Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: six years ago Disney’s Frozen made a kajillion dollars, set off a new merchandising phenomenon, and inspired more than a few cosplayers at our favorite conventions. The cooled-down coterie is back for Frozen II, which was rightly deemed good enough for a theatrical release and not immediately consigned to Disney+ like that Lady and the Tramp do-over or the Teenage Kurt Russell Comedy Collection.
Disney’s crass rehashes of its extensive back catalog haven’t really been aimed at me, by and large. The Jungle Book had beautiful jungles, but some of those musical numbers…yikes. Our family unanimously hated Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I have yet to see Dumbo, Cinderella, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, or live-action brand extensions such as Maleficent, Alice Through the Looking-Glass, or Mirror, Mirror. (Snow White and the Huntsman found ways to surprise me, but that wasn’t Disney.)
I therefore have no plans to see Jon Favreau’s nearly Warholesque repurposing of Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers’ animated classic The Lion King…and yet I’ve spent half my Thursday reading the first wave of opinions out of skeptical curiosity. After the first five reviews I read from critics and websites I follow on Twitter, I saw patterns emerging. And thus the above artifact was born. Now I can make a game out of reading still more reviews.
The Toy Story trilogy remains an unparalleled cinematic achievement in animation with its track record of consistent excellence through every chapter. The original put Pixar on the map and legitimized three-dimensional computer animation as a feature film-making medium. The follow-up was loaded with at least as much humor and heart, and arguably topped the original for some viewers. The grand finale may have been a hairbreadth beneath its predecessors in quality, but it brought the series full circle, gave us fully satisfactory closure on the saga of Andy’s room, and remains the only animated sequel ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. All three remain shining jewels in Pixar’s crown, a fixture in millions of childhoods, and an object lesson for anyone who wants to teach kids what grade-A movies look like so that they can judge the hollow offerings of other Hollywood studios all the more harshly.
It’s therefore with a sigh that we now give a round of polite, lukewarm applause for the arrival of Toy Story 4, the Zeppo of the series. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, mind you.
Time was, I used to see a lot more animated films per year — partly because my son was once a youngster with lower standards, and partly because good animated films used to come out more frequently. Or maybe that’s the middle-aged fogey in me talking.
To this day the original How to Train Your Dragon — an imaginative, action-packed flight of fantasy with a gut-punch of a climax — remains my favorite Dreamworks Animation project to date. The first sequel wasn’t bad, but never addressed the deadbeat-mom issue at its center to my satisfaction. Five years after How to Train Your Dragon 2 the trilogy concludes with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World — a definitive ending to the saga of Jay Baruchel’s awkward young Viking Hiccup and his fierce, loyal dragon partner Toothless. I nearly typed “pet”, but that descriptor is a bit reductive and and refuted by this very movie itself.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
It’s that time again! My wife Anne and I just got home from the tenth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″), another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous conventions in larger, more popular states. We missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team…
…and sooner or later we run out of cosplay photos as a team. It’s time to share all the cosplay that’s fit to print and left to post. Same disclaimers apply as in Part Two. Enjoy! Some more!
Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to Keystone Art Cinema, the only fully dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis, to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.
Once upon a time we would do both sets as a one-day double-feature date, which gives us time between showings to look around the fashion mall connected to the theater. This year we couldn’t accommodate both in our schedule, but kept half the tradition alive. What follows, then, is my rankings of this year’s Animated Short Film nominees, from fine to finest. All five were likable in their own ways and difficult to rank without getting arbitrary. Three were hand-drawn animation. Three featured Asian or Asian-American main characters. Three had their end credits squashed to half-screen to make space for the directors’ “Oscar Nomination Morning Reaction Videos” squeezed into the other half. Three were silent for the sake of “universal appeal”, which I suppose saves them money by not having to pay any top-tier voice actors.
If they’re not showing at a theater near you and/or if don’t mind waiting, the complete set will be available February 19th on assorted streaming services. (Barring any convenient changes in our theater’s schedule next week, we may have to settle for watching the Live-Action Short Films via Google Play.) Links are provided to official sites where available if you’re interested in more info. Enjoy where possible!
Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse one of The Year’s Best Films!
So…there’s that. But I can’t simply post a screen shot of Ralphie’s teacher from A Christmas Story writing “A++++++++++” on her chalkboard and be done with it, because we know that’s not how I roll.