The Best Disney Animated Films (23-33)

23. Pocahontas (1995) Viewed as a weaker outing for Disney during their strongest era of feature filmmaking, this film features beautiful animation and music while tackling racism and bigotry in a way that will stick with you.

24. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) Not altogether well received, perhaps compared too closely to the director’s previous films, Beauty and the Beast and Hunchback of Notre Dame, Atlantis nevertheless has some great moments of adventure and mystery, and the design of the characters and setting represent the studio at its best. However, the story is a little thin and fails to achieve the scope its story sets up.

25. Dinosaur (2000) Innovative animation bolsters a pretty generic script.

26. The Jungle Book (1967) The last film Walt Disney himself had his hands on before he passed on, it’s fitting that it should be one of the studio’s most beloved pictures. A beautiful combination of music, humor, story, and setting with a great group of characters.

27. Melody Time (1948) Disney’s best compilation film. The shorts are all fantastic.

28. The Aristocats (1970) Rewatching this film, I expected it to lose most of the appeal it had for me when I was a child. I was pleasantly surprised to find it amusing as ever. “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” is a great song and its accompanying animation is perfect.

29. The Rescuers Down Under (1990) Small in scope and mostly forgotten, the world traveling mouse duo’s escapades in Australia are better than the original in my opinion.

30. Oliver and Company (1988) Slight but fun urban take on the famous Dickens’ tale. Billy Joel provides the tuneage to Oliver’s capers.

31. Wreck-It-Ralph (2012) Gorgeous, lively animation to go with a clever exploration of video game existentialism.

32. Alice in Wonderland (1951) As an exercise in style and imagination, this feature is one of Disney’s top efforts but the plotless voyage of Alice is more interesting as prose than a motion picture.

33. Big Hero 6 (2014) Its incredible imagery is let down by a somewhat limited origin story. The relationships between the protagonist and his brother and the protagonist and his robot make up for whatever the plot lacks in surprises.

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-Walter Tyrone Howard-

 

 

The Best Disney Animated Film (12-22)

12. Tangled (2010) The first Disney Princess film done in CGI rather than the traditional hand-drawn animation, this retelling of Rapunzel’s story set the new standard in a lot of ways. Ed Catmull, a big-time exec at Disney said it would be the last Princess movie done by the studio. Well, that didn’t last, and I suspect this film had a lot to do with it.

13. Hercules (1997) Following their success with Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, directors John Musker and Ron Clements turned their talent to Roman mythology. Featuring tons of clever jokes and an inspired villain-Hades is more like a malevolent car salesman than your usual run of the mill foe-Hercules is an excellent movie.

14. The Princess and the Frog (2009) A spectacular return to 2-d animation after CGI had become the norm, this Disney Princess tale, the first to star black leads, was not as well received as its predecessors. That’s a shame because it measures up in my opinion, and it stands as one of Disney’s very best visual achievements.

15. Meet the Robinsons (2007) Kind of slipped through the cracks of popular appeal, and critics were mostly indifferent towards it, but Meet the Robinsons cleverly navigates time paradoxes in a way children can understand and adults can still appreciate. It’s also noteworthy for being a rare positive vision of the future that contrasts the dozens of dystopian visions we get in film.

16. Treasure Planet (2002) 2-d animation was on the decline. Whether this film expedited this or fell victim to it I couldn’t say, but the characters are strong and the visuals are impressive.

17. Emperor’s New Groove (2000) Disney’s funniest film. Possibly the funniest animated film period.

18. Fox and the Hound (1981) Sad, nostalgic, beautiful film.

19. Peter Pan (1953) Perfect adaptation of J.M Barrie’s work. Tinker Bell. Captain Hook. Smee. Classic.

20. Frozen (2013) Massive hit that focuses more on the relationship between sisters than on romance with the prince. It’s easy to be swept up in the global phenomenon this film became, whether positively or adversely, but this is one of Disney’s better films period.

21. Cinderella (1950) Saved the studio after it had fallen into a box-office funk, the titular character might be Disney’s most beloved.

22. The Black Cauldron (1985) Very underrated. There’s a lot that doesn’t work or isn’t satisfying, but I love cheesy fantasy films from the 80s. Gurgi is hilarious to me, and John Hurt makes the most out of a pretty basic villain. It’s a shame to think what could have been had they not fired a young Tim Burton from its production.

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-Walter Tyrone Howard-

The Best Disney Animated Films (1-11)

  1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) This may seem an odd choice for the greatest Disney animated film of all time, but it’s the only honest choice for me. Dark, thematic, mature, the story of Quasimodo deals with alienation, sin, hypocrisy, religious darkness, tolerance, all in a span of ninety minutes. The animation is incredible, the music and lyrics are rich, and Victor Hugo’s classic tale is reshaped and rendered powerfully.
  2. Beauty and the Beast (1991) The first animated film to be Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, this retelling of the French fairy tale is perfect. The idea of making the household items characters was a brilliant stroke. The ballroom sequence which used early computer technology to create that sweeping motion is as impressive as ever.
  3. Mulan (1998) Doesn’t get enough credit for its themes of femininity and empowerment, Mulan also happens to be extremely entertaining. Eddie Murphy’s Mushu is a great modern successor of Jiminy Cricket.
  4. Pinocchio (1940) A masterpiece; technically, creatively. Every aspect of its production was carefully crafted by greats. Jiminy Cricket is a good candidate for best Disney character, and the simple, dark story is forever haunting.
  5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) The first ever full-length animated feature, people thought Disney was crazy. The stakes were high, and he and his artists delivered. Almost eighty years later, who hasn’t seen this film?
  6. The Lion King (1994) Powerful, if you’ve ever heard anyone discuss archetypes and Disney, this feature is as great an example as any. It’s Shakespeare. It’s Biblical. The father figure. The son who wants to measure up. Betrayal. It’s all here disguised as a Disney musical. And Uncle Scar is a villain for the ages.
  7. The Little Mermaid (1989) Terrific fun with some of the catchiest music, and an engaging romance. Kicked off the Disney renaissance.
  8. Tarzan (1999) Great storytelling, first-rate, innovative animation, with some great Phil Collins songs.
  9. Zootopia (2016) Time will tell where this film really stands, but for right now, based on my first three viewings, I’d say it’s a bona fide classic. Timely, funny, and inspired, just like all the best Disney features.
  10. Aladdin (1992) Falls short of one of the Disney masterpieces, but it is infinitely watchable. R.I.P Robin Williams.
  11. The Great Mouse Detective (1986) Creepy and intriguing, this rodent Sherlock Holmes caper has some great scenes. The fist-fight inside the shifting gears of Big Ben being chief among them.

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-Walter Tyrone Howard-

100 Greatest Films

  • 12 Angry Men (1957)
  • 12 Monkeys (1995)
  • The 39 Steps (1935)
  • The Age of Innocence (1993)
  • AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  • Alien (1979)
  • Amadeus (1984)
  • The Apartment (1960)
  • Apocalypse Now Redux (1979)
  • The Bandwagon (1953)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • Being There (1979)
  • The Best Years of Our lives (1946)
  • The Big Country (1958)
  • Black Narcissus (1947)
  • Castle in the Sky (1986)
  • Charade (1963)
  • Children of Men (2006)
  • Le Corbeau (1943)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
  • Django Unchained (2012)
  • Dodsworth (1936)
  • For a Few Dollars More (1965)
  • The Godfather (1972)
  • The Godfather part II (1974)
  • Gosford Park (2001)
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
  • The Great Silence (1968)
  • Groundhog Day (1993)
  • Hara-kiri (1962)
  • Howard’s End (1992)
  • Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
  • The Incredibles (2004)
  • Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
  • L.A Confidential (1997)
  • The Lady Vanishes (1938)
  • Lagaan (2001)
  • Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
  • The Long Goodbye (1973)
  • Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  • Lost Horizon (1936)
  • The Man from Nowhere (2010)
  • Manon des Sources (1986)
  • The Master (2012)
  • The Matrix (1999)
  • A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
  • McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
  • Memories of Murder (2003)
  • Midnight in Paris (2011)
  • Minority Report (2002)
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  • My Fair Lady (1964)
  • My Man Godfrey (1936)
  • Night of the Hunter (1955)
  • Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
  • Le Passé (2013)
  • Paths of Glory (1957)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Pixote (1980)
  • The Prestige (2006)
  • Princess Mononoke (1997)
  • The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
  • Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
  • Ran (1985)
  • Ratatouille (2007)
  • The Red Shoes (1948)
  • Remains of the Day (1993)
  • Ride the High Country (1962)
  • Roman Holiday (1953)
  • Sabrina (1954)
  • Samurai I,II,III (1954-1956)
  • Samurai Rebellion (1967)
  • Sanjuro (1962)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  • A Separation (2011)
  • Seven Samurai (1954)
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1951)
  • The Sixth Sense (1999)
  • The Skin I Live In (2011)
  • Spirited Away (2002)
  • Star Wars (1977)
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
  • Talk to Her (2002)
  • Temple of Doom (1984)
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • There Will Be Blood (2007)
  • The Thing (1982)
  • To Live (1994)
  • Top Hat (1935)
  • Total Recall (1990)
  • Toy Story 3 (2010)
  • The Truman Show (1998)
  • Unbreakable (2000)
  • Unforgiven (1992)
  • Wall-E (2008)
  • Warlock (1959)
  • Whiplash (2014)
  • The Wild Bunch (1969)
  • Zootopia (2016)

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-Walter Tyrone Howard-

 

Oscar Nominations 2019- Predictions

Here follows my predictions for tomorrow morning’s Academy Award nominations. This is not in any way, shape, or form what I think should happen, but instead, my shot in the dark at nailing the nominations to a tee:

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Best Picture

BlackKklansmen

Black Panther

Crazy Rich Asians

Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Green Book

If Beale Street Could Talk

Roma

A Star is Born

Vice

*I’m predicting ten nominations in the Best Picture category this year to compensate for the failure of their Best Popular Film category.

Best Director

Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born

Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Debra Granik, Leave No Trace

Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite

Spike Lee, BlackKklansmen

*I could also see Lynne Ramsay getting nominated over somebody.

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born

Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

John David Washington, BlackKklansmen

Best Actress

Glenn Close, The Wife

Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Toni Colette, Hereditary

Lady Gaga, A Star is Born

Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me

*Has anyone seen The Wife? Though I’m sure Glenn Close is fantastic in it.

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy

Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me

Brian Tyree Henry, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Supporting Actress

Claire Foy, First Man

Nicole Kidman, Boy Erased

Regina King, If Beale Could Talk

Emma Stone, The Favourite

Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ten Best Disney Channel Original Movies

This may be the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do: To sift through the canon of masterworks Disney Channel put out every month for close to two decades. How does one do that? How can you pick between parts of yourself? Petty minds argue over the official dates that represented their classic period, or “golden age.” I assert it started on August 29, 1998, with Brink!, and ended January 14, 2005, with Now You See It, starring Oscar nominee Frank Langella. True, the channel’s greatest ratings came later with offerings like The Cheetah Girls 2 (eye-roll), Camp Rock, and High School Musical 2, but this is a typical case of mass appeal versus quality. Disney Channel executives sold their soul, and then gave us Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam. Whoever watched that should be deeply ashamed of themselves. I don’t care how old you were. Anyways, back to Sophie’s Choice times ten. Back to The Godfather versus The Godfather part II. What are the ten best Disney Channel Original films? After heavy thought, deliberation, and prayer, I’ve come up with this:

10. Quints    August 18, 2000

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A controversial opener, I know. Oft-forgotten, this was a marquee film for Disney Channel for a solid three years. Starring A-list Mickey-Mouse talent like Kimberly J. Brown as Jamie Grover, a teenager coping with the birth of quintuplet siblings, Quints was the first-rate coupling of smiles and tears, à la James L. Brooks in his heyday. Likely inspired later comedy hit Knocked Up, starring Seth Rogen.

9. Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire    October 13, 2000

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Anyone who came up during the golden era will remember waiting on the October movie like it’s a separate Christmas. Children like to be scared, and Disney knew how to supply the thrills in controlled doses. Case in point, the Hitchcockian Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire. In it, Adam and Chelsea Hansen have their plans foiled once they’re grounded by their tough single mother (Caroline Rhea of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch). They scheme to set their mom up on a date with a suave foreigner, Dimitri Denatos (Charles Shaughnessy), but problems arise when their younger brother, Taylor, realizes that Dimitri is a vampire. Textbook horror. Plays with our innate fear of not being believed.

8. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century    January 23,1999

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Zoom, zoom, zoom. That’s all I have to say.

7. The Luck of the Irish     March 9,2001

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By 2001, Disney Channel star Ryan Merriman was a seasoned veteran, and it showed in his performance in The Luck of the Irish. He played high school basketball star, Kyle Johnson, whose life is turned upside down when he discovers that all Irish people are leprechauns, and watches some bizarre changes take hold, like meeting his 200-year-old grandpa, Reilly O’Reilly (Henry Gibson), and an evil leprechaun, Seamus (played by Timothy Omundson, who’d go on to great successes like Psych, Deadwood, and Galavant). This is just a terrific film, filled to the brim with excitement, excellently choreographed basketball sequences, and nonstop visual inventiveness. Sidenote: Disney tested the waters on interracial couples in this film, and, after being satisfied with the audience reaction, finally gave the okay to Rey and Finn in the Star Wars reboot. True story.

6. The Other Me     September 8, 2000

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I’m just going to say it. Andy Lawrence was the most talented of the Lawrence brothers. Evidence, you ask for? How about the turn of the millennium sci-fi mind-bender, The Other Me? He plays underachiever Will Browning, who accidentally clones himself, and, after ignoring the billion-dollar potential of such a discovery, toils through high school passing his clone off as his cousin. What puts this film over the top is its cutting edge soundtrack featuring the likes of an in-his-prime Aaron Carter. Released 18 years ago, it still feels as fresh as ever. The movie also boasts strong supporting work by Alison Pill and Sarah Gadon.

5. Johnny Tsunami    July 24, 1999

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Disney went ethnic, and the results were dazzling. Johnny Kapahaala, a Hawaiian cool kid, has to move to Vermont once his dad gets a new job. Surprisingly, he does not fit into his new surroundings and a struggle between remaining true to his self and conforming ensues. After the success of Brink! with rollerblading, Johnny Tsunami elevated the profile of skiing and snowboarding, which were, at the time, considered to be sports for Caucasians.

4. The Thirteenth Year       May 15, 1999

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“With great power, comes great responsibility.” That great line may be from Spiderman, but it relates even better to early superhero favorite The Thirteenth Year. Cody Griffin, unbeknownst to him, is a mermaid. Raised by adoptive parents who found him as a baby, and sheltered all his life, only after his thirteenth birthday does his true form begin to take shape. He was always a strong swimmer, but now he can climb walls, you know like mermaids do. How often is this film brought into the conversation when discussing great superhero movies? Many don’t even consider it a part of the genre but watch it again, and you tell me. I’m honestly willing to say M. Night Shyamalan flat out stole his idea for Unbreakable from The Thirteenth Year.

3. Halloweentown  October 17, 1998

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You’ll notice how many of these films deal with self-discovery. That theme continues here when Marnie Piper (Kimberly J. Brown again) discovers that her mother is a witch, from a town creatively named Halloweentown. She meets her grandmother Aggie (played by late-great Debbie Reynolds), also a witch, who shows her the ways of their people. The golden standard for October Disney Channel movies, thanks to a shocking twist ending.

2. Don’t Look Under the Bed     October 9, 1999

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Remember when you thought that Halloweentown could never be beaten? And then the very next year, they drop Don’t Look Under the Bed. Talk about twist endings, but, I’m getting ahead of myself. Frances, a high school girl, is much too serious. Once strange things start happening all over her small town, she’s forced to turn to her brother’s imaginary friend, Larry, since all the evidence points to her being the culprit. Larry tells her that she’s being framed by the boogeyman, and they must work together to take the boogeyman down. I really don’t even have anything insightful to say. This is just an amazing movie.

1. The Phantom of the Megaplex       November 10, 2000

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You already knew. How could it be anything else? Mickey Rooney is in this movie. It perfectly combines my two favorite things: the whodunnit and the movie theater. Taylor Handley plays Pete Riley, the overworked assistant theater manager, trying to keep everything together for the special premier going down, but someone keeps sabotaging the megaplex, and that someone feels the need to wear a costume. The main suspect: Mickey Rooney, of course, mainly because he’s old, and somehow, inexplicably, he lives at the theater. But the finale is more surprising than that. Perfect mystery thriller.

Honorable mentions? How about every single other movie they made between 1998 and 2004? Except for True Confessions. That was a little too indie for me. And Fullcourt Miracle, where the Jewish kids won the big basketball game, because I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief, even at 11.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

 

The Five Worst X-Men

Since its inception in the early sixties, creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, as well as a host of other artists, have filled the X-Men universe with hundreds of mutants with a wide range of superhuman powers. Some memorable characters include Professor Charles Xavier, master of telepathy, Magneto, who manipulates metal, Mystique, a shapeshifter, and X-Men’s superstar, Logan A.K.A Wolverine, an immortal with indestructible metal coursing through his body. But the X-Men comics also feature a wide array of lame mutants-mutants with powers that are either completely useless within their context or are so laughable that basic humanhood would seem preferable. The X-Men film franchise, now nine films deep, has chosen not to exclude some of these losers, and part of my affinity for the series is the ability to admire the cooler elements while simultaneously ridiculing the boldly absurd character choices that made it in. X-Men, like life, is not fair, and not everyone in its universe was created equal. Here are my favorite have-nots; my list of the five worst X-Men or X-Men villains:

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Mortimer Toynbee A.K.A Toad- Who thought this was a good idea? Even his real name sucks. Based on my Wikipedia research, Toynbee was “blessed” with superhuman leaping ability, toxic saliva, prehensile tongue and wall-scaling abilities, and agility. While I can’t say these aren’t useful, I also can’t say they’re cool. The opposite of a scene stealer in the first X-Men movie, anybody in a scene with him instantly becomes much more interesting. He’s the reason we were asked to contemplate this question, “Do you know what happens to a Toad when it’s struck by lightning?”

Warren Worthington III A.K.A Angel- X-Men: The Last Stand was a travesty- one that I, with my bad taste, enjoyed, but a travesty no less. Warren Worthington the third slinks in and out of this picture and, to borrow a quote from This is Spinal Tap, no one knows who he is, or what he’s doing, but his legacy remains. As far as I can tell, Angel can fly because he has Angel wings, and…that’s it. What a surprise that he makes no contribution whatsoever to the action.

Armando Munoz A.K.A Darwin- Our lone black male protagonist and he blows. His power? He can adapt to any environment. That would be a great power for an adventurer or a lizard or a military brat, but for a member of the X-Men? He dies like five minutes after he gets a nickname in X-Men: First Class. Kevin Bacon puts his hand in Darwin’s mouth and blows him up.

Fred J. Dokes A.K.A The Blob- He can go from fat to super fat within seconds. Thankfully he was discontinued after his cameo in The Last Stand, and we were only forced to ponder his usefulness briefly.

Angel Salvadore A.K.A The Tempest- She should be also known as the Tooth Fairy. She has tiny wings and can spit acid. Her character was interesting enough in X-Men: First Class, but her fighting prowess is highly questionable.

Honorable Mention to Victor Creed/ Sabretooth in X-Men and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Dr. Green/ Viper in Wolverine, and the Hank McCoy/ Beast before his transformation in X-Men: First Class.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-