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”.

20 Comments on this Post

  1. nothing but filler in the same category as “Cars 2″ or “A Bug’s Life”.

    A Bug’s Life is a terrific movie and it is better than both Cars films and Monster’s Inc.

  2. It feels weird to not see “WALL-E” in your Pixar treasure trove.

  3. I thought Brave was great, and I really hope it gets a nomination. Pixar has made a lot of good films, but to me Miyazaki is god!

  4. Bryce Forestieri

    I’ve liked ParaNorman and Wreck-It Ralph way better then Brave. I mean, hell, Frankenweenie was more entertaining. Brave was boooring.

  5. @Patrick, I knew I forgot a film and what a film it is ! WALL-E might just be the best one they’ve ever released.

  6. David Casademunt

    “A BUG’S LIFE” is probably the best Pixar movie ever

  7. “I mean, after all a “good” rather than “great” Pixar movie is still better than 99% of animated movies released in any given year.”

    That’s not true this year. Brave is currently my 5th favorite animated movie of the year, and could even be pushed out of the top 5 if “Rise Of The Guardians” turns out to be good. This marks the first year ever for me that I preferred the Disney Animation release over the Pixar release. That’s a pretty significant milestone I’d say. “Brave” is by no means a bad movie, but I find it hard to think it’s going to make any waves come awards season. That is, unless the industry gives it to Pixar based on sheer goodwill and an ignorance to all the great animation elsewhere.

    1. Paranorman
    2. Frankenweenie
    3. The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
    4. Wreck-It Ralph
    5. Brave

  8. Unlikely hood

    This post is a very thorough answer to my question in the animated contenders thread. Thanks

  9. The Pirates Band of Misfits doesn’t have a fucking chance. They usually pick at least one lesser-known title – last year, they snubbed Tintin, Cars 2 and Rio in favour of A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita.

  10. The Great Dane

    I’m sad I haven’t seen Brave yet, as I’m a big Pixar fan. But I was shocked to see the reviews in my country (Denmark). It is officially the worst review Pixar film to date. It didn’t just get “OK” reviews here. It got butchered. If we had a website like Rotten Tomatoes in our country, it would be rated “Rotten”. Only one or two news paper gave it a good review, and by good, I mean “OK”. We have a 6-star rating system in Danmark and it got one or two “4 stars” (the same as 2,5 stars on the 4-star system), the rest was 3 and under. Besides the latest Tinkerbell film, it could very well be the worst reviewed animated feature in our country this year.
    And the reviewers here usually praise Pixar for every film, and they usually get some of the best reviews of the year.

    Not saying Brave lovers are wrong, cause I still can’t wait to see it. I am just blown away by how bad the critics here think it is.

  11. The Great Dane

    Sorry, forgot to post my name in the above comment. :)

  12. Branko Burcksen

    It’s true that Pixar movies have set a high standard for animated films. “Brave” really is fine for what it is, and I commend them for finally making a story with a female lead even if she’s a princess and not nearly as compelling as Dory, Eve or Mrs. Incredible. However, we are talking about the best animated films of the year here.

    I’m surprised, with the large slate of animated films up for nomination this year, there wasn’t one that really caught my attention. (At least the ones I know about and have seen.) I hope the committee chooses a few lesser known titles on the list I don’t recognize that might turn out to be higher fair than what I see.

    One, or I should say two animated films, a double feature, that did not come up on the list is the theatrical edition of “Madoka Magica”. If you want to see an animated story that does some radical things with an all female principal cast, you should really check it out. It has some romance, but it’s mostly about the friendship between the girls. It’s easy to misjudge it from just the first scenes. Beneath its cute exterior though lie dark secrets and disturbing revelations that make it unsafe to show the kids. It’s unfortunate that it won’t be considered, but the twelve episode series is just as compelling and amazing as the movies.

    Pixar and the works of Miyazaki may have made their distinct mark, but there are two names to look out for. Momaru Hosoda released his fourth animated feature this year to spectacular success in Japan. From “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “Summer Wars” and now “The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki”, he has proven himself to be a filmmaker to really watch out for. Expect to see “Wolf Children” on the submission list for best animated feature next year.

    The second is the animation studio P.A. Works. After a rough start with their first two series, they have managed to turn in one top quality production after another. Though not nearly as well known or successful as Pixar or Ghibli, they produce top notch animated series that surpass the expectations of their concepts. After their first forays, “True Tears” and “Canaan”, they made four stellar series with two more ahead. There are a lot of animation studios in Japan, but this one consistently produces high quality work.

    Judge the content, not its exposure.

    P.A. Works’ “Canaan” and “Angel Beats” are available on Netflix while “Hanasaku Iroha”, “Another” and “Tari Tari” are streaming on Crunchyroll.

    This video gives a good idea of “Madoka Magica” is like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ8JRfsurt4

    “Madoka Magica” is available on…

    Hulu: http://www.hulu.com/madoka-magica

    Crackle: http://www.crackle.com/c/Madoka_Magica

    Crunchyroll: http://www.crunchyroll.com/puella-magi-madoka-magica

  13. Jordan Ruimy,

    It’s not really your fault at all but you (as well as most other people here) are severely limited in your knowledge of world animation. In truth, there are other studios that compare to Pixar and the most notable of all is perhaps Souzmultfilm from Soviet Union.

    Over many decades it produced a couple of thousands of shorts and features that display an astonishing range of styles and thematic ranges. As someone who is interested in Animation I really recommend you research it a little.

  14. @ Maxim, yes I agree I’m sadly not the be all end all expert on Animation but I do follow the films that get a general (wide or limited) release here in North America. Sadly, Souzmultfilm shorts and features are hard to find in theatres out here. I”ll look them up online and try to find a way to view a few of them.

  15. Brave: Looks, A; Story C+

    Let’s not forget Disney’s terrific run from 1937 – 1942. It doesn’t get much better than “Snow White,” “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia,” “Dumbo” and “Bambi.”

  16. My pick (5 movies, hopefully; three is too few):

    Brave
    ParaNorman
    Frankenweenie
    Wreck-It Ralph (for the win)
    Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (NGNG)

  17. I just think this year has been such as strong for animation but Brave was one of the few disappointments. I’m gonna say the nominees will be: Frankenweenie, Lorax, Paranorman, Rise of the Guardians and Wreck-it Ralph. The winner will be either Frankenweenie (finally giving Tim Burton his Oscar) or Wreck-it Ralph (solidifying the fact that we’re in a new golden age of Disney animation that I feel started in ’07 with Meet the Robinsons).

  18. Please, AMPAS, don`t award this lesser archer chick! If you really want to award Girl Power, than nominate the one and only Katniss, and Hunger Games for Best Picture.Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games is just as deserving of winning or more than for Silver Linings Playbook which is more AMPAS friendly and may serve as a make-up for snubbing her in THG.

  19. I found Brave to be so underwhelming and lazy for Pixar. It’s a by the numbers girl power film done by a group of men of what they THINK girls want. Yes Hungergames shamed them and pointed out their mediocrity. Next time hire some women writers and think of something as creative as your other films.

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