How To Train Your Dragon

December 23, 2010

Think of the way people talk about Pixar.  Now think of the way people talk about Dreamworks Animation.  Pixar has become a studio-auteur, where people go in expecting a certain level of intelligence, emotion, and outright beauty that most reserve for the latest picture by their favourite director.  Of course, Pixar is made up of individuals, and though the only one ever really singles out is Brad Bird (mostly, perhaps, because The Iron Giant is an oft-heralded but little-seen masterpiece), there exist their talented people with their own unique input.  Dreamworks, on the other hand, is an ugly studio with limited ambitions.  They made name for themselves with Shrek, and then proceeded to run that brand into the ground whilst simultaneously infecting a whole score of animated films for years to come with its heavy reliance on pop-culture parody and smirking, adults-will-laugh-too humour.  It’s easy to say that in our modern, cynical world the average moviegoer demands a certain amount of self-awareness.  It’s only a movie, guys, so let’s not get carried away.  Then again, it’s not so easy to say that when you consider Pixar’s incredible (and incredibly successful) run, all of which are grounded in deep, honest emotions.  With How To Train Your Dragon, Dreamworks has made what is easily their best film yet, but it’s tempting to say that it is a one-off or a fluke.  Nothing this quality could come from a studio that only desires a quick buck and maybe a franchise.  While there seems little doubt that Chris Sanders and Dan DeBlois (previously of Lilo and Stitch) have an awful lot to do with the success of the work after being brought in half-way through, credit should go to the studio for letting it happen, and we can hope that they’ve discovered the simple truth that all you really need is a good story well told. Read the rest of this entry »

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Far be it from me to throw my two cents in as to what will or won’t win an Oscar next week. I have an educated guess on who will win what, but it’s still guesswork, and I also don’t really care. What this does allow is the opportunity to throw up some quick reviews for the films I haven’t already talked about on the site. I haven’t seen The Blind Side, as it has not been released in the UK yet and while I probably will see it, I’m really not looking forward to the experience (I will not, however, write up a snide review of what I think it will be, because ya never know, it might surprise you…right?). So there are four Best Picture nominees beyond the five already reviewed to get through, and coming up are some quick thoughts.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox

October 31, 2009

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By this point, you’re either with Wes Anderson or you’re against him.  Some will say he peaked with Rushmore, and everything after has been a succession of diminishing returns.  Others, myself included, whilst recognizing that Rushmore just might be his masterpiece, have found a lot to love in his recent work.  Royal Tenenbaums is pretty wonderful, and I can’t really understand whatever criticisms people might throw at it.  Life Aquatic is deeply unfocused, and yet it’s entertaining and interesting and the finale never fails to bring a tear to my eye.  I even admire Darjeeling Limited, which benefited a great deal from a second and third viewing.  If you can handle his somewhat precious aesthetic, and accept that this is his style and he probably won’t change it, there’s a lot of good to be found in his work.  On the other hand, if you find yourself unable to take his style, Anderson has absolutely no interest in helping you out.  With that understanding, let us press on with his newest feature, the stop-motion animated Roald Dahl adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox. Read the rest of this entry »