Today was my first day back to work, and I honestly was not feeling it. Combine that with the beginnings of a sinus infection coming on, and I felt like in contrast with yesterday’s horror extravaganza, today would be a good time for something more heartwarming. Today, heartwarming means animated. I’m not trying to fall for the animated equals family friendly cliché, I promise at some point this year I’ll tackle some challenging animated films, but for today that’s what we’re going with. Sticking with animated also let’s me cross another 2020 film off my list, specifically…
Soul (2020, Dir. Pete Doctor and Kemp Powers)
Peak, late aughts, Pixar was so exceptional, that it made the concept of a Pixar film a near impossibility to live up to. Soul, like Onward (Dir. Dan Scanlon) from earlier in the year once again fails to live up to those lofty heights. While Soul was the standout of the two, watching it was the more depressing one as it came close to capturing some of that late aughts magic, only to be weighed down with decisions that have become all the too common in Pixar films.
What worked for me the best in the film was everything to do with Jazz. Pete Doctor and Kemp Powers do a wonderful job of capturing the idea of being in the zone; they use the cinematic language to articulate the world melting around you. Jamie Foxx is wonderful as the Jazz obsessed Joe. On the other hand, Tina Fey as the soul 22 was a serious detriment to my viewing experience. It’s not that she’s a bad actress, but she’s too much of an actress for the role. 22’s purpose in the film should be as a catalyst to propel growth in Joe, but the comedic sidekick casting is overbearing. It’s Disney deciding that nuance isn’t something that should be embraced but stamped out in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Not every animated film needs to be WALL·E (2008, Dir. Andrew Stanton), but I worry Disney is too concerned with money to ever allow Pixar a film that nuanced again.
I don’t want to end on too negative a note, I liked Soul more than I disliked it. I just wanted more from it. So as not to end on a sour note, I decided to watch one more thing. A personal goal I do each year, and that you’ll see a lot more posts on when it comes time, is watch everything that’s nominated for an Oscar, any Oscar. That’s why after watching the animated Soul, it seemed like a good time to check out an animated short frontrunner.
If Anything Happens I Love You (2020, Dir. Michael Govier and Will McCormack)
And I immediately eat my own introductory words by watching this beautiful but heart wrenching animated short about two parents grieving their child who died in a school shooting. The minimalist art style of the short heightens the morose subject matter. Significant white space breaks with the conventional norm to build the sense of isolation and listlessness. Characters existing both as bodies and shadows highlight the dissociation that comes from trauma. A moving depiction of an awful reality.