Ghostbusters (2016) Review

*Some minor, vague spoilers included*


The original 1984 Ghostbusters is an icon of 80s culture. With its smart sense of humor, innovative concept, and visual effects that, somehow, still hold up, it’s no wonder that Ghostbusters became the highest-grossing comedy of the 1980s. There was one sequel which lacked much of the humor found in the original, leaving many fans dissatisfied. Though a third film in the series was often planned, it was a project that was ultimately not to be, as it fell through one time after another after another after another.

Now we finally have a third Ghostbusters film, though not a third in the same series. Like many franchises that have laid dormant for an extended period of time, this 2016 film is a reboot, with an all-new cast of characters starting from scratch. This has, of course, lead to many fans of the original films feeling disheartened that they never got the third film they waited so long for. And sadly, this newer version doesn’t give a whole lot of reason to win fans over. Ultimately, the ghosts of its past are just too prominent, and the new material not strong enough to bust them.

The new film reimagines the Ghostbusters as a team of female paranormal patrol officers. The two at the center of the story are Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), while the two other members of the quartet are Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones).

Yates and Gilbert were once best friends and colleagues. Both of them believed in the supernatural and became scientists on the subject. Somewhere along the line, Gilbert left paranormal research behind her. Though that didn’t stop Yates from releasing the book they both wrote on the subject some time later. Gilbert is immediately discredited upon the book’s release, and confronts Yates about her actions. This leads Gilbert to becoming an inadvertent tagalong with Yates and her new colleague Holtzmann, as they investigate a supernatural happening. They successfully document the presence of an apparition, reaffirming Gilbert’s belief in the supernatural, which leads to her being fired as a university professor. So she decides to join Yates and Holtzmann on their new ghostbusting endeavors.

The group is later joined by Tolan, the everywoman of the team, and hire a handsome but impossibly buffoonish receptionist in Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth). The four women have fluctuating success at capturing ghosts as they develop new equipment for the job, but a much larger threat looms over the city of New York as a madman is developing a means to intensify paranormal activity across the city, in hopes of opening a portal and unleashing an army of ghosts on New York.


The plot is a bit basic, but it has some fun with its nature as a reboot and focuses a little more on the Ghostbusters getting to know their craft than the original film did. Perhaps the best addition to the reboot are McCarthy and Wiig, who have great chemistry together, and do what they can to bring out the best in what they have to work with.

On the downside of things, the writing is largely inconsistent. Though some jokes are mildly funny, many don’t hit the mark, leaving the film to feel more awkward than humorous. The film as a whole just has a mediocre feeling to it, and this is only magnified by the film’s rocky pacing.

Too many unimportant scenes feel dragged out, while a number of key plot and character moments go by all too quickly. The central relationship of the film is the friendship between Yates and Gilbert, and it’s good when it’s present, but it often feels like that central element is lost in favor of the aforementioned inconsistent jokes.

One aspect of the film that’s full of highs and lows are the callbacks to the original 1984 Ghostbusters film. There are some moments in the film that purposefully mimic the events of the first film, and that’s understandable for the most part, but the film’s third act maybe feels a little too familiar to anyone who’s seen the original film. So we have a reboot trying to reinvent its franchise that’s simultaneously afraid to reinvent.

These callbacks also take the form of cameos by most of the cast of the 1984 film, who play new roles in bit parts. While the cameos of Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts are small enough as to be fun and not distracting, Bill Murray’s small-but-relatively-larger role comes off as a disappointment. Murray’s character’s first scene works well enough, but the film later brings him back for a second go, almost hyping him to be an important character in the story, before unceremoniously writing him off. It may have actually been interesting to see Murray in an important role in this reboot that’s wildly different from his main character of the original, so the fact that nothing comes of it makes the character’s return appearance feel misleading and entirely pointless. It just deviates from the plot when his first appearance would have sufficed for a cameo.

Another disappointing aspect of the film are the visual effects. Much of the CG looks a little bit behind the times. The final, big bad ghost works well enough. But many of the standard ghosts the titular busters face don’t exactly look like what you would expect from a big budget movie like this in 2016. There is a brief visual created with traditional, hand drawn animation in one instance, which is probably the effect that stands out the most.

As a whole, the 2016 Ghostbuster reboot just fails to deliver. The writing and pacing aren’t never seem to click, the visual effects leave a lot to be desired, and the ghost of the original is constantly looming overhead, and not always for the better.

Who ya gonna call? Someone else.



Don’t Let Classics Become a Thing of the Past

Don’t be confused by the title of this post. I understand that the majority of works labelled as “classics” earn the title in retrospect and, as such, tend to be works from years gone by. The title and point of this post is more about my concerns of how many of todays works will be “allowed” to be considered classics in the future, due to the increasingly cynical nature today’s generation has towards the creative works of others, which seems dead-set on not wanting to enjoy anything.

Now, before I sound too defeatist, I would like to point out that there are a number of movies, video games, and other art works of today that will achieve classic status, as this cynical attitude isn’t an absolute. But I think the works that are to be judged by the Millennial generation will have an increasingly difficult time in attaining that “classic” status, even if they fully deserve it.

"People liked this movie. Time to make sure we do everything in our power to make people hate it."
“People liked this movie. Time to make sure we do everything in our power to make people hate it.”

For example, films like Inception, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Disney’s Frozen will no doubt go down in the history books. Yet we live in a time in which such things will almost certainly be written off as “overrated” and labelled with even worse monickers by a number of people, simply because their initial reception was highly positive. The internet generation seems to have a dismissive attitude towards positivity, and if anything is greeted warmly upon arrival, they’ll be sure to do their damnedest to shoot them down.

"Frozen isn't as good as the Disney movies I grew up with because I didn't grow up with it."
“Frozen isn’t as good as the Disney movies I grew up with because I didn’t grow up with it.”

Part of the problem of today stems from nostalgia (lord knows Millennials love their nostalgia). Now, nostalgia can be a beautiful thing, but not when it’s at the expense of giving anything new a chance. It’s quite disheartening how frequently I see people on the internet defend literally anything that came from their childhood, and deride anything new as being inferior simply, well, because. It’s a mindset that automatically prevents anything new from joining the ranks of our favorites of yesteryear.

Nostalgia is only the secondary problem in this equation, however, as I feel cynicism itself is public enemy number one in regards to artistic timelessness.

We now live in a generation where review aggregates are readily available for us to peruse on the internet, and in which people will readily deride anything that has a positive reception on the sole grounds that it has a positive reception. Now, I’m not saying people can’t disagree with the general consensus, I myself have my fair share of disagreements with popular opinion, but there’s a difference between differing opinions and simply belittling something because how dare people enjoy things. And it seems that, all too often these days, the latter is the case.

"Uh oh, The Force Awakens made too much money. Guess I need to hate it now."
“Uh oh, The Force Awakens made too much money. Guess I need to hate it now.”

It certainly doesn’t help that we live in a time that frowns upon success. So you can bet if a movie happens to make a lot of money through box office revenue and merchandise, or a video game sells millions of copies, there will be a vocal lot of people who will hate them on those grounds alone. Whether or not these people even watched these movies or played these games is irrelevant. Because how dare success! 

Yet another problem stems from the self-indulgence that has emerged in this age of Twitter and Facebook. Now, I’m not saying these social media sites are innately bad, but they haven’t exactly helped fix the lack of humility found in Millennial culture. People want to feel important, and this day and age, feeling important means belittling the works of people with talent.

"Both the people behind Honest Trailers, and its audience."
“Both the people behind Honest Trailers, and its audience.”

Look no further then the likes of Honest Trailers and CinemaSins (actually, don’t look there, they’re rather insipid). These types of internet videos are wildly popular largely because they eviscerate popular and beloved movies in a snarky, self-important attitude. I get that such videos are aiming for “humor,” but again, there’s a difference between simply making jokes about movies (or anything else creative) and arrogantly bullying a work with no constructive criticisms to speak of, which is the trap Honest Trailers, CinemaSins and their equally vapid contemporaries indulge in. And people today eat it up, because it feeds their cynicism and self-importance, and punishes the movies, filmmakers and the people who enjoy their creations simply for existing.

"Sire, the possibility of a millennial actually enjoying something are approximately 3,720 to 1!"
“Sir, the possibility of a millennial actually enjoying something is approximately 3,720 to 1!”

This relishing in pessimism is making it difficult for things to be fondly remembered in the way they were in the past. Can you imagine if the original 1977 Star Wars had to be subjugated to to the same kinds of audiences who simply don’t want to like things? Such works may not have the status they have today if that were the case, and I think fewer and fewer works of today will share that kind of status because of it.

Again, I’m not saying there can’t be the usual contrarian to bring up a differing perspective, but I again point out that today there’s more of an attitude that frowns upon the very idea of liking things. We’ve grown to hate honesty and only allow the sarcastic and the obnoxious to thrive. People just don’t want to like things these days.

"It's not Super Mario 64. 0/10."
“It’s not Super Mario 64. 0/10.”

As far as video games are concerned, you can look at classics from years past such as Chrono Trigger or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as examples of games that are held on a pedestal. But it would be much harder to find newer games that are held in a similar light, simply because we aren’t allowing them to be. Every time a new big game comes out, it will almost immediately be declared “overrated” or people might go on and on about how much it “sucks” simply because there’s one mechanic they don’t like (as if the camera in Ocarina of Time was perfect). Sequels to big games, even ones with obvious improvements, are declared inferior to their predecessors simply because they aren’t their predecessors. We don’t even give things a chance, simply because we don’t want to. I guess hating stuff is supposed to make us feel special or something.

"brb brah, I need to go write a negative review of the new Zelda before it's released."
“brb brah, I need to go write a negative review of the new Zelda before I’ve played it.”

There was a time, not all that long ago, where video games, much like movies, had some exceptional works where it was clear they were going to be revered as classics. These days, it’s not so obvious. It’s not that video games or movies have gotten any worse (I’d argue movies are doing much better now than they were in the 90s), it’s that we don’t want to like things. We wish to indulge in our cynicisms, and it’s making some truly great creative works suffer because of it.

"E3 is just around the corner! I can't wait to hate every game!"
“E3 is just around the corner! I can’t wait to hate every game!”

If people continue to go down this path of self-importance, where creativity is shot down at every opportunity just so we can give ourselves a pat on the back, I fear we may end up with less and less artists who actually care about their creations. I mean, it’s not like we’re giving them much incentive to create things, since whatever they make will be belittled in obnoxious internet videos and any shred of success they may find will be turned against them.

I can’t help but feel a heavy sadness sweep over me every time I think about it. If everyone keeps up this destructive cynicism towards creativity, we can sure as hell expect the future of movies, video games, and other art forms to be riddled in nothing but sarcasm and self-deprecation. People often claim to want “smarter” stories, and yet we’re the ones who are ultimately making stories dumber with our utter distaste for honesty and genuine storytelling.

I can only hope more and more people can start appreciating creativity again, and remember how enjoyable it can be when viewing creative works with a sense of optimism and being able to form actual opinions. If we continue down this destructive road, classics will indeed be a thing of the past.

Ratchet and Clank (Movie) Review

Ratchet and Clank

Video game to movie adaptations have a rocky track record, to put it lightly. Some of the earlier film adaptations of games – such as Super Mario Bros. or Street Fighter – at least had something of an excuse for their less-than stellar quality, seeing as the idea of bringing the worlds of video games to life on the big screen was new territory back then. And it’s not like most games at the time were built around compelling narratives that could translate easily into the world of cinema. But as the years went by and video game-based movies continued to be… not good, even as games became more movie-like themselves, the sub-genre of video game movies grew to become something of a joke. It’s as if some curse simply prevents video game movies from being good.

The curse is alive and well, evidently. Because, despite some charm and humor, the Ratchet and Clank animated film isn’t that good. And this is a series that’s been begging for an animated film since its inception.

That’s not to say that Ratchet and Clank is as bad as many other video game movies that came before it, but taking into account the colorful worlds, characters and humor of the series, the end result of the movie is a shallow letdown.

Ratchet and Clank tells the story of, well, Ratchet and Clank. The former is a cat-like alien called a Lombox, who works at a vehicle repair shop on a desert planet, while the latter is a small and charming robot who serves as the brains of the duo.

An evil organization known as the Drek Corporation has been destroying uninhabited planets, under the leadership of its chairman and CEO, Drek. Drek is working with a mad  scientist, Dr. Nefarious, and a musclebound robot named Victor. Together, they make up the film’s triumvirate of villains.

With the aforementioned planets getting destroyed, the galaxy is in a panic, worrying that an inhabited planet could be next. So the galaxy-protecting Galactic Rangers (lead by the hammy and dimwitted Captain Qwark) are looking for a new recruit to help them take on this new threat. Ratchet, being a big fan of the Rangers, seeks to be their new recruit, but is quickly rejected. This of course leads to the predictable “follow your dreams amid disappointment” bit that – while certainly a good message for young audiences – seems to be the go-to message in animated flicks when the filmmakers can’t think of anything else.

Ratchet and ClankEventually, Ratchet meets up with Clank, who has escaped Dr. Nefarious’ robot factory. The two become fast friends, and prove to be a good enough heroic duo that they end up getting recruited by the Galactic Rangers. That’s when the adventure to stop Drek gets going.

It’s not that the story is inherently bad, but it lacks any shred of surprise and innovation. The plot basically follows all the same, predictable beats you could imagine from both animated movies and the sci-fi genre. What’s worse is that the film basically only captures the most simplistic and on-the-surface qualities of its characters.

While Clank is charming with his intellectual quips, and Captain Qwark is humorously cheesy, Ratchet, the film’s main character, can basically be summed up as “the main character.” The rest of the Galactic Rangers are so forgettable you may forget that they’re there, and the villains, while not without their funny moments, basically just fill the roles of villains.

Worse still is that, despite this being the Ratchet and Clank movie, it feels more like the Ratchet and Captain Qwark movie, since Ratchet and Clank don’t share a whole lot of screen time together, which makes the titular relationship feel squandered. Meanwhile, Qwark seems to hog the screen at the expense of Clank.

The movie’s sense of humor also feels a bit dumbed-down, with perhaps too many jokes built around texting and Twitter. There are a few jokes that land (including a few references to other Playstation franchises like Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper, as well as some fun subtitles that go with the traditional on-screen names of locations during scene transitions), but most of the humor feels like it’s trying to be hip with the Twitter generation.

In terms of animation, the film looks capable, though not exactly impressive. It’s pleasing enough to look at the cartoony character designs and colorful environments, but it also doesn’t exactly look up-to-date when compared to a lot of other animated features of today.

Ratchet and ClankThankfully, the film has some great voice work, with many of the voice actors from the games reprising their roles, as well as a few celebrities thrown into the mix. Paul Giamatti voices Chairman Drek, while Slyvester Stallone fits as the lumbering Victor. Best of all, John Goodman has a small part as Ratchet’s boss and mentor at the repair shop, and John Goodman vocals are only ever a good thing.

Ratchet and Clank is ultimately an uneven movie that’s hard to recommend. Young children will probably have fun with it, and perhaps some diehard fans might simply enjoy the titular duo finally making it into a movie (though one can also imagine fan disappointment as well). But for everyone else, the story is too predictable, the humor too inconsistent, the characters too shallow, and the overall execution too uneventful to be anything more than another disappointing video game movie.


Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Batman V Superman

A few years ago, I discovered a webcomic called Axe Cop, which is a series of stories told from the mind of a child, but illustrated by said child’s adult brother. As you might expect, the series is pretty random and hilarious, as it is told simply through the spontaneity of a child’s mind. Logic is thrown out the window and a parade of crazy characters are humorously crammed together with very little consistency.

Imagine taking a similarly non sequitur method of storytelling, but removing the charm and humor, as well as the innocence of knowing it stemmed from a child’s mind. Now take that empty shell and stretch it to nearly three hours of brooding and explosions, and you have something of an idea of what Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is like.

Perhaps I’m just a tad bit biased, since I’ve always been more of a Batman fan than a fan of DC itself, so I’ve always hated to see DC’s heroes crossover with one another (if I made a Batman vs. Superman movie, it would consist of Batman wearing a suit of pure Kryptonite, thus weakening Superman and allowing Batman to beat the Man of Steel into a pulp within the first five minutes, and then proceed to being strictly a Batman movie). But I did try to go into Batman V Superman with an open mind.

Now, I will admit the movie did have some good points: I feel the concerns over Ben Affleck being the new Batman can be set aside, since his performance was one of the film’s highlights, and it gives promise for the upcoming standalone Batman reboot. There were a few entertaining moments, and the fact that such things exist at all in the movie automatically makes it better than 2013’s Man of Steel. And I must say I did actually enjoy the titular battle between the two superheroes.

The problem is that it’s all too obvious that the movie is trying to replicate what Marvel has achieved with their shared cinematic universe, and it does way too much way too soon. The reason why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is working is because they built up to it. Marvel had five standalone movies released before they packaged the established heroes together for The Avengers, with each of those standalone films giving hints at what was to come. Here, we simply had Man of Steel, which was strictly a Superman movie, and now we’re diving head-first into the bigger DC universe in one go. The end results make Batman V Superman play more like bits and pieces of many different movies, as opposed to one big one.

Batman V SupermanWe are given snippets of Batman’s origin story in the film’s first scene (which is probably the way to go with it, we all know Batman’s origin story so well that we don’t need to spend too much time with it). And we fast forward to the events of Man of Steel, where the reckless lummox known as Superman carelessly creates insurmountable collateral damage during his grudge match with General Zod, as a more heroic Bruce Wayne looks on.

This gives Bruce Wayne a reasonable fear of Superman. If ol’ Supes can cause that much destruction when trying to save people, what can he do if he turns against mankind? So Bruce Wayne/Batman makes it a priority to discover a means of taking down Superman, should the need come to pass.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (who for some reason isn’t portrayed by Bryan Cranston) is hatching a scheme to take down Superman by framing him for various acts of violence and slowly turning mankind against him (adding fuel to Batman’s fire in the process), and discovers the powers of Kryptonite, and the effects it has on the otherwise invincible Superman, setting a bigger plot in motion.

The setup is decent enough, but once the movie starts to drop obvious hints and glimpses at future movies, it starts becoming a bit of a mess. Wonder Woman also plays a part in the movie, without ever having a real reason to be a part of it. Other DC heroes are also given cameos, because fan service. We even get a few mentions of the Joker, which only end up making us wish we were watching The Dark Knight instead. Also, Doomsday squeezes his way into this movie.

It’s not just the amount of characters and goings-on that are the problem with Batman V Superman, but its way of going about them as well. So many elements feel rushed, so many scenes feel episodic and clunky, and so much of what could have been a compelling story is drown in way too many sub-plots. One scene even depicts Bruce Wayne having a dream/vision of a potential future should his fears of Superman come to fruition. But instead of intrigue, the scene in question only ends up creating confusion, as it begins so abruptly and cascades so rapidly it may even produce an unintentional chuckle or two.

Another big problem with the movie is Superman himself, who comes across as an entirely unlikable hypocrite. He criticizes Batman for his vigilante ways, and as Clark Kent he makes it his mission to smear Batman’s name in the papers. Superman, who takes the law into his own hands on countless occasions, judges and condemns someone else for doing the exact same thing. At least Batman doesn’t have countless innocent lives on his hands due to recklessness.

I suppose being the Batman supporter that I am, I should be happy that Batman is inarguably in the right in this movie. The problem is that it still tries to depict Superman as a heroic savior-like figure, when his actions make him come off as a self-aggrandizing, hypocritical jackass.

Between the movie’s insistence on cramming in as many elements from the DC universe as possible, it’s plodding pacing and clunky editing, and one half of the titular combatants being downright unlikable, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is just a loud mess of a movie. There are a few diamonds in the rough (again, a Ben Affleck Batman movie actually has promise), but the film’s desire to compete with what Marvel has accomplished in a dozen films in one single movie makes it incoherent.

Simply put, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t a very good super hero movie. It’s especially not a good Batman movie. The fact that it lacks humor and charm also makes it a pretty bad Axe Cop movie.



10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane

I’ve just seen 10 Cloverfield Lane, and must say I was pleasantly surprised by it. Granted, I haven’t had time to let the film “sink in” and form a more solid opinion, but I left the theater having felt I just saw a satisfying thriller.

I have to admit, I still haven’t seen the original Cloverfield, so I was originally going to wait to see 10 Cloverfield Lane, until I discovered it was merely a “spiritual successor” and not a direct sequel, so I wouldn’t need to see the 2008 film first.

On one hand, this is a very small scale movie. There are only three on-screen characters through the whole thing (a couple of others are heard on phones and radios, one of which being a cameo by Bradley Cooper). But the movie feels like a much bigger film due to the suspense it creates, and the effectiveness of the three aforementioned performances.

The story focuses on a woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who, after a car accident, awakens in a survival bunker as the apparent captive of a man named Howard (John Goodman). But Howard claims he actually saved Michelle’s life, as a devastating attack in the surrounding area (which Howard attributes to either terrorists or martians) took place around the time of her car accident, leaving widespread devastation in the area, with the fallout leaving the air toxic.

The film often toys with the audience with the depths of Howard’s paranoia (he is, after all, a man who spent years having his doomsday bunker built). At times he seems kind and fatherly to Michelle and her fellow captive, Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.), other times he’s domineering and unhinged. The fate of the world outside may be a lie, or an exaggeration, on Howard’s part. Or there might be something to his claims.

10 Cloverfield Lane thrives on the performances, particularly those of Goodman and Winstead. And that’s what makes it work so well. We get to know the characters in a way that’s often lost in films of this nature. But 10 Cloverfield Lane is built around its handful of characters and the performances that bring them to life, making the film all the more effective.

Admittedly, I can imagine the film’s final act, and the twists involved, may prove polarizing to some audiences. But no doubt the film is bold for going in the direction it does.

I may have to check out the original Cloverfield now, even though I heard mixed things about it back in the day. But this spiritual successor has won me over, being one of the most suspenseful thrillers in recent memory, made all the better by its fantastic performances.

Top 5 Reasons the Best Animated Feature Oscar is Great

The Oscars have come and gone, and amid all the forced social statements that only served to make the people involved feel important, some good did come out of the event. Mad Max: Fury Road won a bunch of stuff, and Inside Out won Best Animated Feature.

On the downside, Best Animated Feature was the only thing Inside Out was allowed to win, given the Academy’s blatant bias against animated films (diversity!). Lord knows more than a few animated films should have won Best Picture by this point, especially after the turn of the new millennium, when more and more animated films have become more and more sophisticated. It’s also well over due that a director of an animated film gets a Best Director nod, and hell, why not nominate a voice actor if their performance deserves it (in the case of Inside Out, Amy Poehler definitely should have got some recognition). And don’t get me started on why on Earth no animated film has been nominated for Art Direction (shouldn’t they dominate the category?). In short, it would be nice to see animated films win more than their token award and the music/song categories.

With all this said, the Best Animated Feature category, in the fifteen years its been around, has become something special in its own right. Now, the Academy has been sure to stunt it as much as they can, often handing the award out in filler moments and “bathroom break” segments, not to mention in the award’s early years they often had filler nominees (Jimmy Neutron? Shark Tale?!), many great animated films that should have been nominated weren’t (Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, etc.), and not all winners have been deserving (Happy Feet, Brave). But the award has slowly evolved into something meaningful, and even with all the missteps in its early years, it has greatly boosted the efforts of animation over the last decade and a half.

So while there’s still some work to be done, a lot of good has come out of the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Notably, it has allowed for certain types of films to be nominated (and win) awards that the other, more live-action-y awards would never allow.

Without further rambling, here are five reasons why the Best Animated Feature Oscar is not only great, but even manages to outdo the live-action awards present at the show, including Best Picture.


5: Films that make money can actually win


While the Academy Awards often seem to have some kind of allergy towards movies that make money, no matter how good they might be (note that The Force Awakens didn’t win a single award), the Best Animated Feature Oscar is apparently immune to this particular bias. A number of winners have all been huge box office successes, with Toy Story 3 and Frozen both being billion-dollar movies. Not every movie that makes a lot of money is great, but there have been plenty of films that are both quality movies and financial successes, and it seems too often the latter prevents certain films from winning anything, so it’s nice that at least one award has the door open for movies that people actually cared to see.

4: Foreign films can be nominated… and win!

Spirited Away

How many times have foreign films been nominated for Best Picture? How many have won? The answer to the former is very few, and the answer to the latter is none. Meanwhile, Best Animated Feature has seen an increasing number of foreign nominees, from earlier years with the likes of The Triplets of Belleville to this year’s award with When Marnie Was There. Notably, the award’s second-ever winner, Spirited Away, hails from Japan. In just fifteen years, the Best Animated Feature award has shown more diversity than Best Picture has in eighty-eight.

3: The winners are actually entertaining

Inside Out

Okay, so this one’s more subjective. Look, there have been a number of entertaining Best Picture winners over the years, but most of them were decades ago. Aside from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, what Best Picture winner since the dawn of the twenty-first century has had any substantial form of re-watchability? Have any others been anything more than that same, particular style of “Oscar movie?” I’m not even saying they’re all bad, but are they the kind of movies you’d be quick to go to when you want to watch a great movie? Some of the nominees maybe (Mad Max), but probably not the winners. The Best Animated Feature award, on the other hand, has provided some highly enjoyable winners, and not just for children. Films such as Spirited Away and Inside Out are incredibly insightful, while still being a whole lot of fun.

2: History actually remembers the films involved

Finding Nemo

Let’s really think for moment how many recent Best Picture winners will go down in history as all-time classics. Does anyone even bring up Argo or Slumdog Millionaire (movies I enjoyed, by the way) in conversation anymore? Does anyone revere The Hurt Locker or The King’s Speech in the same way they do the classics of yesteryear?

You know what people do remember? The Finding Nemos, Toy Stories, The Incredibles, the Ups, the Spirited Aways, the Frozens, I could go on. Animated films simply have a universal appeal that break age and cultural barriers. More people will openly admit to crying during the first fifteen minutes of Up than they would about any of the recent Best Picture winners. Animated films have a way of leaving an indelible mark on audiences. That’s more than you can say about most the movies the Academy deems Best Picture worthy.

1: Animated films win something!

Big Hero 6

I’ve saved the most obvious for last! The number one reason why the Best Animated Feature Oscar is great is that it allows animated films to actually win something.

Yes, it’s a crying shame that the award has become something of a token, since there’s very little else the Academy seems interested in even thinking about nominating animation, let alone having them win. But as stated previously, the existence of the award itself has encouraged a stronger output of animated features. And because of it, some animated films that many audiences might not otherwise know about (like the aforementioned foreign films, or smaller features like the delightful Song of the Sea), can actually receive some recognition, and may gain an audience or two.

If only the award were given better treatment by the Academy itself. Still, the fact that this award allows animated films, and by extension, all the above categories, to be recognized in any way makes it a showcase for far more versatile and entertaining storytelling than Best Picture has allowed in a very, very long time. If not ever.

Top 10 Films of 2015

2015 was a fantastic year for movies (for me anyway, I don’t know about you). There were so many great films in so many genres that I had difficulty ranking a top 10. But ranking a top 10 I must, and I feel I’ve finally managed to properly list my ten favorite films from 2015.

You may (once again) notice that my list won’t look like a whole lot of others. I like what I like, and I try to be honest with that. This of course means I’m not just going to sprinkle in some indie films and Oscar-bait just so I look “credible” to the hipsters and snobs of the internet. Some Oscar movies and indie flicks always have the potential to make it as some of my favorites of the year (and in the case of the former, some did this time around), but only if they had enough of an impact on me personally.

I have to admit, a number of films I really enjoyed, such as The Revenant, Ant-Man and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, didn’t quite make the cut. 2015 was such a good year for movies that those films, contenders in their own right, miss the mark.

Also keep in mind that, although these ten films are ranked, some of them (particularly numbers 3 through 5) are pretty interchangeable. So if I ever say something down the road that contradicts what I say here, it’s not an inconsistency. Opinions fluctuate.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 films of 2015.

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I just saw Deadpool, and though I haven’t yet had the time to fully analyze it and let my opinions fully bake, I figured I’d write how I feel about the movie now despite my opinions still being in dough form.

Overall I enjoyed Deadpool more than I thought I would. I’ve admittedly never been a fan of the Deadpool character, as I tend to not usually be a fan of overly sarcastic, self-referential characters (I like my stories genuine, even if they’re ridiculous). But Deadpool worked for the most part.

Ryan Reynolds’ performance was particularly memorable, as he pretty much nailed the character’s comedic and fourth wall-breaking elements perfectly, and also managed to delve into some more serious territory when necessary.

The portrayals of fellow X-Men characters Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead were also enjoyable, as were the nods to the confusing continuities of the X-Men movies and this film’s relatively low budget when compared to them.

On the downside, Deadpool continues the recent trend of super hero movies of having a completely forgettable villain. The villain simply lacks presence, and in terms of super powers he doesn’t come off as a threat to Deadpool and company.

Though Deadpool starts things off with an interesting pace – beginning with a brutal action scene before going to the origin story and back again – it ultimately devolves into another predictable super hero origin story. By the end of things, it largely turns into one of the very movies it insistently mocks.

Overall, Deadpool was fun. It wasn’t great by any means, and I still can’t say I’m a fan of the Deadpool character as a whole, but the fact that I mostly enjoyed it despite my initial skepticisms is saying something.

Movie Awards 2016: Best Comedy

Comedy has always played a big role in movie history. Though many comedies seem to get dumber and tackier as the years go by, there are still a number of gold ones to be found. As far as 2015 goes, the best comedy may seem like a rather unlikely one…


Winner: Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie

There are few animation studios out there who display the painstaking attention to detail of the medium quite like Aardman. This quasi-spinoff of Wallace & Gromit is one of the studio’s most enjoyable features, and also one of their funniest.

What’s remarkable about Shaun the Sheep Movie is how it accomplishes its storytelling and humor through action alone. Not a single word is spoken in the movie (apart from background songs), yet it manages to produce a number of laugh out loud moments. It’s a great reminder that comedy is more than simple punchlines, and that humor itself can carry a story, and even produce some more sentimental moments.

Forget that it wasn’t the biggest box office performer out there, Shaun the Sheep Movie is an undeniable good time, and 2015’s best comedy.