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There is a small problem with this list. I have no idea what order these movies are in. I just cannot trust myself to put these into a concrete position. If you have followed my blog before, many of the movies you will recognize. For those, I will keep my comments a little shorter and defer you to my review. Let’s delve into my mind shall we?


10. Howl’s Moving Castle (2005)

This is one of four animated films I listed so far in my Forgotten Masterpieces enstallments. Much of my love for the movie comes from my first experience watching it. I thought it was magical and overwhelmingly spectacular. The animation is absolutely beautiful, bringing to life moments unseen in any other film.

I love its unassuming nature. The plot always denotes sad or frightening things but calmly rides through them despite the chaos. The romance is also very simple but powerful at its height.

Many of you know that I do not particularly enjoy dramatic or unrealistic relationships in film and literature. Much of this comes from my personal observations of friends, room mates and family members. So you know it is the highest compliment if I acknowledge a movie’s romance.

I love the characters, the animation, the story, the setting, Joe Hisaishi’s music and especially the scene near the end when Sophie travels into the past to see how Howl became bound to the fire demon Calcifer.

I will not spend any more time with this movie, but if you are interested in my further thoughts concerning it check out my review —–> (CLICK HERE).

Favorite Quote(s):

1. Young Sophie: So you are going away. Please, Howl. I know I can be of help to you, even though I’m not pretty and all I’m good at is cleaning.

Howl: Sophie! Sophie! You’re beautiful!

Old Sophie: Well, the nice thing about being old is you’ve got nothing much to lose.

2. [Howl comes running out of the bathroom, screaming. His hair is now orange]

Howl: Sophie! You, you sabotaged me! Look! Look at what you’ve done to my hair! Look!

Old Sophie: What a pretty color.

Howl: It’s hideous! You completely ruined my magic potions in the bathroom!

Old Sophie: I just organized things, Howl. Nothing’s ruined.

Howl: Wrong! Wrong! I specifically ordered you not to get carried away!

[tragically]

Howl: Now I’m repulsive.

[slumps into a chair]

Howl: I can’t live like this.

[starts sobbing, head in hands]

Old Sophie: Come on, it’s not that bad.

[Howl’s hair changes color to purple, then black]

Old Sophie: You should look at it now, its shade is even better.

Howl: [inconsolable] I give up. I see not point in living if I can’t be beautiful.

3. Old Sophie: I wonder what Howl disguised himself as? Surely not a crow. Can’t be a pigeon, he’s too flamboyant for that.

[a glider plane with a giggling young woman and her lover flies overhead]

Old Sophie: That could be him.


9. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

I saw no reason to separate these three films into separate slots. I view them all equally and love them for all the same reasons. A few months ago, I reviewed the recently made Hobbit Trilogy, (See here —-> REVIEW) affirming that it was actually well made despite popular criticisms. Lord of the Rings is a different story. These movies are masterpieces. They went beyond anyone’s expectations and made real a world bound in the annals of literary history.

In my mind, the director Peter Jackson did not just direct a movie adaptation. He brought Tolkien’s world to life. The acting is phenomenal. Each character was perfectly acted. I have my favorites like Sean Astin as Sam Gamgee, Bernard Hill as Theodan, John Noble as Denethor, David Wenham as Faramir and Elijah Wood as Frodo, but I have no complaints against any of the chosen actors and actresses for the films.

There are incredibly tender moments and terribly sad moments. Some parts make you laugh while others break your heart. One of my favorite scenes is in The Return of the King when Pippin sang for Denethor as Faramir and the other soldiers rode to their deaths. I remember in the theater covering my mouth in horror as they tragically left everything behind for the whims of a madman.

Two other moments , which I thought mirrored each other, are Sam carrying Frodo up the mountain and them sitting together as Mount Doom explodes. Each moment was connected by memories of the shire. For the first, Frodo, consumed by the horror of the ring, could not recall such beautiful things. But once the ring is gone, it all floods back to him as he lays and remembers his life from before in a moment when he thought all was lost.

A thought on the visuals. They are spectacular. I have watched over six hours from the extended editions on how these films were made. It is incredible how much effort they exerted to stay true to Tolkien’s original. The script changed daily as Jackson and his other writers poured through the books. They made miniatures of every city so they could have real images of beautiful cities like Rivendale and Lothlorien. They used CGI only went absolutely necessary. For example, the Balrog was actually wreathed in real flames the special effects team recorded and added to the CGI image later.

The art direction was split between artists Alan Lee and John Howe. Each is well know for their illustrations for Tolkien’s works. Reflecting back over the movies, I realized that all the settings for the movies were identical to their paintings. I felt overwhelmed as I realized the paintings from my childhood had become real life memory through the movies.

The best aspect of this movie is its fight against evil and promotion of morality. One scene I think generates this overwhelming sense of good is at the end of the third movie when Aragorn is crowned king. He states “This day is not just for one man. But for all. Let us share in the days of peace.” Then he sang, bringing calm silence to the enormous crowd. Such a feeling of peace and love generates in that short film segment. (I will do a review for this trilogy someday. Phew. . . That sounds tiring.)

Favorite Quote(s):

1. Frodo: [of Gollum] It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.

Gandalf: Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.

2. Sam: I made a promise, Mr Frodo. A promise. “Don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee.” And I don’t mean to. I don’t mean to.

3. [Boromir picks up the One Ring after Frodo had lost it]

Boromir: It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.

4. Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

5. Theoden: [pick up a white flower] Simbelmyne. Ever has it grown on the tombs of my forebears. Now it shall cover the grave of my son. Alas, that these evil days should be mine. The young perish and the old linger. That I should live to see that last days of my house.

Gandalf: Theodred’s death was not of your making.

Theoden: No parent should have to bury their child.

[Theoden drops to his knees and starts sobbing]

Gandalf: He was strong in life. His spirit will find the way to the halls of your fathers.

6. Eomer: How long has it been since Saruman bought you? What was the promised price, Grima? When all the Men are dead you would take your share of the treasure?

[Wormtongue looks at Eowyn]

Eomer: Too long have you watched my sister. Too long have you haunted her steps.

[Eomer is seized by two guards]

Wormtongue: You see much, Eomer son of Eomund. Too much.

7. Sam: [Both are overcome by exhaustion] Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It’ll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they’ll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields… and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?

Frodo: No, Sam. I can’t recall the taste of food… nor the sound of water… nor the touch of grass. I’m… naked in the dark, with nothing, no veil… between me… and the wheel of fire! I can see him… with my waking eyes!

Sam: Then let us be rid of it… once and for all! Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it for you… but I can carry you!

8. Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.

Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path… One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… And then you see it.

Pippin: What? Gandalf?… See what?

Gandalf: White shores… and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

Pippin: [smiling] Well, that isn’t so bad.

Gandalf: [softly] No… No it isn’t.

9. Frodo: [after destroying the Ring] I can see the Shire. The Brandywine River. Bag End. The Lights in the Party Tree.

Sam: Rosie Cotton dancing. She had ribbons in her hair. If ever I were to marry someone, it would have been her. It would have been her.

[sits down and begins to cry]

Frodo: [leans over and hugs him] I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things.


8. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Here is yet another film from my Forgotten Masterpieces posts. I showed this movie in my music class a year ago and was thoroughly surprised most had not even heard of it. As a child, this movie often occupied my thoughts. I have always  been attached to stories portraying dualism. Dualism, a concept I talked about in my class as well, is when a person or thing is two contrasting things at once. For example, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast: he was a handsome man who through his pride became a monster willing to murder.

My review (to see ——> CLICK HERE) talks about way more than I will say here. But, for those without the patience to see such things, I will point a few things I love from the movie. Firstly, the animation is incredible. I read the art book written Stephen Rebello over a year ago and stared fascinated  at how much research went into Romantic art, literature, and architecture. This is especially evident in the stark contrast between shadow and light through the movie’s animation (this is also referred to as chiaroscuro).

Secondly, the characters are complicated and do not fit into a predetermined mold. All of them, even Frollo, go on a journey through the story. Though many will hate me for saying this, I liked Eamerelda falling in love with Phoebus. There were two heroes in the story which meant that heartbreak was inevitable. Not every happy ending is the one we expect. Sometimes it even means dying.

The background artists portrayed Notre Dame, another complicated character, so well. If one pays attention, for example, to the animation and backgrounds for the song “Out There” Quasimodo inadvertently showcases multiple sides and dimensions to the glorious building. When I went to Paris, I was surprised to see that Notre Dame was not as big as I presumed.

Finally, I LOVE the music, whether it’s the musical numbers or the background score. My favorite is “Heaven’s Light/Hellfire”. I give a intricately detailed analysis of this song in my review if you are interested.

It is such a shame how overlooked this movie is. But such is the entertainment industry. More often then not, true masterpieces like this are overlooked in their time.

Favorite Quote(s):

1. Frollo: This is an unholy demon. I’m sending it back to hell, where it belongs.

The Archdeacon: [singing] See, there, the innocent blood you have spilt on the steps of Notre Dame.

Frollo: I am guiltless. She ran, I pursued.

The Archdeacon: [singing] Now you would add this child’s blood to your guilt on the steps of Notre Dame!

Frollo: My conscience is clear.

The Archdeacon: [singing] You can lie to yourself and your minions, you can claim that you haven’t a qualm, but you never can run from nor hide what you’ve done from the eyes!

[pointing to statues of saints]

The Archdeacon: The very eyes of Notre Dame!

2. Frollo: Look at that disgusting display.

Phoebus: [raising his visor] Yes, sir!

3. Phoebus: [about Esmeralda] What a woman!

4. Frollo: [after locking in the miller and his family] Burn it.

Phoebus: What?

Frollo: Until it smolders, these people are traitors, and must be made examples of.

Phoebus: With all due respect, sir, I was not trained to murder the innocent.

Frollo: But you were trained to follow orders.

[Phoebus douses his torch]

Frollo: Insolent coward!


7. Tarzan (1999)

It is a Forgotten Masterpieces parade! My students loved this movie as well. As a child, I remember the commercials showcasing professional athletes on skateboards and roller skates. I remember being so excited when I saw its first commercial in Mulan (1998). From there, I slowly fell more and more in love with it. If you are interested in my review (CLICK HERE).

The movie’s heart rests in Tarzan himself, designed by the brilliant animator Glen Keane. He fights for acceptance and questions his identity among his family. He is loved by his adoptive mother, who loves him despite his species. That is the permeating feeling in the feeling. Love is liberating and beautiful when accepted but crushing and scarring if rejected. We have all felt and understand this.

I defer again to Roger Ebert who surmises,

The surface of the movie is adventure, comedy and movement–there are sequences here as exciting as the ballroom scene in “Beauty and the Beast”–but underneath is something of substance. The most durable movie character in history emerges this time as a man who asks the question, “Why are you threatened by anyone different than you?” This is not the confident Tarzan of so many Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and Johnny Weissmuller movies, discovering cities of gold. It is a Tarzan who knows from the day he compares his hand with the hand of Kala, the ape who has adopted him, that he is different.

That is the root of my love for this movie. It denotes Tarzan’s journey into manhood and acceptance of who he is.

The romance also appeals to me. Again, it does not scream at you but subtly brings two somewhat estranged characters together. Interestingly, the romance is not the drive of the movie. In my mind, that makes it more palpable.

I will not say too much more. If you are interested, I also included Tarzan’s design in my Top 50 Animated Designs.  I love this movie for its gentleness, brilliant visuals and most of all for its character Tarzan, who moved beyond the emasculated image created by Hollywood and popular culture.

      

Favorite Quote(s):

1. Jane Porter: [after being caught in a tree with Tarzan] Now, you stay away from me. Like a very good wild man.

[Tarzan doesn’t listen]

Jane Porter: You stay. I’m warning you… My father won’t take kind to you.

[Tarzan is inches from her face]

Jane Porter: Now, that’s close ENOUGH.

[Tarzan touches her face]

Jane Porter: How dare you…

[Tarzan grabs her hand, as she tries to smack him, and he notices a tear in the tip of the finger of her glove. He stares and pulls off her glove and stares at her hand. He then puts his hand next to hers to show that he’s human, too. He puts his head on her chest to hear her heartbeat. Once he hears it, he pulls her head to his chest so she can hear his heartbeat]

Jane Porter: Oh, dear. Oh, dear, oh, dear, OH, dear! Mmm. Yes, thank you.

[pulls away from Tarzan’s chest]

Jane Porter: It’s a lovely heartbeat. It’s very nice.

Tarzan: [imitating Jane] It’s very nice.

Jane Porter: [thinking as though he’s talking about her hair] Oh, thank you. I can’t do a thing with it in this humidity and – you do speak? And all this time I thought you were this big, wild, quiet, silent, person-thing! Hmm! And why didn’t you tell me? I mean, I must say I’m rather curious of who you are. I’d love to-

[Tarzan shuts her mouth with his fingers]

Tarzan: [grunts and points to himself] Tarzan.

[Jane looks confused]

Tarzan: Tar-zan!

Jane Porter: Tar-zan?

[Tarzan grunts happily]

Jane Porter: Oh, I see!

Tarzan: [points to self] Tarzan.

[points to Jane]

Tarzan: Oh, I see.

Jane Porter: No, no, no. No. Amph. I’m Jane.

Tarzan: [mimiking her tone and gestures] No, no, no. No. Amph. I’m Jane.

Jane Porter: No, no. Jane. Tarzan. Jane.

Tarzan: [points to Jane] Jane.

Jane Porter: Exactly.

2. [Tarzan takes Clayton’s gun and aims it at him]

Clayton: Go ahead. Shoot me.

[chuckles]

Clayton: Be a man.

[a shot is heard, but not from the gun; it’s Tarzan mimicking a gunshot]

Tarzan: Not a man like you!

3. [after being returned to camp by Tarzan]

Jane Porter: Oh, my goodness! Daddy, I was walking. There was… was a little baby, little baby monkey, and I drew a picture!

Professor Porter: Yes, go on.

Jane Porter: Suddenly, the monkey starts crying.

Professor Porter: Oh, poor thing.

Jane Porter: But, I turn around and there’s a whole FLEET OF THEM. An ARMY of monkeys! A huge tree full of monkeys, screaming at me!

[imitates a monkey screaming at him]

Professor Porter: [laughing at her] That’s theropithecus baboonus! She’s very good at this!

Jane Porter: Terrified! I was terrified! Suddenly, I was swinging, on a vine, in the air! Swinging, in the air!

Professor Porter: With the monkeys!

Jane Porter: I was in the air! And then, I was all surrounded!

Professor Porter: What did you do?

Jane Porter: And, Daddy! They took my boot!

Professor Porter: Your boot – those are the ones I bought you.

Jane Porter: And I was SAVED. I was saved by a flying, wild man in a loincloth.

Professor Porter: Loincloth? Good Lord.

Clayton: What is she talking about?

Professor Porter: I haven’t the foggiest idea. Takes after her mother, you know. She came up with stories like that. Not about men in loincloths, of course.


6. The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Here is my second Victor Hugo film adaptation. I also wrote a review for this film several years ago. If you are interested (CLICK HERE). Directed by the German Paul Leni (German Expressionists All the way!!!!) it reverts to the German Expressionist Era (1920-1927) which I wrote about for my senior thesis.

Here is yet another example of dualism. In this case, Gwynplaine’s disfigurement was a tragedy of war. Directed by King James II, the Italian group the Comprachicos surgically gave Gwynplaine a permanent smile, “to forever laugh at his fool of a father” who died shortly after by King James’ II hand. (If you are wondering why he looks like Joker than you should probably know that the Joker’s smile was inspired by Conrad Veidt’s portrayal of Gwynplaine.) 

Abandoned, Gwynplaine later joins a small traveling circus with a young blind girl Dea he rescued from death. The story skips forward anf shows his life as a popular attraction in his circus’s show. Many parts of the movie are hard to see because of how poorly people treat him. I sat intoxicated at times seeing how plainly his eyes opposed his happy smile.

This movie has multiple layers and interconnecting themes. Dea and Gwynplaine’s relationship interests me especially. In the book, they did not get a very happy ending together. (She died of an illness and he drowned himself, unable to bear life without her. Ahhh Romanticism. The killer of romantic dreams.) But in the movie, they were rewarded for their pains.

But such an ending came with much suffering. I have two favorite scenes in the movie. The first is when Gwynplaine allows Dea to touch his disfigured face and she accepts him. The second, is when he is in the House of Lords and exclaims “A king made me a clown! A queen made me a lord! But first, God made me a man!”. Unlike Erik from The Phantom of the Opera (1910), he rose above his ugliness and did not allow it to ugly his soul as well.

The cinematography is also a highlight. Following the German Expressionist tradition, Leni creates poignant scenes of lengthened shadows and hidden secrets. This was done through chiaroscuro using lights and angled cameras. Though many would call this a monster or horror film, I find the film’s complicated themes contradict this contrived misconception. Lotte Eisner, in her fantastic novel The Haunted Screen, stated concerning the visuals in another of Leni’s works, “All it seeks to engender is an indescribable fluidity of light, moving shapes, shadows, lines, and curves. It is not extreme reality that the camera perceives, but the reality of the inner event…”

The question remains, “What reality Ir truth lies under all we see in The Man Who Laughs?”. I believe it was the battle inside Gwyplaine, as he strove against the darkness of humiliation and fear with the light of love and truth. Which truth? That he was a man who could move beyond his face. I reflected in my review concerning Hugo’s novels,

He brought to light people’s inner demons and focused on how character and virtue make a man, or woman, great; not birth, position, or worldly accomplishments. This film unquestionably mirrored this same viewpoint and captured the inner struggle of a man ruled by his disfigurement; in how he was perceived as a freak by others and how he regarded himself in the same light.

Did I mention that this is a silent film? Do not let that deter you. I love this film for it complexity, heart and dark undertones. I wish somehow I could own it. As it is, owning obscure silent films like this is incredibly expensive.

Favorite Quote(s):

1. Gwynplaine: [Via subtitles, to the House of Lords] A king made me a clown! A queen made me a Peer! But first, God made me a man!

2. Dea: God closed my eyes so I could see only the real Gwynplaine.

3. Ursus: [looking at the baby] Blind!

[sees Gwynplaine grinning]

Ursus: Stop laughing! Stop laughing I say!

Gwynplaine as a child: I’m not laughing!

Ursus: [looks at Gwynplaine’s grin] Comprachicos!


5. The Prince of Egypt (1998)

I have not had the privilege of writing about this forgotten masterpiece. (It will happen someday when I am in the mood). Unbeknownst to many, Jeffery Katzenbueg, the animation department director during the Early Disney Renaisaance, created Dreamworks animation studios. Being incredibly bold, he and co-creator of Dreamworks studios Stephen Spielburg decided to take a bold step to attract artists and writers: they wanted to make an animated film based on the life of Moses.

This was a bold decision because of the 1956 epic The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston. But the end result was incredible. My Grandma Engler, who I have seen only three times in my life, bought the movie for my family. I remember seeing it with her and feeling awed by its story.

Moses, much like Tarzan, lives strung between two worlds. Being born a Hebrew, he automatically connects to an ancient culture caught in the thrall of slavery. Yet, the Queen rescued him and raised him in a world of fine palaces and chariot races. But we can not run from go we really are forever.

The backgrounds are absolutely amazing. Stop and take a look at them next time you see this movie. Take for example the image below. The desert outside of what is now Cairo, Egypt looks like an artwork from a museum. I especially like how the colors glow golden in places. It has an earthy tone that makes the scenes all the more real. For example, when art director created the setting for Moses’ journey through the desert he remarked,

The point was to create a contrast with a flow and ebb that the Egyptian side didn’t have: I gave an Art Nouvea feel to a lot of it. To counter the precise edging of architecture, we wanted a kind of flowing line. Generally, there’s a human scale, because most of the moments we share with the Hebrewa and the Midianites are intimate moments. It doesn’t require a big scale , except when Moses goes through the desert: he’s engulfed by it as a metaphor for what he’s undergoing.

For those who do not know, Art Nouvea is a style popular mostly from 1890-1910. For it, the artist focuses on natural forms and structures in nature and curved lines. Meaning, even through architecture, men sought to balance with the natural environment through their art. I find it inspiring that the artists went to such lengths to bring meaning and depth to this film.

Above anything, this movie is an example of the beauty and artistry of animation. It has mature characters, backgrounds and music to counteract many other animated musicals. There were no cuddly creatures or useless scenes. This was not a movie made for children. I admire the makers and directors for their  courage.  This is a movie with a powerful message and driving story.

A thought on the music now. Like the rest of the film, it enhances the original story from Exodus. The opening scene “Deliver Us” is a prime example of how powerfully music can change the fell and emotions of a scene. Charles Solomon in his art book The Prince of Egypt: A New Visoon in Animation (1998) remarked,

Songs can propel the story, define the characters, and make emotional points. . . To hear the Hebrew slaves describe their bondage would be far less moving than watching them build Seti’s monuments to the dark, propulsive strains of “Deiiver Us”.

Hans Zimmer, perhaps the most famous movie composer in our age, wrote the spell-binding musical score.

I cannot spend too much more time talking about this movie lest I write a full fledged movie review here. Critics bashed this movie when it came out. I think this is because it is unashamedly religious. For myself, it is a powerful movie that I have loved for the better part of my life. The thing I love most about this movie is how it portrayed Moses as a person. He made mistakes and grew exponentially through the film. One of my favorite scenes, though it is heartbreaking, is when Moses visits Ramases laying to rest his dead son. Overcome by grief, Moses leaves at Ramases’ command and wanders from the palace. Finally, grief overcomes him and he falls weeping against a wall alone. It is beautiful, and reminds us that God’s prophets are human.

Favorite Quote(s):

1. Moses: Yes, Aaron, it’s true. Pharaoh has the power. He can take away your food, your home, your freedom. He can take away your sons and daughters. With one word, Pharaoh can take away your very lives. But there is one thing he cannot take away from you: your faith. Believe, for we will see God’s wonders.

2. [Moses discovers the slaughter of the Hebrew babies]

Seti: The Hebrews grew too numerous. They might have risen against us.

Moses: Father, tell me you didn’t do this.

Seti: Moses… sometimes, for the greater good, sacrifices must be made.

Moses: Sacrifices?

Seti: [hugging him] Oh, my son… they were only slaves.

3. Miriam: Moses, hear what I say. I have been a slave all my life. And God has never answered my prayers until now. God saved you from the river, He saved you in all your wanderings, and even now, He saves you from the wrath of Pharaoh. God will not abandon you. So don’t you abandon us.

4. Tzipporah: [Moses has fallen into Jethro’s Well] What are you girls doing?

Sister: We’re trying to get the funny man out of the well!

Tzipporah: Trying to get the funny man out of the well. Well, that’s one I’ve never heard before.

[She looks down the well]

Tzipporah: Oh! Oh, my! Don’t worry down there! We’ll get you out! Hold on!

[She sees it is Moses]

Tzipporah: You!

[Tzipporah lets go of the rope, nods, and saunters away]

Sister: That’s why Papa says she’ll never get married.


4. Pinocchio (1940)

I was a really awesome child. One of the reasons why is because I recognized quality movies at a very young age. Pinocchio was my favorite movie when I was about three or four years old. It did not scare me. That is my German soul speaking. I think it interested me because the characters are so robust.

This is Disney’s second animated film and is considered by many to be his masterpiece. Of course, in its time it received negative reviews for its dark content and ambiguous treatment of its villains. Now many see it as the most perfect hand drawn animated film ever done. Seeing it again after many years, I felt how powerful this movie is.

I return again to Roger Ebert, who  added Pinocchio to his Great Films list,

“Pinocchio” is a parable for children, and generations have grown up remembering the words “Let your conscience be your guide” and “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face.” The power of the film is generated, I think, because it is really about something. It isn’t just a concocted fable or a silly fairy tale, but a narrative with deep archetypal reverberations.

The morals of Pinocchio are all too real in the childhood mind. I think it silly assume it is bad for children to see movies such as this. The consequences of doing wrong are clearly demonstrated throughout the film. Because of his foolish decisions, Pinocchio is inprisoned by Stromboli,  almost turned into a donkey to be sold into slavery, and inadvertently causes the capture and disappearance of his father Gipetto.

This is a film that emphasizes the boundaries of right and wrong. It portrays evil as mischievously as the worst of Grimm’s fairy tales. Evil takes on many different masks in the movie. There is the deceiving pair Honest John and Gideon the Cat, the fiery gypsy Stromboli and the cherubic man of two faces, The Coachman who hides his demonic nature. Even the whale is an evil, for he devours all Pinocchio loves. Perhaps he represents voracious gluttony.

Despite its box office failure, it won Academy Awards for the original song “When you Wish Upon a Star” and Best Original Score. Many years later, artists and film goers went back to it and saw its brilliance. The most interesting thing about this movie is how it tests its villains as an inevitable part of life. They never received their comeuppance. That is a powerful lesson in and of itself.

But all is not doom and gloom. There are stil charming and magical moments like Jimony dancing over a violin string or even Honest John and Gideon’s antics.

The visuals are also extraordinary. Through this film, Disney technicians invented the multiplane camera which moves different pieces of artwork across the screen at varying speeds to give an illusion of three dimensional depth and movement. But there is more than that, which I will wait till my inevitable review to discuss.

A film like Pinocchio is one of a kind. It set the groundwork of hundreds of movies but more importantly made itself a classic. I think this is the story Walt Disney was the most attached to. It shows through its story, precise animation, emotional music and dynamic characters.

Favorite Quote(s):

1. The Coachman: Give a bad boy enough rope, and he’ll soon make a jackass of himself.

2. The Coachman: How would you blokes like to make some real money?

[Lays a large bag of money on the table]

Foulfellow: Well! And who do we have to, eh…

[Makes throat-slashing motion]

The Coachman: No, no. Nothing like that. You see…

[Looks around to see if anyone is listening; Foulfellow does the same]

The Coachman: I’m collecting stupid little boys.

Foulfellow: Stupid little boys?

The Coachman: You know, the disobedient ones who play hooky from school.

Foulfellow: Ohh!

The Coachman: And you see…

[Whispers in Foulfellow’s ear; Gideon puts his ear to Foulfellow’s other ear so he can listen as well]

The Coachman: And I takes ’em to Pleasure Island.

Foulfellow: [nods in agreement] Ah, Pleasure Island.

[suddenly shocked]

Foulfellow: Pleasure Island? But the law! Suppose they…

The Coachman: No, no. There is no risk. They never come back… as BOYS!

[leans in close to camera and smiles wickedly]

3. Lampwick: Huh! To hear that beetle talk you’d think somethin’ was gonna happen to us.

[Donkey ears pop out of Lampwick’s head; Pinocchio’s eyes widen]

Lampwick: Conscience! Aw, phooey!

[a tail pops out of the seat of Lampwick’s pants; Pinocchio puts down the cigar he has been smoking]

Lampwick: Wheres he get that stuff? “How do you ever expect to be a real boy?” What’s he think I look like?

[Now his head is that of a donkey]

Lampwick: A jackass?

Pinocchio: You sure do! Ha-ha, Hee-haw!

Lampwick: [as Pinocchio covers his mouth shocked] Hey, you laugh like a donkey. Ha-ha Hee-haw!

[gasps]

Lampwick: Did that come outta me?

[Pinocchio nods; Lampwick starts feeling his face and notices the changes]

Lampwick: Oh!

[He raises his arms a little higher and notices his ears]

Lampwick: Huh? What the…

[noticing his tail]

Lampwick: What’s going on?

[He looks in the mirror and sees that he is turning into a donkey]

Lampwick: AAAAHH! I’ve been double-crossed! Help! Help! Somebody, help! I’ve been framed! Help!

[Gets down on his knees and begs Pinocchio for help]

Lampwick: Please, you gotta help me. Be a pal! Call that beetle. Call anybody!

[Lampwick’s hands turn into hooves]

Lampwick: Mama! Maaaaaaaaaamaaaaaaaaaaa! Hee-haw! Hee-haw! Hee-haw! Hee-haw!

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1991)

I will just come out and say I love everything about this movie. It embodies everything I love about German Expressionism, which makes sense because Tim Burton is also a fan of that film genre. The only bad thing I can think of about this movie is that it is too short.

This is the story closest to Tim Burton’s heart. Before he became a famous director, he worked for Disney as an artist. Needless to say his more macomb style did not match Disney’s floofy styles so he left, after he proposed his story for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Originally, he wrote a small story book, which later became the foundation for the film. It was not until the 1990’s that Burton decided to try making his film again. Ironically, Disney did support it but did not release it under their name. . . because it was not normal, or at least their idea of normal.

After it became an overwhelming success, even becoming a cult classic, Disney then put its name on it. (This irks me. They did the same thing for The Wind Rises.) I kind of remember when it came out. At first, my mother did not let us see it because she thought it was too creepy, so to say. But I started watching it as a teenager and slowly fell in love with it. What is it about this movie that is so enchanting?

I actually discussed this film in my class last year. After of hours of research, I discovered that before the story was set in stone Danny Elfman created the musical numbers. He and Tim Burton spent a lot of time together formulating the songs. What is amazing to think about is how well the music is interwoven into the story. Howard Ashman, who wrote the lyrics and music for Beauty and the Beast remarked,  “. . . when the characters can’t speak anymore, when they are simply so emotional because their life is changing under their feet, that’s where you put the song.”

The music is interwoven so well it is barely recognizable. I asked my students if it was a musical. All of them said no. Why? Because it does not register as a musical. That is an interesting thing to consider. I think that is the mark of a well constructed musical. When the audience cannot distinguish between the story and its songs, you know it is something incredible. If they took any of the songs out, the movie would fall apart.

I love the characters, especially Jack Skellington. I featured him in my Top Animated Designs as well. Look it up if you are interested. As a character, he is trying to find what is missing in his life. He is lonely, unable to understand why he feels so empty. My favorite song is “Jack’s Lament” because it emphasizes this overpowering feeling of loneliness he feels and unknowingly shares with another character Sally.

This was the first American stop-motion film to gain critical and popular attention. In my mind, it is the best ever made. The story, setting and characters are so unique and its stands, like Pinocchio, as a one of a kind wonder. I watch it every Halloween, my favorite holiday, and know the songs by heart. I just do not like how obsessively people cling to this movie.

The one highlight of the film for me is its end. It is where Jack receives the answer he has been looking for the whole story. My brother Christopher remarked several years ago that Jack was so lonely and empty because he had no one to love. Once he found Sally, that changed. The lines, “My dearest friend if you don’t mind, I’d like to join you by your side. Where we can gaze into the stars and sit together now and forever for it is plain as anyone can see we’re simply meant to be.” embodies the movie’s purpose. Love was the answer to his loneliness. Something to think about huh?


Favorite Quote(s):

1.Jack Skellington: [singing] My dearest friend, if you don’t mind… I’d like to join you by your side. Where we can gaze into the stars…

Jack Skellington, Sally: And sit together, now and forever. For it is plain, as anyone can see. We’re simply meant to be.

2. Jack Skellington: “But who here would ever understand that the pumpkin king with the skeleton grin would tire of his crown. If they only understood. He’d give it all up if he only could. Oh there’s an empty place in my bones that calls out from something unknown. The fame and praise come year after year does nothing for these empty tears.”

beauty_and_the_beast_beginning
2. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Everyone who has read my posts before knows I love this movie. I have written and rewritten about it so will spend hardly any time talking about it. If you are interested in my full review (CLICK HERE). If you want to know about Beast’s design read my Top Animated Designs. Moving on, this is, in my opinion, the greatest animated movie from the Disney Renaissance. Everything from its music, the characters, the animation and even the story was done so well it is no wonder it is considered a masterpiece.


It was the first animated movie nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards, the first (and possibly only) movie which won Best Original Score and competed against itself for Best Original Song. The AFI named it one of the greatest romantic movies, the best animated films and the song “Beauty and the Beast” as one of the best cinematic musical numbers in American film. It set a precedent for all animated films to come, though they were unable to match its magic. Much of this rested in the animators, especially Glen Keane’s brilliance designing and creating Beast.


If you really want to know how I feel about this movie, read my review and various other posts I have done. If I do not control myself I will write another eight pages on this movie alone. If you have not seen it I highly suggest you stop what you are doing and find it. By the way, I am not looking forward to the live action movie.   

  

Favorite Quote(s):

1.Narrator: If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a beast?

2.Beast: [Struggling] You – You came back.

Belle: Of course I came back. I couldn’t let them… Oh this is all my fault. If only I had gotten here sooner.

Beast: Maybe… Maybe – it’s better… it’s better this way.

Belle: Don’t talk like that. You’ll be alright. We’re together now; everything’s going to be fine, you’ll see.

Beast: And at least – I got to see you – one last time.

[the Beast dies]

Belle: No, No! Please. Please… Please don’t leave me.

[Belle sobs]

Belle: I love you.

[the last rose petal falls]

3. Beast: [pounds on Belle’s door yelling] I thought I told you to come down to dinner!

Belle: I’m not hungry!

Beast: [yelling to Belle] You’ll come out, or I’ll-I’ll-I’ll break down the door!

Lumiere: Master, I could be wrong, but that might not be the best way to win the girl’s affections.

Cogsworth: Please. Attempt to be a gentlemen.

Beast: But, she’s being so *difficult*!

Mrs. Potts: Gently… gently…

Beast: [calmly] Will you come down to dinner?

Belle: No!

Beast: [points at door] Hmm?

Cogsworth: Ah-ah-ah, suave, genteel.

Beast: [suavely] It would give me great pleasure…

[tries to hold in his anger]

Beast: if you would join me for dinner.

Cogsworth: [clears throat and mutters] We say please.

Beast: Please?

Belle: No, thank you!

Beast: [yells] You can’t stay in there forever!

Belle: Yes, I can!

Beast: [yells] Fine! Then go ahead and *starve!* If she doesn’t eat with me, then she doesn’t eat at all!

[storms down through the hallway and slams the door behind him]

Mrs. Potts: Oh dear. That didn’t go very well at all, did it?

1. The Wind Rises (2013)

Here is another movie I will hardly talk about here. I have done my review for it (CLICK HERE if you are interested) and named it my #1 animated film of 2014. It embodies my love for history and tells the story of a passionate man trying to live out his dream of building airplanes. It is visually stirring and flawlessly portrayed through its lifelike characters and story.

The main character Jiro is one of my, if not my favorite, film character of all time. He loved like no one, cried like no one and showed what it means to be human. Too often people look at history and can only see the words off history pages. It is hard to imagine real people working and living in those times who were not a part of the evil.

I was incredibly disappointed in Disney when they released this movie. They did not promote it well and even released it under there pseudo company Touchstone because it was politically controversial. In my heart, I hope people see this movie one day and recognize its beauty and genius. It is the only Hayao Miyazaki masterpiece to not have any fantastical elements. Yet, I think it is the one closest to Miyazaki-san’s heart. I believe he did not want to make the film initially because he knew many would not agree with his views.


I will not say anymore about the movie, but please know that it is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever seen. The love story is heartbreakingly real but more beautiful than anything I have seen in a long time. This movie deserved more recognition than it received. I believe it will stand the tests of time and will be viewed as the masterpiece it is in needed time.


  

Favorite Quote(s):

1.Jirô Horikoshi: Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you. But when the leaves hang trembling, The wind is passing through.

2.Caproni: But remember this, Japanese boy… airplanes are not tools for war. They are not for making money. Airplanes are beautiful dreams. Engineers turn dreams into reality.

3.[A large, Western-style residence, jiro spots a light in a room looking out on the garden. He enters the front gate and makes his way to where the French doors of the room face the garden.]

[Nahoko lies under a coverlet in bed, eyes are closed. She sense a presence and looks towards the garden. Jiro climbs the steps from the garden. He sees Nahoko, kicks his shoes off, and runs towards her.]

[Nahoko is surprised and overjoyed. He throws himself into her arms.]

Nahoko: Darling!

[they embrace. She strokes his hair. They kiss.]

Jiro: I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner.

Nahoko: {murmers sadly} You’ll catch it.

Jiro: You’re beautiful.

[She shakes her head sadly. {No I am not beautiful.}]

Jiro: I love you.

[She holds him tight. Her eyes fill with tears.]

This is the end of my favorite movies posts. Phew, that took awhile. But I think it was worth it. Next I will be looking at the Top 50 Most Beautiful Animated Films. It will be a different type of list. You will see what I mean when I write it.

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