Time Out London loves me! Oh, wait.

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Bala and Z?  Or — Marx and Engels??

A well-meaning friend of mine saw today that Antz, a movie I co-wrote a long, long time ago, was recently named the 27th-best animated movie of all time by Time Out London! Yippee! That means I beat The Secret of NIMH! Take that, Porco Rosso! Better luck next time, Persepolis!

Let’s see what this prestigious arbiter of cultural taste has to say about this 27th-best animated movie of all time, a movie into which I, yay verily, poured into which my heart and soul! Hmm…

"…a drab and hamfisted Marxist allegory rammed down your throat…‘Antz’ may boast a great array of vocal talent, but it spends too much time pitching gags over the kiddies’ heads and flogging its adult credentials to ever get down to basics and actually entertain. Cartoons, of course, aren’t just for children, but ‘Antz’, in falling back on kid-friendlyby-the-numbers cartoon plotting, plunges between the stools of satire and slapstick." ALD

Ah. So, it’s not very good at all then. "Dreary Whining" is ALD’s final decree. Geez, I never felt sorry for The Secret of NIMH before, but to think that it’s somehow worse than "dreary whining," that must be quite a sad movie indeed.

"ALD"’s point, of course, is that Antz sucks in comparison to A Bug’s Life, which, well, if that’s his or her opinion, I’ve read harsher. If one hates Antz, why put it on the list at all? Or, if you feel a special need to vent spleen upon a movie that blows it, run a special side-column about animated movies you hate.

But the reason I bring your attention to this folly is the idea that Jeffrey Katzenberg, the producer of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, a man who was once described as "Satan" by a friend of mine because of his extreme capitalistic views, would make the first CGI-animated movie from Dreamworks a "hamfisted Marxist allegory." Mr. Katzenberg, let me assure the reader, can be described in many terms, but "Marxist" is not one of them. Not once in any of our story meetings was Mr. Katzenberg ever moved to utter the following: "No, no, no, no, no! Don’t you get it?! It’s a Marxist Allegory, and we’ve got to ram it down the audience’s throat!!  After all, we’re a major Hollywood studio!!"


51 Responses to “Time Out London loves me! Oh, wait.”
  1. shocka says:

    Yeah, take that, Persepolis.

    What’d you make of this week’s House, M.D.?

  2. medox says:

    How did they praise the #1 film?

    “Merely passable.”

    “Didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. Well, not both of them.”

    “crap. (but with only a lower-case ‘c’)”

    • Todd says:

      In their world, My Neighbor Totoro edges out Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Which, again, fine. But then they have Yellow Submarine at 7, above The Triplets of Belleville and South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, which, I mean, I don’t even know what I’m looking at after that.

  3. greyaenigma says:

    Well, we live in a time when people can accuse Obama of being the next Hitler, Stalin, and FDR in pretty much the same breath.

    I think dissonance is becoming the new sport of the commentariat.

  4. black13 says:

    I liked Antz better than Bugs Life. Even if they were the same story. I liked the Antz animation better.

    Besides, wasn’t Antz an animated Spartacus, rather than some ideological thingy?

  5. What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

    Dude put The Incredibles at number 24. He has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

    By the way, and I don’t know if I’ve already mentioned this (been following you for a while) but I really enjoyed Antz both when I first saw it and when I got it on VHS, and then again when I got it on DVD.

    “It’s some kind of…force field!” is in my top 10 movie lines of all time.

    • Todd says:

      Re: What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

      I don’t remember the “force field” line. I know I wrote the line where Woody Allen is rescued by a gigantic penny and he sees Lincoln and says “Who the hell is that?!” I was working on a Lincoln piece at the time and was really proud of that line staying in.

      • Re: What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

        haha you dont remember the forcefield line? It’s when he’s trying to get to the sandwich thats wrapped in seran wrap!

      • crypticpress says:

        Re: What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

        That Lincoln line nearly killed me dead when I saw the movie in the theater. I applaud you.

    • black13 says:

      Re: What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

      “Dude put The Incredibles at number 24. He has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.”

      Word. And not just because of The Incredibles. I had several other WTF moments in regards to that list.

      • Todd says:

        Re: What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

        Not to burst anyone’s bubble here, but I actually have it on good authority from magazine people that “best of” lists are utter bullshit, time-wasters thrown together to make people talk about the magazine. From the looks of this particular list, I’d say a more accurate title would be “50 Animated Movies We Can Name Off the Top of our Head.”

        • Re: What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

          “Best of” lists are always going to be extremely subjective. At best, maybe you get a bunch of people who are extremely knowledgeable about the subject together and have them come up with a list, but that doesn’t prevent personal prejudices or just plain forgetting or not having seen something from skewing the list in one direction or another. This one seems particularly bizarre, almost as though one person picked the movies and a completely different person was made to write the opinions of them. I know there are enough animated films out there that a person can list 30 to 50 of them without having to include on which that person obviously doesn’t like.

          The “Why I Love Animation” entries on my blog are an ongoing list of my personal favorites. Since it keep going, I can always add something I hadn’t remembered or seen before. And it’s not numbered, which works for me since I feel like ranking films is like trying to decide whether if I like a hippo abetter than a cheese grater.

          I should probably give Antz another look. I saw it in theaters and thought that A Bug’s Life was visually superior, but now I can probably watch it without comparing it to the other film. I will have to be careful not to let my love of your blog make me biased.

          • Todd says:

            Re: What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

            Well gee, if we’re talking about only the visuals, I’d probably say that, except for the baby-blue ants, A Bug’s Life is superior as well. It’s been a long time since I watched Antz, but I remember asking myself why the whole movie needed to be brown.

            • Re: What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

              It was probably one of the forefathers of the whole “brown equals real” movement, which can now be observed primarily in video games.

        • Anonymous says:

          Re: What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

          Sometimes the list is merely an attempt to placate the higher powers (that is, the magazine’s advertisers). Everyone knows it’s bullshit. In fact, yesterday I explained to one of my ad trolls that the absence of a particular item from a particular “best of” list was due to my desire to cut the bullshit. I’m sure that my lack of pandering will come back to bite me.

        • craigjclark says:

          Re: What comes after “both”? “Throth”?

          Not to burst anyone’s bubble here, but I actually have it on good authority from magazine people that “best of” lists are utter bullshit, time-wasters thrown together to make people talk about the magazine.

          Case in point: Entertainment Weekly‘s recent list of the Beatles’ 50 Best Songs and 5 Worst Songs. Curiously enough, “All You Need Is Love” managed to make both lists, coming in at #50 and #1, respectively.

  6. I really want to watch Antz again now. I loved it when it came out and when I watched it a number of times on VHS, but I must have missed all the Marxist allegory. Then again, I was 10, so that would be kind of understandable.

    And it’s way better than A Bug’s Life. The ants in A Bug’s Life didn’t even have the right number of legs.

    • Todd says:

      You missed the Marxist allegory because it was too ham-handed. I begged Mr. Katzenberg to make the allegory more subtle, but you know how he is, he must ram allegory down an audience’s throat, especially the Marxist sort. You were probably also distracted by the dreary whining, a lot of kids are.

    • crypticpress says:

      Nor do the grasshoppers have the right number of legs.

  7. What does “ham-fisted” even mean? “Ham-fisting” sounds like an arrestable offense.

  8. misterseth says:

    I can’t believe they screwed up the description of Laloux’s Gandahar with an icon of Fantastic Planet (#14)! Just wondering, what’s your opinion of Laloux’s filmography in general? I myself was astonished by Fantastic Planet, which IMHO demonstrates how far anyone can take the animation technique.
    P.S. congradulations on having Antz on the list!

    • Todd says:

      I’ve not seen Laloux, unfortunately. My wife saw Fantastic Planet at a young age and was freaked out by it — that’s all I got.

  9. wow! You co-wrote Antz? I loved that movie! and I loved it when i was a kid! I admit when I was a kid a few parts felt like a “grown up” movie to me. Particularly the romance between the two leads. I felt like there was something I was missing with them. (haha sexual tension? hehe)
    But I really loved it! haha I’m fangirling over you right now!

    • Todd says:

      There was a line I didn’t write, where Woody Allen uses the phrase “erotic fantasies,” that took me right out of the movie. I’m a huge Woody Allen fan, but even I didn’t want to be reminded of his erotic fantasies in the middle of my cartoon ant movie.

  10. rugor says:

    My seven-year-old daughter loves Antz – makes it more than good enough for us.

  11. malsperanza says:

    I had no particular interest in seeing Antz, but now that I know *you* are a dedicated leftist, I will rent it.

    As for “Roger Rabbit,” Katzenberg is clearly the model for the arch-capitalist Judge Doom, who is obviously the Ayn Randian visionary hero, dedicated to the glorious future of Los Angeles. He’s also the model for Noah Cross, right?

  12. After looking at the entry in question, I’m pretty sure Antz didn’t make the list, and was only mentioned to highlight why its counterpart A Bug’s Life was better. It’s just the writer of the list was awful at making this clear. So no, sorry, your Antz work doesn’t get to be bewilderingly named 27th best animated movie and then strangely immediately eviscerated; instead it just gets to be eviscerated in the midst of shoddy ambiguity by a crap writer whilst pimping the Other CG Ant Film.

    Still ridiculous, of course, What a strange list.

  13. vinic says:

    I tweeted this to you knowing full-well that the author took an awkward shit on Antz. I apologize for sliding bad vibes into your browser, but I hope you take solace in the fact that Antz will enjoy a large and intelligent cult following for years to come. Your response speaks to your character.

  14. ndgmtlcd says:

    Regretfully, “The Grave of the Fireflies” is the only film present on both lists

    You should take a look at their “The 50 greatest World War II movies” list. It’s an eye-opener as much as the animated film list.

    But in the end you have to remember that they don’t take the notion of “top of the list” and “bottom of the list” seriously, at all. Right down there at the bottom, at the number 49 spot they placed Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009). But they actually praise it:

    “From the industry in-jokes of ‘Shrek’ to the soul-searching self-help psychology of the ‘Ice Age’ movies, animators seem to have forgotten how to make movies for kids without patronising their parents. ‘Cloudy… ’ gets the balance just right, with a winning parade of witty asides, outrageous sight gags and beautifully judged character moments.”

    • Todd says:

      Re: Regretfully, “The Grave of the Fireflies” is the only film present on both lists

      Well, I liked Cloudy a lot better than I thought I would, but not for any of the reasons they cite.

  15. mimitabu says:

    if it makes you feel any better, any serious anime fan who would put totoro and spirited away as their number 1 and 2 wouldn’t be considered a serious anime fan anymore. they’d be dismissed with a derisive “what, too cool for princess mononoke?” (all 3–and mostly mononoke, which is part of what makes their choice “the poseur who’s bad at being a poseur”–being drastically overhyped miyazaki movies; good, but don’t belong anywhere near #1 on any list.)

    • Todd says:

      No offense to my British readers, but I gave up on the English critical establishment a long time ago. It seems that everything in London is either the second coming of the Beatles or else it’s pants.

      That said, they can put anything they want on their list and not get a complaint from me; it’s just when they make their judgments on the notion that Hollywood studios are run by closet Marxists who use highly-profitable children’s entertainment to ram their ham-fisted allegories down the throats of an audience. Only a Time Out London critic could come up with that kind of nonsense.

      • mimitabu says:

        whoa whoa whoa, you’re saying that hollywood isn’t a Liberal Media bastion run by communists trying to destroy the youth of the world? next you’re going to tell me that people are driven by money, or that sometimes powerful people lie. this is crazytalk.

    • mimitabu says:

      wow, looking over the other anime inclusions and omissions… pretty bizarre. perfect blue (beautiful, convoluted psychological thriller) somehow beats mononoke (miyazaki theme rehash that still is undoubtedly more important than an x-files monster of the week flick like perfect blue), while the obscure, charming, but totally pedestrian and without impact or influence in japan or overseas whisper of the heart somehow leaves those two in the dust. at the same time, the masochistic tearjerker grave of the fireflies manages to edge out “here’s the definitive post-war anime perspective on power, brought to you via animation so ahead of its time it blows away things made years later–oh and by the way, we also started the first real mainstream anime wave outside of japan” akira–and they both get beaten by a miyazaki throwaway (enjoyable though it is) like spirited away!

      if you use any sort of principled standard whatsoever, it makes no sense at all. in terms of cultural impact, the list is absolutely mindless… and if your esthetics and criticism go beyond “hmm, i liked that,” there’s no way at all you could construct a defensible explanation for the anime included on the list and its order.

      • Todd says:

        My kids went through a major Miyazaki crush surrounding the release of Ponyo. They’re big fans, Miyazaki is the third filmmaker they can name after Lucas and Spielberg, but even they were a little non-plussed by Whispers of the Heart.

      • Todd says:

        I just went back to look at the list again and gave up when I saw that The Jungle Book was listed above Pinocchio. After that I gave up.

      • robjmiller says:

        To be fair, Perfect Blue is amazing and, as good as it is, Mononoke is basically a violent version of Ferngully. The strong message of Mononoke detracts from the story and beautiful animation. That I can understand.

        Besides that, here’s a list of crimes in order of when I see them on the list (not paying attention to order, that is debunked enough).
        1. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within made a best of list. That is enough to ignore the rest of this, but I’ll continue.
        2. Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly share a spot, presumably because they both use extremely gimmicky Rotoscoping, without which no one would have cared much about either. Life would just be a lame indie doc and Scanner would be a mediocre drug flick, but instead they are “trippy.” I blame Pink Floyd.
        3. Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline share a spot due to being directed by Henry Selick (how many spots does Miyazaki have?). Both are incredible simply for their great strides in animation, not to mention everything else that makes them so unique and precious (narrative, music, voicing, etc).
        4. What the hell is the Brave Little Toaster. Being born in 1984, I should be the target demographic and I have no idea what this is.
        5. Yellow Submarine, presumably on the list because it’s inclusion promotes both British nationalism and the Beatles, something no British ‘Best of’ list can fail to hit lest it bring about the apocalypse.
        6. #3 The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, simply a nod to Hanna-Barbera without having to mention Space Jam.

        • Todd says:

          The Brave Little Toaster isn’t a bad movie, but it didn’t get a very wide release, or even a commercial release, even. I saw it at, of all places, Film Forum in NYC. It’s got its charm, but The Iron Giant, for instance, is freakin’ Lawrence of Arabia next to it.

    • inkboy says:

      Really? I like TOTORO and SPIRITED AWAY and PORCO ROSSO but it’s because I think they are genuinely great, classic movies. I can assure you it’s a question of personal taste and I did not consult any hype meters before deciding. I might not put SGT. PEPPER at the top of my music list but I wouldn’t deride anyone who did as a poseur or not a serious music fan. I’ve enjoyed plenty of other anime, such as GITS, AKIRA, PATLABOR, TEKKON KINKREET, PERFECT BLUE, CAT SOUP, and MIND GAME, but I just happen to prefer Miyazaki’s films. It’s fun to rank our favorites and argue about choices but there’s no need to be dismissive. I don’t think we’re talking about CITIZEN KANE vs. PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE here.

  16. portolan says:

    I think the use of the word “hamfisted” is Marxist…

    …I’m just saying.