Oscars!: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Oscar Nominations: Best Animated Feature Film
Okay, so let's just say that I'm not happy about a lot of things with the Oscars this year. The blatant race and gender issues, the make up of the Academy membership, the whole American Sniper issues... and let's not forget that for animated films, both The Lego Movie and The Book of Life were left out of the final nominees, which is pretty much ludicrous on all fronts, given that The Boxtrolls got in there. But that's neither here nor there in the end, except to say that, as in many years, I take issue with some facets of how the particularly white Academy sausage was made this year. But, all the issues in the world won't get an Oscars dinner on the table, and I enjoy that tradition too much to abandon it altogether. To the movie, then!
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is one I saw earlier in the year and watched again the other night with my stepkids. I am wholly in the thrall of Toothless, who reminds me to no small degree of my corgi. Such a sweet little nightfury, yes he is....
Anyway, so if you haven't seen the first one, the jist is that the Vikings of a small town called Berk used to be dragon hunters, and through an accidental relationship between Hiccup, the chief's son, and the nightfury dragon he injures but cannot bring himself to kill, instead nursing him back to health and eventually proving to his father that people and dragons can not only co-exist, but positively thrive together.
In the second movie, we pick up a few years later. Hiccup and Toothless are exploring the world, while Berk is specializing in dragon races and retooling from a war economy, and Stoic (the chief) wants to hand off leadership to Hiccup, who just isn't feeling it. And while that sounds very much like the plot of Brave, only from a male point of view, the story is interestingly complicated by a larger threat to the dragons and the rediscovery of Hiccup's mother, who turns out not to be dead but instead very much alive and a career woman, as it were. She admits fault for not coming back and is overjoyed to be found, but isn't about to give up the things she loves -- and in her Hiccup sees so much of the things he'd always felt outcast about.
The relationship between Stoic and his wife is very sweet, and the relationship between Hiccup and Astrid, his friend/sweetheart is very understated. Astrid is good at all the leadership stuff that Hiccup isn't sure about, and the seemingly-ideal solution of shared leadership is never addressed. Sexual orientation is very subtly hinted at in the figure of Stoic's right-hand man, but it's an ambiguous half-a-line in an otherwise not-commenting-on-orientation film, so I'm hesitant to hang too much on it.
That said, it is an absolutely gorgeous film. The voice work is spot on, there aren't a ton of inappropriate jokes to interrupt the flow, the dragons are totally awesome, and the animation is really very good.
Oscars Prediction: It was totally worthy of nomination and it's not likely to win. It's also not my choice to win -- I'm saving that for another one on the list. I'm glad it made the short list, though.