Best and Worst Animated Films of 2019

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

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.51MKTRQpAhL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

There were some really great films this year I did get to catch, though.

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).  It only includes films that actually were released to theaters, even for a day, and had at least five reviews in order to get a Rotten Tomatoes score. (Lots of bad films go directly to DVD or cable.) Ties are broken by number of reviews.

  1. Toy Story 4 (97%)
  2. Klaus (92%)
  3. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (90%)
  4. Missing Link (89%)
  5. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (85%)
  6. Abominable (81%)
  7. Frozen II (77%)
  8. Spies in Disguise (73%)
  9. The Angry Birds Movie 2 (73%)
  10. Lady and the Tramp (65%)
  11. The Secret Life of Pets 2 (59%)
  12. The Lion King (53%)
  13. The Addams Family (43%)
  14. Wonder Park (33%)
  15. Ugly Dolls (28%)
  16. Playmobil (16%)
  17. Arctic Dogs (13%)

Christmas Laughs

“I bought my brother some gift wrap for Christmas. I took it to the Gift Wrap department and told them to wrap it, but in a different print so he would know when to stop unwrapping.” – Steven Wright

“What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.” – Phyllis Diller

“I played Santa Claus many times, and if you don’t believe it, check out the divorce settlements awarded my wives.” – Groucho Marxgroucho claus

“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!’” — Dave Barry

“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” – Jay Leno

“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.” – Dennis Miller

“Christmas is the only religious holiday that is also a federal holiday. That way, Christians can go to their services, and everyone else can sit at home and reflect on the true meaning of the separation of church and state.” – Samantha Bee 

“Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven.” – W. C. Fields

“This holiday season, no matter what your religion is, please take a moment to reflect on why it’s better than all the other ones.” Guy Endore Kaiser

“Ever wonder what people got Jesus for Christmas? It’s like, ‘Oh great, socks. You know I’m dying for your sins right? Yeah, but thanks for the socks! They’ll go great with my sandals. What am I, German?’” – Jim Gaffigan

“My grandmother passed away at Christmas time. So now I have this built in sadness every holiday beause I’m plagued with the thought of what she would have given me.” – Laura Knightlinger

“The one thing women don’t want to find in their stockings on Christmas morning is their husband.” – Joan Rivers

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.” – Shirley Temple

“Let me see if I’ve got this Santa business straight. You say he wears a beard, has no discernible source of income and flies to cities all over the world under cover of darkness? You sure this guy isn’t laundering illegal drug money?” – Tom Armstrong

“Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year.” – Victor Borge

“Santa Claus wears a Red Suit, he must be a communist. And a beard and long hair, must be a pacifist. What’s in that pipe that he’s smoking?” Arlo Guthrie

“The office Christmas party is a great opportunity to catch up with people you haven’t seen for 20 minutes.” — Julius Sharpe

“Roses are reddish, Violets are bluish, If it weren’t for Christmas, We’d all be Jewish.” – Benny Hill

“Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas. You know, the birth of Santa?” – Matt Groening

“Be careful with drinking this Christmas. I got so drunk last night I found myself dancing in a cheesy bar… or, as you like to call it, delicatessen.” Sean Hughes

“Christmas is a baby shower that went way overboard.” – Andy Borowitz

“There are 17 more shopping days until Christmas. So guys, that means 16 more days until we start shopping, right?” – Conan O’Brien

“One thing I learned from drinking is that if you ever go Christmas caroling, you should go with a group of people. And also go in mid-December.” – Louis C.K.

“Let’s be naughty and save Santa the trip.” – Gary Allan

“My mother-in-law has come round to our house at Christmas seven years running. This year we’re having a change. We’re going to let her in.” – Leslie “Les” Dawson, Jr.

“This past Christmas, I told my girlfriend for months in advance that all I wanted was an Xbox. That’s it. Beginning and end of list, Xbox. You know what she got me? A homemade frame with a picture of us from our first date together. Which was fine. Because I got her an Xbox.” – Anthony Jeselnik

“Merry Christmas, Nearly Everybody!” – Ogden Nash

Across the Universe

Allow me to ignore life’s problems and politics for a minute for something more fun:  My latest anthology (co-edited with Randee Dawn).

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It’s a great anthology of “Alternate Beatles” stories with some of the top writers in the field of science fiction and fantasy! (In order of appearance): Spider Robinson, Charles Barouch, Gordon Linzner, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Sally Wiener Grotta, Ken Schneyer, David Gerrold, Cat Rambo, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Bev Vincent, Patrick Barb, Carol Gyzander, Pat Cadigan, Gail Z. Martin, Barbara Clough, Eric Avedissian, Alan Goldsher, R. Jean Mathieu, Beth W. Patterson, Christian Smith, Gregory Frost, Matthew Amati, and Gregory Benford.

It’s available in hard cover or paperback!

We’ve already received some great reviews!

“This collection is a Magical Mystery Tour through alternate universes where the familiar narrative of the Beatles is turned on its head. Or ear. Or ass. It’s fun, irreverent, sexy, and twisted–just like the Fab Four themselves.” — Vicki Peterson, The Bangles

“I must have read a thousand Beatles books. But not one of them mentioned that the Beatles were attacked by aliens at the Hollywood Bowl. Or talked about their encounter with the Mersey Monster. Or discussed how they became zombies. I had to learn all of this from the thoroughly entertaining anthology Across the Universe. Each of its 25 stories of speculative fiction re-imagine The Beatles in alternative universes, allowing us to laugh at and with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Highly recommended!” — Scott Freiman, creator of Deconstructing the Beatles

Across the Universe is way too much fun! It’s the Beatles in the Twilight Zone of infinite possibilities! Highly recommended!” — Jonathan MaberryNew York Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Rage

Across the Universe is a fantastic, freewheeling, and imaginative romp of a collection. The authors transported me not only across the universe, but to what might have been in many and various alternate universes, all populated by the Beatles and their peculiar possible transmutations. Totally engrossing.” — Paul Marshall, Strawberry Alarm Clock

 “The Fab Four are reimagined as wizards, robots, hockey players, zombies, the Marx Brothers, and more in this anthology from Ventrella (Big Stick) and Dawn (Home for the Holidays). An introduction by “Wicked” series coauthor Nancy Holder sets the stage. Standouts include the clever time-travel, short-short “The Perfect Bridge” by Charles Barouch; “Meet the Beatles” by Pat Cadigan, a delightful exercise in nostalgia; and two stories based on the “Paul is dead” hoax: “Paul Is Dead” by Lawrence Watt-Evans, in which an alternate universe Paul replaces the original, and “When I’m #64” by Patrick Barb, in which Paul constantly dies and comes back to life. The absolute standout is “Through a Glass Onion” by Christian H. Smith, a poignant, inspirational tale about a failed musician named John Lennon from another universe who is given a vision of the success he had in ours. VERDICT: This anthology will be mostly of interest to Beatles fans, but even non-fans will find stories here that will move and surprise them.” — Library Journal

“Ranging from trippy fantasy to hard science fiction and zombie apocalypse mash-up, the stories in this anthology send the members of the Beatles on wild adventures through alternate timelines and universes. In Allen M. Steele’s “Come Together,” artificial intelligences named for each of the Fab Four identify so strongly with their namesakes that they jeopardize their space probe’s mission when they begin to fall out with one another, mimicking the breakup of the band. An idealistic George Harrison tries to teach transcendental meditation to Richard Nixon with disastrous geopolitical results in Sally Wiener Grotta’s “The Truth Within.” Gregory Frost’s “A Hard Day’s Night at the Opera” plugs the band members into the plot of a Marx brothers movie to hilarious effect. It’s clear that each of the 25 contributors are true fans, filling their tales with references to Beatles history and, in the case of David M. Gerrold’s “The Fabtastic Four,” so many song lyrics that readers will be tempted to sing along. Beatles aficionados and fantasy fans will enjoy this affectionate, speculative homage.” — Publishers Weekly

The Best of Peter Tork

While other young boys wanted to be spacemen or firefighters, I wanted to be in a band just like the Monkees. I’d write music and have wacky adventures. That was my fantasy.

I taught myself how to play a passable guitar and piano and later was in a number of bands (playing bass), writing and performing my own songs. Never had that many wacky adventures, though…

About a year ago, I teamed up with popular culture historian Mark Arnold and wrote a book about the Monkees’ music, which was published by Bear Manor Media.Monkees cover

So you can guess that Peter Tork’s death yesterday was a blow to my childhood. It wasn’t completely unexpected — he had stayed out of public for the last year for undisclosed medical reasons. Still, it hits you.

I can go into detail about his career but there are plenty of places where you can read that. I’ll just point out that Peter was the most talented musician of the group, and was very frustrated by the fact that he thought he had been hired to be in a television band but they didn’t allow him to play on any of the records (at first). Later, his keyboard playing especially made a big difference to the songs (see “Daydream Believer,” “Randy Scouse Git” and “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” and notice how important the keys are to those songs).

He was not the best singer and not the best songwriter. Still, he wrote a few really great songs for the Monkees. Let’s review:

FOR PETE’S SAKE was the song he wrote that got used as the closing theme to the show the second year. Peter plays the distinctive guitar riff that opens the song. You all know this one:  “In this generation…”

CAN YOU DIG IT? was a wonderful hippie anthem that was part of the Monkees’ film “Head.”

Also from “Head” is LONG TITLE: DO I HAVE TO DO THIS ALL OVER AGAIN? (and now you get the title of our book, too). Peter gets to sing on this one!

Later, during one of the Monkees reunions, he wrote GETTIN’ IN, an 80s pop ballad that would have fit right in with “Ghostbusters” and “Pop Musik” had it been released as a single.

Around this same time, he had a great song called MGBGT, but there’s only live versions of the Monkees performing it.

He wrote more, but these are my favorites.

So here’s to Peter! (And if you want to read more about the Monkees’ music, I have a suggestion…)

Release the Virgins!

Many bloggers have donate buttons so you can support their work and help them pay the fees to the web host. Not me.

I just ask you to buy my books.  It’s a win-win! I get another book sale and you get to not only keep reading my blog, but have fun with a new book!

My latest — coming only a month after my last novel “Big Stick” — is an anthology I edited which contains stories from some of the top writers in science fiction and fantasy!

The idea was simple: Each story had to contain the phrase “release the virgins.” We even had a humorous short promotional video made which features all of the writers (and me)!

Look at this great lineup of stories:

“Valedictory” by Lawrence Watt-Evans
“Sidekicked” by Hildy Silverman
“Command Decision” by Steve Miller
“Are You There, Cthulhu? It’s Me, Judy” by Beth W. Patterson
“Innocence Lost” by Gail Z. Martin
“How Mose Saved the Virgins of Old New York” by Allen M. Steele
“The Fires of Rome” by Jody Lynn Nye
“Salvage” by Shariann Lewitt
“The Midwinter of Our Discontent” by Keith R.A. DeCandido
“Coming Attractions” by Daniel M. Kimmel
“Cracking the Vault” by Matt Bechtel
“The Coffee Corps” by Alex Shvartsman
“The Vestals of Midnight” by Sharon Lee
“Paradisiacal Protocols” by Gordon Linzner
“Brass Tacks” by Cecilia Tan
“Old Spirits” by Brian Trent
“The Running of the Drones” by Patrick Thomas
“Dangerous Virgins” by David Gerrold

It’s available in hard cover, paperback, kindle or nook versions!  Upon its release, it even made the top 10 for “science fiction anthologies” on Amazon.

So grab a copy yourself and release the virgins!

virgins cover jpg

Best and Worst Animated Films of 2018

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

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.51MKTRQpAhL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

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.

There were some really great films this year I did get to catch, though.

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 the end-of-the-year list of best and worst animated films (based on their Rotten Tomatoes score).  It only includes films that actually were released to theaters and had at least five reviews in order to get a Rotten Tomatoes score. (Lots of bad films go directly to DVD or cable.) Ties are broken by number of reviews.

  1. Paddington 2 (100%)
  2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (97%)
  3. Incredibles 2 (94%)
  4. Teen Titans Go to the Movies (91%)
  5. Mirai (91%)
  6. Isle of Dogs (89%)
  7. Ralph Breaks the Internet (89%)
  8. Mary and the Witches’ Flower (87%)
  9. Sgt. Stubby (86%)
  10. Early Man (81%)
  11. Liz and the Blue Bird (78%)
  12. Smallfoot (75%)
  13. Peter Rabbit (64%)
  14. Hotel Transylvania 3 (59%)
  15. The Grinch (57%)
  16. Sherlock Gnomes (27%)
  17. Monster Family (10%)

 

Norwegian Would (This Trump has Flown)

I once had a job raking the leaves
Out in the woods
A socialist job keeping them safe
The best I could

A Scandinavian task that was needed it seems
I moved the leaves from the forest and into the streams

So day after day I raked away
Down through the snow
“An important task” they’d say when I’d ask
I didn’t know

It was demeaning and tiring and I couldn’t see
How this was a process done in any other country

So one day I stopped and took a break
There’s my mistake
The forest caught fire
I didn’t do good
But a Norwegian would

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