2022 Animated Feature Oscar Nominees Ranked
Few films released in 2021 were quite so accurate to the state of our world than Flee, as evidenced by its inclusion in not only the Animated Feature category at the Oscars 2022 but in the Documentary Feature and International Feature categories.
Telling the tale of a grown man who sought asylum in Denmark after fleeing his home nation of Afghanistan in the 1990s, Flee is a first-hand account of the trauma any asylum seeker must go through in order to make it to freedom. And, in a world ravaged by conflict and currently focusing its attention on the most frightening conflict since the Cold War, there seems hardly a more relevant film to speak of this moment.
Flee succeeds in creating a phenomenal amount of empathy for its subject – a man ripped from his family whilst still a child, suffering in silence as he comes to terms with his trauma and all the related internalised debates and issues – and is animated in such a way that effectively uses film language to place you in his shoes for a few hours, but it isn’t the ground-breaking animated work of the films to come on this list, the animation itself removed from the 3D status quo of other nominees but lacking the same detail, lacking the same key language of colour and of style. It works because it disguises the identity of the man at its heart, but in a year of outstanding animated films, it can only be described as the most relevant of the animation nominees and not the best.
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Do Pixar ever miss?
Luca shouldn’t be as good as it is. It’s a simple fish out of water story… literally. Yet it’s warm, it’s funny, and like all of this much-adored studio’s films it speaks to that part in each of us that needs reassuring from time to time that things are ok, or that the pain we might feel will someday pass.
Luca has been read as an allegory for homosexuality, for immigration, for asylum seekers, and that’s precisely the power of this film: it can speak to any number of underrepresented underdogs, and it can do so in a manner accessible to kids.
As detailed as all Pixar movies are – make sure to look out for the bong-eyed Seagulls – but with more of a pace and energy than most of the studio’s post-2010 releases, Luca is one of those enjoyable, heart-warming animated offerings that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age; a joyful few hours in a universe similar enough to our own to learn lessons from but separate enough to want to vacation to.
Luca is extraordinary as illustrated by its place on this list, but in 2021 only one animated feature film was revolutionary to the very form itself…
1. The Mitchells vs the Machines
The Mitchells vs the Machines Review
Sony Pictures Animation blew open the animated realm when they released Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in 2018 and went onto win the Animated Feature Oscar in 2019. The movie was fresh, as funny as writer-producer duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s filmography has always been, and vitally stripped back the cleanliness of modern 3D animation to offer something that looked like it was ripped straight from the pages of a comic book. In The Mitchells vs the Machines they’ve done it again, this time embracing the look of a D.I.Y. film school project complete with wacky title cards, TikTok videos, and generational differences.
A lot has been written about how The Mitchells vs the Machines was period appropriate to the pandemic, especially given how much time many people were forced to spend with their families (in the midst of a similarly as frightening apocalyptic event), so the film holds a fair degree of relevance, but it’s the youthfulness of the whole thing that works best. It’s fast, it’s funny, it’s from the perspective of a teenager, and yet rarely does any of this feel forced and never does it feel patronising.
Quite why Sony shelved this for three quarters of the pandemic and then sold it to be distributed by Netflix is anyone’s guess given its credentials as a box office hit in the making, but its increased accessibility only worked to aid the film’s homemade-film feel – many will have watched it on a laptop just as Katie’s dad Rick watched her movies.
The Mitchells vs the Machines is an authored piece complete with real photos of the crew and their family in the credits, and yet it isn’t existential in any long or boring way like we might come to expect from Academy favourites, it is instead constantly flowing with laughs and with action, and most importantly of all persistently reminding us of why it needs to be animated (and why we need to appreciate animation more).
It’s the best animated film of 2021, and The Mitchells vs the Machines is the best film nominated in the Animated Feature category at the Oscars 2022.
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Which of this year’s Oscar-nominated animated features do you consider to be the best of the bunch? Let us know in the comments and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates on more insightful movie lists.