Our annual compilation of overlooked films. Each reviewer chose five films to highlight.
“Early Man”: Even when he’s not working with his beloved Wallace and Gromit, four-time Oscar winner Nick Park is a singularly talented director who proves his stop-motion clay figures with their trademark underbite can be as expressive as the best drawn and CG characters. When caveman Dug sees a Bronze Age knife slicing bread, he declares it, “the greatest thing since … ever!” HBO GO; Amazon Prime
“Love Me, Fear Me”: The standout film in the 20th “Animation Show of Shows” uses vivid stop-motion animation of a metamorphic clay figure to reference break-dancing, gymnastics, modern dance and martial arts kata. A celebration of observation and movement, this was director Veronica Solomon’s thesis film. She’s clearly a talent to watch.
“Mirai”: Mamoru Hosoda’s fifth personal film, in which Kun, a happy 4-year-old, is shattered when his parents bring home a baby sister, is the first Japanese animated feature to be nominated for a Golden Globe. Hosoda juxtaposes a series of fantastic adventures that teach Kun his new place in the family — and the world — with charming animation of the chubby hero.
“My Hero Academia: Two Heroes”: In an era of unapologetic greed and selfishness, Deku, the nerdy hero of this popular franchise, strives to help anyone in danger, even if it means risking his life. Like Spider-Man, Deku believes that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
“The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl”: Quirky, offbeat and even off-putting at times, “alternative anime” director Masaaki Yuasa’s award-winning feature follows a drunken college student through the fleshpots of Kyoto. Yuasa is a highly original artist who follows his own vision — wherever it leads.
More, please: Films like the ones above that showcase the endless possibilities of the protean art of animation. Not every film benefits from the hyper-detailed look of so many recent CG features.
Enough already: Anthems. “The cold never bothered me anyway,” but formula songs with brassy vocals, swelling strings and blaring trumpets do.