It’s a big night for the movies tonight. Oscar night. Hollywood’s glitziest night of schadenfreude back-pats and hollow masturbatory gestures. There were some great films released in the last year. After being pitted against each other in the trenches of the Dolby Theater to fight it out over naked, golden statuettes that can mean the difference between living forever in the pantheon of masterful cinematic art, or languishing in heroin-soaked obscurity in the trashcans of Hollywood’s seediest motor hotels, many of them will receive the accolades they deserve.
Film, like any art form, is a subjective beast to behold, and everyone watching the ceremony tonight will have their own opinions on who should take home the most sought after little bald guy in Tinseltown (well, second most sought after, of course, after Danny DeVito). I’m not going to weigh-in with my picks for which nominees should win, but rather take this opportunity to bring some attention to a few movies that were unjustly unappreciated by the Academy this year. Films that, since they slipped under the radar of the heavyweights in Hollywood, may just have slipped under yours as well.
for Best Animated Feature
It’s criminal that this beautiful, hand-drawn, animated masterpiece was totally overlooked. It tells the heart-rending tale of a contemporary Spanish bullfighter dealing with both the increasing pressure from animal rights groups to destroy the barbaric sport that he has become famous for, and his shambolic marriage to the pill-addicted coloratura soprano of the Madrid Opera Company. Until one day, when he rescues a pelican that has been tangled in a discarded plastic six-pack holder. A pelican who turns out to be the reincarnated spirit of his grandfather, the most famous bullfighter of his day, and who then gives him the power to travel back in time where his skills are celebrated rather than reviled. It’s a spellbinding tale to watch unfold, as the bullfighter must decide between living in the present where he belongs but is unhappy, or staying in the past where he has found the life he’s always desired, and a new love — his grandmother. The Spain that the filmmakers have created is warm and richly detailed, and the rather graphic sex scenes are animated surprisingly tastefully. It’s the rare kind of film that comes along every once in a while that captures the wistfully beautiful side of animal cruelty.
THE MAGICIAN OF MOZAMBIQUE
for Best Documentary Feature
An amazing film for animal lovers and fans of eccentric characters alike. 78-year-old Rumbi Rumbasa has lived in the same grass hut in the African savanna since he was a child. Though he never felt at home among other humans, he quickly found a spiritual connection to the giraffes around him. This heartwarming documentary gives us a small glimpse into the life of a man who has spent his years raising and caring for these remarkable creatures, living as one of them, and slaughtering them to make trinkets from their neck bones to sell to tourists passing through the nearby train station. The footage of him playing the marimba he constructed out of ribs and vertebrae while wailing a dirge to a recently bludgeoned giraffe is worth the price alone. The extensive footage of mating giraffes is cut in such a way that it never becomes too overwhelming. You’ll walk away from this one with a renewed appreciation for how much heart one person can have. Especially after seeing how many giraffe hearts one man can eat.
SPACEBOY: LIMB PARADE
for Best Picture
I know that the Academy isn’t known for showing a great amount of consideration for science fiction movies, but not only is this the best film I’ve seen all year, it is perhaps the best film I’ve seen in a decade. It’s a dark, dystopian story that takes place on a distant, unnamed planet at an unknown date. An elite ruling class living in the gargantuan Blue Orb Palace atop the planet’s highest peak terrorize the large underclass population with constant raids and abductions, after which they auction them off, mutilate and dismember them, and plant their severed arms in the magical Azure Garden, where they grow into mindless slave-drones to do the bidding of the nobility. A young hero known only as Spaceboy steps into this scene, and brings hope for change to a people who have been suppressed for millennia. Everything about this picture is magnificent, from the elaborate costume design and majestic sets, to the gritty yet poetic dialogue, to the cats and horses genetically engineered virtually beyond recognition to give life to the grotesque creatures that populate this imaginative world. Most productions would rely on CGI effects to bring to life such fantastical beings, but it’s exactly this kind of attention to detail that make this film so utterly captivating. The love story between Spaceboy and Princess Fa’ruul is exhilarating, and the unsimulated sex scenes are done with a grace rarely seen. A surprisingly good date movie for those who aren’t squeamish about dismemberment and severed limb fetishism.
These are just the humble opinions of one man. What I’m really trying to get at here is that you should form your own opinions, don’t just blindly trust the Hollywood establishment. Get out there and see different and interesting movies, wherever you can find them. Go to small independent theaters, film festivals, scour the depths of Netflix. Or, as in my case with these three, hallucinate them when you fall asleep on the couch after eating an entire wheel of aged Roquefort.
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