Magazine article Variety

Surrealism, Sheep, Psyches and Ghibli

Magazine article Variety

Surrealism, Sheep, Psyches and Ghibli

Article excerpt

Since 2001, when DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek" won the first animation Oscar, it's been a fun category that's nominated great films that push boundaries of storytelling. It's a category that doesn't recognize national borders or conventions of its fellow Oscar category races, happily tapping toons from Europe, Latin America and Asia, although usually rewarding Hollywood pics. However, in the last decade, more sophisticated toons have been popping up everywhere, and this year's contenders are a fresh batch of many genres and styles.

ANOMALISA (1)

Directors: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson

A wonder of a film, "Anomalisa" conveys real emotions, pathos and humanity through the artificiality of stopmotion animation. The banal world created by Kaufman and Johnson - a Cincinnati hotel, a bar, a lecture hall - is used in a very surreal, and very sophisticated, way. Some may puzzle over why Kaufman and Johnson chose stopmotion to tell a story that could have been told with real actors in a live-action film, but that question misses the point: However inventive the script, the artistry and craft of the puppets, set design, costume design and art direction of this R-rated drama makes it one of the most ambitious projects of its type.

BOY & THE WORLD (2)

Director: Ale Abreu

The Academy has grown far more adventurous in recent years, and its nomination for Brazil's "Boy & the World" continues that welcome trajectory. The second feature from Ale Abreu - which won best feature at Annecy in addition to a fleet of festival prizes - "Boy & the World" boasts some of the most surrealistically simple character designs of any animated feature this year, as well as jawdropping explosions of color and sequences of exquisite fantasy. Like previous recognition for "Song of the Sea" and "Ernest & Celestine," the film's Oscar nomination should help shine a light on one of the more forwardthinking and rewarding imaginations at work in feature animation, his work as universal and transporting as anything from the Disney-Pixar complex.

INSIDE OUT (3)

Director: Pete Docter

Pixar's 15th feature is also its most abstract, starring an 11-yearold-girl's emotions: Joy (voiced by a perfect Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith in a multifaceted and compelling v. …

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