REVIEW: Kubo and the Two Strings

13 01 2017

It brings me no joy to make categorical distinctions like this … but I just don’t think the storytelling of Laika Entertainment is just not for me. First “Coraline,” then “ParaNorman, ” and now “Kubo and the Two Strings” have all left me grasping at straws and wanting for more. Dazzling and creative as their animation might look, the narratives and the emotions never have much of a hook.

Travis Knight’s film boasts a fairly common hero’s journey-style narrative, as the scrappy titular character goes on a search for magic armor that will fend off the evil spirits that hunt him down. Turns out, Kubo belongs to a fraught family tree where his main pursuers are actually his grandfather the Moon King (voice of Ralph Fiennes) and his aunts, the Sariatu Sisters (voice of Rooney Mara). Along the way, he must band together with allies who have been reincarnated as animals – his mother as a monkey (voice of Charlize Theron) and a beetle with a connection to Kubo’s deceased father (voice of Matthew McConaughey).

I’d rather not go too much into plot summary, which is admittedly all I have in the absence of any strong feelings one way or the other. To blather on and on about how impressive the stop-motion animation was can serve no good. These are admittedly among the hardest reviews to write: the ones where I just felt entirely neutral. Especially when everyone else seems to love it, but that’s reacting to reactions rather than the movie. Guess I’ll just continue in my position on the outside looking in at Laika love. C+2stars

REVIEW: Do I Sound Gay?

5 12 2015

Do I Sound GayDavid Thorpe is not a professional (or at least an established) documentarian, so his debut feature “Do I Sound Gay?” has a few more rough edges than most films put out by a distributor like IFC. But given his background as a journalist, he gets to more answers than most.

In just 77 minutes, Thorpe’s film begins with a personal exploration of insecurities surrounding the sound of his own voice and opens a treasure trove of other issues. He starts from the beginning with how vocal cadences and intonations become an early target for bullying, forcing many children into a painful closet. While at this life stage, he also questions why so many speech therapy patients turn out to be gay (oh, societally constructed norms, at it again).

He then moves beyond just the what and moves into the why. Where does this voice – traditionally nasal, high-pitched with elongated vowels – come from? Why has it become such a key identifier for homosexuals? Why do so many, including those within the gay community, find it so repellant? How does it perpetuate stereotypes? Many answers are surprising, uncovering pockets of homophobia and even misogyny that deserve address and redress.

Thorpe does slightly fumble the ending, trying to make the jump from talking about the voice of a person to LGBT Americans finding their voice in culture. Sure, it’s a bit corny – though it hardly detracts from the fascinating points, both practical and philosophical, that Thorpe raises throughout “Do I Sound Gay?” B+3stars