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Which is Better? ‘Monsters Inc.’ VS ‘Shrek’

 

On the latest Pixar Detectives, Kayla Savage and I tried to somehow choose between Monsters Inc. and Shrek in the most unbiased as possible way. To help, our live audience supplied some awesome arguments and counterarguments in this week’s edition of Which is Better?

Of course, we’re not content to rest on the laurels of the debate in this video. Let us know in the comments below which movie you think deserves the acclaim and why. We spent the entirety of the episode on this topic, so we unfortunately didn’t have any time to cover the latest going on in the world of Pixar. But tune in next week and we’ll do our best to catch up.

If you want to enter our weekly giveaways, be sure to tune in live every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. (Pacific). Follow the link below or just click the video above. We give away Pixar-related goodies like shirts, books, blu-rays, and tons more. And we’re always open to new suggestions for prizes you all might be interested in!

Hope you enjoy the show, and don’t forget to like Super News on Facebook, so you can check out all kinds of awesome shows and giveaways coming out daily. That includes vide game live streams, other Disney talk shows, superhero news, and plenty more. See you all next week!


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


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Batman and Superman VS the Rest of Us

batman v superman podcast

This week on the podcast, the Now Conspiring team conspires about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with a spoiler free review followed by a super spoilery discussion (warnings will come).

We also welcome a guest to the show, frequent commenter Bridget Serdock! You can check out more of her work via the links below.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Which upcoming DC Cinematic Universe movie are you most excited about?

Go on…Batman and Superman VS the Rest of Us

Snarcasm: Disney is Eating Pixar’s Lunch

disney pixar

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

This week’s Snarcasm will be a tad different and (dare I say it) a little more serious than usual. Rather than take down one of the worst articles on the Internet (which have been nothing but fan theories lately), I’m addressing some fear, uncertainty, and doubt crisscrossing the world of animation.

And it really needs to stop.

See, I’m all for criticizing Pixar when they deserve it (see Cars 2 and the third act of Brave). They’re not perfect, and we can all agree that mistakes were made in how they executed their latest feature, The Good Dinosaur.

But the groupthink has been reaching a bizarre consensus lately that ignores the triumph of Inside Out and yes, the underrated value offered by The Good Dinosaur. It seems that some people want  Pixar to be taken down a notch in the public eye because Disney Animation has been killing it lately with computer animated hits like TangledFrozen, and Big Hero 6.

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Is that fair? Let’s dig in.

Germain Lussier at io9 writes:

Walt Disney Animation is Officially as Good as Pixar Now

Look, I know that the tagline for io9 is “Welcome to the Future,” but that doesn’t mean we can just skip ahead to a time period that doesn’t exist.

And I know that the last few movies made by Disney’s own animation studio have been big hits, but has anyone actually considered Big Hero 6 or Frozen to be better than Inside Out? Let’s read what Lussier has to say.

For several years, Pixar’s animated films made Pixar’s parent company, Disney, look good. And meanwhile, Disney’s own in-house animation studio was going through a rough patch—the company wasn’t making the kind of films people expected from Walt Disney’s namesake.

Lussier goes on to explain how most people don’t even realize that Pixar and Disney are separate entities. But a key thing he points out is that Pixar has long made their own movies outside of Disney’s control (even after Disney bought them).

just as Disney was releasing all those Pixar hits, Disney Animation—a branch of the company with one of the most amazing resumes in film history—was still releasing its own films. Films that usually, and unfortunately, were much less memorable.

These movies include decent but forgettable flicks, such as Meet the RobinsonsBoltThe Princess and the Frog, and other “nice tries.”

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It took lots of time, effort, blood, sweat and tears—but with films like Frozen, Big Hero 6 and next month’s new film Zootopia, Walt Disney Animation Studios has finally done the impossible: It’s regained its former glory and can easily share the animation throne with Pixar.

First off, Zootopia hasn’t even come out yet. Lussier caught a screening and gave it high praise later in this article, but we have to just assume that his opinion will match everyone else’s. We’ll revisit this later.

But fine, let’s “welcome the future” and assume that Zootopia will be as good as the trailers make it look. Are FrozenBig Hero 6, and Zootopia enough to take this “animation throne?” And “easily” as he claims?

Lussier is at least half correct from a box office standpoint. Obviously, Frozen made tons of money well out of the reach of Pixar movies. But I hesitate to consider cold, hard cash other people have earned to be a reason for liking a movie.

And to be honest, I don’t even want to compare these movies because they’re so incredibly different. For one thing, Pixar movies are original, unique concept movies that make you fall in love with seemingly mundane yet lovable characters. Disney works to be more accessible with glossy characters and environments that are beautiful from the onset because they’re often derived from pre-existing stories. As a result they usually feel more like pretty art instead of affecting art.

I’m here to tell you things are just getting better. Last week, I was lucky enough to catch an early screening of Disney Animation’s latest film, Zootopia.It’s the best film Disney Animation has made in 20 years.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely hope that Lussier is right about this because that’s great news for everyone. But watch what happens next.

Not only is it a film worthy of Pixar, it’s light years ahead of Pixar’s most recent movie, The Good Dinosaur.

Frequent readers know that I completely, absolutely disagree, considering The Good Dinosaur was my second favorite film of 2015 and one of the few films I gave an A+ last year. And while plenty of people agree with Lussier’s sentiment, many also find The Good Dinosaur to be an underrated gem like I do.

disney pixar

And then he says this about Zootopia:

Now, is it as good as Pixar at its best? Inside Out or Toy Story good? No, probably not.

Wait, let me get this straight. Disney Animation’s best film in 20 years isn’t as good as one of Pixar’s most recent movies?

Do you see why I chose this article for Snarcasm? It’s obviously well written, and Lussier is a very smart person. But for whatever reason, people are making grand conclusions about the quality of Pixar based on very slim arguments. If the best Disney animation movie isn’t even better than Inside Out, then how can you even argue that the studio itself is “just as good?”

Lussier seems to be basing his argument on the fact that he thinks The Good Dinosaur sucks, but that’s just one movie. And he’s also saying that the pinnacle of Disney isn’t as good as the best of the Pixar movies. So why say they are easily just as good?

I guess it frustrates me because Inside Out proved so well that Pixar hasn’t slipped the way so many people claimed they would over the last few years. And now we’re already hearing the narrative that Disney Animation is getting better while they’re getting worse, and it’s just bonkers.

And yet even with all that, there are other factors in play here too. Disney Animation and Pixar now create films in the same way, and share creative resources, so the two balancing out makes sense.

Pixar movies and Disney Animation movies aren’t even remotely similar. Can you honestly say that Frozen and Tangled are legitimately made like Pixar movies? These are fairy tales that are built up on source material. Wreck-It Ralph comes closer, but it also relies on a huge list of existing entities to make its video game world come to life. And Big Hero 6 is based on a Marvel Comic of all things.

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Well, loosely.

Meanwhile, Pixar creates entire worlds. They make you feel for rats, monsters, and even the very idea of emotions. Their creativity is absolutely unmatched when they’re at their best. Even The Good Dinosaur pushes animation itself in ways Disney has barely touched (aside from Big Hero 6) with effects shots and photorealistic landscapes that actually contribute to the narrative.

They may be in the same sport, but Disney and Pixar are in two very different ballparks.

Plus Pixar’s films were so successful in the past, Pixar’s begun to make more and more sequels (Monsters University recently, plus Finding Dory, Cars 3, Toy Story 4 and Incredibles 2 coming soon)

Just keep in mind that Pixar has only made one lackluster sequel. We still don’t know if they can pull off another Toy Story 2, but I’d bet money that Incredibles and Finding Nemo are worthy of the challenge. Lussier sort of points this out as well and even makes the case that Disney is also making sequels for its popular movies with Frozen 2.

But none of that changes this basic fact: From a time when Pixar was ruling everything and Disney Animation Studios was making Treasure Planet and Home on the Range, things have once again aligned. Disney has not only gotten back to the high bar of quality set by Pixar, but that of its namesake, too.

I agree that Disney is back on track when it comes to recapturing its former glory, and Pixar’s own John Lasseter is a key reason why this is happening (Lussier also points this out). But the idea that Disney is somehow on the same level because they’ve made a few good movies in a row is a gut reaction, not a careful analysis. Pixar consistently makes superb, excellent movies, while Disney Animation makes good, sometimes great movies.

disney pixar

And if you don’t agree, then just try to tell me which current Disney movie even comes close to matching Toy StoryIncredibles, Finding NemoUp, and now Inside Out. Because not even Lussier could seem to do that.

One of these days I need to put together a full analysis on The Good Dinosaur and why I consider it to be vastly better than it gets credit for. While I’m not worried about Pixar’s foreseeable future because of the box office failure of that movie, it hurts to know that a movie with so much effort put into it is being considered worse than movies that are, at their core, deceptively generic.

At any rate, I’ll be seeing Zootopia for myself at a screening next week, and despite everything we just talked about, I couldn’t be more excited. Isn’t it great to know that both Disney and Pixar are putting their best efforts into animation right now?

Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

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

 

Which is Better? ‘The Revenant’ Vs. ‘The Hateful Eight’

hateful eight better revenant

The Revenant is a two-and-a-half hour western that pushes the limits of cinematography and brutality in modern film.

The Hateful Eight is a three-hour western that pushes the limits of characterization and brutality in modern film.

On the surface, these movies seem very similar in terms of setting and tone, which is why many people have been comparing them in recent weeks. The truth is that these films have just as many differences as they do similarities. For example, The Revenant is a film mostly devoid of dialogue in favor of grander set piece moments. In contrast, most of The Hateful Eight is composed  dialogue, and its story rarely steps out of the confines of a small inn.

Another difference is even clearer. The Revenant is one of the most celebrated films of 2015, earning a sweep of coveted Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography (among others). The Hateful Eight was almost entirely snubbed.

But does that mean The Revenant is the better film?

My gut answer is no, without pause. The Hateful Eight is my favorite movie of 2015, with The Revenant coming nowhere near the top of my list. I thought it was above average, but nothing truly special as a whole.

Am I right about this? Or has the Academy done a better job analyzing these two films? That’s what we’re about to find out in this week’s Which is Better. I’ll break these movies down by category, evaluating which one edges out the other.

Starting with:

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

hateful eight better revenant

I decided to keep this category as broad as possible, allowing for both films to be merited based on how artistic they are. And this is no easy decision.

Emmanuel Lubezki was the cinematographer, again working with Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu after their collaboration on Birdman. And the results are pretty much the same, as film, every shot of The Revenant is downright gorgeous and even revolutionary, with the entirety of the film being shot in natural light.

Quentin Tarantino (director of The Hateful Eight) also got help from an old friend of his, Robert Richardson, who is the cinematographer behind Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, and Django Unchained.

And in some ways, the cinematography of The Hateful Eight is just as revolutionary, as it was shot in Ultra Panavision 70 and Kodak VISION 3. Its limited release 70mm format is an experience that’s been missing from cinema since 1966’s Khartoum.

But what makes The Hateful Eight even more unique is how this 70mm format and wide aspect ratio is utilized. In the past, this type of filmmaking was popular when massive epics like Ben Hur needed that extra wide angle to show off large scale and spectacular settings. The Hateful Eight only has a handful of scenes that devote the sweeping 70mm shot to scenery, and it’s merely used to demonstrate the isolation of the characters.

Surprisingly, the majority of The Hateful Eight actually takes place indoors, which might seem like a waste of this compelling format. Yet it works incredibly well because the wide aspect ratio gives you the novel experience of a murder mystery dinner theater.

For that reason, The Hateful Eight pulls off what could have been a cheap gimmick in one of the most creative ways possible. Still, that doesn’t make it the more beautiful film.

After all, very few people actually saw The Hateful Eight in this 70mm format, unlike the widespread distribution of The Revenant. It just doesn’t stand on its own in the same way, and from a technical standpoint, The Revenant is a more stunning movie, with entire set pieces devoted to showing off Lubezki’s incredibly unique vision.

It’s a tough one, but I have to credit Lubezki for crafting a masterwork from such a grim premise and location. The Hateful Eight is also superb, but it’s just not on the same level.

The Revenant gets the first point.

BEST ACTING 

hateful eight better revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio’s hunt for an Oscar has truly become a legendary joke among movie buffs and mainstream audiences alike. In fact, much of the popularity surrounding The Revenant can arguably be explained by the widespread desire for people to see if this is his year.

And in a lot of ways, I agree with them. The Revenant absolutely showcases DiCaprio at his best, proving he’s one of the most talented actors alive. But it’s strange to root for him when you consider how little dialogue and (in some ways) character he ultimately adds to his role as Hugh Glass.

Granted, dialogue isn’t everything, and its lacking certainly doesn’t diminish the obvious commitment on DiCaprio’s part. It’s just hard to praise an actor who stares at the camera at one point, as if to Jedi Mind Trick the Academy into giving him his due.

Of course, there’s one other highlight from The Revenant, and that’s Tom Hardy’s performance as Fitzgerald. In my opinion, Hardy was vastly more memorable and entertaining, and he easily had the best quotes of the movie (not that it was much of a competition).

The Hateful Eight is almost all character, on the other hand. And that’s saying something about a movie that doesn’t really have a lead actor or actress. You’d think this would hurt its chances, but it’s actually quite admirable how well the ensemble performs with limited screen time devoted to each character.

To be fair, a few of these characters are overshadowed by the true heavyweights: Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Kurt Russell, and Jennifer Jason Leigh all deliver extraordinary performances. If we were judging this category solely by classic one-liners, this would be an easy choice.

It’s a tough because The Revenant only has the performances of DiCaprio and Hardy to make its case, while The Hateful Eight benefits from several incredible performances offered by a much better cast, overall.

Unfortunately, you can’t weigh this choice on the sum of good performances, so I have to give this one to The Revenant. Both DiCaprio and Hardy drove their movie, while the real star of The Hateful Eight actually felt like Tarantino himself most of the time.

Second point goes to The Revenant.  

BEST CHARACTERS

hateful eight better revenant

Ah, but which movie has the best characters?

This is much easier, thanks to the horrid miscasting of Domnhall Gleeson as Captain Henry in The Revenant. Aside from Fitzgerald, none of the side stories in this movie had me wanting more (except more of Fitzgerald, perhaps).

But The Hateful Eight excels in a big way when it comes to its ensemble, as I mentioned in length earlier. You can make the argument that Michael Madsen should have been swapped out, or that Tim Roth was trying too hard to channel Christoph Waltz (an argument I wouldn’t make, personally).  But virtually everyone else in the cast was indispensable.

Aside from casting, the characters in The Hateful Eight were simply more entertaining to watch. They had multiple dimensions (usually hidden) compared to the gruff and simple survivalists in The Revenant. They actually had character arcs and grew as the film went, notably Walton Goggins’ as the Sheriff.

While the performances in The Revenant were more proficient overall, the characters in The Hateful Eight were vastly more interesting, compelling, and memorable.

The Hateful Eight wins this point handily.

BEST SCORE

hateful eight better revenant

I’ll make this quick, since many of you probably haven’t had a chance to study the score yet.

First, you’ll notice that The Revenant didn’t get an Academy Award nomination for Best Score, simply because the composer violated one of the rules for qualifying.

That said, The Hateful Eight also didn’t get nominated, despite Ennio Moriicone crafting one of his best scores in years. What to do?

I actually had to listen to the score for The Revenant after seeing the movie, because I simply forgot all of it. In contrast, I was hooked by the overture of The Hateful Eight (so, before the movie even started).

Aside from that, the song choices littered throughout were masterfully chosen by Tarantino, giving us even more reasons to rewatch the film for new meanings.

The score for The Revenant is fine and all, but it pales in comparison to The Hateful Eight, which gets the point.

BEST STORY 

hateful eight better revenant

The score is tied, and only one category remains. Between The Revenant and The Hateful Eight, which movie has the better story?

It goes without saying that both movies have simplistic set ups. The Revenant is about a hardy (no pun intended) frontiersman looking for revenge against the men who left him for dead. The Hateful Eight boils down to a group of outcasts being forced to spend time together during a blizzard.

The settings, characters, and action are what truly drive the story for both of these movies, though in their own unique ways. And what’s even more interesting is how both movies virtually eschew the typical three-act structure, to varying success.

Let’s just get this out of the way. My biggest complaint with The Revenant was, in fact, its story. Though the first act is incredibly strong with its one-two punch, the movie descends into an overlong and under-edited mess.

The story takes no significant turns, instead pitting more and more obstacles against the main character until none remain. So by the time the final climax came to a head, I had already lost all interest in the plight of Hugh Glass. In a way, I was sort of rooting for Fitzgerald. And nature. And everyone else, really.

hateful eight better revenant

Part of my issue with The Revenant was how Iñárritu handled a lot of the characterization of Hugh Glass himself. To break up the action, the writers used flashbacks and daydreams to further explain why we should care about Glass. These moments were probably meant to give us a chance to catch our breath, but they were ultimately too confusing and surreal for most people to grasp.

It’s not that these sequences were hard to understand, by the way. The issue is that using conceptual and abstract storytelling to explain a character who himself is incredibly abstract (thanks to his lack of dialogue and seemingly mythic constitution) is utterly ineffective.

The Hateful Eight couldn’t be more different. Tarantino’s screenplay for this film is a work of art, on the same level as Lubezki’s cinematography for The Revenant.

Every chapter of The Hateful Eight has a clear purpose, with each interaction between each character building toward a shocking finale that few will see coming. It’s a story that’s so engrossing, I found myself amazed that it had been three hours, not thirty minutes.

More importantly, this was a story I had never experienced. The Revenant had one-of-a-kind visuals, but its revenge story was based on a very loose adaptation of a true story. Not much of The Revenant is very surprising or jaw-dropping, save for a few spectacular “pretty” moments that aren’t well-connected.

The Hateful Eight, on the other hand, was far more original and difficult to interpret. It took a lot of analysis and critical thinking for me to find the deeper meanings masquerading as nihilism. The result, which I won’t spoil for the sake of those who haven’t seen the movie, is the simple fact that The Hateful Eight is the product of a master storyteller.

THE VERDICT

hateful eight better revenant

My final decision is that The Hateful Eight is better than The Revenant. Obviously not in every respect, as the latter has superior cinematography and more remarkable performances.

But the characters, score, and story push The Hateful Eight forward by a wide margin in their own right. So much about so much of this movie just works to near perfection, even on the note of cinematic experience. I like to bring this up a lot with these Which is Better articles, but I tend to judge a lot about a movie based on how I left the theater after watching it.

Though its easy to write off these moments as “gut reactions,” there’s truth in evaluating the experience of watching a film. The goal is for me to leave the theater feeling glad I participated in the movie, and The Hateful Eight does that and then some.

The Revenant left me cold, confused for the wrong reasons, and ultimately disappointed. It’s not a bad film, but only because so many disparate elements of it are too exceptional to write off.

So that’s where I stand. What about you? Sound off in the comments if you have something to contribute. And if you have an idea for a new Which is Better topic, be sure to send me your ideas below.

Thanks for reading this! You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

 

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