and I want to see it so badly. I’m hoping that it will get a limited release in Calgary like Anomalisa did, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I’m looking forward to it’s DVD relase, which I will snap up the second I can preorder it.

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Shaun the Sheep: This is by far the cutest movie of the year, about a group of sheep lead, by the titular Shaun into the Big City, to find their farmer who has lost his memory. This is the movie that Postman Pat should have been, it stays true to its roots, pokes fun at our shallow society and stays relevant. It also doesn’t need dialogue to make a point and is all the stronger for it.

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The Peanuts Movie: This is probably the weakest of the films, but boy is it pretty. The animation in this movie is so gorgeous and true to its source material that it alone is worth watching for. The story is simple, pretty much what you’d get out of any given Peanuts television special. The best thing about the Peanuts Movie is that Charlie Brown never compromises being Charlie Brown, even while trying to reinvent himself. There are several moments that Charlie Brown has the opportunity to be a jerk for personal gain, but he never gives in and always does the right thing.

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Inside Out: Inside Out is the simply complex story of a girl and her emotions as she’s moved from everything she knows and cares about. It’s probably one of the most clever films I’ve ever seen and it’s one of the few movies I’ve seen in theaters where people were openly weeping.

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The Good Dinosaur: I think that this might be the perfect movie for me. It has everything I love, dinosaurs, tragedy, over whelming cute and amazing animation. This is the best thing Pixar has done. Good Dinosaur is every western ever made, particularly the Boy and his wolf narrative. It does an amazing job of matching dinosaurs with western tropes, which are two of my favourite things in the world. It also made one of my favourite dinosaur movies, The Land Before Time, look like annoying garbage. Seriously, I would not recommend watching those two back to back, it hurts the nostalgia.

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Anomolisa: I wanted this movie to be a lot weirder than it was, but it’s still great regardless. It’s the story of a successful sales writer and the way his mind warps things to justify his awful behaviour. I might have been disappointed with this film when I first saw it, but I’m still talking about it with friends. So there’s that.

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When Marnie Was There: Much like Inside Out, When Marnie was there follows the emotional journey of a young girl and she goes through a bit of an identity crisis. It’s part ghost story, part love story and full of magic and whimsy. There are a lot of twists and turns and it never quite went where I expected, yet the twists never feel forced. It is one of the weaker films that was nominated, but with everything it’s up against that’s not a bad thing.

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Slumber Party Massacre II and why you should watch it…

An oppressively hot summer and the general uselessness of Windows 8 has kept me off of the computer, but Windows 10 is out now I and saw something that I need to talk about.

Last night I watched two movies from the late 80’s/early 90’s, an era that has always been hazily combined in my mind. Both of these movies were put on for the intention of background noise while I did other things, I find I get a lot more done when there’s something to listen to or glance at every so often. The first film was about a troubled young woman who gets into a semi-abusive relationship with a sparkly vampire who’s been stalking her. I know what you’re thinking ‘isn’t that the plot of Twilight?’ It is, but this was To Sleep With a Vampire, which is a lot like Twilight if Bella were a Stripper and Edward was…well he’s the same. Think Twilight if it was produced in the 90’s by Roger Corman.

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While To Sleep with a Vampire is fun for being the proto-version of one of the worst things ever, it was the second film that got me to brave the heat of the laptop battery and update my blog: Slumber Party Massacre II.

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I haven’t see the original Slumber Party Massacre, nor have I seen the third or the similarly themed Sorority House Massacre films. I don’t need to, without watching I can say that these films peaked with Slumber Party Massacre II. I fear that watching the others will taint the brilliance that is Slumber Party Massacre II.

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Yeah you read that right, I think that there’s a certain brilliance to Slumber Party Massacre II. Yes, it is a typical 80’s slasher filled with bad actors poorly playing archetypes, who die horribly, but it’s so strange and surreal that all of that is forgotten. Everyone stares into the camera, which in most cases is just plain wrong in a film. But it kinds of works in Slumber Party Massacre II, because I think it’s trying to emulate the music videos of the time. Because at it’s heart, Slumber Party Massacre II is an 80’s music video with a lot of gore and a little nudity. Slumber Party Massacre II gives you the same kind of enjoyment that you’d get from Birdemic, the Room or Troll 2, it goes beyond so bad it’s good. It’s so bad it’s amazing.

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Slumber Party Massacre II tells the story of Courtney, who barely survived the first Slumber Party Massacre years earlier, and her band mates planning a weekend band practice at one of the girl’s summer condo. Courtney talks her mom out of visiting her sister( another survivor of the original) at the mental institution and gets permission to go to the titular Slumber Party. It’s a pretty standard horror movie setup, bringing the principal cast together for their inevitable slaughter. Their characters are fairly thin and can easily be described by their sole personality trait, slutty, nice, ditzy and Courtney rounding out the group with crazy. Later their boyfriends show up, jerk, nice guy and cardboard.

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Throughout the film Courtney experiences strange dreams where she simultaneously fantasizes about her new boyfriend, cardboard, and witnesses her friends getting slaughtered. Despite her best efforts and slumber party shenanigans, featuring the required 80’s nudity, the dreams start to weigh on her and she starts to lose her mind. This leads to some decent fake outs and some great body horror. Seriously, death by zit, it’s amazing.

Courtney’s group of stereotypes start to worry about her sanity, but being 80’s caricatures leave her alone with her cardboard camera staring boyfriend. As with all 80’s horror anyone with any sexual inclination with be punished in the most brutal way and before Courtney and cardboard can copulate, Courtney’s craziness comes to fruition and the movie becomes awesome.

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So before I go any further, I’ll ask you a question. Are characters like Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krugger, Michael Myers and Leatherface really scary? After their initial reveal, do they hold up, do they scare you? For me it’s a no, the darkness hiding behind the shadows and unseen threats will always be scarier. While iconic, the baddies of horror lose their terror factor once you see them, once you learn a little about them. Tragic back stories are fun and interesting, but they’re not scary. So I’ll ask you another question, does the antagonist of a horror film need to be scary for it to make an impact? If Slumber Party Massacre has taught me anything, it’s no, and the sillier the killer the better.

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The Driller Killer can only be described a punk rock god with the ability play a guitar with no strings, as the neck is a fully functional drill that he uses for murder most amazing. There’s a part of me that thinks he might be a bit of the inspiration for Baphomet in the Wicked and the Divine.

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He’s not even that effective of a killer, spending most of his time jamming and singing about killing rather than killing. It feels more like the characters fault for not running away during his musical numbers; though to their credit he can teleport. When he does get one of fodder teens in his sights you can tell that he really enjoys his job. In other horror films the killer sort of has this attitude of ‘you people’ and seems annoyed that they have to kill all these teenagers. The Driller Killer, he’s having the time of his life; he parties for keeps. I know you’re not supposed to cheer for the killer, but the Driller Killer is so entertaining, so much fun and so damn likable, you can’t help but cheer for him.

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It’s not like it’s a modern horror movie where the characters are so disgustingly unlikable that you have no choice but to cheer for the killer. Despite their one dimension, they’re not bad people, you don’t actively want them to die. They’re fairly nice teens who just happen to get in the way of the embodiment of the Chaotic Evil alignment from Dungeons & Dragons.

So if you have ninety minutes to kill, go watch it, you won’t be sorry. Slumber Party Massacre II will make your day or at the very least prove to be so stupid that it’ll put a smile on your face. It’s not hard to find, it’s on Youtube…in fact I’ll put it at the end of this post.

Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy (Plus a Secret Review)

Making an adaptation is difficult. It involves the delicate process of staying true to the source material and the original fan base, while creating your own vision of the world you;re adapting. My all time favourite movie AKIRA, is a loose almost abridged adaptation of the massive comic of the same name. The two don’t have a lot in common, but as flaky as it sounds they have the same spirit. The How to Train Your Dragon movies are an awesome series of movies that are based on an equally awesome series of books, however, other than the title and character names they couldn’t be more different. Still, the messages of friendship and proving yourself, shine through…also giant exploding dragons.

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Mainstream comics are tricky to adapt, because there’s a huge amount of continuity and years of stories involved and the hearts of hardcore fans on the line. There’s a huge range of styles both in writing and in artwork.

A lot of the older Marvel movies aren’t that great. Look at the theatrical version of Daredevil, it’s a mess in both originality and adaptation. It tries so hard to be Frank Miller’s Daredevil, while at the same time a silver age-esque movie you could bring the kids to and those two things don’t really mesh.

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Since Marvel started making their own adaptations, they’ve developed a cinematic universe that’s both perfect for comic fans and the general movie going public. Sure they can be a little cliche, but they’re entertaining and contain more than their fair share of obscure comic references. (Did anyone else get excited at the Jim Hammond cameo in Captain America: First Avenger) I remember when Iron Man came out and the after credits scene hinted at Avengers and how excited I was. I instantly started listing off comics that I wanted to be made into movies, among them was Guardians of the Galaxy. Out of all the titles I’d suggested to my friends Guardians was shot down as being too obscure and something only I cared about. I had to admit that the scope of Guardians and all of space Marvel seemed like a huge challenge to put up on the big screen. So I assumed that a Guardians movie would never be made.

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So now it’s 2014 and I’ve seen the Guardians of the Galaxy movie and not only is it the best of the Marvel Movies (yes I’m including Avengers in that) it’s the best adapted comic book movie I’ve ever seen. It goes places that I didn’t think it would, it takes crazy space comic logic and presents it on the big screen in a way that’s accessible to anyone that sees it.

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It is very much the story of Star-Lord and friends and their plight to save the universe from the evils of the Titan Thanos, but it’s so much more. I want to elaborate, but I feel that I would be doing a disservice to anyone that wants to see it. It’s more than just a comic book movie, it’s a fantastic SciFi film that gave me a similar excited feeling to what I got the first time I saw Star Wars. In fact I’d say it’s on par with A New Hope, coming from me that’s very high praise. So go see it, even if you’re just a little curious. You will not be disappointed, just make sure you stay for the end credits.

So now we get to the few things that are a little spoilery, so read on at your own risk.

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Disney Movies!

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As per my goal of watching and writing about all of the Disney animated canon, here is my Disney collection thus far. Alice in Wonderland, Jungle Book, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Sword and the Stone are on the way.

Oh and Princess and the Frog is coming via those little coupons that come in the DVD’s.