Updated: Feb 27, 2019
Well, would you look at that. After a crop of nominees that weren’t all that bad this year, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse deservedly took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Does this mean the Academy has finally started taking animation seriously? I’d definitely say they’re improving, but there are still multiple worthy animated features this year that weren’t represented. Just like last year, I have taken it upon myself to find the best and most original animated films of the year, and recommend them to you.
Here are five animated movies from 2018 that weren’t nominated for an Oscar that you should watch.
1. The Night is Short, Walk On Girl (dir. Masaaki Yuasa)
Masaaki Yuasa is one of the most unique, prolific, and well-versed anime directors working today, and definitely deserves recognition for his wild, joyous film Night is Short. The visuals are creative and bizarre. The story and characters are charming, and the film manages to capture the feeling of freedom and the devil-may-care attitude that only young people with access to a copious amount of alcohol seem to emanate. Please don’t follow the film’s example in real life (you’ll probably die of alcohol poisoning), but do remember that life is short, so celebrate it as best as you can, even when the unpredictable happens. Also, if you like this film, I highly recommend The Tatami Galaxy, an 11-episode television show that draws upon similar themes and characters, and is also directed by Yuasa.
2. Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms (dir. Mari Okada)
Another film from Japan, Maquia, marks the directorial debut for anime-writer Mari Okada--and quite the debut it is. In the span of two hours, Okada manages to craft a rich, fantasy world. She tells a story about motherhood that had me bawling my eyes out by the end. The animation is also gorgeous, though I can understand the character designs throwing people off (their eyes are way too small for my liking). Even so, this is probably the most intimate and heart-wrenching animated film I’ve seen all year and I highly recommend it to anyone in the mood for a good drama. I also recommend it to people who really need to give their mom a call and thank them for all they’ve done.
3. Tito and the Birds (dir. Gustavo Steinberg, Gabriel Bitar, and André Catoto)
Now we fly from Japan all the way to Brazil, where we find the beautifully-animated Tito and the Birds. From a narrative standpoint, this film is rather simplistic and heavy-handed, especially considering the current political climate...basically anywhere (wow, who knew fear makes people irrational). That said, I found the film’s earnesty charming and its intentions pure. I also watched the film with its English dub, thus it is possible that the story is more subtle in the original language. Still, the real reason to watch this film is the innovative animation style, one that uses painting techniques and brushstrokes to make breathtaking background art and effects. Furthermore, these visuals are accompanied by one of my favorite musical scores from the year, composed by Ultrassom Music Ideas. Please watch this if you want a lovable experience (peppered with some terrifying moments) brought to life with stunning visuals.
4. Have a Nice Day (dir. Jian Liu)
From Brazil, we go to China to talk about the guy who basically made this movie from scratch, Jian Liu. Liu wrote, directed, produced, and animated most of this feature himself in the span of three years. The story follows numerous characters as they attempt to obtain a bag filled with money. It comments on the desperation felt by less fortunate people when confronted with a way out of their lower-class lives or a monetary means of helping those they love. The film itself has very limited animation, but the directing and cinematography manage to make it work. The static nature of the movements create a weirdly tense atmosphere, one that properly plays with time. Occasionally, this style makes the film feel rather slow; however, when the plot does move forward, it is very satisfying. Some scenes are so well-executed they stick with you long after the film ends. Ultimately, I would check out this movie to support independent filmmakers and animation that is aimed adult audiences.
5. Ruben Brandt, Collector (dir. Milorad Kristic)
Our last stop is Hungary where we view yet another adult-oriented animation, though this one is about art theft and psychological torture (what fun!). Admittedly, I haven’t seen this one yet ( because 1. it hasn’t been properly released in America and 2. I do not have the money to fly to Hungary), but from the trailers, it looks highly entertaining and I have high regard for the cubist art style. I’m excited to see how this animation choice plays into the film beyond giving it a cool aesthetic. Plus, I always enjoy a good heist movie. Check this one out if it comes to theaters near you!
So, there you have it: five animated films that are worth watching despite not being nominated for the Best Animated Feature. Honorable mentions go to Liz and the Blue Bird and Early Man, both of which I have not seen, but have heard many good things about. I hope you enjoy at least one of these recommendations, and maybe learn a little more about the capabilities of animation along the way. Or you could just watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse again. Or do both. Preferably both.