Moana

Director: Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, Chris Williams
Writer: Jared Bush (screenplay), Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, Chris Williams, Pamela Ribbon, Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell (story)
Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House

There was a point where, for a split second, I thought things might be different. About two-thirds of the way in to Moana, I convinced myself that this film wouldn’t follow the traditional Disney story structure, and our two lead characters wouldn’t needlessly split up for the sake of cheap narrative tension. But then, like the spluttering, diseased corpse that this wretched trope resembles, that very thing happened.

I think that emotion is experienced as the second act predictably transitioned into the third sums up my overall feelings towards Moana. I suppose it was naive of me to expect anything more from a modern age Disney film, but the immense amount of praise ‘Moana’ was receiving from critics and audiences alike got me excited. I’m (foolishly) still holding out hope that one day we’ll finally get another Lion King or Nightmare Before Christmas, and we’ll welcome that era of A-grade Disney animated projects in open arms. But alas, all we receive is believe-in-yourself, you’re-the-chosen-one storyline no. 452.
Now, I have come to terms with the fact that this kind of film just simply isn’t for me. I thought Frozen was fine, and Big Hero 6 was incredibly average. Needless to say, I’m no Disney fangirl. Regardless, I can safely say that Moana was exceptionally unexceptional.

The storyline in particular was as standard as it gets. A young girl is destined to save her village after a dreaded evil terrorises her island, ruining the crops and driving away the fish. The girl must venture out onto the ocean to rescue her people with the help of the demigod who caused this turmoil in the first place.

A typical plot line if you change the roles slightly. Naturally, the ending is cheesy and predictable as hell, and it ended up leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

The animation is, of course, fantastic. The water looks gorgeous, which is worth pointing out since water has been a tricky aspect to master in CG animated films of old. I especially liked shots where the “camera” would go from above water, to under, and back up again, without looking janky or odd.

The music is, for the most part, pretty great (my personal favourite was Shiny). In fact, the only major song that I wasn’t a fan of was the Oscar nomination: How Far I’ll Go. It was okay the first time around, but the repeat the same song three – maybe more – times in the film’s total runtime. This made the song quite grating and distracted from what was going on in the story. Thankfully though, I can’t think of any song that existed just to be a song. Each tune moved the story along very nicely, bar, to an extent, You’re Welcome, but that song was still pretty great so it wasn’t too bad. The rhythmic chanting that opens the film, as well as the various songs inspired by Hawaiian culture, were all great too and did a good job of establishing a solid setting.

However, with these positives come with equal negatives, and the film is plagued with the unfortunate stench of mediocrity. While the technical aspect of Moana is stellar, perhaps even near perfect, the narrative and characters bring the experience down immensely. You know, for a film set primarily on the deep sea, the film feels especially shallow.

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I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

Director: Macon Blair
Writer: Macon Blair
Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore has an obnoxiously long title. It is also a fairly solid comedy crime thriller starring Elijah Wood and Melanie Lynskey. Both our lead actors do an acceptable job in their roles and their comedic delivery, for the most part, turned out great.

What wasless great were the conversations the characters had with one another. The film is edited in such a way that the scenes don’t flow naturally, due to the awkward pauses and drawn-out shots and scenes in general. It felt as though the film was desperately trying to draw out its fairly thin plot. While it was easy to root for these characters, they were fairly weak and it wasn’t ever easy to become emotionally engaged in their various plights.

The plights themselves are all very well-crafted, and the gore and make-up used is all very convincing and entertaining to watch unfold. It’s clear these scenes were given a lot of care and attention. Not only were they well-made, but in particular the cinematography and camerawork is genuinely stellar. The utilisation of depth of field is not only visually interesting but also lends itself to the feelings of isolation and social anxiety, as experienced by the characters. The framing is also great, shooting entire environments so as to use environmental hints to establish the characters’ personality and tastes.

Talking more about thematic importance, there’s the side characters. There isn’t a singleperson in this film who doesn’t have a terrible life. Be it the detective undergoing a messy divorce, or the former beauty pageant champion turned depressed housewife, or even the couple fighting on the street for less than a second of screen time. It makes the main character look like a massive hypocrite, which is the point. By the end of the film, she becomes the biggest dick in the universe, but not to an enjoyment-killing extent. The utter unpleasantness of the character is realistic enough that she is never downright unlikeable, which is wonderfully refreshing in a medium of Mary Sues.

I don’t think I would recommend this film, mostly because it isn’t particularly unique as a genre piece. However, if you have a Netflix account, there isn’t any harm in checking this one out.

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