TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS
A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...
SEVEN CARTOON CLASSICS
“Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive,” said Walt Disney. In 2016, the unique minds of many talented men and women conceived some beautifully profound and wonderfully entertaining animated films….
ZOOTOPIA (Dirs: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush; USA, 108 mins).
Production company: Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Plot: When Judy Hopps becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. Determined to prove herself, Judy jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case, even if that means working with wily fox Nick Wilde.
What the critics said: “In looking humorously — and also sensitively — at the pitfalls of bias and fear-mongering, the terrific script by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston offers a host of essential lessons for our fractious times… It's going to take a lot to beat Zootopia for this year's animated film Oscar.” – Los Angeles Times
THE RED TURTLE (Dir: Michael Dudok de Wit; France/Belgium, 80 mins)
Production companies: Prima Linea Productions, Why Not Productions, Studio Ghibli, Wild Bunch.
Plot: A man marooned on a desert island tries desperately to escape, until one day he encounters a strange turtle that will change his life.
What the critics said: “[This] tiny artistic treasure might as well be the adaptation of a little-known Hans Christian Andersen classic, or else perhaps that of a folk tale brought back from some remote South Pacific island. But no, this captivating archetypal narrative springs from the mind of its director, and the result is the most purely auteurist project to be found at the Cannes Film Festival this year.” – Variety
KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS (Dir: Travis Knight; USA, 101 mins)
Production company: Laika Entertainment
Plot: Kubo lives a quiet, normal life in a small shore side village until a spirit from the past re-ignites an age-old vendetta. This causes a maelstrom of havoc, as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armour once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior.
What the critics said: “The action is gorgeously fluid, the idiosyncratic 3-D visual conceits (including floating eyeballs undersea) are startling, and the story and its metaphors resolve in unexpected and moving ways.” – The New York Times
LONG WAY NORTH (Dir: Rémi Chayé; France/Denmark, 81 mins)
Production company: Sacrebleu Productions, Maybe Movies
Plot: 1882, Saint Petersburg. Sasha, a young Russian aristocrat, has always been fascinated by her grandfather's life as a renowned explorer. When he fails to return from an expedition to the North Pole, Sasha must save her family's honour, running away to the Great North on her grandfather's trail in search of his famous ship.
What the critics said: “Chayé’s animation removes the outlines of figures, retaining only the blocky colour fills, in a manner that evokes silk-screen prints. It’s visually striking, even when presenting a storm at sea, a rampaging polar bear or a creepy abandoned lifeboat…It’s a beautiful trip, even if it’s a little chilly and sad when it finally gets to where it’s going.” – Washington Post
YOUR NAME (Dir: Makoto Shinkai; Japan, 106 mins)
Production company: Komikkusu Wêbu Firumu
Plot: Mitsuha and Taki are two total strangers living different lives. But when Mitsuha makes a wish to leave her mountain town for the bustling city of Tokyo, they become connected; she dreams she is a boy living in Tokyo, while Taki dreams he is a girl from a rural town he's never been to. What does their newfound connection mean? And how will it bring them together?
What the critics said: “As the film swings back and forth between mountain shrines and Shinjuku Station, it eloquently and elegantly expresses not only teen confusion but also the tensions between old and new Japan.” – Sight & Sound
SEOUL STATION (Dir: Sang-ho Yeon; South Korea, 95 mins)
Production Companies: Finecut, Studio Dadashow)
Plot: A prequel to South Korea’s blockbuster zombie epic Train to Busan; Seoul Station becomes Ground zero for a zombie-like outbreak. Soon, the streets are overrun by the infected and the city of Seoul declares martial law. Meanwhile, a runaway teenager named Hye-sun and her boyfriend Ki-woong try to find each other amidst the chaos.
What the critics said: “The film maintains a nihilistic register throughout, and the twist at the end is surprising specifically for how it falls outside of the purview of the zombie genre, instead emerging from the characters’ interpersonal drama prior to the outbreak.” – The Playlist
SAUSAGE PARTY (Dirs: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon; USA, 89 mins)
Production company: Point Grey Pictures
Plot: The products at Shopwell Grocery Store believe in a code that helps them live happy lives on the shelf before they leave for ‘The Great Beyond’. But a botched attempt at freedom leaves a sausage named Frank stranded, leading to a journey that uncovers the truth behind their beliefs.
What the critics said: “The film’s greatest strength is its screenplay, penned by Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, (Seth) Rogen and Rogen’s frequent collaborator, Evan Goldberg. The quartet instil truly fascinating philosophical and religious subtext into the story, which largely plays as an existential tale about finding the meaning of life.” – Screen Rant