The Contenders: Brave

Sure, it might not be as good as past Pixar fare and sure, it follows a more traditional narrative structure and yes, it just didn’t meet critical expectations BUT don’t -and I repeat- DON’T discount Pixar’s “Brave” as nothing but filler in the same category as “Cars 2” or “A Bug’s Life”. The film is too good to be shunned off and relegated to that low-leveled category. Let me explain why. Expectations can really kill the way you view a film. Before “Brave” even came out, the thought of another Pixar film coming to theatres gave critics and movie buffs a reason to smile in what would likely be another dull summer loaded with movie escapism and not too much food for thought. I mean, this is the same company that gave us some of the great animated films of the last decade and single handily brought us into -my opinion of course- the golden age of animation. Just look at the treasure trove of brilliant films this company has released since 1999;  “Wall-E,” Toy Story 2″, “Monsters Inc.”, “Finding Nemo”, “The Incredibles”, “Ratatouille”, “Up” and “Toy Story 3”. An impressive list that is practically impossible to match by anyone else, safe maybe Hayao Miyazaki’s brilliant filmography of the past three decades or Disney’s brilliant run of films from 1989-1994.

In”Brave” what we have is Pixar’s best animation to date. Its eye popping colors bring about dazzling visuals that would make any true film buff water in the mouth. The animation is so well drawn out and compared to earlier Pixar films, “Brave” blows them out of the water in terms of sheer technical achievements -Time’s Richard Corliss has echoed my sentiments in saying it is “the most ravishing and complex pixar movie to date”. However its narrative is safer, bringing about memories of some of Disney’s so called “princess stories” yet infusing it with post 21st century material. This is Pixar’s first film featuring a female heroine and not just any heroine; a redhead that has a killer talent for bow and arrow. Merida is her name and she is a headstrong free spirit that wants to “change her fate” (of being betrothed against her will) at nearly any cost. Merida will not be held back. The story comes with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, outstanding visuals and wait until you see Merida’s three younger brothers, redheaded baby triplets that just want to cause chaos everytime they’re on screen.

This film doesn’t have the dark, underlying adult themes of “Up” but it sure is a great time at the movies. Its scenes go from wacky, to dramatic to downright scary. Will it win the Best Animated Feature Oscar? It’s too hard to tell but something tells me we shouldn’t discount its chances. I mean, after all a “good” rather than “great” Pixar movie is still better than 99% of animated movies released in any given year. This is just a case of high expectations not being met. “Brave” isn’t a film that vies for greatness – instead it is a lovely film that is intentionally Pixar’s first foray into the “Fairytale” genre. However, It doesn’t necessarily follow the rules of the genre; Merida would rather use her bow and arrow than chase boys or find her prince charming. The movie isn’t about being in love or living happily ever after. It is more about one girl’s quest to find self-fulfillment and identity in a world empowered by men. Don’t listen to the naysayers or those who’s expectations were too high to reach, let yourself get swept up into “Brave” and its magnificent colors.

When looking at the Best Animated Feature of 2012, one cannot discount Tim Burton’s imaginative “Frankenweenie” which has enough critics backing it up and will likely get a well-deserved nomination. Burton’s Gothic treat is his animated follow-up to “The Corpse Bride”, which still is his ONLY Oscar nomination to date. Yes, it’s very hard to believe especially with a filmography that includes “Ed Wood”, “Sweeney Todd” and “Edward Scissorhands”. “Frankenweenie” is Burton being Burton (You could see that as a good thing or a bad thing). Based on his 1984 short about a young boy named victor that loses his dog, Sparky, and uses the power of science to resurrect it “Frankenweenie” is a labor of love for Burton through and through. Shot in beautiful Black and White and laced with enough dark Gothic humor to satisfy his many legions of fans, the film will likely garner Burton a well deserved second nomination and maybe -just maybe- his first ever win. Other contenders this year include well received fare such as “Paranorman”, “Pirates: Bands Of Misfits” and the recently released “Wreck It Ralph”.

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