Worst to Best Animated Films of 2016 Part 3

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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!)

Welcome back, everyone, to part 3 of this very long list. As usual, if you haven’t seen part 2, here is a link to it. I’m counting down the worst-to-the-best animated films that I saw from 2016, and we shall now move onto the films that are really good, and I would start highly recommending them as not just rentals, but purchases. These are the films that you should have in your movie collection.

18. Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders

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I think it’s safe to say that The Return of the Caped Crusaders was the most universally loved of the films DC put out in 2016. While yes, it did go off of nostalgia of the Adam West TV series, it still was able to hold its own with very clever writing and commentary about how Batman has been portrayed in recent history. The jokes are hilarious, and the cast of actors are all pretty good. The film does start to lose steam in the final act, and sometimes the actors deliver some clunky lines, but don’t let that get in the way of you from checking out the best DC film from 2016.

17. Mune: Guardian of the Moon

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I consider this to be the The Book of Life of 2016. Mune: Guardian of the Moon has a really great CGI visual style, a cool world, and it does that thing I like about foreign animated films, and dips into both CGI and 2D animation. I love the idea about how everything is a cooperative effort, and one side can’t do everything without having some setbacks. I also think it does the foreign CGI animation the best alongside The Painting, since it looks great with a truly unique visual style. It’s a shame though, that it suffers from the same problems that The Book of Life suffers from in that the lead characters aren’t that interesting and the token female is very bland. The world also need a tiny bit more fleshing out, since the beginning of the film sort of rushes you into it. They also could have taken out some characters, and they would not be missed. Still, I overlooked those flaws, because I had a blast watching a film that also gave off a bad first impression. Once GKids releases this film in August, I would definitely recommend watching it.

16. 25 April

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If you wanted something to compliment your copy of Hacksaw Ridge, then this is the film for you. 25 April tackles a real-life battle from World War 1 known as the Gallipoli Campaign. Like a lot of foreign animated CGI films, they use motion-capture, but pair it up with a rather colorful and vibrant comic book-style art to the characters. However, you shouldn’t think this is going to be nothing but rainbows and cupcakes that spew kittens. Why? Because the battle they show is brutal, violent, but since it’s animation, it also brings in some very pretty and creative visuals. I was really hooked on the characters, and learning a bit about the history of the battle since I’m not fully familiar with what went on during the first World War. However, the motion-capture movements can come off as wonky, and there are a few odd decisions in the story that did take me out of the viewing experience. I haven’t seen an official US release announcement of the film yet, but I hope to hear about it soon, so hopefully, everyone else can check out a rather unique film.

15. Your Name

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When I was making this list, and everyone was saying this was the best film of 2016 along with the best animated film of 2016, I knew I was going to upset everyone when I put Your Name so “low” on the list. I still very much enjoyed the movie. The animation was gorgeous, the scenery was beautiful, I enjoyed the chemistry between the two leads, and I think the overall idea and experience is one everyone should check out. Unfortunately, I found the story to fall apart by the second half. They also needed to explain some elements better, like the body-swapping, and what exactly is going on in the second half after the big twist. I was still invested by the end, and I still enjoy this movie, but personally, this film was overhyped. It’s flawed, but I still liked it, and people should indeed go support it.

14. Phantom Boy

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You mean the duo of directors behind A Cat in Paris made a new movie? Of course, I’m going to watch it and buy it. This tale about a sick boy who can leave his body, and gets wrapped up in a crime thriller is one of the more fun animated films of 2016. The kid is great, the police officer is great, and Vincent D’Onofrio is just perfectly hammy as the villain. It has the same charming chemistry and alluring atmosphere that kept me invested all the way through A Cat in Paris. It does have some issues, like I think they could have gone deeper and more complex with the lead’s ability to leave his body, and the ending is sort of confusing, but I still had a fun time with this creative crime thriller.

13. Kung Fu Panda 3

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Be prepared everyone, this is the last good DreamWorks film we are going to get for a while. Seriously though, all joking aside, I really did like the third film with its emphasis on the father-to-son relationship, and the father-to-stepfather relationship. It was really the heart of the movie on top of the great humor, fun action, and gorgeous animation. There is a reason why this is one of DreamWorks best franchises. Unfortunately, it fell a tad flat, due to a weak if enjoyable villain, and it had a few too many familiar story elements from the previous films. I still love this movie, but it’s one of those films that got hit by the sequel-itis bug, and couldn’t fully escape it. Even then, I really loved this film and it showed you can have good movies in January.

12. Finding Dory

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I know this was also a very popular movie, since it was one of the most financially profitable films of 2016, but like Kung Fu Panda 3, Finding Dory did fall into a tiny bit of sequel-itis that holds it back from me fully enjoying it. Sure, it’s just the first 20 minutes, but still. I also just love Finding Nemo so much, and no matter how good this film was going to be, it was never going to top the original. However, even with all that said, Finding Dory is still really good. I love Dory’s story arc, and how the themes are aimed more at adults than the children, the animation is downright amazing, the colors are vibrant, the voice cast is perfect, and the characters are very memorable. It’s a movie that touches the heart and soul, even if it wasn’t my favorite film of the year.

11. The Red Turtle

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While it is a bummer that this film didn’t make more money, since it’s one of the most unique films of the year, it’s understandable, since for some reason or another, people don’t really know how to react to films with minimal or no dialogue. It means that with no witty or creative dialogue to rely on for the overall experience, the film’s animation and story has to be tight. For the most part, The Red Turtle does succeed in completing such a task. It’s a beautiful and emotional meditation on life, and how one goes through the hardships and challenges that life can put in front of you. I think the story could have been a bit tighter, and some elements could have been explained better. I also don’t see myself watching this Oscar-nominated film a lot, but I still really think people should support it.

Stay tuned for the final part of the list coming out in the future.

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Why Your Name Probably Wasn’t Chosen at the Oscars

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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, recently the Oscar nominations came out, and for the most part, people did a collective “no surprise” shrug at the nominees for film of the year and out of morbid curiosity, decided to see what the other nominees were, since they also matter. With the exception of the backlash for La La Land getting more nominees than any other movie, everyone felt fine about who was nominated. That is, unless you were an animation fan. The five animated films nominated for Best Animated Feature were Zootopia, Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Red Turtle, and My Life as a Zucchini. While this sounds like a pretty good line-up, the internet was having a collective heart attack that Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name was not selected. Of course, the usual comments that “they are full of Disney bias” or “the academy is flawed and doesn’t watch all the films that are nominated” came up, and of course, the less favorable comments that popped up will not be mentioned here. So, are people just being upset for no reason and are not thinking straight about why it wasn’t chosen? Personally, I feel like there are perfectly understandable reasons that Your Name was not chosen. Let’s just ignore the flawed thought process of the Oscars, and as best as possible, take out personal bias for the film itself, and dive into why Your Name probably didn’t make it on the list.

There was literally no hype or push for the film in the states.

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So, like it or not, films get chosen by the groups who push and lobby for their films to be chosen by the voters of the Academy. It also helps if you get your films out there to as many viewers as possible, whether it be showing them at film festivals, or being released and getting hype a couple of months before the actual award show. There is more to this than what I just said, and there are definitely videos talking about what goes on with the films released during the Oscar season, and how to know what will get chosen. So, what did Your Name not do here? Well, everything. Now, not to say there was literally no one talking about it, but most of it was “Look how amazing it’s doing in Asia and Japan” or “It’s the highest grossing Japanese animated film in Japan”. Doesn’t seem like there was much talk about the American viewers, or even the rest of the world for that matter, was there? The only hype it got over here was when Funimation announced that they got the rights to distribute it. I mean, that’s cool, but there wasn’t much else. Funimation either couldn’t or, quite frankly, didn’t lobby or hype the film. They released a subtitled trailer, but no English dub trailer, and unless you were able to see this film at some convention or in Australia or any of the countries outside of Asia and Japan that got to see it in a limited theatrical run, there was no way to legally watch the film. So, this must mean that that America will get to see the film soon? You wish. The only possible legal way to watch the film will be when Funimation releases it in April. So, to recap, if you live in the states, and want to feel morally well-rounded and see this film, you will have to go two months after the award show. Even if voters were to watch every film in the running, how can anyone check it out when there are barely any possible ways to watch the film? Why didn’t Funimation make the push for people to see it?

So, you must be wondering then why The Red Turtle and My Life as a Zucchini get chosen when no one was really able to see them until now? Well, they have been making their rounds in the film festivals, and have been winning awards left and right, which result in the spread of word of mouth. It also helps that the two films have companies that are attached to them that have weight, GKids, Sony Pictures Classics, and Studio Ghibli. Those are all recognizable names that have had their films in the awards for years, so it’s no surprise that they got into the award show. Just because the film was doing gangbusters in regions that could relate to it more, doesn’t mean that same success is going to happen everywhere else if you don’t do anything to make it viewable to as many people as possible.

 Cultural themes and personal opinion might get in the way.

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Heads up, I am going to be using my personal opinion on the film for a bit with this example. Okay then, even if you were able to watch the film, would you honestly consider it better than what came out in 2016? Personal opinion will be put into perspective, and I simply couldn’t get into the movie as much as so many people praising it from head to toe did. I just don’t feel like it’s a film that can appeal to everyone in the right way, where it’s both entertaining, but complex enough to not be mindless fluff. I also found the film’s heavy use of Japanese culture, themes, and lifestyles to be distracting, and made it hard to get into the film about a boy and a girl swapping bodies.

Now, how does that make sense? Shouldn’t a film, no matter the country of origin, culture, and themes, be able to be enjoyed and understood by anyone? So then, why do films like Ernest & Celestine, The Boy and the Beast, and the American-made Kubo and the Two Strings, which has a heavy lean on Japanese folklore and visuals be so beloved by everyone? Easy, because they have stories and themes with characters everyone can get behind. The Boy and the Beast is about a father/son-like relationship, and has a unique moral for parents to be upfront with their kids and not constantly lie to them, and the consequences of doing so. Ernest & Celestine deals with discrimination, and is about the friendship of two souls who feel ousted by their own communities. Kubo and the Two Strings deals with the fact that life is about the balance of happiness and sadness, and how shielding yourself away from the hate and sadness in the world is not a good idea. These films are able to grab you, since they don’t really focus on their country of origin. They were telling good stories, and having interesting characters first. Personally, Your Name doesn’t do that. While it might have a pretty good chemistry among its characters, the film’s surroundings seem to take over the forefront. It also doesn’t help that a third act time travel twist happens, and ruins the film for me. I would have loved if they just focused on the romance between the two, or keep focusing on the body-swapping thing that somehow vanishes as the film goes on. Like, I get Makoto Shinkai has this thing about long-distance relationships, but once the third act comes into play, it feels weird and confusing to me. I really couldn’t get into it. I’m sure there are themes and ideals as to the sudden twist and the body-swapping, but it drags the film down. Plus, the character design and school day setting might be a bit bland and tiring to some. Make no mistake, Your Name is beautifully animated and looks downright gorgeous, and the fact that it has a theme of “everyone has someone out there” is nice, but it looks like a lot of other anime out there. I just felt too distracted by the film at certain points. I keep harping on the fact that so many people keep trying to say Makoto Shinkai is the next Hayao Miyazaki, but Makoto Shinkai needs to work on his storytelling and writing before he can get to levels of filmmakers like Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, or Mamoro Hosoda. Shinkai is a very talented individual, but he uses “flash over proper substance” way too much, and I just won’t sit here and agree with the world saying it’s the best movie of all time, when it’s not what I believe. Even if the voters in the academy were not going by bribes or sweet swag offerings, personal opinion is still going to be a thing, and not everyone is going to agree on it being a good movie. Even checking out the reviews for it, there are people who don’t like it for understandable reasons. They aren’t doing it because it’s the popular thing to do by bashing a film everyone loves. Heaven forbid, that is what makes us unique, when we all have our own opinions.

 2016 was a tough year for animation.

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Personal preference for the film aside, it’s not like Your Name was going to get a spot in the Oscars so easily. To me, 2016 was one of the best years of animation of all time. Zootopia, Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, Finding Dory, The Little Prince, Phantom Boy, Miss Hokusai, My Life as a Zucchini, April and the Extraordinary World, 25 April, Mune: Guardian of the Moon, Sing, Storks, Sausage Party, Kung Fu Panda 3, The Boy and the Beast, and you get the idea. It was going to have major competition. You have films from both big and small studios with distributors who aren’t going to be holding back in terms of wanting to be selected for those award nominees. It was a tough year. If this was something like 2002 or 2011, I would understand, but it wasn’t. It was 2016, and animation was strong.

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With all that out of the way, am I saying that these are the 100% facts? Of course not! This was never meant to be actual factual information. It was a guess as to why the film wasn’t recognized at the award show, and some logical reasoning behind the “snub”. Was I annoyed that Frozen beat out Wolf Children, The Wind Rises, and Ernest & Celestine? Of course, but I knew they weren’t going to win. Was I annoyed that Big Hero 6 won Best Animated Feature, when there were Song of the Sea, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, The LEGO Movie, and DreamWorks’ How to Train your Dragon 2? Yes, but I’m not going to sit here and be grumpy that Disney got yet another Oscar. Yes, it’s very hard for non-Ghibli Japanese-animated films to get recognition from the Academy, but in the end, what makes these types of films special to you also makes it not  matter if they get an award or not. GKids might have not won any of the American Awards, but it doesn’t diminish that the films they bring over are fantastic. While I’m not fully on-board with Your Name’s popularity, it shouldn’t matter if it was nominated for an award or not. Some recognition would be nice, but if you consider it a good movie, then by all means, keep considering it a good movie. It’s in my top 20 of 2016 for a reason, since I feel like its strengths are indeed strong. Don’t let it being left out of the Oscars weaken your love for the film. Go see it when it comes to theaters in April, and buy it when it comes out on DVD. I’m just saying don’t be freaked out that it wasn’t picked.

The Other Side of Animation 39: The Monk and the Fish Review

(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 review!)

For me, it’s always interesting to see what you can get done in a movie in such a short amount of time. How many times have we seen films that could have been longer, or didn’t have enough to fill out its runtime and you can tell there was obviously forced padding? That’s why it is fulfilling to watch a movie that uses its time wisely, and doesn’t need to be longer than it is. This is what attracted me to this short film called The Monk and the Fish. This is an Oscar-nominated short film released in 1994 by famed director Michael Dudok De Wit. If he sounds familiar to any film fans, he is the same director of the award-winning short, Father and Daughter, and the director of the upcoming Studio Ghibli co-produced film, The Red Turtle. Seriously, check out that trailer, it looks great! Anyway, this is the second short film made by Michael Dudok De Wit. So, is it any good? Well, let’s do a short review and find out.

The story is pretty simple in terms of a plot. A monk of the “robe and balding hair variety” sees a fish, and throughout the six minutes, tries to capture it. Can he get the fish? Or will something else entirely happen to the Monk?

So, what’s good about this short film? Well, it’s to the point, easy to get into, and has enjoyability for both the casual moviegoer and those who like looking for a deeper meaning in a film’s themes. For example, the film is very funny with its comedic animation and simple expressions from the monk, and can remind younger audiences of shorts from the Looney Toons era of cartoons. More adult filmgoers can see this short about a monk conflicted with himself and his faith, and in the end, find peace with himself and the fish. The best part about this entire short film is the fact that it’s done with no talking. After watching The Triplets of Belleville, I found myself really enjoying these animated films that can get you into its story and characters without having a single piece of dialogue from the individual characters. It’s something I wish more mainstream studios would do. Heck, Disney has done pretty well with its shorts that are told in a visual way. I feel like it would have made a movie like The Good Dinosaur way better than what we actually got. Another element I adored about The Monk and the Fish was how the music matched up with the animation. That’s very difficult to do, and many times, it can be a little distracting when it’s not done correctly.

Overall, The Monk and the Fish was a fantastic short movie. I can see why it was nominated for an Oscar, and it just shows what you can get done in such a short amount of time. While you can watch the entire short online, you can go to a website to get a physical DVD copy with two other short films. The site is called filmporium.com, and they have a huge number of animated short films that were all nominated, or have won an Oscar for best-animated short. I don’t really have anything negative to say about the film itself since it gets done what it set out to be. I can understand if it is not a film for you for its more artistic themes, but if you want to watch something different, then I would highly recommend you watch this great short film, and prepare yourself for the director’s newest movie that ruled the Cannes film festival, The Red Turtle. Well, it was fun looking at a short film, because next time, we go to our 40th review and quite possibly the worst film of 2016. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and see you next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials