If you paid attention to the Academy Award nominations that came out yesterday, you'll have noticed two things in the Best Animated Feature race that were absent: Pixar's traditional nomination and Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's The Adventures of Tintin. In their place were two movies you've likely never heard of. Until now.
Of course, Spielberg didn't get entirely shut out: His War Horse did get a Best Picture nomination, but given that Pixar's release this year was the woefully underwhelming Cars 2, it seemed like Tintin was a shoo-in.
Alas, it was not to be. Blame it on a voting board that might not be as enamored of Tintin as the rest of the world. Blame it on a bias against performance-capture technology—in which case Spielberg and Andy Serkis could commiserate over a drink or two. In any case, there were, however, two other surprises in the Animated Feature category: a pair of flicks that no one had heard of. So, to shed some light ...
Chico and Rita
Oscar-winning director Fernando Trueba teams up with famed designer Javier Mariscal to create an epic animated love story that occurs around the time of the Cuban Revolution. Highlighting a pivotal moment in the evolution of jazz and traveling from Havana to New York, Chico and Rita is a tribute to the music, culture and people of Cuba. The film is also rife with jazz history. Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie are seen playing the clubs and the story of Chano Pozo, one of the first Latin percussionists to grace a major American jazz band, is fluidly interwoven with the narrative.
A Cat in Paris
By day a child's beloved companion ... by night, a rooftop-roaming thief! Presenting Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli's captivating new film, from France's most acclaimed animation studio, Folimage. Our tale's hero is Dino, a common house cat who lives a double life. He's the loyal pet of Zoe, a lonely little girl who lives with her busy single mother Jeanne, a police officer. But after sundown, he clambers over the rooftops of Paris in the company of Nico, a skilled thief with a big heart. Eventually, Zoe discovers what Dino is up to and becomes drawn into a thrilling, adventure involving jewels, gangsters and capital-T trouble. A Cat in Paris is a completely refreshing and unique throwback to the traditional form—every cell of the film has been hand-painted, and its highly stylized, colour-saturated design looks absolutely gorgeous on the big screen.
Both of these films are beautiful in their own way—and would never cross the $100 million mark at the box office. But sometimes the Oscars can do more than simply celebrate those who are already celebrated enough ... it can shine a light on the worthy that would otherwise remain in obscurity.