Best and worst animated films of 2021

Back when I was young, I was happy to see even one new animated film a year. Now there’s practically one a week.

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In the 80s, I started a magazine called “Animato!” that later grew quite large and popular. I got to meet and interview great animators like Chuck Jones and Ralph Bakshi but later sold the magazine, and it went on to even bigger successes until the internet killed all magazines.

So I’m still an animation fan, but it’s basically impossible to see all the films and all the animated TV shows these days unless you’re a full-time animator or animation historian, I guess.

And this is especially true during the pandemic. Studios realized that while they couldn’t make as many live action films, animators can work from their home … so we got a lot more animated films than we would normally get.

There were some really great films this year I did get to catch, though. My favorite was Mitchells vs. The Machines, but I also very much enjoyed Encanto, Vivo, and Ron’s Gone Wrong.

These days, with so much CGI, we can debate what an “animated film” even is, but generally the accepted definition is that the main characters must be animated — not just the monsters or effects. (And “motion capture” doesn’t count.)

So here’s my annual end-of-the-year list of best and worst animated films (based on their Rotten Tomatoes score).  I used to only include films that were released to theaters, but thanks to the pandemic, that should no longer apply. This means there are more films on this list than in previous years. Ties are broken by number of reviews, and you have to have at least 10 reviews to make my list.

The best reviewed animated film of 2021 was a Denmark documentary about emigration that was animated so, yeah, technically, it belongs on this list! It was followed closely by a Japanese anime that got very little distribution. The rest of the list includes two good films with music by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Encanto and Vivo — he was busy last year) and a bunch of straight-to-streaming ones.

  1. Flee (98%)
  2. Demon Slayer: Mugen Train (98%)
  3. The Mitchells vs. The Machines (97%)
  4. Raya and the Last Dragon (94%)
  5. Luca (91%)
  6. Encanto (91%)
  7. My Little Pony: A New Generation (90%)
  8. Back to the Outback (88%)
  9. Vivo (86%)
  10. Arlo the Alligator Boy (82%)
  11. Ron’s Gone Wrong (80%)
  12. Paw Patrol: The Movie (79%)
  13. The Spine of Night (76%)
  14. Sing 2 (70%)
  15. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (69%)
  16. Wish Dragon (65%)
  17. Spirit Utamed (50%)
  18. The Boss Baby: Family Business (46%)
  19. Tom and Jerry (31%)
  20. The Addams Family 2 (29%)
  21. Space Jam: A New Legacy (25%)

Ten great Michael Nesmith songs

When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be a fireman or an astronaut. Nope. I wanted to be a Monkee. I wanted to be in a band where we all live in the same house and have wacky adventures.

As it turned out, when I was in college, I was in a band called The Naughty Bits where we did all live in the same house for a while (except the drummer who was still in high school and should not have been allowed to play in the clubs we were in), although we never had many wacky adventures.

And while my musical tastes changed over the years, I still remembered fondly the Monkees, and come on, they had some great hits. Why not? They had some of the greatest songwriters of their time penning music for them: Carole King, Neil Diamond, Boyce and Hart, Neil Sedaka, David Gates … and Michael Nesmith.

I’ve since co-written two books about the Monkees and their music, and have seen them in concert a number of times. We saw Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith just a few months ago in their farewell tour. Mike looked very ill, but was determined to carry on, knowing this was his last chance. And Micky clearly loved the guy, looked after him, made sure he hit his cues, and, well, it was heartwarming and sad at the same time.

People don’t realize how much Mike influenced music, bringing country rock to the foreground with the Monkees, writing songs for Linda Ronstadt and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He pretty much created MTV with his show “Popclips,” later won the first Grammy for “best video,” starred in his own TV show “Elephant Parts,” and financed films like “Repo Man” and “Tapeheads.”

And he wrote songs.

So here’s a random list of ten of the songs he wrote for the Monkees and for his solo career that I think showcase his talent. These are not his greatest hits; they’re just some of my favorites.

Bisexual superheroes?!!

Superman marries Lois Lane

(crickets)

Batman has sex with Catwoman

(silence)

Spider-Man gets it on with Mary Jane

(yawn)

Ironman has sex with as many women as possible

(meh)

Superman’s son kisses another man

Proud Boys: OMIGOD can’t they keep this sexual stuff off the comics? I don’t want to know about their private lives, I just want to see them fighting! Why do they have to shove this crap in my face?

Things I Have Never Done (and don’t want to)

Things have been crazy lately — been very busy and just not up to talking too much politics, so excuse me for not updating the blog as often as I should.

So today, I’m just going to have a bit of fun. I saw some meme where you assign points to things you’ve never done in your life, and there’s a lot I haven’t done that most other people have. So I’m going to waste your time listing a few here just for the fun of it, but also so I don’t go too long without updating the blog.

Things I Have Never Done (and don’t want to):

Have a hangover

Go skydiving

Get a tattoo

Smoke a cigarette

Take hard, illegal drugs

Get into a fistfight

Break a bone

Cheat on my wife

Go to a strip club

Go to Las Vegas to gamble

Buy lottery tickets

Eat a variety of rare meats

Watch a football game from start to finish

Attend a Mariah Carey convention

Binge-watch the Kardashian TV show

Participate in a riot trying to overthrow an election

The most popular memes from VentrelLaugh

I have a Facebook page called “VentrelLaugh” where I share memes and cartoons and jokes that make me laugh. That’s the only criteria. I try to stay away from too much topical stuff and political stuff because I want people to be able to scroll through the page and find funny things that won’t make them wonder what they’re about.

As you may guess if you know me, it emphasizes bad puns and nerdy humor.

And what surprises me sometimes is what things become popular. Some things I think are hilarious hardly get shared while other things become viral.

So here are the top 30 posts from the page, based on how many shares they received.

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#2, with 1077 shares

#1, with 4127 shares (for some reason)

Favorite “They Might Be Giants” animated videos

Two things I love: They Might Be Giants and good animation. So, for no other reason, here are some of my favorite animated videos of TMBG songs (that I could find on YouTube that were in good quality).

Sexy Grammies? Say it ain’t so

Look. There were some sexy things on the Grammy awards show last night that some of my friends here are all upset about.

Oh, like you never knew there were sexy things in music. Like your parents didn’t complain about the exact same thing watching Prince videos. Like your grandparents didn’t want to see Elvis shake his hips.

Should kids see this stuff? On one hand, well, that’s your decision as to how you raise your kids.

On the other hand, your kids probably know how to use the internet better than you. I can pretty much guarantee they’ve seen worse.

Just because it’s not insulting to you doesn’t mean it’s not insulting

There are people on the left and right complaining now because Disney has placed a warning before the Muppet Show telling people that there may be objectionable stereotypes from a TV show from 40 years ago. “There’s nothing in the Muppets that is insulting!” they say.

And, not surprisingly, these people are not the ones who were the target of the stereotypes.

Look, let’s be honest: A lot of humor that was acceptable back then is not today, but when you go “It’s not insulting to me” you sound like the white guys in the 1930s who said “What do you mean I can’t do blackface comedy any more? I don’t see anything wrong with it and neither does my audience!”

As a fan of the Muppets, I’ve been watching the shows and enjoying them, but yeah, I can see how there are some bits that some groups may find objectionable, like an entire show based around an evil gypsy curse, or Johnny Cash performing in front of a Confederate flag, or Jonathan Winters putting on a native American headdress and talking about Injuns and so on.

So what’s wrong with Disney basically saying, “Hey, look, we’re not censoring anything but some of these things may be objectionable, and this is especially important when it’s a show impressionable children may watch”?  Isn’t it a good thing that Disney is saying “We do not endorse these things”?

And it’s not like the Muppets are alone in this by any means, and in fact, they’re probably less likely to have these things in their show given how liberal Jim Henson was. 

So let me once more reiterate that whether it is insulting to you doesn’t matter, because it clearly is to somebody. And if that somebody tells you it is, who are you to argue otherwise? Listen to the experts. If women tell you something is insulting to women, listen to them. If black people tell you they are afraid of police, listen to them. They’re the experts. 

 

The Market and the Cancel Culture

“The market should decide!”

“Okay, the market has decided that it is in their best interest to get rid of Aunt Jemima and actors and commentators who say racist and sexist things that cause our advertisers to leave.”

“Not like that! Cancel culture! How dare the market decide these things!”

The Beatles “Get Back” film looks great!

There were over 50 hours of film recorded during the making of the “Let it Be” album, and the film LET IT BE tended to pick the parts that showed the band arguing instead of having fun with their music. Paul has repeatedly said that the film did not properly represent the group dynamics at the time, and, as someone who has been in a bunch of bands, let me tell you that there are always arguments. That’s just part of the process.

It doesn’t mean we don’t like our fellow band members or that we’re about to break up. I mean, I sometimes argue with my wife and I love her — of course I’m going to argue with my fellow band members.

They weren’t about to break up at that time. After all, after this was done, they worked together to create what I consider to be their greatest (and last) album ABBEY ROAD. Even then, there are recordings from that session where they were discussing what would be their next album after that!

So anyway, Peter Jackson is now recutting a new film from the old footage and he is making sure to show the fun part of making music as well as the arguments that go into arranging a song and deciding who plays what when and so on.

I’m enthusiastically looking forward to this, because as much as I am a Beatles fan, LET IT BE has never been the kind of film I want to watch over and over again. Maybe this one will be.