A world first – a fully painted animation where Vincent Van Gogh’s emotive impasto and bold brushstrokes effectively transfer to the screen.
A year after the artist’s death, Armond Roulin is sent by his father, Postmaster Joseph Roulin, to personally deliver a letter to Theo Van Gogh. Initially reluctant, Armond travels to Auvers-sure-Oise via Paris where he slowly becomes embroiled in the mystery that was Vincent Van Gogh.
The narrative itself may be stilted and slight but technique (more than 100 artists, 853 paintings and 65,000 frames in the 94 minute film) never fails to impress. Painted in the style of Van Gogh, actors (including Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan and Helen McCrory) are placed in the artist’s rendered landscapes, creating a living tableaux to tell the story of those tragic last days.
A UK/Polish co-production commissioned by Wroclaw: European City of Culture 2016.
It’s rude, crude but at times very funny (and at times potentially offensive)!
An animated rebellion by supermarket food against their fate is led by Frank the Sausage. Frank (voiced by Seth Rogan) discovers almost too late that he will not be spending all eternity deep inside Brenda the Bun (Kristen Wiig) in the ‘great beyond.’ Now he needs to cross the supermarket aisles to convince the other foodstuffs of their fate.
It’s irreverent, crass and fluidly crosses animation boundaries as religion, sexuality and politics come under the spotlight, accompanied by expletives galore. And Sausage Party certainly adds new meaning to the idea of a food orgy!
Firmly targeted at families (and young kids in particular), inevitably the latest version of Kipling’s classic errs on the side of saccharine sweet (how else can you make a film about a boy being hunted by a tiger aimed at six year-olds?). But the mix of live action and animation is seamless and visually quite magical.
Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2) has reigned himself in to focus on a story that is essentially an old-fashioned adventure story – but he’s also recognised that there are some things in The Jungle Book you cannot change from the earlier Disney animation. Voiced by Bill Murray, Baloo steals the show: Idris Elba instils majesty and sympathy into Shere Khan – and Bear Necessities remains eminently singable.
In turns despairingly dull and wistfully wacky, the stop-motion Anomalisa is one of those films that has the critics reaching for the superlatives whilst leaving audiences generally baffled.
Nominated for best animation Oscar, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Venice Film Festival, penned by Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche New York, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), the story of Tom Stone, the depressed customer relations expert, wears its credentials on its sleeve. (Tom is splendidly voiced in a flat Lancashire accent by David Thewliss, Harry Potter, The Theory of Everything).
But sporadically funny, inventively clever with its animation, usually very odd (Stone is suffering from the rare Fregoli syndrome – the delusional belief that different people are in fact the same person) fail to disguise [sic] that Anomalisa eventually runs out of emotional steam.
And so to the final list relating to films released in Australia in 2015. And, to make life more interesting (and a little easier), my list is ten rather than five for the performances.
10: The Theory of Everything (dir: James Marsh w/Eddie Redmayne)
9: Still Alice (dir: Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland w/Julianne Moore)
8: The Martian (dir: Ridley Scott w/Matt Damon)
7: The Imitation Game (dir: Morten Tyldum w/Benedict Cumberbatch)
6: Far From Men (dir: David Oelhoffen w/Viggo Mortensen)
5: Selma (dir: Ava DuVernay w/David Oyelowo)
4: Birdman (dir: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu w/Michael Keaton)
3: Sicario (dir: Denis Villeneuve w/Emily Blunt)
2: Leviathan (dir: Andrey Zvyagintsev w/Aleksey Serebryakov)
1: Inside Out (dir: Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen)
Powerhouse performances were the order of the day for most of the films on the list, with no less than four biopics (The Theory of Everything, Still Alice, The Imitation Game and Selma) featuring.
Films 6-10 are possibly interchangeable, with a couple of others on the periphery (most notably Southpaw, Black Mass and the German film Phoenix).
But for all my love of serious drama and powerful performances, I’ve surprised even myself in selecting the Pixar animation Inside Out as the best film of the year (sorry, Leviathan!). But with arguably the best script of the year and a fabulous concept that is extraordinarily entertaining, Inside Out is intelligent, imaginative, adventurous and very funny.
Inside Out is intelligent, important, on the mark – and incredibly funny (the abstract thought corridor is extraordinary). I’ve not laughed at a film screening like this for a very long time – but also walked away impressed by the relevance, cleverness, creativity and emotional intelligence.
It has the pizzazz and colour to appeal to kids, but it’s adults who get the full benefit – Inside Out works on so many levels. Pixar must have had a team of psychologists working with them on this.
Oscar winner for best animation, surely – but at least a nomination for best original screenplay?