Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

07 February 2013

Oscar Nominees 2013: Part 8 of 13

Wreck-it Ralph
1 Nomination
  • Animated Feature
Director: Rich Moore
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Alan Tudyk, Ed O'Neill, Dennis Haysbert

Everyone seems to love Wreck-it Ralph except for me. What's happening? It's odd to me that this film is even nominated in this category when the far superior and much funnier Rise of the Guardians was left off the Animated Feature list this year. Ralph is the story of a video-game bad-guy who wants to be friends with all of the heroes of the video game after work-hours. Trouble ensues. He befriends a young glitch in a different video game and from there the plot becomes your standard dumb-older-man-meets-young-spunky-girl narrative where the guy learns all sorts of things (mostly "how to open his heart") from the young girl. The young girl herself, incidentally – and this is always how it goes – doesn't need to learn anything, but her pure, innocent, childlike affection manages to work its way past his crusty exterior. Zzzzz. This was all done so much better in 2001 in 2D (and this year in 3D) by a film called Monsters, Inc. In any case, Wreck-it Ralph feels like a re-tread to me. Retro video-game references spice it up a little bit, and Beard Papa has a cameo, but mostly I was bored.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Animated Feature
My Rating: #53 out of 63

ParaNorman
1 Nomination
  • Best Original Screenplay
Director: Chris Butler & Sam Fell
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Elaine Stritch, Jeff Garlin, Tempestt Bledsoe, John Goodman

ParaNorman is really similar to Tim Burton's Frankenweenie. Both titles feature puns. Both films are about kids fighting Halloween monsters. Both are about kids who are "different" from the rest of the kids around them. ParaNorman was released in August and Frankenweenie had an October release, but Burton's film appears to be the favorite among voters. Frank(enweenie)ly I preferred this zombie comedy by Chris Butler and Sam Fell, though both films are pretty great. ParaNorman is about a young man who sees ghosts. He is a weird kid – and is subject to all sorts of bullying at school and at home – because he talks to the dead people in his life, communicates with dead dogs, and gets accosted by his strange, shifty, snaggle-toothed uncle. Then zombies attack the town and Norman has to come to the rescue to communicate with the undead and figure out how to solve his town's zombie problem. It isn't just that the weird, bullied kid turns out to be the town's savior (that plot has developed into a familiar trope) but that he has visions, which we get to see, and that friendship and his relationship with his sister and his bully are more important in ParaNorman than any rigorously gendered love plot. The heterosexual love plot is avoided completely in the movie, and the entire thing is inventive and charming, perhaps even... paradorable. (Forgive me.)
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #16 out of 63

The Pirates! Band of Misfits
1 Nomination
  • Animated Feature
Director: Peter Lord
Cast: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Anton Yelchin, Brendan Gleeson

In Britain this movie was called The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists!, a title I much prefer to The Pirates! Band of Misfits, but I don't suppose that matters much. Pirates! is very funny – in the vein of Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-rabbit. Plus the side characters are Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria. There are lots of laughs to be had using those two as antagonists to a pirate captain. Still, there are odd things about this movie. For example: Why is there so much computer animation in a stop-motion picture? The two styles jar when placed next to one another. And why is the Pirate Captain never given a name other than the Pirate Captain? Surely a funny name could have been fabricated. Honestly, though, I think this film is probably worth your time. It's rather delightful even if it looks odd.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #33 out of 63