The Animation World Cup Finals

It’s time for the Animation World Cup Finals, and we’ve gone a long way but it’s time to see if we’re going to end it this week or if we’re going to a Grand Final. Let’s begin.

The Losers’ Final: Chico & Rita vs Loving Vincent

It comes down to Spain vs Poland in this bracket and, well, this feels like the most appropriate match – these are probably the two most experimental animation styles in the entire bracket. You have two excellent films here and I’ve gone over them quite extensively: one’s a love story, the other’s kind of a story about grief and remembrance. But how do I feel these two films stack on each other? Well, I kind of think they’re rather well-matched in a sense; both do exactly what I feel they should do, and they both do it very, very well. But the thing that bothered the most about these films is that they do seem to both render on the side of just slipping into potential pretentiousness with their concepts. But as good animation for adults both films are tremendous successes; both of them could have easily been shot in live-action but they would have both been worse off for it. For example, with Loving Vincent, if you’re going to tell the story of the life of Vincent Van Gogh, why not do it in the style of his beautiful paintings? Or in the case of Chico & Rita, why not express this story in animation? They actually added probably some more dimension to these stories by doing do.

Now, as I’ve said, I think both of these films have great characters and great moments, though I feel like Chico & Rita has slightly more interesting characters. But that being said, in Loving Vincent the characters are not the focus; it’s more the situation. It feels like it’s more about the impact of one person and practically is just a movie version of the song ‘Vincent’ aka ‘Starry, Starry Night’, which is appropriate considering that a cover of the song plays in the credits. Now, if we go by soundtracks however, Chico & Rita really excels; it’s a brilliant jazz soundtrack. But then I come back to everything else, and if there’s a film it does kind of remind me of in its later part its Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – they actually are rather similar in multiple ways. On that basis, I’ve probably got a whole bunch of you to see this film more than I already have.

Chico & Rita also does have a slightly longer running time as well, coming in at an hour and 35 minutes. And I instantly thought that it was long but Loving Vincent has almost the exact same run-time; there’s only a couple minutes separating them. My thoughts on this were that the pacing in Chico & Rita kind of makes the feels like it lasts a bit too long for what it does; they possibly could have cut this film by about 5-10 minutes and it probably would have benefited. If I go by the performances, well, as good as the performances are in Chico & Rita, I think Loving Vincent just has slightly better performances. And here’s the thing – Chico & Rita is a really good film and really stands out, but Loving Vincent is in a camp of its own on this one; the sheer beauty of bringing an oil painting to life is unbelievable. This is a project that was years in the making and it really shows. I’ve got to give this point to Loving Vincent and I think it has to win this one.

Winner: Loving Vincent

Winners’ Final: Song Of The Sea vs Your Name

Time for Ireland vs Japan. And I’d stated on several occasions these are two of my all-time favourite animated films, but which one do I think is better? Well, that’s a real hard one for me. Soundtrack-wise, these are two of my favourite soundtracks for animated films – they are both perfectly well-done; animation-wise, they are both incredible; both of them do brilliant jobs showing off the landscapes of their countries in different ways, and it makes you want to visit these places. The big difference is in how they convey their two settings since they both have urban and rural settings. Song Of The Sea does have part of its story set on an island of the coast of Ireland, and does a great job showing off the countryside and the beauty of the ocean surrounding that area. Japan’s countryside and more rural areas are well shown off in parts of Your Name but it also does a brilliant job of making Tokyo look really stunning. This is where the big difference comes in: Song Of The Sea’s urban setting are made to look very dank and lifeless, only injected by some life from one area of the city where there’s a minor amount of magic on display, which incidentally leads to one of my favourite scenes of the film, involving the Dúlamán’s song being played.

It’s also interesting to see the differences between the two stories: Your Name is of course a body-swap story and involves two people that have never met one another trying to come into contact with one another after their swapping stops, whereas Song Of The Sea is more of a story of connecting a brother and sister that don’t really get along very well at all, and is mainly a family drama about coming to terms with your family members and doing what’s best by both you and them. Both of these films have excellent characters.

It’s also very clear that these films have very different directions: Tom Moore is a very different than Makoto Shinkai. For example, Shinkai does the entire process of both writing and directing for Your Name, whereas Tom Moore, while he did develop the story, did hand over the screenwriting duties to his friend Will Collins. And I think his collaborative effort is one of the reasons it really benefitted. Shinkai does have an issue with the handing over control in his films which is evident by his previous films like 5 Centimeters Per Second, which I know a lot of people really like; I’m not a fan of that fan. But when you compare the stories of Ben and Saoirse to that of the story of Taki and Mitsuha, you know that something is definitely different about the two, one of the major factors being that while they both are interesting stories about the lengths someone goes to care for another, they’re both from a very different perspective.

Also, both endings nail their stories. Both Your Name and Song Of The Sea have great final acts that really boost these films. And if we’re going by animation, well, I have to look at their stand-out sequences. The stand-out sequences for me in Your Name—without going into spoilers—it is the scene where you’re willing a particular character to get to a certain place in time, whereas in Song Of The Sea it’s the early-on sequence of Saoirse discovering her origins of being part-selkie and discovering the ocean.

This honestly is the hardest decision to make all-round – these are two of the best animation productions of the last decade. Both are excellent in terms of their feeling; both are excellent in terms of their animation; both are excellent in terms of their writing and direction; both have very clear visions and have excelled their individual directors to stardom, and both directors have had excellent follow-ups as a result. I love certain aspects of both of them. So, my question then becomes: what pushes a film over the edge? And I would say impact. On that basis, Your Name’s going to win because both personally and, I’d say, overall, it’s had more impact than Song Of The Sea, which does more feel like a small, independent production. Personally, it didn’t impact me the say way Your Name did. While I remember both the cinemas I was in when I first saw these films, I really am never going to forget my first time seeing Your Name. And on that basis, I’m going to give it to Your Name.

Winner: Your Name

Well, that’s it for the Animation World Cup since Your Name is going to take it for Japan this time round. And since it did beat Loving Vincent first time round, there is no need for a Grand Final. But stay tuned because I’m going to keep trying to keep this thing going until we’re allowed back in cinemas properly and there are plenty of releases to check out. Thanks for following this strange little competition I’ve had going for that last 4 weeks.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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