Five stars. Rated PG, for mild peril and fleeting Irish profanity
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 1.30.15
There’s an irritating tendency to believe that quality animated films come only from the United States, an arrogant assumption that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has attempted to address — with varying success — since granting such features their own Oscar category in 2001.
Although domestic efforts still tend to win the award — and that’s also annoying — the competition nonetheless has granted welcome exposure to foreign talents such as Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville), Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (Persepolis) and Hayao Miyazaki (nominated three times, and a winner for Spirited Away).
But a sidebar problem also has emerged: It can be hard to see some of the nominees, particularly prior to the Academy Awards broadcast. As I’ve noted previously, the Academy’s animation branch can be congratulated for recognizing talent outside the United States, but that cultural generosity hasn’t been embraced by American movie distributors ... or, for that matter, by American movie viewers.
In 2011, A Cat in Paris and Chico and Rita had almost no distribution throughout the United States. One of last year’s nominees, Ernest & Celestine, never was released on our shores, aside from qualifying screenings at some film festivals. And although nothing could have stopped the Frozen juggernaut — which inevitably included the Oscar in this category — Ernest & Celestine is a far better film on every level.
Which brings us to this year, and similar frustrations. Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya played a few film festivals in October and had very limited release in the rest of the country ... but only in a compromised version that inserted a new American voice cast (another practice that I deem horrifying). Good luck finding it.
Irish director Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea played for two qualifying weeks in late December, in New York, and has remained off the radar since then ... until now. The film is making spotty appearances nationwide, and, starting today, we’ve been granted one screen at an outlying Roseville multiplex.
Trust me: It’ll be worth the drive.
And don’t wait, because I doubt it’ll stay there very long.
Moore may be remembered for having helmed the delightful Secret of the Kells back in 2009, which also earned an Oscar nod. He and his crew began work on Song of the Sea that same year, and the lengthy production time will be understood the moment you experience the luxurious, absolutely gorgeous hand-drawn art that fills every frame.