Netflix: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Animation Isn’t Just For Kids
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
If you’re anything like me, you may spend far too much time browsing what’s on Netflix rather than actually watching the great stuff that (can) be on there. So we at Grow thought we’d save you a little time and give you our run down of what to watch, what to avoid and a special mention for horror and gore as Halloween is fast approaching.
We’re kicking off this three-part feature with our first instalment of ‘The Good’. It’s time to Netflix and chill, but what to put on? Whether you fancy binge watching a series or delving into a great movie, we’ve got our top picks for you.
Animation Isn’t Just For Kids
Before we begin, I feel I must come clean and admit that I am a self-confessed Scooby Doo addict. I am, therefore, a strong believer that animation stretches far beyond the single digit years. Now, before you click the back button, expecting this list to be full of Scooby or Disney, this latest feature brings you high-rated animation. And if my recommendations just aren’t cutting it for you, then you’ll be glad to find that the movie nerds over at Rotten Tomatoes have given them the big thumbs up too.
The Little Prince (2015) is a film adaptation of the book Le Petit Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. Published in 1943, the book tells a philosophical tale of a grown-up meeting his inner child, the Little Prince himself. Director Mark Osborne manages to retain the charm and simplicity of the book in his animated re-telling. This film really captures the charms of childhood; of what it is like to be led by your imagination. We follow The Little Girl and see her success-obsessed mother putting layers upon layers of pressure upon her young daughter. Initially, these scenes feel hyperbolized to the point of ridiculousness; surely this doesn’t happen to real children? Well, when you consider how Western education centres around exam performance with children being ‘persuaded’ to take up multiple extra-curricular activities, particularly those that involve competition (let’s face it, there are shows like Dance Moms for a reason), this hyperbolized relationship becomes a little less ridiculous. Instead, it becomes an insightful piece of commentary on the expectations held in modern society of young people. Even if we are not guilty of building our children a scheduling chart that takes up the entire wall, how much do we really prize qualities like imagination? Would we rather our child came home with a top score on a test or a junk model of a space ship? Perhaps a debate for another day, but nonetheless, this film inspires serious questions such as these. For me, the true triumph of this film lies in the animation within the animation. The story of the Little Prince comes alive from the pages clasped by The Little Girl and is so richly different to the animation of the main story. The characters themselves have stayed true to the simplicity of their fiction roots; The Little Girl, The Aviator, The Mother. These characters have managed to retain their integrity and have not been Hollywoodized with ‘real’ Christian names. And if all of that wasn’t enough to get you watching, then take a look at the stellar voice cast involved: Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, James Franco and Benicio Del Toro to name a few (plus check out that Rotten Tomatoes rating; it’s almost unheard of for animation!) .
Rotten tomatoes: 94% Grow Talk: 👄 👄 👄 👄 👄
This category couldn’t exist without Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), my initial inspiration for this section. At one hour and forty-one minutes, this is the longest stop-motion film to date. It is, quite frankly, epic. Once you have watched the film (yes, I’m assuming you will, because if you don’t, there must be something wrong with you), then I recommend you immediately Google the behind the scenes footage, particularly the epic animation of the skeleton which was built to full scale- a whopping 16ft tall! Kubo is the story of a boy who lives a supposedly quiet, normal life in a Japanese village. This normality, of course, does not last long. Kubo is a master story-teller, entertaining those from his village with tall stories and characters that come to life from origami with the help of his guitar. The film, although comic and animated, I would argue is geared towards an older audience. We see Kubo shouldering the burden of caring for his sick mother and mourning the death of his father, and then around twenty minutes into the film, comes the scene which genuinely gave me nightmares. Kubo is warned by his mother not to stay out after dark and here we find out why. As the sky darkens and the music shifts, we hear, then see the two sisters arrive. This scene genuinely terrified me more than many of my recent horror movie binges. From this point in particular, the film becomes more ‘adult’ with its themes and although the comedy remains, so do the opportunities to grab the tissues. This film is a visual spectacular and more importantly it is not a case of style over substance. The story has backbone with plot twists and nuances of humour and heart-felt moments. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and if my recommendations don’t persuade you (then I would question why you are reading this…) then take a look at that tomato-meter! I have also made it my personal mission to make sure that my editor, Joff Alexander-Frye watches it (and listens to Regina Spektor’s fantastic cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps).
Rotten tomatoes: 97% Grow Talk: 👄 👄 👄 👄 👄
Happy (2017-) is a series that most definitely is not for kids. Christopher Meloni, best known for Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, takes the leading role of Nick Sax, ex-cop turned hitman. SPOILER ALERT: in the first episode, Sax gets shot. So far, the tone has been dark and gritty; there’s blood, sex scandals and dark, snowy skies. At around twenty five minutes in, this all changes. What sounds like an improvised drum solo takes over the soundtrack, we appear to be flying through the snowy night air (not dissimilar to The Snowman) with a hyper-sounding voiceover, a voice we haven’t heard yet. The hyped up voice asks people for help, but then concludes “You can’t help me, you can’t even see me!” The camera zooms around from this mystery character’s point of view all over the city, searching for someone. He comes across two people doing the horizontal mambo in a car and a cartoon ‘censored’ bounces in time with their dance rhythm, conveniently blocking the lady’s nipples. As someone who didn’t know the premise of the show, I admit, I was thinking what the… but it definitely kept me intrigued. After a brilliant darkly comic scene where Sax initially wakes up in the ambulance, Sax awakes again and this time we see the source of the hyper voice: a blue unicorn called Happy. Sounds insane? Totally, but it works. Meloni excels in this role and the series itself is based on the graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, reason enough to give it a watch in my eyes. The show has also been approved for a second series so you can happily (oh yes I did) binge watch knowing that there will be more to come.
Rotten tomatoes: 79% Grow Talk: 👄 👄 👄 👄
Stay tuned for our next instalment, Series from Off the Beaten Trail, for our top discoveries to binge watch.