The Oscars are upon us and what a glorious time it is. This is probably my favorite time of year with Christmas coming as a close second only because it is the major focal point of film studios to push their Oscar hopefuls onto the masses. Either way, it’s a wonderful time to enjoy film. Having said that, The Mental Vacation takes the Oscar races very seriously and to give every film a fair shake we strive to see each and every nominee before the February 22nd Academy Awards.
Which leads us to this article…..
I recently have been able to watch Song of the Sea and I wanted to give it a fair assessment due to the fact that it is in a pretty extensive category (Best Animated Feature) with some heavyweights this year. This category includes:
– Big Hero 6
– The Boxtrolls
– How to Train Your Dragon 2
– The Tale of Princess Kaguya
I have not yet seen Princess Kaguya, but I will be able to later this week and just taking a closer look at the rest of the nominees shows that from the very beginning, Song of the Sea is a longshot to take the statue. First and foremost, Song of the Sea is beautifully made. It is reminiscent of older hand-drawn cartoons that have since moved onto to different methods, but it is because of this hand-drawn look that sets Song of the Sea apart from the rest of the nominees. It catches the eye from the very first frame and keeps your attention in that regard no matter the story. From a visual aspect, I can fully endorse and understand why this film was nominated and could at least cause a disturbance for a Dark Horse pick. There are some specific scenes that made me sit up in my chair with a sense of wonder as to how they created such beautiful shots. I’m thinking in particularly of when the Celtic goddess, Macha, becomes angry and changes into an owl made of rock (I know, I know, it sounds bizarre) or a moment when the big brother, Ben, visits an old mythological Celtic God who is a keeper of stories and each one of them represents a strand of his hair. I understand how this can sound when just simply reading it, but I cannot emphasize enough how gorgeous this movie is.
Where Song of the Sea falters is through its delivery of its story. It is based off of characters from Celtic mythology, something that is truly interesting, but the director fully expects you to be caught up and knowledgeable on this subject and if you are not, I promise you, you will be asking yourself a lot of questions. Or if you are like me, writing a mixture of questions and characters in your phone to research later. As I mentioned earlier, the story is truly interesting, dealing with the themes of death, loss, recovery and family and doing so through an interesting perspective of a 6 year old named Saoirse (pronounced: See-er-sha). This film in a nutshell; still dealing with the loss of their mother, Bronagh, just after the birth of Saoirse, who is just turning 6yrs old, her older brother Ben, and their father, Conor, are simply are trying to move on in life. Unbeknownst to Saoirse, she is a Selkie, a human on land but a seal in water, just like her mother and as her life slowly begins to deteriorate for unknown reasons, Ben and her set out on a journey to find a solution.
Still with me?
Now you understand what I was dealing with going into this movie without any prior information. If you are still lost, here is a cheat sheet of characters below:
Now I have to slightly suspend my judgement of the delivery of story because it wasn’t originally intended for American audiences and such a folklore seems to be common knowledge for the intended audience. This is a snap judgement, but I at a least understand the means of film distribution for a foreign animated film and so it’s more on me, the viewer, to do my homework rather than the director to dilute his project. And so, the issue of “playing catchup” with the mythology is a bit of a speed bump, but its truly nothing that hurts the film. That being said, it still is not the strongest in the category, that is an honor that goes to The Boxtrolls…but more on that later.
Another aspect in which Song of the Sea shines is its use of music. A beautiful mix of Celtic folk songs and instrumental lullabies are showcased throughout the film and are wonderfully crafted. It was something that stood out immediately from the film and helped transport you to this very different time and place. In a way, it helped ease you into all of the mythology that was being cast your way.
All in all, Song of the Sea was an excellent film. It is nothing groundbreaking, but it demands respect from a visual and musical standpoint. It is not the strongest in the Animated category this year, however, it could definitely ruffle some feathers as a sneaky pick to take the statue on awards night. It’ll be interesting to see who actually wins this category given The Lego Movie’s snub from the category, How to Train Your Dragon 2’s surprise victory at the Golden Globes and how much love a film like The Boxtrolls will get. Needless to say, all of the surrounding questions and controversy with this category will make this a category to watch on February 22nd.