Tag Archives: Pixar

The 10 best movies of 2015, as voted by my friends and colleagues

There are always far too many films out every year to make any kind of sweeping judgement on the perceived quality of the work released in that arbitrary period.

Yet as winter rolls around, out come the end-of-year lists to fit 2015 into a neatly-cut box and let everyone know just how great our tastes are. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, but this year I thought it might be fun to try something different.

Instead of listing my 10 favourite movies from 2015, I polled a number of friends, colleagues, filmmakers and critics for their top ten lists and compiled a Sight & Sound-esque “definitive” ranking from the results. You’ll see these after the jump, along with comments from some of the contributors and myself.

[A note for pedants: “films from 2015” in this instance means films that were released theatrically in the United Kingdom between 1 January and 31 December this year.]

This is a people’s vote, not a cinephile senate, which means that blockbuster fare ended up occupying more of the top spots than I anticipated. While there is some overlap with S&S‘s end-of-year list, it’s interesting to note that many of the films missing from ours will likely never be seen by some of the pollsters.

Myself? I want to see everything from the arthouse to Roadhouse – and I don’t believe that the final goal of a film should always be to entertain – but I can totally appreciate the populist escapism for which most audiences go to the movies, and I think the following list reflects that…

…While also managing to slip a couple of modern masterpieces in there. Continue reading

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“The Dinosaur Was Mine”

I’m currently reading this interview with Joss Whedon that was conducted just before the release of Serenity in 2005 (that’s almost eight years ago, fans of feeling old!) and thought maybe some of you might be interested in checking it out if, like me, you’re curious to know exactly what Whedon’s involvement in the original Toy Story script was. Turns out it was pretty big – including creating Rex the dinosaur(!) – which as a Whedonite makes me feel even more vindicated and smug than usual.

And they sent me the script and it was a shambles, but the story that Lasseter had come up with was, you know, the toys are alive and they conflict. The concept was gold. It was just right there. And that’s the dream job for a script doctor: a great structure with a script that doesn’t work. A script that’s pretty good? Where you can’t really figure out what’s wrong, because there’s something structural that’s hard to put your finger on? Death. But a good structure that just needs a new body on it is the best. So I was thrilled.

I went up to Pixar [the Northern California-based animation studio which produced “Toy Story”], and stayed there for weeks and wrote for, I think, four months before it got greenlit, and completely overhauled the script. There was some very basic things in there that stayed in there. The characters were pretty much in place except for the dinosaur, which was mine. I took out a lot of extraneous stuff, including the neighbor giving the kid a bad haircut before he leaves. There was a whole lot of extraneous stuff.

He also discusses, among other things, the screenwriter’s role within an animated movie, which contains some interesting insights. If you’re into that kind of thing.

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Man is the warmest place to hide

Currently watching The Thing prequel/remake and trying to figure out whether it was a terrible idea or a great one. The 1982 John Carpenter version is sci-fi horror at its best, its paranoid characters, isolated setting and groundbreaking practical effects creating some of the most unsettling scenes in cinema.

So far it’s shaping up to be a pretty similar retelling of the same story, despite featuring different characters and describing the events that led up to Carpenter’s Thing. Flamethrowers and mutilated dogs abound! It’s a shame that they haven’t tried to take this version in a new direction (though the inclusion of a female lead – indeed, any women at all – might suggest some fresh air, Mary Elizabeth Winstead mostly just reacts to other people doing Kurt Russell impressions), but I guess if you’re going to ape something, you might as well ape the best.

It’s fairly obvious that this was a studio mandate: the original’s more than a decade old, so clearly no-one at the theatre will have ever seen or heard of it.

Speaking of the death of originality, here’s a link to some gorgeous concept art for the canned Pixar film Newt (c/o Bleeding Cool):

It makes my heart ache to think the story behind such vibrant images will probably never get to be told. I don’t want to think about why this had to be removed from the company’s release schedule because it might have something to do with Monsters University or Cars 2.

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Down with fake Jeff Bridges

I just watched The Castle of Cagliostro, Hayao Miyazaki’s first feature-length animation as director and obvious forerunner to his Studio Ghibli stuff. Here’s a scene demonstrating why it’s worth a watch:

My heart aches when I watch sequences like this (mostly in Ghibli or Pixar movies, who each seem to constantly one-up each other for ambition and emotional devastation – which is fine by me) because I’m not an animator and I doubt I ever will be – short of figuring out how to co-ordinate my hands and a pencil in a way that seems like competent drawing – but the thing I love about these films is that they’re full of joy and invention; you’re constrained to the technical ability of the people working on the film, sure, but aside from financing that’s really your only constraint.

Animation be much bolder than live-action in what it believably portrays because it’s (usually) presented in a consistent way with what else we’ve seen of the world. Dragons quite often look rubbish in movies and TV (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones), but when I watch Spirited Away I really believe that’s a dragon being papercut to death, and I hold my breath because I need to know what’s going to happen to him.

It’s something ‘real’ movies still haven’t mastered: how to make us care for an animated character. The exception of course being Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, in which the cartoons are much more overtly unreal than in, say, Tron: Legacy. Maybe it’s because we subconsciously know Roger Rabbit isn’t trying to fool us that we accept it so easily (and why so many guys feel it’s perfectly acceptable to mention getting a stiffy over Jessica Rabbit – she’s pure fantasy). It’s the middle ground that’s tougher, because your brain doesn’t want you to be tricked, even in the cinema.

I don’t really think the ultimate goal of CGI should be verisimilitude anyway. Why would I want to see something I’ve already know but slightly wrong (*coughyoungjeffbridgescough*) when I could see something I never have before? World-building. Unique, memorable characters and storytelling. Unbelievable stunts (like the one above) made believable. Breathtaking cinema. That’s what animation – all kinds – is to me.

Come to think of it, that’s what films are to me in general. But you know what I mean.

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Toilet Porn Go!

Bad parts of today:

  • Finding myself sitting in the cinema – accompanied by my mother, natch – among dozens of mother-child combinations, most of whom were either loud or constantly checking their phones (to ensure that time hadn’t suddenly just evaporated while they weren’t looking, presumably), and realising that I was likely the creepiest guy in the theatre.
  • Finally getting that a good, long relationship’s strength relies on being able to put up with each others’ petty bullshit. It was kind of depressing.
  • Reading about Tony Scott’s suicide. True Romance was very much a formative film for my teenage self, encapsulating the kind of rebellious ideals that are like crack to a 15 year-old.

Good parts of today:

  • I saw Brave, which is Pixar completely back on form and delivering yet another hilarious, emotionally moving story while subverting genre tropes with aplomb.
  • And I noticed an older guy sitting in the far back corner of the cinema, so I definitely wasn’t the creepiest guy in there.
  • Watched Dog Day Afternoon –  written by Cool Hand Luke scribe Frank Pierson, who passed away last month – for the first time. It’s now potentially in my top ten, and if you haven’t see it do yourself a favour, because it’s easily the best ‘bank heist gone wrong’ flick I’ve ever seen. Come to think of it, ‘bank heist that goes off without a hitch’ sounds pretty bloody boring.
  • Ordered a new netbook, which I’ll be getting tomorrow so I can resume surfing porn conveniently on the loo.

Huzzah!

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