animation

Kung Fu Panda 3 And Spiritual Awareness

We are extremely lucky to be living in a golden age of blockbuster animated cinema: a time where our mainstream colorful biggies wrestle not with mere physical challenges, but with intensely self-aware psychological and spiritual ones.

Let me just start off by saying this: Kung Fu Panda 3 is the best of the trilogy. It has everything we already expect: kickass, unstoppable A-grade humor, absolutely gorgeous 3D animation, amazeballs action sequences and a meaningful, heartwarming story.
But this one stands out on its spiritual intensity alone; while the first two had some beautiful things to say about identity and self-awareness, this one is a soulful haiku on finding one’s place in the universe, and being okay with whatever you unearth. There is endless wisdom here, and proof that a great film is never just a film.

Based on the concept of ‘chi’ that signifies the energy present in all living things, the movie’s journey is one of achieving serenity and oneness with all of creation. The plot of this film is home to ancient Chinese philosophy, the simple concept that having two dads is the same as having a dad and a mom, solving earthly confusion and hurt through laughter and compassion, healing through growth – the list goes on and on.

I wish there was more I could say about how peacefully charming this movie is, but I’d be wasting your time. In times like these, where the world is perpetually at war with itself, a kid raised on these steady offerings from Disney-Pixar and Dreamworks will grow up to be a citizen of the world, and learn, in due time, that it is never too late to do the right thing. With works of art like these, we’re teaching them the only way to save our world.

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Still from Wreck-It Ralph (2012).

An extraordinary film no matter how you look at it: retrograde coolness, morally complex, explosively imaginative, emotionally rich story of a videogame underdog standing up to a tyrant.

And that last scene, my lord. The kind of film you wish to watch with your kids someday.

Quote from Waking Life (2001).

Richard Linklater is a gift from the universe to mankind. There has to be some sort of assertive cosmic ballet going on just beyond our senses to make a soul as inconceivably nourished with the power of learning and bestowed with the superpower of rendering the unspeakable into verbal actuality with the help of dialogue in film.

Waking Life is many things: a dream masquerading as cinema, cinema masquerading as a dream, a call for taking up arms against the controlled regiments of sane consciousness, a tale of absurdist philosophy. Every moment filters into the next without explanation or effort. Just like life.

Zootopia (2016)

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Nothing can quite prepare you for the startling impact of Zootopia. Disney’s new film is a revelatory incantation of distinct, near-unbelievable postmodern sensibilities that touches ponderously on racism, homophobia, gender identity, sexism in male-oriented professions, fear-mongering in mob mentality and doing away with culturally imposed stereotypes by a hierarchically classist social order, to name a few.

It is, by a miracle of concise, masterful storytelling, also a thematically correct neo-noir that calls to mind the works of its genre Gods: Hitchcock; and lord have mercy on my soul for saying this, even the hilariously inept lead detective of P.T. Anderson’s Inherent Vice. Zootopia takes a stand on nudist wellness centres, calls a sloth Flash, and hints ever so subtly on marijuana use.

This is a movie where the old, ever-reliable approach of tabula rasa works the best. Do not read the synopsis, watch the trailer, or read reviews which narrate scenes from the film. Screw that. Go to the movie, watch the kids enjoy the colorful paparazzi of its grandiose, echoey realm of unabashed imagination, and let yourself, as an adult, gape in stunned amazement at the instinctual depth of the narrative. Zootopia possesses a fearless showcase of ballsy moral dilemma, economic inequality and a Godfather bit so funny even thinking about it hurts my stomach.

A character in the film says, “This isn’t some musical where you sing sweet songs and all your insipid dreams magically come true. So let it go.” Sorry, Elsa.

Zootopia joins the pantheon of The Lego Movie and Inside Out to become the next Hollywood animation giant that takes squarely measured shots at everything we, as a civilization are doing (and doing wrong), and hits home, hard. I applaud with complete submission. Holy crap.

Paddington

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At one moment in Paul King’s wondrous new film, the titular bear is seen settling in to sleep comfortably on the wooden elevation in an attic, with a windowsill pouring in twilight, lashings of thunder and the hubbub of rain. He snugly lets his red hat float to cover his eyes, and makes the frame complete with the genuineness of its warmth.

Based on a character created by Michael Bond back in 1958, Paddington traces the bear’s amusing misadventures starting from being found at the eponymous train station with utmost sensitivity. Where studios have sold out to ripping off literature to set the cash registers ringing, this British comedy pulls up its colorful slacks on an old formula of family, love and marmalade to make an enchanting ninety-minute treat for kids and grownups alike. The film does not miss teasing Shakespeare by referring to The Winter’s Tale where the teacher’s “Exit pursued by a bear” is cued in with Paddington flying (don’t ask) in pursuit of a pickpocket, or by making the pickpocket’s GPRS in the car telling him to “bear left” at the same sight. Paddington – in his signature, sea-green duffle coat and with his innocent mannerisms – brings out the high laughs. Director/writer Paul King and his co-writer Hamish McColl employ a classical approach to storytelling that reminds us why filmmaking is still one of the best mediums to do so.

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Sally Hawkins is perfectly cast as the affectionate Mrs Brown whose request gets Paddington a place in the Brown family and their home. Her welcoming air is offset well by Hugh Bonneville as her stern husband Henry Brown whose idea of being a responsible father begins with switching to a car from a bike. The kids: Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin as Judy and Jonathan respectively, are great. The strongest internalization of character comes, predictably, from Ben Whishaw as he lends a sufficiently verbose and expressive voice to Paddington the bear. His integration into live-action is seamless leaving us to enjoy moments of delicate revelry without rolling our eyes at its visual plausibility. In a tale set so far (or is it?) from the murderous reality of our gruesome species, Paddington remains assuredly human with scenes laughing pointedly at our folly: like one in which two security guards quiz each other on the sodium and carbohydrate content of an Oreo biscuit while the sinister Millicent (Nicole Kidman) hovers behind them.

At one point in the film Sally Hawkin’s character dejectedly lets Mr Brown know that there is still no news of Paddington after he’s left them. We know their home no longer echoes with the rollicking laughter that it did when he was with them. The animation and special effects team takes over, and a blossoming tree painted on their walls loses its leaves, now to reveal a lifeless organism rotting at the hands of loneliness.

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Paddington is a film with such definitive old school gorgeousness; it almost goes to war with the shallowness of our times at the theater characterized so starkly by the overpriced popcorn and cola. The film is glorious candy fluff, but it is a remarkable one because its candy has enormous nutritional value without compromising on the sweetness. It is a film you’ll want to hug.