Easily one of the cinematic highlights of the year, Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson’s animated drama Anomalisa was one of the big sales at this years Toronto International Film Festival, and for good reason. The first trailer for the film arrives, and the focus is on ‘big question’ profundity, with a hint of intimacy. The humour of the film is not showcased here, but this is likely due to how little nuance and context you can pack into a short trailer. If you, like me, are deeply affected by the dulcet vocal tones of David Thewlis, then this is a small slice of heaven, as is the film.
I just sent my children on a plane to their grandparents across the continent for the remainder of the summer. But just because they are not here with me to take in another dose of Aardman Studios’ delightful Shaun The Sheep feature film – and you should, it is the best modern-silent movie since The Artist – allow them three minutes to convince you from their take on the film a few months ago at the TIFF KIDS Film Festival.
The latest Pixar movie makes a convincing argument, pitched at wavelengths that should be easily received to both to children and adults, that periods of sadness, be it mundane or profound, are crucial to living a full, exuberant existence on this remote little ball of mud spinning through the void of space. Inside Out offers a specific, universal, and staggeringly emotional journey that is the rares of birds, a bonafide family movie. There is no light without shadow, and all that philosophical, spiritual paraphernalia is packaged into the easy to digest tale of moving to a new place and struggling to acclimatize to new surroundings.
Riley is on the verge of turning 12, a single child with affluent, doting parents (at this moment I am certain there is a queue online to chew on white privilege, but I will not be one of them). Her inner-self, represented by anthropomorphic emotional avatars of Fear, Disgust, Anger, Sadness and Joy dwell in the construct of her developing brain. The latter rules the roost in a chirpy, but passive-aggressive, dominant manner, wanting everything to be happy all the time for Riley. There is even a way for these emotion characters to quantify their success: Every memory Riley makes is represented as a coloured crystal ball, a single-shot 360 degree video unit shaded in the hue of the emotion attached to it. Her memories are almost entirely hued yellow. Presumably Riley’s parents want also this perpetual happiness for their daughter as well. It’s a fools errand and we all race on this treadmill!
The bulk of the memories, at the end of each day, are pneumatically delivered to her brain’s storage archives and compartmentalized via a Brazil-like bureaucracy. A detail that I love about this representation are the various departments working at odds each other, be it clock-watching transport engineers, an over enthusiastic disposal crew (“She won’t need these phone numbers anymore, they’re stored in her phone.”) or the fact that there are simply memory spheres lying between shelves and in the nooks and crannies all willy-nilly. In this bright Pixar world, a way was found to make biology look messy and kudos for that.
I was cynical when I first heard about the development of a modern animated incarnation of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. Who can blame me? Other classic cartoon characters revisioned for modern audiences have turned out mostly abysmal.
Needless to say, it looks like I was wrong. If the trailer is any indicator, The Peanuts Movie is not going to be Alvin & the Chipmunks or Smurfs.
It’s been 35 years since we’ve seen the Peanuts gang in a feature length film and, while the earlier films do hold up, perhaps it was time to revisit the characters for a new generation of kids. Charles Schulz’s very own sons helped write and produce the film and they even used archival recordings of Bill Melendez (who died in 2008) for the voices of Snoopy and Woodstock.
Yep–I’m sold. The Peanuts Movie hits theaters on November 6, 2015.
After getting the chance to see the first 10 minutes of Pete Doctor’s Inside Out, the Pixar animated film told from the POV of inside a 12 year old girls subconscious, a few weeks ago, I have been rapidly raising my anticipation levels for the film after its middling first trailer.
Because the film was announced as part of the 2015 Cannes line-up today, Pixar offers this treat, a short scene from the film, on how anthropomorphisized feelings prepare for the first day of school.
Oh how the mighty Pixar has shrunk. I know a trailer is not indicative of potentially complex tone or emotional depth, but if this warmed-over sitcom level entertainment, with its lazy humour, is how the animation-company wants to represent their new film to the world (via the UK), then so be it. There was a time when each Pixar project was met with excitement and anticipation by kids and adults alike. Not today. I hope the trailer-cutters or other marketing brain-trust execs have been sacked.
Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. As Riley struggles to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, inner turmoil ensues on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.
I had imagined that the ‘inside-the-mind’ POV would be limited only the the main character, the young girl, but it looks like the film will be spastically jumping in and out of all her family members minds, with each of the emotions getting a moustache, girly headbands or mom-jeans to tell whose inner-thoughts belong to whom.
Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the work of Isao Takahata but he was never a director whose work I make a priority. Yes, Grave of the Fireflies is spectacular but I can only handle so much heartbreak in any given year and in any given festival and the day before The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was supposed to screen, I seriously considered leaving it off my schedule. By some miracle, I went ahead with the screening only to come out the other end completely wowed.
Like many of Takahata’s previous works, Princess Kaguya is a cautionary tale, on the surface a beautiful sort of fairy tale with a message. The story opens in a remote village where a bamboo farmer, living a quiet life with his wife, is blessed for his hard work with a miniature bamboo princess. He takes the creature home to his wife and suddenly the princess disappears and is replaced by a baby girl who begins to grow faster than average children. Much further down the line, the bamboo farmer, now blessed with piles of money he believes he should be using to transform his daughter into a beautiful princess, moves the family to a newly constructed palace in the city where the young girl is slowly transformed, against her will, into a respectable young lady ripe for marriage to any prince.
Takahata’s film isn’t only memorable for the beautiful animation which is unlike anything I’ve seen of late but for the message of its story. Here we have a free spirited young woman who is forced to change who she is to fit society’s version of the ideal woman only to discover that in doing so, she wasted away a large portion of her life. Not satisfied with only one angle, Takahata also explores themes of true love and the often complicated relationships we have with our parents.
The movie lags a little in the middle when the princess sends her potential suitors in search of priceless (and in some cases non-existent) artefacts as a way to prove their love but the scenes also allow for some wonderfully charming moments. Princess Kaguya made me laugh and it made me cry. It also reminded me that animated features can be more than what Disney has to offer and left me wondering why we don’t see more sophisticated animated stories like this one.
It doesn’t end badly but the final scenes of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya might require a little explanation for the little ones more used to Disney’s fairy tale endings. A really wonderful film.
The of the Princess Kaguya opens in limited release on October 17th.
We do not often post this kind of news on this site, but after Planes, Monster University and Fire & Rescue, I’m just very happy to see an original Pixar movie happen. Inside Out is directed by Pete Doctor (Up, Monster’s Inc.) and is going to be released June 2015.
Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.”