Monday, February 24, 2014

Awards-Nazi Award nominations: Animated Feature

Somebody didn't want to open until ONE week before the Oscars, so I had to hold off on this category. But now that I've seen all the contenders, precious few as they are, I can finally publish my picks for Best Animated Feature of 2013.

Epic (Chris Wedge)
All superficial FernGully comparisons aside, this film deserved a fairer shake than it got this year. It works perfectly fine within the confines of the formula it applies, but thankfully avoids the same sort of immature humour and forehead-slapping dialogue that plagued other American studio toons this year (I'm looking at you, Croods and Despicable Me 2!). Even its exposition of character and backstory is handled with relative elegance. Imaginative designs and expressive animation to boot.

Ernest & Celestine (Benjamin Renner, Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar)
In our modern culture where kids are drawn to the theatre by cartoons with bold primary colours and comedy of the lowest order, this European import makes a strong case for how kid flicks should be handled. Its whimsy and gentility reminds us that movies made expressly for children need not be childish. That, and it's animated with a gorgeous watercolour aesthetic that feels like a picture book come to life. An absolute charmer from start to finish.

Frozen (Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck)
Though its formula is unremarkable and its musical structuring imbalanced, Frozen transcends as mold-breaking family entertainment due to its progressive gender politics (putting a feminist twist on the 'true love' trope), its constructive depiction of people suffering from mental illness (Elsa's depression is indeed 'crippling'), and even its implicitly drawn subtext about gay repression (“Conceal. Don't feel. Don't let them know.”). On top of all that, it's simply a delight to watch.

Monsters University (Dan Scanlon)
Okay, so Pixar's clearly in a bit of a creative lull right now, but that's not to say Monsters University isn't at least a brisk and mildly amusing diversion. Even with a thin plot for which the stakes have never been lower (we already know where our two buddies ultimately end up), Pixar's story committee has a firm enough grasp of structure and pace to hold our attention and land a few laughs. The Oscar snub really stings, especially considering how awful some of the other nominees are.

The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki)
Beyond its linear biopic format, Miyazaki's [non]swansong is an artful ode to the winds of artistic inspiration and a poignant reminder that even products of impassioned creative genius can be warped for sinister purposes. Though conspicuously lacking in the fanciful whimsy and fantastical imagination on which Miyazaki has built his auteur status, this is perhaps his most mature work to date, eschewing the childlike worldview of his previous films and adopting a more adult writing style.

Just missed:
Nothing. Even two of my actual nominees feel like a stretch. Let's hope next year is better for animation.

1 comment:

  1. I firmly believe that 2014 will be a lot better animation-wise what with two early releases, The LEGO Movie and Mr. Peabody & Sherman getting good reviews already (LEGO is just glowing right now, and people are saying that it has already won), which is ironic since Pixar will not be in next year's race at all. Go figure!

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