2017 is over. Another year gone. I’d put more of the typical “new years” style fluff here, but I’ll just jump right into the story. Here’s some of my personal highlights from 2017:
The Lego Batman Movie
Warner Brothers delivered the first major animated release of the year, and they delivered a great film. It’s energetic, thrilling, pull-out-all-the-stops fun that we all really needed at that point, for one reason or another. Besides a brilliant comedy though, it’s also surprisingly a good Batman film in its own right, taking the familiar characters in new directions. It pokes fun at the famous comic franchise while also being a love letter, and it really hits home.
Was this a great movie? No, not really. Yet I still found myself charmed by this picture. While a lot of stuff didn’t work, there was a lot of stuff that did work. It also attempted to establish a Chinese stake in the American animation market, and I regret that the low box office might delay further works. What charms me is that Rock Dog is an honest attempt to make something good, and any kids’ movie that doesn’t rely on Shrek-style humor in 2017 is an effort I can admire. I just wish that corporate politics and production hell hadn’t undermined that effort. What might have been a spearhead for Chinese animation ended up stumbling at the starting line.
As for foreign animations though, 2017 saw the Japanese smash hit Your Name finally arrive in the United States. If you have not seen this film yet, you’re missing out. Even if you’re not an anime fan (neither am I, for the record), Your Name has great characters, an intriguing plot, beautiful animation, fantastic music… it’s just all-around spectacular!
One of my biggest surprises this year was DreamWorks’ Captain Underpants. I fully expected an average movie at best, but Captain Underpants ended up full of wit and charm. They played with the animation style a lot, kept the plot nice and simple without being stale, and stuffed personality into every frame. It’s one of DreamWorks’ strongest movies… and their last movie until 2019. DreamWorks will not be delivering a film in 2018, as they finish production on How to Train Your Dragon 3. Captain Underpants was also the last DreamWorks movie not distributed under the Universal logo, so in a way it’s the end of the old DreamWorks. Is that a good thing or bad thing? We’ll have to wait and see…
Speaking of bad things — The Emoji Movie. I mocked the movie’s idea, but went in with a genuinely open mind. Stupid ideas have been made into good movies before, right? And in exchange for my hope and goodwill, I got the absolute worst film I’ve ever seen. It’s a fill-in-the-blank generic kids movie, except it’s filled in with shameless advertising. Transformers manages to be more subtle with its product placement! The Emoji Movie is a 90 minute commercial filled with bad messages. It’s one thing for a movie to be lazy or uninspired, but The Emoji Movie transcends that into sinister cynicism, and I consider it noteworthy for all the worst reasons.
Luckily, the year delivered a couple more big hits. One that I found myself enamored by was Loving Vincent. While it’s been pointed out that the story is not necessarily the strongest, the sheer craftsmanship behind the film carries it through. Every scene has been handpainted in Vincent van Gogh’s style. The sheer effort poured into this movie, all the time sunk into painting out every single last frame… it’s remarkable. If nothing else, it’s worth seeing to simply marvel at all they did bring the unique visuals to life.
Over Thanksgiving, I got to go see Pixar’s Coco with my boyfriend. We both ended up crying in one of the best movies that the studio has released. With Coco, Pixar reminded everyone why they are the industry leaders. Do I even need to spell it out? Great story, fun characters, and once more they’ve pushed computer graphics further and further. Not only do they play with visuals to be fun and exciting, but they slow it down for the most powerful scenes. The character animation on the titular Coco, especially near the ending, moves with such powerful subtlety. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. And of course, the music. “Remember Me”, or “Recuerdame,” ties the whole plot together in such a brilliant way. It’s beyond satisfying that Coco won Best Animated Feature, and I look forward to seeing the work that 2018 brings us.
David Gouldthorpe is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]