Christmas is getting nearer, and I hope everyone is excited! People are probably also excited about Disney’s Frozen II, and, for those who do not know, I want to draw attention to the plagiarism case below, concerning the Frozen (2013) teaser trailer (the first video below) and the short animation titled The Snowman by independent animators Kelly Wilson and Neil Wrischnik (the second video below – access by following the link since it is imossible to watch it on wordpress)). This case was settled out of court in 2015. I previously talked in my review of Frozen how the animation relied heavily on the conceptual story and character vision from Hans Christian Andersen’s tales (which is fine), as well as on the romance from Anastasia (1997) (which is also ok), but it seems that, from the very beginning, the Frozen franchise was off to a start that involved blatant stealing and zero acknowledgement. At the preliminary hearing, Judge Chhabria ruled that “the sequence of events in both works, from start to finish, is too parallel to conclude that no reasonable juror could find the works substantially similar“. With the world’s most creative brains at Disney/Pixar headquarters, they still could not come up with their own concept for a teaser trailer. The similarities are painfully evident, and if Disney did not think so, they would have battled it in court, rather than settling for an undisclosed sum to be paid to Wilson and Wrischnik. And, Wilson and Wrischnik were paid by Disney.
Fantastic Planet (La Planete Sauvage) (1973)
Once in awhile comes one animation which is so powerful in its message and so unusual in its presentation, it becomes quite unforgettable. “Fantastic Planet” is precisely such adult-themed animation, co-produced between France and Czechoslovakia. A winner of the Cannes Special Prize in 1973, this French-language animation has even been named one of the greatest (Rolling Stone). In its presentation, “Fantastic Planet” is highly imaginative, inspired by some psychedelic art and, as some commentators put it, by “cut-outs from Soviet science magazines” (CinePassion). Based on Stefan Wul’s 1957 science-fiction novel, Oms en série, the animation is about blue-skinned giants, the Draags, who keep as pets a human race of Oms on the planet Ygam. The animation may be a tad too disturbing in its content, but, because the world it creates is so fascinatingly strange, and because its concept of the fight to have freedom is so relatable, it is well worth all the attention and praise.
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
My second post for Debbie’s Winter in July Blogathon is on Disney’s animation “The Sword in the Stone” (1963), and, like my previous post, take note of spoilers! This animation is based on a book (1938) by T.H. White and has a distinction to be the last one produced under Walt Disney himself. In “The Sword in the Stone”, we have merry old England and an innocent enough plot. Wart (aka Arthur) is a young helper to an aspiring knight Kay, before Merlin, a great wizard, comes into the scene and spots Arthur as having great potential and future. After Merlin and Arthur’s initial encounter, Merlin takes the young boy under his wing and teaches him by experience the power of love, knowledge and bravery The snowy scenes come very late into this film, when it is Christmas and the knights’ tournament is held in London. Sir Kay participates with Arthur being his squire. The tournament takes place near the place where the legendary sword in the stone stands. The legend has it that whoever draws the sword from the stone is the true heir to the English throne. When Sir Kay’s own sword goes missing, young Arthur has no choice but to consider taking the sword residing in the stone.
There is nothing like snowy and wintery films to cool us all down in the middle of this summer, and Debbie at Moon in Gemini hosts The Winter in July Blogathon for that very purpose. For this fun blogathon, I chose to write on animated films “Frozen” (2013) and “The Sword in the Stone” (1963). While “Frozen” is, essentially, the winter animation, there is also some winter scenery at the very end of “The Sword in the Stone“. These are both Disney-productions, with some fifty years separating the two, but one is computer-generated, while the other one is hand-drawn. My arguments will be that there are good enough animations, but they both fell short of their desired mark. While “Frozen” has great visuals, some music and concepts, the animation’s plot and characters can be criticised. Equally, while “The Sword in the Stone” relies on a fascinating legend and is entertaining, its visuals sometimes leave much to be desired and its episodic plot is uninspiring. My first post will be about “Frozen“, and because I critique it in depth, I am also warning about spoilers!
Millennium Actress (2001)
“All the world’s a stage, [and] all the men and women [are] merely players”, famously stated William Shakespeare. It appears that this quote is given life in the animation “Millennium Actress”. This anime comes from no other than Satoshi Kon, a director known for such great films as “Perfect Blue” (1998), “Tokyo Godfathers” (2003) and “Paprika” (2006). In this story, a team of documentary-makers interview a once top-star Chiyoko Fujiwara as she tells them about her story, her rise to fame and the personal motivations behind her role-taking. Together with the duo of documentary-makers, we explore Chiyoko’s life through a series of events that hint at both make-believe film scenarios and real stories, but which had a very meaningful impact on Chiyoko and her worldview. The historical settings are either Kyoto in the Edo period, Japan in the World War II, or the country in the 1950s, etc. As in other Kon’s films, reality and fantasy fuse deliciously in “Millennium Actress”. The result is that this beautiful animation becomes an engrossing celebrity story, a touching romantic ballad, a historical account of a country through the ages, and a thought-provoking philosophical study all in one.
Big Fish & Begonia (2016)
This fantastical tale is about Chun, a girl who is a member of a tribe of mythical beings (“neither humans nor gods, but others”) living underwater, capable of controlling tides and knowing the secrets of nature. As part of her rite of passage, Chun turns into a dolphin to visit the human world. There, Chun makes a contact with a boy who loses his life “because of her”, and Chun vows to sacrifice a part of her life for him, seeking help to turn the boy into a fish which must grow big enough for his later transformation. The story sounds a bit complex; it requires certain open-mindedness; and the layering is quite deep. However, with the stunning visuals (better seen on the widest possible screen), the simplicity of the main theme is quite evident and heart-warming. The meticulously-constructed scenery, and the relatable themes of the cycle of life, and the importance of friendship and of not losing hope, all make this animation more than worth your time. Moreover, “Big Fish & Begonia” has already done extremely well at the Chinese box office, and, being a huge leap forward for the Chinese animation industry, it may be a contender in the next Oscar season.
Last year, in August, I posted a similar post – Unpopular Opinion Tag (Films), where I talked about three movies that people generally love, but I hated. Now, it is time to do a “reversal” post. Here, I will be talking about three movies that people or critics do not like much, but I actually thought there was merit in them or things to love. I am choosing to write about Premonition (2007), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) and Joseph: King of Dreams (2000). Be warned, there may be some spoilers ahead.
I. Premonition (2007)
IMDb score: 5.9; Rotten Tomatoes score: 8%.
In 2007, Mennan Yapo shot this film starring Sandra Bullock, and, in my opinion, it does not deserve to be so unknown or all the negative reviews. The film is actually fascinating. It relies on a twisted Groundhog Day/”Deja Vu” (2006) concept to tell the story of Linda (Bullock), a wife and a mother, who finds her world turned upside down when she wakes up one day to learn that her husband is dead and another day – to find out that he is still alive. The truth is that her week days do not follow the natural timeline, but are randomly emerging, and Linda has to find out how her new reality works exactly to possibly save her husband from a deadly car collision. The film is clever (in a way it is a brain-teaser), and it is very interesting to follow Linda on her journey. The film makes you want to pay attention to small details to find out how they may change the next day. The film may lack some fundamental logic and, definitely, plausibility, especially towards the end, but it is so atmospheric, many of its other faults could also be forgiven. It is atmospheric in a way every scene is filled with the feeling that something macabre or threatening is lurking in the background (some unseen force), meddling with the natural clock, and music and the involvement of children make the picture even eerier and more effective. Couple this with the exploration of the issues of sanity and grief, and a few nice jumps, and the result is strangely compelling. It may not be this great thriller, but it is good enough for repeated viewings and Bullock does a good enough job.