Animated

Waltz with Bashir (Vals Im Bashir)

dir: Ari Folman
[img_assist|nid=141|title=Doing the genocide dance|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=220|height=326]
Animated movies don’t usually tackle genocide, massacres and the delayed effects of traumatic memories on people as their main themes. They’re usually about the virtues of being yourself, or about believing in yourself, or about what it would be like if dogs, cats and robots were lucky enough to have the voices of celebrities.

Israeli director Ari Folman has made something quite unique here, in that it is a documentary about his lack of memory about something he was involved in, and it is an animated documentary, at that. How many animated documentaries can you think of, off the top of your heads?

None, because there aren’t any. It really is quite remarkable. The animation itself is straightforward and comparatively simplistic, in that this isn’t something you’re watching because it’s a technical marvel. But it serves the story perfectly, because it doesn’t distract from the telling of the story; it facilitates it. For a completely rendered version of what happened, it approaches a kind of truth many if not most documentaries lack.

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WALL-E

dir: Andrew Stanton
[img_assist|nid=122|title=WALL E ponders the existential stupidity of Rubiks cubes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=469|height=305]
For some people, WALL-E represents a welcome return to form for Pixar, putting the now Disney owned company back at the top of the computer animated movie pile. For others, it’s just a continuation of their general excellentness, with WALL-E only representing the latest in an unbroken stream of quality products pumped out by the Dream Factory.

And for others, it’s just a movie. A very well animated one, but a movie all the same. I have to admit to being something of a Pixar devotee, so the arrival of their flicks tends to pique my interest greatly. WALL-E's good reviews raised expectations even higher.

But they weren’t too high. I didn’t really expect this flick to be a revelation, because long ago, around the time of Cars, I realised that Pixar’s movies would remain distinctive, and look cutting edge whenever they were released, but that being utterly blown away would be unlikely. Computer animated movies are a dime a dozen these days, the stunning visuals have become commonplace, and the quirky stories about being free to be yourself or stopping to smell the roses are becoming pretty clockwork regular as well.

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Persepolis

dir: Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud
[img_assist|nid=16|title=Arguments with God|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=280]
Persepolis is an animated movie about the life of Marjane Satrapi, a French-speaking Iranian woman who grew up in the 70s / 80s in Iran and Europe. That might not sound like a particularly riveting choice of subject matter, but this is a fascinating life story told well with evocative handdrawn 2 dimensional artwork. Seriously.

As such, it’s probably the only animated movie about Iran many people will ever hear of during their short lives, and probably one of the only ones that tells the story of both the impact of the Shah on Iranian society, and the subsequent Islamic Revolution and war with Iraq in the 80s. As well, it tells it as a bitter-sweet work of art combined with a woman’s tale of coming of age in difficult circumstances.

No other film, animated or otherwise, in this century or any other, in French or any other language, is going to have a character deliver a rendition of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger with as much conviction and as much hilarity as what occurs in the middle of this movie.

Satrapi transformed the story of her life into a graphic novel previously, and this is essentially a bringing to life of that graphic novel. Named after the ancient Persian capital, it gives the lucky viewer a glimpse into Iranian life that would rarely be seen otherwise.

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Ratatouille

dir: Brad Bird
[img_assist|nid=749|title=Rats cooking in kitchens is hardly new. It's corporate strategy at that place ruled by the Colonel|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
The Pixar name still means something to audiences. They’ve made so many great computer-animated flicks that discounting them because of missteps (Cars) or being purchased by Disney for something obscene like 7 billion dollars and the kidneys of several thousand Asian children, seems wrong.

I’m reassured by Ratatouille, in that even if it’s not breakout tremendous like The Incredibles, or consistently entertaining and engaging like Finding Nemo, the Toy Stories or even Monsters Inc, it’s still pretty damn good and still several million miles ahead of the drek like Shrek and the other crap pumped out by Pixar’s rivals.

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Simpsons Movie, The

dir: David Silverman
[img_assist|nid=780|title=The fire burned my bottom|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=253]
Well it’s about bloody time. The series has only been running for 18 years. So grateful should we be that they took the time to put together a cinematic version of the popular television animated series. Because, you know, there aren’t enough movies to watch as it is.

The Simpsons Movie arrives in a form that is unsurprising, with a running time of what three episodes would be like run back to back, with no profoundly earthshaking or universe-altering message. It has plenty of chuckles in it, doesn’t vary from the known Simpsons universe that much, and delivers exactly what long term fans would expect.

Long term fans aren’t the ones who have been saying since the fourth season of the series that it has jumped the shark or sold out a long time ago. I’m not necessarily talking about the Comic Book Guy-type fans who know everything about every episode and feel personally offended when an episode fails to live up to their expectations.

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Happy Feet

dir: George Miller
[img_assist|nid=844|title=I tell you what, this movie didnt give me happy feet after watching it, more like angry liver|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=297]
Enough, already. The success of Pixar’s movies and the Shrek monstrosities has led to an incredible and totally fathomable explosion in the amount of computer animated movies stinking up the cinemas. A bunch of years ago there’d be one or two over the course of the year. In 2006, there were about twenty of them.

It was inevitable that computer animation would replace traditional hand drawn animation and that it would start garnering a greater share of studio and audience attention. And that’s not because it’s any cheaper or quicker to produce, because these flicks cost multi-millions to make and take many years to complete. But being able to point to the advances in animation techniques is the selling point itself. The stories certainly aren’t improving along with the programming. So much money is being invested in these things, so much money is at stake, so the stories are getting more and more bland and safe as their producers become even more risk-averse than previous.

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Renaissance

dir: Christian Volckman
[img_assist|nid=887|title=Black and white bang bang|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=196]
Whilst the French aren’t world renowned for their animation, at the very least they’re not seen as slouches in the cinematic department. France is one of the few countries whose homegrown films compete well with American product in French cinemas, and whose films export fairly well for the arthouse market across the world.

When The Triplets of Belleville came out in 2003, it reminded people not only that France could produce movies that weren’t solely dependent on lecherous older guys lusting after beautiful and super-slutty, irrational, younger women, but that animation wasn’t totally dependent on computer-wielding nerds, a la Pixar, Blue Sky or WETA Digital.

I’d heard a little about a new French animated flick that was about to come out, and for reasons that seem perplexing to me now, I was excited about it. What little I’d heard referred to the animated movie being a sci-fi detective story with Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell influences, rolled up in a high-tech black and white anime style.

So, when free tickets to a preview screening were offered, I snapped them up. After sitting through it, I wanted to demand my money back.

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Cars

dir: John Lasseter
[img_assist|nid=888|title=Cars. Lots of Cars.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=440|height=324]
The title doesn’t lie. It really is about cars. Imagine a world where the only organic matter is plant life, and everything else is cars. Even the flies are tiny cars.

But for all intents and purposes, the cars are people. Not Soylent Green. People. The windshield is their eyes, the radiator grill at the front is their mouth, and they talk, drive around and even fall in love.

They can also be arrogant, ignorant, dopey, loving and nostalgic about the past. Especially a past where people took the time to just slowly drive around, instead of racing everywhere at top speed. They also had small town values, and loved, I dunno, a shiny chassis, a good paint job every once in a while, and a nice tune by James Taylor or Randy Newman.

In short, these are cars that aren’t really imagined to be that different from the people sitting in the audience: smug, comfortable, middle-class consumers.

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