Friday, July 24, 2015

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Animated Feature 2013

The Contenders:

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest et Celestine
Frozen (winner)
The Wind Rises

What’s Missing

As with last week, we have a case where the Academy did a pretty good job with the nominations for this category. There were other animated films from 2013, with Monsters University heading the list, but I’m not terribly upset by the five nominations. There’s one I would probably dump (you’ll see that soon enough), but most of the others that I see as having been released in 2013 are ones I haven’t seen and have no desire to see. These include Free Birds, Planes, Turbo, and Escape from Planet Earth. I’d probably watch both Epic and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 if I came across them, but I haven’t yet.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. If I were to launch a single nominee, it would be The Croods, which left me unimpressed. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it very much, either. It gets some things right, like having a main female character who doesn’t look like a swimsuit model, but it relies too heavily on obvious jokes and stale humor. For all of the money that went into getting voice talent and making it pretty, I’d have loved a little left over for a script rewrite. I liked it a little less than I did Monsters University, and since I was underwhelmed by that, too, I’m not saying much.

4. Ernest et Celestine is a cute movie, but it’s not a lot more than a cute movie. This is a film made very much for younger children, which does make it a harder sell in a lot of cases. The biggest selling point here is the artwork, which is gorgeous and is probably what earned the film its nomination. I have no problem with that. Ernest et Celestine is enchanting and beautiful. It's also very short and very simple. Young children will undoubtedly love it and the art is stunning, but it needs more than just great art for it to win in my book.

3: I like the first two Despicable Me movies and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The stories and characters are a lot of fun and I like the relationship between Gru and his girls. That’s a much bigger aspect of this second movie, and it’s something I really liked. Animated movie dads especially are often comic relief, stupid, or borderline abusive. Here, we’ve got a guy who may not like all of the girly things his adoptive daughters do, but there is no doubting that he absolutely loves his girls. That’s a great message. It doesn’t hurt that the film is entertaining. That said, the first one was better.

2: Hayao Miyazaki retired on The Wind Rises and he left his career on a very high note. This is a much less fanciful film that most of his early work and tackles much more serious issues and questions. At the same time, it’s still pretty accessible for almost any viewer. I thought hard about where specifically to place this, because it may not be my favorite of Miyazaki’s films, but I do think it might be his greatest and most important work. Don’t expect the glories of Totoro or the vision of Howl’s Moving Castle, but do expect to be engaged in a difficult and beautiful story and some truly gorgeous art.

My Choice

1: Ultimately, though, I have no real problem with Frozen taking home the trophy. Disney has had a formula for its movies for decades, which has caused us to come to expect a particular ending when we’re watching one of their films. Frozen is smart enough to play with that idea and to do something that both conforms in some respects to the Disney ideal ending but that also incorporates a number of new ideas. The songs are great, too.

Final Analysis


  1. I have not seen Ernest and Celestine. Of the other four it's probably no surprise I'd go with The Wind Rises since I consider it the best film yet from Miyazaki, even better than Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. While I like Frozen, the main male character is useless and the "twist" ending is a retread of Brave and Tangled. The song and animation on Let It Go definitely make it the highlight of the film. It's a fantastic scene.

    Of the other films you mentioned I've seen Planes, Turbo, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. I wouldn't have nominated any of them over the ones I've seen.

    1. I almost put The Wind Rises as a possible choice, and it's still one that I'm thinking about, although I haven't ever gone back and edited the order or placements of any films after I've posted one of these. It's a hell of a good film, so it very well be belong as a worthy choice.

  2. Your description of Despicable Me 2 is exactly the way I feel about it. Dead on.

    1. I will always have a warm fuzzy for Gru and his daughters, because that's the kind of family relationship I like seeing depicted in movies for kids.