*This article contains minor spoilers.*
By the time Oscar Sunday rolls around, it will have been 12 years since Toy Story 3 picked up a nomination for Best Picture, marking the last time an animated movie was nominated for the highly-coveted award. Only twice before Toy Story 3 had an animated film broken into the Best Picture list (in 2010 with Up and in 1991 with Beauty and the Beast). This makes it a fairly tall – and statistically improbable – task for any animated feature to pick up a Best Picture nomination. Nevertheless, coming out of the premier, and even sooner for some, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio was already being seen as a top threat to break into the Best Picture lineup. But why?
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio marks the fourth time in as many years that a Pinocchio adaptation has been released, but, three of the four came in 2022 alone: Pinocchio: A True Story, Disney’s live-action Pinocchio, and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. The story of the wooden boy who is brought to life and learns what it means to be real is getting to a point where fatigue for the character and story is beginning to set in. So I ask again, why is this story, this year, considered a contender for Best Picture?
The answer can be found in the title of the film itself: Guillermo del Toro.
Del Toro made himself known amongst Oscar voters when he picked up his first nomination in Best Writing, Original Screenplay for Pan’s Labyrinth in 2007. The film would go on to win three of its six nominations. However, it was in 2018 that del Toro went from a known nominee to a fully-embraced Oscar winner. His 2018 film, The Shape of Water, led the field in nominations, winning four in the process including Best Picture and Best Director for del Toro. For the first time since Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2004, a fantasy won Best Picture. He followed up this monumental win with a surprise Best Picture nomination for his following film Nightmare Alley, one very few people saw coming. That’s the power of del Toro, and if Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is to pick up a Best Picture nomination, it will be because of him.
But Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio‘s Best Picture fate shouldn’t be all on the shoulders of del Toro himself, as the movie is more than good enough to earn the nomination on its own. Telling a very different and new version of Pinocchio, this film in particular manages to evoke an emotional response that no Pinocchio, not even the 1940 classic, could accomplish. This version of Pinocchio foregoes the need to be a “real boy,” and instead just wants to be someone that his father, Gepetto, can be proud of. In reality, he almost loves not being a real boy.
He loves disobedience and he loves not following the rules, which in fascist Italy during the rise of Mussolini, are things you simply cannot do. However, disobedience is just what the people in this story need. They need to learn how to live not as subservient beings, but as people who are all a part of this world. Thematically what del Toro built is vastly different than any previous version of Pinocchio, and the differences help make this version far superior to any before.
The final words, spoken by Ewan McGregor’s Sebastian J. Cricket, are, “What happens, happens, and then we are gone.” This might sound like a downer of an ending, but in reality, it isn’t. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio dives deeply into these ideas of death and what it means to be alive and while the final line of the film might seem dour, it is really saying to love every moment that you’re here.
The change in themes and story is not the only advancement del Toro made, but the stop-motion animation that he, co-director Mark Gustafson, and the entire crew of animators created will be an advancement for animation as a whole. The care and love for animation as a medium show up on the screen with some of the most beautifully animated scenes and sequences you will ever see. The design of the puppets and the sets make this feel as lifelike as any live-action movie this year.
Why Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio should be nominated for Best Picture isn’t solely because of the names attached to it, but because, likely more than any movie this year, there is a care and love put into it across the board. Whether it be the sound, music, sets, or thematic depths, no film has the same amount of top to bottom care and love as Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio does. What Guillermo del Toro and the entire cast and crew crafted is not just one of the most heart-wrenching films of the year, it is a purely cinematic experience that deserves recognition as being one of the best.
Check out our review of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.
You can watch the film on Netflix now.
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