Click "Sleep" for a dark background.
Click "sleep" again if text isn't dark.



Netflix Journal: Fantastic Mr. Fox

"What the cuss!" I think this phrase encapsulates everything that I want to discuss about my experience with the animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox. In one seemingly simple phrase we have...

An element of surprise.

When I first saw the trailer for this film I couldn't get a good sense of its core attitude. I couldn't tell if it was going for a more main stream Hollywood type of story or something more unique. All I could gather from the trailer was that there are animal characters that scamper around and say funny things. As it turns out, this is what most of the film is. Yet it took me completely by surprise. 

It's obvious that the film is foreign in origin. There's just a way that the family structure, dynamics, and dialog of the Fox's works that screams European. Sitting side by side with this idea is a fusion between human and animal representation. The animals of the film can talk, work (doctors, lawyers, chefs, etc), go to school, and even communicate with humans. Yet their human-animals lives are scaled against the human-human world of the farmers. But if you think the film uses this set up to build a story around two clashing worlds (like Pixar's Ratatouille), you'd be only partially right. This introduces an...


element of comical replacements

Every curse word in the film was replaced with the word "cuss" keeping the rating in the PG range while producing some hilarious results in the process. It's this sense of serious to silly modification that's evident in every aspect of the story. The theme man vs nature comes to mind. This is obviously represented in the war between the animals and the farmers. But with the animal characters acting so unabashedly like humans, perhaps the very plight of the film and its characters is jokingly nature vs itself. Or the even more redonkulous manimal vs everyone. Several times throughout the film the animal characters wrestle with their nature born instincts and their feelings. Mr. Fox has to steal because he's a fox, yet he pushes himself to get a new home above ground though Foxes naturally live in holes. At any time you may ask yourself, what's going on with this film? Yet the offhand, candid attitude of it all makes you laugh at even posing the question. 

I believe there's more holding this film together than there is keeping it part. Fantastic Mr. Fox actually reminds me of a European style Pompoko, an outstanding Ghibli film. Coming to this realization brings me to the next element....


an element of unique attention grabbing

Non CG animated films are rare in America now. Though this film originated in Europe, it's still quite unique that its animation is stop motion. Coraline's stop motion animation and 3D filmmaking is flawless. Fortunately, there's still a lot of room for Fantastic Mr. Fox's animation style to share the stoplight. Though Mr. Fox is a little choppier and stiffer with its animation, it's all still very fresh, detailed, and engaging. 

The second phase of Mr. Fox's plan with the multiple security monitors is a genius scene. It's creative ideas like this that comically contrast with a few other unique shots the film frequently uses. Keep an eye out for the close up shots on character faces that show off the convincing furry models (see image above). Also notice the almost 2D side scrolling "video game" shots that almost made me pick up a controller to play along. The fight scene with the rat is also very creative and perfectly executed. Finally there's an...


element of "we've lost our minds"

Like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, the climax of Fantastic Mr. Fox kind of goes off the deep end. The reason I don't have a problem with this is because the film maintains its themes, develops and resolves its characters, and sort of indicates that it was heading toward the deep end from the beginning. 

Part of what makes the film so funny is that everything within the story is fantastical bordering on nonsense, yet all the characters take everything seriously. The result is something so unique, entertaining, and Fantastic, that I can't even complain that I'm using an adjective straight out of the film title. 


Netflix Journal: My Neighbors the Yamadas

Feature length films are often one long singular story. From beginning to end, we follow the events centered around a character, a group of characters, and or an event. Perhaps this is why I find productions like the Animatrix, Batman Gotham Knight, and My Neighbors the Yamadas so refreshing. Without being restricted to connecting every moment and every scene to the main plot, the writers of My Neighbors the Yamadas were free to jump in and out of the Yamadas' lives via snapshots. Like twitter or one of my favorite episodes of This American Life in which they forgo telling several long stories in attempt to tell as many mini stories as they could in an hour, My Neighbors the Yamadas succeeds in a type of characterization/storytelling that is impossible to convey any other way. 



My Neighbors the Yamadas is like the Charlie Brown and Rose is Rose of Japan. The stories are simple, taken straight out of everyday life. The themes and subjects are clear and upfront. And the depth of the characters grows little by little with each story. I think quaint is the best word to describe it. Sure enough, like Presepolis, this film was inspired by by a comic/manga series in Japan. 

The visual style is very simple and unique keeping true to the style of the original comic. Make no mistake though, studio Ghibli still finds moments to flex their animation prowess. With a fluid scrolling scene here, and a very smoothly transitioning wedding metaphor scene there Ghibli, like Gainex, shows that there is plenty of room for animation and expression using an art style that's light on details.



Many of the stories were enjoyable, but there are some that I found really touching. I failed to write down the titles of these short stories as I watched the film, so I'll simply describe a few. Mr. Yamada forgetting his umbrella in the rain. Mr. Yamada taking a picture of his family on a snowy day. Mr. Yamada settles for a banana. The day everyone forgot things. The young boy Yamada gets a phone call from a girl. And the sad moonlight Mr. Yamada fails to stand up to some bullies. 

The music is wonderful especially considering theres lots of classical music. Studio Ghibli continues to prove that they're the masters of domestic storytelling. Despite many cultural differences, the Yamadas are very similar to American families, which helps make the film very relatable. And it wouldn't be a Ghibli film if it didn't have flying in it.  

Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 21 Next 2 Entries »