Oscar Bait – Best Animated Feature

In order to be able to do this week of Oscar Best Picture nominees each year, I need to see a bunch of films that have Oscar buzz only to have them fizz away before the final hurdle – or they end up receiving other nominations.

But enough about those, this is the first year where I managed to see all nominations for Best Animated Feature before the ceremony – so this post is dedicated to them.

Title: Incredibles 2
Director: Brad Bird
Country: USA

I can’t believe that it’s been 14 years (just under half my life… gulp) since The Incredibles was released and left us wanting more. It took three installments in the Cars trilogy before we got there, but we got there in the end. This was the first of the Best Animated nominees that I saw this year and despite really enjoying it – The Incredibes 2 lays somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Says a lot really that the Academy managed to get this category to be chock with great films, but they couldn’t do the same with Best Picture. Incredibles 2, whilst not as good as the first one, is still a great watch that expands the universe even further than the original. The shortcomings are more due to lost production time rather than a dearth of ideas… so here’s hoping for Incredibles 3.

Title: Isle of Dogs
Director: Wes Anderson
Country: USA

I’m not going to mince words: Isle of Dogs is my favourite film of 2018. We’re talking about one of my favourite directors making a stop-motion feature that pays homage to Japan and features a cast of dogs. Unless he completely messed up, Isle of Dogs was always something that I would appreciate – even if just for Alexandre Desplat’s score.

Sometimes it’s hard to say why you love something other than it makes you incredibly happy. This is what Isle of Dogs is to me – a burst of idiosyncratic happiness with sneezing dogs, beautiful cinematography and an offbeat wit. Truly, I don’t think there has been a Wes Anderson film that I didn’t like and I cannot wait to hear more about his next film.

Title: Ralph Breaks the Internet
Director: Rich Moore and Phil Johnston
Country: USA

Another sequel on this list of nominees, and another that doesn’t quite reach the heights of the original. Like with Incredibles 2, this is not to disparage Ralph Breaks the Internet because I enjoyed it a lot – but that just shows the dangers of making sequels.

Now where Incredibles 2 suffered from a reduced production cycle that stopped them from using all their ideas, Ralph Breaks the Internet suffers a bit from including too many ideas gumming up the works. However, one thing it does do really well is deliver a profoundly grown up message about how friendships can change over time.

Title: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman
Country: USA

You know when there’s a film that really should not be as good as it ended up being? That’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for you. As much as I like comic book heroes, the films that they find themselves in are not always the best (animated or live action). But just as a broken clock is right twice a day, someone managed to strike gold with this animated gem that might be my favourite superhero film of all time.

The animation is beautiful, the story they tell feels so contemporary without being overtly politically correct and it makes you feel like you are watching a comic book come to life. It’s so cool to see films like this coming out that have been able to blend Western animation with some 3D anime style. Truly a treat to watch and a well deserved winner.

Title: Mirai
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Country: Japan

Mirai is the sixth anime film to be nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but amazingly it is the first one not to come from Studio Ghibli. Crazy really when you consider how much of an impact Your Name made back in 2016. Still that’s just the way it goes with foreign language films at the Oscars.

Whilst I am putting this below Isle of Dogs in my rankings for this prize, Mirai contains my favourite film sequence of the year – a beautiful falling sequence where all the pieces of the family puzzle are put together with some very haunting music. I was in tears. This is such a magical film and, when compared to the other films in this list, tells such a small story with such normal low stakes. In the end it’s just about a five year old boy struggling to deal with the fact that he is now a big brother – but that’s what helps to make this incredible, it’s just a very magical telling of a struggle that happens every single day.

So what are my ranking? Here we go:
1) Isle of Dogs
2) Mirai
3) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
4) The Incredibles 2
5) Ralph Wrecks The Internet

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