Ranking Pixar

pixar
Welcome to a new feature I’m hoping to develop in this blog, where I rank everything in particular artist/group’s catalogue from best to worst (or least best in some cases). This is different than a top 5/10/however long list, as those are based on exclusion. Half the fun of reading a top list is to see what doesn’t make it, which tends to take the focus away from the positioning of what does make it. For these posts, everything makes the list, so the discussion is then focused on where. This is an extension of what list obsessives tend to do whenever something new is released by the people we like: mentally place how it compares to everything else they’ve released.

And what better way to kick off this feature than a focus on the absolute best studio making movies today: Pixar Animation. They’ve had an unmatched run of success since the release of Toy Story in 1995, with their name becoming synonymous with quality. The release of a Pixar film is anticipated as much by movie geeks as it is by families looking for the latest distraction for their rugrats, with the releases instantly getting stamped as one of the best releases of the year. So deciding how their feature length films match up will be no mean feat. It’s probably no surprise when I say that I’m an unabashed Pixar fan (especially if you’ve read any of my reviews of their previous films), so be prepared for an onslaught of superlatives.
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The Fifth Annual Andy Movie Awards – Part One

Notice the subtle changes? No... well I did it anyway.
It’s time once again for one of my signature posts: the fifth (and probably final) Andy Movie Awards, where I select not only who I think should win the awards being handed out this Sunday, but also who should’ve been nominated with those winners. There’s a lot of posts around this time of year where writers predict who they think will win Oscars, and some about they think should win. But unless you’re the only person in the world who agrees completely with the Academy’s nominees, it’s a false choice. What if your winner wasn’t nominated? What if you’re forced to choose the only worthy nominee in a group of junk?

Instead, I write a super-long post that basically amounts to a series of specified year-end lists, not only for the big awards that people care about, but also the other awards that most people don’t. The only Academy Award categories for feature length films that the Andy Awards don’t cover are Best Achievement in Editing (because I don’t know enough about the process to pass judgement, as with most viewers, I only notice editing when it’s bad), the two sound categories (as it’s not something I notice while watching movies), and Best Original Song (because it’s a stupid award. Instead, I’ve substituted it for my own award).

To make my decisions, I’ve seen 66 films that had a North American release date in 2008. The Academy nominated a total of 36 feature length films, of which I’ve seen 27 (75%). When you take out the ten films nominated in the foreign language and documentary categories (only four of which were released outside of LA/NY… I caught three of those), I’ve seen 24 out of 26 (92%), with the exceptions being Defiance (nominated for Original Score) and Australia (nominated for Costume Design). Thus, whenever my nominations divulge from the Academy (other than in those four categories), it’s because I disagree, not because I don’t know. Which brings me to why this very well may be my last post of this nature: I can’t imagine myself finding the time in the upcoming years to watch this many movies again.

So read on for part one of the end of an era…
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Top 10 Movies of 2008


As I did with my albums of the year list, I have to begin this list lamenting the fact that the 2008 year in film was not as good as the 2007 year in film. It was a down year for art in general, as pretty much any critic you read will tell you. Part of the reason for the negativity is the fact that the usual year end glut of awards baiting prestige films were largely disappointing, often ranging from merely solid to outright bad. And since that’s the steady diet critics (and myself) are fed around the time they write year end lists (albeit theirs come out at the actual end of the year, whereas mine waits until February, but I have to pay to see my movies), so it’s not surprising that the same enthusiasm wasn’t there, especially when the year before featured instant classics like No Country for Old Men, Zodiac, and There Will Be Blood.

Instead, the greatness in 2008 came not from the types of movies Hollywood likes to get dressed up for to dole out awards, but from the films fans line up for to buy overpriced concessions to see on opening day, or movies released early in the year when people weren’t paying attention. So this list is still filled with movies I enjoyed quite a bit, and recommend to everyone. As of this writing, I’ve seen 63 films released in North America in 2008, which includes some foreign language films that were released in their native countries in previous years, but doesn’t include some TIFF films I saw that haven’t yet been released (some of which would definitely contend for this list and will probably pop up next year… unless it is phenomenal). Of those 63, these were the best…
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Top 20 Comic Book Movies of All-Time

I admit, this story makes no sense.

I grew up a comic book fan, falling in and out of the habit as I got older. The times in my life where I stopped reading comics didn’t have too much to do with the comics themselves (although they probably did at times parallel a downturn in quality in the X-Men, the primary series I collected), but more to do with a lack of funds or my other entertainment options taking up my time. But then they started making movies about comics — more specifically, they started making GOOD movies about comics, and I decided to start reading comics again (albeit in much smaller doses).

So I write this list both as a fan of movies and a fan of comics. Thus, I’m also a big fan of movies based on comic books, when I’m not busy being a big critic of movies based on comics that fail to live up to the source material. This is a list I’ve been meaning to write for a few years now, and in that time, the list of candidates has only grown. Because the world of comic book adaptations has grown to encompass a nice variety of of genres and types, I felt a bigger list of 20 would lead to a more diverse and interesting collection than would a traditional list of 10. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen every comic book movie released, but I have seen every one that’s been released that I plan on seeing (meaning that if I haven’t seen a movie by now, I probably never will, because I’ve heard it sucks).

But first, I’ll clarify what I mean by “comic book movies”. For the purpose of this list, a comic book movie is any feature length film whose story and/or characters originally appeared in a comic book (and a comic book includes comics, comic strips, graphic novels, or manga). So films with comic book themes that didn’t originate in the world of comics, such as The Incredibles, Unbreakable, or Hancock, don’t qualify. Nor do sci-fish properties that originated elsewhere but have since become comic books, such as Transformers (not that it would ever make a list of mine).

The other thing I should clarify is what I mean by “top”. In this, I’m mostly judging the films by the quality of the films themselves, and less so by how strong they are as adaptations, although that will obviously come into play. The reason this isn’t simply a list on the best adaptations is twofold: one, I haven’t read all the source material for every comic book movie, and two, some movies don’t necessarily adapt one source as much as they borrow from several (that said, if I have read the source material, it would obviously affect my opinion of the film). Other than that, “top” is an amalgamation between “best” and “favourite”. And now, on to the list…
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TIFF 08: Day 9

Allow me, if you will, to say a few words about my festival companion: my wife Kim. Like all our vacations, this couldn’t have happened without her, as she did the heavy lifting in terms of planning (when we actually get on vacation, the roles tend to reverse, with me doing the day-to-day planning. I guess she’s the long-term thinker of the relationship). We both enjoy movies, they’re one of our primary activities, but I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say that I’m more into them than she is, and thus this vacation is more geared toward my interests than hers. When I first proposed it, I had to sell her a bit on TIFF with the promise of celebrities (of which we’ve seen a few, but not the ones I suggested we’d see) and the idea that we’d do a few more things in the area besides just going to movies all day (which, other than the Blue Jays game to start the trip, was a bald-faced lie. And again, a baseball game is more my idea of fun than hers).

Despite that, she’s embraced this vacation and its manic scheduling in full. There’s been the odd hiccup, and a few bad movies, but as a whole, it’s been great. I’ve had a great time sharing this with her (as we always have a great time sharing experiences with one another), and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. She’s also been a big trooper in tolerating/helping me stay on top of this blog (which has been another fun element of the vacation for me), letting me type away while we wait for movies (while she watches movies on her iPod), allowing me to stay up and write instead of insisting that I go to bed with her, and even at times getting the laptop ready for me while I went to use the restroom. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

But tonight, we decided to take a break from the hectic scheduling and take a night for ourselves, skipping our screening for American Swing when we didn’t feel like getting up from our nap in time to make it. Instead, we enjoyed a nice dinner at a place called The Corner, which was probably more memorable than the 26th movie of 29 (we’ll now be down to 28).

Read on for musings on What Doesn’t Kill You and $9.99
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TIFF 08: Day 3

Another day, another three movies. This one was tougher, as the early festival adrenaline was gone and I stayed up too late writing the last post. That, or possibly because the films weren’t as good to keep me from feeling drowsy. To get the celebrity stuff out of the way early: Ed Harris showed up for the early morning screening of Appaloosa to introduce it, which was a nice touch. My wife saw Sarah Polley in the restroom line after a screening (then made sure I stuck around to see her… after the restroom). Then at the big premiere for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the stars came out, including Michael Cera and Jay Baruchel. Kim was very excited for them, getting to see them enter the theatre (they sat pretty close to us). They stuck around for a short Q&A, so that was kinda fun. On the way home, we passed the Blindness premiere at the Elgin, catching glimpses of Danny Glover, Geoffrey Rush, and Eric Balfour (wait… does Eric Balfour count as a celebrity sighting?).

Read on for musings on Apaloosa, Edison & Leo, and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist
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Movie Review: Finding Nemo (2003) [re-posted review]

I think we're gonna need a bigger boat!

Finding Nemo (2003)

Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Geoffrey Rush

Directed by: Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
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Movie Review Catch-up

I’ve been making some changes in how I’m going to pursue this reviewing hobby of mine, starting with where my reviews will be posted, and where they won’t (besides here, of course). Another big change I’ve decided to make for this year is what I’ll be reviewing. In the past, I made a point of reviewing every movie I saw from the current year (i.e., if I saw a 2007 film in 2007, in theatre or on DVD, I tried to review it). This has become an unmanageable pace for me, particularly at the end of the year as I cram to get movies in for my year end lists and Andy Movie Awards posts.

As a result, I often feel like I have a big backlog of movies I “have” to review, which is a little silly, I know. My bigger concern is my desire to review all recent-ish movies has kept me from doing other sorts of posts, like TV or music reviews, older movies, or lists I’ve had bubbling in my head. So from now on, I’ll be doing fewer movie reviews, but hopefully more other kinds of posts, which should be fun for me (which is what this is all about, after all).

That said, the biggest reason I made a point of reviewing newish movies is that it’s the area that I think most people are most interested in reading my opinion of. If a movie is still in theatres or new to DVD, people may be interested in what I thought of it, so they can decide whether or not they want to see (that is, if they’re interested in my opinion of anything. I’ll assume some people are, otherwise, I’ll assume no one is reading this). To that end, periodically I’m going to do movie review catch-up posts, where I do mini-reviews for a handful of recent movies that I never got around to reviewing. These mini-reviews will basically be a paragraph of opinion that will mostly be summary-less, with an assigned score. I think this will be a good solution for movies I don’t have a whole lot to say about, but still have a bit of an opinion of. Sound good?

Read on for reviews of:
Be Kind Rewind (2008) 
Black Book (2007)
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Lust, Caution (2007)
Persepolis (2007)
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Top 10 Movies of 2007

Yes, I put too much effort into this list.
Here it is, my long awaited Top 10 Movies of 2007 list (and by “long awaited”, I’m referring to myself, as I’m not sure anyone else has been waiting for this). This is later then I usually prefer to post this list (on the principle that the later you get into the year, the less people care about the previous year), but since I added a movie to this list over the weekend, I’m glad I waited. As of right now, I’ve seen 65 different 2007 movies (for the complete list, click here), including pretty much everything I think would contend for this list. Notable movies I haven’t seen yet that could’ve contended for the list include Persepolis, Lust, Caution, and The Darjeeling Limited, but I’m really happy with the way my list looks right now, as it’s been an extremely good year for movies. As it is, I had to push some really good movies off my honourable mentions list, so I better post this before more might have to go. To give you an idea of how I felt about this year, everything on list, including honourable mentions, rated 4 stars out of 5 or higher. So if you feel like you haven’t seen a lot of good movies this year, you should give some these a try.
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