Friday, October 7, 2016

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Animated Feature 2011

The Contenders:

A Cat in Paris
Chico and Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango (winner)

What’s Missing

There were a lot of animated movies released in 2011, but I can’t say that I’m terribly over the moon about any of them. I liked but didn’t love all five of the nominees, and of the other animated films released in 2011, I have only a little bit of experience. I’ve seen The Adventures of Tintin and I think it might possibly warrant a nomination, but even there I’m not entirely convinced. Other animated films from the year are ones I haven’t seen. These include Cars 2, Rio, Arthur Christmas, Gnomeo & Juliet, Mars Needs Moms, Happy Feet 2, the Smurfs, Winnie the Pooh and Hoodwinked Too!, and I’ve heard nothing exceptional about any of them, save that my kids love Rio. In fact, of all of the unnominated films, only A Monster in Paris has been recommended to me, and I haven’t gotten to that one yet.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. So what do I put last when I think everything should come in third or fouth? In this case, it’s A Cat in Paris. This is a unique film and the story is a good one, but the art and animation is off-putting and strange, a little bit like an animated Modigliani painting. I don’t like Modigliani, and I don’t like the artwork here. The other issue is that this film is disturbingly short, hitting a mere 70 minutes including the credits, so it doesn’t feel weighty enough to really be here. I still can’t really figure out how it swung a nomination. I liked it, but it’s not one I’d hunt down to watch again.

4. Puss in Boots is a pretty good film, but it suffers from being a spin-off from a highly respected title. It’s not merely like this is Shrek 2, but that it’s Shrek Lite in a lot of ways. It feels like it, and that’s a shame. Puss is one of the great characters from the Shrek universe and he deserved a film that seemed like its own thing rather than a chance to capitalize on a series of films that already existed. It would be like Pixar making a film about the other toys from Toy Story. I’d watch that movie and I’d almost certainly enjoy it, but it just wouldn’t feel like the same thing.

3. Rango is also a good film, and it was good enough to win. There’s a lot to like in Rango, and a part of that is that it’s a smart film that doesn’t really pander to either kids or adults. But therein lies the problem. Who was this film for? It might be over the heads of a lot of kids and while some adults might get it, it really seems to have been made for people who really like Chinatown but would like to see it recreated with a chameleon. I kind of get it and I kind of don’t. My impression is that there are a lot of people who like it and a lot of people who look at it the same way your dog looks at something when it hears a noise it doesn’t understand. That’s sort of where I fit.

My Choices

2. Chico and Rita is a really interesting nomination, and of the five nominated films, I think it’s probably the best one. It’s not nearly as accessible as a lot of the films here, but the story is a damn good one and the music is tremendous. The biggest knock against it is that it really isn’t a movie for children, and that seems to be a requirement for winning this award. If you don’t mind cartoon nudity and don’t specifically need a movie to be constantly happy, it’s one worth seeing, and one that a lot of people don’t know. I love the nomination, and of all of these movies, it’s probably the one that really deserves to be on top. But it’s not, and there’s a reason for that.

1. On my Letterboxd page, both Rango and Chico and Rita were given better ratings than Kung Fu Panda 2. So why am I putting Kung Fu Panda 2 first? Simple: because Kung Fu Panda was robbed in 2008 and this was a chance for the Academy to fix that issue. That’s not something I advocate for often, but here, I think it might be worth doing. If I’m completely honest, I’d switch this position with Chico and Rita, but I really want a Kung Fu Panda movie to win this at some point, and this one is close to deserving the win, even if it’s just a shadow of the first film.

Final Analysis

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