Tuesday, January 8, 2013

OSCAR WATCH: The Animated Films

If you follow my blog, you may have noticed that I hardly ever review animated films. In an effort to change things up a bit and provide more comprehensive Oscar coverage, I decided to watch as many of the eligible contenders in the Animated Feature film category as I could. This category tends to be one of the easier categories, so I won't bore you with the same old predictions. These are my simply honest opinions on 12 of the 21 eligible films in this awards race. Check 'em out below:

The first contender I watched was "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted". This is a fun film with amusing characters, but it does get too silly at times. It has flashy animation with some good 3D effects. Apart from that, the story doesn't really stand out. Watch it for the fantastic voice acting. Rating: ★★★1/2

Next up was this year's Pixar entry - "Brave". As expected, the film is beautifully animated, but the story lacked the depth of the studio's more esteemed entries. Still, it's enjoyable enough and tells a touching tale about family.
Rating: ★★★★

The highly respected Studio Ghibli also has an Oscar hopeful in the form of "From Up On Poppy Hill", which will be distributed by GKIDS. This pleasant little film features some artful animation. That being said, it struggles with its tonal shifts between cutesy and mature subtlety. As a result, I feel like it doesn't fully satisfy either younger or adult viewers.
Rating: ★★★★

One of the surprise gems of 2012 is "Paranorman", a gorgeously animated stop-motion film. When it started out I expected a twee kiddie movie, but it really developed into quite a fine film. The script is hilarious, but also contains some genuinely grotesque horror elements and a really earnest message about tolerance. This film should easily appeal to older kids and adults alike. Rating: ★★★★★

GKIDS will also be hoping for Oscar love this year with another foreign contender "Zarafa". This nice little adventure film uses traditional animation and is targeted towards children. Despite its generally lite tone, it has enough dark elements and interesting subplots to give it some depth. The simplistic animation may hinder its Oscar chances though, as it lacks the rich detail of the other contenders.
Rating: ★★★★

One film that seemed to be unfairly dismissed is "Rise of the Guardians". Conceived as an epic action movie, I found it to be quite thrilling and the vibrant animation was eye-catching. It may not have the mature cynical tone that contemporary audiences are now expecting, but it's a satisfying flick for the young ones and older folks should also appreciate the visuals and humour. Rating: ★★★★1/2

Another GKIDS entry is the fascinating film "The Rabbi's Cat", set in 1920s Algeria (and surrounding African countries). The animation style may not seem as "advanced" as other computer-enhanced films, but it's always visually interesting. Unfortunately, the story tries to tackle too many issues (racism and religious intolerance) that are way beyond the scope of this simplified film. Still, the emotive animation and strong voice acting are very compelling. Rating: ★★★★

Tim Burton is also back in Oscar contention with another morbid but quirky tale - "Frankenweenie". This animated horror film is beautifully rendered in black-and-white, which adds a touch of class. It's a cool little movie with lots of frights, but it seems to lack the narrative depth of some of the other contenders in this category. Rating: ★★★★

Aardman Animations also has a film in contention with their entry "The Pirates! Band of Misfits". As a fan of the studio, I must say I was a bit disappointed with this one. It didn't quite nail the sarcastic British humour that we've come to expect from them and the 3D was useless. It's not a terrible film, but it doesn't live up their normal standards. Rating: ★★★

Also featuring in this year's field is yet another Dr. Seuss adaption - "The Lorax". Employing a different tone than the 1972 TV movie, this version has been modified to appeal to new age kids with cute animation and lots of energy. Unfortunately, the environmental message is sometimes lost in the glossy visuals and joyous pop music. It's not as meaningful as the 1972 version, but it was better than I expected. Rating: ★★★1/2

One of the most popular titles in the race is Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph". This film features top-notch animation and is brimming with energy as it recalls all the thrills of playing video games. It really delivers on its clever premise, as it constantly pays homage to classic games through its visuals, characters and dialogue. The storytelling isn't as groundbreaking as I hoped, but that's fine with me because this film is just so much fun! Rating: ★★★★

Finally, there's another gothic themed film in the form of "Hotel Transylvania". This is a fun film with that addresses an interesting idea of human intolerance towards monsters. Unfortunately this theme isn't properly explored until the very end, making the film seem slightly tedious. When it does get there though, it wraps up quite nicely. It's nothing special, but it's better than you would expect considering Adam Sandler's involvement. Rating: ★★★1/2

If I was an Academy member and was asked to rank all the films for my ballot, it would look like this:

Rise of the Guardians
Wreck-It Ralph
The Rabbi's Cat
From Up on Poppy Hill
The Lorax
Hotel Transylvania
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
The Pirates! Band of Misfits


  1. I've not seen Zarafa, The Rabbi's Cat and From Up on Poppy Hill yet. So, my top five favs are:

    Rise of The Guardians
    Hotel Transylvania
    Wreck-It Ralph

    Stating once more that I did not fully get the Paranorman, but I see that it will more likely get Oscar nomination

    1. Paranorman had me laughing my butt off. I'm hoping it gets in.