Ahwell's Lists and Projects

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I just did the top 64 because that's the highest number I can make a fair single elimination bracket out of (like March Madness). The next highest would be 128, which I obviously couldn't do.
Ah, okay. That makes sense.

#1 Wall-E vs. #5 Fantasia

Originality - Fantasia
Script/Screenplay - Wall-E
Animation - Fantasia
Characters - Wall-E
Music/Sound - Fantasia
Themes/Values - Wall-E
Structure/Pacing - Wall-E

Wall-E - 4
Fantasia - 3

Winner: #1 Wall-E
Lists and Projects

Year: 1940
Directors: Joe Grant, Dick Huemer

I love classical music. It's been a part of me much longer than movies have, and it remains an art form that I treasure and find I can always come back to. So of course I love Fantasia, too. The whole basis for Fantasia is the idea that music and visuals can be combined to create a new art - the film. Disney's stunningly original idea doesn't disappoint, either. The execution is flawless, and this remains one of the greatest films ever made.

In second grade, I first heard Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, The Pathetique, and was blown away. I didn't know that such excitement and power could exist. From then on I was hooked. Tchaikovsky was my favorite composer until about seventh grade. That's when I started branching out even more, into Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. Now it has become a bit of an obsession. There's so much great music out there, and I wanted to know all of it! Whether it was Palestrina or Stravinsky, Stockhausen or Vivaldi, all these wonderful sounds just made me excited about life. And it's basically thanks to Fantasia that I even began bothering with movies in the first place. When I first heard about Fantasia, I simply couldn't wait to first see it. That was in maybe fifth grade. So we watched it in my music class and of course I loved it. I saw it once again in eighth grade and hadn't see in it since I watched it for this tournament. Well, it blew my hair back like it always has.

There's something magical and ethereal about this film that can't be captured in any other animated movie. It's not my favorite animated picture, but it's definitely up there and easily in my top ten. Anyone asking for a good classic movie will likely get the response "Fantasia" from me first. It's easily the best picture of 1940 (yes, better than Rebecca or The Great Dictator or even The Grapes of Wrath). It's fusion of music and visuals haven't been matched since. It's one of the most colorful films out there, and this was only 1940. Imagine how blown away audiences must have been then, if we're still in awe today.

Fantasia is essentially a bunch of short segments with visuals inspired by the music playing along. The introduction is the abstract colors and shapes of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Next is a beautiful woodland scene inspired by Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. The most famous segment is The Sorcerer's Apprentice, with none other than Mickey Mouse as the lead role. There are several other segments after that, all shining with color, originality, and entertainment. The only slightly boring part is the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony sequence, which I find can get a bit kitschy. That's like five minutes of a 2 hour long film, though.

My favorite segment is the final section, the juxtaposition of the menacing power of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain and Schubert's serene Ave Maria. The entire Night on Bald Mountain scene is terrifying, with perhaps Disney's evilest villain ever, Chernabog. This guy literally finds joy in burning up his own minions and torturing all his worshippers. Only the morning bells can make him go back in his shell. That is when the beautiful closing of Fantasia begins, the Ave Maria. This section makes me tear up. The beauty of the music paired with the absolutely gorgeous visuals are just too much. It ends with hope, with beauty, with joy at living. That is what I go to the movies to see.

All of Fantasia is a blast. Even the "boring" moments can still be entertaining, and there are few moments you can call boring anyways. This is easily my favorite Disney animated movie, and if you haven't seen it, I encourage you check it out. It's not for everyone, it's certainly one of the artsier kids movies out there. But give it a try. In this reviewer's opinion, it's nothing short of a masterpiece.

#3 Beauty and the Beast vs. #7 Persepolis

Originality - Persepolis
Script/Screenplay - Beauty and the Beast
Animation - Beauty and the Beast
Characters - Persepolis
Music/Sound - Beauty and the Beast
Themes/Values - Persepolis
Structure/Pacing - Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast - 4
Persepolis - 3

Winner: #3 Beauty and the Beast

Year: 2007
Directors: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud

Persepolis is a unique and fascinating look on Middle Eastern, and specifically, Iranian, culture in the day and age of strife and violence in that region. We see the young protagonist, none other than an auto-biographical portrayal of the director Marjane herself, grow up in Tehran and live her life, struggles and laughs and all. It's an incredibly touching yet often harsh look at the lives of young people around the world.

Persepolis is based off of a graphic novel, and it is animated in that style. Most of it uses minimalist, 2D, black and white images to portray the stark situation and life of Marjane, or Marji. We get small glimpses of color in important moments, but other than that, this is a strikingly colorless film. It pairs well with the suitably dark story material.

Yup. This one's a real depressor. It won't make you sob like Mary and Max and Up, and it won't leave you feeling bad about yourself and the world like Grave of the Fireflies or Waltz With Bashir. Well... maybe the second one, but not extremely so. The reason it's tough to watch is because we have to see young Marji descend from a strong and passionate girl to a woman who doesn't really know what she's doing in life. The movie asks us what it is that has caused Marji to question her beliefs and identity? Is it the political atmosphere of her childhood? Her family upbringing, involving a communist uncle and slightly loony grandmother? Or is Marji simply carried away by life, unable to make decisions?

Perhaps all of these things. Persepolis profoundly picks apart the details and meaning of the first twenty years of Marji's life. In those years she is many things. Throughout, however, we can tell she has a fierce and strong personality, one of a woman ready to fight for what is right. She often doesn't understand moral choices, however. She often bullies and taunts people who don't agree with her. And many of her opinions are formed based on her own family's teachings. In short, she is a biased, flawed, but ultimately likable character.

This is a slice of life film, at heart, albeit a fast-paced one; they've got to fit in twenty years in an hour or two. It's not easy, but the pacing really works. Marji's life in Vienna is often hesitant, "free" but imprisoned. Her life in Iran almost feels better. She's confined to Islamic laws about women, and doesn't have much freedom, but you can sense she finds her identity there. She relates to her homeland. The end, then, is a triumph for Marji. She did what her grandmother made her promise - she proudly accepted her heritage, and proudly carried it. Earlier in the film she had lied about it.

This movie has a lot of layers. It's hard to pick apart from just one viewing and one review, but I can say this much - I enjoyed it. I'm not sure if it will ever become a huge favorite - it's certainly dark source material that may not be good for second viewings. But it is a unique and in-depth analysis of one women's life and ultimate struggle of identity.

#1 Wall-E vs. #5 Fantasia

Wall-E - 4
Fantasia - 3

Winner: #1 Wall-E

I like Fantasia, but IMO it's not even close to the level of Wall-E. I'm glad that Wall-E won this match.
If I answer a game thread correctly, just skip my turn and continue with the game.

#2 Ratatouille vs. #5 Fantastic Mr. Fox

Originality - Ratatouille
Script/Screenplay - Fantastic Mr. Fox
Animation - Ratatouille
Characters - Fantastic Mr. Fox
Music/Sound - Fantastic Mr. Fox
Themes/Values - Ratatouille
Structure/Pacing - Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox - 4
Ratatouille - 3

Winner: #5 Fantastic Mr. Fox

Really tough match. I LOVE both these movies.

Year: 2007
Director: Brad Bird

Watching Ratatouille is for me comparable to an experience like Singin' in the Rain or Some Like it Hot. You get this incredible feeling of happiness, of fulfillment, of pure joy at living. If you want an animated movie to make you feel passion for life, there's no movie better than Ratatouille.

That is not to say that this is a "feel-good" movie, entirely. Many parts of it are. It ends "happy" (although the restaurant Remy works at closes and Anton Ego loses his job). There are many happy moments. But the struggle of Remy as an artist are real in this film. He's a rat, yes, but Pixar does a great job of making us sympathize with rats... I guess they can do anything.

There are so many great things about this movie that I don't even know where to start. I guess I'll begin with the animation. Holy Crap, this is one of the most beautiful of all Pixar's movies, and that's saying a LOT. First of all, Remy and the rest of the rats are animated in a way that makes them look adorable and friendly rather than repulsive. Hats off for that. And let's not forget those views of Paris. The camera pans and scenes in Paris are too good to be true, they absolutely make my brain melt. The cooking scenes look delicious, and every damn thing Remy makes I want to eat.

And to pair well with the animation is the music. Up and Toy Story used to be my favorite Pixar soundtracks, but recently Michael Giacchino's breathtaking score for Ratatouille has been rising in the ranks. I think it might now be my favorite. It is like hearing solid gold, we get the most beautiful orchestrations, melodies, and tonal textures. Ugh, the ending just makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time, and I think the music is a huge part of that.

And I realized that's what a lot of this movie is. It's a lot of "happy-sad." I wouldn't necessarily say bittersweet, it's not like that. It's a feeling that I can't quite put into words, but it makes me feel like I'm sinking yet floating, existing yet watching myself exist; it makes we want to go out and do stuff in the world, but it also makes me feel bad about the world. I wonder if anyone else gets this feeling from Ratatouille or I am just insane?

Anyways, we haven't got to the substance of this masterpiece yet. The characters feel so real and amazing, starting with our protagonist Remy. He feels like someone who you can totally relate to, even if he is a rat. He wants to do stuff in the world, he wants to create not take, but he feels restricted by society. Well, as he finds out, he is more than restricted. He is hated. But Remy, by the end, proves to the small circle of people that are willing to listen that anyone truly can cook. It's a much better ending than the Bee Movie (I know I'm comparing one of the best animated movies ever made to the worst), in which the bees and the humans begin co-existing. Ratatouille is a fantasy, but much of it is also grounded in reality. The movie knows no time soon will humans and rats begin to get along. That's the way things are, and Remy seeks to do little things to change it.

Linguini is hilarious and charming, and of course Colette is totally awesome. The villains of the movie usually are complex and interesting characters, such as Anton Ego, who befriends Remy by the end. Mustafa is a pretty fun villain who is probably the only real antagonist of the whole movie. He's a good one, though.

That ending scene, though. If I ever made a list of the best scenes in all of Pixar, the last 5-10 minutes of Ratatouille would be on there. It is truly beautiful. It doesn't make you cry like Up or Inside Out, but it digs deeper into your emotions in my opinion. Anton Ego's review is so incredibly written, seeming to be speaking right to your soul. The visuals of Paris and the restaurant to go along with it are un-matched. I would change very few things about Ratatouille, and it's another easy top ten animated movies of all time.

Just curious - Who do you like more, Wes Anderson or Hayao Miyazaki? Or rather, who do you hate least?
I probably hate Wes Anderson more.

My main issue with Miyazaki is that I don't care for the stories he tells. Way too much fantasy. Wes Anderson's films have much less fantasy yet feel far more artificial to me because I don't believe his characters.

#1 Up vs. #6 Mary and Max

Originality - Mary and Max
Script/Screenplay - Up
Animation - Up
Characters - Mary and Max
Music/Sound - Up
Themes/Values - Mary and Max
Structure/Pacing - Mary and Max

Mary and Max - 4
Up - 3

Winner: #6 Mary and Max

Sorry @Miss Vicky, just the way it turned out

Year: 2009

I've already posted my review of Up, here it is:

"Wow, Pixar did it again. Why did it make me cry so much? I'm really struggling about that, because The Bookshop has multiple characters who die, and some of them are the only likable characters in the film. Why are those deaths so boring, and Ellie's in Up so heartbreaking and noble? This film takes a new approach on children's films, and I think it connect to everyone, kid or adult alike.

I would totally re-watch this film. It was so beautiful, and there were so many funny, sad, scary, brilliant moments that I would want to enjoy again. Truth be told, there are no huge plot twists, no amazing story telling and not that innovative visuals. But the storytelling is so warm, and the characters so well-built, it's near impossible to dislike this movie.

And this isn't Pixar's most original movie. With Toy Story, of course they introduced their new visuals and their new storytelling. Up does nothing too original, but Pixar just perfected everything about their art in this movie. Their characters are just as good as that of Toy Story, and I think they expanded to a new audience, which they had already done in previous movies - but this almost seems to be more about adults than children... the only kid in the movie is just seen as an annoying brat (although he is good-hearted).

The screenplay is funny and entertaining, although I don't think this movie relies on screenplay to create emotional effect. I'll get to that in visuals and music, though. Although some of the moments with Doug and the other dogs can be very annoying, that is a small part of an overall brilliant and well-thought out script.

The characters are one of the best things about this movie. Carl, our main character, is a great example of a complex character, which can be hard to do for kids. But his struggles - and flaws - are the main premise of the whole movie, and some of more grumpy moments can be forgiven as we learn to love him and respect him. The remaining characters are also intriguing and interesting, Charles Muntz most of all - Pixar's demonstration of what humiliation and desire can do to a person. Overall, the characters are really well fleshed out.

The voice acting was also pretty good, and I liked how each of the characters embodied their personalities. Doug was a bit annoying, but he played a minor role, as did most of the other dog's (at least their voices). Russell is played by a charming and really good actor who I liked for his innocence and voice. Really strong voice acting.

The structure basically revolved around Carl, whose introduction to conflict is when he hits the construction worker on the head in anger- showing his grief over Ellie and his frustration at the world around him. The rising actions show is gradually softening and ability to appreciate life. The climactic moment is one of the best in any Pixar movie, and for me that's the most heartbreaking moment in the film, not the opening. When Carl throws all his items off of the house, he is symbolically letting go of his attachment to objects that remind him of Ellie. And that last shot of the two armchairs- the central symbols of Carl and Ellie's relationship- sitting side by side... its a perfect way to show that by letting go of Carl, he is spiritually reunited with her.

The pacing was nice, although it could be a bit jolty at times. The opening pacing is amazing, with a pan through the life of Carl and Ellie. These first five minutes make up for me one of Pixar's best scenes ever, and tell a better story than The Bookshop does in two hours. From there, the rest of the movie isn't quite as good, but how can it be? Everything sparkles, and the pacing does not fail (only wavers a little in the middle).

The themes and values I think aren't that hard to make out, but they're really different, and I don't know how well kids can connect to it. It's basically saying that happiness in life is achieved through enjoying life, not mourning over loss. There are more eloquent ways of saying this (like the entire film), but it's the basic message, and it's one of Pixar's more original ones. I really liked the symbolism incorporated in this film, and how Carl relates to each of the symbols on a personal level. This elevates the storytelling and the eventual impact of the themes of the film.

The visuals are really great, although not anything too special like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. But definitely no complaints. I really enjoyed the scenes where the house is in the sky, I thought they were really well done.

The music is great. 5/5. Maybe Pixar's best soundtrack ever, written by Michael Giacchino. The soundtrack revolves around one melody, representative of the relationship between Carl and Ellie. And for me, without the music, the opening scene in particular would not be what it is. And it is through the music that we are reminded of the beautiful life of Carl and Ellie, and how he can find happiness again... one of the best film scores in recent years, deserving of its Oscar for Best Score.

Overall, Up was really, really solid movie, made in an era where Pixar was releasing movies every year that were just so great. Although they haven't lived up to these movies in recent years, I can hardly blame them. The product of their work in the 2000s was outstanding, and Up is just one of the examples of the power of animation and kids movies in general... many times, I think, these movies have deeper and more powerful themes and values than a lot of adult crap today... So hats off to Pixar for once again producing a masterpiece."

Only difference is that I would put it at a
rather than my original
; don't love it quite as much as I used to.

#1 Up vs. #6 Mary and Max
Winner: #6 Mary and Max

Sorry @Miss Vicky, just the way it turned out
I'm disappointed that Up is now eliminated, but I'm not mad that Mary and Max was the film to knock it out.

#1 Spirited Away vs. #3 The Incredibles

Originality - Spirited Away
Script/Screenplay - The Incredibles
Animation - Spirited Away
Characters - The Incredibles
Music/Sound - Spirited Away
Themes/Values - Spirited Away
Structure/Pacing - The Incredibles

Spirited Away - 4
The Incredibles - 3

Winner: #1 Spirited Away

The Incredibles
Year: 2004
Director: Brad Bird

First The Iron Giant, and then this? Brad Bird is a living genius, right up there with Miyazaki and Andrew Stanton as one of the greatest animators ever. I mean, this guy did Ratatouille as well! He doesn't make bad movies. And The Incredibles is definitely a good movie, a really good movie. The thing about The Incredibles is that it feels like a film that's written for adults with kids as a second thought. That's Pixar's main "thing" (started with Toy Story, still going strong with films like Up and Ratatouille), and The Incredibles is probably the prime example of an adult film for children.

Maybe that's why I'm appreciating it more and more as I grow older. When I was younger I loved the cool action sequences (that opening scene - it's like the opening of an Indiana Jones movie in terms of excitement), and I loved the powers and technology of everyone. It was just a blast to watch, and I'm sure it's a blast for almost everyone to watch. But when you get older you notice the subtleties of this film, the deep human truths that lie beneath the surface. The Incredibles is a fast, fun, and action-packed ride that's also hilarious. But it's also deeply profound.

The superheros have failed, apparently, in this alternate version of the '50s. Oh wait, before I even go into more of that, I love the setting! It could have worked in modern day, too, but Brad Bird set it in the 50s or 60s and it makes it great. We get this old-timey feel, with no overused technology (well, at least in normal life, not speaking of Syndrome) and great looking old cars. I mean, the whole vibe of this movie is just great. It kind of reminds of Wall-E's vibe in the beginning, the usage of post-apocalyptic visuals paired with old music.

Anyways... oh yeah. The superheros have failed, apparently. No one wants them to be heroes anymore. After the opening scene, we get a shocking montage of lawsuits, newspaper clippings, and much more, that lead to the outcome that superheroes no longer exist. This will set us up for the themes and layers of the story that is to come, and it's done beautifully.

This is one of the longest Pixar movies, at about two hours, but it feels like the time flies by. We get a rather complex story - several possible protagonists - and interesting places and things to look at. The first half I think is better, as it is almost a slice of life film. Bob's scenes in his insurance company are gold, and every scene with the family is done to perfection. Gosh, that family fight scene, that's one of the best things Pixar has ever done!

Bob's arguments with Helen I bet even made some parents uncomfortable watching it with their kids. It's bitingly accurate at times, specifically when Bob comes home and they get into a shouting match. And that brings me back around to the screenplay. The screenplay is one of the things that makes this by and far the best superhero movie ever made. The issue with a lot of Marvel/DC movies is that they rely too much on visual effects and action, and they get away with a lousy and boring screenplay. That's why the most famous quotes from these movies are things like "Avengers assemble," and "I am Iron Man." Great quotes there. What The Incredibles does differently is that it has quotable and interesting dialogue, some of it can be chilling with its power as well. Take for instance a series of quotes during an argument between Helen and her son Dash. Helen says, "Everyone is special, Dash." His response? "That's just another way of saying no one is." Basically The Incredibles is saying that true talent should be recognized, and that covering up your abilities is just not helpful to you or anyone else.

There are so many other great quotes. Mirage: "If you want to bet on something, bet your own life!" Yeesh. "Honey, where's my super suit?!" Classic Samuel L. Jackson. Anyways, I haven't said half of the things I want to say about this masterpiece, but if you somehow haven't watched The Incredibles by now, watch it. Now. Do it.