This week on the Now Conspiring podcast, we review Zootopia and chat about our favorite modern Disney movies. We also dish on the new Ghostbusters trailer, the new Finding Dory trailer, and how film critics get a bad rap.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What is the best recent Disney movie (starting with Meet the Robinsons)?
Snarcasm is a weekly series about the worst articles on the Internet, and how we can snarcastically deal with them.
Now that Pixar has gracefully released the first trailer for Finding Dory, I thought it would be refreshing to dive back into the fun we had with Finding Nemo 12 years ago.
In fact, I tried to find negativearticles and opinion pieces about the new trailer, but I surprisingly found no one willing to be that person (outside of your friendly neighborhood comment section).
So I suppose that means Finding Nemo was universally beloved?
Ha, of course not. And that’s not a bad thing! You’ll always find someone who dislikes a movie you enjoy. But that doesn’t mean their reasons always make sense.
Back in 2003, Stephanie Zacharek (writing for Salon at the time) wrote one of the most confusing movie reviews I think I’ve ever read. And preparing for this weekly series means I have to read a lot of junk to decide what gets featured, so I hope that sinks in. OK, I’m done with the sea puns.
Anyway, Stephanie recommended her readers skip Finding Nemo altogether with the tagline,
Pixar’s latest animation wonder — a shimmery, velvety undersea coming-of-age story — sure is beautiful. But why should we spend two hours looking at it?
…because it’s beautiful?
Also, that’s not the last time she finds a way to weave in the word, velvet.
There’s no question that Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” aglow with translucent sea flora and shimmering, iridescent creatures, is beautiful to look at.
Right, even by today’s standards.
Who wouldn’t be entranced by that corps of pink art nouveau jellyfish, twirling about in their deadly underwater ballet, or by the sight of painstakingly adorable Nemo himself, the movie’s hero, a brave little Halloween-colored clown fish with googly eyes and one shrimpy fin?
Every moment in “Finding Nemo” is magnificently orchestrated to tease a response from us
Oh, not this again. From Up to Inside Out, you’ll always find a film critic getting hot and bothered by the fact that Pixar uses emotion to its advantage. Then, a week later, criticize an action movie for being heartless.
and those who don’t fall for it are sure to be denounced as insensitive, blind to the magic of animation and, last but not least, pitiably unable to view the world through the eyes of a child.
So brave, Stephanie. Nothing gets a review started on the right note like defending your criticism with self-victimization.
But after years of cultivating the eyes of a grown-up, I like to think there’s something to be said for using them.
In other words, “All other critics are childish, but I’m not.”
“Finding Nemo” is lovely to look at — and time and again I found myself asking, “Who cares?”
I’d hate to go with you to the Grand Canyon.
It’s possible that “Finding Nemo” — and most computer animation in general, including other Pixar micro-masterpieces like “A Bug’s Life” and “Monsters Inc.” — offer too much of a good thing.
Too much beauty? Is that really the criticism we’re resorting to? That’s why people should skip this?
How much microscopic detail can the human eye absorb before it stops registering that detail altogether?
“Ah! Shield my eyes! If I can’t grasp it all in one moment, there’s no way I can appreciate this!
Wait, you mean I can come back to the Grand Canyon?”
I certainly noticed that the navy-spotted back of the stingray schoolteacher in “Finding Nemo” looks so velvety it seemed you could reach out and touch it.
When the movie’s action took us above the surface of the ocean, I noted the multihued glimmer of that surface and dutifully scribbled in my notebook, “Lovely sun-gold on blue sea.”
You just complained that there’s too much beauty to love, so now you’re bragging about everything you caught that you think everyone else will overlook?
So, not only are critics childish, but audiences are moronic.
It’s all beautiful, all right. But before long I began to feel beaten against the rocks of that beauty
This has to be a prank.
“Finding Nemo” smacks of looky-what-I-can-do virtuosity, and after the first 10 minutes or so, it’s exhausting. Written and directed by Andrew Stanton, the movie is filled with bits of cleverness to keep the adults, as well as the kids, entertained.
Let me guess: the next line is about how you like the thing you just complained about.
And yes, I did laugh at the way the seagulls squawk “Mine! Mine!” as well as at the lobsters’ distinct Boston accents.
There we go. Nothing makes your criticism look as valid as a good old fashioned contradiction. Because if you reread those last few lines, you’ll see that she first complains the movie is exhausting, then she admits that it’s clever enough to keep you entertained.
But “Finding Nemo” works terribly hard for every scrap of charm or humor it imparts.
Now we’re mad that the movie is a hard worker. Next, we’re going to tear it to pieces for giving characters dimension and rightfully avoiding a romantic subplot.
“Finding Nemo” is teeming with lessons for parents and kids alike: Kids, you can do great things even if you have the human equivalent of a shrunken fin! Parents, don’t shelter your kids from the world to the extent that they never get a chance to live in it! In between lessons, there’s lots of peril to keep things exciting.
“But none of this good stuff matters because I hate you.”
Seriously, does she like this movie or not? Because I’ve only read about two sentences with an inkling of criticism, but they’ve been offset immediately by the rest of her comments.
Peril always equals drama in the Disney version (Disney co-produces with Pixar), and if your kids can take it, or actually like it, more power to them.
Can you imagine if kids liked dangerous situations? I sure can’t. That’s why I’m the biggest fan of Powerless Rangers.
I don’t think there’s anything particularly traumatizing in “Finding Nemo,” and admittedly, if Marlin and Dory didn’t face danger at every turn, there would be no story at all.
“It’s traumatizing, but not traumatizing at all.”
But what we get is still a snoozer.
Clearly. Since you just talked about the useful life lessons, entertaining story, dramatic situations, and beautiful imagery.
But hey, maybe she’s about to explain why it’s a snoozer! (Spoiler alert: she doesn’t).
There are lots of grown-up jokes in “Finding Nemo,” including a 12-step gag and a caravan of aged surfer-dude stoner sea turtles, both of which are sure to make adults laugh knowingly, which is surely the least fun kind of laughing there is, although it counts for something.
In one sentence, Stephanie compliments the movie, gives that compliment a caveat, criticizes the compliment itself, and then says it counts for something. I’m almost impressed.
Also, she’s actually saying that the “least fun kind of laughing” is reference humor. You read it here first. Never mind that in order for her to get it across that she doesn’t like the movie, she has to belittle the things about it the you like.
And I do confess to being at least somewhat captivated by Gill (Willem Dafoe), the tough-guy king of the fish tank who takes Nemo under his fin.
I’m just going to say this one more time, for emphasis. There are more compliments in this review than criticisms. This is actually happening.
“Finding Nemo” sure looks technically flawless,
for those who are impressed by such things.
Am I reading a drama essay by Doug Funnie’s sister, Judith?
I don’t really know what’s involved in making a feature that’s as clearly ambitious as “Finding Nemo” is. I can’t tell you how many hours were spent getting the picture to look just so (I’m sure it was a lot), and I would never question how much raw talent the individuals who worked on it possess (I doubt it can even be measured).
Your ignorance is noted.
Will lots of little kids (and big ones) enjoy “Finding Nemo”? Absolutely.
Is it an achievement? Without a doubt.
I have no words.
It’s all of those things, and less — the littlest fish in the sea masquerading as a whale, failing to take into account its conspicuous lack of warm blood.
How is this a comparison? OK, so she finishes the review here with the biting metaphor that Finding Nemo is basically a collection of small elements working together to “masquerade” as something bigger…but it’s hollow…or something.
Despite the fact that moviemaking itself is all about small elements working together to pull off an illusion. Maybe if this was Blackfish, Stephanie would find a reason to be glad this movie exists, but even then, she doesn’t even count the “lessons” she touted earlier as being very useful, anyway.
Can you see why this is one of the most confusing film reviews I’ve ever read? In it, Stephanie hardly criticizes the film at all and instead gives it vain praise like she’s one of Regina George’s underlings. Sure, her adjectives are pretty, and she found fancy ways to illustrate what works visually throughout the movie. But none of the ideas in this review give you any sense of whether or not Finding Nemo is worth seeing.
Since she gave the film less than 2 stars, however, that essentially means that she recommends you skip it. Despite all of the praise you read above, including the admission that the movie is an achievement that will be loved by children.
Nope! You need to skip this because…well, I’m not sure why.
I did a little digging into other movies reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek, and unsurprisingly, she’s pretty good at what she does. She was even nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in criticism at one point (although I think it’s fair to mention that she gave Hot Pursuit a passing grade, calling Sophia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon a terrific team).
I also dug through her reviews of animated movies, and it was pretty telling. For one thing, her criticism of Minions is identical to the line she uses in Finding Nemo, essentially stating that it’s “too much of a good thing.”
She did say that How to Train Your Dragon 2 (mostly) works, and she apparently loves the first one more than any other DreamWorks movie. But looking through her pedigree, it’s painfully clear that she just doesn’t have a thing for computer animated films, or at least the technical aspects behind them that make the movies even more impressive.
Obviously, this isn’t a big deal because this is just the opinion of one critic. My only complaint is that if you’re going to recommend that someone pass on a movie (especially one that’s universally praised), you better provide a better explanation for why.
And yes, that’s exactly what I said last week about Room. I think I’m starting to see a trend with these film reviews.
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I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni
In the last few days, Pixar has come out with a wealth of new details surrounding two of its most-anticipated films: Finding Dory and Inside Out. I’ve compiled some of the new things we’ve learned below!
Finding Dory: Turns out Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) was born and raised at the Marine Biology Institute of California. She was released into the ocean at a young age, and this Finding Nemo sequel will be about the forgetful fish trying to reunite with her long-lost parents,
“The heart of the story remains the same,” Sohn said, in an interview last week. “It’s always been about this young dinosaur growing up. But the world itself has changed a lot. Nature has become a character.”
…the film still posits that an asteroid never hit the Earth and the dinosaurs never went extinct; a teenage Apatosaurus named Arlo takes a wild, young human boy named Spot as a pet.
This is a wonderful piece by the LA Times that details the transition this film has gone through, both in terms of leadership and creative vision.
Bob Peterson exited The Good Dinosaur as its director, due to conflicts with the story. He’s been quietly replaced by Peter Sohn, an inexperienced director who got the job thanks to a gutsy presentation of a new take on the movie (which he did with storyboards last summer).
Peterson’s moved on to helping write Inside Out and Finding Dory, so we’ll still see some of his finesse in coming years. And from what we’re slowly learning about The Good Dinosaur in terms of story and visual treatment, I’m happily excited as we get closer to next November.
Though I have to admit the whole “brute takes on a human pet” thing sounds a little too Monsters Inc.
Trying to compare the Pixar films according to quality and personal affection is a pointless task, in my opinion. Of course, I could easily tell you what my favorite films are and rank them, but how does that really help anyone?
Everyone has their favorites, but everyone also loves lists and comparisons. So for the sake of this post, I’m pointing out how successful each one was compared to the other. Prepare to be surprised.
To crunch the numbers, I added the domestic and foreign totals to provide the worldwide figures. I also adjusted everything according to inflation in 2014, so you’re really seeing which films made the most value in their day.
I did not rank these in order of profitability, as in I don’t point out how much it cost to make the film versus how much it made. Instead, I kept it simple and only pointed out how much money the film made overall.
#1. Finding Nemo
How much it made: Many assume that Toy Story 3 was the first Pixar film to make over $1 billion worldwide, and they’re technically right. In 2003, Finding Nemo just barely came short of the billion mark with $936 million made worldwide. But when you adjust for inflation, the underwater animated film actually made $1.2 billion worldwide, easily surpassing the threequel.
Why? This is pretty impressive considering the fact that Finding Nemo had fewer advantages than more recent Pixar films. This was before foreign markets were becoming the brunt of Disney Pixar’s audience. In fact, I’d argue that it opened the floodgates to how well U.S. films can perform overseas.
Put simply, Finding Nemo benefitted from having extremely wide appeal. While movies about toys, superheroes, and balloon houses are fun concepts, many people of different ages found a reason to check out this film about a father finding his lost son in an endless ocean.
#2. Toy Story 3
How much it made: The possibly final entry in the Toy Story franchise is also its most successful. It was the first Pixar film to make $1 billion worldwide ($1.1 billion adjusted for inflation), and unlike Finding Nemo, its gap between money made domestically and foreign is much narrower.
Why? Waiting a decade to finish the franchise was a smart decision on Pixar’s part. Strong word-of-mouth, the return of the original cast, and an emotionally wrenching premise made this a can’t-miss film for the countless people who fell in love with Toy Story over the course of 15 years.
How much it made: It didn’t just collect Oscars. Up pulled in an impressive $731 million worldwide. Adjusted from 2009, that’s over $812 million.
Why? The film had broad international appeal thanks to its setting, and it came at a time when Pixar was hitting its stride with back-to-back hits. It also benefitted from a strong opening that had critics raving over the score and memorable characters. That, and this was also the first Pixar film to reap the benefits of 3D ticket prices.
#4. The Incredibles
How much it made: Following the success of Finding Nemo was an impossible task, so leave it to the superhero film to accomplish just that. The Incredibles made a whopping $631.million worldwide in 2004, which is actually $795.8 million by today’s standards.
Why? One of the main advantages of mashing up several genres like superheroes, family drama, comedy, animation, and spies is that you can generate a ton of interest in your movie. Families and young adults came out to this film in droves, and it didn’t hurt that audiences were still enamored with the success of Finding Nemo.
#5. Monsters University
How much it made: This 2013 prequel to Monsters Inc. narrowly surpassed its predecessor by raking in $743.5 million worldwide ($760 million adjusted for inflation). It’s important to note that it made the bulk of its money overseas, like many of the recent Pixar films.
Why? As a rule, sequels and even prequels tend to build upon existing audiences, no matter the downgrade in quality. Plus, the film was quite enjoyable and a step up from Pixar’s previous outings (Cars 2 and Brave).
#6. Monsters Inc.
How much it made: This is the Pixar film that showed critics just what the studio was capable of, as it was the first of the films to spike in profit. The 2001 film made an impressive $562.8 million worldwide ($756.4 adjusted), with an almost even split between domestic and foreign markets.
Why? This film came out after a 1-year hiatus for Pixar, and it had been three years since the studio had released a non-sequel. Thanks to Monsters Inc., the momentum for Pixar as it entered the 21st century was set early, and high.
How much it made: Only Pixar can make a film about a rat learning to cook in Paris a huge success with over $623 million made globally ($716.7 million adjusted).
Why? Foreign markets definitely carried this film, representing about 2/3 of the profits. Also, audiences who were displeased with Cars were happy to see a Pixar film with more traditional storytelling (even though it was anything but).
#8. Toy Story 2
How much it made: That’s right, one of Disney’s first forays into a sequel (they’re notorious for not doing big screen sequels at all) was a Pixar film. And it totally paid off. Toy Story 2 ran away with $485 million worldwide. These days, that’s nearly $700 million. Keep in mind that this was in 1999; a time when the box office competition was fierce.
Why? As we now know, the film was just as good if not better than the original, and that prompted millions of people who loved the first film to go see this one. And it helped that VHS sales build a lot of hype for this film four years after the original. The lesson, of course, is that there should be a lot of time in between sequels for the sake of direction and precision. Not many people have learned this lesson, sadly.
#9. Cars 2
How much it made: Pixar’s follow-up to the record-breaking Toy Story 3 was yet another sequel. And they suffered for it. Cars 2 brought in about $559 million worldwide, or $593 million adjusted for inflation. A little more than half of what Pixar made the previous year.
Why? Some are wondering why it made so much when it shouldn’t. Others may be wondering why it didn’t make as much. Both questions are answered by the fact that the film was both helped and hurt by its predecessor, Cars. Yes, it had plenty of interest from fans of the original, but the problem was that there weren’t that many fans anyway. But it still made good money, especially overseas. This was partly due to the various locales seen in the film and Disney’s expertise at managing foreign markets by 2011.
How much it made: This may surprise a lot of you, but WALL-E only brought in $521 million worldwide. Adjusted for this year, that’s only about $576.8 million.
Why? Oddly, this is celebrated as one of Pixar’s best films, both by audiences and critics. And yet it is one of the least successful. Sadly, this is mostly because the film came out during the onset of Great Recession, which badly hurt money made domestically. On top of that, many moviegoers were put off by the film’s lack of dialogue, especially in the early parts of the film.
#11. Toy Story
How much it made: The first of the Pixar films performed pretty well for a forerunner. It made $362 million worldwide, with most of that money being domestic. Nowadays, that translates to about $566 million, which is nothing to scoff at.
Why? Unlike its successors, Toy Story didn’t have the luxury of Pixar being a household name. It earned its success solely from being a good film and shattering expectations as the first computer-animated film ever. In fact, I’m more surprised that this isn’t lower on the list considering the risk that was put into making it. Toy Story truly is a miracle of film.
How much it made: Still hurting from the disappointment that was Cars 2, this 2012 film also disappointed with a meager $539 million worldwide total ($559 million adjusted). That’s still pretty good, though it is certainly low compared to the rest of the Pixar family.
Why? Entire research papers could be written about the mystery surrounding Brave‘s underwhelming premise. I’m not sure I fully understand why it fell short for me, personally. Whatever the reason, Brave just didn’t click or resonate with people as deeply as previous Pixar films, which made this an animated outing for only a certain group of moviegoers (kids and their parents looking for a getaway).
How much it made: Released in 2006, Cars didn’t really deliver for Pixar as much as they hoped with a decent $462 million worldwide ($546 million adjusted). Of course, it was still incredibly profitable for Pixar, seeing as it only cost $120 million to make.
Why? You know a film has problems when it falls so short after two massive hits like Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. It even had the benefit of coming along after a 1-year hiatus. Still, audiences weren’t impressed with the premise, and Cars ultimately suffered. Strangely, the sequel was still green-lit and made a bit more money years later.
#14. A Bug’s Life
How much it made: Pixar’s second film was great in its own right, even though that didn’t necessarily translate to box office sales. It made just $363 million worldwide, which is about $530.5 million adjusted for inflation. Interestingly, it made more money overseas than Toy Story did, and it was the first of the Pixar films to make most of its money in foreign markets.
Why? Put simply, the novelty of computer animation had worn off a bit. So A Bug’s Life had to rely on just being a good movie. That’s why it made as much as it did, but the basic fact is that a film about toys coming to life was more appealing than a film about bugs fighting grasshoppers.
One of the most interesting things about this list is that even the lowest entry of Pixar’s films is a box office success that stands up to most of the films that are coming out today. That means in 14 films over the course of 19 years, Pixar hasn’t had a single flop. No other studio in history can compare to that kind of consistent success.
In the years to come, we’ll see if Pixar can maintain the status quo or make another huge leap forward. Inside Out premieres next summer, and it could prove to be the next Monsters Inc. in terms of reviving the studio’s creative fortunes. And with new sequels like Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2 on the horizon, along with some other originals like The Good Dinosaur, Pixar may be poised for its first renaissance.
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Pop Quiz: What’s the most anticipated movie of 2015?
The answer is too many. See, 2015 is shaping up to be a big (and I mean big) year for movies, and the list just keeps growing.
Below are just the 15 we know about: (in no particular order)
15. Mockingjay (Part 2)
The story so far is that the final movie in the “Hunger Games” franchise will be a two-parter. Because hey, if it worked for Harry Potter, then it works for Katniss (Catness).
14. Superman/Batman (Working Title)
The world’s finest are officially teaming up in 2015. I’m sick of talking about it too.
Based on the video game responsible for ending millions of relationships, Warcraft is currently in pre-production and has been announced as a 2015 title. I’m skeptical on whether or not this will translate well to film, but the lore is definitely rich enough to craft (unintended pun) an immersive fantasy film.
12. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Like I said, it’s going to be a big year.
11. Pixar’s “Inside Out”
I know what you’re thinking. Of course the Pixar Theory guy brings this up. Well leave me alone! You know you want this too. Besides one other movie, this is the only non-sequel we know Pixar is working on and the concept is awesome and original.
It’s apparently about an amazing world that exists within the mind of a 12-year-old girl, who is probably Boo fingers crossed.
10. Assassin’s Creed
Even non-gamers have probably heard about this (maybe?), so I have high hopes for Hollywood’s next attempt at nailing a video-game adaptation. What they’ve got going for them so far is Michael Fassbender on the cast, but we don’t yet know how they’re going to handle the story.
All we know for sure is that Desmond and the Animus will be the driving force of the plot, which is unfortunate. That was easily the weakest aspect of the games, at least later on, but I understand why they want to run with this interesting premise of a man living as his ancestors and getting wasted with Leonardo DaVinci.
Maybe it’s just the nostalgia talking, but I’m weirdly excited about this. It’s in 3D so it will probably make the TV movies look like District 9 (I’m bad at comparisons), but the Peanuts characters definitely deserve to finally hit the big screen.
8. Star Wars Episode VII
I’m pretty sure I could just stop the list here…
This will be the “other” Marvel movie coming out in 2015, but don’t expect it to get lost in the shuffle. It will be coming out in November, a month usually devoid of superhero action, and will be directed Edgar Wright
But Jon, who is Edgar Wright and why should I care?
Well inner dialogue, Edgar Wright has directed multiple movies and cult classics, such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and the recent film, The World’s End. We like this guy, basically.
I love you.
6. Mission Impossible 5
Before Ghost Protocol, a sequel to the now 20-year-old Mission Impossible franchise wouldn’t have caused much excitement. But now we know just how good these spy thrillers can be, so let’s hope Ethan Hunt’s next outing lives up to the last.
5. Finding Dory
Technically, Dory has already been found (in our hearts), but that doesn’t mean the Finding Nemo movie will fail to make millions cashing in on our love for aquatic mayhem and feels.
4. Bond 24
The follow-up to Skyfall, considered to be one of the best Bond films of all time, will also be vying for our attention come 2015. Daniel Craig is set to reprise his role and Sam Mendes will also be returning as director.
The pressure is surely on, as the duo must be able to live up to the success of Skyfall, which may not be easily done.
3. Pitch Perfect 2
I could just say, “Enough said.” and many of you would nod at your computer screens and proceed to scroll to #2. Unfortunately, there are people who haven’t watched this movie, which means there are people who don’t like this movie.
Yes, I am one of those moviegoers that was forced to see this movie by attractive females and then walked out loving it. It was more funny than cheesy, although barely, and it has really picked up a rabid following thanks to word-of-mouth and meme culture. I’m expecting the sequel to make a bigger splash.
Also: Fat Amy.
2. Terminator (Reboot)
I only care because Arnold has personally announced his involvement, though I’m taking that news with a grain of salt. Though I’ve never been much of a Terminator fan in the past, I don’t doubt this will be a big deal in 2015.
1. Jurassic Park 4
Look, I’m not going to BS you guys. Dinosaur Island 4 wasn’t even on my list 10 minutes ago, Avatar 2 was. Then someone approached me and said in a 1920’s voice, “HOLD THE PRESSES, SEE! AVATAR 2 COMING OUT IN 2016, SEE! READ ALL ABOUT IT!” Then he threw an iPad at me.
So I panicked because 15 is a cooler number than 14, so I scavenged the depths of the internet to find another movie coming out. It was between Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Independence Day 2 and a new take on Cinderella, so feel appreciative.