Tag Archives: animation

Mulan (1998)

Upon request, I have also watched OD[1] Mulan, and I have thoughts. Sort of.

One thing I think is that I’m missing a lot of context. Not only did I just watch the live-action remake, but I also live in a post-Frozen world, where Disney is going out of their way to be empowering, or at least egalitarian, in their gender politics. So Mulan marching off to war to [spoilers upcoming for a 20+ year old movie] become a war hero who at no point needs anyone to rescue her is pretty groundbreaking for a Disney who started off with main character “princesses” who never even took actions, much less actions to improve their own lives. My point is, context matters and this was probably a bigger deal of a movie in 1998 than it seems to me now. Which is good! I would be much less happy if it felt groundbreaking today.

Another thing I thing is, man, Disney musicals are hit or miss. And this one, musically? Mostly missed for me. Some of the songs were really bad, and almost none of them made any lasting impact on me. The two that rose above that included one that was also cringeworthy. I mean, it was supposed to be, but that didn’t really help? Oh well. That said, the further into the story I got, the fewer songs there were. So that part was helpful!

Lastly, I have comparative thoughts, which are these: I’m really grateful to this movie for existing, because the remake took every good thing about the original, processed and refined it into something that was purely better. The problems I had with the live-action version were directly a result of the movie feeling like a real historical document, as opposed to the animated Disney version of a folk legend. In folk legends, you can believe in people doing the right thing, just because it’s right. It’s harder in real life, and my point is, the remake felt real. I’m not sure Disney could have pulled that off without their own template to pull from. It’s not just “What if one of our old movies, but live action?” that Beauty and the Beast was. It really is its own new thing.

As for this? It’s alright, you know? And I like it when Ming-Na Wen is a badass, even if I can only hear her.

[1] Original Disney

Frozen II

I am legitimately confused to report that I never reviewed Frozen[1]. I mean, I saw it. I even remember that where I saw it was at Laylah’s old house in San Marcos, maybe the spring after it came out? I liked it well enough, not that whether I loved or hated it ought to have influenced my intent to write a review. And the thing is, I was counting on that review to help me with this one, for what I trust are obvious reasons.

See, I liked Frozen II. I have said elsewhere that it is probably the best sequel Disney has ever made, and also that this is damning with faint praise[2]. It’s just that… I guess I just wasn’t there for the plot? It was fine, it just didn’t grab me. And in the meantime, the characters and situation were less subversive, the running joke about Kristoff’s [spoiler] was more humiliation cringe humor than actually funny to me, and the music was nowhere near the instant ubiquitous genius of the original.

I will say that Kristoff’s ’80s power ballad and the first big number in which Anna’s lyrics combined with the external events to create an instance of Greek chorus levels of foreshadowing rarely seen in modern cinema? Those were pretty great.

[1] Here I refer to the Disney movie, not the ski lift horror movie, which I did review.
[2] Fight me. Or at least, tell me an actually good Disney sequel, and here I am explicitly disallowing properties that they have purchased elsewhere. It only counts if it’s a legitimate Disney style of movie. The previous best sequel holder was one of the two Aladdin sequels, probably? I forget which.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

True confessions time: as of yesterday afternoon, I was four reviews behind. I have got to stop with this! But anyway, I tell you that mainly so you don’t think it took me until mid-January to see the latest Spider-Man movie (non-MCU).

Well, fuller disclosure still, I originally didn’t plan to see it at all, since animated plus non-MCU made me think it was a Sony kid movie instead of a serious comics movie[1]. But then early reviews were generally positive with a non-kiddy slant, and so there I was.

Into the Spider-Verse tells the origin story of Miles Morales, who you will remember from too many of my reviews to link to of Ultimate Spider-Man, after that time when Peter Parker got killed. Bendis did a good thing when he provided the Marvel Ultimate universe with a replacement Spider-Man, not just because Peter Parker had been the most important character in that continuity and the hole was painful, but especially because he provided someone who matched modern New York’s demographics. Not only does it embrace a broader audience, but it frees up a new story space, instead of just ending up with a clone[2] of the original.

I guess I jumped rather far afield. Anyway, the movie tells Miles’ origin story by way of Dumbo, while also introducing a concept I am decades from reading in print, about all the various earths where all kinds of other various people were bitten by radioactive (or genetically modified, or whatever) spiders, resulting in all kinds of new and bizarre Spider-People. This maybe sounds silly, but the Kingpin[3] and his crew are collectively such a powerful threat that the cross-dimensional team-up actually feels necessary.

Also: the little things they did with panel composition and lettering and the spider-sense were… a friend of mine said that he walked out of this movie with the knowledge that he had not previously seen a comic book movie, he had only seen movies about comic books. It really shows that the people who made this love not only the stories, but the medium as a whole. I really very much hope there’s a Miles sequel forthcoming. He deserves one, and so do we.

[1] I, uh, look. Shut up.
[2] It is important, comics being what they are, that I point out I mean clone in a metaphorical sense. Although a literal clone would be just as pointless.
[3] Oh, right. Kingpin is the big bad. He’s so much more effective here than he is in Netflix’s Daredevil. It’s not that Vincent D’Onofrio does a bad job, it’s that the Kingpin is a larger than life figure who translates to live action far less well than most other supervillains have done.

Moana

Today while I was working from home, Mary turned on Moana. I saw half of it once, and the first act twice since then (all of these because I have three nieces/nephews under the age of five). This makes it kind of hard to review, and probably I shouldn’t, but it would feel good to do something on time for once, I guess.

Anyway, she turned it on as background noise to hanging out with her mom, since my TV shows are too loud or something. Result: as soon as the neighbor started lawn-mowing near the “all is lost” part of her hero’s journey (which probably has a name I could look up, but here we are), I missed some of it I guess. But kid movie, so I can’t pretend I don’t know what happened on a review scale.

So, right, Moana. A polynesian chieftain’s daughter learns that she has been chosen by the ocean to go save the world from a whole bunch of death and destruction caused by a trickster demigod named Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and she goes out on a boat to make things right. Also, there are songs.

It had some pretty silly long fight scenes to make it long enough I guess, and/or kids like that kind of thing, but as I alluded before, it’s a pretty tidy Campbellian archetypes story, with a climactic revelation that I can honestly say I didn’t see coming. And the songs were pretty good too. If you like that kind of thing, Disney usually does alright, right?

Finding Dory

MV5BNzg4MjM2NDQ4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzk3MTgyODE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Remember Finding Nemo? If my website hadn’t died while I was getting ready to start this review a couple of hours ago[1], I might have more to say about whether I remember it, but apparently that will not happen anytime soon[6]. But here’s what I remember of relevance: when that one fish whose name I had forgotten lost his kid Nemo, he found another fish whose name I had forgotten to help him out. Later, a sequel!

Thanks to the power of advertising, I now know that the second nameless fish is named Dory, and of course if there was going to be a sequel, they’d keep the name scheme intact, which also necessarily informs the plot. See, Dory, as you may or may not remember from the original[2], suffers from short term memory loss. Which means that once upon a time, she got lost, and she’s been lost ever since, even though she made new friends eventually like Nemo and what’s-his-name. I mean, it doesn’t mean that, but you can intuit it from her previous state of being completely alone in the ocean.

And then she figured out she got lost, and decided she wanted to get found, and there you have it: Finding Dory. That said, it’s a Pixar film, and therefore a kid movie[4]. That said, I actually felt like it was backward from the usual kid movie formula, in a way that maybe Pixar has always tried to achieve but with varying degrees of success. Because, this felt to me like a regular movie that has some jokes and gags thrown in to appease the kids in the audience, but mostly the eyerolling can be kept to a minimum.

I’m not sure this is even a justifiable take, but my reasoning is because of how delicately the concept of a mental disability was handled. On the one hand, yes, Dory causes a lot of her own problems, and it’s clear from both movies that when she’s on her own, she’s in a lot of trouble. She relies on the kindness of others to function in the world. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t improve the lives of those others in countless ways, and the film is careful to stay aware of both sides of Dory’s coin. There’s nothing especially trite here, nor anything especially dismissive.

….okay, both parts of that last sentence are untrue, because it is, after all, a kid movie. But the things that were trite were the inevitable result of a necessary happy ending[5], and the things that were dismissive were in service of the theme. You have to hold up the ugly mirror to see past it, to coin an implausible metaphor.

Anyway, it was pretty dang good. Also, the 5 minute short film with the sandpipers (a type of ocean bird that lives in tidal regions) was freaking revelatory. Not worth the price of admission, probably, but maybe you can find it somewhere on the internets or in the future even if the main event is not your cup of tea.

[1] Not unlike my Pixel C died randomly yesterday; lesson: I should stop touching technology apparently.
[2] I did not[3]; I only remembered that her personality was quirky in some way.
[3] Perhaps ironically? Probably not though.
[4] If you don’t believe me, try sitting through the endless crap parade that informs the previews.
[5] If you think that’s a spoiler, you don’t understand much about Pixar.
[6] Outcome, now that the site is back up: I don’t have a review of Finding Nemo. So, uh, nevermind?

Majo No Takkyûbin

MV5BOTc0ODM1Njk1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDI5OTEyNw@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_The second outing of the weekend was to catch the one Miyazaki movie playing this month at the Alamo Drafthouse that I both had not seen and could fit in my schedule[1]. Hence, Kiki’s Delivery Service, about a 13 year old girl sent out on her own to make her way in the world for a year, in the traditions of her people. Who are witches, I should probably add.

Based on the vehicles and architecture, and other clues, I’m guessing that the never specified timeframe for the film is in the late 1950s or early ’60s, and I’m also assuming the locale is Japan. The latter is more strongly implied than the former, but neither is by any means definitive. For most of the movie, I assumed the point was mostly to showcase the gorgeous animation and soundtrack, via long, contemplative shots of Kiki flying across the countryside on her broom, or walking through her new city, and that the job (she delivers things for people, as you might expect) and relationships she was forming were mostly beside the point.

But then my mental jokes about making a 13 year old run off and earn her own living were translated seriously onto the screen, as she quickly lost her [Japanese phrase that means joie de vivre] in the humdrum grind of using her heritage and passion as a means of keeping herself fed and housed. From that turning point and throughout the final act, the story turned into more of a meditation on whether and how she could come back to herself and find her happiness, and now I think the movie is a love letter to post-war Japan, unsure of herself and finding her footing after a resounding defeat.

But maybe it’s just a feel-good movie about a witch and her sarcastic cat. That’s cool too.

[1] The only other one I’ve actually seen was the only other one that matched up schedule-wise, sadly. (Mononoke.)

Despicable Me

You know how people describe some kid movies as being funny for adults too? Just to give you an idea of how this played out in Despicable Me, the joke that stands out in my head involves supervillain Gru going to the Bank of Evil to take out a loan to finance his plot to steal the moon, and seeing the notice that the Bank of Evil was “formerly Lehman Bros.” So you see.[1] On the bright side, the kid part of the movie was reasonably okay. Gru, who I already mentioned is a supervillain, is in competition with the rest of the supervillain community to pull off the world’s greatest heist. Along the way, he adopts three girls for use in a cookie-selling scheme, and learns valuable lessons about the importance of placing family above work. And I mean, it really is that facile, but it was occasionally funny in ways that were not directed at adults and it was sweet as well, in the ways you’d expect a kid movie with orphans to be. I liked it well enough to regret neither the time nor money, though certainly not well enough to seek it out again. Whether my like can be correlated to the half of a 40 ounce margarita that I imbibed over the course of the flick can be left as an exercise to the reader.

[1] Dear adult readers of Shards of Delirium, please fill out this simple survey. Do you find the referenced joke a) funny or b) an eye-rollingly insulting and yet simultaneously ultra-apt demonstration of the phrase “funny for adults”? Please do not fill out the survey if you are a child reader of Shards of Delirium.[2]
[2] In the interest of equal time: dear child readers of Shards of Delirium, please fill out this simple survey. Do you love bunnies because they are a) fuzzy or b) fluffy?

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Rainy days plus dollar movies equals a pretty decent salvage of a date day, if you ask me. Although I guess I never saw the middle one, the original Ice Age was pretty good, so I was perfectly happy to accept the idea of checking out Ice Age 3 when it was presented to me. Dollar movies, for now, means no 3D, so I dunno about that part. But the movie itself was mixed. As a kid movie, it was perfectly fine, sometimes way to kiddy for me like you’d expect, other times with surprisingly naughty dialogue that had me laughing in shock as much as humor. But, y’know, adventure, heart-warmingness, dinosaurs, all the stuff you expect in a kid movie, even if it is served a bit lukewarm to not burn all those metaphorical kid tongues. I mean, it had Denis Leary, and even lukewarm Denis Leary will entertain me pretty well. I may even be a fan.

As an adult movie… I mean, you know it won’t work, right? So when they try, is that a good thing because they want to overcome their limitations, or is it a bad thing because they give you whatever brief moment of unfortunate hopefulness? I honestly can’t decide, either in this case or as a general purpose question for the genre. In this case, the adult theme they inserted was the way that friendships are able to suffer when some friends are married and starting families while other friends are still free-wheeling singles.[1] And I was a little bit interested in seeing where they went with the line of thought, especially since Denis Leary was the main representative of the free-wheeling class, and I thought it might spice up his otherwise kid-friendly performance at least a little. Instead of that actually happening, the sloth character was put into danger via an underground lost dinosaur world, and everyone ended up on a quest to save him, at the end of which they all just decided to stick together and be a big family unit instead of actually resolving any of the underlying fractures that initially raised the question. Which is fine in a kid movie, but I thought, if only for a few moments, that it might be more.

Oh, well. On the bright side, there was a canyon chase on pterodactyls, and a lot of lava. That shit is awesome even in 2D, no matter what else might be going on around it disguised as plot. So there’s that. That, and velociraptors.

[1] It occurs to me, belatedly, that not many free-wheeling singles are going to show up in the seat for this one, so the message might have been skewed more than a bit from the start. But okay.

Up (2009)

Yesterday, I learned that my occasional free AMC tickets even count for the 3D movies. That right there is pretty awesome, what with the extra charge they carry. Yay! I also learned that with a little bit of ingenuity and an unreasonable amount of helium, anyone can get a second chance. (Well, anyone who isn’t an obsessed bad guy that’s probably older than God.)

Up tells the story of a couple’s dreams of adventure at Paradise Falls in South America, and of a lonely old man’s quest to fulfill those dreams on his wife’s behalf after a protracted, ten minute long sucker punch delivered as the film’s prologue. Along for the ride are a floating house, a cub scout, a pack of talking dogs, a pretty hilarious giant bird, and the aforementioned bad guy. That’s pretty much all I want to say, because, well, it’s yours to watch now. I’m pretty sure this is the best Pixar movie, and yeah, you should really ought to go see it.

The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie is proving pretty difficult to review without either running far too long or far too short. I could take forever talking about why the show is funny and why the movie is, or I could promise that if there was a time when you liked the show, you’ll like the movie, and only spend about a sentence. Neither of these is very palatable, and yet I’m mostly left without recourse. Because, even if I felt up to trying, who can explain humor? But to be clear, it was quite funny, and the humor was more apolitical than the show has been lately.

Plotwise, it was a little boilerplate. Homer makes a mistake with far-reaching consequences, and must make amends with his family. It worked well here, but I’m a little tired of it nonetheless, since it’s been happening more than once per season on the actual show. Lisa has her eye on a boy and the environment, Bart is reconsidering his paternal-figure options, and Springfield is trapped under a giant, impenetrable dome. So, except for the dome, yeah, we’ve been here. But it was funny enough that I’m revisiting events in my head now as I type these words and giggling all over again, days later.

Also: Spider-Pig! (The superhero, not a spider/pig hybrid. Good God!)