Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rating Game Redux (27): Animated Response

When our local paper asked for a list of "best animated films," I knew what they wanted: feature-length fare, classics and watershed moments. But what sprang to mind were the little critters, seven-minute bouts of wabbit trouble--and mouse trouble, and billy goat, and Martian. Mustache fiends. Cats who hates people. Cats who look and sound suspiciously like Abbott and Costello. Cats who thuffer thucotash. And their prey, mice and birds, falsely innocent, with startling upper-body strength. Ah, we could go on and on, could we not? Sniffles and Wolfy and Daffy (that mad, impetuous boy) and Foghorn. But you gotta be a flippin' magician t'keep a kid's attention more than five--or seven minutes--these days, so I will bow to the following three prestidigitators, stretching animation* with Sam Clampett molecular hoodoo, many frames per second.

Pinocchio (1940)

The son rejects then rescues the father in a Magic Realist wish-fulfillment chiaroscuro cartoon-dream, in which nightmare and sentiment seamlessly combine, with music.

Spirited Away (2001)

Not since Lewis Carroll has anyone better understood the fears and hopes of childhood than Hayao Miyazaki, whose beautiful film creates a Wonderland that, like Carroll’s, invents its own mythology—and knows how to keep a secret, sometimes even from the viewer.

Street of Crocodiles (1986)

The Brothers Quay’s sublimely disquieting stop-action masterpiece of impenetrable gloom and compulsive attention to movement—even the dust on their hybridized found-objects/subjects seems infused with febrile life—capturing the alternate-reality essence of animation, both captivating and delirious.

*Except for the Brothers Quay, whose animations usually run under twenty minutes or so. But for those of you unfamiliar with their work, I promise they will be the longest twenty minutes (in a good way) you'll ever spend.

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