Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Top 10 Disney Movies

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and fluffed it out to 31 entries (since December has 31 days).  I have done a 30-day challenge before for movies, though that one was poorly executed (I started it in the middle of a month, at one point I posted 2 entries on one day, it is a mess).  I did another one just this year in August on Video Games, that one was better, go read it after this one, all of it.  Or don’t, no pressure.

            Today is day 31 and the topic is “Top 10”.
Before I start let me drop in a few more Honorable Mentions.

Honorable Mention: “Moana”
I only saw this last night and I am super impressed.  It has elements of other Disney movies I like but the new setting, great music, and fun performances set this one as a cut above pretty much instantly.  The only reason it is not on my list is because I have had less than 24 hours to ruminate on it and as such can’t give a substantive commentary on the thing.

The adorable piggy has far less impact on the narrative I was anticipating by his presence in the advertising.

It is not perfect and will not be unseating “Zootopia” from my top movie of the year spot, but I do think that if some kid were to recall “Moana” as their first Disney movie they are starting off on the right foot.

Honorable Mention: “Beauty and the Beast”
            It is fine, I have talked about it in context of it being a great romance and having a great villain, but overall it just doesn’t hit me too deeply.  I guess this is what happens when you talk subjective opinions, sometimes there is no distinct element or quantifiable reason to not like something as much as most other people.

Honorable Mention: “Brave”
            I consider this movie underrated, but not fantastic.  Much like “Mulan” from yesterday it is very GOOD, but does not stab deeply enough to be particularly great.

Honorable Mention: “The Rocketeer”
            This one is live action and is thus out of consideration, but I watched the hell out of it growing up.  The pacing is rock solid, the bad guy is razor sharp, and the hero and action are both daring and fun.  The only reason this movie is not considered a classic of the superhero genre is because modern Marvel productions have so outpaced it in production values.  But for its time it is amazing.  I would go so far as to say it influenced my current love of the noir/pulp style that I still see as an underappreciated and awesome aesthetic in movies.

Honorable Mention: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
            This is my favorite Marvel movie.  I have talked about it before.  Much like Star Wars, Marvel was taken off the table at the start of the month.  Still out.

Now on to the List.  These are in no particular order, I had a few movies I said, “Definitely, yes, yes, yes, okay, now let’s go over the list and pick a few more, and a couple more, and a couple more” just to fill it out to a full 20.  Then I just shuffled them up.

Number 10: “Tangled”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            It is the story of Rapunzel, a young woman kept in a high tower with hair that is long, golden, and magical.  But this iteration has adventure, romance (substantive romance, not just, “he rescued me from the tower” obligatory romance), and a reason for why the girl with the hair is in the tower to begin with, that her hair is the receptacle of healing magic.

My Thoughts:
            This movie is great.  Fighting with frying pans, daring chases, and the most romantic moment in Disney according to me.  It is perhaps the most conventional of the picks I made for my Top 10, so there is not much to talk about beyond saying that the elements you would expect from a Disney princess story came together especially well in this one.

Number 9: “The Rescuers Down Under”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            An international peace keeping force sends agents to Australia to stop a poacher from murdering a young boy and destroying a giant gold eagle that is both endangered and a fantastic set piece for the movie—it almost makes this movie an entry in the Classic Movie Genre of “Child and Big Thing” I identified earlier this year.
            Also, the international peace keeping force is made up of mice and this is ostensibly set in the real world.  Kind of like “Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers” or “The Great Mouse Detective”.

My Thoughts:
            While I am sure the “How to Train Your Dragon” series is the first that comes to mind when picturing a child flying on a big magical animal—another entry for “Child and Big Thing”—but for me, that feeling of flying on the back of a wild animal that an instinctive connection has been formed with came from “The Rescuers Down Under”.
The strangest aspect of this movie is how out of place the titular Rescuers feel.  If they had just made a movie about a young boy and his animal companion trying to escape the clutches of a poacher in the Outback coupled with the natural hazards and predators of that environment the movie would still hold together, it would even be a marked improvement.
You could cut the mice and lose very little from the story, even though they have a substantial amount of screen time and a funny little sub-plot with good voice acting.
I actually didn’t know this was a sequel when I saw it as a kid and when I saw the original “The Rescuers” it was such a step down in quality I felt somehow betrayed.

Number 8: “The Great Mouse Detective”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            After a little girl sees her father taken by a menacing figure with a peg leg she is taken by a kindly doctor to the home of a genius detective.  After displaying his penchant for being a dangerous and moody—but high functioning—psychopath, the detective is on the case.
            While chasing down clues and leads they are led to the menacing camp gay villain and arch-nemesis of the detective who is out to take over the nation thru the use of a steam punk doppelganger of the queen.  One death trap and a dramatic confrontation later the heroes return home to find the promise of future adventures—adventures Disney apparently will never deliver on.
            Also, the characters are all mice and this is ostensibly set in the real world.  Kind of like “Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers” or “The Rescuers Down Under”.

My Thoughts:
            I already talked about why I like this movie extensively when I wrote the “My Favorite Male Protagonist” entry.  I actually spent more time explaining why I like the movie than I did why I like the character.  Because Basil is Sherlock Holmes, he appeals in all the same ways to me that he does to everyone—by being good enough at his chosen profession that he can get away with being a bastard to everyone he meets, something we all secretly aspire to.

Number 7: “Wreck it Ralph”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A man with an important job that gets no respect sets out to reinvent himself seeking accolades in other workplaces.  The unintended consequences of his actions create a crisis in multiple communities as the problems of one start to bleed out like a plague.  Ultimately he finds and confronts a lunatic who has been usurping a position of power and causing chaos and restoring a new found friend to her rightful place in the world.
            Also he is a video game character and this all takes place in a number of different game machines in an arcade.  There are a lot of cameos.

My Thoughts:
            The only thing that really holds this movie back would be the number of strange rules dictating the universe.  The way characters become refugees in other systems, the nature of extra lives in games, the villain’s motivation, and the big monstrous plague of space alien bad guys all seem to work via slight addendums to each other’s rules making a weird little book of cross references.  I can’t say it makes no sense, but it gets a tad too complicated.
            In general, the positives outweigh those issues.  The character and world designs vary wildly from one another allowing for huge variety of color, art style, and action.  Ralph and his supporting cast are fun not only in how they act individually but in contrast with one another, the best kind of ensemble cast.

Number 6: “Toy Story 3”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A community must leave their home behind and find a new place to live safely and comfortably.
            They are toys and they are being left behind by the now grown owner of them.

My Thoughts:
            I have talked enough about this one.  I am going to shove this off to those entries.

Number 5: “Aladdin”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A young man gains the ability to make all his dreams come true via the use of a magic lamp.  As his friendships grow and his future brightens his true nature as an impoverished thief threatens to undue all his wishing.  Meanwhile a sorcerer takes control of the lamp and causes havoc.

My Thoughts:
            I have talked a good bit about this one too, so read about that over here.

Number 4: “Up”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            An old man morning his deceased wife and fearing the impending destruction of his home for the construction of some new urban development decides to embrace his childhood dreams and go on an adventure to honor his wife.

My Thoughts:
            This movie has a few strong elements but it also has iconic images, like a house flying thru the air pulled by numerous balloons, a giant crazy bird, and talking dogs flying biplanes.  This whole thing holds together as a stronger product than discussion of any individual part can illustrate.  Though there are a couple of parts that stand out amazingly well.

Number 3: “Zootopia”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            A rookie cop works to unravel a series of mysterious instances of violence and the government conspiracy to cover it all up.  She is aided by a conman, and via their exploration of the city’s politics and their interactions with one another they learn to confront their prejudices and grow as people.
            The whole thing is talking animals.  That is to say non-human animals.  Cause humans are animals.

My Thoughts:
            I have talked about itRead about it all over the place.

Number 2: “The Incredibles”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            Exceptional individuals who spent their lives saving and protecting the general population by way of their fantastic gifts have been forced into hiding by a bunch of bullshit lawsuits.  Isn’t it always the way of things?
            One of those individuals is trying to get back to the game of heroism via a mysterious organization that is building killer robots in a hidden island fortress—somehow this obvious red flag is allowed to slide.  The desire to use his gifts for what he thinks is good will imperil himself and his family, but they will all have to come together to save the world… from having lots of convenient gadgets?

My Thoughts:
            I love superheroes and this is one of the best superhero films ever made.  The action is fantastic and varied, with feats of strength, speed, infiltration, and a grand fight with a giant multi-limbed robot.  The humor, style, and underlying thesis all have appeal (though I do not agree with the thesis).  I consider this a damn near perfect movie, except for the bad guy’s bizarre plan.
            Let’s go a little deeper.
Yesterday I joked about Ayn Rand doing re-writes to “A Bug’s Life”, well… “The Incredibles” might have been penned by her ghost.  It is all about special people being held back by a system that looks down on exceptional people doing their best.
The bad guy, Syndrome has inventions that can allow normal people to do fantastic things.  So, instead of just selling them he wants to use them to mock and degrade people with naturally occurring super powers?  Why?  I know he is an asshole, but he does this just because he feels his superhuman intelligence wasn’t respected enough?
I don’t really get Syndrome’s deal when I give it a hard look.  Just let it go you dipshit.  You are so wealthy as to afford an island fortress, an army of goons, and a giant robot, while your arch rival lives in the suburbs and works a job he hates (and can I just ask why the government didn’t give Mr. Incredible a job in the police or other law enforcement?)  Syndrome, Buddy, you won at life.

Number 1: “Inside Out”
The Plot Goes Thusly:
            It is a road trip thru the mind and imagination of a young girl navigating a complex time in her life.  Along the way we all learn about the importance of being emotionally complex and nuanced individuals instead of just trying to be happy all the time.

My Thoughts:
Much like I pointed out with “Toy Story” yesterday, this is another story in which a big move to a new place is the backdrop to a transitional state of mind.
            I have talked about this several times.  It is a great movie and should be watched.

The End: Disney’s Legacy
            And with that my month long Disney blog-venture (wow, that is rubbish) comes to an end.  It did its job of helping me further push up the number of words I have written and has allowed me to flex my critical mental muscles on things that both do and do not get enough scrutiny.
            Disney is a company that I have complex feelings on.  On one hand they do their best to maintain a standard bearer position as definitive Americana and a moral guardian that emphasizes self-actualization and creativity.  On the other side their work is primarily one of modern interpretation of very old stories that they have access to via the public domain, a legal system and creative tool that they have done tremendous damage to via their work in protecting their corporate IP holdings.

            I see why they want to keep “Steam Boat Willie” in the vault.  But, Walt is dead, 50 years this month.  His creations have become iconic parts of American culture and by preventing those works from belonging to everyone, and by extension allowing a single company to have this much control over the world of animation and culture there is a danger of cultural stagnation taking place.
            People only have so much space in their minds and money in their wallets for entertainment.  If a company can hold onto a piece of media indefinitely and keep releasing its variations, they are eating up mental space and money that could go to an original work that might not be able to get its foot in the door.  New things get crowded out.  But then, many of the works I put on my list are original properties made in the last 20 years, with special commendation going to Pixar for this bevy of new ideas.
            What do you think?  Is Disney a force for good?  Or is it a force of corporate greed with good PR?  There is no wrong answer.  There probably is a wrong answer, but finding a right one would require a lot of research and several judgement calls that I a no interested in making.
            Share your own thoughts on this in the comments.
Conversely, what are some of your favorite Disney movies?  Do you have a top list?  Do you have a blog like mine talking about it?  If so, then post a link below.


If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

No comments:

Post a Comment