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!
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.
The Shape of Water (2017)
“Words lie, but looks don’t…When you fall in love, you fall in love, absolutely, all at once, all-in. It’s a miracle” (Guillermo del Toro).
“Unable to perceive the shape of You, I find You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love, It humbles my heart, For You are everywhere” .
This tale of unlikely love between the Princess without Voice or Elisa and the creature from the Amazon has been nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and there are good reasons for this furore. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)) has finally made the movie he wanted to make for a long time. Del Toro merges different cinematic genres (fantasy, drama and romance), while paying tribute to black-and-white Hollywood musicals and B-movie monsters, to produce a movie which is almost faultless in its directional execution, acting and emotional content. The director draws on a number of sources to tell the unlikely love story which, among many other things, portrays and sympathises with the lives of the “underdog” minority, and engagingly sets out the high-pressure conditions of living in the times of the Cold War.
“Coco” is a simply delightful Pixar-produced Academy Awards nominee of 2018. Taking the Mexican folklore and tradition on board, it tells the story of Miguel, a boy living with his family of zapateros or shoemakers in Santa Cecilia, Mexico. Years before, the family imposed an absolute ban on music, because a father of some previous generation left his family to pursue a music career. However, in this present time, Miguel, unbeknown to his family, dreams of becoming a musician, practices music secretly and worships his music idol Ernesto de la Cruz. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel desires to enter a local music completion to fulfil his dream of becoming a musician, but, trying to do so finds him in the secret Land of the Dead, where his adventures only begin.
“A Ghost Story” (2017) reunites director David Lowery with Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. I gave a very high score to the director’s previous film “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (2013), involving these actors, because it won me over with its embedded poeticism and creativity alone; see my review of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints“ here, and/or read a fair take on “A Ghost Story” by Film Blerg below:
Films about ghosts are usually scary, jumpy and spine-tingling. David Lowery’s latest feature, A Ghost Story, carefully avoids boxing itself within the horror genre by proving itself an elusive poem on topics as various as life and death, time and perception, and the purpose of human and universal existence. Without doubt, it is one of…
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a new film telling the story of Newt Scamander, the famous writer of the Hogwarts’ s textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” in the magical world of Harry Potter. The film follows Newt as he arrives to New York City, U.S. with a suitcase full of magical creatures. When he inadvertently loses these same creatures, he incurs the wrath of the US Magical Congress, but, as it turns out, it becomes just one of his worries, as he partners with a Non-Maj (Muggle) Kowalsky and (ex)-Auror Tina to find his missing creatures. Especially stunning in an IMAX 3D, the movie is spell-binding, gorgeously portraying the wizarding world of the United States in the 1920s, and all the unimaginable creatures in existence. Recently, it has also become known that there will be four other movies in the “Fantastic Beast” franchise, all directed by David Yates.
Tale of Tales (2015)
Directed by Matteo Garrone, best known for his raw crime drama Gomorrah (2008), “Tale of Tales” or “Il Racconto dei Racconti” is a fantasy horror film which comprises three main stories seemingly running in parallel. The first story starts with the Queen (Salma Hayek) and King (John C. Reilly) of the kingdom Longtrellis, desperately wanting a child but who are unable to have one, thereby resorting to extreme clandestine measures of killing a sea monster and consuming its heart to have a son, whose identical twin is also the son of a servant woman. Another story tells of the King of the kingdom Highhills (Toby Jones) arranging a tournament to wed his only daughter Violet (Bebe Cave) by making participants guess the large creature whose skin is on the display – the skin is that of a flea. The third story centers on two elderly sisters who live calmly away from the public eye only for their peace to be shuttered when one of the sisters becomes bewitched and transformed into a young beauty (Stacy Martin) who, in turn, becomes the centre of affection for the lustful King of the kingdom Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel).