Ooh boy, do I love a good movie! And now it’s time for “the best of the best of the best, sir!” Without further ado…
I had to get a Christmas movie in here, even though they’re only a once a year tradition, that just makes them more special, more gratifying and no film fills me with more Christmas cheer than The Muppets. “It’s a Wonderful Life” can be more touching and “A Christmas Story” can be funnier, but “The Muppet Christmas Carol” fully delivers. The film is more restrained than your typical off-the-wall Muppet zaniness which helps gives the jokes more room to breathe and the humor spices up the classic “Christmas Carol” story with some genuine levity without sacrificing the dark and tragic moments – it’s the best of both worlds! Micheal Caine kills it and offers the most convincing redemption for Ebeneezer of all adaptations. I think the soundtrack is downright delightful and I don’t care what you say, “When Love is Gone” is the most tear-jerking number in cinematic history. The film is pure unadulterated joy and you’d have to be a Scrooge to dislike it!
Of all the high fantasy stories and fairy-tales, none can hold a candle to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. An endlessly rich vein of mythology and world-building, The Lord of the Rings is a tale of truly epic proportions which has been masterfully adapted to screens. The opening film of the trilogy is just as amazing as it was nearly two decades ago. Every character is perfectly cast and the astonishing attention to detail brings every frame to life. As you may have noticed, I really value films that are not only well produced, but are well-rounded in tone and scale. From the humble, comforting tranquility of the Shire and Rivendell to the bombastic and terrifying clash in the Mines of Moria – “Fellowship” offers the most bang-for-your-buck. I don’t even care if the thing’s three and a half hours long, it’s a really good three and a half hours! And oh that soundtrack! Talk about iconic and affecting. This movie gets me in adventurous spirits every time!
The Best Classic Disney Movie – yeah, I said it. You can take your Disney Renaissance and shove it! (okay, Aladdin is pretty incredible) But it was the early 2000s where we got the incredible odd-ball films like Lilo & Stitch, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and off course, The Emperor’s New Groove. Boom, baby! “New Groove” is not only the best buddy comedy… no, wait, that’s all it needs, it’s a friggin flawless buddy-comedy with a lovable cast and some of the best gags in animation. Kuzco’s personality is as endearing as it is irritating and the comedic tour de force that is Yzma and Kronk practically steals the show. “New Groove” proves that you don’t need glossy, flashy animation and gratuitous, overindulgent melodrama to make a compelling film – just make a real good cartoon! You’re Disney for cryin out loud – lighten up! I don’t know what people were expecting, but “New Groove” delivers on laughs and character wrapped up in a delectable Incan style.
Oh, but the Disney train doesn’t stop there – the newest inductee, and also a film I’ve seen less than five times, I’m still confident that Zootopia is a modern marvel of animated storytelling. Rarely have I seen a film so committed to flavorful details – possibly even more than Peter Jackson’s films. Every possible facet of Zootopia feels purposeful: From the varied climate zones and transportation for all sizes to the marvelous satire of pop culture music and fads, Zootopia is the most living, breathing city ever animated. And that’s to say nothing about how witty and charming the characters are, or how deftly the subject matter is handled. You may argue that the drama rests too heavily on cliches or the whole racism angle doesn’t translate perfectly to the scientific differences of real animals, but lighten up ya nerd, this is a fantastical cartoon and a pretty obvious metaphor. It doesn’t diminish from the nuanced portrayal and genuine pathos. Zootopia is a fresh and exciting film with tons of great set-pieces, amusing buddy cop drama, and new details to notice on every viewing. The twist was maybe a little too obvious, but it’s a kids movie, I’ll cut it some slack.
I think Japan has truly been at the forefront of 2D animation for decades, having consistently produced some of the most eye-catching and phenomenal feats in the medium – but I must be a really harsh judge, cause anime movies are just never as satisfying as full shows. Basically Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosuda, and Satoshi Kon are the only directors who have made really stand-out classic anime films. Boring history aside, on the surface Spirited Away is just another Alice in Wonderland fantasy adventure like Coraline: A little girl stumbles into a magical world and encounters a series of strange happenings with weirdo characters and has to save her parents so they can escape to reality. But do you remember how I mentioned that a so-so plot can be elevated by amazing spectacle? Cause Spirited Away is an absolute feast for the eyes – a ten course meal of sights and sounds, each more pleasing than the next. Every minute of this film is a treat and not a single piece of media on this great green Earth fills me with more child-like wonder and joy than this film. The mesmerizing bath house, the captivating sea, the marvelous creatures, this is by far Studio Ghibli’s greatest film and an utter achievement in the craft. The soundtrack will whisk you away to a melancholic dreamworld where anything is possible and the pangs of bygone youth will snap you back with renewed enthusiasm for life. The beauty of film is how it can transport us, how it can affect and change our perspective, and no film has left more of an impact on me than Spirited Away.
But that’s my sentimental waffling for the day. What’re some of your favorite films, do they line up with mine?