Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Your Animated Reviews

(Final Part of Animation Month)

As a conclusion to my 'Animation Month' (including my own top 21 rankings - opinions welcomed) I thought that I would post a splurge of links to reviews of animated films. I have always seen animated films as as valuable a part of Cinema as any other and the purpose of a series of reviews dedicated to these cinematic media was not to show them as separate but simply to bring them further into the fold.

I have cast out my (inter)net to gather in some of the most interesting and well-written pieces around (and shamelessly borrow their screenshots) as an encouragement to more intelligent and open-minded discussion. So, thank you and enjoy...

I will start with two exceptional write-ups on Wall-E, one a conventional review by Just Another Film Buff and one impromptu and impassioned comment from Jennybee:

"It is 29th century. Amidst the exanimate garbage wastelands, happily compacting the dump is
WALL•E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class), a rusty little robot with notably large eyes. There are no traces of life in the whole area. Yes, there is earth, there is fire, there is wind and there is water, but not life."

Just Another Film Buff: http://theseventhart.info/2008/09/03/2815-a-space-odyss-e/

"It’s a film that like the best of sci-fi asks, “What if?” and then takes us on a bleak path that does not have to be. It’s a film that channels the deep undercurrent of hope, even amidst the darkest of crises–the death of our planet and the devolution of our species–and has a resounding echo of the rallying cry of a very frightening 2008: “Yes we can!” "

Jennybee: http://livingincinema.com/2009/01/19/the-watercooler-11909/comment-page-2/#comment-36863

One of the best film bloggers around, Marilyn Ferdinand, brings together two distinctive films at her site, Fantastic Planet and De Profundis:

"Treating sentient creatures like pets, exterminating them like vermin, and doing the equivalent of pulling the wings off a fly as a form of recreation underlines the folly of human hubris over the natural world. Reverence for the mind over the body can lead to species suicide. The reasons for this divorce are clear from a very original scene of giant, but fragile statues in human form dancing as a prelude to sex and then falling to pieces. Ultimately, the fanciful Fantastic Planet says humility and frailty must be the price for life."

Marilyn Ferdinand: http://ferdyonfilms.com/2009/11/fantastic-planet-la-planete-sa.php

In order of seniority I should have begun with Mr. Roger Ebert. A couple of days ago I left a comment on his blog asking him if he would share his thoughts on what he considered the greatest animated film. Obliging as ever, he responded simply 'The most powerful is Grave of the Fireflies". Here is the original print review and a link to a short video essay of his #1:



Now for a review by Daniel Thomas McInnes, at the beautifully presented ghibli blog, of another Isao Takahata film, Only Yesterday.

"Isao Takahata is not a name most Americans will recognize. Mention his name, and more often than not, you will be greeted with shrugs. But make no mistake: Takahata is a poet who has revolutionized animation as an art form."


Staying with Ghibli and moving onto MovieMan's insightful review of Spirited Away at the Dancing Image:

"Also, this aspect of the film gives us a rare animated opportunity to follow the increasingly ubiquitous service jobs, the hard work of the grunts who grease the wheels and keep things shiny for our usual type of protagonist. Most of the film's inhabitants are resolutely and unapologetically working-class, albeit with tentacles and slithery tails."

MovieMan0283: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2008/07/spirited-away_22.html

Onto a quality review by Ryan Kelly at Medfly Quarantine of Coraline, a film that has impressed many:

"Coraline’s use of 3D is never distracting or gimmicky; it effectively highlights the visual transcendence of the fantasy world, and the more morose nature of the real world."

Ryan Kelly: http://medflyquarantine.blogspot.com/2009/03/real-good-pal-of-mine-coraline.html

And here is a great review by Carson of another beloved recent hit Fantastic Mr Fox:

"Often times it seems like frames may have been mistakenly dropped as figures jerk purposefully through Anderson's dioramic tableaux, a result that is at first jarring but ultimately delightful. Every panoramic view is carefully constructed from left to right and top to bottom, with not a pixel of wasted space..."

Carson: http://arethehillsgoingtomarchoff.blogspot.com/2009/12/fantastic-mr-fox-2009-film-by-wes.html

Craig, The Man from Porlock, takes a look at Sita Sings the Blues:

"Nina Paley clearly is out to challenge myths like The Ramayana that reinforce gender stereotypes and self-justify male dominance along with female servitude, and at times the movie is almost as bracing to watch as would be a musical revival of The Satanic Verses."

Craig: http://themanfromporlock.blogspot.com/2009/05/nina-sita.html

A couple of erudite posts on classic American animation by David Bordwell and Ed Howard:

"Or consider pacing, at which the Disney cartoons excel. Most studio animation of the period, constrained by smaller budgets than Disney had, speeded up production by filming each frame twice. That way only 12 cel drawings were needed for the 24 frames that consumed a second of film. One way Disney achieved expressive action, and the high quality to which Gabler refers, was to devote single frames–and cels–to details of particular movements."

David Bordwell: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=247#respond

"The scene is filmed from straight on, so that as the transformation is completed the monster begins to take up more and more of the frame, leaning forward until the whole frame is filled with his horrifying face, his teeth bared as though he's about to devour the audience."

Ed Howard: http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2008/11/1116-four-warner-brothers-cartoons.html

The film hub extraordinaire, Wonders in the Dark, has two reviews of films that I must say left me cold (I mean the films left me cold!): Allan Fish on Akira and Sam Juliano on Up:

"The minority who already knew of manga before Akira hit the west must have smiled satisfactorily when people announced a new age in animation; simply, to quote the film, “because it had already begun.” "

Allan Fish: http://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/akira-no-50/

"While for many it brings to mind a sense of deja vu, it’s a singular achievement where artistic elements are informed by the deepest of philosophical concerns: the passage of life."

Sam Juliano: http://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com/2009/06/03/pixars-animated-up-soars-to-heights-of-exhilaration-and-emotion-rarely-experienced-in-live-action-films/

To wrap up, then, a timely and riveting discussion begun by Amid at Cartoon Brew about what really constitutes animation. Is Waltz with Bashir animation? Is Avatar?:


This is the end of Animation Month. Thank you everybody who has taken the time to comment and offer their recommendations and thank you too for giving me your permission to link to these reviews.


  1. Stephen, This is top stuff. Every post of this series was suprising (to hear that such a film exists), painful (that there is one more-must see film!) and, most importantly, immensely insightful and though provoking. This was a wonderful month at COMS, with global animation given a much required support. Kudos & Thank you, Stephen, for making us a part of this wonderful venture.

  2. Thank you, Stephen, for your kind words and for including me in this wonderful round-up. This is a worthy endeavor, and I commend you for it.

  3. Thanks JAFB!

    Thanks for your kind comments throughout and, as I've said before, let me know if you catch any of these films or if there's anything you want to recommend.

  4. Thank you, Marilyn.

    I'm glad that people got something out of it.

  5. Been busy, but will catch up over the snowy weekend.

    Taking a quick look at this and the previous few posts, there are going to be some going on my list I can tell already.

    Hope all is well and Thanks! Cheers!

  6. Thank you Coffee Messiah.

    Hope all is well with you too.

  7. Great stuff here, Stephen. Thanks for including me.

  8. By the way, late thanks for the shout-out. I will bookmark and return to visit some of these pieces, which look great - I love animation and don't get to discuss it enough...

  9. "I love animation and don't get to discuss it enough..."

    I aimed to please...

    Thanks, MovieMan

  10. Neeedless to say Stephen, after reading your sportsmanship here, and your kind acknowledgement to Wonders (and to Allan and I) I feel terribly about the aggresive tone of the CITIZEN KANE dialogue. But I do think that you and I are old and mature enough to get beyond it. I know you have numerous gifts, and you have been a tireless promoter of the blogosphere, so in the end I think it will be water under the bridge.

    Thanks again.

  11. Thank you.

    Don't worry about it Sam. We can all get carried away, as I may have done in responding to your responses on Citizen Kane.