Putting aside the Academy’s shocking diss of Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin in this category, I was with Eric here at first: “I guess we should never underestimate this branch’s desire to make the category look like it deserves to exist.” The branch, after all, passed up Cars 2 and Happy Feet Two, films few seem willing to go out on a limb for—and Winnie the Pooh, well, that wasn’t exactly the second coming of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. But after rallying to see the five films that made the final cut, I’m thinking that singing penguins might have actually legitimized this category.
The most delightfully animated feature in this bunch, Kung Fu Panda 2 is still at best a slab of warmed-over holiday seconds, and one whose statistical chance of winning is perhaps smaller than Demián Bichir’s. Then you have Puss in Boots, another glossy trifle from the House that Shrek Built that frequently, if shamelessly, brought a smile to the face of this recently anointed cat person. A better dissertation on family than either of them is The Cat in Paris, the wafer-thin but quaint account of a young French girl who discovers that her kitty moonlights as a jewel thief’s partner in crime. The film gets my personal vote by virtue of being the most unpretentious and least corporate-looking nominee in the category.
Another old-fashioned toon, Chico & Rita, from Oscar-winner Fernando Trueba, represents the category’s whitest nominee (more on that in next week’s review section), even though it tells the story of two Cuban musicians torn apart by politics and pride in the wake of Castro’s revolution. In a year where The Help is poised to sweep up more Oscars than The Tree of Life, Hugo, and War Horse combined, it’s not unforeseeable that this crude-looking whiff of white man’s nostalgia could score a victory over Rango, the preordained winner here since, well, it opened last March. Gore Verbinski’s critical and commercial smash, a smug slog I have no affinity for, is a corporate product carefully designed to winkingly appeal to the tastes of presumably savvy movie lovers, which is to say it represents the category’s answer to The Artist.
Will Win: Rango
Could Win: Chico & Rita
Should Win: A Cat in Paris