In spite of the film’s generally mixed reception among critics and audiences, it ended up appearing on the nominee list. Even though I did genuinely enjoy the film, I, like many other animation lovers, were bewildered and more than a little ticked off at this announcement. I thought The Boss Baby was a fun little movie that creatively dealt with a child dealing with the arrival of his new younger brother. It’s cute, but in terms of advancing the medium or telling an emotionally rich story, it pales in comparison to most of the other Oscar contenders. This nomination shows yet again that the Oscar nominations don’t reflect the wide variety of excellent animated films that come out every year. To be clear, I’m not claiming that Oscar voters simply don’t care about animation, but it certainly feels like it after watching this awards show year after year. The five films in the running this year are Coco, The Boss Baby, Ferdinand, Loving Vincent, and The Breadwinner. Two out of the five are foreign, and one out of those two foreign films (The Breadwinner) has Angelina Jolie listed as a producer, so…you can infer why this film was probably nominated. Granted, I haven’t seen it, and it looks great from the trailers I’ve seen, but it’s definitely an odd choice out among the nominees. Out of these five, I think Coco is going to take home the statue, since Disney-Pixar movies almost always win whenever they’re nominated. While it is deserving, there are so many others that got the shaft that I’d like to share some with you today. Here are five animated films from 2017 worth watching that were contenders, but ultimately weren’t nominated, for an Oscar.
The winner of Best Animation of the Year in the 26th Japan Movie Critics Awards, and a film I’ve already covered in a previous article, A Silent Voice is a rare movie that takes full advantage of the animated medium to tell a story that, at first glance, could easily be told in a live action format. Focusing its lens on the consequences of bullying, the struggles of disability, and the power of empathy, the film tells its story through very deliberate camera movements, emphasizing aspects of the setting or character movements that would be difficult to achieve in live action. In essence, A Silent Voice is one of the best showcases of what animation can accomplish. Even if you don’t particularly care about animation, it’s still an emotional gut-punch with fantastic characters.
Time for something a little more light-hearted, though one that is part of a legacy of Oscar snubs. When The Lego Movie wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Feature in 2014, many fans were upset. This sequel also not getting a nomination signals a possible trend for these kinds of films. While not as good as the first installment, The Lego Batman Movie is still a very fun, elaborate, and well-told story. It somehow manages to capture the goofiness of this character that pop culture seemed to have forgotten about, combine it with other Lego worlds for what is possibly the funniest and most amazing pop culture conglomerate of a finale I’ve ever seen, and give Batman a serious character arc about learning to trust other people. Check it out if you like the character, or liked The Lego Movie.
Birdboy, a Spanish film that won Best Animated Feature at the 2016 Goya Awards, stands out from the other films on this list because it is definitely not for children. It deals with heavy topics, like drugs, desolation, religion, surreal violence, and surviving in a harsh, unforgiving world. Dark themes in animation is not a new concept, but Birdboy tackles these concepts by contrasting them with cute animal characters. By creating this dichotomy, it plays with audience expectations, and is able to create a strangely poignant horror story out of it. Watch it for the creative animation, the bleak storytelling, and to have to a surreal experience.
If you’re into auteur theory – the idea that the director is the main force in a motion picture – this film is an interesting contender of that genre. The Girl Without Hands was directed, written, edited, and animated by one man, Sébastien Laudenbach, and it’s his first feature film. It’s rare to see someone have so much creative control over their own projects. This large creative control is definitely a reason to watch it, but it is also recommendable for its stellar animation. This film looks like a watercolor painting, and plays around with the concept of how we view bodies, and how a synecdoche, act of fading out the outlines of the body, and coloring can affect how we emotionally interpret a scene. This film is definitely for those who like more experimental, arthouse movies, but watch it if you’re interested in seeing one man’s unaltered vision.
World War II movies are always big hits at the Oscars, so we always get a huge abundance of them around award season. So, while I would say that it is strange that In This Corner of the World wasn’t acknowledged at all, I can understand why this one might be awkward for us Americans. It’s a story about how Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Kure lived their lives during wartime. So…if you know what happened to Hiroshima…it’s not a far cry to say that a culture that loves talking about how heroic it was in World War II would encounter a major roadblock when faced with a film set in the Japanese city filled with innocent people that we obliterated in 1945. In spite of that, I think that’s what makes this film important. We need to understand the mistakes of the past in order to understand the present, to learn from past atrocities so we can prevent them in the future, and this film provides an opportunity for viewers to do so. It also helps that In This Corner of the World is a fantastic film regardless of the baggage, so definitely check it out if you’re interested in learning a different perspective.
There you have it: five animated films that are worth watching despite not being nominated for the Best Animated Feature. They all either tell emotional and complex stories, push the boundaries of animation, or both, which is more than I can say for some of the actual nominees. I won’t bore you with any more ranting about The Boss Baby, though, so I hope you like at least one of these recommendations, and learn a little more about what animation can accomplish along the way.