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[personal profile] dixon_green
Well, the Golden Globes were last night, and the Oscar nominations are revealed on Thursday. If I'm going to do this annual review of animated movies, I best get it done.

2014 was a mixed bag. There were some movies I was really looking forward to. There were other films that came as delightful surprises. There were others I had hope for, but they only met expectations of mediocrity.  With that in mind, and SPOILERS ahead, let me pass judgement:

Big Hero 6       Disney, drawing from their Marvel comics portfolio. Someone at Disney, most likely Lassiter, continues the mantra story first, story second, story third. I found this movie to be an absolute delight. Things always happened in service to the story, not just because it was "cool". Well constructed story, and boy, did it dance that fine line between tragic, sobbing sadness, and slapstick comedy. Really, those moments of physical comedy were perfectly placed and absolute gold. And, the reveal of the villain surprised me - they had done an outstanding job of blending comic book tropes with red herrings to pull off a perfect magicians sleight on hand attention redirection. This movie will get a nomination, but I'm not sure it will win. It's not PIXAR (in fact, PIXAR released no movie this year), and Dreamworks dished up some seriously good competition this year (more on that below).

The Book of Life     20th Century Fox, Guillermo del Torro I believe this was animated by a studio in Dallas, TX. I enjoyed the heck out of this movie. It was fun. It was bright. It had characters die and that was OK, the afterlife was a fun and bright place with loved ones waiting for you. There was some delightful stunt casting (Placido Domingo as a matedor who wanted to be an opera singer). The design work was stunning. The story wasn't perfect - the lead female character was a bit too Mary Sue by the end; it fell into the girl-as-prize trope, even though it really did try very hard to sidestep it; and the pacing was a bit on the frenetic side. But, it was FUN, and, even when in conflict, the two suitors were still friends. Oh, yes, this will pick up a nomination, but it won't win.

The Boxtrolls     Studio Laika. I had hopes for this movie after seeing the first trailer. The whimsey levels were off the scale, and that pleased me. But then the second trailer cam out, and it was clear the plot of the film was going to be boy raised by wolves (Boxtrolls) returns from the wilds to civilization, and hijinks ensue. Which is exactly what happened. There was very little whimsey, some excruciatingly uncomfortable scenes, an failed commentary on social status and dynamics, and only one good joke. The animation itself was good enough, but the story was awful. Please, no nomination.

Cheatin’   French entry, Bill Plympton. Mr. Plympton is something of a legend in the indy animation world, with a distinct style and voice. But indy animation doesn't win Oscars for movies (short form is where the independents have their chance), and I hadn't heard of this film until I Googled it for this review.

Giovanni’s Island   Prouction IG, Japan. Kids from opposite sides of a devastating war become friends....right, I know this story. Gonna give it a pass, unless SOMEONE can come up with a better synopsis. Heck, it took over half a dozen before I saw post-WWII as part of the plot. It took a full review before I found it had its roots in the Russian occupation of Japanese territory. Not going to be nominated.

Henry & Me     I think was a US animation company. Boy with cancer/Guardian Angel/Baseball - why was this not a direct to DVD release? Oh, it was, with just enough of a showing in New York and LA to qualify for contention. I wonder if Disney and/or Dreamworks footed the distribution bill, so as to make sure there were enough theatrical releases to guarantee 5 nomination slots. SO not getting a nomination.

The Hero of Color City   I got as far as the word "crayon" and I bailed. No nomination here.

How to Train Your Dragon 2     Dreamworks Animation. OH, this is THE movie I was waiting for this year. The orginal movie was a delight and then some. I find it gets better each and every time I watch it (we won't mention the Christmas day I watched six time in a row). The very few quibbles I had with the story came from being an adult who reverse engineers series/story bibles for fun. There was a animated series on TV, as well as a couple of made-for-TV hour movies. The TV series has some awesome potential which I felt was horribly squandered by bad story telling and a refusal to deal with the fact that *things were changing* now that dragons were (more or less) domesticated. But, the movie will be judged on its own terms.

It should have brilliant. It was outstanding. I can't even begin to describe how phenomenal the animation was. The dragon-wing-walking sequence was amazing.

But. This was a second draft story that needed a third draft. It was almost there, it was so close. If you know a little bit about the original bones of the story, you can see where the emergency surgery was done. The big emotional reveal of the movie was that Hiccup's mother was NOT dead, and had been living with a hidden colony of dragons. More to the point, she was rescuing them from dragon hunters and "freeing" them. What changed from the first draft to the second was that she went from being the villain (shades of an eco-terrorist) to not being the villain. And so they had to craft a villain in a hurry, and he just wasn't satisfying, and the back story too thin and....

Additionally, the plot went places it didn't need to go. At least one character died that didn't need to (but hero quest and all that).

I've heard rumor that the director only did HTTYD2 with the guarantee he would get to do 3. I'm hopeful that the flaws in the story can be redeemed and rewoven into something amazing, and something that isn't the SAME BUT MORE.

*ahem* Anyhow, this movie WILL get a nomination. It won the Golden Globe yesterday. Given how HTTYD was robbed (robbed, I say!) by Toy Story 3 a few years ago, I'd say it has a really good chance of winning. But I wish it as lived up to its promise.

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart    Belguim film. Looks to be stop motion, with more than a little design influence from Tim Burton, Studio Laika, and Dave McKean. Steampunk vibe, very unlikely to get a nomination

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return   3D animated kid friendly, loosely based on the book....Yeah, I don't need to know any more. The Yellow Brick road will not be leading to a nomination.

The Lego Movie     Warner Brothers. Another movie that was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it even more when I realized that it was a story being told by a lonely 10 year old boy to himself. All those logical inconsistencies, sudden plot complications or resolutions? That's how kids play and how kids tell themselves stories, and I was enchanted. Pretty sure it will get a nomination, but I don't think it will win.

Minuscule – Valley of the Lost Ants     Czech Republic. I almost didn't look it up once I saw the title. By a US company, this would be a disaster. But. The story is still predictable, but the look is unexpected. A muted color palette and character design that is exaggerated, but not cartoony. Still not going to get a nomination.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman     Dreamworks and a couple other companies. Again, the initial trailers looked interesting, but then it became apparent that it was entirely too impressed with its own cleverness and fart jokes. Not even nostalgia for this mostly forgotten property is going to garner it a nomination.

Penguins of Madagascar   Another Dreamworks and PDI production. Clearly,Dreamworks Animation is spending their true efforts on their A List properties (How to Train Your Dragon). I have enjoyed the Madagascar franchise, but it is so by the numbers that I can't be bothered to look for any of them in the theaters, but instead wait until I stumble across them on cable. No nomination here.

The Pirate Fairy     Disney. Another Tinkerbell movie that made a pit stop on its way to DVD. 'Nough said.

Planes: Fire & Rescue   Disney. I am SO not its target audience, although my nephew is. No nomination here.

Rio 2     Blue Sky Animation. A sequel to a lightweight rom-com. I hate rom-coms, especially sequal rom-coms that are the SAME but
MORE!. Please no nomination

Rocks in My Pockets   Latvia. I think this is the first animated film from Latvia I have seen released in the US. The topic is rather heavy. It's not going to get nominated.

Song of the Sea     Irish film by the same company that did "Book of Kells" It looks lovely. I havne't been able to determine if it was released in New York/LA in 2014 and will be getting a wider release in the US in 2015, or if its US release will be in 2015, in which case it will be on next year's list for Oscar contention. Either way, it might garner a nomination, but it won't will, no matter how pretty, if it doesn't do big box office.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya     Japan, Studio Ghibi (but not directed by Miyazaki, who has retired). Based on a traditional  Japanese folktale. it looks lovely. Just the sort of foreign/literary/artsy stuff that gets nominated, but rarely wins.

So, there were some clear standouts this year: How to Train Your Dragon 2, Big Hero 6, The Lego Movie, and The Book of Life. All four of these grabbed Golden Globe nominations, and I see so reason why they shouldn't also pick up Oscar nomination. The fifth spot might go to Boxtrolls (it did pick up a Golden Globe nomination), but one of the non-US films might snag a nomination: Cheatin' or The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Maybe Song of the Sea if it is eligible for 2014. But really, the real competition is between How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6.

Date: 2015-01-16 04:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dixon-green.livejournal.com
Wow, I was off. The Lego Movie was completely snubbed. I was right in figuring that The Tale of Princess Kaguya or Song of the Sea would make the cut, but not both. I can believe that Boxtrolls was nominated - it's in the same league as Pirates! Band of Misfits, and it scored a nomination its year, too. Still, it was an awful movie. Book of Life should have gotten that slot.

However, it's still a two horse race for the award. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is probably going to take the win. I hope it does. Big Hero 6 was the (slightly) better movie, though.


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