Every year in the lead up to the Academy Awards, there is plenty of buzz surrounding every major category. So much so, you could likely enter your office betting pool with a fair idea of what your safe bets would be, whether you had seen some of the films or not. But what about the under-discussed categories? What about those films that flew under your radar? Some of the best movies of the year aren’t contending for Best Picture. Before you start to panic in the remaining hours before the big event, fear not, because we here at Audiences Everywhere are stepping in to break down everything you need to know. Whether you’re trying to win a bet, attempting to sound savvy at your Oscar viewing party, or just wanting to add to your must-watch list, consider this your cheat sheet for this year’s nominees for Best Animated Feature.
The Animated Features nominees list this year is so full of amazing movies, it’s a shame that Inside Out is probably going to win (as deserved as its surefire victory will be). Coming of age movies were prevalent: Boy & the World, Inside Out, When Marnie was There, and even Shaun the Sheep used animation as a medium to understand complex new emotions or surroundings, develop independence, and search for one’s own identity. Anomalisa hit the brakes on this sense of wonderment, emphasizing the dull reality of it all. Twice, stop motion was used, beautiful in each Anomalisa and Shaun and the Sheep, both of which use the form of animation to convey very different sentiments: one is grounded in reality and the other is over the top, wacky, and stars sheep. Ultimately, through the various animation formats and storytelling risks, this year’s Best Animated Features are some of the strongest in a while.
Wonderfully surreal, with its shared voices and miniature clay characters, yet simultaneously grounded in reality: no other movie this year has so accurately captured that harrowing feeling of being just another human, lost in the world. Every scene, though filled with a brilliant cynicism about the mundanity of everyday life, has a beating heart, desperate for love and connection. The majority of the film takes place confined in a hotel room, over the course of one night- yet despite these constrictions, the narrative feels boundless. The script and its characters are all amazingly absurd in a way that makes each of the character’s afflictions all the more evident.
Boy & the World
Boy & the World is a living entity. It starts with a tantalizing opening, and transforms and mutates in every new scene. Its premise about a child searching for his father in a confusing world is simple, yet Alê Abreu’s execution is superb, as he puts us into a new set of shoes and forces us to walk, showing us both the beauty in life, yet also the morbid reality lurking in the background (though it is not always as subtle). Each scene is bursting with imagination – the animation is gorgeous and its inspirations are clear, yet it all feels so alien and new. And the music, which replaces any coherent dialogue, is powerful and affecting, just like the entire journey that Abreu’s universal boy ventures on.
The product of Pixar’s two year hiatus after 2013’s Monster’s University has been getting the most praise this Oscar season, beating out the other contenders at almost every other awards ceremony, including the Annies. The film shows a level of maturity and honesty that we’vbe come to expect from the studio’s films – heartwarming, tender, and fun for all ages. Perfectly voiced, each emotion feels less one-dimensional than their names may suggest, and the simple story of a girl moving at a young age, is made to be ever so complex.
When Marnie Was There
Studio Ghibli’s final film is an apt one, about the fleeting nature of childhood and the sense of awe and wonderment that disappears with age, against all wishes, and the memories that remain afterwards. When Marnie Was There is beautifully drawn and told, like a fairytale from the past incorporated into the present. Watching the young, socially detached Anna develop her friendship with the titular enigma and develop as a person throughout the film proves to be both wonderfully joyous, and truly heartbreaking.
Shaun the Sheep
Fast-paced, ridiculously charming, and surprisingly existential, Shaun of the Sheep, with its use of stop motion and refusal of dialogue, masters visual comedy. Operating at a breakneck speed, the film generates comparisons to other lauded films such as France’s A Town Called Panic and even Jacque Tati’s Playtime. With a universal sense of humor that makes it accessible and fun for children and adults alike, Shaun the Sheep makes it quite the task to watch without smiling throughout its runtime. (Also: A Trump-like character gets a haircut in the movie, and the villain’s name is Trumper…but he doesn’t quite resemble Trump.)
Featured Image: Espaço Filmes