Henry Bevan on Coco and the Oscars’ aversion to animated film…
My granddad became a husk when he was diagnosed with dementia. He looked the same, but he had died before he actually died. A football revived him. A former player and lifelong fanatic, if you put a ball in front of him, his grace and agility fought the disease. For a brief period, my granddad, like the relatives in Coco, had returned from the dead.
Coco, Pixar’s latest animated, shows the curing power of an object. Instead of a football, music fills Mama Coco with her memories of her cherished father who supposedly abandoned the family hunting for fame and fortune. Miguel is desperate to play the guitar and this desperation takes him to the world of the dead.
Like the best children’s fiction, Coco deals with heavy themes revolving around death, loss and love. It is the first cinematic experience that reminded me of my grandfather’s struggles and my family’s reaction. Unlike Amour, Michael Haneke’s exploration of a similar circumstance, I didn’t want to leave. The Austrian auteur’s trademark starkness made his film too raw, and the genius behind Coco is how it bring back powerful memories in the wrapping of a warm blanket. It pulled off a powerful trick. For a brief time, my granddad returned and not the husk in the corner; the man with the football at his feet.
This is impressive filmmaking and Lee Unkrich delivers his beats with a visual beauty only animation, a form unhindered by the real world, can deliver. The writing is so attuned to Miguel’s desires and objectives, you fall for the red herring because he falls for the red herring. He’s an engaging protagonist and you get fooled because you want to be fooled. You are hurt by the revelations because they are delivered with a sincere emotionality.
But, on Hollywood’s biggest night of self-congratulation, Coco will walk away with the token Best Animated Feature Award because for some reason we have been culturally conditioned to believe that films aimed at children are not worthy of winning Best Picture. I’ve previously covered this topic and animated movies are not given the same respect as their live-action counterparts no matter how intelligent their storytelling is.
They have their own category, created in the early-2000s. Shrek won the inaugural award, and while Up and Toy Story 3 (Unkrich’s last film) were nominated for Best Picture after the number of eligible films was bumped up to 10. No one thought they had a chance of winning. They were given the smaller award, and only Beauty and the Beast was nominated before the introduction of the new category and when the number of nominees only reached five.
It hasn’t been a good year for animation. The Boss Baby, a charming but one-note-one-joke movie, has been nominated. Coco should walk away with the prize, but I can’t help thinking that when a film can bring back a deceased loved one and make you cherish the ones who live, it may be being robbed when Hollywood isn’t considering it for its most-coveted prize.
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