During the voting period of the Oscar nominations (Fri 5 – Wed 10 March), I will be putting out FYC campaigns for what films Academy members should be giving a watch and who they should be considering giving a nomination for.
Today’s FYC push: Soul
Note: I will not be talking about the Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score categories, as Soul is not needing a push in those particular categories for nominations. This FYC push will focus on other categories that the film should be considered for.
Best Visual Effects
In a year like this where blockbusters have been pushed back, there are very few strong contenders for the Best Visual Effects category. This has allowed an animated film such as Soul the chance to be shortlisted in the category, and I would like to make a case as to why Academy members should end up choosing the film as one of the five nominees.
There have been animated films that have made it into this category before. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) both managed to secure nominations, whilst the animation work in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) was enough for that film to win the Best Visual Effects award. There was also a discussion about last year’s The Lion King submission, which is fully animated but only decided to compete – and be nominated in – Best Visual Effects. The fact that Soul managed to get a nomination means that the branch is willing to embrace the effort put in by the animation studio to bring the visuals to life.
When we talk about a studio that continues to grow in its animation style and constantly improve, it is easy to see to immediately think of Pixar. Looking on at their 25-year span between Toy Story (1995) and now, it is incredible to see how far they have come along. Soul might just be their best work to date, especially in terms of the visuals. Keeping with the distinct animation style of caricature faces and fun colour schemes and fantasy creatures, the team are also able to capture the scenery of New York as if it was a photo. It is hard not to be enamoured by the visual effects of the film, and are easily some of the best of the year.
This entire FYC is going to be about making voters see this film as more than just a prize for Best Animated Feature, and one of the best ways to start is to give this a nomination in Best Visual Effects. If the Academy is okay voting for 2019’s The Lion King – an animated film – in the Best Visual Effects category, then they need to be okay voting for Soul as a Best Visual Effects nominee as well.
Best Director: Pete Docter and Kemp Powers
When initially entering the Best Director race this year, many people had their bets on David Fincher winning his first Oscar to honour the filmography he has. However, when it became clear that Mank was not a typical film of Fincher and many people lost interest in giving him a career Best Director Oscar for this particular film, that motivation wore away and made room for another director, Chloé Zhao, to take the lead for Nomadland.
However, that same motivation to reward Fincher should be something to consider in particular for director Pete Docter, who I would really love to see someday earn a Best Director nomination. If we are talking about directors who have a strong filmography and track record, look at Docter. During his time at Pixar, he has directed Monsters Inc., Up, Inside Out, and now Soul. These are arguably four of the greatest films of the Pixar filmography, and makes to me one of the strongest filmographies of any director.
However, he should not be honoured alone. Docter was struggling to bring Soul to life for numerous years when script-writer for the film Kemp Powers was asked to join as a director on the film. The beating heart for this film came from Powers and the style that he brought to the table, helping bring his beautiful script to life and finding that nice tonal balance.
There has never been an animated film nominated for the Best Director award, and people need to learn that these films don’t animate or get made by themselves. There is a lot of pressure placed on directors to meet deadlines, be strict with cutting hard work of animation to drive the narrative forward and to balance the tone of being entertaining for children and adults. Directors in animation deserve the credit, and that especially applies to the best in the business, Pete Docter.
Considering how 2020 has turned out and the shorter amount of movies that qualified, I cannot believe I am having to make a campaign to get Soul into the Best Picture race. Unlike the stigma against animated films in the Best Director race, the Academy has nominated an animated film in Best Picture three times: Beauty and the Beast (1991), Up (2009), and Toy Story 3 (2010). I mean, two of these was by Pixar and one of them was directed by Pete Docter, so there is no reason for them to be turned away by Soul.
The campaign for Soul got off to a good start as it was willing to do a small festival campaign, being a Cannes official selection and officially premiering at the London Film Festival. After that, it aired for anyone who had a Disney+ membership for free on Christmas Day. For a year that everyone was stuck at home and with the millions of subscriptions that Disney+ has globally, this was a good way of getting Academy members to watch the film and consider it.
Animated films do have a bigger struggle when keeping momentum during awards season. The Critics Choice Awards now have a separate smaller show to announce genre-specific awards, including the Animated Feature. The Golden Globes do not consider animated films in their Drama or Musical/Comedy category, only nominating it in Animated Feature. With no physical actors making a presence in the film, it also does not make it into the SAG awards. This lack of momentum, plus not qualifying for the WGA, has led to many dismissing the film’s chances of being nominated at the Oscars.
I held on hope for so long that Soul would end up being a potential winner for the Best Picture at the Oscars, after the members’ acceptance of a Foreign Language winner last year. However, the chances are slipping and I hope this FYC encourages even one person to give Soul a chance and nominate it for Best Picture. Quite simply, it is shocking that there are ten other films even considered to be better than it in this year.