Friday, February 22, 2008

Best Animated Feature

Surf’s Up*

Will win: I’m trying to think if there’s ever been more of a sure thing at the Oscars – hell, in the history of awards show, or just any competition in the world in which a winner was determined through some sort of judgment or contest – than Ratatouille winning this category. I guess maybe Death. Death is more certain than Ratatouille. But not by much.

Should win: Remember how I mentioned that Across the Universe is sitting 18 inches away from me? I shit you not, Surf’s Up is directly underneath it. I’ll watch them both someday, I swear. Although they might take a backseat to the director’s commentary of Ratatouille.

Speaking of which, Ratatouille is the rightful winner here; it’s funny, exciting, gorgeously designed, and generally flawless. It may not have grabbed me the way Finding Nemo or The Incredibles did, but it’s nevertheless a worthy achievement, not just in terms of animation but overall filmmaking.

That said, I also want to commend Persepolis for its maturity, as well as its own brand of visual brilliance. The cartoonish, black-and-white animation in Persepolis might seem childish compared to Ratatouille’s breathtaking color, but it illustrates the enduring and unique value of animation. Directors Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi are able to illuminate their themes of rebellion and independence not only through dialogue but through strikingly original visuals, such as the now-classic example when two nuns rise up and encircle the movie’s heroine like predatory sharks. Even as live-action movies are growing more complex and bold in the digital age, animation remains a venue of infinite possibility, and it should continue to be a nurturing ground for storytellers of wit and creativity.

Not that Persepolis is to be appreciated solely for its visual imagination. The tale of a precocious young girl growing up in Iran, it is impressively reserved and character-focused. The film has a political backdrop, but that’s all it is, a background; Persepolis is really a coming-of-age story, and its universal themes of adolescent rebellion and sexual confusion can be found in any country. Its pacing may flag at times, but it remains a unique, rewarding viewing experience.

That said, at no point does it feature the line, “Sorry to be rude, but we’re French”. Ratatouille may not be the best film Pixar has ever made, but it is nevertheless one of the most charming, easily enjoyable movies to be released this year, as well as the best animated feature. (And the fact that I have to mention that second part because of the existence of this miserable category makes me very angry. We desperately need Anton Ego to supply the Academy with some “fresh, clear, well-seasoned perspective”. Anyway.)

And that’s a wrap. Good times, right? Hello? Anyone still here?

Well, for those of you who made it all the way through, I truly am grateful, and I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. (Although if you’re pulling a Billy Crystal from When Harry Met Sally… and are reading the last page first, well, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you’re a bad person, and you’re going to Hell.) By all means send me your feedback, constructive or otherwise (sarcastic insults are particularly appreciated), and of course don’t hesitate to forward this around. I know someone out there knows a guy who knows a guy who’s desperately looking to pay top dollar to an untrained filmgoer and have him just sit in his apartment all day and write snarky blog entries about movies and how they relate to sports, pop culture, and Harry Potter. Just a matter of time, that’s all.

Until that day, you can find me at the Boston Common – three-quarters of the way back, dead center of the screen. I’ll save you a seat.

(Just don’t talk during the movie. Seriously. There was this one time where this guy came in and started talking to me about the static nature of art and his ever-changing ideologies and then … you know what? I’ll save that story for next year. Till then.)

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