27 Days of Oscar, day 21: Animated Feature and Animated Short Subject

The next few days are going to be quite exciting and very busy! I've got my piece on the Foreign Film race all queued up for publishing, but I'm waiting to hear back from the directors of "Tanna" for answers to a couple of questions I think would really add something to the piece. If I haven't heard back in a couple of hours, it will have to be a go because it's time to start work on Documentary Feature.

I also have the Oxford Film Festival starting today. For those of you who don't know, I am the Head Programmer for the LGBTQ section. This has been an incredible honor as it is the first year OFF has included this category, and I would love to tell you a bit of the process and drum up some interest as we head into the fest. Look for that here tomorrow.

And tonight, "Firemax" the community film I had a part in will be showing at the Powerhouse. Very exciting stuff.

In the meantime, I wanted to chat about Animated Feature and Animated Short Subject.

I managed to finish out those categories in the past couple of days, and I have to say, it was a very strong group of nominees, especially in the Animated Feature category.

Let's take a look at the list:

Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle

The first of this bunch that I went to see was "Moana." I missed it this summer and drove up to Memphis to see it in a discounted, late run theater.  Having had a bit of distance from the film, the nominated song is the best part of the film. I'm still humming "How Far I'll Go." And although I really enjoyed the film on several levels, in terms of Oscar, and this category, it comes in 5th for me.

I finished out the category last night with "Kubo and the Two Strings." Again, on many levels, I loved it. The animation is great.  I thought the sisters (voiced by Rooney Mara) were quite creepy. And the last scenes with Monkey and Beetle were quite touching. But some of the plot didn't quite seem fleshed out. It was almost as if it was doing too much. And the whitewashing of the cast was a real problem for me. I hadn't realized it was a think until I began watching it. It was really obvious that the leads were not Asian, much less Japanese.

The frontrunner, "Zootopia" is fine. On a "Big Hero 6" level. Nothing groundbreaking, but relevant with its not so subtle metaphors of inclusion and profiling. But also a touching friendship. This is not my favorite type of Disney film, but the Academy proved they don't have a problem with it when they gave "Big Hero 6" the Oscar over the much better "How To Train Your Dragon 2."

The two best films in this category are definitely "The Red Turtle" and "My Life as a Zucchini." I found myself quite distracted when watching "The Red Turtle" the first time which led me to think it was really boring. But considering the film's praise and the fact that it is a Studio Ghibli film, I knew I had to watch it again. I'm so glad I did. This is a film that doesn't explain everything but doesn't need to because it earns every emotion it gets in the end.

Finally, "My Life as a Zucchini." This is my biggest regret in terms of my Top 10 Films of the year. I honestly can't imagine watching all five nominees and not voting for this. The animation is superb, the characters are immediately specific and complete human beings. I have never seen this subject so perfectly explored, ever. I am still thinking about these kids. But, the reality is, the Academy will not watch all five films and this will be the one they probably skip. Unless the animation branch really comes through it's "Zootopia" for the win.

Animated Film (Short Subject)
Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes

I have read some really good stuff about Animated Short Subject, and I suggest you check that out. Especially Eric Kohn's reviews of the film.  I will say this. I had hoped that something hand drawn or simplistic would win my heart, but it was Pixar's "Piper" that stood above the rest. With "Pearl" coming close behind. As I'm typing this, I'm actually wondering if I should pick "Pearl," because it's always best to go with the heart. Let me think about that one a little more.

"Borrowed Time" is the quickie of the bunch, a bit of a nothing and a tad manipulative. What is being proclaimed as the naughty film, "Pear Cider and Cigarettes" just doesn't live up to its buzz.  Although my instinct within the first 10 minutes was that it might have a shot, it got pretty redundant by the end.  "Blind Vayasha" has the best shot of unseating "Piper," at least in terms of conventional predictive thoughts. It's short, different and good.

Blind Vaysha (Clip 1) from NFB/marketing on Vimeo.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes from Robert Valley on Vimeo.

Here is my list of films left to watch. It's dwindling!!

Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Live Action Shorts


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