Tag Archives: ratatouille

Juno’s Top Nine Movies of the Decade

20 Dec

Filmmaking has really turned a corner this decade. Special effects are truly at the point where absolutely anything is possible. The first movie on the list attests to this amazing fact. While being able to produce any imagined image can be freeing, the story is still king. Several new directions were explored in this arena as well, from Memento telling a story backwards, to Primer telling a story in, uh, whatever order Primer is (or isn’t) in.
Movies on this list are not just supreme examples of movie-craft, they are also entertaining and enjoyable narratives. Enjoyable, for this list at least, is a key word here. Many many movies came out this decade which are, technically speaking, brilliant. Many of them are, critically speaking, better than some of the movies on this list. Movies like Pan’s Labyrinth, Tsotsi, Babel, Brokeback Mountain, Traffic, or City of God are technically excellent movies, worthy of becoming classics. But they are not on this list because the stories they tell are not enjoyable. They’re told magnificently, yes, but I don’t anticipate revisiting them. I don’t long to sit through them again. All the movies on this list I enjoy watching, and enjoy re-watching (and with one obvious exception I have seen each one at least twice). I should also note here, in the interest of fairness, that I have not seen even half of the movies that were made this decade. Particularly recently, I’ve been very remiss in my movie watching. Many critically acclaimed movies are not on this list because I simply haven’t seen them. Movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Everything is Illuminated, or Monsoon Wedding (to throw out a few random ones) could very well be deserving, but I don’t know.

That out of the way, let’s get on with the list that I know you’ve all been waiting for (as well as a list of some runners-up).

9. Avatar (digital 3d version) – written and directed by James Cameron:
Avatar validates movie theaters. Seeing this movie in digital 3D is an experience like nothing else. Now, to be clear, this movie will not change the world. The story is as derivative as Star Wars with characters no thicker than stereotypical cut-outs. It’s Dances With Wolves. It’s Dune. It’s Pocahontas in space. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Yet you’ve never seen, or experienced, anything remotely like Avatar. I actually wonder how they pulled off some of the visual effects in this film (like Jake’s withered legs), and that’s rare. The action is clear and easy to follow and incredible. This movie, when seen in proper digital 3d, is a glimpse into the future of cinema where screens become not just moving pictures but true windows into vast (and in this case beautiful) new worlds. Also: dragons.

The rest of the list

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2007 Summer Movie Write Up – Part Two: Ocean’s 13, Shrek 3, Spiderman 3 and Ratatouille

9 Jul

      Ocean’s 13 is a good example of why I like to either see a movie twice, or wait a bit after seeing it before writing about it. Had I written an Ocean’s 13 review right after seeing it this would have been a gushing review, talking about how fun the movie is, how funny, how entertaining, and how well made. I suppose all of that is still true but the fact is that after a few weeks have gone by I’ve largely forgotten it. Soderbergh’s slick editing is as slick as ever, and the new casino that is computer generated seamlessly into the heart of Las Vegas is prime digital artistry. The music slickly glides along with it all and the cast is clearly loving their job. They’re fun to root for this time in part because they’re not stealing a bunch of money for themselves, they’re letting the people at the casino walk away with it thinking that they got lucky. The movie feels glitzy and glossy, like the shine from all the celebrities in it is physically manifesting itself and flowing out from the screen. So all in all Ocean’s 13 is fun to watch, funny, pretty, well made, and almost entirely forgettable.

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      Ratatouille on the other hand is a masterpiece. Everything about it – the music, the writing, the art design, the animation, the voices, the story, the humor, the purpose, the heart, everything about it is good. Pixar once again proves that they are far and away the best creative animation company in America (and possibly the world). Ratatouille is simply a joy to watch. In fact it’s only the second movie I can think of (after My Neighbor Totoro) which has conflict but no central villain. The drive of the story comes from wanting to fulfill the impossible dream – wanting it so much that maybe it’s not impossible, it’s only mostly impossible. It’s funny, it’s stunningly gorgeous to watch, and it’s just a gentle and loving story. All of the characters, not just the main ones, feel like they’re full-fledged living beings and while some of them may seem like functional roles, or exposition-carriers, by the time the movie plays out it becomes clear it’s more layered than that. It’s also interesting the way they dealt with the talking rats. Yes, they can talk, but only to themselves. To the human characters they sound like rats. So it’s not really about a talking rat that wants to be a cook, it’s about a regular rat (who happens to have heightened sense of smell) who wants to be a cook. It’s a shame if this movie gets lost in all the other big movies out right now. Do yourself a favor and see it.

      The less said about Shrek 3 the better I suppose, but I do feel like I should warn you. The best thing I can say about it is that it has some funny stuff in it. And of course the animation is stunning – the glint of light off the brass cookware, the puffed up fur of lightning-bolted rats, the way they animated the taste of different foods, the look of twilit Paris… wait, I’m talking about Ratatouille again. Nevermind. Shrek The Third is boring. It fails to make me care. Moving on.

      I feel similarly about Spiderman 3 except that I do care. I care because I loved the comics and really enjoyed watching the first two Spiderman movies. As time passes they become less enjoyable, but that’s no reason for the third one to be as un-fun as it was. It had good moments, (mostly stuff with Harry and Peter) but they all seem surrounded by so much implausibility or coincidence that the whole thing just doesn’t get passed my “suspension of disbelief” zone. Take Sandman: the music-free shot where he forms, starting with a macro shot on grains of sand and pulling out as each tiny grain slowly dances together forming and enveloping a new living entity, is downright beautiful. But the fact that he happened to fall into this science experiment just as it happened to be starting up? And that nobody after that knew what happened? And that the scientists started up the experiment despite not having any way to actually see what was going on inside it (like the fact that someone had fallen into it…) Wouldn’t they have cameras to monitor the experiment? What good is doing an experiment if you can’t watch it? And what, exactly, is this experiment anyways?
      And then there’s Venom who falls from space on a meteor which happens to land next to Peter Parker and happens to then attach to his bike. No other meteors fell with the black stuff? Only the one? Really? Not to mention the fact that if you’re going to put Venom into the movie it’s a shame to kill him off in the same movie. Also Gwen Stacy was wrong, but that’s been true since they stole her storyline and melded it with Mary Jane in the first movie. The bottom line is that the bad in the movie overshadows the good, and that’s a shame.

      And that’s all for this second installment of the 2007 summer movie write-up. Coming up next? Live Free or Die Hard, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and… (yes, Care) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix… which we are seeing at midnight on Tuesday.