My Journey Through Annecy 2021

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this Editorial!)

What can I say about the Annecy 2021 Online experience? Well, it was a mixed bag. While I can overall say I had a good time, their move to being both an online and in-person event is what dragged it down for the online customers. Sorry, I don’t have the time or money to spend on going to France during a pandemic. It was a real botched attempt to satisfy the people who could go in person and the people from around the world who wanted to attend. It had some great elements to it, but I would also argue it didn’t do enough for people who wanted to experience it online. Here are my pros and cons of what I took away from the festival 



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Pro: WIP section was fruitful and interesting! 

As with last year, my favorite part of the festival was watching the work-in-progress panels. I loved seeing what films were getting made and how they were tackling the animation process. It’s so cool to get these behind-the-scenes looks at animation production because otherwise, not many people get to see this side of animation. Granted, some of them were in French, so it was a disappointment to watch and not understand parts. A few of them also didn’t seem to have a whole lot done. It made me wonder if these are part “Here is what we are making” and part “We are showing off what we have made so far to look for funding”. That’s not a bad thing, but I think I always want to see films that I can check out sooner than later, but that’s just me. I wish the ones in French all had subtitles or a different making-of video for online viewers so they don’t have to wait to watch them when they are finally dubbed or subbed. 

Favorite Panels: The House, Maya & The Three, Princess Dragon, Little Nicholas, Unicorn Wars, The Peasant, Fena: Pirate Princess, Robin Robin, Perlimps, Nayola.


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Con: None of the feature films were watchable online! 

I think this was the biggest issue, as while it was an issue last year, at least last year’s Online experience let you watch some films that were competing. I know and I get that there is a lot of legal and copyright stuff that kept some of these films out of the online portion of last year’s event, but since some of the films in competition waltzed right in with distributors, like Deer King got picked up by GKIDS and Viva Kids picked up Ape Star, why wouldn’t they be a part of the online part of the festival? I know last year’s batch of watchable films were mostly films with no real widespread value or appeal, but they decided this year that none of them were going to be watchable! I’m sure ya had to be there to see films like Snotty Boy or Mount Fuji Seen From a Train, which didn’t look like an animated film at all! The worst part is that they promised three films were going to be watchable online, but they just never showed up. You could watch the shorts and two old films from 1979 and 1981, but that was it. What is the point of having an online form of the festival when the online viewers can’t watch the features?! It doesn’t help either that Animation is Film 2021 was announced during Annecy, and will (for now) have an in-person and virtual experience with none of the hiccups that Annecy keeps having. Also, Animation First and the NYICFF had films that were fully watchable online! I don’t understand why they are so stingy outside of the obvious legal stuff, but if they aren’t going to have some feature films watchable online in an online version of the festival, then I would rather not participate at all. I was lucky to get a screener for one film, but that was it. Please, Annecy, I beg of you to make the films watchable online for online viewers next time! 

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Pro: Bubble Bath is a trippy film! 

Well, of the two older animated features they had to offer to the online viewers, I was excited to see Bubble Bath. This was a 1979 Hungarian film that had one of the wildest character designs and animation style out of any animated film from back then and even now. It was a film that said, “going off-model is the entire point.” It was also a musical, and while I don’t remember the songs, I thought it was charming! The story was decent enough, but I think the wild visuals and the story got lost within said visuals. Still, it was an experience I rather enjoyed, and once I see it become available in the US, I will buy a copy of the film. 

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Con: A majority of the French Annecy panels did not have subtitles on them! 

Listen, I would love to have all of the time in the world to learn other languages, and I know there are plenty of ways to learn said languages, but when a good chunk of the online viewers are from the US, well, I would just assume not everyone can speak or knows French. They have said the panels will get translated subtitles or dubs, but it makes me wish they did subtitle videos like they did last year. I could generally get what they were talking about, but fully getting it would have made some of them better experiences. 

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Pro: The Inu-Oh Preview. 

One of the highlights was seeing the first five minutes of Masaaki Yuasa’s new film, and boy, was it a ride. With the beautiful animation, the different tone, and the character designs, it’s always exciting to see what Yuasa and his team have come up with next. I’m sad this will be his last film for a while since he’s going to be on break, but if the rest of the film was as good as these first five minutes, then I can’t wait to see how the rest of the film unfolds.

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Con: Should have had more previews! 

I loved the Inu-Oh preview and admired the unknown horrors we will be stepping into with Space Jam: A New Legacy, but those were the only two? You couldn’t do previews of the films that were being shown off or upcoming films? What about the ones that were premiering there as screenings like Luck Favors Nikuko? I don’t know, it reeks of the online consumers not having a proper experience, while the in-person stuff got all of the love and support. 

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Pro: The Panels were a lifesaver

Seeing the Netflix, Ron’s Gone Wrong, and other informational animation panels were a nice addition to the Work-in-Progress panels. Being able to see new shows and upcoming films for services like Netflix was fun! 

Favorite Panels: The Netflix ones and Ron’s Gone Wrong

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Con: There needed to be more for the online attendees than just the shorts

Let’s be really frank here, the online viewers got the short end of the stick. The shorts were great! The panels were great! However, that was it. Again, I get that they wanted to focus on the in-person event, but if you aren’t going to offer an equal experience to the online filmgoers, then maybe don’t do an online experience. I still enjoyed my time at Annecy, but I want Annecy to do better. I want to talk about more of these films that everyone might want to know about, but when you don’t give me access to them, well, I don’t know if I can get the word out and maybe drum up some attention.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 223: Lamya’s Poem Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, WestEnd FIlms!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

For some reason, I have seen film snobs act as though there can only be one kind of story. If you have already told this story, then you can’t have a story set in the same place or time. I guess these snobs forgot that every story ever made is built upon or around a familiar story beat. In terms of animation, this seems to happen a lot. For example, for two years straight, we had three different bigfoot/yeti animated films. A lot of this is timing and coincidence, and what helped about those three films was the fact that each of them had a different setting and story. Not everyone has the same story, and you shouldn’t be gatekeeping what stories get told, because it may sound familiar to another film that already exists. If we thought like this, we wouldn’t have had Babe when Disney already put out Gordy. I say this because today’s film will probably be interesting to people who have seen Cartoon Saloon’s The Breadwinner and The Swallows of Kabul. Today’s review is of the Annecy In Competition film, Lamya’s Poem

Directed by Alexander Kronemer and produced by PIP Animation Services and the production company Lamya’s Poem, this film was previously revealed to be in last year’s Work in Progress section of the Annecy International Film Festival. It then came back with a vengeance for this year’s Annecy In Competition Section. Does this film have a chance in the competition section against Lion Dance BoyPoupelle of Chimney TownJosee, the Tiger, and the FishThe Deer KingMy Sunny MaadThe CrossingHayop Ka!Jiang ZiyaSnotty BoyThe Ape Star, and Flee? Well, let’s open up that poetry book and find out. 

The story revolves around a young girl named Lamya, voiced by Millie Davis. She lives in Aleppo with her mother, and the two of them live in fear of getting caught in the civil war happening in their country. One day, Lamya gets a special book from her teacher by a known poet named Rumi. The story then splits off into telling the origin of Rumi, voiced by Mena Massoud, who, along with his father, try to survive and avoid the grasp of an evil army that has wrecked their town. The film combines the stories of both Rumi and Lamya and has a load of spiritual and symbolic elements. Can Rumi find inner peace? Can Lamya and her mother avoid becoming victims caught in the crossfire of the civil war? 

What’s inspiring about this film is its tone. It may be animated, and while I wouldn’t say it’s as adult as The Breadwinner and The Swallows of Kabul, it still tells a story about survival, connection, and finding peace among the different people in this world. It’s a film that is aimed more at older kids, teenagers, and adults. I respect that so much because I still remember a time when studios would try to take a Disney approach to talk about stories and settings that are a touch dark for normal viewers, but then fails because the tone doesn’t work. Even when Disney tried this, they failed. This film doesn’t go as far as The Swallows of Kabul, but it doesn’t shy away from the horrors and troubles Lamya and her people go through. I am also a sucker for stories that intertwine the main characters and parallels the real events the leads are going through. It’s also a fairly quiet film that lets the characters breathe and let the actions from the story up to that point unfold. I wish more animated features were able to take a moment to let things settle down. 

The animation for this film is interesting. it reminds me of a mixture of how it is executed in hit shows like Archer, but with the art direction and visual style of a children’s book. That’s not a bad thing since it has a distinct visual style that makes it stand out from the other films. It does mix some CGI elements in, but for what it’s worth, the 2D and CGI are mixed well. The voice work is also pretty good! I enjoyed the performances of three of the actors Mena Massoud, Millie Davis, and Faran Tahir. I thought they put in some fairly compelling performances. It was also just nice to see Mena Massoud again since I thought he was the best part about that 2019 Aladdin remake. The music by composer Christopher Willis is probably one of the best aspects of the visual and audio presentation. It’s big in scale and brought an emotional note to the overarching story and the conflict that is intertwined within the stories told in this movie. 

If I had to complain about something, it’s that I think some of the sequences in the film would have been better if the animation was a touch more dynamic. While I don’t make the comparison to Archer as a bad thing, it has some of the same problems as Archer due to how stiff the characters can be. Some of the more intense and dramatic moments would have looked better if there were more dynamic poses. Maybe they couldn’t due to the time and limitation of the talent and budget they had, but it pulled me out of the moment at times. Some performances of the side characters felt wonky and not as good as the main performances. I was also a touch confused about when the stories decided to intertwine and I think it came down to pacing and when they would pop up. 

Even if you may like some films like the ones mentioned above more, I’m glad films like Lamya’s Poem exists. I think it’s important to tell stories that aren’t the typical animated fare. Animation is such a fantastic medium to tell stories, and this film proves it. It’s why I’m in love with film festivals like Annecy, because we get to see stories, good or bad, told through animation. Now then, let’s move back to something more familiar with Pixar’s newest feature LUCA.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 213: The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

One of the biggest problems with covering foreign animated features is a real lack of access to these films. You would think after so many of them getting nominated for awards, companies would be going head over heels to bring these films over. I recently wrote about the fact that there needs to be more companies like GKIDS, Shout! Factory, and LAAF out there bringing these films over. Luckily, with Neon picking up Flee and Magnolia picking up Cryptozoo, it means there will be more distributors putting their hats into the ring of foreign animation distribution to the US of A. One good thing about the pandemic is that film festivals, which would originally be offline and in person, are now all going digital. This is a great way for people to be able to see these films without having to resort to other means like importing them to view. I hope this situation continues because there needs to be a way for people to see films like The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily

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Directed by Lorenzo Mattotti, this CGI/2D animated feature is based on the book, The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati. It was shown at Annecy 2018 in the Work-in-Progress section and was fully shown off at Annecy 2019. Unfortunately, the production company behind the film, Prima Linea, shut down and that’s just a real bummer because it probably killed some avenues for it to be brought over, but I hope that it can be brought over to the states by another company. Anyway, let’s see if it should come over because as we have seen, not every foreign animated film is instantly better than the films from the US. 

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The story starts us off with a traveling entertainment duo named Almerina, voiced by Leila Bekhti, and Gedeone, voiced by Thomas Bidegain. After taking shelter in a cave to avoid a snowstorm, they encounter a very large elderly bear and decide to perform a story for said bear. The story they tell is the famous tale of “The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily”. This is when we move into the story of the king of bears Leonzio, voiced by Thierry Hancisse, and his son, Tonio, voiced by Arthur Dupont. While playing in a lake one day catching fish, Tonio is swept away by the water and captured by hunters. Saddened by the potential loss of his son, Leonzio sits on top of a cliff overlooking the valley. When winter arrives, the king still sits on the cliff. Sadly for his clan of bears, they grow hungry and worry about their survival. The eldest bear among the ranks convinces Leonzio that his son could be among the humans. Once convinced, Leonzio takes his clan of bears and marches down the mountains to the city of Sicily to find his son and deal with whatever gets in his way. 

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I know a lot of my reviews recently have started with talking about the animation side of things, but I have to talk about the animation in this film. It’s a mix of 2D and CGI animation, and it’s some of the most striking visuals I have ever seen. The bountiful color pallet, the grand landscape shots, the surreal designs, the fantastical music that accompanies these visuals make for one of the most visually challenging films in the animation scene. Do you know the term “every frame is a painting”? Well, that describes every single frame of this film. If the Contrechampe section of Annecy is to challenge the perspective of how animation can look, then this film would sweep that category. It’s also one of the more seamless combinations of 2D and CGI that I have seen in European animation. It’s a visual treat if you can’t tell by my gushing about it. It all feels like a storybook brought to life. 

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However, a film with strong visuals also needs a strong story, and to be fair, this film uses fantasy and dream logic in its story of a civilization of bears invading a human kingdom to find the bear king’s son. Luckily, the story itself has some rather mature themes including death, forgiveness, the nature of humans, the bond between a father and son, anti-war sentiments, and it even has some elements of Animal Farm where the bears take hold of the vices of man. It’s a film that’s juggling plenty of plates, but I think the story was told well enough to not feel too busy or too jarring the transition from story 1 to story 2. It’s a different kind of story from the first to the second half. I didn’t mind it that much, but I can understand if people found it jarring. The performances were also stellar with each of the characters feeling distinct and not just because of the visuals that gave you pretty much all the details of who they were. 

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The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily is easily one of my favorite animated films of the year so far. With its striking visuals, fairytale-style storytelling that can mix complex themes about the flaws of humanity and corruption alongside a strong father/son dynamic makes it easily one of the most stellar animated experiences I have seen in a long time. It’s also an animated film that hits the target of being a film anyone can enjoy. It’s whimsical for kids, but it has enough of a mature edge to the overall story and themes that older kids and adults can enjoy. Well, next time, I will be talking about the second film I saw at the New York Children’s International Film Festival with the Chinese animated feat known as The Legend of Hei

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 206: Calamity Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

In terms of animated films, one of my favorite features from the 2010s was 2016’s Long Way North. While it was an animated film, it told a more mature story about a girl who went north to find her grandfather and protect his and her family’s legacy. Remi Chaye and his team made a compelling experience with some truly out of this world animation. It’s always a good reminder that a lot of films and shows from overseas are not made just for kids or just for adults. Storytelling in animation can span a wide grayscale of tones, themes, and experiences. The rest of the world has gotten this, and a good example of this is Chaye’s film from 2020, Calamity: a Childhood of Martha Jane Canary

Directed by Remi Chaye, written by Chaye, Sandra Tosello, Fabrice De Costil, and produced by Maybe Movies, Calamity made it big last year at the Annecy International Film Festival as the film that took home the main prize. It has gotten glowing reviews since its October release in France, and made its US debut in 2021 at the Animation First Festival alongside fellow acclaimed French film Josep. Of course, if it wasn’t obvious, this is an adaptation of the story of the famed frontier woman of the same name. So, with the year still being young, and the world of animation looking vibrant as usual, let’s dive in and see what this film is all about. 

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Our story revolves around a young girl named Martha Jane Canary, voiced by Salome Boulven. She is traveling with her father and siblings in a caravan to Oregon. While her family is not liked because of classism shenanigans, Martha is annoyed about how she is looked down upon due to her being a girl. Even the other girls and women don’t go out of their roles in the caravan. After some upsets, like her father getting injured and Martha having to take responsibility and control of her cart and family, Martha encounters a supposed northern soldier. He decides to help her and her people out, but then one night, the soldier leaves, and not only that, supposedly stole items from some of the families. Of course, with this being the period that it is, Martha is framed for the thievery and decides to go on a journey to reclaim the stolen goods. Along the way, she is joined by a dog named Pik, a young man trying to find his way in this land, and a woman who runs a mining company looking for gold. 

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If I had to pick a theme or a topic of what this film is all about, it’s about how we are perceived in this world. Whether it’s by our wealth, gender, or occupation, this film has a lot of focus on identity and how you define who you are. You can see that commentary throughout the film as you observe the small character-based interactions. Of course, with this being a western, there is a lot of lasso-throwing, adventure, and exploration through the wild. You will find yourself going through the lavish open fields and countryside, small mining towns, and encounters with Native Americans. Luckily, the encounter with the Native Americans in the film is brief but way more respectful than you would think. If this film was made in the 60s and 70s, that might be a different story, and Martha doesn’t disrespect them or talk down to them. It’s a rough world in Calamity, as our lead character has to deal with discrimination and sexism due to her gender. Martha is a great female lead as she’s tough, takes no bull from the boys and men she encounters, but is not just spunk and grit. She’s vulnerable and has a tomboyish side to her as well. She’s on par with Chaye’s previous film’s lead. While the boy she encounters after leaving her group starts out annoying and a bit much, he does get fleshed out and you get his entire arc by the end of the film. Even Samson, the northern soldier has some of the better moments in the film. It’s a wildly fleshed out film, and while there are some antics and goofy moments, they never feel like they talk down to the audience and are fairly funny. The entire experience with the story and watching this film feels more like a True Grit or News of the World than a Magnificent 7 or some melodramatic western drama. 

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Since this is by the same director behind Long Way North, you can expect the film to look downright amazing. No shock, it does look amazing. Its mix of 2D and CGI animation is gorgeous, and while there are points where you can tell what is CGI, it’s pretty consistent overall and the noticeable parts aren’t major. I love how the bodies and the world around them don’t have black outlines, and it gives a distinct look with its soft greens, browns, yellows, and oranges. It feels like a painting of the west in motion. The music by Florence Di Concilio is delightfully western with a heavy emphasis on string instruments. It’s a fantastic soundtrack with a cute song sung by a children’s choir during the credits. The voice cast is pretty good, but I have to say that my favorite performances were from Salome Boulven, Alexandra Lamy, Alexis Tomassian, Jochen Hagele, and Leonard Louf. The overall cast was great. 

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Outside of some slightly clunky CGI moments, and some of the side characters being fairly forgettable, I adored Calamity. It’s a film that shows how to write female characters well, tell a satisfying and grown-up story without having to dabble in dark and edgy for edgy sake content. It talks to you like it considers you it’s equal. Once this film gets a wider release, and a US distributor, I think everyone should watch it! I have heard rumbles there is a US distributor, but I can’t say it with full-on faith until I’m proven right. Still, if you can find some way to watch this movie, do so! Now then, one Animation First film down, and one more to go. Next time, I’m going to review the acclaimed French animated drama, Josep

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essential 

The Other Side of Animation 178: The Wonderland Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

It is nice that in the Japanese animation scene, more directors and creators are becoming more popular. Japan has some of the most talented individuals working in the animation scene, and it is satisfying that Makoto Shinkai, Masaaki Yuasa, Mari Okada, and Mamoru Hosoda are now world-renowned, but I feel like one director deserves some more recognition than he gets, Keiichi Hara. While starting by working on some iconic shows like Doraemon and Crayon Shin-chan, he has also had a small, but fruitful directorial film career working on films from those franchises, and his own films like Summer Days with CooColorful, and one of my faves from 2016, Miss Hokusai. However, we are talking about his newest film that got a small release thanks to Elevenarts, The Wonderland.

Originally titled Birthday Wonderland, and based on the 1988 story Strange Journey from the Basement, Hara’s newest film premiered last year in April, and was able to compete in the 2019 Annecy International Film Festival, but like many of the films there at the festival, lost to the festival smash hit, I Lost My Body. It even missed out on being shown at Animation is Film 2019, and hasn’t had the most fanfare. It doesn’t help either that while it got pretty positive reviews, they still came with hefty criticism. So, what do I think about this adventurous film? Well, you have to read the review.

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The story revolves around a teenage girl named Akane, a pretty average teenage girl with not a whole lot of self-confidence. One day, her mother requests she go visit her aunt named Chi to pick up a special gift. While there, she peruses the items that Chi has acquired. One of the items that stands out is this piece of stone with a handprint in it. Akane then decides to put her hand in the print and it ends up with the hand fitting in the, well, stone. Then, out of the store’s basement, a dapper individual walks out. He turns out to be a famed alchemist known as Hippocrates. He explains that he is from another world, and since Akane’s hand fits the print, she is the Green Goddess, and must come back with Hippocrates and his assistant Pipo back to The Wonderland. Reluctantly, Akane and her aunt go with Hippocrates to save their land and to avoid the evil plans of a masked individual. Can Akane save the day? Can she find the courage to make it through a magical world?

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There is a lot we can start with, but let’s talk about the standout element to the film, the visuals, and animation. This is a very pretty film with lush vibrant colors, beautiful landscapes, and fantastical locations. While there is CGI used in this film, you can tell it’s better integrated into the 2D animation than Ni No Kuni. I was in awe most of the time looking at all of the creative landscapes and designs. It’s hard to be grumpy at a film with large puffball sheep and being able to ride giant koi fish. The designs also stand out from the rest of the pack. Sure, the designs of the humans may not look unique, but it’s the person behind them that makes all of the difference. The designs are by Russian Illustrator Ilya Kushinov. She brings in a very unique look to the film, and it stands out among the different anime films coming out. In terms of themes, the film is another coming-of-age film about dealing with self-doubt and becoming a better person through trust and helping others. Akane starts out as a nervous wreck, who is reluctant to better herself, but throughout the film, she becomes a more self-reliant individual who has faith in herself. Even the villain this time around is more interesting, due to his circumstances brought upon him. The voice work is pretty solid, but I have only seen the subtitle version for right now, but since this is Elevenarts, I’m sure the dub will be good. The music is also stellar, especially with the film’s theme song by Milet, which has been stuck in my head for weeks.

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Now, I do have a few negatives to talk about. While I love the majority of the cast, Akane isn’t the most interesting female lead. She isn’t terrible, but she’s fairly boilerplate. I also wasn’t fully on board with some of the mannerisms of Chi. She’s great, but there are a few moments that made me roll my eyes. I think my favorite characters were Hippocrates and the villain. I also found the pacing to be wonky. A lot of the film has the characters driving around, and I don’t mind that aspect, but once it hits the third act, the pacing becomes very stop-and-go. It’s almost jarring how oddly paced the last third is. I also wish there could have been more time expanding on this world than it being taken up by driving, because I loved the fantasy world.

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While I still prefer Miss Hokusai, I liked Keiichi Hara’s newest film. It has a lot of personality, charm, and fantasy whimsy to recommend to anyone looking for a fun adventure. Sadly, with its limited release, you will have to wait for it to arrive on Blu-ray, but if you don’t mind the wait, then you will probably enjoy this flick! Well, it’s time to move onto our next film, but sadly, we have to wait for it to arrive on Netflix. Next time, we will be talking about one of three animated films based on video games this year. We already talked about Ni No Kuni, so we will be moving down to Dragon Quest: Your Story.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 173: I Lost My Body Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

We seem to have a peculiar relationship with films that go through the festival circuit. Unless you get to be a critic, and fly out to Sundance, Cannes, Annecy, and all of the big and small film festivals, audiences and most critics don’t get to see much from these festivals until they are released in theaters. Then, when more people can lay their eyeballs onto the film, the reaction tends to be different than the festival reactions. Is there a certain kind of air to festivals that changes your perspective on film? Should people trust quick impressions or reviews from said festivals? Either way, I find it interesting when a big festival winner makes it to wide release, and the reaction is different across the board than what the critics say during the festivals. This was my experience with I Lost My Body.

Directed by Jeremy Clapin with a screenplay by Guillaume Laurant, this French animated film was the big cheese of the festival circuit. It was winning left and right, showered with critical acclaim, and was the Grand Prize winner at the 3rd Animation is Film Festival. Now then, despite getting all the acclaim in the world, did it fall victim to the festival crowd, or does it deserve the huge amount of acclaim under its belt? Well, let’s see how attached I feel to this unique film.

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Our story follows a severed hand, as it ventures across an entire city to try and get back together with the body it was attached to. Well, that’s only half of the story. The other half is following a young man named Naofel, dubbed by Dev Patel, as we follow his life from childhood to being a young adult, and his relationship with a woman named Gabrielle, dubbed by Alia Shawkat.

So, where do I stand with this film? Outside of the glowing festival-time reviews, there are two different camps for this film. You are either on the side of loving both sides of the film. Or, you are on the side of loving the severed hand’s adventure, but not the human side of the story. Granted, you need both sides for the story to make sense, but I get it. On one hand (heh), you have a story about a young man who feels confined to a narrow-minded way of living, and feels like he can’t be free. It’s a film with a lot more of an emotional/philosophical logic behind the incidents in the story. It’s a film about connection and freedom. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t get why the hand segments are more loved than the human segments. There is something way more fascinating about watching this hand traverse its way around a city, and try to get back with the body it belongs to. The way the animators have the hand movement is so animalistic and real. It’s like a twisted fairy tale as you see the encounters this hand goes through from fending off rats to ending up in a baby’s crib. Due to the power of animation, there is something magical and entertaining to watching the hand sequences. You get so much emotion and life out of the hand when you compare those moments with the human.

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I’m not saying the human parts are bad, because there are some emotional moments in the film as well. Again, you can’t have just one part, because you need both sides of the film to make sense. If you wanted to make it just about the hand, then you would need to rework half of the story. Unfortunately, there are areas where the human love story has some questionable elements around it. Now, the film is aware of this, and it has a better conclusion than you would think. The film is aware that the male lead encountering the female lead and what happens between them can be considered a touch stalkerish, and it’s not like you can’t make an interesting romance with an iffy set up. The problem is that you have to make it so you forget about the ickier parts, and I don’t really forget that this guy does go around stalking this woman. I know this film is working on more magical/dream logic, but there still needs to be this consistency within the story and tone, and it’s not really there through a majority of the human side of the story. The ending was also underwhelming to me. To be fair, I get what the ending was doing, but it felt a little too open arthouse for me. I get it, but it’s not for me.

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Still, there is a lot to love about this film. The mix of 2D designs with CGI bodies is wonderful, and while the humans are obviously animated with more limitation to them than the dismembered hand, you can tell what the characters are feeling, and the designs are delightful to look at. I had a hard time wondering how they pulled off this look, because you don’t get to see a lot of CGI features that get to branch out, and not look like a third-rate Disney or Pixar film. I highly recommend finding the behind-the-scenes videos about how the director got the look of the film down. I can’t stress again how much I adore the hand sequences. There is a reason this film picked up a lot of traction just for this part of the story alone. The music by Dan Levy is also gorgeous, giving off an ethereal and atmospheric vibe to the overall experience

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Yeah, by the wording of this review, you can probably tell that I’m not fully on board with the immense amount of festival hype, and if I had to be honest, I’m really happy I saw White Snake instead of I Lost My Body at Animation is Film Festival. However, with all that said, I still did enjoy I Lost My Body. Even if I’m not fully on board with arthouse films, I’m glad they exist. I guess you can say I have a complicated relationship with them. I don’t think it fully accomplished its goal, but I also like having something this ambitious and creative around. It’s widely available on Netflix right now, so if you are looking for an animated film to wash out the taste of Arctic Dogs and Playmobil: The Movie, then I would highly recommend I Lost My Body. Speaking of Playmobil: The Movie, why don’t we look at that film next?

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 169: Zombillenium Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

One of the best aspects of animated features which go the distance is that they are more than willing to talk about a problem that we have to deal with in real life. Maybe it’s something relating to family, maybe it’s related to society as a whole, and they felt like it was important to talk about it. The best-animated films either made in the US or overseas usually have something to say underneath the main story. Sadly, not all studios have that freedom, and either can’t go too deep with the commentary or have to stay within the parameters of a film aimed at a family audience. I think that is what happened with Zombillenium.

Directed and written by Arthur de Pins and Alexis Ducord, and based on the comic series of the same name and by the same duo, Zombillenium was released back in May 2017 in France, and from what I could gather, bombed, only making a little over $1 mil of its $15 mil budget. It then appeared at the Annecy Film festival in 2017 where it competed against films like Tehran TabooEthel and ErnestBig Fish & BegoniaA Silent VoiceAnimal CrackersLu Over the WallLoving Vincent, and In This Corner of the World. It was even one of the first films chosen for the first annual Animation is Film Festival in LA that same year. After that, the film’s release went silent, until recently, when fans or unknowing animation-goers saw that it was brought over quietly by Universal and went straight-to-DVD. Even the few reviews I have found for this film were mixed to negative. So, was it worth the wait? Or did this film get buried for a reason? Let’s zombie shuffle our way through the park and find out!

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The main story revolves around a man named Hector, a compliance officer who essentially makes sure things are running well. You can say he’s a health inspector for companies. After he drops his daughter off at school, he then arrives at the famous amusement park, Zombillenium. He finds the park not staying up to code, but Hector pushes on, as the manager of the park, a vampire named Francis tries to stall the inspector as many times as he can. Hector then stumbles onto something he shouldn’t see, and Francis decides to take care of it personally. He turns Hector into a monster who can’t leave the park. Maybe another monster in the park can help raise attendance because the park is losing customers fast. It’s being threatened by Satan himself to be shut down, and all the monsters there will be sent to hell. Can Hector find a way to help revitalize the park? Can he ever become human again? Will he be able to see his daughter?

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So, what is the overall point of this film? I have finally seen it, and to me, it’s juggling a “we have to save the park, because we are all a family” storyline and, to me, the film’s main appeal, a commentary about the workforce. Having the film set in a theme park, where most of the workers are zombies and other monsters add a fun creative spin to the commentary about how employees are treated at places like this, and in general. The film is full of symbolic context that gives the film much more substance under the skin than you might think. However, that’s also the biggest problem. The film wants to show off that commentary, and it does bring it up in the dialogue, but it’s not the focus. The focus is more on the family-friendly storyline of saving the park. Granted, the stakes are high, since if they don’t save the park, they all go to literal hell, but still. The more family-friendly side of things isn’t even all that interesting. The dialogue feels clunky, a lot of the jokes do not land, and the pop culture references are sadly dated. It’s the problem when it takes so long to make indie animation that the jokes may not land, or the references are dated. Expect a lot of Twilight-related jabs.

So, the overall story is flawed, but what about the characters and the dubbing? Sadly, I did not like the English dub for this film. Some dialogue moves fast, sometimes they don’t match the lip movements, and I found most of the voices grating. It’s one of those times where I prefer the subtitles over the English casting. It’s not that everyone is bad, it’s the execution and the voice choice for some of the characters. Speaking of the characters, I found many of them to look cool, but lack dimension within their personality. I don’t know if it’s because they had to cram an entire story into 80 or so minutes, but it suffers for it. I found myself only rooting for a few of the monsters like Francis, the cool skeleton guy, adoring the witch, and a day of the dead-looking zombie woman. Hector isn’t a bad leading male, but his redemption arc happens abruptly at times, and it never felt natural. I’m going to assume that the characters are way more fleshed out in the comics, because some of this screams that it maybe should have been a TV series and not a movie.

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So, what do I like about it? Well, the animation, while showing some clunky movements here and there, is very unique compared to what usually comes out of CGI from overseas. They translated the look of the comic perfectly, and despite not having the biggest budget, they made the characters stand out. Everyone has a different look and movement. It’s a unique looking movie that looks like it was made with 2D designs wrapped around CGI bodies. Despite not caring for many of the jokes due to how they don’t land or are outdated, when the jokes work, they are really funny. I think the best jokes revolve around the skeleton, and they take advantage of him a lot. Once again, I also adored the commentary when they focused on it.

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I can see Zombillenium growing a fanbase over the years to come, but I can also see why no one knows about it, and why Universal quietly threw it on DVD. It feels incomplete and fighting against itself to be both a family film and a slightly more creative young teen/older adult film. It has a bit too much edge for younger kids, but it’s too childish for adults. If you want to see it. I would recommend renting it, but the DVD itself is only $10 on Amazon if you want to buy it. Maybe if they can make a sequel, they can improve upon the writing and story, but seeing how it bombed, and not fully knowing if they are not hurt by all of this, I don’t think we will be returning to Zombillenium anytime soon. Still, I would rather go back to the zombie-filled amusement park than where we will be going next time. I won’t even say where we are going, and you will have to find out.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 161: Funan Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Warning/Parental Heads up!: This film is absolutely not aimed at a children’s audience. This is an extremely adult film that focuses on a true historical genocide that happened in Cambodia. Younger viewers should avoid this flick, and go see The Angry Birds Movie 2. Viewer’s discretion is advised.

Animation unfortunately gets pigeonholed into being aimed at a children and family audience. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, because sometimes, a film or show aimed at a family audience, given the right writers and the right execution, can tackle tough subject matter.  Sadly, something that the entertainment industry sadly seems to limit is animation for more teen and older adult audiences. Just because it’s animated, it doesn’t mean you can’t tackle something aimed at an older audience. We get plenty of adult animated shows like Bojack Horseman and Big Mouth, but feature films are, for some reason, kept off the production line. Yeah, we got 2016’s Sausage Party, but that film’s controversy of how the animators were treated unfortunately killed the theatrical chance of seeing more on the big screen. This is why the foreign animation scene is so incredible, because it knows that you can tackle different genres, themes, and have all kinds of audiences. Plus, when will the live-action Hollywood scene tackle something like Dennis Do’s Funan? Directed by, well, Dennis Do, and distributed in the states by GKIDS, this French-animated feature ruled the film festival scene in 2018 by taking home major accolades from Annecy, second place-Jury Prize from the 20th Bucheon International Animation Festival, and the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2nd Animation is Film Festival. As far as I can tell, this is 2019’s best animated feature. Why? Well, let’s dive in, shall we?

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The story follows a Cambodian woman named Chou, her husband Khuon, Sovanh, their son, Khuon’s brother Meng, Chou’s mother, grandmother, and their other children Hout, Tuch, and Lili. They are living peacefully in Cambodia, but are unfortunately caught up in the notoriously destructive Khmer Rouge, as they are separated from each other and try to survive and reunite. Can they try to avoid being killed, and become stronger by making it through this violent time?

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So, you think with this film being animated and such, they would pull back on the punches and darkness of the events shown. I mean, that’s what Sgt. Stubby did. Well, Dennis Do did not pull back on any punches. The film is unapologetic about showing the darker moments of this incident, and that includes scenes of murder, innocents stepping on hidden landmines, suicide, and so on. It’s definitely a film that is, to no surprise, aimed at a much older audience. However, it’s not really all about the terror of this incident. It really does focus on the family, and how they try to make sense out of what is going on, as they try to survive and not end up in front of an extremist’s rifle. You get the closeness of the family as they attempt to play along until they are able to reconnect or find a way to escape the hell in which they are put. You get a sense of everyone in the family, although the real main characters are the father, mother, and son. It’s a fairly quiet film as the emotions are told through the visuals. You feel for the family, and you want them to survive. Dennis Do knew how to balance it all out as every intense moment constantly hits hard. It’s a powerful emotional experience.

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The animation is incredible. It has a beautiful lush watercolor art direction that has smooth animation and great character designs. You can feel the emotion coming off of the characters’ faces. Gorgeous backgrounds and scenery is found among the regime-riddled camps that the film is usually set in for a chunk of the story. What also helps bring the emotions to a perfect level is the music by composer Thibault Kientz Agyenman. A lot of the soundtrack is full of tunes that set a somber, but optimistic tone that really envelopes you into the situation. This also includes powerful performances from Berenice Nejo and Louis Garrel.

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I knew I was in for something special when I saw the trailer, the news that it was doing well on the festival circuit, and how it was one of the first films selected for the Animation is Film Festival, and I was happy to be one of the first US film fans to see this breathtaking experience. Sure, some critics, for one reason or another, think it should have been about the genocide, but that wasn’t the point of the film. Just because it’s set during an intense period of time, doesn’t mean that has to be the entire focus. The entire film was inspired by the stories that Do would ask his mother about that time period, and it was crafted into this beautiful story. To me, that comment comes off like they wanted the film to be something different than what they got. Funan is a powerful film, and when it comes out on Blu-ray, or if you are lucky to find a theater playing it, buy the Blu-ray or see the film! Seriously, if you want more original films that help animation’s image in the US, please see this film. Unfortunately, since these types of films don’t get much screentime, how about we move on to a delightful surprise with The Angry Birds Movie 2? I think that would be pretty nice! Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

Animation Tidbits: Annecy 2019 Part 1

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

So, it’s another year, and that means the E3 of animation, the Annecy International Film Festival, is going to happen! This year, the special guest country is Japan, and the line-up that includes films from Japan is impressive! This article will tackle the films that are in the main competition. The line-up has many strong films, and I’ll be talking about a few that I have mentioned before.

Honorable Mention: Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

Competing last year in the “Out of Competition” section, I have seen the full film at Animation is Film 2018, and I loved it. It’s easily one of my favorite animated films of this decade, and it told a compelling story about a real-life filmmaker saving his career and finding out about himself. It has beautiful animation. The only reason why I’m putting it in the Honorable Mentions category is that it’s about to have a US release as well. Still, if you are going to Annecy, and you can go see this film, do so!

 

Now then, let’s get on with the other films!

Birthday Wonderland

Directed by Keiichi Hara, the director of one of 2016’s best animated features, Miss Hokusai, Birthday Wonderland tells the story of a young girl named Akane, who gets visited by an alchemist named Hippocrates and the student of the alchemist Pipo. They tell Akane that they are on a quest to save the world, and go into a basement to teleport into a world known as Wonderland. One of the stand-out details for me is the art direction. It looks incredible, but it’s more who is attached to it that is interesting to me. The visuals and character designs are being done by a Russian artist named Iiya Kuvshinov. You don’t really see outside artists work on Japanese productions. It’s a rare sight indeed. It definitely looks like a fun fantastical adventure with plenty of whimsical visuals and a cheerful tone that I hope delivers a wonderful experience.

Ride Your Wave

Directed by Masaaki Yuasa, famed director of Lu Over the Wall Mindgame, and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, the story follows the relationship of Hinako, a college girl who loves to surf, and Minato, a firefighter who also loves to surf. After Minato passes away during a surfing accident, Hinako goes into a depression. However, when she sings a song that was close to the two, she finds that Minato is back! Well, as a ghost that’s trapped in the water. Yeah, this is going to be another odd and abstract film from the creative anime director. It looks to be a film about dealing with grief and growing up. I’m just sitting here now waiting for it to pop up at the Animation is Film Festival line-up, and for GKids to pick it up!

White Snake

Directed by Amp Wong and Ji Zhao, and a prequel to the Chinese Fable, Legend of the White Snake, it tells the story about a hunter and a snake disguised as a woman. I’m a bit worried how people who are not familiar with the original story will react to this, and its slightly more adult tone may turn off certain people, but I think for Chinese animation, it looks impressive. Their CGI might not be all there yet, but it looks better than most features that come out of China. Hopefully, the story will be compelling and interesting enough for those not aware of the fable.

Swallows of Kabul

I know I have talked about this film by duo directors Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbe-Mevellec, but since we have a new trailer of the film based on the book of the same name, I wanted to make sure people know about it. It still has a lot of the incredible animation that we saw in the previous teaser for the film, and we get a little more about the story about two families that become intertwined by a corrupt society. It looks great, and I bet we will see this one at Animation is Film later this year.

I Lost My Body

Directed by Jeremy Clapin, this French animated feature focuses on a living human hand that goes on a perilous adventure to be reattached to its body. Yeah, this is easily one of the more complex animated features competing this year. You get an adult vibe from the trailer, which could lead to some fairly mature topics. I’m not entirely sure how this premise is going to carry on through a feature-length film, but it’s a film that stands out from the rest, due to its premise!

The Famous Bear Invasion of Sicily

We finally have a trailer for this one! The story itself hasn’t changed, about a bear prince that ends up in the human kingdom that causes a stir between them and the bears. I wanted to bring up the insanely creative visuals. This is done by the same studio that did the Oscar-nominated The Red Turtle and Zarafa, Prima Linea Productions. The vibrant colors, the well-executed CGI animation, and the fantastical imagery really give this film some life that not a lot of other animated features can have. All the visuals look like they are part of some kind of painting come to life, and it’s crazy how lush the colors are! I really hope this comes over to the Animation is Film Festival later this fall.

Marona’s Fantastic Tale

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Finally, we have Marona’s Fantastic Tale! Directed by Anca Damian, this Romania, France, and Belgium collaboration follows a dog, which recently passes away, and goes through a journey through her life and the people that she encountered. This is a truly unique-looking animated feature with a pastel painting look to the characters, with a bunch of bright colors and eye-opening visuals to tell a story about love. It’s a small-scale-looking film that I think would be awesome to watch.

Animation Tidbits #9: Annecy 2018 Part 4

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial/list!)

Welcome back to the unexpectedly amazing Annecy 2018 breakdown! This will be the final editorial about this festival before the June viewing of the event. This will include films that are being shown either fully made, or are in the final stages of completion. It will include both big budget films and smaller films. If you haven’t seen part 1, part 2, and part 3, then you should definitely go to those and see what the world is doing in animation.

Other Films

Wreck it Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet: While I enjoyed the first film, despite it losing steam in the third act, I found it to be one of the more interesting Disney-animated features, that revolves around a technology-based setting. It’s definitely a bit disappointing that they are moving to the internet to make fun of that, rather than going from arcade games to console games. Granted, the bit about click bait, Ebay, and the mobile game were funny, but since the original film skimped on the video game stuff, you kind of felt like you were deprived of what the film was advertising. Still, I am excited to see how this film turns out.

Hotel Transylvania 3: It’s not a perfect franchise, and there are definitely really crummy things about it, but I’ll admit, I do like watching these films. I don’t crave them all year long, but Genndy Tartakovsky has brought a lot of life and personality to animated features, that I hope he can bring more to in the future. While the plot for this film seems a tad clichéd, since now Dracula is going on a cruise to relax and maybe find a new love interest, I still hope it can be good.

The Incredibles 2: While many really love the original, it was interesting to see how people reacted to the sequel’s trailer. There are talks that it might have major sequelitis problems, where the roles have been reversed with Helen Parr being the superhero that goes around saving the day, while Bob helps the kids. I don’t fully agree with the negative backlash or concerns, but I get where they are coming from. It still has some interesting ideas that I hope are more fleshed out in the film. The animation is beautiful, and I love the addition of Bob Odenkirk as a new character in the film.

White Fang: Probably the most anticipated animated feature that will be distributed by Netflix this year. It’s by the director who did the award-winning short Mr. Hublot.  It’s an adaptation of the 1906 novel of the same name, but this time, with a rather vibrant art style. Sure, you can kind of tell there is something weird with the human movements, but the colors are what really bring this film up to another level. I love how everything looks painted, and it definitely gives the film a lush and identifiable identity among the animated films this year.

Another Day of Life: This is yet another mature animated feature, telling the story of what happened during the 1973 civil war in Angola. The story is told in a vibrant and beautiful underground comic book art style. It might look like a lot of rotoscoping was used, but you can’t deny that its colors and advantages with animation will make this story of a horrific event interesting to watch. It will also supposedly have a few moments of live-action sequences thrown in by the person that documented this incident. It reminds me of 25 April and Waltz with Bashir. I can’t wait.