From Spider-Man to Mr. Incredible, this is a category full of winning, creative movies.
The Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars might as well be called the “Pixar Award.” The award has been handed exactly 18 times, since the 2002 Oscars ceremony which honoured the films of 2001, when Shrek won. Yes, you read that right! At nine of those 18 ceremonies, Pixar took home the prize, including winning four years in a row, from 2008 to 2011 for Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3. Pixar is also the most recent winner in this category, with Coco as the reigning champion.
But with every win there is always a contending viral, in this case Going into the 2019 Oscars, Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has won every major precursor award, including a clean sweep of the animation industry’s Annie Awards. Comments from viewers goes to the extent of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse makes Spider-Man feel original again”. Fan favourite The Incredible 2, will have a brutal competition, this year. Boasting critical plaudits and a long, successful run at the box office, Spider-Verse swooped into the race in December and stole the Thunder of Pixar’s Incredibles 2.
To be honest, all five nominees in 2019’s Best Animated Feature race would make worthy winners, however in my personal opinion, Spider-verse stands head and shoulders above the rest. The others are still movies absolutely worth watching. Here’s a quick look at each one.
It took 14 years before we saw the sequel for Incredible 2, for writer-director Brad Bird to follow up his marvellously thrilling The Incredibles which won Best Animated Feature at the 2005 Oscars. As with so many projects launched after their creators had years and years to think about them, Incredibles 2 feels like it has thousands of ideas in its head. Not all of them land, but enough of them do. And the ones that don’t still contribute to a complicated assessment of just why our culture is so gaga for superheroes. It’s not quite at the level of the first film, well, the first film is maybe the best movie Pixar ever made, so … that’s not really a problem. In short: Watch Incredibles 2 if you love superhero deconstructions, family comedy, or Pixar at its best. And not forgetting, the nostalgia factor, will tend to make you watch, where my 90’s kids at?!
Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs was the subject of the best film writing of 2018, much of it from Asian-American critics struggle with the movie’s obvious craft but also finding themselves put off by how it unintendedly turned Asian characters into alien outsiders. Anderson’s obvious love of the films of Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki, and the many other famous Japanese directors is impossible to ignore. Even with its weird cultural appropriation aside, many critics believe that the movie is less tightly constructed than many of Anderson’s earlier films. So you should definitely check it out. Just be prepared to go back and forth with it a little. In short: Watch Isle of Dogs if you love Wes Anderson or want to check out one of the year’s more fascinating cinematic controversies.
Most obviously, this film can be compared to Isle of Dogs. While Mirai is also set in Japan and while it also features a dog as a character granted, a supporting one, and not an entire cast, it was actually made by a Japanese filmmaker: Mamoru Hosoda, well known to anime fans for movies like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and The Boy and the Beast. This is his first Oscar nomination, despite how frequently films from Japan are nominated in this category. There are times when Mirai feels a little samey, even at a short running time of barely 90 minutes. But that’s Hosoda’s ultimate design. The last 15 minutes of Mirai are so dazzling, on both a technical and a narrative level, that they will make you realize why the rest of the movie fell so readily into the rhythms of a child’s day-to-day life. This is a movie for patient viewers, but trust that you will be richly rewarded. In short: Watch Mirai if you love Calvin & Hobbes.
Ralph Breaks the Internet
For a while, the movie seems like it might just be a series of jokes about famous memes, but be patient. The second half of the film proves a surprisingly thoughtful consideration of online toxicity, the ways friendships can turn bad, and how hard it can be to let the people you love grow and change. It’s a triumph in the way that it couches a bunch of moments that will make you bawl your eyes out in what initially seem like silly jokes. It’s indicative of the quality of this category that this terrific sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph is probably going to struggle to scrounge up votes when Academy voters turn in their ballots. Just 10 to 15 years ago, when the Best Animated Feature category frequently found itself filled with the likes of Shark Tale and Surf’s Ralph would have been an easy winner or strong second. Now, it’s an also-ran.
Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
The best movie in the category in 2019 is also the one most likely to win, in my opinion. Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is an energetic swing through decades of comic book lore, somehow pitched concurrently at those who know everything about Spider-man and those who know absolutely nothing. It’s funny, moving, thrilling, and genuinely groundbreaking. Miles Morales is just a normal kid, growing up in Queens. Then he meets a radioactive spider, gets bitten, etc., etc., etc. But what makes this story so unique is the way it incorporates other versions of Spider-man — not just Peter Parker, but Spider-Gwen (a spider-powered version of one of Peter’s girlfriends), a Spider-Man from a film noir-inspired universe, and a cartoon pig named Peter Porker (a.k.a. Spider-Ham). Basically hinting anyone and any animal could be Spider Man, just pulling your legs. And then it starts messing around with the multiverse, which is not the sort of thing that’s easy to do in a movie that’s already juggling so many other ideas. In short: Watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse if you want to see one of the best movies of 2018.
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