Categories
Scene

‘Primal’ and the language of evolution

Genndy Tartakovsky’s “Primal” is a masterpiece like no other. Through blood and prehistoric rage, the silence of a show without dialogue is drowned under the terrifying screams of beasts fighting their very extinction. But this is more than just a show about a caveman and a T-rex fighting duo. Sprayed across this show’s violent tapestry is a hunt for meaning.

Now that the show’s second and final season has ended, I think it works best looking at the series in its entirety. In the aftermath of losing both their families, a caveman, Spear and T-rex, Fang, team up to survive and overcome their mourning.Without dialogue, and without characters able to understand each other, the nature of the human individual is fully dissected at its most vulnerable state.

Spear cannot express the deep emotions he experiences. Why he decides to keep fighting is never about overcoming doubt, it’s out of necessity. No matter how much of his life disappears, the only way to keep it alive is for him to keep moving. Evolution is not kind to the lone survivor; the harder they fight it, the more they will be left behind.

Throughout the show, cultures are turned to rubble, and entire species are reduced to ash, yet episode by episode, Spear and Fang escape the hurricane intact. It’s only after the fights end that they realize the world is moving on without them. They are destined to be alone, agents of eras long buried, and the only way to not be swept away in the avalanche of time is to cling to each other. It puts our modern place in the food chain into question by examining our very understanding of evolution.

This show wouldn’t exist without the legendary Genndy Tartakovsky, who was probably a staple of your childhood entertainment. The mind behind “Dexter’s Lab,” “Samurai Jack,” “Hotel Transylvania” and my personal favorite, “Sym-Bionic Titan,” this guy knows how to craft dynamic stories with great action and unforgettable art styles. In a TV market booming with 3D animation, Tartakovsky’s drawings add texture through rough brush strokes and sharp character designs. The very outlines of Spear and Fang can puncture flesh. The physicality of their characters is visible in their silhouette, each shape and angle built to feel cold-blooded. The show contrasts this antagonism with vibrant colors, blending venomous greens with cartoonish volumes of bloodied reds.

Even the sound design feels like it’s calling from the stone age with low horns and deep drums. Nothing blends into each other; it all stacks into a mountain of iconic symbols and vivid memories. Tartakovsky has mastered his craft, emphasizing texture and style over a clean image.

I do want to specify the evolution of this show after its second season. The first five episodes of the show are a social experiment: could they successfully create an engaging story through teeth, blood and screams? The answer was a resounding yes. But with that foundation proving successful, there had to be a next step. An evolution.

Season two’s job was to put a spine to the muscle. The episodic adventures grow more serialized, more characters are introduced and themes drive the story rather than survival. I want to mention this because season one is a great way to pass the time, but season two is when it truly hones the story. Spear is no longer a simple caveman by the end of the show, he signifies something elemental about our species. That something is that this show promises to revive, hoping we never let it slip into the past again.

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

Contact J.P. at jpspoonmo@nd.edu.

Categories
Scene

Animation recommendations: ‘If Anything Happens I Love You’

Whether sudden or expected, the death of a loved one is something we can never prepare for. Grief is not easy. Imagine you stumble across an old item — a beloved sweatshirt, a collar with a bell on it or a trinket in the back of a cabinet. You start to remember all the good memories associated with them — your uncle’s laugh, the hours spent playing with the family cat, your grandma’s tendency to collect Jesus figurines. For a second, you run through every memory associated with this person, from the minute detail of your first meeting with each other until … you remember why you are remembering them in the first place. They’re gone.

This is what watching “If Anything Happens I Love You” is like. It’s like a punch to the gut.

In this short film by Michael Govier and Will McCormack, we see two parents grieving the loss of their daughter in a school shooting. With a run time of only 12 minutes, it does an amazing job of displaying the grieving process after a traumatic event. For a film about such a sensitive subject, there is actually no violence shown in the whole film. The closest instances of violence are the sounds of gunshots and police sirens. Instead, we are shown the tense interactions the parents have with each other after losing their daughter. They are awkward, distant and unwilling to be around one another, ultimately unable to connect due to overwhelming feelings of grief. It’s heart-wrenching to watch, as the audience knows both parents are hurting but have no idea how to support each other or process what happened. 

The film’s art style is initially simplistic but for good reason. The movie’s black-and-white animation might seem like it came straight from a storyboard, but the art style helps portray how the parents are feeling in their time of vulnerability. It is not until the Mom finds a piece of her daughters’ clothing that this film truly begins to shine. Here, the film bursts into faded watercolor to portray the ghosts of the past: their daughter’s life from family road trips to her first kiss. As the parents bond over the happy memories they made with her, they are finally able to support each other in their devastating moment of grief. 

Did I also mention that not a single word is spoken in this film as well? The movie relies entirely on the expressions of the characters to display their grief, sadness, anger, confusion and overall vulnerability.

This short film does not hold back in delivering its gut-punches. There is no “true” happy ending. No deus ex machina that brings their daughter back to life. Just like real life, the parents must go on. They may not fully recover from what happened. (I mean, could anyone?) 

The film’s whole message is about unexpected tragedy and how we react to it. So while it’s good to mourn, it’s never good to do it by yourself, especially when there are others who might be going through the same thing. Never shut people out, whether they are lending out a helping hand or not, because you both may need each other at the end of the day.

Also, if this film has taught me anything, it’s that life is too dang short. Call your parents, your caregivers, siblings or anyone that cares for you. Just tell them “If Anything Happens I Love You.”

Title: “If Anything Happens I Love You”

Directors: Michael Govier,  Will McCormack

Starring: Lindsay Marcus

Streaming: Netflix

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

Contact Owen at ogannon@nd.edu

Categories
Scene

Animation recommendations: ‘Mob Psycho 100’

“Your life is your own” 

In this world, we are all born with our own special gifts, whether we see them that way or not. Some people are fast, “booksmart”, or good at art. Either way, they are just another characteristic. We must embrace that as part of ourselves and continue to live positively. However, the truth behind one’s charm is kindness. We must simply become good people, that is all. That is what Reigen Arataka teaches Shigeo Kageyama, also known as Mob throughout the show “Mob Psycho 100.” Great words to live by coming straight from the mouth of a con artist.

“Mob Psycho 100” stars the lovable and kind-hearted Shigeo Kageyama, also known as Mob throughout the show. He is an emotionless middle school kid who struggles to figure out who he is and his presence in this world. He may seem weak, but little do those around him know that he is the most powerful esper (immense psychic power) in the show. However, when his emotions overwhelm him, they cause him to lash out and lose control of his powers, forcing him to suppress all his emotions. He finds help learning to control these powers from the self-proclaimed spirit medium Reigen Arataka, though it is revealed from the moment you meet him that is a complete lie, unbeknownst to Mob. Together, they help solve cases and fight demons, as well as other espers, all while Mob tries to figure out his true self and live a normal life.

While the premise seems simple enough, “Mob Psycho 100”  is an example of never judging a book by its cover. The author of the manga, who simply goes by ONE, creates a beautiful story about two characters growing together in their own unique way. It is truly special seeing Mob not wanting to always rely on his psychic powers, but rather wanting to grow and get stronger naturally both physically and mentally. He hates resorting to violence if other espers try to harm him or the ones he loves, and feels immense guilt whenever he is forced to use them. Reigen grows by realizing the potential in Mob and wanting to help him use his powers for good, while also teaching him to become a good person overall. While Reigen does take advantage of Mob’s powers in order to support his esper business, you can see that he genuinely cares about Mob and wants the best for him.

Lastly, while the story is amazing, I have to geek out over the animation. Studio Bones uses every cent of its budget to make one of the most visually pleasing shows I have ever seen. It is displayed best when the action starts and your eyes will be glued to the screen with all the popping colors and fluidity of each frame. Studio Bones even uses very minimal line drawings that help display humor and characters’ reactions and emotions, yet will instantly switch to the most breathtaking frame of animation you will ever see. The opening credits alone convinced me to start the show, as you can see the love and care everyone involved put into it.

If you want a genuinely heartwarming story about a kid learning to figure out his purpose in life, all while having over-the-top action and humor, “Mob Psycho 100” is the show for you. The third and final season is coming out this October. If they can stick the landing and end the show right, this will be a show that has very minimal flaws. While the HBO Max Animation Massacre took this show off, I would say it is worth getting a Crunchyroll account to watch this instead.

Title: “Mob Psycho 100”

Director: Yuzuru Tachikawa

Starring: Setsuo Ito, Takahiro Sakurai

Streaming: Crunchyroll

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

Contact Gabriel Zarazua at gzarazua@nd.edu.

Categories
Scene

Animation Recommendation: ‘A Silent Voice’


“Animation is something kids enjoy, and adults have to endure.” 

The 2022 Oscars received major backlash as presenters Halle Bailey, Lily James and Naomi Scott came out to present the award and spoke on how animated movies are “formative experiences” for kids who watch them “over and over.” Many animators throughout Hollywood, including famous director Phil Lord, expressed anger and disappointment as Hollywood does not understand the time and effort it takes to make an animated film. While animation did begin with the idea of reaching out to kids, like anything else in this world…it evolved. Not only is animation for kids, but new animation is being made for adults, with more mature themes that sadly, little to no people know about anymore. Knowing this, I would like to help out in telling people how great animation is and the stories they tell. So, this being my first recommendation, I would like to introduce you to my favorite animated film, “A Silent Voice.”

A Silent Voice, a manga written by Yoshitoki Ōima and a film directed by Naoko Yamada, focuses on the lives and relationships of two kids, Shoko Nishimiya and Shoya Ishida. Nishimiya is a new girl in middle school, who is revealed to have a hearing disability, leading to tension between her and her classmates, especially Ishida. For the first 20 to 23 minutes of the film, we see Nishimiya bullied constantly by Ishida and his friends, eventually leading to her transferring to another school. The aftermath of the bullying, however, leads to Ishida being the scapegoat of the bullying, taking all the punishment with his friends not being punished at all. After this, we flash forward to a 17-year old Ishida. He is anti-social, depressed and hates himself for his actions towards Nishimiya. He has shut himself off from the world to the point where he conplemplates suicide, and comes close to doing so, until he meets Nishimiya again. The rest of the film focuses on Ishida doing his best to make it up to Nishimiya and learning to come to terms with his actions.

This film does an amazing job of not showcasing purely good and purely evil characters. Everyone in this film is a gray character, just regular people who have their redeeming qualities and faults. While the manga fleshes out the supporting characters more and helps us understand them and see their point of view on the events of the film, Yamada does a good job of compressing the character’s arcs enough to where they are still relevant but do not take up a majority of the runtime.

Showcasing regular people though means we get to see all the awkward conversations, heated confrontations and most emotional moments right in front of us. When I say this movie has some of the most emotional moments in film, I mean it. Without giving spoilers, all I will say is: Be prepared for the fireworks. You won’t see them the same way again after you finish this film. The film also showcases Ishida being an outcast in an amazing way. Putting X’s on all the characters’ faces helps show how Ishida does not like being interesting with others and looking them in the eye, doing his best to block them out.

“A Silent Voice” is a must-see, not just for anime fans, but for anyone who has experienced bullying or regret of any kind. While some people may be disappointed, this is not a love story about Nishimiya and Ishida, far from it. It is a story about redemption, one that will leave you sobbing at the very end. “A Silent Voice” is not about a guy falling in love with a girl, it’s about a guy being able to love himself again.

Title: “A Silent Voice”

Director: Naoko Yamada

Starring: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami

Streaming: Netflix

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

Gabriel Zarazua

Contact Gabriel at gzarazua@nd.edu

Categories
Scene

‘Guess why I smile a lot. Uh, cause it’s worth it.’

Propelled seemingly by some mechanism inside its rubber body, a tennis ball rolls, turns and erratically bounces down the stairs, eventually coming to rest near the couch. 

The ball is a little tattered, as if it has been rolled down these stairs many times before and the viewer is simply looking in on a daily habit, a moment of ordinary life. 

But then, a disembodied voice calls out over the silence and jars us to a different place entirely. The voice belongs to Dean Fleischer-Camp, director both actual and fictional, and the ball to Marcello “Marcel,” an animate shell that wears, yes, tiny tan and pink sneakers.

Fleischer-Camp’s unorthodox stop motion mockumentary, released this year by independent film juggernaut A24, is a favorite of audiences and critics alike for its wholesome simplicity and unique take on life, community and the meaning of family. 

The first thing that struck me about “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” was its ability to subvert the ordinary and familiar into a world equally imposing and magical. Fleischer-Camp’s perspective offers the human world: Airbnbs, YouTube, even a glimpse of Los Angeles’s Elysian Park. But telling the story only through a 5’10 lens would ignore the other world entirely, the universe existing only between sock drawer and apricot tree, colander and hot dog bun. Through the eyes of little Marcel, a slice of bread becomes a place to sleep, a stand mixer part of an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine and a shaggy dog a dangerous predator indeed. This construction builds Marcel’s more real-life issues — namely his lost family and aging grandmother — into monoliths of themselves, large for a human but insurmountable for an animate shell clad in tiny pink sneakers. 

I did feel some dissonance around halfway through “Marcel.” After all, it is a film about a shell with one googly eye and a high-pitched voice (done by the illustrious Jenny Slate, by the way). Marcel’s YouTube fame is punctuated by slightly obnoxious current trends — TikTok dances and the like — and around the point during which he scrolls through comment sections, I began to wonder what the creators of the movie were thinking, spending years and dollars on a film that seemed largely pointless. I shuffled that thought away and re-immersed myself in the film, searching for some point of relevance that would make the watch worthwhile.

Not long later, I found it. Marcel’s grandmother Connie, voiced by another icon, Isabella Rosselini, reads Philip Larkin’s poem “The Trees” in the background of Marcel’s interview with 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl: “The trees are coming into leaf/ Like something almost being said;/ The recent buds relax and spread,/ Their greenness is a kind of grief./ Is it that they are born again…/ Yet still the unresting castles thresh/ In fullgrown thickness every May./ Last year is dead, they seem to say,/ Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.”

All of a sudden, I understood. It was all relevant: sock drawer, apricot tree, colander, hot dog bun, bread slice, stand mixer, shaggy dog and tiny tan and pink sneakers. See, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, in the same vein as “Paddington 2from 2017 and even St. Exupéry’s novella “The Little Prince,” is a study in how we can wrestle with grown-up concepts in a landscape of childlike wonder and beauty. What’s compelling about “Marcel” is how it is both silly and incredible. A film about an animate shell becomes a testament to the act of storytelling itself, drawing us into this delightful little world and then flinging us back out again like tattered tennis balls on suburban staircases, ready, like Marcel himself, to begin afresh, afresh, afresh. 

Title: “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Starring: Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rosselini

Director(s): Dean Fleischer-Camp

If you like: “Paddington 2,” “Gnomeo and Juliet,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

Categories
Scene

The nuances of ‘Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers’

Before reviewing Disney’s “Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers,” let’s take a look at one specific scene. At one point the titular duo gets cornered during an attempted locker room heist by a DJ, who also happens to be a snake. To distract from their theft, Chip and Dale freestyle rap about how they do not eat whales, what part of the whale they would hypothetically eat and how hard it is to break the pattern of rhyming “Dale” with “whale.” After laughing for five minutes straight, I asked myself, “how did the movie even get to this point?” 

Allow me to catch you up… In this reboot of Disney’s classic cartoon, Chip and Dale (voiced by John Mulaney and Andy Samberg, respectively) are not the rescue rangers we know and love, but actors who portray them on the screen. Decades after splitting up, due to creative differences, the two chipmunks investigate the disappearance of their friend and co-star. Over the course of their investigation, the rodents meet a colorful cast of characters ranging from a live-action police officer and super fan named Ellie Steckler (KiKi Layne) as well as a muppet gangster (Keegan Michael-Key), a clay-mation police captain (J.K. Simmons) and multiple characters voiced by Seth Rogen. I would be remiss to mention the cast and not the various cartoons making guest appearances within the movie; characters ranging as far as My Little Pony to South Park pop-in throughout the film.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and found it hilarious. The film’s stars deliver incredible voice performances, but it was the writing that made their interactions shine. The screenwriting was the best part of the film. The writers never allowed any stand-alone pop-culture references to be used as a joke, instead, they added subtle (or not so subtle) jokes towards whatever they were referencing. Despite this, some references still felt a little nuanced for a casual audience, especially for children. While children may enjoy the silly chipmunk antics, the commentary on the inherent creepiness of realistic animation might be lost on them. 

However, half-way through the movie, I was rolling with the punches. I had grown used to the references; until the aforementioned rap scene. This is the moment when I accepted the movie for what it was: a goofy movie justifying its existence with its self-awareness. 

Multiple times through the movie, characters lament that nobody wants a Chip n’ Dale reboot, a sentiment the writers knew while creating the movie. For all intents and purposes, this is not a “Rescue Rangers” movie, but one that calls itself “Rescue Rangers” and delivers a great film about fame and the monotony of life. Months after release, I don’t remember the film for its plot, but more so for how fun of a movie it was, with the plot serving more as a conveyor belt that brings the audience from joke to joke. I enjoyed the movie greatly, but I still believe it had a required level of knowledge required to fully experience it, which I feel holds it back from its full potential.

Title: Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers

Starring: John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, KiKi Layne, Will Arnett

Director: Akiva Schaefer

If You Like: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5