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

27 February 2018

Oscar Nominations 2018: Part 11 of 12


The Breadwinner
1 Nomination
  • Animated Feature
Director: Nora Twomey
Cast: Saara Chaudry, Soma Bhatia, Noorin Gulamgaus, Laara Siddiq, Ali Badshah, Shaista Latif, Kanza Feris, Kawa Ada

This is a beautiful film, which is what we've come to expect from the studio behind Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells. This one, however, was relentlessly depressing. As I say, the animation is gorgeous, but The Breadwinner never lets up, and yet this movie winds up not actually having much to say about its subject matter. Worse yet, we are told – again and again – that old saw about the power of storytelling. The Breadwinner tells us repeatedly about the magical power of narrative. But saying this over and over doesn't make it any more true. I have grown very tired of this particular bit of sentimental nonsense. Storytelling does not fight the Taliban, as far as I can tell. The little girl in this movie finds courage by retelling old myths, and I think that's just fine, but if that is the takeaway here, I am afraid I need a little more. This movie has much to recommend it – its animation is lovely – but I think I'd rather rewatch Song of the Sea.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #61 out of 84

Loving Vincent
1 Nomination
  • Animated Feature
Cast: Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan, Eleanor Tomlinson, Chris O'Dowd, Bill Thomas, Jerome Flynn, Robin Hodges, John Sessions, Helen McCrory, Aidan Turner, Josh Burdett, Holly Earl

This one is beautiful too! Every frame is a painting. This is a film that was performed by actors and filmed and then has been painted over in the style of Vincent Van Gogh. The film is not a documentary but a narrative feature in which a young man tries to find out what happened to Van Gogh, how he died, and how he lived the last few weeks of his life. So far, so lovely. But the film is stilted and boring, with lots of pauses and without a real care about its mood, its information, or pacing of any kind. It also tells a story that is, by now, fairly well known: that Van Gogh probably did not commit suicide but was instead covering for someone else in order to protect him or her. I've heard this story before, and so the film did not really have any surprises in it for me. All of this led to me being rather bored. I appreciated Loving Vincent for its beauty, and that beauty sustains the picture for its first ten minutes or so, but that is all it can manage.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #62 out of 84

Ferdinand
1 Nomination
  • Animated Feature
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Cast: John Cena, Kate MacKinnon, Peyton Manning, Anthony Anderson, David Tennant, Raúl Esparza, Jeremy Sisto, Bobby Cannavale, Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs, Gabriel Iglesias, Flula Borg, Sally Phillips, Boris Kodjoe, Juanes, Jerrod Carmichael

Dear lord, we really are scraping the bottom of the barrel, here. I mean, honestly. I get that there was a shortage of good animated films this year, but why not just nominate Coco, Loving Vincent, and The Breadwinner and be done with it? Adding this one and the next one to the mix is embarrassing. Ferdinand, as it turns out, is not a Disney movie. You are thinking of the actual Disney cartoon with a bull who smells flowers that is called Ferdinand. I am not sure how all the rights worked, but this is a 20th Century Fox movie, and it is a computer animated children's movie. As I was watching, I kept thinking how my nephew and niece would laugh at the dumb-ass jokes in Ferdinand. But I mostly did not. There is an honestly hilarious bit when the bull finds himself in a china shop. This sequence is actually inspired, but the rest of the movie is, like, actually preposterous. I don't know how to deal with a movie like this. We're in the real world, or at least we're supposed to be, but then the livestock get on a trolley in Madrid and, like, ride it to an amphitheatre. How? Why? For laughs? I don't get it. I was surprised by how willfully stupid this was. I forget that that's normal for Fox's animated movies. I guess I don't see very many of them. Little baby Ferdinand is adorable as a calf, but mostly I was shaking my head.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #68 out of 84

The Boss Baby
1 Nomination
  • Animated Feature
Director: Tom McGrath
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Miles Bakshi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Steve Buscemi, Tobey Maguire, James McGrath

This is awful, but Alec Baldwin, quite honestly, does save this movie from being a total loss. In December I was telling my father that there were basically zero options for the Animated Feature category. I told him quite seriously that even though The Boss Baby has a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 50 on Metacritic, it would probably be nominated. It's just that there are almost no options this year. (Honestly, they should have nominated Birdboy: the Forgotten Children, but I cannot imagine them nominating something that experimental.) What we see here, then, is that Dreamworks gets a nomination, Fox gets one, Pixar gets one, Disney gets one (if it has a movie), and Cartoon Saloon or Studio Ghibli get one. But I think this helps us predict for the future of these five slots. Turns out, even when Dreamworks and Fox make really bad movies, they have enough folks in the animation branch to push them through. So we, embarrassingly, have The Boss Baby and Ferdinand nominated. Neither of these films will win, so I guess we should be grateful for that. But this whole thing is a mess.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #78 out of 84