Academy Awards Project: Best Animated Feature Film
This category is one of two extremes each year: a breath of fresh air, or suffocated by mediocrity. That is until this year, where the Best Animated Feature Film feels somewhat more neutral (as if it were relatable to other nomination categories). A couple of films stand out due to excellence, and the other three seem like worthy candidates otherwise. It’s too bad, because the Academy sometimes goes all out with the contributions the world can offer here (look at The Red Turtle, Boy and the World, and Song of the Sea for instance). This year is a substantial improvement over last year in terms of quality ( The Boss Baby and Ferdinand are major blemishes), but the unpredictable picks we sometimes get would have been nice. At least The Grinch isn’t here, I suppose. Here are the nominees for Best Animated Feature Film, ranked from worst to best.
Biggest Snub: Tito and the Birds
This is a magnificently animated film that incorporates folk lore with the wild imagination of a child. This is the kind of film I was talking about earlier; a wild card, if you will. A piece of world cinema that is animated in a different way, tells a story that only a cartoon could pull off this well, and is refreshing to ingest as a viewer. Maybe it was released too late, or maybe the Academy wanted to play it safe this year so audiences would pay attention. Oh well. Maybe next year will be daring again.
This film is cute and sweet, but it definitely feels like the weakest nominee here (even up against the two super safe Disney sequels). This is because Mirai misses a number of opportunities, in exchange for some odd prioritization. I wish that hag element could have been utilized far more often and better, perhaps more so than the countless tantrum-throwing scenes. It’s all semantics in the end. The art style is tender, and the third act is a much stronger portion. Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to save the film in great ways.
4. Ralph Breaks the Internet
As a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph, Internet does a great job at advancing the capabilities of the world the first film started. We now have the world wide web, where every IP address and web page is a different building or avenue. That part is done extremely well. The downside is a conflict in story arcs around the third quarter, where the film decides to go AWOL on Vanellope’s motivations (and how Ralph responds to them). Aside from this highly confusing blunder, Internet is yet another fun day at the theatre, where a fictional universe is made even more magical for us all.
3. Incredibles 2
This is a super solid sequel to a Pixar film that absolutely demanded one. Over ten years later, we finally see what happens to the Parr family literally seconds after the ending of the first film. We continue this retro-themed superhero shindig with more day-saving, more villainy, and more awkwardness experienced in being a parent. It’s not the most daring sequel, which is why it is placed third. Maybe some drastic ideas could have been explored. Instead, Incredibles 2 goes the reliable route, which makes for a fun evening but not an ever lasting memory.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Now this is different. Spider-Verse is so jaw dropping with its animation, I don’t even know where to begin. Then there’s the expansive story. Sure, it hovers around your usual formula for an origin tale, but that doesn’t really matter when the rest of the film goes absolutely bonkers with its creativity. The possibility of infinite Spider beings? A cartoon that is the best representation of a living comic book? A killer soundtrack that puts most other comic book films to shame? Spider-Verse is hip, but it’s also insanely clever, and that’s what pushes it to a new echelon.
1. Isle of Dogs
It is impossible to ignore Wes Anderson’s most emotional film. While Isle of Dogs is also creative and hilarious, its major selling point is its humble approach to connecting to its audience. The flashback to the first day Spots was introduced to his owner is a hyper-sensitive moment that lingers in the back of my mind almost an entire year after I first saw the film. Then there is the animation itself, where every tiny fibre of fur reacts realistically (I cannot imagine the agonizing work ethic this team had). This dystopian tale is warm and fuzzy, but it also has bite. Its commentary on the state of the planet cannot be mistaken. Isle of Dogs feels like a living picture book, and it carries all of the heart of the best kinds of stories for children (even though this film is arguably not for kids by any means). Nonetheless, it holds the distinction of being the best animated feature film of the year.
Our Predicted Winner: Nothing has slowed down Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse before, and that likely won’t change now.
Our Academy Awards Project is an ongoing series that will continue until all the categories have been ranked and reviewed. Tune in Monday to Saturday for a new category each day.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.