Sometimes I hate that damn Last Seen Movie thread. People drop in reactions to movies, and by the time I get around to the films myself, I can't remember where I saw the write-ups, and have to go hunting back 7-10 pages. It's a great thread for older or obscurer movies, but isn't it more convenient to limit detailed responses to current films to either individual threads, or, for less major efforts, this thread?
End of screed. On to Coraline, which occasioned it.
I liked the film alot, though maybe not quite as much as Sonic. I doubt it'd be to Damien's taste, as it's clearly a "children's story", but it's a fairly rich and, I might say, mature one. Coraline's unhappiness with her family is all too real (and all too common), and the film deals forthrightly with the near-universal yearnings for a different life and the concurrent fear of losing what we have. There's a happy ending to it all, of course, but the mere acknowledgment of this other side of the equation makes the film at times starkly terrifying (reminiscent of how It's a Wonderful Life teases us with despair before bringing us back home safely).
On a thematic level, there's much to chew over. Doubling themes abound: the twin sets of characters, the performing sisters, and the overall juxtaposition -- in every element of the story -- of the gorgeous ideal and the grotesque horror just beneath (e.g., the stunningly beautiful garden in an instant becoming a threatening pit). This lets us see that in Coraline's world-view (which, in agree with Sonic, is in a sense writing the whole story), the two realities are not polarities, but two sides of the same coin. That's pretty rich stuff for a goddamn cartoon.
And of course I must mention the animation, which is stunning. It's my first experience with 3-D since the skeevy Stewardesses in 1971; I was wary of the glasses (those of us who wears glasses normally have a tough time with a second set), but had no problem. And I was delighted that, a sewing needle or two aside, the film didn't use the 3-D for cheesy SCTV-style in-your-face effects. What it did instead was take Greg Toland's deep focus theory to a new level -- creating an environment that at times felt like it was completely surrounding me. The pictures themselves are often sumptuous (the garden in particular), but the placement within this expanded frame also feels new and right. (It's like it changes the director's job from operating within a proscenium to in-the-round) The film is good enough -- visually and narratively -- to merit viewing regardless (in 2-D theatre or on DVD). But if you can see it in this format, the pleasures are worth the effort.
I hope this is a certain candidate in next year's mostly-reserved-for-Pixar Oscar category. I'd have to be bowled over by something else to not vote for it.