When the wind rises, all things soar then plummet after being assuaged, such is the genre of animation for with the brilliant vision of Hayao Miyazaki, his final film soars, creating a bittersweet somber ending to Miyazaki's own wind. The brilliance of Hayao Miyazaki comes from his ability to handle new a creative themes not yet explored in animation, unlike the more contemporary Disney and Dreamworks, Studio Gibli combines originality with the passion of great storytelling. The Wind Rises absolutely follows the acclaimed studios reputation for brilliant storytelling yet diverges in the fantasy aspect, instead setting the film in World War II stricken Japan. This new approach strengthens the films originality and only makes the themes of dreams that much more relatable to the audience. Miyazaki's direction is brilliant, for every shot feels stricken with purpose adding depth to themes of dreams with metaphorical imagery. The animation is no exception to studio Gibli's fantastic track record, "The Wind Rises", looks simply astonishing considering the film is not strictly set in a fantasy world like, "Spirited Away", and "My Neighbor Totoro", yet still fascinates thanks to the films well realized settings and flying sequences. The dream sequences featuring an ambitious Jiro are awe inspiring in their simplicity and beauty for they are both a metaphysical dream and dream Jiro wishes to achieve at the same time. The orchestrated pieces elicit magnificence from the pure emotion it oozes from the instruments; once again studio Gibli's fantastic track record is kept in track by crafting a truly wonderful soundtrack. The characters in the film are dreamful entities of wonder being trapped in the horrid times of oppression and economic depression, contradicting their own wonders and hopes with melancholy. All of the characters voice acting is surprisingly very well done by the English cast with Joseph Gordon-Levitt stealing the show as Jiro. The man is a true movie star and the fact that he was able to become completely lost in his character is fantastic. Miyazaki's latest film, "The Wind Rises," nominated for the animated feature Oscar, happens to take that concept of the subjectivity of beauty and address it in a way that's touching, troubling, and above all, totally unique.
New life has breathed into the conventional Disney archetype with their latest feature film, Frozen, which elicits laughter, smiles, even tears and is among one of Disney's best films to come out in a long while because of the creative new themes the film explores and charming, memorable songs. Chris Buck does a fantastic job directing for every shot in Frozen is gorgeous, especially the animation which is absolutely gorgeous with all of vivid colors and imaginative character designs on display. The screenplay is solid, specializing in great comedic banter between the charters of Olaf and Sven, along with poignant emotional dialogue between Elsa and her sister Anna. While the dialogue is well done the new theme of sibling adoration is a fresh and new theme that Frozen expertly explores, not basing the films story strictly on a conventional romance between a male and female are definitely where Frozen's strengths lay. While the new theme of sibling adoration is explored in spectacular fashion, tired familiar themes such as love being the ultimate cure for Anna's frozen heart are prevalent in Frozen. There is nothing wrong with this theme and love is always a prevalent topic, however, that particular theme appears in practically every Disney film. The score is perhaps the best part of the film for the orchestrated pieces are tremendously powerful and are able to express the emption of each scene effortlessly; the original orchestrated pieces are also very memorable. The songs in the film, also, are magnificent in their lyrics, cinematography and emotion, nearly every one of the songs will reside within the viewer's mind with special attention paid to "Let it go", and "For the first time in forever". Like the songs every character in the film is expertly characterized through tremendous voice acting and animation. Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, Sven, every character is fantastic; Disney has indeed added dozens of new contenders to their large library of fantastic characters to stay. Despite some familiar themes with Disney's previous works, Frozen is a charming, poignant tale accompanied by an incredible score, great animation, amiable characters, and a solid script, a vintage classic has been born.
John Lee Hancock's, The Blind Side, is an inspirational and poignant true story that emancipates the ideas of loneliness and racism with great success from the great director and cast of the film. The true story of Michael Oher seems to be a stereotypical tale of a lost soul wondering aimlessly due to poor parenting, however thanks to Quinton Aaron's consoling performance for he carries most of the film. Hancock's direction is for the most part very average with standard blocking and cinematography but poor direction does not fault this genre of film too much. The Blind Side is not an art film; it is a factual inspirational story. There is just nothing note worthy about his direction in anyway which unfortunately is disappointing. While the directing may be somewhat bland the script is solid, with many heart warming and humorous moments dispersed through out the film. With a solid script and poor direction it is up to the acting to save the film. Fortunately the acting is also solid but not great, there are many stereotypical characters with absolutely zero depth such as Leigh Ann's friends and the hurt village gang, which are laughably one-dimensional. Two actors whom gave the best performances in the film were undoubtedly Sandra Bullock's Oscar winning performance as Leigh Ann Tuohy and Quinton Aaron's role as Michael Oher. While Bullocks performance definitely was not Oscar worthy, her characters tenacious attitude and comforting persona was realized perfectly through Sandra Bullock. The character of Leigh Ann just isn't that interesting despite some humorous remarks, she is essentially a soccer mom with an attitude. Aaron expertly portrayed melancholy as the mans face expressed so much by saying so little which is always a demanding task. Big Mike is the most interesting character in the film because he has real depth unlike nearly every other character in the entire film that is largely one-dimensional. The depth and melancholy that Aaron delivers in his performance is the best part of the film. The Blind Side is a solid sports film about the themes of loneliness' and racism accompanied by an average script, average directing, and average acting, the film is average in every way.
Daring and bold with enough adult drama to keep it interesting, Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake is a master class of originality and cinematic supremacy. Setting the film exclusively in one location with absolutely no score to accompany it seems like a risky and daunting task, which it is, however Guiraudie transcends this issue with breathtaking shots of the surrounding land scape, impressive cinematography and fantastic long takes that allow the actors, to well, act. The director had a vision for this film, to tell a daring murder story with messages of self-worth and judgment at the center of the story which come through in spades thanks to the directors brilliant vision of what to produce on the silver screen. Guiraudie's screenplay is equally as good as his directing and cinematography skills for without a musical composition to engage the audience, it is up to great dialogue and storytelling to carry a film, which once again the director pulls off nearly flawlessly. Each of the characters feels like predators of lust and desire among the dangerous world of the "lake", thanks to their great performances and particularly great dialogue. While every actor Guiraudie chose was excellent in their respective role it is Pierre Deladonchamps performance of Franck and Patrick d'Assumcao's enactment of Henri that stand as the best characters and performances of the entire film. Deladonchamps is a compelling leading man that feels real in which we genuinely care for the man as he desperately tries to figure his way around Michael's desire for himself. Henri is the most likable character in the film because of d'Assumcao's warm-heartedness towards Franck, which makes Henri's fate all the more tragic in the end. The only flaw of the film is the repetitiveness of the Franck's routine for, while the lake is beautiful, it is the only location in the film, which as you can imagine, becomes pretty stale after one hundred minutes. Stranger by the Lake is a daring, sexy piece of cinematic glory which soars thanks to excellent directing acting and cinematography, meanwhile plummets at the same time due to a weak story.