The Oscar Project
I really can’t believe it’s just a few days before the end of the year already. This year has flown by and as I think I’ve watched more movies in 2022 than ever before, it’s been hard to pick my tops. In fact, I had my entire top ten set for these posts and then just as I was starting to write these, I had to reshuffle them completely to make a spot for today’s film.
#2 – Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
To say this film hit me on a personal level would be an understatement. I don’t usually get to personal on this site, but the beginning of this film features Geppetto’s loss of his son, something I too have dealt with in my life. The circumstances were quite different, but anyone who has experienced the loss of a child understands Geppetto’s grief in this moment and immediately sympathizes with him in a way many people can only imagine.
This opening sequence takes place during World War I, with the remainder of the film being set in the rise of Fascism in Italy and the lead up to World War II. The story of Pinocchio is one that everyone knows from childhood, likely based on the Disney animated classic from 1940 which was only the second animated feature from the studio, following Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. I was surprised to find that the story has been told in film nearly 20 times over the years, with three versions since 2019 and two just this year. I haven’t had a chance to watch the Disney live action version with Tom Hanks as Geppetto, but after watching Guillermo del Toro’s, I’m almost afraid to watch any other versions.
This film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. I will be very surprised if it doesn’t receive an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature with a strong potential to win the award. For me, one of the best things about well done stop motion animation is when the motion blends seamlessly and you begin to forget that what you’re watching is actually miniature animatics positioned one frame at a time. This film often takes you to that level, but doesn’t lose any of the story elements in being a stop-motion film. The story is front and center, the medium just happens to be one that takes incredible talent and dedication to pull off successfully.
The fact that this film was put out by Netflix makes it even more incredible to me. Yes, there was a short theatrical release earlier this year, but most people will only ever see it on a small screen in their living room. In today’s world, I feel like this is a double-edge sword. It’s wonderful that more people will get to see it because it’s readily available on a service most of us already have access to, but at the same time, seeing something this beautiful on a big screen, without the distractions of being at home, would be a truly magical experience.
When it comes to voices in this film, as with most animated films these days, the talent is top notch. Ewan McGregor takes a turn as Sebastian J. Cricket who narrates the story after taking up residence inside Pinocchio’s wooden body. David Bradley (who you probably know as Filch from Harry Potter) provides the voice of Geppetto while Ron Pearlman and Christoph Waltz play the villains, the Podestà and Count Volpe respectively. Rounding out the tremendous cast are Tilda Swinton as both the Wood Sprite who brings Pinocchio to life, and her sister Death who Pinocchio meets in the afterlife, Tim Blake Nelson as Death’s Black Rabbits, John Turturro as the village doctor, and Cate Blanchett as Spazzatura, Count Volpe’s monkey assistant, who tries to help Pinocchio at various turns throughout the story.
I mentioned above that this had a bit of a personal impact on me and to take that even further, I watched this with my teenage son. If you are a father and have a son, I would highly recommend taking this film in with that boy. It can obviously work with any kids, but I think some of the messages are best for fathers and sons, especially those in the pre-teen to teenage range. While Pinocchio is portrayed more as a young boy, the relationship between him and Geppetto goes through the trials and tribulations that many parents and children face as kids grow up and seek independence.
For fans of the Pinocchio story, all the main plot points are there, though they may look quite different than you’re used to. This is not your classic Disney version of the story. It’s definitely darker in tone, but I think it speaks to a universal need to love and be loved in return. The climax of the film brings the story around full circle, and if you don’t at least have a tear in your eye at the very end, I might question your humanity.
Go check out Pinocchio on Netflix today.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?