This year’s Oscar nominations showcase a diverse and international slate of films and filmmakers. It was only 2019 when the Best Foreign Language Film category was changed to Best International Film. This year, there’s two Best Picture nominations from outside the USA. “Belfast” is set in Ireland and “Drive My Car” hails from Japan. “Parasite” (South Korea) was the surprise Oscar Winner last year.
Even better news, the ten nominated films cover a diverse cross-section of Americans. There’s the inspiring story of children of deaf parents (“Coda”), the triumph of one driven black family to create tennis stars (“King Richard”), and a celebration of Latinx diversity in “West Side Story”. The nominated animation films have an international range as well.
There are five Best Animated Feature nominations. One of the films isn’t an American production and four are set in other countries. “Flee” (Denmark) is also nominated as Best Documentary and Best International Feature; the first film to be nominated in three categories. Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen interviews his friend, a gay Afghani man living in Copenhagen. The animation has a sketchy quality that enhances the storytelling in a dream-like way. “Flee” is the story of childhood in Soviet-controlled Afghanistan in the 8o’s and his family’s escape to Russia, and then to western Europe. It’s an immigration fraught with danger, yet the storytelling reveals a secret that unites a family and brings healing so this man can see a future for himself. This is not a film for young children but great to share with your teens. You can rent “Flee” on Amazon and other streaming services.
The Disney/Pixar film “Luca” only received a limited theatrical release, but it could also be called an immigration story. Director Enrico Casarosa’s beautiful pastel animated tale is set in a fishing village in Italy. Luca is a young sea monster who escapes the confines of his underwater life. His adventures as an Italian boy are charming and though there’s not the emotional depth of other Pixar films, the setting is delightful. No subtitles needed and it’s good for all ages. Stream on Disney+
The third immigrant story is the Disney film that everyone is talking about. “Encanto” is a film with a kaleidoscope of colors, bustling with catchy Lin Manuel Miranda songs (“We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is at the top of the Billboard charts) that begins with a couple fleeing violence in Columbia. Like “Luca” there’s magical realism in the tale. The sacrifice of the father transforms a candle into a magical talisman; the Encanto or enchantment. The mother, Alma (called Abuela), and her triplets are protected by a magic house that springs up from the candle’s magic. Within the Madrigal casita, the enchanted candle supplies a magical gift to her daughters and to all but one of her grandchildren.
Some of the gifts benefit the village settled near the Madrigal home, like the strength of Luisa. A character unusual in animation, Luisa is depicted as a strong muscular woman. Only the non-gifted Mirabel can see that those gifts come at a price. Her gift is the chance to save the Madrigal family’s home and rescue the hidden Bruno. The complicated story and South American setting, music, and characters have inspired fans to post theories, photos showing how they resemble the film’s characters, and sing-a-longs. Many people can relate to the characters. It’s wonderful to see a complicated family of Latin characters. Great for all ages. Stream on Disney+ or purchase on other streaming sites.
The final two animated films are set in post-Apocalyptic worlds. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is a clever film about a family of screen-loving Americans uniting to fight the robotic overlords who’ve taken over the world. The characters are wise-cracking and bickering. The animation looks hand-drawn, and has cartoon interludes. The sometimes messy frenetic quality adds to this fun adventure. Olivia Colman (nominated for “Lost Daughter”) voices one of the robots. Great for all but the youngest at home. Watch on Netflix or pay to stream on other services.
In “Raya and the Last Dragon”, one young warrior is on a mission to save her father and unite the five warring tribes in this imaginary kingdom. Another Disney Studio film, the lovely pastel computer-animation is like a journey through Southeast Asia with some wonderful vocal talent. Awkwafina is a standout voicing the silly dragon sidekick. “Raya” is story of family love and empowerment with a message about trust. Great for all ages. See it on Disney+.
Our animated films have characters and stories that are international. The stories take place in Columbia, Afghanistan and Italy, and only one features an American family in the USA. America is a nation of immigrants. This year, the Oscar nominations reflect that reality.
How wonderful to have a rainbow of animated films with stories that tell us to embrace our differences, seek help from others, and celebrate family. They ask us to love the family you’re born into or the family you create. These Best Animated Feature films are journeys of healing and self-discovery, and most importantly, love.
Drinks with Films ratings:
“Encanto” 4 cups of hot cocoa flavored w/cinnamon (out of 5)
“Flee” 4 1/2 cups of strong Afghan coffee (out of 5)
“Luca” 2 tumblers of Italian wine (out of 5)
“The Mitchell’s vs the Machines” 2 1/2 Slurpies at a convenience store before it’s destroyed by robot gunfire (out of 5)
“Raya and the Last Dragon” 4 candy-colored bubble teas (out of 5)