Posts Tagged ‘Coco’

Disney March Madness 7: The Semi-Finals and Finals

August 25, 2018

Bracket

We have come down to the wire so this entry is going to be more about the impressions I got from the final four films both initially and over time. As we get into the nitty-gritty, I am going to drop a spoiler warning here just in case.

Moana vs. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Moana was a revelation for me when it was released. It continued the evolution of Disney Animation Studios that Frozen had started. It took lessons learned in movies like Frozen and The Frog Princess and took them further. Moana was just such an interesting character. I could feel her frustration at not being able to satisfy her curiosity and her wanderlust. Having dreams but never getting to realize them is a very human experience. She also felt like I did as a teenager. You are tired of listening to your parents but you know they are both right and wrong about everything. Last time I did not talk alot about the grandmother character but she was so important. Most of us have that family member (or more than one) who wink at us and agree that our parents are full of crap. They encourage us by treating us like a human being rather than a child. Their behavior toward us is not as colored by fear for us and the other biases that a parent has. Moana is also about our internal compasses. There is that moment in our development where we stop using the compass that our parents and loved ones provided for us. We start to make decisions on our own. Sure that leads to us making a few mistakes but it is important to make our decisions and plot our own courses.

In direct opposition to the Moana, let us take a look at the love story in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Whereas a lot of previous Disney films had romance as their main plot, it is a subplot in this movie. Jack is not looking for romance like many Disney Princes or Princesses. He is looking for something that is missing from his life but it has to do with lacking a feeling of fulfillment in his life. As expressed, it is mostly focused on something lacking professionally. For Jack, the love story is treated as a bonus. It is something that he did not need but he allows himself to have in the end. Also, Sally is not your usual female in a disney animated film. She is not a damsel in distress and in fact she spends the whole movie trying to save Jack in somewhat of a reversal. As a literal captive, Sally wants a new life just as much as Jack does. On top of that, she repeatedly forgets about her own plight when she sees him hurting. She feels bad for her friend and wants to see him happy again. In turn, Jack sees her as a good friend but he loses sight of that due to depression and then excitement. When they come together at the end it is two friends who realize they fit together. They love each other and they are ready to start again at a new level.

Main Character: Both main characters are relatable to me but Jack edges ahead by being more universally relatable.

Supporting Characters: Nightmare has a lot more supporting characters than Moana. One of Moana’s is The Rock but each character in Nightmare is given a lot to do and a lot more personality.

Villain: The main villain of Moana has no lines while Oogie Boogie is one of the most dynamic villains in animation history.

Music: This is tough. I would actually say that Moana’s Lin-Manuel Miranda just barely beats Danny Elfman’s music.

Story: For me, the story of overcoming depression is more impactful than a journey to fix the world and find your place in it. It just felt more real.

Animation: While Moana’s animation is smooth and beautiful, there is something about the novelty of good stop-motion animation that just feels better to me.

Winner: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Coco vs. Inside Out

In Coco, Miguel is forbidden to play music and, possibly because of that, he is drawn into it further. He slowly develops a love for music and he seeks to achieve his dream of becoming a musician like his ancestor. I know a little bit about that. When I was in high school, I wanted to study theater in college. I was told that I should minor in theater so that I had a back-up plan. To me, that felt bad (though in hindsight it was spot on). When my folks told me that I could apply to major in theater, it was such a validation of my feelings and my dreams. In Coco, Miguel gets to have that same feeling. His living family tells him that he cannot pursue music. He travels to the underworld and his family there also tells him no and he is given the choice between music and life and he still finds that choice difficult. In the afterlife, he finally gets to perform in front of a crowd for the first time and he loves it. When he plays a second time, he finally gets that validation from a family member and it gives him even more courage. He is eventually able to convince his entire family, living and dead, to let him give music a try. In life, true validation comes from inside. Miguel knew he wanted to be a musician and when it starts to work out, he is sure of it. However, getting the blessing of his family is a welcome confirmation and it makes it easier to be happy and successful.

In Inside Out, Joy and Sadness are separated from mission control and are therefore unable to exert their influence on Riley. While this happens because of an accident (in Riley’s brain) it actually ends up illustrating a key point of emotional and neurological processes. Riley has been forced to move to a new city and she has to leave her comfortable routine and her friends behind. That is difficult enough for anybody but Riley is a young teenager and she has difficulty processing the feelings that come from that change. When Joy and Sadness are misplaced, it is exactly like depression. She does not feel sad but she definitely does not feel happy. She feels very close to nothing. That is what depression is. You just do not feel a lot of feelings and it takes a while for those feelings to return. One of the other key themes of the movie is growing up. While Joy and Sadness are separated from mission control, they are constantly in danger as the worlds inside Riley’s mind are literally ripped apart and new worlds start to be created. These worlds represent Riley’s interests and parts of her personality. As she loses interest in something, that world is destroyed and new interests create new worlds. Again, we see the effect of depression as the un-feeling starts to destroy any interest she has in anything and the worlds inside her mind start to crumble. That is also what depression is when you have no interest in doing anything.

Main Character: Miguel is a more rounded main character than Joy and Sadness who are fun but only aspects of personality.

Supporting Characters: Miguel’s family is a lot more varied and fun than

Villain: Inside Out does not really have a villain but Coco’s villain would win anyway.

Music: This is no contest as the Mexican guitar stylings far outweigh the more orchestral Inside Out.

Story: The supernatural journey that ends in a very grounded way beats a teenager’s emotional self-discovery.

Animation: The animation in the two is comparable but the art direction in Coco is so much better.

Winner: Coco

Coco vs. The Nightmare Before Christmas

I could go on and on about how I love the Day of the Dead but that is not the main reason that I love this movie so much. My grandmother had several strokes during her old age and those strokes and heart problems contributed to dementia. It started slow. She started to forget a few things here and there. Pretty soon after that, she was caught wandering the streets and had to be brought back home. Eventually, you could come into the room and remind her who you were, leave the room, reenter, and she would have already forgotten you. Eventually, she forgot everything. At its roots, Coco is about memory. Miguel does not know who his great, great grandfather is. He does not know because most of his family never met him. His great-grandmother is suffering from memory loss and has been slowly forgetting her father. At the end of the movie, we get to see the scene above. Miguel sings in a house without music for the first time and he sings a song that his great, great grandfather wrote for his daughter. We see that song stir her memories and that allows her to experience the joy of the memory of her father once again. It is a beautiful moment both because it is full of pure emotion and also because it is supported by the supernatural adventure that happens before.

The part of The Nightmare Before Christmas that I love the most is actually about depression. It resonated with me a lot more later in life. Jack has been the King of Halloween for a long time. He has gotten so good at it that he has started to get bored and that has led to him falling into a deep depression. When I worked at a theater up in New Jersey, I eventually reached the same place. A lot of shows felt the same as the last and I got bored and tired. I eventually decided that I did not want to go back and I returned to Baltimore to start again. I got another job and I worked hard for years and then I got bored again and depressed again. Jack happens upon Christmastown and suddenly his life has a new purpose. He is excited by having this new thing in his life even if he does not fully understand it. However, even that does not last for long and once again he finds himself depressed again. In the song above, he pities himself but then he has a revelation and he realizes that he is what he is and he embraces that. Similarly, a year ago I realized something. My job cannot make me happy. My family cannot make me happy. Things cannot make me happy. Only I can decide to be happy and my life has been more positive ever since. Jack and I had that same revelation where he decides to find the happiness in what we do and who we are with instead of letting doubt consume us. It is the only way to live, even if you are an undead skeletion.

Winner: The Nightmare Before Christmas

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March Madness 5: The Pixar Quarterfinals Pt. 1

July 2, 2018

Bracket

Up vs. Toy Story

Up is the story of an old man who tries to go on one last adventure to honor his wife and unexpectedly and reluctantly teams up with a small boy. He gets more adventure than he could have possibly expected. The first couple of minutes of Up are done largely with very little dialogue and it is one of the most touching scenes in cinema history. In the future, the opening sequence of Up will be used by Blade Runners to root out replicants. That portion sets the scene for the rest of the movie and it ended up being a very emotional movie for me. It also had some real genuine laughs. Ed Asner plays the lead character, Carl, and his weary, grumpy demeanor hides a depth and heart that gradually is revealed. He is joined by a small kid, Russel, who is a very accurate portrayal of a kid. Unknown Jordan Nagai plays the role naive, energetic, kind of dumb, but it is hard not to like him. Finally, we have Dug, the talking dog who is played by director Pete Docter similar to a kindergartener who unconditionally loves everybody. The combination of all three bring a lot of laughs but they also bring a lot of heart. The movie has a mix of nostalgia for the pulp adventure films of the first half of the 20th century but also some new ground.

Toy Story is the tale of a bunch of sentient toys led by a cowboy toy named Woody. He is threatened by the arrival of a brand new spaceman toy. This is Pixar’s first feature film and it had a monumental effect on the animation industry as it revolutionized both animation technology and storytelling in family films. Pixar took a fresh new approach to things and that rising tide caused the ships in the harbor to rise or sink. Woody was voiced by the always likable Tom Hanks who for once got to be less likable. He is joined by Tim Allen who is a perfectly reasonable straight man and also very likable. The rest of the cast is played by brilliant character actors such as Jim Varney, Jon Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Don Rickles, R. Lee Ermey, and Annie Potts. Their dialogue always immediately shows instead of tells of the long history the toys have had with each other and creates an imaginative backstory without hitting us over the head with it. Woody and Buzz’ tale is familiar in so many ways. As an older brother, I experienced the fear that my younger brothers would usurp me. As a friend, I was worried that my friend’s girlfriends would push me away and cause me to be forgotten. Everybody has experienced that moment of being hot and then fearing they are suddenly not.

Main Character: Carl Fredrickson is a much more rounded and flawed character than Woody’s jealous panic.

Supporting Characters: Russell was an absolute gem of a character and the offbeat comedy of Dug was amazing. Still, they just barely beat Buzz and a cast of some of the best character actors as toys.

Villain: Arguably, Woody is also the villain of the movie and he is a far better villain than Charles Muntz.

Music: Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” is probably the best thing he ever wrote but the score of Up beats the score of Toy Story.

Story: The story of laying your wife rest while learning to continue on with life beats the tale of learning that friendship is more important than fame.

Animation: This is not really fair as Toy Story was so early in CGI animation but it blew me away at the time but Up is years in the future and obviously better.

Winner: Up

Coco vs. Toy Story 3

Coco is the tale of a young boy in Mexico who finds himself as a living person stuck in the afterlife during the Day of the Dead festival. Instead of worrying, he decides to use this false death as an opportunity to connect with his ancestors and explore his family history. It is also the tale of musicians and how they connect with music and history. Pixar always does its research and they did a great job exploring the traditions and lore of the Day of the Dead and used that to create an impressive world beyond the veil. They also did a lot of research with actual musicians and they were able to animated fingers on guitar strings in a way that it is clear that the characters are actually playing music. The movie also does a lot to talk about memory and legacy and how important that is and the different ways that it is important to people. Young Anthony Gonzalez plays the lead role, Miguel, and he plays him with both rebelliousness and heart. He is joined by both Benjamin Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal as his guides through the afterlife. They both do a great job and contrast each other in the best ways, each teaching important lessons. It would be a crime not to mention a beautiful performance from Alanna Ubach as the deceased matriarch of Miguel’s family. She has such power to her personality when she is on screen and she is mirrored by Renee Victor in the living world.

Toy Story 3 is the story of a bunch of toys worrying about the loss of their owner who is about to leave for college, finally officially outgrowing his old friends. Yearning to be played with again by actual kids, they go on an adventure to find their new place in the world. This was the movie that Pixar was not originally going to make but Disney forced their hand when they were prepared to continue the franchise alone. The Pixar crew dug deep and tried to figure out where they could take the story next after two outings. To their credit, they figured out a beautiful way to end a trilogy but also how to open up the story for future opportunities. They made the story fresh again by tweaking the previous formula once again and adding bigger stakes. They also added a real villain with a full backstory for the first time in the franchise and that added a new dimension of conflict into the movie. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen returned to once again portray Woody and Buzz Lightyear, now old friends instead of rivals. They are once again joined by great character actors Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, and Estelle Harris. Joan Cusack returns from Toy Story 2 and helps to breathe new life into an old franchise. Helping with that, we have a villain in Ned Beatty and there are also newcomers Kristen Schaal, Timothy Dalton, and Jodi Benson. This makes it possibly the most star-studded movie in Pixar (and possibly Disney) history.

Main Character: While it is a bit unfair to have Woody and Buzz gang up on Miguel, the young boy has so much more going on than the two old friends.

Supporting Characters: Although Toy Story 3 has an all-star cast full of likable and fun characters, Coco wins with relative unknowns who have a lot of more subtle charm.

Villain: Ernesto is insidious and spineless and he is a much better villain than Lotso who is probably the franchise’s first real villain.

Music: Hands down the beautiful sounds of the Mexican guitar top a traditional score with the usual contribution from Randy Newman.

Story: A story of family, love, and redemption definitely beats what is basically the same themes being explored as the previous two movies (albeit with new twists).

Animation: Although the two movies are not far removed when it comes to release dates, the art direction of Coco is absolutely stunning and leagues ahead of the more mundane world of Toy Story.

Winner: Coco

March Madness 2: Pixar

May 5, 2018

Bracket

It’s time for the second part of this March Madness Bracket post now that we have arrived in May! I’m not going to waste any more words, here we go Pixar!


Up vs. Brave

We are starting off with a difficult choice. Brave is an underrated (and underperforming) title in the Pixar franchise. For one, I love Scotland and the accent of Merida, the first Pixar Princess, is really beautiful yet strong. I think it was the story that threw people. I do not think anybody was expecting all of the bear stuff. I happened to love it but it definitely did not follow a traditional plot. Still, the movie was fun and also had great emotional beats and a clear message about the balance of self and family. However, Up was a revelation when it came out. People are still talking about using the opening sequence as a tool to discover robots in the future. If you do not cry, you will be sent to the junkyard. The rest of the movie is nonstop laughs, tears, and adventure. The movie also follows a clearer plot structure and the pacing ends up being better because of that. Winner: Up


Toy Story vs. Toy Story 2

Kind of a weird matchup here. Toy Story was a movie that absolutely destroyed me when it first came out. To this day, it is the only movie that I have seen a full five times in theaters. It briefly made me want to be an animator though I later put that energy into other artistic pursuits. The movie really hit home for me then and now as I often identify with Woody, the character suddenly relegated to the background. As a shy kid, I often felt left out. Also, I feel like the movie is great for an older sibling to watch soon after the birth of their younger sibling. Toy Story 2 was a great continuation of the first movie. Just as Woody gets over not being in the spotlight, he is tempted with a return to his former place but must lose his friends. I just feel like the pacing, characters, and story of the original still outmatches the sequel even though both are great. I think number 2 just feels like it was a rushed rehash of the original movie’s message with a mortality message in there too. Winner: Toy Story


Coco vs. Cars 2

Oh wow. This is not even fair. Coco was such a brilliant and fun movie. Its story is based on the Day of the Dead festival and its connected lore. However, the story has a lot of heart and so many twists and turns that I did not expect. For me, the movie also talks about memory which is kind of a big deal in my family since my grandmother suffered from dementia at the end. It also has such great music, most of which is done on guitar and wonderful natural voices. The imagery and mythology were captivating to watch. On the other hand, Cars 2 was really annoying. The movie took a somewhat interesting character played by Owen Wilson and put him in the background of a movie starring Larry the Cable Guy. They tried to mix a racing movie with a rehash/satire of various spy movies. The jokes felt flat to me and it was the first Pixar movie I watched that felt like it was absolutely not for me and was just for little kids which is not the Disney/Pixar way. Unlike Coco, it also held no surprises and all of the characters seemed either willfully ignorant or awful. Winner: Coco


Toy Story 3 vs. The Good Dinosaur

This is the tiniest bit harder. Toy Story 3 is a movie that I was wary of when it was announced because I knew that John Lasseter (the head of Pixar) had turned the movie down originally. Eventually, Pixar committed to the movie and when they did they really committed. They made a movie that was very thoughtful and exciting. It felt like they updated the humor a bit but it did not feel dated and each and every character felt more nuanced and complete. It also has one of the deepest moments in a Pixar movie. It also felt like the first Toy Story movie with a real antagonist that the characters could deal with directly. I really liked the Good Dinosaur when I reviewed it soon after it came out on DVD. The story of a young dinosaur who must try and survive and reunite with her family is very charming. The role reversal that makes the human the ‘pet’ is pretty fun and well done. I just feel like there was not as much meat in this movie. The Good Dinosaur just did not zing as much as a lot of the best Disney or Pixar movies. Still, it is better than Cars 2. Winner: Toy Story 3


Ratatouille vs. A Bug’s Life

Ratatouille was another Pixar movie that I did not see until it was on DVD. I really empathized with Remy the Rat. He was passionate about something that he loved and it was hard to fully explain that so that his family would let him pursue it. I have also felt shy and out of place like Lou Romano’s character. While the movie does get bogged down a bit, it is the voice acting of Patton Oswalt as Remy that really gives the movie its heart. His performance is so great that it is really easy to see the movie through his character’s eyes. The French-inspired musical score is also really pleasant to listen to and it is one of the more chill and mesmerizing Pixar movies. A Bug’s Life was an exciting movie when it came out and proved that Toy Story was not a fluke. It was a very funny movie. It was also very charming as we followed a mistaken identity version of the Magnificent Seven. I also really liked the idea of the togetherness message near the end of the movie. However, I just found it a little less charming and polished. Winner: Ratatouille


Finding Nemo vs. Inside Out

This one was very hard for me. Finding Nemo was a great movie. It is a really cool story not only about a father trying to find his missing son but also about a father learning when to let go a little bit. The movie is fast-paced and emotional from start to finish and the laughs are heavily blended with the stuff that almost makes you cry. It is also the movie that helped put Ellen Degeneres back on the map and her performance is a show-stealer. It was a home run for Pixar as it was a very exciting and funny/emotional movie for the young company. Inside Out is the story of how your emotions and thoughts work inside of you which is a bit more relatable to me. Also, it deals with elements of depression which is definitely something I can relate to now and then. It also has some of the best depictions of imagination. All of that in the midst of a great story with really interesting characters running on two different story tracks that often collide. Also, the general theme of finding the joy in the heart of sadness was really beautiful. Winner: Inside Out


Monsters Inc. vs. Cars

This is interesting because both of these movies are stories about the main characters figuring out they are going about life the wrong way. However, Monsters. Inc is about how you can bring about a happier life by living positively instead of negatively. It also has the voice talents of John Goodman and Billy Crystal who make a great comic team similar to Abbott and Costello. I also love the world-building of the movie as they take a concept from childhood (not mine but others) and builds it into this whole interesting world. Cars is basically a rehash of the plot from Doc Hollywood where city car Owen Wilson learns to slow down and treat people nicer and be less selfish. The movie is fun and the plot is simpler and has more heart than its sequels. Larry the Cable Guy is also way less featured and less annoying. The whole concept behind Cars is also just really troubling the more you think about it. Winner: Monsters Inc.


The Incredibles vs. Wall-E

The Incredibles was the first and only time that the same guy was allowed to both direct and write one of their movies. When that guy was Brad Bird (already famous for Iron Giant) then it was clear that this one was going to be a winner. Also, I will always be a sucker for comic book and superhero movies and this movie has plenty of great superhero action. However, it also has an emotional core as we really get behind each character and get a sense of what they want and need. There is plenty of gentle parodying of superhero faire but also plenty of loving homages and both make me smile. I have a confession to make now. I have not seen Wall-E all the way through. I love Pixar but having a movie with very little dialogue was really weird for me. I am definitely a lover of fine dialogue as I feel that words really help convey intention and character. However, what Wall-E attempted to do was admirable and its central message is one we still need to listen to. One day, I will attempt to watch this movie again. Winner: The Incredibles

Media Update 1/18/18

January 18, 2018


Coco

I have loved Mexican culture for a long time and, as I stated when reviewing The Book of Life, I love Day of the Dead most of all. I do not love it because I love Halloween because I have studied it enough to know how different the customs are. Both have magical origins but The Day of the Dead is primarily about remembering loved ones who passed away. The traditions are both touching and inspiring and I kind of wish we did more of it in the United States. It is akin to Japan’s culture of respect for their ancestors. The movie is about the balance between living your life and your family. The central message is Family Above All Else but also that your family should reciprocate that sentiment and support your dreams. The movie is also about music and is thus a musical film but not a Musical, more in the style of Oh Brother Where Art Thou? and Sing! than a traditional Disney musical. The Day of the Dead is a respectful but jubilant holiday and, from what I can see as an outsider, is about being happy about the memories you have of your departed family members. So, there is plenty of good food, candy, games, and music. That is what this movie feels like. There is the usual Disney/Pixar sweet sadness but there is also an air of celebration and togetherness that just feels really warm. I cannot recommend this movie enough.


Get Out

I had heard so many good things about this movie. I was such a fan of Jordan Peele on Key & Peele that I was intrigued by any horror movie he might have written. Comedians are all about timing and timing is also a huge element in horror as well. Also, I knew from the trailers that the plot had something to do with the black experience. The only reason that I have waited this long to watch the movie is that hypnosis is a large part of the movie. Hypnosis terrifies me and it really did a number on me while watching this movie. I was also more than correct about the movie confronting racial and cultural issues. It does so in such a new and horrific way that I think it is important for people to watch. The plot points of the movie took me by surprise as they unfolded but each of them made so much sense. There is a mystery in this movie and I will not ruin the suspense by revealing any of it here. The acting was so great but most of all I have to shout out Daniel Kaluuya who is rightfully getting nominated for his starring role. He was a fantastic character to follow around. I definitely recommend this one as it is scary but important.


The Disaster Artist

First, yes James Franco is definitely at best a problematic person. I felt that I had to push past that to watch this movie because I have been on a journey ever since I first caught The Room on Adult Swim. I clued into the Internet buzz and I was excited when Greg Sestero published a book on his experiences surrounding the movie. By the way, the movie actually cuts out some crazy bits from the book so I recommend that you pick up the book. It is not often that a truly horrible movie inspires people quite as much as The Room did. This movie goes to painstaking lengths to capture the insanity from the book and The Room itself. It recreates the look of the actors and the weird culture that Tommy Wiseau created. The Franco brothers play Wiseau and Sestero and they really do capture their weird friendship. They detail the arduous, torturous, and nonsensical path that they dragged other human beings down in order to put out a mediocre movie. The movie was interesting to me because I had only read or imagined excerpts from the book but seeing it in motion was fun. The movie is at the same time funny and horrifying as everything goes wrong. The movie celebrates Wiseau and probably lets him off the hook too much but at this point, he has probably been tortured enough. I also recommend this movie.

Music of the Week:
Jan Terri – Journey To Mars

Marlon Craft – Workin’

That Poppy – Lowlife

Bad Seed Rising – Hey Kid

Red Warszawa – Technoparty

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is Award Season 2018
– I started watching Season 6 of Longmire
– I continued watching Season 2 of The Magicians
– I continued watching Season 1 of Gurren Lagann
– I continued watching Season 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica
– I continued watching Season 2 of Schitt’s Creek
– I continued watching Season 2 of Little Witch Academia
– I continued watching Season 1 of DuckTales
– As usual, I watched Game Grumps, GTLive and Critical Role


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