Oscar Prediction Game 2013

Hey there! It’s that time again to play the Oscar Prediction Game, the game to test how well you know how the Oscars work. For those who don’t understand how this works, I refer you to last year’s game. So here are my predictions:

Best Picture
6 Amour
4 Argo
7 Beasts of the Southern Wild
5 Django Unchained
3 Les Miserables
2 Life of Pi
1 Lincoln
8 Silver Linings Playbook
9 Zero Dark Thirty

Best Actor
3 Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
1 Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
4 Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
5 Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
2 Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Actress
5 Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
4 Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
3 Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
1 Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
2 Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Best Supporting Actor
1 Alan Arkin, Argo
2 Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
5 Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
3 Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
4 Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress
5 Amy Adams, The Master
1 Sally Field, Lincoln
2 Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
3 Helen Hunt, The Sessions
4 Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Director
5 Michael Haneke, Amour
3 Ang Lee, Life of Pi
2 David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
1 Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
4 Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Original Screenplay
2 Amour, Michael Haneke
1 Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
5 Flight, John Gatins
3 Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
4 Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

Best Adapted Screenplay
2 Argo, Chris Terrio
5 Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin,
3 Life of Pi, David Magee
1 Lincoln, Tony Kushner
4 Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

Best Animated Feature:
5 Brave
4 Frankenweenie
2 ParaNorman
3 The Pirates! Band of Misfits
1 Wreck-It Ralph

Best Cinematography
5 Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
4 Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
1 Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
2 Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
3 Skyfall, Roger Deakins

Best Costume Design
5 Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
1 Les Misérables, Paco Delgado
2 Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
2 Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka
4 Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

Best Documentary Feature
5 5 Broken Cameras
3 The Gatekeepers
2 How to Survive a Plague
1 The Invisible War
4 Searching for Sugar Man

Best Documentary Short
5 Inocente
4 Kings Point
2 Mondays at Racine
3 Open Heart
1 Redemption

Best Film Editing
1 Argo, William Goldenberg
2 Life of Pi, Tim Squyres
3 Lincoln, Michael Kahn
4 Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
5 Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Best Foreign Language Film
1 Amour, Austria
3 Kon-Tiki, Norway
2 No, Chile
4 A Royal Affair, Denmark
5 War Witch, Canada

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
2 Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
1 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
3 Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

Best Original Score
5 Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
4 Argo, Alexandre Desplat
3 Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
1 Lincoln, John Williams
2 Skyfall, Thomas Newman

Best Original Song
5 “Before My Time” from Chasing Ice, music and lyric by J. Ralph
3 “Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted, music by Walter Murphy; lyric by Seth MacFarlane
2 “Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi, music by Mychael Danna; lyric by Bombay Jayashri
1 “Skyfall” from Skyfall, music and lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
4 “Suddenly” from Les Misérables, music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Best Production Design
5 Anna Karenina, Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
1 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
2 Les Misérables, Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
4 Life of Pi, Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
3 Lincoln, Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Best Animated Short
3 Adam and Dog
4 Fresh Guacamole
2 Head over Heels
1 Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
5 Paperman

Best Live Action Short
1 Asad
2 Buzkashi Boys
3 Curfew
4 Death of a Shadow
5 Henry

Best Sound Editing
4 Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
2 Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman
3 Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
1 Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
5 Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

Best Sound Mixing
5 Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
3 Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
4 Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
1 Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
2 Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

Best Visual Effects
2 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
3 Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
1 The Avengers, Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
4 Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
5 Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

Since this time, I ordered my most likely winner with the lowest number, the amount of points given will be reverse (i.e. if the actual winner of an award was placed 2nd out of 5 nominees, I will get 4 points). Now it’s time to wait till the ceremony on 24th February 2013!

Old Review: Millennium Actress

Chiyoko Fujiwara was a famous actress that had been in many successful films for over twenty years. Currently in her 70s, an experienced director, and biggest fan, called Genya Tachibara wants to produce a documentary about her, but there is a problem, she hasn’t been living in the public eye for some time. Luckily, Genya and his cameraman are able to track her down, and she agrees to an interview of her documentary. She explains that during the 1930s she fell in love with an artist who was on the run from the Fascist Government, and after he left a key to a suitcase containing his art materials, she began an acting career in the hopes of going around the world so that she may one day see him again. As she explains her past, the environment changes as she and the crew appear to be inside her memories, from World War II, to Segoku Period Battles and even in Space, the crew witness the impressive life of this long living actress.

After working on Perfect Blue, Satoshi Kon planned to do the adaptation of Yasukata Tsustui’s Paprika as his next film, but these plans didn’t get far after Rex Entertainment went bankrupt. He decided that he would use the idea of blurring the lines between reality and imagination for Millennium Actress, using a story originally idealised by Sadayuki Murai, which both wrote the screenplay. Deciding to give the film a historical feel to it, Kon did a lot of studying of Japanese cinema and clothing, and stated that he learned interesting things while working on the film. There has also been the suggestion that Chiyoko is based on real life Japanese actress Setsuko Hara, who had a large acting career between 1936 and 1961, and as of writing, still lives a near private life since her last film. While Satoshi Kon has said in interviews that Chiyoko wasn’t meant to be based on any real life person, he does recognise the similarity as an influence. The film premiered at the Fantasia Festival on July 28th 2001, where it tied with Spirited Away for the Grand Prize Award, and later was entered for consideration at the 2003 Academy Awards, but wasn’t nominated.

The animation is really creative and very interesting to watch. Satoshi Kon was able to use several different art styles and techniques that are reminiscent to styles of Japanese cinema, other scenes do really well in its cinematography, like Kon’s other classic Perfect Blue, and it feels like a live action film. Some scenes are impressively animated, such as the opening sequence with the space station and slightly later with the video recording; it’s amazing that this was all done hand drawn.

The music is surprisingly varied, the main theme is beautifully melodic, and the compositions vary from eerie sci-fi, imperial, melodramatic romance and Chiptune, yes I’m not kidding there are a few scenes which use Chiptune music for its backing track and somehow it works, all because this is the same composer who used Vocaloid for Paprika. Most of the film doesn’t have music, which for this film is quite effective since it focuses on the characters, but when it does it really adds some excitement to the scenes. I think if there was any problem with the soundtrack, it may have been more effective if the music actually suited the scenes the flashbacks take place in more often.

The voice acting in the Japanese version is good to a high standard of Satoshi Kon’s other works. What’s interesting to note is that Chiyoko actually has three actresses; one for each stage in the character’s life, what’s impressive is that there is barely a difference between voices. Yes, they are different as they sound women at different ages, but they actually sound like they came from one person. Genya’s character has two actors, although the second and younger one doesn’t have many lines, although it’s interesting seeing how the older one is more serious while the younger acts more accident prone. Other actors do a good job, and I especially like Masayana Onosaka, portraying Genya’s cameraman as someone who’s entirely confused at the whole scenario. The English Dub on the other hand has some minor issues. While John Vernon adds a near similar performance for Genya that Shôzô Îzuka, most of them under perform when compared to the Japanese dub, though it is very watchable. The only real problem with the dub is the choice for Chiyoko, Regina Reagan. She’s definitely not a bad actress, but her voice only works for the older character, because of this her voice for the younger versions of Chiyoko sound more mature than normal, and it can be off putting.

This is probably one of the most interesting and creative romance stories, at least the best one I’ve seen in a film. This woman goes through so much to see this one man it is really touching, and the idea of her life and struggle being portrayed by films is really unique, especially for its time. The characters around her each have their own story that in a way effect Chiyoko, whether it was jealousy for being younger and doing things that are later regretted. While some characters act worse than others, for people in Japan and in the times that the film is set in, they would be normal, such as Chiyoko’s mother. The only real thing that bothered me in the film was that while three characters who were living the flashbacks reacted the way that I would expect them to react, with Chiyoko acting like she’s re-enacting her life, Genya being engaged and involving since he adores her so much, and the near oblivious cameraman being confused and freaked out, but eventually feeling more comfortable as he stays in the experience, no one seems to point out why these flashbacks are appearing and how they are there, they simply act like it’s a normal occurrence.

If you have an interest for romances, there is absolutely no reason why you should not check this film out. This is a really engaging story and another great film by a legendary animator that is definitely for the film goer and the anime lover.

Millennium Actress is available from Dreamworks and Manga Entertainment. There aren’t any adaptations as far as I know, but it’s created by Satoshi Kon who has done other interesting and creative anime films such as Perfect Blue and Paprika, and unfortunately passed away in August 2010 after finishing the writing and storyboards for his last film called The Dream Machine, which is currently still in production under the direction of Yoshimi Itazu and it expected for a 2011 release.

Old Review: Rango

A lonely pet chameleon who thinks he’s an actor wishes he wasn’t alone and had a true purpose in his life; it is at this moment that his reckless driving owners accidentally hit a bump in the road that causes the animal to fall out of the car, leaving him stuck in hot and deserted highway. While trying to figure out how he can survive this environment he’s been thrown into, he discovers that the bump in the road happened to be an armadillo, slightly crushed but still alive. The Armadillo, who wishes to cross the road to meet the spirit of the west, gives the Chameleon some wise words and leads him in the direction, along with the help of a female farming iguana named Beans, to the town of Dirt. The town of Dirt appears to have been through hard times as it is suffering a major drought, with its water supply running short with common and heavily relied sources going dry. While first perceived as a stranger, the Chameleon, in order to protect himself, pretends he’s a wild gun-slinging ranger named Rango and through sheer luck, they believe him and becomes sheriff of the town. After the robbery of the towns preserved water supply, Rango and his organized posse investigate the robbery and find that the lack of water in the town may not be the cause of a drought, but something more criminal than theft.

After the major success of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, director Gore Verbinski wanted to try and make Rango as a small film; however he didn’t anticipate how expensive and large the production of an animated film would be, having a budget of $138 million. While the film was a three way production between Nicolodean, Verbinski’s Blink Wink and GK Films, all the animation was produced at George Lucas’ special effects studio Industrial Light and Magic. A considerable amount of effort was done with the voice casting, having a recording schedule of 20 days for Johnny Depp, and scheduling all the supporting cast to work with him on those days, having actors use real life western performances as inspirations for their characters and wearing costumes to get into character. The film had a worldwide release in cinemas on March 4th 2011.

My initial opinion on the animation was that it was average, since the first ten to fifteen minutes was just high quality visuals and smooth character movements that are to a modern standard. However as the film progresses the animation becomes really good with some really creative and memorable scenes with a very high attention to detail. The character designs are possibly my favourite part about this film, while Rango himself is the most basic character in the film with the most craft put into him being the ridges on his skin, the amount of detail on every character is huge and looks so great to watch. The artistic style is meant to be homage to the classic Spaghetti Western Films and the amount of detail done to the rocks, sand, woods and ashes really shows how much attention went to the looks of the film.

The music is good for the most part, it sets the tone of the film, the style really suits the scenes and while I don’t consider myself a fan, I feel that any time Hans Zimmer gets given a film to compose, he composes it and does it so well and memorable. However need I remind you that this is for the most part, as for some reason they decide to give a dance number which feels slightly out of place, and there are four Mariachi Owls that have short songs which feel a little unnecessary. Despite this it’s a listenable soundtrack that’s really worth listening to set the mood of the Wild West.

The voice acting is nothing special, with top billing actor Johnny Depp being a cowardly and lonesome chameleon that develops and overcomes his problems by the end of the film to a performance of a good standard, and huge props to Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake, the gun-slinging anti-hero of the film who gives a very threatening and intimidating performance, which is apparently based of famous western villain Lee Van Cleef. Everyone else basically portrays themselves as western stereotypical characters, which is probably a good thing for spaghetti western fans to get a quick understanding of who each character is, but don’t really have enough personality to be really memorable. I think the only major issue I have with the voice acting, and this is a spoiler which I hate to give away for anyone who cares, is that the largest piece of the tribute to Spaghetti Westerns in this film is a near accurate portrayal of Clint Eastwood as the mystical Spirit of the West, but the thing that bothered me the most about this film was that not only was the character not voiced by Clint Eastwood, but the actor who portrayed him, Timothy Olyphant, wasn’t even trying to sound like Eastwood. I can understand if they couldn’t cast Eastwood or they weren’t allowed to use his voice but if you were going to put a Clint Eastwood model in the film at least make him sound like Clint Eastwood.

Admittingly, I’m not a fan of any kind of Western films; outside of watching the few clips here and there I’ve only watched one western in full, so really I know of them more than I know them. If I was a fan of westerns I would’ve enjoyed this film slightly more because you can tell from beginning to end that this film shows every opportunity to refer or homage to the genre and its films. However there is one thing in this film which annoyed me the most is the four Mariachi Owls, what was the point for them to be there? They are meant to act as narrators, but all they do is break the fourth wall, give mediocre comedy and break the flow of the story. They have no reason to be in the film, and it probably would’ve been better without them. Speaking of the story, it is safe for kids yet tolerable for adults stuff, the middle of the film has strings of either pop culture references, risqué jokes and cheap gags, the three things I hate about modern CG films, and the messages it tries to bring are typical, but it’s worth watching for the brilliant visuals and great tribute to a classic genre of films.

As an animated film, it is really well done with great animation and superb design. As a film overall, aside from the bad humour that can also be found in many other CG films nowadays and I apologise for sounding repetitive, but it is a really good homage to western films that any fan of the genre should check out, and it’s a great start for 2011 animation, let’s all hope that the rest of the year can follow up on it.

Rango is available from Nickolodean and Paramount, as of writing this review it is currently showing in cinemas Worldwide so go and watch it now or wait for a probable DVD release in the summer. A novelisation by Justine and Ron Fontes, made as a tie-in for the film’s release, is available from Sterling Publishing.

Old Review: 9

In a world that is our own, a scientist invents a machine built to create weapons for war known as a Fabrication Machine. The Fabrication Machine, thanks to its artificial intelligence, is considered a success, although because of this, it also turns out to be mankind’s biggest mistake. The machine turns on the human race, becoming an international threat and wiping out almost all of human kind. In his last chance to fix his errors, the scientist builds nine rag-doll looking robots made from yarn, giving them the name stitchpunk machines, and with the help of a set of alchemic talismans, transfers parts of his soul into each of the robots to give them life, killing him in the process. All the robots are called by their numbers, and with 9 being the last robot to wake up and like all the others, have no memory or understanding other than to survive this terrifying wastleland, two of the stickpunks decide to fight against the Fabrication Machines and save the Earth from complete annihilation.

A student at the University of California Los Angeles, Shane Acker worked on 9 as a short film student project along with eight other students, taking over four years to make. The short film was completed in 2005 and was released at multiple film festivals such as Sundance. 9 had such a critical acclaim that it won best animation at the Student Academy Awards and was nominated Best Animated Short at the 78th Academy Awards. The short film got the attention of Tim Burton, who along with Timur Bakmambetov made a deal to create a full feature length film based on it. Shane Acker was assigned director, while Burton, Bakmambetov and three other people worked as producers, while Acker’s original store was used, Pamela Pettler wrote the film’s screenplay with Ben Gluck acting as supervisor. The film was released worldwide on the most fitting date of September 9th 2009, or “9-9-09” as advertised.

For a fairly modern CGI film, the animation in 9 is above average at best. There’s the attention to detail, smooth animation and partially realistic animation, but it is nothing better or unique about it when compared to the many other high budgeted CGI films. What is special about it is its art design and atmosphere. Tim Burton was heavily involved in the production in this film and if you have seen at least one of his films, you would see that it has some really creative art direction, and while working on major animated features such as Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, this is as far as I know his first CGI film production and his creativity really translates into this film. The atmosphere is dark and mysterious, giving the environment a real feel of it being a wasteland without having a bland gritty look to it. While the design of the stitch robots look simple and unique and some of the designs of the sentient machines look really imaginative, the fabrication machine looks like it was based on the sentient machines in the Matrix, it’s been a minor issue I had while watching it.

The music is quite basic and unmemorable; it is of good quality thanks to Danny Elfman’s contributions to the score, and they do help set the scenes but there is nothing that’s special or outstanding to it. The voice acting is ok, also nothing spectacular or unique, but very listenable. In my opinion the best actors in this film are Christopher Plummer as 1 and Elijah Wood as 9, with Plummer portraying a grouchy attitude and an old fashioned way of thinking while Wood shows the younger and more curious personality.

Most of my opinion of this film has been from my first impression of watching the feature length film, without watching the short beforehand. Upon watching both versions, I find while the short film is slightly inferior in its visuals by design, it was a student project don’t forget, the longer version feels slightly padded, yet the short film feels a bit more rushed, not having much time to explain certain plot points. I think one issue I had with the feature length version was that the stitchpunk machines actually look and felt more like machines in the short version, while the feature film made them feel l like human beings that appear like rag dolls. Outside the comparison, the story itself is quite intriguing, expressing the human perceptions of war, how robots can become our worst enemy if we don’t use them properly and conflicting ideas of how we should survive against a vastly superior enemy, but it essentially feels like other “man against machine” sci-fi films like The Terminator, while this isn’t a bad thing because it is an interesting story with some complex ideas, on the whole it’s almost like quite a few other films, and if it’s only other major reason to show it’s worth watching is it’s visuals and art style, then it may not be worth sitting through.

If you are interested in Tim Burton, Sci-Fi or animation I would really recommend this film, it has great atmosphere, artistic design and interesting ideas expressed in the film, and the short version is worth a watch if you want to see how this film all got started. But if you aren’t one of those people, it is best to have a look at the trailers and really think if it is worth it, because there could be a similar kind of film that is worth sinking your teeth into.

9 is available from Focus Features and Universal Pictures. The original 10 minute short film that was also directed by Shane Acker is also available from both Focus Features and Universal Pictures, and is found on the main DVD along with the Feature Length film. Shane Acker has been working as a teacher in animation, although he was credited as an animator for the short “A Jake and a Tom” which hasn’t had a major release outside film festival showings.

Old Review: The Illusionist (L’Illusionnise)

This is the story of an entertainer of a dying breed, a French performing Illusionist named Tatischeff. After losing his regular job at a French theatre, he moves to England and later Scotland to find work so he can earn money and perform. On his way, he meets a young girl named Alice, who is so amazed by his performances that she believes he can actually perform magic. She leaves and stays with him in Edinburgh, where they try to make the most out of their simple and small life, while the entertaining world moves around them. Trying to make a living so he and his new fan can be happy, he tries all he can to earn money by performing even in the most uncomforting places. As his life as an entertainer is running short, he must make choices of how he should continue his life, and make sure Alice doesn’t go the wrong path.

There is a little controversy concerning the origins of the story. What is certain is that the film is based off a screenplay by the French Director and Comic Actor Jacques Tati, written in 1956 for what was meant to be a live action film, which didn’t even leave the cutting room floor. The uncertain information regards what it was meant to be about and how Chomet got his hands on the screenplay. For how he got a hold of the screenplay, one source claims he was given it from the owners of Tati’s archives not long after the premiere of “The Triplettes of Belleville”, a film Chomet directed with great influences on Tati’s work. Another source claims Chomet was given the screenplay by Tati’s second daughter, Sophie in 2000. He didn’t intend on adapting it to an animated feature, since he preferred to make original stories, but after reading the script he had his story in his head. The main controversy revolves around the claim that Tati wrote the screenplay as an apology for abandoning his first daughter, Helga Marie-Jeanne Schiel, with many people criticizing Chomet for not giving her any recognition of her in the film, with the film being dedicated to Sophie Tati instead. His argument was that it was an apology to Sophie, since Tati spent a lot of time away acting and making films to see her grow up. While the film is considered a British-French Production, the majority of the production happened in Scotland, both at Django Films in Edinburgh and Digital.ink in Dundee. Starting in 2006, the production team grew from 180 to 300 and the budget increased from £10 million to £17 million. The film was first released in France on June 16th 2010 and while not financially successful, it was nominated a Golden Globe, Annie and an Academy Award.

To give credit where it is worth, the animation and character design has considerably improved since Chomet’s previous film, Triplettes of Belleville. Animation is quite detailed and realistic, with CGI animated parts blending really well with the 2D animation, it’s almost like you can’t tell that computers are being used for the majority of the animation. Character designs are thankfully much improved, while varied they look like realistic and relatable people, so I was easily able to focus on the story more easily like it was a live action film. While the film isn’t really made to have the most stunning backgrounds, since the main settings are indoors, the film has really great environmental settings, with the city of Edinburgh being very detailed to look like the real place, and the mountainous views of Scotland have an atmospheric feel to it.

I really love the soundtrack to this film, it’s a calm array of different styles ranging from mellow jazz, sixties rock, Scottish classical and some really great piano compositions orchestrated by Terry Davies, all of which were surprisingly written by Chomet himself. While there aren’t fun songs such as “Belleville Rendezvous”, the music really sets the mood and helps create some really charming and memorable scenes. The Illusionist is mainly a silent film so there’s no real point in explaining the voice acting from the few pieces of dialogue; I found it a bit odd that most of the dialogue is in French despite most of the characters and environment being set in Scotland.

As far as people believe, Tati wrote the screenplay as an apology to his daughter, which one can only be answered by Tati himself. While fans of Tati’s work have mixed views on how Chomet portrays this, I feel that it does. It shows how much Tatischeff does to make Alice happy, despite how his kind of entertainment goes down in popularity and he struggles along with other kinds of entertainment to make a living, while music and TV gain in popularity, and because he’s focused on doing what he can to get food and a home to stay in, he misses out on what the young girl has been doing. One thing I liked was how Alice transforms from a simple poor looking cleaner to a mature young woman, and that at the end it is clear that she would live a happy normal life. It’s a good character driven story, and I do sympathies with all the main character.

It’s an absolute shame this was overshadowed by two multimillion schlock films at the time of its release. This film is relaxing and great to watch with a good story and great music; I wish there were more films like this both animated and live action. However, even if 2D animation is no more, that shouldn’t stop you watching this film on DVD anytime soon.

The Illusionist is available from Pathé Films and Sony Pictures Classics. The original screenplay by Jacques Tati hasn’t had any public release, which would be interesting to read what the original story was, if the film was only based on, and not a direct adaptation.

Old Review: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

Jimmy Neutron is a very intelligent kid for his age, doing experiments in his backyards, building inventions to make his life easier and more interesting, including a technologically built dog called Goddard, and consistently getting the highest grades in his school. These come with some flaws in his lifestyle, he really only has two best friends, a socially awkward chubby kid named Carl Wheezer and a Superhero obsessed kid name Sheen Estevez, his parents don’t take his work seriously or lightly and he is made fun of in class, mainly by a rival high grade student named Cindy Vortex. His current mission is to attempt to communicate to aliens by launching a message into space, this is successful as an alien race known as the Yolklians intercept his message, but they focus on more dark ideas as they kidnap all the parents in Neutron’s hometown. Jimmy later finds out the source of the disappearance of everyone’s parents, and since he is the only person smart enough to work out how they’ll get everyone’s parents back, Carl, Sheen, Cindy and every kid in the neighbourhood team with Jimmy to rescue their parents from the Yolklians’ sinister plans.

Jimmy Neutron began as a concept by animator John A Davis, while working in his company DNA Productions. A pilot was shown to Nickolodean, who were interested in the idea, so they green-lighted production for a TV series and a film. Despite intentions to air the TV series before the film was made, there was timing and schedule issues that made Nickolodean decide to fund the film instead. They were clearly hoping the film would be a hit by airing five-minute shorts promoting it and going all out in kids marketing with merchandise advertising on TV, especially to compete with household animation studios Pixar and Dreamworks. The film was released on December 21st 2001 and was a major box office success. It was one of the nominees for the Academy Awards first ever Best Animated Feature awards in 2002, and despite losing to Shrek, it remains the only Nickelodean Feature Film to be nominated an Academy Award.

The animation is cheap, but for feature film standards at least there is effort, especially when compared to the TV series. Lighting and camera characters are good and there is also a small level on detail it’s so it’s nothing to complain about, it’s not epic or even close to Dreamworks standards, but at least it’s watchable for anyone. Character designs are cartoony and exaggerated, watching it now really bothers me, very round details, almost little consistency and sometimes very exaggerated designs. There are exceptions, when I first saw this as a kid I did think the designs of Goddard and the Yolkians were cool and I still think they are really good now, but everyone else looks like they were modelled by different people in different buildings, and it looks like the only animated film more inconsistent with character design is Belleville.

The music consists of insert pop/rock songs for the most part, there are some original scores, mainly during the more dramatic sequences like the scenes with the aliens, but they aren’t that impressive enough to care about. There isn’t much to say about the music, I think the best way to explain the soundtrack is if you like either comedic sci-fi orchestral scores or the kind of music done by Bowling for Soup, Aaron Carter and The Ramones, then maybe you’ll like this soundtrack. If neither, then you’ll ignore and forget it easily.

I’m not sure if it’s a so bad its good vibe, but I love the cast and voice acting in this film, yet it’s full of unoriginal performances. Debi Derryberry as the main protagonist Jimmy Neutron is alright, bit whiney for young boy, but I give her credit for doing really well in fast talking lines. On the antagonist side, we have Patrick Stewart as King Goobot who sounds serious to the point where it’s hilarious, he sounds like he can’t believe who he works with as an evil overlord of sorts. Martin Short is also really hilarious as Ooblar, especially his introduction, and Billy West does quite a lot of roles, and does them very well, just to give a few specific cast members. A lot of the characters consist of typical stereotypes, like Jimmy’s parents consisting of the cautious housewife and the wacky father, there’s a teacher called Miss Fowl, who constantly make chicken noises, most of them silly and Miss Fowl is clearly one that was only there for one joke. Despite the predictable roles, the voice acting somehow works and I believe it’s because the entire cast must’ve had a real fun time playing all of the roles, and any kid watching this would have fun watching this too, I know I did, I’m having a hard time trying to find bad points of it.

As you know, I rarely review modern CGI films, while I don’t want to go on about why, but a reason is tha most go to pop culture and weak puns for comedy and musical numbers as entertainment. While that does entertain people, and there a few good CG animated films, to me it’s a weak attempt at making both kids and adults entertained and I’ve got an article on it on my new site. While this film does have a few puns, it surprisingly doesn’t go far, let alone go anywhere near, pop culture, there’s just pure cheesy humour, and it’s hard for me at least to hate it. The plot is pretty much what you expect when you have a scientific and nerdy character, so there isn’t anything original in the story. There is only one real issue in the film in general I have a problem with is the way the aliens avoid suspicion of parents disappearing; they post notes telling the kids all the parents went to Florida for a holiday, and all the kids believe it, including the genius Jimmy. These aliens don’t even try, and yet all it takes for Jimmy to realise something isn’t right with the message is by doing signature analysis, on a note which looks like it was produced on Microsoft Word. There is also the questionable techno babble and the plausibility of some of the scenes, but I believe that this film was meant to be for a younger audience, and I think it’s a good joke on Sci-Fi that the adults would get also.

Believe it or not, I saw this film twice as a kid. As a kids film, it works, and it works really well. Its humour is really good, the actors have a really good time, and it’s worth watching just for the early millennium kid experience. Sure there are issues here and there, as a reviewer I can’t help but notice them, but since this was a film built around a certain audience, it’s easy to forgive and hard to put down.

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius is available from Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures. A spin-off TV series titled “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” which ran for two seasons, has occasional reruns on certain channels and DVDs are available from Nickelodeon and Amazon. Another spin-off TV series, which focuses on Jimmy’s friend Sheen Estevez called “Planet Sheen”, is currently airing, mainly by Nickelodeon but also by YTV in some parts of the world.

Old Review: Les Triplettes of Belleville

The Triplettes of BellevilleMadame Souza cannot help but notice that her young grandson, Champion, is missing something in his lonely life. She tries to see what would make him happy, but not much seems to work. It isn’t until she finds his hidden interest inside his room that she finds what he wants, to be a cyclist. It’s from this realization that she buys him his first bike and supports him every way she can so Champion can one day race against people across the country. Fast forward several years later, and Champion has become a strong man, with his Grandma helping him train every day for the race he dreamed of, the Tour De France. Even though this race goes well for Champion, some mysterious men are also at the races, and kidnap Champion along with other racers. Madame Souza noticing this, she follows the mysterious men through great lengths, which lead her to the city of Belleville and befriending a former musical entertaining trio. Now Madame Souza and the Triplettes from Belleville will plan to find the reason to the kidnapping of innocent athletes, and to get them out.

A five way international co-production, this was the Directional Feature debut of Comic writer Sylvain Chomet. He first worked in animation as an animator for Richard Purdum studio, and later moving into freelance in 1988. In 1991 he directed the BAFTA award winning short, The Old Lady and the Pigeons, which he finished 1995. Production for Belleville began somewhere between 2001 and 2002, production was focused on the music, timing and design of the environments. There are influences from French Director Jacques Tati and 1920s French Musical culture, and the main characters are based on real life people from Chomet’s life, such as Bruno being a dog he knew when living in Montpelier and the Triplets based on his Grandmother. Unfortunately this film also caused the dissolve of the collaborations between Chomet and Nicolas De Crécy, as the film shows artistic influences from Crécy’s work, which he accused plagiarism against. The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Belleville Rendez-vous” in 2003.

The animation is kind of weird, it opens with this 1930s musical opening that’s really creative and cartoonish, and then later on it mixes between 3D and 2D animation so well that it’s really hard to tell which is which. My only real issue with the animation is in the character design, which is really varied to the point where it gets really bizarre and it makes you answer less about the film’s story. It makes sense in the opening that the character design is bizarre since it’s meant to be cartoony and humorous, but in the rest of the film it’s really odd. The environments are really creative and the amount of detail in the animation is really does amount to a lot. There are a lot of creative scenes, with the best one in particular being Madame Souza following the humongous ship over treacherous waves on a simple pedalo, and I’m not making that up.

The music is very enjoyable, I’m actually glad Belleville Rendevous got nominated for best original song because it’s such a catchy and fun song and it really suits the opening. The scenes involving the Triplets are where the most fun music is. Other tracks range from old timey music hall to classical compositions and some of the typical orchestral scores which aren’t memorable but really suitable to the scenes. The film is mainly silent with little dialogue except when necessary, which is a mixture between English and French. Since dialogue isn’t a major part there isn’t any point to go into great lengths talking about the voice acting. It’s good in quality and the performances are really life-like,  the French Radio Broadcaster during the Tour De France does sound like a proper French sports radio broadcaster, I know because I had to listen to French Radio before, so overall nothing to really complain about.

The film has a nice straightforward plot; it’s very easy to follow and there is very little of the plot to question. I think the main exception is the villains, since I don’t get why they’re kidnapping cyclists, and the physics in the last chase scene goes way beyond what the laws of Physics. While the characters are likeable, especially the Triplets and Madame Souza, since they don’t need back stories or development to explain the plot like other films would. I don’t think the film will be suitable for everyone though, particularly the artistic crowd who would appreciate the visual style, even as strange as it can be, although it’s a film that does have a good sense of humour and creativity.

The Triplettes of Belleville, also known as Bellevile Redevous, is available from Sony Pictures and Tartan Films.