Wagner Moura and Antonio Banderas do fine voice work in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”
For today’s installment of Oscar talk and our own Film Bitch Award nominations, let’s discuss cartoons. Our nominations are up for Best Animated Feature which you can see here and include the thoughtful eccentricities of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, the witty propulsivesness of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, and the strangely undervalued hormonal marvel that is Turning Red. Three clear worthies that are difficult to choose between! It’s a more mainstream list than we usually have but that’s the way the year panned out (and we only have 3 nominees each year due to, well, sanity).
Apologies to the punk riot of Inu-Oh which is an intermittent thrill. As for Marcel the Shell…
Its fans are legions and might include you but sometimes everyone else’s obsessions just aren’t yours! I wish it hit me as hard emotionally as it hit others but there was a degree of calculation to its innocence that just didn’t quite work for these eyes, or rather this heart. Marcel the Shell does find its place among the nominations for Best Voice Work or MoCap performance which are now up on the “Extra Acting Categories” page.
All in all 2022 felt like a weak year for animated features (at least with the titles we had access too) but the shorts were a different story. Oscar’s animated short nominees are a strong batch and some of the films they left out were worthy too. It could actually be a five-way race within the Academy. Let’s rank them by preference…
OSCAR’S BEST ANIMATED SHORT RACE, RANKED
05 THE BOY THE MOLE THE FOX AND THE HORSE
Streaming on Apple TV
Synopsis: Four new friends search for a home. But home is not always a place. Based on the book of the same name by Charlie Mackesy.
For it: Apple TV is visible and has money for campaigns. Being easily accessible is a plus in popularity contests. What’s more it’s also the longest nominated short in its categories and sometimes the Academy equates length with substance. At its best moments it feels like a well-loved picture book come to life.
Against it: We can’t be the only ones who find it a hair too twee. Scratch that, a whole wig too twee! Being earnest isn’t a crime but wearing it like a badge can feel like one. That said, I suspect i would have really loved this as a small child. The length doesn’t help, though, given that it’s going for simple profundity. The animation is at once gorgeous and sterile.
04 AN OSTRICH TOLD ME THE WORLD IS FAKE AND I THINK I BELIEVE IT
Streaming on Vimeo
Synopsis: An office worker meets an ostrich who opens his eyes to the rather obvious flaws of his world.
For it: A lot of people, and conceivably even more people in the film business, will be amused at its meta quality as an animated character realizes he’s animated. Or, rather, that he lives in a fictional world. Think The Truman Show without the audience. In its best moments it mixes the conceptual gag with existential horror and comic absurdity. Plus the title is accurate and hilarious.
Against it: Stop motion can be endearing given that it feels more human than computer animation. But the Academy might want more polish given their typical aesthetic and this particular concept invites a kind of unfinished quality some of them will surely be averse to.
03 MY YEAR OF DICKS
Streaming on Hulu
Synopsis: A 15 year old girl recounts her efforts to lose her virginity. Based on Pamela Ribbon’s memoir “Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn’t Share In Public”
For it: It’s profile sky-rocketed when everyone giggled about Riz Ahmed saying its title allowed during the Oscar nomination announcement. But people who’d seen it (including myself) were already fans. It is currently earning more devout fans of its colorful expressiveness via hodgepodge of animation techniques and the authenticity of its female confessions. What’s more it’s a fun nostalgia trip into the 1990s if you’re into that.
Against it: Rotoscoped animation is a turn off for some. Despite this short’s messy confessional charm, if you look through the past winners of this category, it would be a very atypical choice for them.
02 THE FLYING SAILOR
Streaming at The New Yorker
Synopsis: A meditation on a sailor’s life.
For it: Artistically exciting, eccentrically imagined, and strange enough to haunt you days later. The latter “stickiness” can help in non-immediate voting situations. What’s more Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby (When the Day Breaks, Wild Life, Strings) are regulars in this category and have yet to win. “Overdue” doesn’t often work in the non-high profile categories but they’re crazy talented, so there’s surely some built up good will among Academy voters.
Against it: Adventurous eccentricity is not easy for all voters. Some of them prefer the more corporate familiar approaches to this particular medium (though this particular shortlist is less corporate cgi than usual)
01 ICE MERCHANTS
Streaming at the New Yorker
Synopsis: A father and son parachute daily to sell ice in the village below their cliff-side home.
For it: This wordless family drama has everything you could hope for in an animated short: artistic expressiveness, a memorable visual identity, kinetic feeling, and a distilled purity to its emotional pull.
Against it: If they’re looking for humor and laughs, and many voters are in their animated films (but again it’s a medium not a genre!) this won’t be the choice.
Which film do you think will win? What should win? Vote daily on the Oscar polls.
P.S. Of the finalists that didn’t make the list we were saddest to see the omission of New Moon, based on an excerpt of a Colman Domingo play. It’s beautifully realized and we’ll definitely try to discuss that if/when it becomes available to the public.