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A Pleasent, Moving Surprise: Mary and Max

Once in a long while, a movie or comic or piece of music will sneak up on me, and I catch it cold, with no preconceived notions. I LOVE those times. In today's internet driven world, it's so unlikely and uncharacteristic to actually discover anything. I get why people attend things like the Sundance Film Festival, and to a lesser extent Comic Con: To discover things as the creators intend; Unmolested by hype machines.

This is one of the reasons I'm learning to love my Netflix account. While I was immediately drawn to the convenience of filling my queue with favorites like Fright Night and Drunken Master, for very little risk I can sample some films, both foreign and domestic, that I might never have the chance to see in theaters, or have never even heard about. Such was the case tonight, when Shandree and I decided to watch the Australian animated feature Mary and Max.

Now, the four star rating on Netflix was enticing, and so was the cast: Toni Collette, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Eric Bana are the "stars" of the film, lending their voices to the most outspoken of the characters. Also, I'm a sucker for all forms of animation, and Claymation in particular seems to lend itself well to more character driven pieces. For films that excel in the style, I'd recommend anything from Aardman of course, but also try to track down the Adventures of Mark Twain, a truly creepy and deep film that has one of the most frightening sequences in any animated feature I've ever seen. (Watch the clip here)

You can follow the link above to see what Mary and Max is about, but I'd like to recommend that you view it cold like I did. But be aware: While this film is animated, it isn't a children's film, though like many adult-oriented animated films, it is about being a child, or at least being child-like. I was profoundly moved by the relationship that Max and Mary develop, and the end, while perhaps an emotional manipulation, works because it makes sense in light of the whole.