A Frozen Wind

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With the announcement of this year's Oscar nominees, there was, as usual, only one award I really cared to find out about (it's the same award the Academy cares the least about), Best Animated Feature. This year I was particularly curious for two reasons: The first is Frozen, Disney's surprise animated phenom that, despite what the misguided (secretly genius?) marketing may have lead me to believe, has become my all time favorite Disney animated film (yes, I will confidently say that). The other reason was The Wind Rises, which I have yet to see for myself (it's not getting a "proper" US release until February), but if Miyazaki holds true to his word of retirement, this will be the last film directed by the greatest animator the world has ever known.

Thankfully, both films made it into the running for Best Animated Feature, and are joined by three additional nominees in the box-office smash Despicable Me 2, the "I forgot it even existed" Dreamworks film,The Croods, and Ernest & Celestine, this year's obligatory "I've never heard of it" animated feature. Oddly absent is Monsters University, which, while far from Pixar's best film, was certainly more enjoyable than their more recent efforts (Brave was hardly enjoyable at all, and managed to steal the award from far more deserving films). At the very least, we know Pixar won't just be handed the award just for showing up again.

Not to discredit the three other nominees (I rather enjoyed Despicable Me 2), but they are more or less filling up the spaces. This award is between two films, Frozen and The Wind Rises. And for the first time in forever (Ha! Frozen reference), I am conflicted as to who I want to see walk away with the award.

Frozen is a film that took me completely by surprise. I went in with very little expectations, and what I got was more than a great film, but it was something truly special. A musical in which I loved every last song, a fairy tale that couldn't be more sincere, a story that was heartfelt and (in a rarity for Disney) full of surprises, and most importantly of all, the most likable and endearing characters I can recall in Disney's history (who, for another change of the studio, have their share of emotional depths). Frozen is a rare instance where I will say it completely deserves every bit of its success and accolades.

Then there's The Wind Rises, which I may not yet be able to give a personal take on, but I can wholeheartedly understand its significance. Hayao Miyazaki's career is unparalleled in animation. That this is his final film should in itself warrant an award. Miyazaki has only won one Oscar in his illustrious career (the 2002 Best animated Feature for Spirited Away), and while the Academy couldn't have been more right on that day, they have since left the great director off their radar.

Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle earned a nomination in 2005, but failed to win the award, while in 2009, his penultimate film, Ponyo, failed to even get that much (which is a travesty, the more I think about it the more I come to realize just how much more deserving it was than Pixar's Up). And in 2012, The Secret World of Arrietty, while not directed by Miyazaki but still from his studio, was again snubbed (and once again, Pixar was handed the award). I'm happy to see Miyazaki's final film get some recognition, it's just a shame it's taken this long for the Academy to remember his existence.

But now Pixar is left on the sidelines, it's Disney and Studio Ghibli's turn to go toe-to-toe. But will Miyazaki's retirement sway the Academy to cap off his career with a long-overdue second Oscar win? Or will Disney's Frozen surprise us all once again and become the first film from Disney to win Best Animated Feature?

The Academy has wronged what should be a prestigious honor in the Best Animated Feature Oscar through the years. For every great winner (Spirited Away, The Incredibles), there have been some terrible ones (Brave and the insufferable bore that is Happy Feet). Pixar, great as they may be, has pretty much just been handed the award for years now, whether deserving or not. And while great animated films like Ponyo or Millennium Actress have been snubbed, animated train wrecks like Shark Tale and Jimmy Neutron have managed to fill their places.

But now the Academy has the opportunity to give this award the credibility it hasn't seen in years. Two opportunities, actually. It all depends on which opportunity the Academy chooses to take. Will Disney be rewarded for creating a film that truly realizes their often-touted "magical" moniker? Or will the Academy try to make amends for past mistakes and close Miyazaki's career with one more Oscar?

Either way, the opportunity's golden.

IGN Chose a Great Game of the Year...for the Wrong Reasons

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We all know by now that The Last of Us won IGN's Game of the Year, which I have no problem with because it's a great game that I very much enjoyed... Although it was a painfully obvious choice for IGN (Sony exclusive, incredibly hyped, dark and gritty tone...yeah IGN probably had it in mind to win before it was even released). But after watching IGN's Game of the Year video explaining why it won, well, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Even ignoring the awkwardly pretentious camera work during the editors discussing why it won (seriously, you're not making a major motion picture here), the video only seemed to hurt the image of the game and demean the idea of the Game of the Year award itself.

The entire video was dedicated to one thing: The story.

Now, don't get me wrong. The story is terrific. And I have nothing against stories in video games. But it's seriously all they talked about in the video. They would say things like "interactivity doesn't need to get in the way of story" but shouldn't it be the other way around? This is "Game of the Year" after all isn't it? Not best story or cinematics (although The Last of Us would deserve such awards), but Game of the Year. The key word there is "game."

The Last of Us is a great game. So why not bring that up in the video? Everything was "video games can do what movies do" this and "narratively this is the game all other games will be trying to beat in 2014 or even 2015." I have no problem with them talking about the story of The Last of Us, again, it's great. But shouldn't there have been a bit more mention about, oh, I don't know, how well the game worked? How it made great set pieces for gameplay and added enough tweaks to it genre to make it feel fresh? Or what about that great (and terribly addicting) multiplayer?

What about them indeed. Aside from brief, throwaway compliments, IGN barely mentioned what makes The Last of Us work so well as a game. They just went on and on about how movie-like the game can get, which I don't think is the ideal message considering, again, this is Game of the Year.

It almost feels like IGN just gave The Last of Us Game of the Year because they feel it reaffirms the idea that video games "rival" movies. But video games aren't rivals to movies, video games are different than movies. Video games are video games. Yes, they can have cinematic aspects and tell great, meaningful stories. But they're video games, and there's nothing wrong with that.

So why not put a little more emphasis on why The Last of Us was a great video game? There's certainly no shortage of reasons for it. Yes, it's cinematic aspects were great, and certainly trump most other games that attempt something similar. But it's also a great video game. And shouldn't that be at the heart of a Game of the Year?

My 2013 Video Game Awards!

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Happy (almost) New Year everybody!

Hey, for once, I actually got my video game awards done on time! How about that?

Well, I hope you enjoy these, they took me a while to write so hopefully, y'know, you'll read them or something. Now that I got this done hopefully I can get moving on the other things I promised.

Here are the majority of my 2013 video game awards.

Here are my top 10 video games of 2013 (Game of the Year)

My (Written) Review of Super Mario 3D World

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Here is my review for Super Mario 3D World on my blog. Enjoy.

I still plan on doing a video review of Super Mario 3D World, but since I'm just now (finally) getting started with such reviews, I feel I should start with what I'm used to (writing) and use it for reference in my video review. Granted, my first few video reviews might end up similar to my written reviews for this reason, but I feel it will be a helpful segue.

Anchorman 2 and Merry Christmas!

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I saw Anchorman 2 last night. It was surprisingly funny. I say surprisingly because, well, comedy sequels tend to...oh, I don't know, suck. I admit I haven't seen the first Anchorman for about eight years, but from what I remember it was really funny. And the sequel brought similar laughs.

It could get a little too in love with itself at times, and I have to say it felt longer than it needed to be, with some moments feeling like they dragged on a bit. But overall it was one of the few comedies I've seen in years that I can say I actually found funny. I especially like the ending parts when all logic is thrown out the window. It was just great to see a comedy that wasn't solely reliant on raunch (it still had its share, but only in doses), and I certainly appreciated that, unlike so many of today's "comedies" it didn't have any "Applebee's humor" (it's a term me and my brother came up with...yeah, I'm trying to make it a thing).

So yeah, funny movie.

And a merry Christmas to everyone! May you party it up with Santa!

I'll be seeing The Desolation of Smaug tonight, and tomorrow I'll be celebrating Christmas by seeing Frozen (for the fifth time, no less) at the El Capitan theater in LA. Because nothing says "happy holidays!" like great movies.

Merry Christmas!

Time for some Freedom!

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I just finished writing my final for a film class, which was my last (and most enjoyable) class of this semester, which means I have a month of freedom from college work! Huzzah! Praise the sun!

I plan on spending my winter break primarily catching up with drawing and writing, but naturally video games will come into the equation. And I plan on seeing Frozen an inhuman number of times. Love that movie so much.

This will also be a great time for me to try and finally get started on my long-promised, often-forgotten video reviews. I'll try to get cracking on that. Real power-practicing with that voice recording stuff. Maybe in a few weeks I might be able to finally fulfill my promise to you guys (which you probably never cared about anyway) and make the darned videos.

Of course, thee's always work to be done, but with college and homework out of the way for a month...hot dog! It really helps free up time.

Any particular game anyone would like me to use for my first video review? I was thinking maybe Mario 3D World.