Friday, September 23, 2011

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a Studio Ghibli film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, released in 2001. It is one of their most well known and well received films, garnering much critical praise and winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The movie itself revolves around Chihiro Ogino, and chronicles her growth from a childish girl into a stronger young adult as she finds herself trapped in the spirit world.

The plot itself begins with Chihiro and her parents moving to a new town, with Chihiro herself feeling sad and apathetic about the whole event. They become lost on the way there, at at the persistence of her father the family decides to take an old, abandoned road and find themselves at an equally abandoned amusement park. Though Chihiro and her mother object, her father eventually convinces them to just take a quick peek around the place. Here they all become trapped in the spirit world, as the abandoned amusement park is actually a bathhouse and collection of restaurants for weary spirits to relax in. Her parents are turned into pigs for eating too much of the food, and Chihiro herself begins working at the bathhouse to ensure her safety from the other spirits and the owner of the house, an old witch named Yubaba. At the bathhouse, Chihiro's name is taken away and she is instead named Sen, after the first character in her name, and as long as she cannot recall her actual name she is permanently stuck in the spirit world. From here on out, Chihiro must find adjust to her new situation and find a way to save her parents and return to the human world.

The plot is creative and interesting, and is help together by a cast of equally interesting and likable characters. Chihiro herself starts off as a childish, somewhat bratty kid, but develops throughout her time in the spirit world and ends up being more mature than she was before, no longer sad and afraid of moving to a new town. Haku, a spirit who greatly helps Haku throughout, starts off as mysterious and enigmatic, though helpful and kind, and remains as such throughout, even though doubt is cast on his character by the other spirits. And the witch Yubaba is far more driven by greed than evil, and acts as more of a strict and cold, authoritative boss than a true villain, even having a large soft spot for her son.  Because of this, the nature of the conflict is not a typical good versus evil scenario, but rather has Chihiro fighting against the spirit world itself, representing a new and unfamiliar place and allowing her to grow as a person. The supporting cast contains equally interesting characters, such as Lin, a weasel spirit in human form who acts as an older sister figure to Lin; Kamaji, the old spirit of the boiler room that seems cold-hearted at first but by the end is a great help to Chihiro; No Face, a seemingly harmless spirit who goes mad when faced with the greed of the bathhouse and is eventually stopped and calmed by Chihiro; and Zeniba, Yubaba's twin sister and complete opposite in terms of personality, who is a major ally in the second half of the movie.

The art and animation throughout the film is superb, as expected from Studio Ghibli. The character designs are creative and interesting, and work together with the detailed backgrounds to help really create an otherwordly atmosphere of the spirit world, yet still be recognizable enough to not throw the world too far into the crazy and surreal. It makes the spirit world feel like just another side of the human world, as much of the architecture is the same and the quite a few of the spirits themselves are in a human or human like form, such as the majority of the frog spirits who resemble short, stocky men with frog shaped heads, yet still somewhat human, heads. A great amount of detail is giving to the actual animation itself, resulting in the movie looking very fluid from start to finish. A great deal of focus goes into the small gestures of the characters and things such as their clothing and hair, making them really come to life.

The shot choices and framing of the scenes are also very well done, with a large focus on the scenery to give a sense of atmosphere and help build the wondrous setting of the spirit world. This is especially apparent in the train sequence, when Chihiro, No Face, and two animals, one of which being Yubaba's transformed son, ride on a train to visit Zeniba in one of the film's final scenes. The train itself has its tracks in a shallow lake, giving a modern take on the old ideas of ferries in the underworld. The scene has no dialogue, and instead focuses on the characters looking out the window as waterlogged train stops and houses zoom by, with shadowy characters getting off at points. The entire scene really builds a wonderful sense of atmosphere by focusing solely on the scenery around the passing train and the passengers acting like normal passengers inside the train, making it both otherworldy and familiar at the same time. The pacing of scenes throughout is good as well, an example being when Chihiro is chased by a frantic, insane No Face after feeding him some of the medicine from the river spirit. It starts off with more hectic angles and cuts as the giant beast runs after Chihiro, while vomiting and getting stuck on various parts of the bathhouse only, to rip off excess parts of his body. As No Face grows smaller and closer to his original form, and begins moving more slowly, the scenes change less and less, eventually ending on a distant, original No Face walking along a pipe as Chihiro and Lin row away in a small boat. Chihiro accepts that he's no longer mad, and she lets him slowly catch up to her as she walks toward the train station, in a much slower paced and peaceful section than the chase before it, allowing a nice cooldown from the energy before.

In the end, Chihiro manages to save her parents and leave the spirit world, showing how she's matured into a young adult and ready for her new experience. The movie itself definitely more than deserves all the praise it has gotten, combining an interesting story and characters with great art and animation throughout and helped by the timing of scenes and interesting shot choices to really show off the backgrounds and characters and give the whole movie a great atmosphere, and is further helped by a soundtrack that helps emphasize the feel of each scene. It is definitely one of my favorite movies, animated or no, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in animation, though most have probably already seen it.

The Princess and the Frog

The movie I chose was Disney's The Princess and the Frog, a movie I'm rather fond of. Well into our teens, even my friends I enjoyed the movie as much as my younger siblings did.

Its an interesting movie, with interesting details added to the original fairytale, as Disney movies tend to do. The plot, however in my opinion, has some frustrating twists and turns that cannot be ignored and bring up questions as to why those scenes were chosen to play. The storyline progresses tad too fast, with certain relationships seeming to form out of nowhere.

From the beginning a story is set; Tiana wants to save up enough money by working herself nearly to death to achieve her late father's dreams. Already the morals are being exhibited, not bad ones, but as soon as it hits a certain point invoking the rather absent-minded Prince Naveen running into "the shadow man" and getting himself turned into a frog, the plot starts to get a little confusing. It was the Prince who suggested the cure to the spell was a kiss from a princess; it wasn't backed up in any way, it was a lucky guess that no one questioned. I mean, its a Disney movie, but it irks me every time I see it; though predictable it helps to make the plot seem random.

Another thing is just how fast their relationship progresses -Naveen and Tiana's- as they suddenly go from hating each other, to friendship, to…him suddenly wanting to propose to her out of nowhere? The plot didn't give him any real time to figure out his feelings for her and then she suddenly just loves him in return. And if I'm not mistaken, this all happens in…a day? It happens very quickly, almost far too fast. Even for some of Disney's films too fast; at least in Tangled it took time over more then a day and the relationship was developed over time. Its an unbelievable, in this movie, how "love" blooms.

Some scenes even seem unnecessarily added, such as the scene with the frog hunters. I am unsure what the reason for it being added was, other then create a quick beginning to a friendship between Tiana and Naveen. The scenes perhaps I most enjoyed was to watch them snap at each other, to tease and sing and dance or talk about their goals in life. It was colorful, especially the scene they danced together on the lily pads. Its imaginative and enjoyable.

The ending, the conclusion of the battle and the outcome, the villain's downfall…once again far too quickly progresses. It almost seems more of the movie's plot was concentrated on in the beginning and they wanted to get this movie over with. As with most Disney movies the end is sweet: they marry, they're happy, their goals are met, and so on. Its a nice story, but with a too rushed plot that I just cannot overlook. All the same its one of my favorites.

The characters are quite interesting, playing their parts well. The headstrong main character, Tiana, the hero. She knows how to work and how to solve all her problems, being one of the smartest characters I've seen Disney make. The character with the common sense, who leads the story along and introduces morals. Naveen is funny, handsome…a ladies man that Tiana wants no connection with at first. He's the air-head, the one who seems to always jump headfirst into trouble; he's like the damsel in the distress of this Disney movie. The two of them together are funny to watch, as they jump around -literally of course- and snap at each other and poke fun. They're interesting characters, pretty well developed to go along with the created and fast-paced plot.

Ray, the firefly, is like the sidekick character who has his own important plot to the movie; guide them along, fall in love…die in a tragic way that has the whole audience in tears. He gives the characters hope when they lose it. His character is comic relief but just as important to the movie as Tiana and Naveen. Along with him Charlotte plays that sort of character as well, as she becomes the reason for some very important plot lines. She's the goal they seek to reach, and the one they count on to make their dreams come true.

Certain characters, I've noticed, only seem to be put into the film for comedic relief, with little role importance. Louis, the music loving alligator, barely shows up in some scenes. He's meant to be funny, used as transportation then sent away off where he's unseen. Mama Odie is there for laughs and to help push the plot along but otherwise has no real importance.

All the same, all the characters are very interesting, given good personalities and animated in such a way those personalities become clear and enjoyable to watch. The scenes, though all the shots are usually from the same angle, are well done with beautiful backgrounds and interesting styles. My favorite would be when Tiana is imagining herself in her restaurant, singing to her mother, and the colors become bright and the style simplistic, but so beautiful.

The songs are well placed, the movements of the characters as they dance and flow with the music smooth. The camera keeps on mostly the same shots throughout the movie, concentrating on facing the characters and capturing their emotions, which are well conveyed and depicted on their faces and through their body movements. Most of the scenes are shot at a close range, concentrating on the faces or the hands. It moves a bit closer when they're frogs, keeping track of every movement as they hop and dash about, letting you usually see the whole body in each shot. Most of the time the watcher is meant to see the expressions on the characters face or how the animals move, like with Louis and his hulking form and how he slides over the ground.

Overall, despite being fast paced and packed with characters who sometimes have a questionable placement within the plot, its a beautiful movie with great animation. Its one of those movies not only the child would enjoy but also their parent. Its certainly one I enjoy very much.

You are Umasou

I was hesitant at first to watch this movie. Firstly, it's a foreign film. It's a Japanese animated movie, which falls under the anime category, and it's directed at children. I enjoy anime but there are certain aspects of it that can be viewed as negative. I.E., Choopy animation, reused animation, excessive amount of ridiculous action scenes. But in the end I think it turned out to be fine in this movie and I didn't see much of any of that.

Firstly, the title of this movie is "You are Umasou." What does that mean? Well, it means "You are Tasty-looking." The movie is about a Dinasaur named Heart, a T-rex to be specific, who was raised by a plant-eater. As a young little dino he finds out that he should not be eating plants so he runs away from home to become the meat-eater that he is. He grows up and trains to be the strongest and best big-jaw on the plains. One day he finds an abandoned egg on the ground. It cracks open to reveal a tiny stegosaurus, to which Heart promptly says "You look tasty." Unexpectedly, the stego suddenly says "Dad! Dad! Did you just name me?" and the story really kicks off from there.

It can be safely said that this movie is directed towards kids. There is hardly any blood or gore, despite the main subject being about dinosaurs eating meat. Most of the time the meat sort of looks like pink bubble gum. The only time we ever witness any blood is in the final battle between Heart and one-eyed Baku. The fight scenes in this film are generally well done. They become a little overzealous at times. A Dinosaur performing traditional kung fu or judo-chopping his fellow lizards was probably meant to be cool, but in retrospect it was kind of cliche and silly to think about. Specifically, looking at this scene:

In the above scene, Heart is defending his precious "son" from some of the other big-jaws on the plain. He manages to defeat all of the other big-jaws without ever opening his mouth, simply using kicks and punches and tail-slaps to achieve his goal of defending Umasou. In the background we can hear the old nursery rhyme Heart heard as a young child about the big jaw coming to steal the little children. This sort od dissonance is not a new idea, but it worked for the scene well enough. The rhyme goes like this:

Beware Beware, pay attention
Big jaw comes to steal crying children
a rugged body, jagged fangs
big jaw comes to steal crying children

Tied throughout the movie are a few symbols that sort of show up frequently. One is the old nursery rhyme mentioned above. It shows up frequently. One as Heart is a young dinosaur, another as he has grown up and is just singing it to himself before he goes to get his dinner, and during this fight scene in particular. Another thing that shows up are these tiny red berries. As a young dino, Heart could not eat leaves like his adopted family and was forced to eat red berries. As a child they were delicious to him, and even though he grew up to eat meat we still see him occasionally popping one or two in his mouth. In particular, Umasou wanted so badly to eat dinner with his father that he went out searching for the red berries so that the two of them could eat together. And at the end of the film when Heart finally decides to revisit his family, he little sister hands him a red berry to symbolize their acceptance of him.

Over all I think this is a very cute film filled with a lot of good qualities. There are some cliches, but they are not in bad taste or overly done. It was a very unique film idea and I think it did a good job of dealing with the sensitive subject at hand. If a meat-eat must eat meat, does that mean he can't still be apart of his plant-eting family? The resolution was that he can still care about his family and he ultimately decides what he eats and does not eat. The animation was well-done, albeit a bit choppy as typical anime is in some places. The fight scenes are probably the most memorable animated scenes, which is not a bad thing. In my opinion, this movie rivals The Land Before Time with its wonderful story and should be viewed by all, even if you're not a kid.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kik's Delivery Service - Movie Review

     I've always heard good things about work coming from Studio Ghibli, and have thoroughly enjoyed some of the other movies produced by them. I'm glad to add this one to my list of favorites. There were a ton of things I loved about the animation itself, the plot, the messages it presented, and especially the characters. I feel that just about every aspect of it was strong and worked well as a whole, so there's no wonder Kiki's Delivery Service became Studio Ghibli's first major success.

     First, the plot. The story is specifically about a thirteen-year-old girl witch named Kiki, who, in order to complete her training as a witch, must leave home for a year and find a place (such as a city) to live on her own, working to further develop her abilities. We learn through character dialogue that leaving home at this age for a year alone is a normal/necessary part of life for all witches, including her mother who is already quite skilled, and active in her craft (as accentuated during the first few scenes of the movie). She (Kiki) sets out with her talking cat and they soon find a large city they want to live in. (I was relieved to find that the movie didn't 'push' the fact that the cat can talk; his speech provides insight for Kiki, rather than just blabbing about for the sake of blabbing). The presentation of the city was well-done. Individual shots captured the artwork of the city, showed off a couple areas at several different angles (from Kiki's bird's-eye view, which was nice) and more dramatic shots, such as the shot looking down at the entire city which included the ocean's horizon line, and of course, Kiki flying on her broomstick observing the scene along with us. We also see well-blended cuts to her facial/body reaction to her first impression of the place, which we also feel because it was shown to the viewer in similar ways.
     Now. We eto understand that she at first experiences difficulty fitting in - their modern ways of life are different from those back home. Although kind-hearted and generally optimistic, she also has an inner conflict - determining her own usefulness/purpose. We keep the reminder in the back of our minds that she's on a mission to complete her training; in order to do so, she must remain actice. Through the movie she is in constant motion - never over-exaggerated, but just enough to retain the realistic feel that real people in real life are familiar with. The only unrealistic thing here is the fact that she can fly (on a broomstick) and has a talking cat - who we quickly understand does not present its ability to anyone other than Kiki, and speaks when it's most appropriate.
     Through her helpful caring nature she is rewarded with a place to stay, as well as a springboard from which she develops her own delivery service. She decided to do this after helping out a woman who needed something she'd left behind; Kiki brought her the object in no time flat. At this point, we see that the broomstick and her ability to fly is a major part of who she is, and is the only separating her from the other people. This is also accentuated in a few scenes where she compares herself to other characters - specifically other girls - who are dressed nicer or seem more outgoing/likable than she thinks of herself; people go through this, and it's a normal, everyday, human thing. The characters' weakness: she is doubtful about herself, and is a bit clumsy (in a non-exaggerated way).
     Her business gradually gains recognition and customers. But soon a new problem arises; she loses her ability to fly (for a short while) and also communication with her cat, who then acts as though he's just a regular black cat. These are the very things that reinforce her identity, so when she looses them, she experiences an emotional turmoil and works frantically (at first) to regain this part of herself. But after a short trip with a new friend she made along the way - an artist (who is presented as a strong female character who understands the value in looking within herself to understand who she is as a person, therefore served as a good role-model for Kiki), she finds that she must search within herself to retrieve what she needs. In this way she regains her loses and develops an attitude toward life that defines the transition between Kiki as a no-nothing girl to a stronger, working young woman.
     In short, the story is a sort of journey of self-exploration.

     I was only able to watch it once (do to time management on my part); there was an eyeful of strong, realistic imagery and fabulous shot choices that impressed me. I made sure to pay good attention to the way they handled shot choices. Shots meant to give us a sence of space were presented at eye-level with characters - whether they were high up in the air, or on the street. There were also some nice cuts to just the scenery alone, so that we don't have to dwell on the characters alone.
     Scenes that were meant to show the viewer some important aspect of a character's personality were especially well thought-out. When Kiki lost her powers, we watch in long-shots as she frantically works during the night trying to figure out how to fly again. The long shots deepened the sense that these actions would bear no fruit in this way, and deepened the sense of urgency and her fear. One or two close shots to her face plainly showed how she felt without words. And when she did speak about why she was so worried about losing the skill (it was like losing a part of herself), she'd be shown running out of a doorway or off-screen (through mostly mid-shots) as if she were also saying, "That's all there is to it, I'm scared, I don't want to say any more."
     I also was to quickly comment about the art of the movie. I've always been a fan of the anime style - not just the way the characters were drawn (which felt pleasingly simple and uncomplicated; free-er forms), but also the city-scape, including great ocean views, detailed buildings - even the roads were detailed, and not just some weak slab of grey concrete (which is often a way out for animators, sadly). The sky as well; moving unrepeated cloud as different times of the day, and shifting hues in the sky that helped to mark the passage of time...
     I'm also pleased that the animation was pretty smooth and included even the smallest gestures in characters that definitely made a difference. It was nice to see little things like eyes movements during conversation, poses and movements that helped describe certain thoughts or reactions. And what's even better - I bet anyone could watch the movie without sound and understand exactly what was going on. The timing of events and such is well-orchestrated, so there isn't a single part about the movie I'm confused about.
     Kiki's Delivery Service is more of a family movie, so I recommend this to families, I suppose. But the movie is good for nearly every audience; it was such a joy to watch for me.

Tangled Review by Samantha Lefrancois

In light of our recent assignment, I decided to review Disney's 50th animated feature, Tangled. This story revolves around our young, long blond haired girl, Rapunzel. Inspired by a children's story, Disney recreated the story using the baseline elements of the story, but in the end changed the majority of the details. Things that stay the same within the story as well as the movie are: Gothel ends up possessing a young girl, to whom is the daughter of a humble man and a sickly woman; there is a golden flower involved, which is eaten by the woman; the young girl is locked in a tower in the middle of the woods; the young girl meets a young man while locked in the tower, which in one way or another gets the young girl out of the tower; and finally, the young girl and young man fall in love and get married, and return to a kingdom. The generic storyline stays the same, but the roles of the characters change vastly.

As far as characters in this movie, we have Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, the King and the Queen, Gothel, Pascal, and Maximus. Rapunzel develops and grows throughout this film. In the beginning she is naive, and is loyal and trusting in her "mother" Gothel. As the story progresses, she begins to question Gothel. She learns to stand up for herself, for her dreams and for what she believes in. She is shy and sweet-hearted throughout the film, which makes her relatable and brings a ray of sunshine to any dim situation. She has this innocence about her, which is portrayed in all her actions, her facial expressions and her body gestures. When she leaves the tower, the viewer is shown a multi-shot scene where Rapunzel is at odds with herself. She debates about doing what she is told is right, and what she believes is right. This scene really shows the range of her emotions, but also reveals a lot about her personality.

Comic relief is found in three characters, Flynn Rider, Maximus, and Pascal. Flynn is the human comic relief for this film. He has several quirky sayings that will make the viewer chuckle. He does develop throughout this movie, where the more time he spends with Rapunzel, the more he begins to find himself. He created this character, Flynn Rider, to mask his identity, to create someone more exciting than himself. He creates a reputation based on thieving, and on his looks and overly pushy charm. His initial interactions with Rapunzel show his character's shallowness when he feels he can convince her with a look, the smolder, or when he thinks his charming smile will fix everything. As he progresses, though, he finds himself with a more natural charm, instead of his forced one, and he becomes more tolerable. He becomes less involved with his looks and his fake reputation and more involved in his relationships and actions.

Maximus and Pascal are the animal comic relief. Maximus is a horse who acts like a dog mixed with a human. He has numerous facial expressions and reactions that make him almost human, such as when he fights with Flynn. He acts more like a dog when searching for Flynn; he sniffs the ground like a bloodhound, and he thumps his foot and wags his tail when Rapunzel pets him. His character isn't natural, but in a fairytale, anything can happen, so his character helps push this movie more towards a fairytale than an actual encounter. Pascal is a chameleon. He is Rapunzel's right hand man. His facial expressions make him relate to a human. His emotions are portrayed effectively through his actions and facial expressions, but also through his colors. When he is scared his turns darker colors, when embarrassed he turns red. The color choices for Pascal reveal a lot about how he is feeling and are incredibly effective.

There is a lot that in reality wouldn't work within this film, as far as events or actions that happen. Flynn, in all honesty, would not be alive halfway through the film. The number of times he would have had his face broken from smashing it into the ground, the skydive into a plank, or his falling off a cliff without receiving a scratch. Things such as these make the story a little less believable, but also make the story more comical.

The lighting and camera shots are highly effective. With the lighting, the animators were able to set moods to each seen. At the festival, it is incredibly bright and colorful, which helps create a happy and lighthearted mood. In contrast, in the forest they use dim lighting and fog to create a scary and foreboding mood.

The animators of this film used a mixture of many different kinds of camera shots. For each scene they incorporated a longer shot, which showed the characters but also some of the background environment. Every scene also included close ups, that help catch the emotion portrayed by each character. Every scene also included a wide shot, which usually occurred at the beginning or halfway through the scene. This shot helps the viewer see the location of each character in relation to the background. Within the first few minutes of the movie, we have seen every main character and every important setting. The entire basis of the story is thrown at us. The rest of the movie is all about Disney's imagination with the details of what occurs. One of the most effective scenes in this movie would be the Snuggly Duckling scene. They used all three kinds of shots within this short segment of time. When Rapunzel first enters, they hold the shot to show the length of her hair. Throughout the singing, the camera bounces between the important characters and the audience, giving the viewer a general idea of who is where and doing what. These shots are effective because of the information being given, but also because of the timing. When Rapunzel whips the branch at one of the Ruffians, the camera is held on the jaw-dropped expressions of the crowd. For me this one shot helps make the scene.

Disney, being Disney, had to make the story their own. They added comic relief to a story that has a lot of tragedy to it. They changed up the roles of the characters, making the 'king's son' a thief, 'the witch' an older, creepy woman, and 'the long haired blond child' a girl with magic hair. They made the characters life like, they resemble humans, or horses, or other animals, but each have their own uniqueness that separates it from a real living being. One such difference that happens to be a Disney trademark is the females within this movie have incredibly large eyes. This helps capture the emotion, but makes them much less life like.

They stretched the story to make it their own; not only is this the story of Rapunzel, but is also the story of Flynn Rider. Although they did this, made this movie into multiple stories to add originality, the ending was highly predictable. From when Rapunzel and Flynn first meet, we can tell that they will fall in love. The death of Flynn is foreshadowed when Gothel grabs the knife. The cutting of the hair is foreshadowed when they emphasize the breaking of the mirror. Lastly, the revival of Flynn has to happen because this story is supposed to end with a happily ever after.

The aesthetics of the movie were great, the camera shots and lighting carefully chosen and highly effective. Some parts of the plot are a little out there, but the overall story is cute and heartwarming. It is definitely an adorable movie, and is one of my favorites!

La Planète Sauvage or The Fantastic Planet

The Fantastic Planet
or Something you should not see before you head to sleep

"The Fantastic Planet" is a animated feature film created in 1973 by Rene Laloux under the french title of "La Planète Sauvage", The Wild/Savage Planet.
Its base material is "Oms en série" (Oms by the Dozen) a science fiction novel by Stephan Wul, a dentist turned writer. Planet.
I found this movie through a podcast I regularly listen to. The hosts were referencing the "aliens" and how trippy of a film it was so I just had to try and see it.
People were not wrong to readily accept this as trippy but a full blown mind trip. With its strong imagery and ridiculous but oddly funky and menacing music just added to the fire transported you to setting. To put it into better perspective during its theatrical release it was often paired up with the cult classic "The Yellow Submarine" as a double feature. If that doesn't say anything I dunno what will.
The basic story is as followed. On a alien planet there is a race of giant aliens called the Draag who are extremely technologically advanced and have achieved great bounds in spiritual and mental progression. The Draags keep Om who are implied to be humans that were taken from their home planet. Oms are kept as domesticated pets and at worst are exterminated as pests.
The movie follows the story of one Om named Terr. Terr was raised by a Draag
child from infancy and learns
the technological ways of the Draags and escapes from his masters to a tribe of wild Oms. Using the knowledge he has learned he educa
tes the Oms and stirs them into rebellion.
The strongest points of the movie are the imagery and music. Settings are fantastic, capturing the feel of a lone and almost uninhabitable planet with fantastic creatures. In terms of character design the Draags are disturbing with their bald blue skin bodies and red eyes adding to their almost passive and detached nature. The Oms even are disturbing in a way, almost doll like with fierce or soft facial features creating an almost dis-concerning look to them, perhaps emphasizing the alien nature of the film.
The music can be only described as 70s. A mix of mystical and electronic they heavily use synth and ambiance to give a great soundtrack. When tension runs high or times of silence it emphasizes upon the moment.
A great scene to reference is in the beginning of the movie. A woman is running through an alien "forest" with a child but is soon assaulted by large blue hands. She keeps trying to run but is continuously buffets until letting go of the child she is lifted into the air and
dropped, killing her. In which the camera pans out
and you find out it was a group of Draag children "playing" and the woman they killed was Terrs mother. A disturbing and surreal scene it sets the mood and aesthetic of the film.
Though with its strengths it has its great weaknesses in terms of pacing and voice acting. There are times in the movie where it is focused upon a scene of Terr dragging something and it lasting for a minute more then needed. Sure it works at times of tension and action but these drawn out scenes are a little too much at times. The voice acting can be hit and miss at times as most characters seem to show little emotions and often carried by the actual visuals. The sole exception is that the Draags for being so detached fits the voice acting and at times do show more emotion then their Om counterparts.
Also on a side note the animation though choppy at times I feel fits the aesthetics and pace of the film keeping it as something neutral.
In all this is great to watch almost as an art film. Story can be flimsy at times but shows strong underlines throughout the movie. You can say it is a good slice into foreign and animation history and show cases different genres in terms of spiritualism and surrealism. It definitively can be a hard watch at times but definitely worth it. The entire movie can be seen on youtube on this link:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Secret of Kells Review by Michelle part 2

Some of the sequences within the film are wonderfully expressed-- only one falls short.

When Aisling shows Brendan her forest, a world of Irish culture, icons, and overall beauty is unveiled for the first time. There's a wonderful sense of magic and mystery, fun and danger, and myth and reality. Aisling herself is also beautifully animated, from her flowing hair to the way she moves in an animal like fashion-- she is a terrific character to watch. Her song that she sings is also quite haunting and enchanting, and Panger Ban's animation from a cat to a spirit is also breathtaking.

The Attack on Kells is also extremely well done. The entire film is alive with beautiful color, but the attack is broken down into whites, blacks, and reds. The Vikings are represented as monstrous black squares, mechanically destroying everything. It has a primitive like quality to the visuals and animation, which greatly contrasts the beauty and magic of Kells. When Kells is sacked the imagery and color contribute to the horror of these raids.

One sequence that stands out in not the best of ways is Brendan's mythological fight with Crom Crook. Brendan is transported in Alice-In-Wonderland style into a microscopic world fighting what appears to be a giant tape worm. Like the rest of the sequences, its beautifully done and pleasing to look at, but in terms of story it falls short and is slightly ambiguous.

The problem with this part of the story was that the creators depended a little too heavily on myth and legend to tell some sequences, they're just blips on the radar. There are moments when perhaps the story relies too heavily on imagery, and not enough character interaction. Overall though, the story carries itself strongly through visual storytelling, setting it apart from many other contemporary films.

Perhaps the most memorable moments of this film are when all these elements are combined into harmony-- a line often said in regard to The Book is "bringing darkness into light", which captures the essence of this film. The beauty, grandeur, and magic of the Irish culture is brought to the viewer in such a profound way, that there is simply no other way to describe it with words. Like the Book of Kells, you have to see it to understand.

To see Aisling's forest:

To See Aisling's song:

To see the Attack on Kells:

To see Brendan's Fight with Crom Crook: