The Shape of Water
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
The Shape of Water is a fantasy romance about a woman and a human-like amphibian. A kitschy but moving Cold War fairytale, The Shape of Water evinces passion and individuality without pretension — a highly entertaining movie.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, adapted from Miyazaki’s manga of the same name, is an animated epic fantasy film. Nausicaä has only a shadow of the impossibly beautiful animation of Miyazaki’s later and better financed films, and it wears its obvious narrative shortcomings on its sleeves, but none of its flaws distract from its immense charm, energy, depth, and urgency.
Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker
Moana is a computer-animated musical about the eponymous daughter of a Polynesian chief and Maui, the Polynesian mythological figure. Everything about Moana – the music, the plot, the animation – is slick and polished, but while the song lyrics, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina, are sometimes clever, the story is rote and the animation sports a sheen of dead-eyed flawlessness. The movie is depressingly watchable.
Would not see.
The Red Turtle
Directed by Michaël Dudok de Wit
The Red Turtle is an animated fantasy film. The film uses a blend of hand-drawn and computer animation and has no dialogue. The visuals are stunningly lavish, and the story is an enigmatic fairytale. The film, though, somehow, always appears on the verge of achieving something more than it does.
Where the Wild Things Are
Directed by Spike Jonze
Where the Wild Things Are, based on Maurice Sendak’s 1963 book of the same name, is a drama about a child, Max, who goes on a fantastical journey to an island populated by wild things. The film is an excellent adaptation and an excellent film. It captures the intensity and abstractness of childhood emotion, recognizing Max’s sincere fear as well his unencumbered joy. Where the Wild Things Are looks honestly at the frustration and freedom of being a child.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Directed by Isao Takahata
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is an animated film based on the folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. The film is stunningly animated, even by the high standards of Studio Ghibli. Unlike some Ghibli films, it is better seen subtitled than dubbed into English due to lackluster English voice acting. The Tale of Princess Kaguya’s lyrical images, well-crafted score, close attention to emotional detail, and strong thematic voice allow the film to effortlessly transcend its expectations.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Directed by Wes Anderson
Fantastic Mr. Fox is Wes Anderson’s distinctly personal adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel about a clever fox who outwits three mean farmers. Fantastic Mr. Fox has meticulously animation, an unobtrusively sincerity, and a feeling of effortlessness that greatly belies the rarity of the film’s accomplishment.
The King and the Mockingbird
Directed by Paul Grimault
The King and the Mockingbird is a French language animated film, loosely based on “The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep,” that follows a king, a chimneysweep, and a shepherdess, who walk out of their paintings and take life, and a bird who tries to save the chimneysweep and shepherdess from the malicious king. The film has been cited by Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki as an influence, and it often shows. The animation is somewhat simplistic, but The King and the Mockingbird is a whimsical, funny, and delightful, if slight, film before its weightily philosophical, and wholly unexpected, ending.
Being John Malkovich
Directed by Spike Jonze
Being John Malkovich is a comedy about a puppeteer who finds a portal that allows him to be the actor, John Malkovich. The film is surreal, unique, engaging, jarring, off-putting, and very funny. Full of unexpected turns, dense symbolism, and dark insights, Being John Malkovich defies category and expectation.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is the third fantasy film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series; it wraps up the conflict begun in Dead Man’s Chest. At World’s End could become tiresome to anyone not fully enamored of the franchise because it builds inward on prior jokes to such an extent that many lines would be otherwise unintelligible.