Mary & Max
Mary and Max is an Australian film directed by Adam Scott. The Animation style of the film is that of stop motion using clay humans which gives it a very Aardman feel and also opens the possibilities of making the characters more expressive as their faces can be changed into near any shape.
The film revolves around a man called Max, who is a older man with Asperger's Syndrome, a condition that can make it very difficult to communicate or know how to act in what would be commonly considered the correct way in social situations.
In the Film Max received letters from a girl called Mary, a young girl who decided to chose a random address and send a letter to whoever she chose. Due to the written format of the letters Max is able to reply with more ease as he can spend longer to think of his answers as they're in a written format.
The environmental designs were a big part of this film as well, considering they mostly took place in the same places throughout the entire film. Max's apartment was mostly black and white, which could have either been the literal case or maybe his perception of the world. At first I thought this might have meant he was depressed but it could actually be to do with Max having a Logical perception of the world and not really worrying about colour.
Mary's environment was also mostly devoid of a large colour scale, but instead of being grey scale it seemed to be a more sepia perception, which definitely seemed warmed than the black and white world max was shown in. It made her home feel more rustic and safe, but still not in your face and exciting, which suited the tone of the film.
I liked this film because it was interesting to see a character with Asperger's take the lead role and how the condition can affect his portrayal.
Another one of famed Hayao Miyazaki's classics' Spirited Away (2001) is an animated classic, from a studio that many compare to as the Disney of Japan. Nearly every second of this film is beautiful and as one of their modern films I will be sure that it will stand the test of time as one of the most Iconic animated films of all time.
The film follows Chihiro, a young girl who while moving house with her parents comes across a magical spirited world, where her parents are taken away from her and she is left to escape this adventure alone. Much of this films design and lore are taken from Japanese Mythology, for example many of the spirits that you see are based from old folk tales.
The overall theme of this film is the idea of a scary new situation and growing up to meet it, essentially this is a coming of age film. The spirit world parallels Chihiro's new adventure of changing house and schools, which can be a dramatic experience for a younger person. By surviving her adventure, saving her parents and returning to the real world Chihiro has basically grown up.
She can no longer return to the spirit world because she is no longer a child, and when her parents ask her if she is scared about moving she replies that she is confident and not afraid, as this experience is dwarfed by what she has just done.
This film is great, just everything about it, I will be watching it many more times in my life.
Sita Sings the Blues
The film is at it's core an adaption of a classic Indian story; The Ramayana, a iconic story that tells the tale of Prince Rama and his relationship with a woman named Sita. This version of the story focuses more on Sita, and the film draws parallels between Sita's story and the real world experiences of Nina Paley, whose experience is also shown in the film as cutaways that are relevant to what just occurred in Sita's story.
The main animation style of the film is a very, internet flash animated vibe, mostly I assume animated in the Tween method. This gives it a very early 2000's internet feel, almost Newgrounds-ey. Not to say that this film isn't visually appealing, this style is very crisp and can make some complex and artistic scenes.
Also the film is kind of a musical. Although there is no original recordings just lip syncs to old blues songs.
Nina's cut away scenes are animated in a different style, these are hand animated with a more carefree, scribbled way. I think it helps draw the line a little easier between Sita's story and Nina's.
Waltz with Bashir
Waltz with Bashir. This film came off as more of a, visual comic that a film, it felt more like an animated graphic novel than an animation, not that this is an issue. The film itself is actually very slow paced on somber, for the majority of the film I was trying to work out if I was watching an animated documentary or not, and that the Director Ari Folman had actually just found these people and casually recorded their conversations, which I guess is what he did... just more professionally and scripted.
I actually loved this picture, as a war film it's great, really gripping and an emotional rollercoaster. The plot most revolved around Ari Folman finding his old war buddies after he realises he can't remember a specific day from the 1982 Lebanon War, and visualising the stories that he is told and remembers over time, including some personal back story.
Even though this film was simply animated I found it to be visually stunning. The scene where the three men walk off the beach should be iconic if it isn't already. The actual way the character were animated reminded me of the animated series Archer on FX, which is based on 70's animation styling.
I wasn't prepared for the final scenes of this film, where Ari remembers what he had forgotten, and then when he finally makes it off the beach and into the city, the film hard cuts from the animation we had scene for the entire film, to real life footage of the aftermath of that day. It was a pretty ballsy move but I found that the tone of the film and realistic style of the characters actually played into this well, and it really hit hard. Like everything we had seen before was through a filter of time and forget, but now everything had been cleared up, we were seeing it for real with no details missing.
Great film, very slow at times, but will definitely watch again.
Another story that follows the memories of the Director (Marjane Satrape) Persepolis is a 2010 French - Iranian animated film that is an adaption of a Graphic Novel, which was actually illustrated by Satrape, so the art and character design that you see in the film is all based off her own style.
The animation in this film is very stylised and minimal, but the actual animation itself is really nice and appealing, very clean inked lines which actually still give it the comic feel of its origins. The colours of this film are a big part of it too, at first in the present the film features colour, but they are very dull and un saturated, and then the flashback scenes are the ones featuring inky lines with a black and white colour scheme.
There are also some scenes based on historical events that are animated in a kind of, shadow puppet style.
Like Spirited Away, this film is a coming of age story, first covering Satrapi's life until she was 10 which are relatively happy times with no real peril. But then as she gets older the story gets darker as the society she lives in becomes less welcoming for her. As a woman she is targeted and punished for crimes as simple as wearing makeup, to which point her parents send her away.
In time she comes to enjoy freedom but goes too far with it, and when she tries to return home the situation is even more dire than before.
This film is pretty dire, and dark a lot of the time, but it's still a success story because through all this hardship Satrapi has come out of it as a successful woman.
This film was very well received and is now considered an iconic piece of world cinema.
The Secret of Kells
Can't say I know much about Irish history or stories, so going into this film I was very blind as to the references it was making and story it was telling, but I found The Secret Of Kells to be a enjoyable and attractive film.
The film was directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey and released in 2009. It follow the story of Brendan and is based on "The Book of Kells" which was featured in the film as this divine object, only created by those with a gift and a special perception. This gave the story a very old bible feel, as that was the easiest parallel for me to draw.
The story finds Brendan living in a village that is overseen by his uncle, they are in constant fear of being attacked by vikings that are marauding the land. So the community has taken steps in case of this attack by erecting a large wall that encompassed the entire village, of which Brendan is instructed that he is not allowed to leave. An old monk named Auden arrives in the village with the Book, and soon has taken Brendan under his wing, apparently having the gift needed to write in the sacred book.
Brendan goes on adventures outside the wall, eventually accompanied by his ally Aisling who is a spirit that lives in the Forest. In the end the village is attacked and Brendan is assumed dead by his strict uncle, until he returns many years later as a man, and has finished the book of Kells.
I enjoyed this film, but I would imagine that it found itself hard to stand out. The art style was very angular and simple, it reminded me of the Disney Film Hercules in this way, as all the characters had a similar angular style. Also if the films weren't released so close together I would have said that it might have Inspired the feel of How to Train Your Dragon, but that might have just been the Celtic vibe of both films.
Kubo and The Two Strings
If you've seen any of Studio Laika's other three films, than stylistically, you already kind of know what to expect with this film. Laika's films stand out for being beautifully hand crafted in stop motion, with great characters and grand sets and designs, and this films fight with a giant skeleton demon proves they are still pushing what they can achieve in this style.
The man different in this film style wise though is its inspiration, the environment and characters are all influenced by the setting of a fictional Edo Japan-esque world. I think that is the main draw of this film, as they are able to sell this very well most of the time, the soundtrack features Shamishens, which is the same instrument used by the main character Kubo, in fact as he uses it as a weapon and tool, the score will sometimes blend around the music that he is playing, which can go from very somber to high octane.
Everything in this film also felt very real, even though the film is very stylised and not meant to look realistic, all the designs and textures made the characters look like they should be in that world. The Monkey's fur was more like feathers when you really looked at it, but you're completely sold that its fur, because it all just works.
My favourite design is the Beetle Samurai, I never really thought of combining a samurai and insect but it looked great, and was a fun character.
Overall my favourite things about this film where the atmosphere, set design and character design over the story. A behind the scenes film of this production of this feature I would find very interesting to watch.
This was my favourite visual film of all the ones we watched, sometimes i'd have to pause it and appreciate all the details on my second watch.