Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo...

...魚の小 was not on the list of Academy Award nominations that came out yesterday. Sigh. The Japanese media seems very disappointed, but I'm not entirely surprised because it was a Japanese movie that didn't quite have the force or grandeur of Spirited Away, or the aesthetics of either that or Howl's Moving Castle. Still, though, it enjoyed the widest release in the United States of all of Miyazaki's movies, and the nomination category is Animated Feature. Not exactly the biggest field out there. Plus the number of nominees was expanded from three to five. It actually bothers me quite a bit that The Princess and the Frog should beat out any Miyazaki, but I suppose that's the way things go. I'm not sure what the exact basis is for these nominations (is it storyline? animation style? I'm assuming it's both, but does the Academy have a bias for one or the other?), but I find the aesthetics of 3D animation tend to be crude. The movements come in swift motions rather than smooth arcs, the bodies tend to be distorted (why?) and personally it distracts me and feels amateurish. Actually Disney has this problem in its 2D animation, so who knows, maybe it's just a part of American animation tradition in general.

I'd forgotten that Coraline was released for this cycle of the Academy Awards. I was not a fan of the visuals for the reasons above, but the story was pretty cool and definitely memorable. There was something chilling about the incongruence between the medium and the plot (although making this into a live-action would have been a terrible decision), and there was a good bit of voice acting involved. Although I haven't seen three of the five nominated movies, I'd say Coraline would be pretty deserving of the Oscar, except it won't win.

What will win is Up, which in contrast is just a feel-good animation movie without particular depth. I found the talking dogs as well as the recurring joke about their obsession with squirrels kind of inane, although pretty much everybody in the movie theatre disagreed with me. All of the characters were animated in fairly generic/stereotypical ways, and it was the "cuteness" of the storyline and not necessarily the character development itself that endeared figures such as Carl to the audience. But hey, if everyone eats it all up, why not. Winning combination.

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