In 2015, Pixar released Inside Out, an inspired look at the inner workings of a child’s mind. In 2016, Disney released Zootopia, a timely allegory for social injustice. Both films were emotional, funny, and very smart.
And both films were ignored by the Academy.
‘But wait a minute,’ I hear you say. ‘Didn’t both of those movies win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature?’ Yes, they were, but here’s the problem… Every year, I realize that the Best Animated Feature category is doing more harm than it is good.
It pretends to be creating a platform for animated films to get recognized. Instead, it only pushes animation into a corner, so that they can still win something as long as they don’t compete for the ‘real’ awards.
The top category at the Oscars is called ‘Best Picture’, not ‘Best Live-Action Picture’. And yet, the academy refuses to acknowledge that animated movies are movies, too.
In a strange way, I was actually dreading having to see Coco. Not because I thought it would be bad, or anything. On the contrary, I fully expected that Pixar had another masterpiece on their hands. I just didn’t want to go three years in a row watching an animated movie sit on the sidelines while the ‘real’ movies get to compete for Best Picture.
Paradoxically, I almost would have been a little relieved if Coco turned out to be a disappointment.
Well, it wasn’t. It really, really wasn’t.
The second that this movie was over, I immediately wanted to watch it again. It’s that kind of movie. This film is an example of Pixar at their very best, managing to combine dark and melancholy themes with a sense of childlike wonder.
After only one viewing, it’s probably too early to call the film perfect. And if one looked too deeply, you could probably find things to nitpick about. But even though the film uses a lot of standard Disney tropes, that’s pretty much what you’d come to expect by this point. And none of that matters given how phenomenal the film is. Even the comic relief moments never felt even a little forced, which is a rarity for Disney.
Even by Pixar standards, this movie tackles some pretty dark themes. But it handles these themes in such a way that both kids and adults can understand them. I don’t want anybody to dismiss this film as ‘just a kids movie’, because this film treats its audience with maturity, something that even many ‘adult’ films struggle to do.
And that’s just barely scratching the surface of what makes this film so great. I could probably go on for hours about the film’s astonishing production design, beautiful score, jaw-dropping animation, brilliant use of songs, and truly inspired vocal performances by the entire cast. And even that’s not getting into how amazing it is to see this kind of diversity on display in a Pixar film, and how respectful it is to Mexican culture.
At this point, what else can I say? If you somehow have yet to see this masterpiece, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. And if by some chance, you are an Academy Voter, I encourage you to look deeper at the film. Don’t just watch it and then say it’s ‘good, for a kid’s cartoon.’
Please, see this film for what it is; Best Picture material.
**** out of ****