this scene was visually gorgeous and heartbreaking at the same time

Top Ten Films of 2014

Last year, I made my first video top ten (which you can see here), and while that was fun, as it so happens I’m a bit too busy right now to go through all the trouble of making a video at the moment. So here we are, back to the old way of doing things.

On an interesting side note, I found an unintentional theme in my list this year. Many of my films are in some way about the creation of art, as well as the price paid to be a great artist. Also, many of these movies could be seen as “coming-of-age” films. Once again I find myself astonished at how many great films came out in a single year (and I haven even seen all of them yet). So as usual, you can find my long list of “honorable mentions” at the end. 

Like always, this is just my personal top ten films of the year. Even if we share the same tastes, I guarantee you that my list would be different than yours. It’s just too subjective.

So starting at number ten and counting down… here we go!





10. Mr. Turner

As far as pure craftsmanship goes, “Mr. Turner” is perhaps the most well made film of the year. Mick Leigh is a master, and every shot is purposeful and completely stunning. The film itself looks like an old beautiful painting. Timothy Spall sinks deep into his role as J.M.W. Turner, and it’s probably his best performance to date. The deliberate pacing and lack of traditional structure might turn away some viewers, but “Mr. Turner” is nevertheless a great work of art, and a portrait of a fascinating man.



9. Frank

I knew very little about this film before seeing it, and I think that’s a good thing. From the opening scene, I instantly fell in love with this darkly funny film. At it’s core, there’s some rather deep subject mater, and yet “Frank” cleverly offsets this with some truly hilarious moments that keep the film entertaining throughout. Domhnall Gleeson is outstanding here, but of course, the real star of the show is Michael Fassbender, who gives an incredibly expressive performance despite the fact that we can’t see his face. I enjoyed nearly every moment of this picture, and it’s definitely one that you need to see.



8. Ida

Some films just belong in the Critrion Collection. Ida is one such film. It’s haunting and artful and features the best black and white photography I’ve seen in years. The sharpness and contrast of every shot is remarkable. The narrative is beautifully simplistic. In fact, the minimalistic nature of the film as a whole is part of what makes it so special. “Ida” is sparse, gorgeous, and masterful. Certainly one of the best foreign films of the year.



7. Only Lovers Left Alive

Vampires are cool, but Tom Hiddleston and Tida Swinton bring it to a whole new level. These old lovers have seen it all, and while they still appreciate art, science, and philosophy, they’ve grown tired and indifferent while mankind continues to make the same mistakes.  Jim Jarmusch’s film is a special kind of vampire story, because it may be the first one to really capture just how lonely, dangerous, and exhausting being immortal really is (or would be).  "Only Lovers Left Alive" has a deliberate pacing that glides slowly along with it’s characters. Along the way, we learn how they live and what they’ve grown to appreciate, and it’s all quiet fascinating. It’s my opinion that “Only Lovers Left Alive” ranks as one of the very best vampire films ever made. 



6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

A Wes Anderson film can always put a smile on my face. His last few films have been some of his best, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is certainly no exception. This film is so beautifully stylized, and so hilariously funny, I find it hard to believe that there’s anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this film. The cast is fantastically entertaining (especially Ralph Fiennes), the colors are vibrant, the humor is clever, and the filmmaking is flawless.  When I saw “Moonrise Kingdom”, I said it might be Wes Anderson’s best film yet…. when I saw “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, I said the same thing.



5. The Duke of Burgundy

Captivating and visually arresting, Peter Strickland’s “The Duke of Burgundy” is one of the most compelling films I saw all year. It’s beautifully shot, colored, and textured with elegant pacing and precise direction - I really can’t say enough positive things about this film. It’s surreal and challenging while retaining a soft and gentle nuance of love and tenderness. “The Duke of Burgundy” certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it extraordinary and deeply inspiring.



4. Boyhood

I know many cinephiles will probably place “Boyhood” as their number one film of the year, and I wouldn’t fault them for that. Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is one of the most innovative and uniquely profound films ever made. Shot over the course of 12 years, we literally watch Mason grow up before our eyes. It’s a remarkable experience unparalleled by any comparisons I could make. We owe it to Linklater for having the guts to push our medium forward in such a beautiful way. This will probably win Best Picture at the Oscars, and it’s easy to see why. 



3. Birdman: (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Simply one of my favorite cinematic experiences in a very long time. In the first scene, I made a mental note that we were in a long take, but to my wonder and astonishment, that long take never ended. There are, of course, cuts and interludes (this isn’t a “Russain Ark” situation) but the effect is very much that Alejandro Iñárritu’s film is one singular shot. It’s remarkable, but could be called nothing more than an impressive gimmick if the film itself wasn’t so strong. 

This is the best cast ensemble of the year, and the cinematography is gorgeous (made more impressive again by the long takes). But “Birdman” also has some interesting things to say about the creation of art, as well as the criticism that always accompanies it. It’s an intriguing film, and one with something to say. I loved every minute of it.



2. Vi är Bäst! 

Every year, there are films that just seem to come out of nowhere and surprise me. Before it was released, I knew nothing of “We Are the Best”, nor was I familiar with Lukas Moodysson’s previous work. However, this film was perhaps the most enjoyable film I saw all year.

If you know nothing of this film, it’s the director’s adaptation of his wife’s graphic novel “Never Goodnight” (by Coco Moodysson). It centers around three young teenage girls living in 1980s Stockholm who start a punk band - despite two of them not knowing how to play an instrument. While the band plays an important role in the film, some of the most interesting scenes are when the girls are simply hanging out. The performances from these three young ladies are perhaps the most natural I’ve ever witnessed from anyone their age. At times, it seems that they’re not even acting at all, as if the cameras just happened to be there to catch these authentic moments. These girls are so funny, enduring, and most importantly, real. This film understands what it really means to be a hardcore punk. And that is a rare thing. I really can’t say enough good things about “We are the Best”. You just need to see it.


And my number one film of the year is…



1. Whiplash

This is not the most ambitious film of 2014. It’s not a space epic. It wasn’t shot over twelve years. It doesn’t give the illusion of being one continuous shot. It’s not even by a famous director. Yet, “Whiplash” was the single most thrilling  piece of cinematic art I saw all year.  

“Whiplash” tells the story of a young ambitious drummer who dreams of being one of the great jazz musicians of our time. He soon finds himself under the mentorship of a cutthroat teacher who is willing to do whatever it takes to push his students to the limit. The film shows painful abuse and heartache, but then just when you think the film will find contentment in an obvious solution, it aggressively charges forward into the single most intense, passionate, raw, violent, and beautiful final scene of the year. A scene that made my heart race until it finally cut to black, and the credits rolled. Then, and only then, did I finally catch my breath. This film bleeds with a passion that’s visible in every aspect, from its photography, to its editing, to the stellar performances. Enough can’t be said about Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. They both give 100% to their roles, and it’s both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch.

I found “Whiplash” to be painfully relatable at times… and I’m sure that contributed to my fondness for the film itself. Nevertheless, I think everyone should see this amazing work of art. Damien Chazelle has crafted a challanging look at what it truly means to be a young artist with high ambitions. The road to greatness is filled with suffering, pain, loss, frustration, blood, sweat, and tears… and it seems the filmmakers here understand the price that is paid. 



So there you have it - My top ten films of 2014. Please let me know what your favorite films were! Now, some of you may have noticed that a certain favorite director of mine not on this list…. so please see my honorable mentions below.



Honorable Mentions 

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Inherent Vice - I know! I know! I can’t believe it either. P.T. Anderson is my favorite director, and I do love this film…. it just didn’t move me like his other work as done in the past. “Inherent Vice” is great. I just like 10 other films more.

Gone Girl - Yet another one of my favorite directors. David Fincher is to the point where he really doesn’t make bad films anymore. The craftsmanship is just too good.

Calvary - This is a touching and somewhat heartbreaking portrait of a priest genuinely trying to live a good life. A thankless job to be sure. It’s bleak but Brandon Glesson gives a wonderfully tender performance.  

The Babadook - Rich with metaphor, this is easily one of the best horror films in years. Love it so much, and you really need to see it.

Under the Skin - Who could forget this surreal work of art from Jonathan Glazer? Scarlett Johansson does wonderful work here.

Jeune & Jolie - “Young & Beautiful” was an underrated French film from François Ozon. I really loved it a lot, though I might be in the minority.

Snowpiercer - Joon-ho Bong is a crazy good director, and “Snowpiercer” is a thrilling sci-fi action movie far more worthy of your time than most summer blockbusters. 

Top Five - Chris Rock made an excellent film with a deep Woody Allen influence. I really hope he will continue this style into future projects. 

Foxcatcher - A remarkable film. Bennett Miller is on a roll. There’s really nothing to complain about with this film. See it.

The One I Love - A fantastic little gem from Charlie McDowell. Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss are great.

The Imitation Game - A very sharp screenplay, and a brilliant performance from Benedict Cumberbatch.

A Most Wanted Man - The last leading performance from my favorite actor. 

Guardians of the Galaxy - Finally, Marvel made their finest MCU film yet. It’s fun and fast and a really great watch. 

Unfortunately I did not get the chance to see “A Most Violent Year”, “Winter Sleep”, “Goodbye to Language 3D”, “Leviathan” and serval other foreign films. I’m sure they all could have made my list if I had seen them. 

What a time to be alive.

It’s their ability to pull you in. That sort of magic they have when all the elements of the medium come together. Voice acting, visuals, scoring, and stories, when done as right as these shows do ‘em, can create unbelievable experiences.

And what I find so fantastic is just how many cartoons today actually do craft their own worlds and invite you in. They’re not all perfect or even complex, but these are the shows that really make a case for why cartoons are an art form.

While I could do a top 10 here, I’d rather just geek out over what makes each one unique, because in a lot of ways it’s hard to compare them. So instead, it’s probably easier to divide these badboys up by the genre they best portray. 

Now, that doesn’t mean these shows only have one feel to them – in fact a lot of them could qualify for multiple genres – but for simplicity’s sake, let’s do one per show. You’ll see what I mean.

ACTION

Regular Show

Alright, so not all episodes are action-oriented. Not even a majority. Why put in under the action heading, then?

Well, while a lot of the show deals with the everyday happenings of the park and its crew, RS is undeniably a product of the 80s (and 90s sometimes, too, but mostly the 80s). It’s pretty glorious. Not only do a lot of references to the decade pop up, but a lot of the stories are structured like 80s movies, with very clear goals and stakes. They can build up tension really well in a short amount of time because we know what’s going to happen if Mordo and Rigby don’t win the day. So, even when nothing spectacular is going on, it can still feel like there’s something to lose. 

Star v.s the Forces of Evil

This was the hardest one to place. It actually does three things equally well and in pretty much equal proportion: sci-fi, slice-of-life, and of course, action. That said, I went with action for one reason: whenever it does go full-on butt-kicking mode, it kicks serious ass.

This is like if Hotel Transylvania had fighting scenes. The comedy in the show is top-notch, and I always have fun with it, but I so enjoy the idea that a comedy/slice-of-life show like this could also be a magical girl show. That high-octane pace with cross-dimensional battles? It’s the best of both worlds!

SCI-FI

Steven Universe

Now here’s sci-fi done right. The use the big concepts like aliens and intergalactic warfare to tell very simple, yet profoundly meaningful stories. 

Overall, Steven Universe has a very emotional story to tell, and it talks about it all with respect and dignity, but also a tenderness. It’s friggin’ fantastic.

On top of that, the art style – from the flexible character models to the gorgeous colour scheme – sets such a wonderstuck tone for it all. That, combined with the techno/piano background music, gives the show an elegance you might not expect at first glance. It’s heartbreaking, yet soothing. Beautiful, yet light. Just a wonderful world to be a part of.

Wander Over Yonder

This is contender for the most beautifully animated show on television. I have to admit I haven’t personally gotten far into WOY (mostly just because I tend to look for continuing stories in the cartoons I watch nowadays), but the kid in me who used to stay up all night to watch the whole saturday morning line-up on Canada’s equivalents of Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network is screaming with joy.

No matter what age group is enjoying it, I’m so glad a show that’s animated like this can exist for kids. The comedy shines with the fast pace of the movements, the expressions are glorious, the colours are so nice to look at, the character models are cute and interesting, and I’ve always said you could stop the show at any point in any episode and get an amazing screen-shot. It’s just a blast to watch.

What can I say? This is a show that deserves the fandom it has and then some, it’s too freaking beautiful. But, beauty aside, what tone does it set with all this splendor? Well, the show’s largely about space exploration – never stopping anywhere for too long and rarely (if ever) returning to the same location twice. The universe feels neverending, and the lovable excitement Wander brings to this already energetic show give its young target audience a feeling of true space-adventure. There’s always another horizon on another planet to find, and awesome life-forms to meet there.

ADVENTURE

Adventure Time

An obvious pick, but a well-deserved one.

I’ve talked about AT’s world-building before more in depth, so I won’t go too nanners here, but with the constant addition of new characters, settings, ideas, and even animation styles, this show packs a serious punch. It’s really no wonder why it’s gotten as popular as it has.

Yup. From the simplistic, yet hilarious Adventure Time-y lingo to the epic battles with inventive monsters to the AT philosophy, Adventure Time really does feel like the imaginings of a precautious little boy. Like I said for Wander Over Yonder, an expansive world, like the land of Ooo, can really drag you into the show by force.

Avatar: The Legend of Korra

Technically, since it’s finished its run, I probably shouldn’t include Korra, but it’s recent enough to deserve a spot here. Plus, dat unbelievable animation, tho!

Like it’s predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender, LOK takes inspiration from the more detailed art-styles of anime. So, just like anime, the budget goes into making the world look great, and making sure the battle scenes are well-animated, while keeping low costs on the movements of the characters during most normal talking scenes.

LOK used this to its every advantage. A captivating score and exciting story brought the world of benders back on screen in a satisfying way. Plus, unlike all the other shows on this list, Korra had a higher target audience: teens. That meant a lot of things, aside from the infamous love triangle of the first season. It meant they could tell darker stories, including an entire story-arch where Korra has PTSD and depression, as well as a “tasteful” yet very obvious queer canon couple at the end. Uh, spoilers, btw.

So, while the first show didn’t shy away from darker concepts, either, this one definitely felt like a mature show, while still keeping a feeling of adventure present.

MYSTERY

Gravity Falls

Why watch other shows when you could be watching Gravity Falls? Seriously. This is the question that haunts me.

The most recent episode, Not What He Seems, was so satisfying in everything it set out to do, paced so well, littlenightwing and I absolutely couldn’t believe the run-time was only 23 minutes – it felt like a movie, and a flipping fantastic one at that.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself, clearly, because I should be talking about the enchanting mystery aspect of GF. Like Alex Hirsch, the show’s overlord, once said, it’s a cross between The Simpsons and the X-Files, with one heck of a continuing story that never stops giving us questions to wonder about and conspiracies to sniff out. It even hides codes for the viewers to follow along with, creating a theory-making community that’s just as paranoid, yet intelligent as they come. Its unbelievable how well this show sucks you in.

FANTASY

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

I promise I’ll be quick. I know the fandom makes some uncomfortable, and I apologize, but the show itself is quality and deserves its praises sung, just like the others on this list.

While they’re not always on adventures, it’s almost like if Lord of the Rings had an all-female cast. It’s been called High Fantasy before, meaning it has a huge lore of history along with its fantasy setting (not mention a world filled with creatures from  all sorts of different mythologies, like Greek, Aztec, etc). When it goes big, it feels grand. When it stays small, it feels like I’m in a sleepy town like Hobbiton; with the show entering into its fifth season, it’s getting even more obvious that Equestria is definitely a land worth exploring.

Over the Garden Wall

Short, sweet, and magical: just how I like ‘em. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s only ten episodes, if you have yet to check it out, it’s a story that’s well worth your time.

This one was hard, too, because there’s a very strong mystery element all-throughout that almost made me want to switch its place on the list, but the way the story’s paced – and, I’ll admit it, the fact that Elijah Wood voices Wirt – made it pretty impossible for me to avoid the fantasy category.

The art direction in this mini-series adds so much to the atmosphere it’s stunning, as well as the gentle horns backing it up on the soundtrack. It really feels like you’re venturing into a dark forest, a strange and unknown territory that may very well be dangerous. Even horrifying. 

You’ll have to be patient with it, because it uses a fantasy pace: slow for the journey and building up to more plot-oriented parts. But, with the forest theme, and style choices from Americana folklore, this is a series that screams October, which is ironically when I’ll be screaming Over the Garden Wall from now on.

SLICE-OF-LIFE

The Amazing World of Gumball

Where Gumball shines is where a kids show should shine. It’s comedy. With it’s multiple-art style approach, and wacky, out-there theme song, Gumball sure is an oddball of a show thank I’m here all wekk. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first glance, but a few things have won me over.

First, the the characters. The two brothers and their non-conventional family are what it’s all about, and watching Darwin and Gumball bond is very sweet.

Second, the episode The Shell. ‘Nuff said, because oh my GOD, was that cinematic af and beautiful.

Third, screw your normality, the Amazing World of Gumball does what it wants.

Fourth, the background is done with beautiful photography, and with the cartoons to contrast it, it almost feels like we’re watching home movies.

Clarence

The heart is undeniable. From the get-go, this show doesn’t let up with how charming it is, which makes sense, because pretty much the whole feel of the shows mirrors the feel of Clarence himself.

Clarence’s world is a friendly one. It’s not like things can’t go wrong- I mean they almost always do, but I don’t know, there’s something about the show that feels just as eager to include everyone and have a good time doing it as Clarence is, and let me tell you, that’s a really likable thing to do. Especially when it means including gay couples, because teaching kids about that is just rad. Rock on, little buddy.

Oh, and the simple, yet pleasing art style matches this really well, too. Like Clarence drew it himself.

Oh again, and by heart, I don’t mean heart in the way Steven Universe means heart (this is why I couldn’t make a top ten list). Because the show mirrors Clarence so much, it takes on his attitude toward the harsher realities in his life, and it’s a very innocent and comforting one.

I have to acknowledge the controversy with the creator, but only to say that the creator has been punished and doesn’t work on the show anymore. The show doesn’t support that type of behaviour, and neither do we, so everything’s good.

Phineas and Ferb

Now, this is an impressive show. Creating new worlds to explore is so imaginative and cool, but writing so many seasons of a show that’s this formulaic, and still keeping it fresh? That takes a lot of ingenuity.Almost Phineas and Ferb levels of ingenuity.

I couldn’t imagine this show as anything but a Disney Channel show. Gravity Falls is it’s own entity, which is rad, but P&F has that classic light-heartedness, that well-meaning goodness that’s just so admirable.

Phineas especially captures this Mickey Mouse-esque spirit. Ferb brings his own brilliance to the show, as do the rest of the cast, but Phineas in particular really gives the show a hopeful feel.

And you know, the art style matches the quick, clever humour with geometric shapes, and the simple colour scheme keeps with that bright atmosphere I was talking about earlier.

Uncle Grandpa

I have to admit, it’s not my personal favourite, but I didn’t want to exclude the fandom.

If I had to guess at the overall feel of a show I haven’t watched that much, (bad idea but) I’d say it’s probably just the goofiness. Maybe there’s something more I haven’t seen, which is totally possible, but that seems about right. Taking everyday problems and looking at them in the silliest, goofiest way possible. Not a bad thing.

Overall

All that said, we have so many wonderful worlds to visit today, so many adventures to have and mysteries to solve and characters to spend time with. 

I feel like we’re in some kind of cartoon renaissance- but that’d probably go to the 90s, huh? Well, then we’re in the cartoon Age of Enlightenment, where it’s the thought and care that these teams put into crafting their worlds that makes the difference. 

Some Foreign Language Movies

THINGS OF NOTE

1) I officially have 100 followers!  (101 actually)  OMG this is awesome and I love you all!

2) I had planned to write about the influence of language learning on culture and vice versa.  However I’m good and riled up about some political nonsense (if you live in the U.S. you can probably guess what) and have decided I don’t have the focus necessary to deliver the awesome post you all deserve.  If you have any thoughts or experiences about this topic, please feel free to inbox me as I will be writing on this for next week.

For today, I hope you won’t mind if I keep it simple.  In addition to being a lover of languages, I am also an avid movie watcher.  According to Netflix I have watched and rated 1024 movies.  Several of these, of course, are foreign films in other languages.  These are great resources for someone who is in that intermediate slump and looking for a way to expand their vocabulary and receptive skills.  Here are the movies I’ve seen, by language, with a few comments on each.

Additional note: This list ended up being MASSIVE.  So I’m trying to keep from hogging your dash by putting the list under a READ MORE heading.  The movies are grouped by language in alphabetical order, so feel free to scan for your language.  I also included a few culturally powerful films at the end, that while in English, are very good for linguists and polyglots.  Happy viewing, Polyglot Peeps!

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Finding Dory

Finding Dory was not a film I was particularly looking forward to. Finding Nemo is one of Pixar’s very best films, full of groundbreaking visuals, emotive storytelling, and characters the heart immediately latches on to, but after the studio gave us two incredible original movies last year it felt like a step backward to make a sequel that appeared to be a retread of the original. My goodness was I wrong. Plot wise, this film does repeat many of the same beats as the first, but repurposed with an entirely different emotional core and a very different struggle. 

 Pixar and director Andrew Stanton have crafted a sensitive, sweet, and emotionally resonant look at both disability and the impact our memories have in defining ourselves and relationships, while also creating a tremendously funny escape film. This is the rare sequel that retroactively enriches the previous movie, taking Dory’s (Ellen DeGeneres) inability to retain memory and turning it into something powerful enough to sustain an entire story. Memory defines how we’re able to know ourselves and how we maintain and create relationships. Without it, we lose who we are and this movie never shies away from taking on those truths. 

 Dory’s short term memory loss was primarily played for comedy in Finding Nemo, and while it’s still very funny here, the script really delves into the horror that this condition would bring. Dory’s relationships and sense of self suffer and Stanton and company use her memory loss as an interesting way to segue into a subtext about disabilities as a whole. Pixar, maybe more than any other studio is willing to tackle difficult subjects with honesty and and heart. The movie never pretends that living with a disability will be easy nor does it hide away from the heartbreak they can cause. 

 The film also uses Dory’s memory loss to create a poignant portrait of how relationships depend on memory. Whether that memory is how we create a narrative for ourselves or how we connect to the world, without it, life would be a series of unconnected moments. As someone who is currently turning a chapter in life, memory of the last few years is something I’m trying to keep happy, without wallowing in how fast time goes by. This part of the film struck me very deeply and it opens up the door for thoughtful discussion about how memory and time are so intrinsically linked. 

 Beyond some wonderfully complex ideas, this movie is also breaming with life and humor. Pixar has always been great at creating hilarious and interesting side characters and this movie is no exception. Whether it’s Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a whale shark, Bailey (Ty Burell), a beluga whale, or a pair of sea lions voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West, the new additions to the sea are very funny and wonderfully realized. My absolute favorite new character (and one of Pixar’s best secondary characters) is Hank (Ed O’Neill) the octo…septopus. His interaction with Dory and her inability to remember their conversations are hilarious and his ability to camouflage allows for some truly remarkable animation. Pixar continues to push the boundaries of what CGI animation is capable of. Somehow even more so than Finding Nemo, the water here is breathtakingly real. Shadow and light bounce off rock, the waves ebb and flow, the tiniest pebble of sand is intricately detailed, and the rainbows of colors completely envelope the screen. Every character is animated so fluidly, especially Hank, that you completely forget you’re watching an entirely digitally created set of objects and creatures. While not as large in scope as the first movie, the detail and level of creation is unbelievable. 

 Along with incredible visuals and thoughtful subtext, the movie is full of hilarity. Whether it’s the sea lions’ unwillingness to give up their rock, Destiny’s inability to see, or the cleverly designed set pieces, each scene is brimming with emotion and humor. The film knows exactly when and how to switch tone delicately, and this made for an audience full of laugher. And speaking of those set pieces, Mr. Stanton directs the hell out of this. Bringing the same sense of wonder and creativity he brought to Finding Nemo and Wall-E, the action is organic and makes for a movie that movies at quite the fast pace. Probably reflective of Dory’s ever switching ideas, the movie movies really really fast, all culminating in one of the most purely delightful and silly sequences of the year. The ending works on an emotional and action level and it’s pretty remarkable how it all plays out. 

 Ultimately, this is an intimate, sometimes heartbreaking but mostly just heartwarming exploration of disability and memory that never forgets how to create a sense of grand adventure. With a loving devotion to character, gorgeous animation and hilarious gags, this is another piece of greatness from a studio that rarely makes anything but. 

                                                       Piper  

 The short film in front of Finding Dory, Piper, is unbelievably cute. The animation is photorealistic and beautiful, the characters are adorable, and the story is simple but perfectly executed. At just a few minutes long, it compliments Dory wonderfully. Both are among the best films of the year, and you owe it to yourself to see them.

*I just realized I didn’t talk about the performances at all. They’re all tremendous, with every newcomer doing great work and every returning performer continuing to deliver heart and humor. DeGeneres completely solidifies her places with a continuing-ly iconic role as one of the best pieces of casting in animation maybe ever.