Brave: A Victim of Favouritism?

Brave

The Academy often has a turbulent relationship with the casual movie-fan. Academy believes that their distinguished members know better than the poor, unenlightened masses that they have the ultimate, unbiased authority as to which movies deserve to win Oscars. Casual movie-fan feels that the Academy is a bunch of unadventurous, out-of-touch old geezers who reward big names and safe bait rather than something that broke boundaries and jet-set new trends and was a great movie without getting down on its hands and knees and saying, “Pretty please?”

Power of a name goes far in the Academy Awards circle. Just look at the Weinstein Company – their films always have their eye on the biggest prize (Chicago, The King’s Speech, The Artist) and the brothers themselves are on the lookout every year for which films could sway the voters the most before stamping their brand name on it to give it an extra boost.

Such is also the case for Pixar Animation Studios, who hold the honour of the most wins in the Best Animated Feature category. And up until recent years, nobody really begrudged them those wins since their output over the 2000s has been generally universally adored, proving that animated films aimed at families can be clever, heartfelt and beautiful without spelling out the same, rehashed morals in billboard-size letters because they’re afraid that all kids are dense as hell.

But the rut that started with Cars 2 seems to have continued on with last year’s offering, Brave, a collision of the visions of two directors, Brenda Chapman and her replacement Mark Andrews. The rubble was then bandaged up with some cinematic sticky-tape and released on to the world with hopeful, perhaps even naive, expectations.

The result was a little film with big dreams that sort of dwindled into nothing and left only small impact on the casual movie-goer. That is until it coasted upon a wave of goodwill from the end-of-year awards circuit and found itself the recipient of the 2012 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Fans weren’t happy and much as it pained me to come to this conclusion, I wasn’t happy either. I’ve loved pretty much all of Pixar’s offerings for the last fifteen years (except for the indifference towards the Cars duo) so to find myself agreeing with those crying foul required some introspection: Why did Brave win? Why has the film and by default, Pixar, received so much hate for this win and is the hate truly justified?

Oscar winPerhaps the biggest clue is in the brand name. Pixar has built up a good repertoire with the Academy in the years since the inception of the Best Animated Feature category. Their films would scoop the award practically every year to little objection because movies like the Toy Story series, Up, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, The Incredibles and Ratatouille all had a profound effect on us – they made us laugh, they made us cry, they left us awestruck at their crisp, pixellated beauty, but above all, they made us think. Nothing in these films was ever what it seemed at first – the outlandish, even alienating concepts would always give way to something much juicier than expected. The characters had depth to them that aren’t usually seen in children’s films (Compare it to The Smurfs 2, currently ravaging our cinemas and Happy Meals. Cringe as much as necessary). You could often see where the story was going to end, but the journey to get there was a mystery. While still simple enough for younger audiences to grasp, they had enough complexity for older viewers to mull over. Pixar, to put it simply, was the stuff of champions.

Such has been the effect of the “Story is King” mantra put out by John Lasseter that the field of competition in the Best Animated Feature category just gets stronger and stronger every year as other animation companies adopt this strategy and their output becomes more impressive.

It feels very ironic that the company who lead the charge in getting animated filmmaking the respect it deserves has found itself the victim of its own advice. Since Mr Lasseter has been appointed Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation, their products have slowly begun to eclipse Pixar’s, a reversal of back when Disney was in a creative slump in the early 2000s while Pixar were more than happy to fill the family entertainment gap.

Last year Disney offered up Wreck-It Ralph to the cinematic table. Film-goers happily proclaimed it to be the not-Pixar Pixar movie of the year. When you look at it closely, it has all the elements of the best Pixar movies: it has a unique, maybe head-scratching premise; it takes something from everyday life and gives it a life of its own (comparisons to Toy Story abounded); it tackles adult themes such as prejudice, identity and responsibilities without getting too lecturing about it; it’s got three-dimensional characters who realistically critique themselves, wonder about their purpose in life and can toe the line between egotism and selflessness; it’s got boundless imagination and wit; and, like I said before, nothing is ever what it first appears.

Or if you want to examine another of this year’s nominees: ParaNorman. It too has adult themes, such as bullying and the mature conclusion of how not to let yourself be embittered by it, rather than going on a vengeful spree, which the film also examines. It has its own unique atmosphere, favouring spookiness over the candy-bright world of Wreck-It Ralph and none of the characters are caricatures. And again, nothing is what it seems. I thought I had the movie sussed when I saw the trailer but ParaNorman is much more subversive and throws several shocks and surprises into the mix, which ultimately makes it stronger overall.

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Brave, when you look at it closely, has none of these things. It lacks the originality that Pixar has worked with so well in the past and feels, to my mind, more like the Disney Princess films of the 90s. Merida follows in the veins of Ariel (in that she’s stubborn and will do things her own way, damn it) and Jasmine (in that she has no interest in getting hitched though tradition calls for it) with the only fresh twist being the examination of her relationship with her mother Elinor, when the mother figure is often absent in Disney films.

You could also consider that this is Pixar’s first film set within a real historical backdrop. Magical elements aside, the princess-in-a-kingdom setup leaves little room for expansion and the filmmakers never fully delve into the possibilities presented to them. It paves the way well for some kind of epic, fantastical quest but then confines itself to a formula that we’ve all seen – the transformation that must be reversed. Films like Toy Story, The Incredibles and WALL-E never stuck to a formula and therefore had much more freedom to explore.

When compared to Wreck-It Ralph and ParaNorman, Brave almost feels wasteful. Think of all the Scottish lore and history that could’ve been explored or given a new interpretation and the possibilities to give the story the same heart and wonder that previous Pixar films have given us so boundlessly. Even the title itself feels redundant, since Brave has no real message in it about courage and confronting your fears. It’s a real shame that it was so obviously rushed through to its deadline without being given better thought.

With Brave, there is less of a challenge to the audience. We don’t have to think hard about character motivations or what it’s trying to say – we have them pretty much worked out from the start. Merida is rebellious blowhard with a good heart, Elinor is the nitpicking, overbearing mother who clashes with her daughter, the King and the Lords are stereotypical buffoonish Braveheart-style warriors – and I think this stereotype also played a part in how this film got its title. This isn’t necessarily bad but being stereotypical is something Pixar rarely, if ever, does with their characters and movies. The result for Brave as a whole is that it just isn’t memorable enough. I’ve yet to find someone who told me they couldn’t get the film out of their mind for the rest of the day after seeing it.

Not that this makes it a bad film by any means, but when compared to the other nominees this year, it’s definitely the weakest in terms of story and audience appeal. A good film should not have to ride on the success of its predecessors in order to achieve glory. I agree with many when I say that Brave did only win because of the Pixar name but the Academy insisting to us that Brave was the best animated film of 2012 will not encourage many viewers to think again. On the other hand, it seems to have created even more resentment towards Pixar.

The failure of Cars 2 followed by the ambivalent reaction to Brave seems to have shaken Pixar up badly, though I don’t believe their voyaging into the world of sequels, with Monsters University and the upcoming Finding Dory (Why, why, WHY?) is a cynical grab for cash. I believe it honestly has more to do with them trying to prove to audiences that they can still be the creative wizards we know them to truly be. Original future releases The Good Dinosaur and Inside-Out are probably on the right path. I believe Pixar will win Oscars in the future and hopefully it won’t be because the voters still have fond memories of Toy Story.

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But until they can prove to audiences that they’ve still got what it takes, rewarding them for an uneven product is not going to do the trick. I’d say, and I think many will agree with me, that the Academy voters themselves are the problem and not Brave itself, who I see here as the victim caught in the crossfire.

It’s decisions like this one by the Academy that are alienating them more and more from the casual movie-goers. We don’t appreciate their opinions being stuffed in our faces or their ignorance of blockbusters such as The Dark Knight and Skyfall outside the technical categories. To this, I say that maybe the idea of the Oscars is slowly becoming obsolete. Awards don’t make good movies: good movies make good movies. Some of the best films ever made didn’t win Oscars – just look at The Shawshank Redemption.

I’m not very happy that Brave won the Oscar but if I take the awards out of the equation and think on the nominees as a whole, I still have a bunch of animated films that I really enjoyed this year and I’d say that having the honour of having a film join your favourite movies list is far more prestigious than that little gold man.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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42 Comments

  1. Joseph Brennan

    I only watched para-Norman and Wreck-It Ralph recently (haven’t seen Brave yet). In my mind, Para-Norman is the superior film and judging by the post-Oscars chatter, it got robbed. That being said, the decision to brave didn’t irk me so much (sorry this is going off-topic) as Jennifer Lawrence being awarded best Actress over Emmanuelle Riva.
    I’m curious as to why you are so against the idea of Finding dory. Finding Nemo didn’t need a sequel, but the direction Pixar went with, by exploring Dory’s backstory was probably the best decision. I remember first watching Nemo as a kid and wanting to know more about Dory.

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks for the reply! I guess my fears over Finding Dory just manifest from a dislike of sequels in general, given the way Hollywood relentlessly spits them in out these days. Some sequels can be amazing and I have faith in Pixar’s storytelling abilities but Finding Nemo is my favourite film of all time and I honestly believe it doesn’t really warrant continuation, though I agree with you that following Dory’s story is probably the right path. I just wouldn’t want Pixar to be making it for the wrong reasons – they don’t need to go back to their old hits to make good movies again. But I know this might just be me being stubborn. If the trailers for Finding Dory look good, I might go and see it. I’m just afraid of it being another Cars 2 and tarnishing my love of the original. I guess we’ll find out in 2015.

      • Kathryn Talbot

        I have high hopes for Dory. I mean, if anyone can do a sequel, it’s Pixar. Cars 2 aside (shudder) the Toy Story trilogy is perfection.

        • Jennifer Carr

          Absolutely. Just rewatched the trilogy over Christmas – three hours well spent. But Cars 2 and Monsters University have knocked my confidence in Pixar sequels a little, so I’m a little nervous about Finding Dory. But, who knows, maybe it’ll be spectacular. Just have to wait and see.

  2. Taylor Ramsey

    I agree with your asses,met of Brave. While it is low on the Pixar tree, it had a lot going for it.
    Too bad that the next few Pixar offerings in the pipe don’t look much better.

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks! I think Inside-Out looks like it could be incredible. I guess we’ll see with Finding Dory. I love the original to death, so no pressure.

  3. I also agree with your thoughts on Brave, although I think Finding Dory definitely has the potential to be something pretty great.

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks! I agree Finding Dory has potential. It’s just the inner Finding Nemo fangirl in me freaking out that they’ll do something drastically wrong. Like, if they decide to make Marlin and Dory get together after all (I really admire the original for not going in that direction) then I think I might have have a BSOD right there in the cinema. Still, cautious optimism never hurts.

  4. Kevin Licht

    I actually remember feeling a sort of sense of relief that Brave won the Oscar. I found the film to be pleasantly surprising and the direction taken in the movie to examine a mother-daughter relationship felt like a risk that made the film less universal than other Pixar movies; more intimate. Whether it was completely successful in it’s risk is obviously arguable reading this piece, but I feel the outcry against Pixar is starting to go in the direction of going too far.

    I can’t speak to ParaNorman because I haven’t seen it, but Wreck-it-Ralph was a film that, although I enjoyed, felt too reliant on old video-game jokes, and arguably had a questionable message for a movie generally aimed at kids (even though it wasn’t intended it came off as in support of being proud to be a bad guy), so I felt the better choice of the two I had seen was Brave.

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks for your comment! Wreck-It Ralph was my choice for the winner, but ParaNorman was second. I’d check it out, it’s really good.
      I don’t regret seeing Brave and it’s definately an improvement over Cars 2, but it still feels a bit half-baked. There were some elements I really enjoyed, but I think my problem is that I built it up too much for myself. I’m Scottish and I was really looking forward to seeing how they’d interpret our myths and landscapes. It didn’t really fulfill my hopes, I guess.
      I agree that the hate is going a bit too far in some circles of the Internet. Just because Pixar’s last two films (haven’t seen Monsters University yet) were so-so doesn’t mean they’re finished. They’ve still got plenty of fuel in the engine.

  5. The cynic in me suspects that `The Lord of the Rings` would seem equally hollow and unoriginal if the story had been messed with to the point that this one appears to have been. In that case what we would have got was a story of Frodo and Sam going on a journey to dump a magic ring into Mount Doom, having a number of encounters and fights with Gollum on the way.
    In passing they just happen to notice a big black tower with a huge glowing eye on top that mysteriously collapses when the ring is destroyed!

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks! I adore “Lord of the Rings” and I think it keeps the balance of character drama and storytelling just right, which is where Brave kind of flounders in my opinion. Nothing ever happens for no reason in Lord of the Rings but in Brave there’s all sorts of weird stuff that just made me go “Huh?” Like, the Three Lords, they could maybe have stood to be cut out of the film completely. The scene where they have the big brawl in the great hall is just weird. It’s got no bearing on the plot and just sort of happens. But that’s just one thing. There’s other parts that are really good, like the mother-daughter drama. They should’ve put much more focus on that.

  6. David Tatlow

    I think Brave suffered because it came after Cars 2, and around the same time a the glut of sequels was being announced. I understand that Brave is not the crowd-pleaser that people would have wanted, but it’s impossible for a studio that is trying to make films for the whole family to be grasping for profundity at every given chance. There comes a point when themes can veer dangerously close to self-parody if you revisit them over and over. For example, Pixar like to look closely at the idea of getting old, or becoming obsolete. We see that concept explored in Toy Story 3, Cars, The Incredibles and even in the pangs of regret that come with Up. I for one don’t necessarily want every Pixar picture to be attempting to pander to the adults in the audience, when they can make a film like Brave and explore something a little different.

    I think you allude to the idea yourself:
    “the only fresh twist being the examination of her relationship with her mother Elinor, when the mother figure is often absent in Disney films.”

    That twist is enough for me. A mother/daughter relationship explored with potent imagery (the mother becoming a “bear” as Merida gets older) is interesting ground. At its heart, Brave is a very sweet, albeit slight, tale of the struggle a young woman may have with reconciling herself with the fact that there is a gigantic paradigm shift in her relationship with her parents when she becomes an adult. It’s similar for men, but judging by the backdrop against which Brave is set, it seems to me that the struggle for identity in context would be all the more difficult for a woman.
    I think Studio Ghibli suffers a similar kind of backlash to what Pixar seems to be receiving. If they don’t make a Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle, there is an almost knee-jerk reaction that weakens the film in the eyes of viewers. I think that Kiki’s Delivery Service is to Ghibli what Brave is to Pixar; people seem to act on an a priori basis when it comes to films that step away from what is expected from a studio. A friend of mine recently described Kiki’s as follows: “It’s a kids film for kids, the parents of whom would like them to grow up to be mentally retarded”. Now, if you can recover from the stirring elegance of that statement (*sarcasm*), I will tell you that he is a fan of the more outlandishly fantastical Ghibli pictures, and because his expectations have not been met, his reaction to the film is more severe than it may have been had it been his first Ghibli experience.

    What I’m trying to say is that, thematically and in terms of honesty, Brave’s attempt to convey its message is every bit as potent as some of the perceived “stronger” of Pixar’s films. Some might accuse Toy Story 3 of being emotionally manipulative, or Wall-E of tumbling head-first into conventional territory once our eponymous hero departs Earth. They’re both valid concerns, as I believe yours are when it comes to Brave, but I thought it would be unfair to the film if someone didn’t offer up a defence. I liked Brave a lot, and even though I felt as though another film could have won the Oscar, I don’t invest a lot in that in this category. Best Animated Feature seems to be perceived as more of a technical category, and as a result I don’t believe it fairly reflects the overall quality of a film. I read the award as “Award for the Film that is Animated the Best”. I felt that I enjoyed Wreck-it Ralph more than Brave, but that doesn’t mean that Brave deserves the criticism it is getting from certain quarters. The vasy majority of the vocal sections of the internet are males, therefore a film that explores mortality like Toy Story 3 will always get more positive attention than a film like Brave. It’s hugely unrealistic to expect a company who now puts out a film each year to be producing masterpiece after masterpiece, but some people seem to think that should be the case. Look at Woody Allen – it’s not that a lot of his films are bad, it’s just that they’re not Manhattan or Annie Hall. A stand alone film should be judged on its own merits, not those of a company’s previous work.
    I really enjoyed reading this article, I think it’s really going to stir plenty of discussion over the next few days, so thanks for writing it.

    • Jennifer Carr

      You’re welcome and thanks for your comment. I’m starting to ignore the Oscars more and more lately because their more boneheaded decisions really bug me. I completely agree that filmmakers don’t need to churn out a hit time and time.
      I think audiences can be very unforgiving at times. I really wasn’t wild on Cars 2 and Brave was pretty good, but I’m not mad at Pixar for daring to put out something subpar because I know they do everything with their whole heart, which I guess is why I always get swept away by their movies. But some corners of the Internet are being too dismissive of them now, which isn’t fair. Nobody can be perfect all the time.
      It doesn’t really matter to me because I love animated films in general and though Pixar is always a big event for me, I loved Wreck-It Ralph and ParaNorman, so it was still a great time at the movies.

      • David Tatlow

        Yes, ultimately, it’s just important that the films are enjoyable, and that was certainly the case for animated cinema in the past year. Cars 2, for all its shallowness, made me laugh a lot, but it’s not a film I would praise for anything beyond being a light rib-tickler.
        This year is already shaping up great. I thought Monsters University was enjoyable, and From Up on Poppy Hill was really sweet. Hopefully your next article will be just as interesting – thanks again!

    • Joseph Brennan

      just wanted to say that your friend’s comment about Kiki’s Delivery Service filled me with rage. I thought it would resonate most with a young adult audience, with Kiki leaving home for the first time and trying to find her place in the world.

      • David Tatlow

        Exactly what I said to him, but he wouldn’t be swayed! As awesome as the world would be if everyone agreed with me, I think it’s better to have the argument with him!

  7. Alex Jose

    Very interesting article, i really enjoyed reading it! I have to agree with you on the idea that Brave doesn’t delve deep enough into Scottish folklore! Being a bit of a sucker for period dramas anyway i was really looking forward to a proper homage to Scotland’s past but for me the film felt over before it had really began! I would love to see some sort of a Macbeth/Brave mash-up! But i realise that’s probably unlikely..!

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks for commenting. I feel like Brave should’ve been a much darker movie. Remember the first teaser trailer and how ethereal it seemed? That’s the movie we should’ve gotten. Shame it kind of devolved into a sort of medieval comedy. If it was going to have comedic moments, they should’ve taken a leaf out of The Holy Grail’s book.
      And I was really excited for an homage to Scotland too. I could’t wait to see our landscapes getting the Renderman treatment. But there just wasn’t enough of it. This movie’s a bit all over the place unfortunately.

  8. Christopher Dibsdall

    Shoulda been Paranorman. Brave was decent, but uninspired. More at the level of good Dreamworks than vintage Pixar. Hope they find their form again soon.

    • Jennifer Carr

      I agree. ParaNorman would’ve been a more than worthy winner. I identified with the ideas it was putting across, plus I stop-motion animation is my favourite because you can see the painstaking detail that went into every moment. Not that CGI film-making is any easier, but they’re a dime a dozen these days.
      And I’m hoping that Pixar get their groove back too. I’m sure they will in time.

  9. Kelsey Clark

    I actually did find something missing when I first watching “Brave” and know I know what! It wasn’t a bad movie by any means (like you state) but It was indeed lacking a strong character arch and deep issues that make Pixar so incredible. I will definitely have to re-watch it though with a clearer head and see how it feels then, but I am not so sure about its award winning status.

    • Jennifer Carr

      I’m glad you liked the article. I had the same sort of confused feelings about Brave after I saw it and I had to have a good, long think about why that was. I still enjoy it though and would watch it again but giving it the Oscar hasn’t really made me think the Academy are just and/or smart in their decision-making.

  10. Amy Wood

    I completely agree with your criticisms of Brave. Especially with the handling of the Scottish backdrop. I am also Scottish and I was really excited to hear that a major animation production company with a world-wide fan base like Pixar was going to make a film based there, but it was so disappointing. They represented Scotland so poorly; playing to stereotypes and not exploring our truly great history at all! I am not a fan of Brave in the slightest, but not sure if I am just blinded by my love of Scotland.

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks. Exactly! Scotland is already stereotyped enough in mainstream American cinema, so this would’ve been a great opportunity to show it in more depth. And instead we got the same old haggis-chomping, red-headed warriors that we always get. So far, so Braveheart, unfortunately.

  11. Jessica Koroll

    I’m going to join the chorus and voice my agreements. When I first saw Brave, I hadn’t seen ParaNorman or Wreck it Ralph yet so, while not blown away, I did think it was a good film. Having since seen the other two though, I wholeheartedly believe that ParaNorman was robbed. Whereas Brave, as you said, felt too familiar and safe to really be an oscar contender, ParaNorman blew me away as it a film that was far greater than I originally expected. It’s a shame because Brave really did have a lot of potential. I remember seeing the trailers come out and falling in total love with the concept. As a person who’s also side-eyeing Pixar’s decisions to make Monsters University and Finding Dory, I’m hopeful that Inside-Out will break the mould and put put Pixar back into people’s good graces.

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks! ParaNorman was a very strong movie and I would’ve loved to see it win, not just from a story standpoint but a technological one as well. Stop-motion is my favourite form of animation and it’s about time the Academy gave the Oscar to another one. Wallace and Gromit was years ago now.

  12. Dennis Fulton

    I liked Brave and I had no problem with it winning best animated feature. However, I didn’t see Wreck It Ralph. which I heard was phenomenal and should’ve been the clear winner. So, I guess I can’t offer a particularly objective view.

    My biased view is that I love Pixar and have trouble believing a piece from Dreamworks could be better.

  13. J. Bryan Jones

    I don’t think of Brave as a victim. It won an award it didn’t deserve. ParaNorman was better hands down. Wreck-It Ralph was overrated. I do think Pixar is back on track with Monsters University, though not everyone may agree. Really, Monsters University is more of a victim because it is actually deserving of praise its not getting.

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks for commenting, though I have to disagree with Monsters University. I was left feeling very underwhelmed by it which is a shame because I wanted so badly to like it. I liked the messages it was conveying though.

  14. Bennett Rust

    An insightful look on the political side of the academy in reference to animation and its love affair with Pixar. I’d be interested to see you explore that facet more in the broader scheme; there’s this pigeon-holed perception the academy places on animated film that reflects how the general public sees the medium. As Brad Bird has stated “Animation is NOT a genre.” and yet this is how it’s approached not only in award season, but in summer blockbusters, marketing and critical analysis. The fact that there’s a “best animated film” oscar for these films to fight over further alienates the medium from their live action counterparts (which even more appropriately, have a tendency to contain a lot of animation/VFX). All in all, a great article!

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks! It would be quite interesting to write an article on Academy politics (we’ve got 86 years worth of material after all). Brad Bird is totally right though. Most of my favourite films of certain years were animated, but it wasn’t because of the medium (although the animation is often gorgeous to look at) but because they told a great story, sometimes more so than live-action counterparts. It would be nice if the Academy could recognise that once in a while (still sore that Coraline was never nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay) n

  15. JadeAnnalize

    I was very much underwhelmed when I first saw Brave, I had very high expectations for it and feel it could have been great but unfortunately, I have to agree with you’re criticisms.

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks for reading. Yes, Brave is definitely on my list of biggest let-downs of 2012. In a lot of ways that’s worse than an outright bad movie – something that gets your hopes up and then dashes them.

  16. Frankie Victoria

    I though Brave was pretty unexpected. Mostly because of the main characters – it’s about a mother-daughter relationship and it’s about a princess who doesn’t fall in love with a prince. While the plot points are kind of predictable, I think the overall quality of the film is great. While it may not have deserved the award, I felt as though it was fresh and a great movie. Wreck it Ralph was great, but the Pixar mimicry may have been its fall. I also loved ParaNorman, as well.

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thanks for reading. I agree with the points you made (mother-daughter relationship explored, no love interest) and I did find them refreshing, but the movie still didn’t gel for me overall. I think that was more to do with clumsy storytelling rather than certain elements.

  17. rubengc

    Brave was good but felt too Disney and less Pixar to be though of in the same vein as Toy Story, Monsters inc etc…

    Great Article.

  18. Rachel Elfassy Bitoun

    Excellent article! Great arguments and writing style.
    I have only come across it today, and watched Brave last night, leaving my reserves aside for a moment. But I couldn’t agree more with you, and the film has not contradicted my assumptions – I was disappointed, not only in the story, but also in the animation. What happened? I am a huge Pixar fan, and even when I felt the stories weren’t that great, I always appreciated the visual. But Brave is full of little defaults, and the technology is less impressive than other Pixars. As you said very clearly in your article, they could have exploited the Scottish heritage much more, and the mother/daughter relationship could have been more developed. It’s not all bad of course; but still, not worth an Oscar in my opinion (if we still believe in the Oscars’ value!).

    • Jennifer Carr

      Thank you for reading, glad you enjoyed it. It had a lot of potential to be fantastic, but it feels like they didn’t take advantage of that potential. I hope Pixar can get back to how good they were – but the recent announcement of Cars 3 does not fill me with hope.

  19. I agree wholeheartedly with your point that the Oscars are becoming steadily more obsolete, and I think that part of why they were respected in the first place had to do with the now old-fashioned notion that anyone who is considered an “expert” in their field (be it movies or medicine) must never, ever be questioned. However, I’m not sure I completely agree with writing Brave off. I think it did have new ideas and expressed them in new ways – the mother angle in particular is one that hasn’t really been examined in any animated movie that I’m familiar with, and I think it’s one that’s very important to explore. I also do think that Merida, while familiar on one level, is unique. Ariel and Jasmine are, at least in animated movie terms, quirky rebels, but their rebellion is later “fixed” and they are turned into “good girls” by the end: Ariel’s choices are validated by the fact that she finds a husband and Jasmine’s unwillingness to get married is later “corrected” when she falls in love with Aladdin. In terms of princesses, I think Merida is a very rare breed: a strong-willed, independent female character who has no need for romance – and, for once, that’s okay. I think that the way her behavior is treated is new.
    I hesitate to compare it to Wreck-It Ralph, because I think both movies had their wins and losses in their own ways. I will say I think I found Ralph more enjoyable, but I think that was more because I really liked the voice actors.
    In spite of the hesitation, I think this was really well-written and well-reasoned. This is a great topic to discuss and I’m really glad that the validity of both popular movies and kids’ movies can cause such rich and intelligent debates.

  20. It’s almost depressing to see wonderful pieces of art like ParaNorman or incredibly imaginative concepts like Wreck-It-Ralph get sacked so easily in favor of an obvious bias, Brave is a stale, inconsistent and poorly paced film, it isn’t the worst thing ever made but it is not deserving of a nomination, much less an award.
    To the people saying that the mother-daughter concept was novel or daring, I invite them to see very drama show ever put on television from Revenge to Gilmore Girls and find that the mother-daughter theme is not only present in most, but applied in the exact same way Brave did, a truly daring approach would have been to make their differences irreconcilable, but of course we need to go with the predetermined, cliched, Freaky Friday-like approach of “Walk a mile in my shoes”, it’s so tired it’s not even funny.

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