Raya and the Last Dragon

Centuries after the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity in a war, Raya sets out to unite the human tribes of Kumandra once again and stop an old threat, with the help of the last dragon Sisu.

It’s easy to wonder why Disney would waste time with an easy cash-grab sequel like Frozen 2 when tasked with original films, they knock it out of the park. Raya and the Last Dragon proves so with stunning images and settings, and an engrossing adventure that, although I wish I had seen in theaters (which wasn’t possible due to the film not having a wide release, although it is available on Disney+), makes a story that would otherwise be familiar feel inviting and visually memorable. For those seeing it on the big screen, it’ll be surely unforgettable. The mythical settings and journeys to different corners of Kumandra make this feel like a more epic journey than any of Disney’s live-action films, and the skies, buildings, lights, and natural world that the characters interact with make this another achievement when it comes to animation, and its no less than another such adventure film on Disney’s resume, Moana. Kelly Marie Tran brings a complex voice character who displays optimism, empathy, bravery, rage, and determination in many stages of the film, bringing a flawed hero but one that fits perfectly into Disney’s roster of strong animated heroes. Awkwafina is a joy as Sisu and brings much needed comedic relief and enjoyment to an already great movie. Ever since her amazing performance in The Farewell, the actress/comedian has proven to be a treasure in Hollywood. She was such an inspired and wholesome choice to voice the charismatic dragon who, although 500 years old, has a youthful energy to her as she is figuring out how to be a hero as much as Raya. Benedict Wong is also excellent as a supporting hero. While there are no one-sided villains, Gemma Chan certainly plays a standout character, and Sandra Oh and Daniel Dae Kim are great too as the parents of Chan and Tran’s characters, respectively.

The chemistry between Tran and Awkwafina’s characters, the breathtaking animation, and the large scale are the binding elements of what make this movie another instant classic. The imaginative worlds and challenges the leads face through new settings, as well as the colorful and lively action sequences, felt as exciting to me as it would to child audiences. While the film’s emotional core and themes aren’t as moving as Soul‘s, which I think had some of the strongest messages in animation lately, the movie does have touching messages that will definitely work especially for younger audiences, and serve the story well enough, about choosing trust and empathy over greed and fighting. It’s only unfortunate that Disney didn’t wait for everyone to experience this film theatrically, as it’s one of their most visually imaginative films in years. But that’s another story. Whether you do seek it out in a theater near you or stream it on Disney+, watch it with your family and loved ones.

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The 78th Golden Globe Awards

Last night, the Golden Globes honored a hectic year of movies and television. Here are the winners in the film categories:

Best Picture – Drama: Nomadland

Best Picture – Musical or Comedy: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Director: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

Best Actor – Drama: Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Actress – Drama: Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy: Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy: Rosamund Pike – I Care a Lot

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actress: Jodie Foster – The Mauritanian

Best Screenplay: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Original Score: Soul

Best Original Song: “Io Si (Seen)” from The Life Ahead

Best Animated Feature: Soul

Best Foreign Language Film: Minari (USA)

I was mostly satisfied by the winners, even though the presentation was far from perfect with the hybrid in-person/virtual format. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did their best but clearly they thrive best with a full audience and even though they tried to stick it to the HFPA’s controversies, Ricky Gervais did a much better job last year. The nominees were also far from perfect — Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods was completely shut out. Minari won Best Foreign Language Film because it is mostly in Korean, but sparked controversy because it was produced in America, so why not let it qualify for Best Drama? In my opinion, cinema is cinema and the boundary of subtitles is simply an addition to watching a film when it’s in a different language, not an obstacle. Sia’s directioral debut Music was nominated despite apparently having an offensive representation of autism, and Hamilton, while culturally resonant, was a filmed musical, not really a movie. So in that weak comedy category, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was the only decent one in my opinion (but still not excellent), while Emma, On the Rocks, and The King of Staten Island would’ve made for great nominees over Hamilton, Music, and The Prom. There was also the controversy coming up of the lack of black members in the HFPA. While this was addressed and needs to continue to be addressed, a large number of black artists did also win awards during the ceremony, including the incredible Daniel Kaluuya who took my breath away as Fred Hampton. Another deserving win was the late Chadwick Boseman, who delivered one of the best performances of the year and his wife paid touching tribute to the legend as he won posthumously. Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to win Best Director for her unique work in Nomadland, and there was a record number of female director nominees, including Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman and Regina King for One Night in Miami — all three were deserving of a nomination to me. However, the one win I disagree with was Andra Day — she was amazing in her debut role, but having seen all 5 of the films in her category, I think all 4 of the other performances were superior. Carey Mulligan and Vanessa Kirby were groundbreaking in their respective films, and I wish one of them had won. Jane Fonda also won a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in films, TV, and activism throughout the decades.

2021 Golden Globe Nominations: See the Full List | Entertainment Tonight