In their most recent on-line issue out now, Film Comment has picked out two capsule reviews of films that I wrote in my posting about my favorite films of 2009. The complete feature can be viewed by clicking through here. It turns out they chose to publicize my views on two of the strongest kiddie films this year: Fantastic Mr. Fox and Ponyo (pictured). Now that I recall, I rated four children’s movies of 2009 in my top 20, which also included Up and Where the Wild Things Are. If I had not forgotten that Coraline came out that year, I would have included that movie as well.
Anyway, here is what they printed:
Fantastic Mr. Fox (#4)
No one does awkward as artistically as Wes Anderson, and his foray into stop-motion-generated storytelling raises his lovable, damaged characters to a new level. The challenge of appreciating Anderson’s work depends on how willing the audience is to acknowledge their own faults in the self-deprecating humor that drives his movies. With Fantastic Mr. Fox, he ingeniously disguises that premise behind fuzzy animals with human qualities. However, the film never sugarcoats their animal behavior with innocent cuteness. The sharp delivery of dialogue between the characters sometimes slips toward wild unpredictable primal behavior, which wittily treads the line of silliness and danger. Unlike so many movies for kids, this movie felt organic and authentic, and what do kids need most but true, heart-felt honesty, even if that truth might have its dark places?—Hans Morgenstern, Miami, FL
The revered Hayao Miyazaki returns with another animated fable that deals with man’s ecological impact on the planet couched within a love story at its most innocent. Miyazaki and his team at Ghibli Studios indulge in their talents of hand-drawn animation that eschews technology with just as much sincerity and pure love as that between the boy and the fish. The results are amazing and beyond what digital work can capture.—Hans Morgenstern, Miami, FL
I have been hooked on sharing yearly film recaps to Film Comment’s annual Reader’s Poll since 2006. At first, the chance to win free DVDs from the Criterion Collection drew me in to contribute. But then I found myself instantly inspired to justify my choices for whatever films I considered to be the 20 best of that year, and wouldn’t you know it? The editors decided to kick-off their 2005 reader’s poll feature with my observation of the potency behind David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence. They used a couple others from my list that year, too, and I have continued to contribute to their poll every year since.
Film Comment continues to pick out a handful of the capsule opinions I share with them on an annual basis (though, no, I have not won any free Criterion DVDs). Though I have never gathered the nerve to propose an article for them, despite my background in film studies, it has always been an honor to be selected by a group who publish some of the most thoughtful film criticism in the U.S. And seriously, if I can do it, you can too (I’m still trying to convince some fellow friends and film lovers to join in with the poll, you know who you are. Maybe next year…?).