This year’s list of nominees in the best animated feature category has one anomaly: “Anomalisa,” an R-rated drama told entirely with stop-motion animation.
The film tells the story of a mentally troubled author (the voice of David Thewlis) who falls for one of his fans (Jennifer Jason Leigh). It’s written by Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich”), who directed with animator Duke Johnson. Among the film’s more unusual moments is an awkward sexual encounter in a hotel room — not something you’d expect to see acted out by two 3-D printed figurines.
“Anomalisa” isn’t the kind of movie that usually gets nominated for best animated feature. Since the category was created in 2002, it has included almost exclusively children’s films. The award tends to go to Pixar titles (seven of the total 14 winners), though the last two Oscars went to Disney titles (“Frozen” and “Big Hero 6”). Other winners include Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” and the Warner Bros. release “Happy Feet” (directed, oddly enough, by George Miller, currently an Oscar nominee for “Mad Max: Fury Road”).
Aside from “Anomalisa,” the only other time the Oscars acknowledged a “grown-up” film in the animated feature category was in 2008, when “Persepolis,” based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel about an Iranian girl’s coming of age, earned a nod. Richard Linklater’s two R-rated animated features, “Waking Life” (2001) and “A Scanner Darkly” (2006), were not nominated. (Those films used rotoscoping, a process of “painting” over live footage, which some animation purists disdain.)
“Anomalisa” is unlikely to win the Oscar, but it’s proof that animated films aren’t only for kids. As you might guess, Pixar’s “Inside Out” is widely expected to take home the gold.