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The Oscars are quite literally just around the corner with only hours to go and I, personally, have never been more excited and equally anxious about anything in a while. After a lot of time spent digesting each of the movies, I truly believe there hasn’t been a line-up for Best Animated Feature Film nominations this interesting since the 2002 Academy Awards—when Spirited Away won the category. With overwhelming anticipation of viewing the live results, I went ahead and prematurely ranked them (along with my own personal insight) in the order I think is most likely to win the award — with “1” representing most likely and “5” being least likely.
Now, just in case you weren’t made aware, the five Academy Award nominated films we’re looking at are as follows: Mirai (2018), Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
I’m sure you were all like me and spotted the outlier the first time you saw that list, thinking “Why is Ralph Breaks the Internet here?” Well, I’ll tell you outright why I ranked this one last for sheer unoriginality. The entire film felt like Disney simply copying and pasting their own past work – along with other studios’ output – and featured a half-attempted modern nostalgia-driven story.
Sonic The Hedgehog was in it. So was Bowser, and Pac-Man, and countless other arcade characters from the past (inclusive of Ralph, of course, who is a human version of Donkey Kong). The movie wasn’t exactly all that visually stunning either, especially the scenes taking place in the realm of “The Internet.” From the architecture adorning the infinite cityscape, to the original characters they created (especially the new ones that do not carry over from the previous film), the entire movie proved bland and substance-less; it was essentially an animated downgrade of Ready Player One.
The only fairly redeeming quality of this movie was the scene with Vanellope and the Disney princesses. This was a quite satisfying moment since we have not seen a few of them since their debut movies — such as the likes of Pocahontas and Mulan. All of that being said, I do not believe the movie will be winning the award and I unapologetically rank it last, at five.
However, I do sincerely apologize for the ranking of these next four since they were all genuinely enticing animated features, each deserving of an Oscar. Onto the titles that stand a chance…
The wait for Incredibles 2 saw excited grown adults Tweet about threatening to beat up little kids that stood in the way of their seeing the film on the night it released… but did it live up to the hype? Rotten Tomatoes would say so. However, to be fair, all of the movies that count on this list (not sorry Ralph) already maintain at least a 90 per cent— so that’s not saying too much.
Incredibles 2 was much too hyped, with high expectations leaving me partially disappointed towards the end of the film. The plot seemed to drag around the middle of the story and resulted in an ending that fans had not been waiting years for. Partly to blame was an uninteresting main antagonist compared with that of the previous film. Luckily, the movie isn’t nominated under best written screenplay, so it gets merit on how stellar the picture appeared on the big screen. This may very well be the most vividly pleasing art style of the five nominated animations; but while it does capture the attention of my eyes, it seemingly fell short of appeasing my attention for the entire run of the film. It is still a great film, I just feel it will not get the Oscar, and for that I have to rank it at four.
Then there was Mirai (2018). Did anyone actually see or even hear about this movie before reading the Oscar nomination list? Because I did not and was lucky enough to catch a last-minute showing two days ago at a low-budget theater in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, this is easily my favourite of the five. It will not receive the number one spot, unfortunately, because one of the foremost reasons I’ve taken such an interest in this movie lies in its music (which is an entirely separate category of the Oscars and doesn’t fit the criterion for judging the winner of Best Animated Feature).
Mirai’s story and animation style are extraordinarily different from American films. For one, it’s made by a Japanese company, Studio Chizu, and follows a relatively similar style to Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. The plot description is best summarized by those who made it: “Four-year-old Kun is overwhelmed by the arrival of his baby sister, Mirai. Although he wants to love her, Kun is jealous of the attention she receives and so retreats to a make-believe world where he is visited by their late grandfather and their dog in human form, as well as by Mirai herself, as a teenager from the future.”
Each time Kun encounters another family member (as well as himself) from the future or past, he travels along these spiritual channels taking the form of a subway/metro line—a popular motif expressed throughout the run of the movie. They lead him to various beautiful representations of Tokyo from different times, and showcase the oddities differing from his current reality with the infant Mirai. In addition to this, the film’s representation of the Bullet Train in Japan features a stark multi-layered parallaxing style that makes it stand out among traditional films animated in the same style, as well as the other four on this list.
However, as great as this movie was, I do not think it will win the category at this award ceremony. It is out of mere respect for what the next two movies accomplish as animations that Mirai is ranked at three on my list, instead of one.
Isle of Dogs comes in, respectfully, at number two on our list. It is the Claymation brainchild of Wes Anderson, the notable director that brought us another Oscar nominated title, Fantastic Mr. Fox, in 2009.
Needless to say, Wes Anderson learned from the mistakes of his last Claymation and improved upon his weak areas to cultivate a truly breathtaking stop-motion animated film. As an entirely original written screenplay (and additionally nominated for its own original music score), Isle of Dogs tosses man’s best friends back into nature as a canine-ridden disease “forces” the monarch of Japan to banish all of them to an island where they contend with the elements to survive.
Its intricately constructed characters and the environment they interact with is overtly fascinating to the eye of the viewer, and one cannot hope to let the process of creating a stop-motion animation go unappreciated. Moreover, the story itself is engaging and draws in the viewer with witty banter and an urge to find out how such an adventure comes to its crescendo.
Finally, coming in at the top ranked nomination is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
This movie was not my top pick the first time seeing it, but a second showing allowed me to appreciate the film so much more. Already coming into the Academy Awards with a win at the Golden Globes — with the exact same list of movies nominated—this movie was sincerely a marvel to behold. The art wasn’t nearly as colourful or striking as Incredibles 2, but that’s not what it was aiming for from the get-go.
I learned quickly that this film was made for die-hard Spider-Man fans. Its composition revolves around the early comics that inspired the movies we came to enjoy in our childhoods, and even incorporates playfully comical references to the highlights of those cinematic adventures. Its frame-rate is also purposefully lowered in order to showcase its own likeness to that of an actual comic book — a detail that cannot go unappreciated at the Oscars for obscure originality. Not only this, but the Spider-Verse we’re made privy to features varying animation and art style differences for those few with powers similar to the original Spider-Man (inclusive of a Spider-Pig voiced by John Mulaney).
Even if the animation’s colourful cast of characters, bewildering style of animation, and humourous references to comics and the movies that preceded it don’t entice you, the story surely will. The plot surrounding the protagonist, Miles Morales, is both hilarious and action-packed — with just the right amount of teenage angst to remind you of your youth.
It’s for those reasons I believe Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will be taking home the Oscar later tonight, although I would absolutely love for Mirai to. And if I am wrong, do remember it’s just an opinion.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (1st; most likely to win), Isle of Dogs (2nd), Mirai (3rd), Incredibles 2 (4th), and Ralph Breaks the Internet (5th; least likely to win).
If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to re-watch Mirai and see if I can get a refund for Ralph Breaks the Internet.