The nominations: Animated Feature
The film: Young amateur filmmaker and scientist boy genius Victor Frankenstein lives with his parents Ben and Susan and his beloved dog and constant companion Sparky in the quiet and genteel suburbia New Holland. Victor is universally recognized as very, very smart by his classmates Elsa Van Helsing, Edgar “E” Gore, Bob, Tokiashi, Nassor, and the Weird Girl with the weird cat. Victor’s father has genuine concern over Victor’s self-isolation spending so much time alone inventing and experimenting and making movies with Sparky instead of playing with others his age, so he encourages his son to go out for baseball. But at the first game a ball is hit into the street; Sparky chases it down and is hit by a car and killed.
Inspired by his progressive science teacher Mr. Rzykruski’s demonstration with the effect of electricity on dead tissue, Victor sneaks out one night before a storm and digs up Sparky. Harnessing the power of lightning, Victor is able to direct the electricity of the storm into Sparky, bringing him back to life. Certain that the nosy town would be horribly alarmed to witness the dog is back from the dead, Victor keeps Sparky in the attic. But one day while Victor is at school, Sparky spots Weird Girl’s cat from the attic window and pursues it. While the dog explores the neighborhood it is spotted by E. Gore, who blackmails Victor for his silence by having him help reanimated E’s dead goldfish. The experiment is successful once again, but due to some unknown variable the goldfish is invisible. Edgar brags about his new invisible pet to Tokiashi and Bob who become worried that they will lose the science fair. The two try to build a rocket, testing it from the roof, but Bob falls and breaks his arm. Mr. Rzykruski is blamed and subsequently fired.
After E. Gore starts letting more in on Victor’s secret, Nassor, Tokiashi, Bob, and Weird Girl all try their hands at reanimation but to disastrous consequences, creating strange and horrible monsters that start to run amok in New Holland. Victor’s parents discover Sparky in the attic, causing the dog to flee. When the townspeople see the dead bog has come back to life as well as the terror the town is now plagued by, they are all to ready to blame strange and lonely Victor for inculcating all of the abominations now reeking havoc. The only way Victor can change their minds is to try and figure out why his experiment worked and all of the other went awry before its too late.
The odds: Adapted as a full-length stop-motion animated motion picture from his 1984 live action short film of the same name, Frankenweenie is by far the best movie Tim Burton has made since 2003’s Big Fish. Selecting the choice elements of other spindly, bizarro stop-motion flicks he had his producer’s hands in like 9 and The Nightmare Before Christmas as well as Corpse Bride, which he also directed, Burton spliced together a brilliant little movie that feels like a throwback to when it wasn’t morally repugnant and politically incorrect to genuinely frighten children. The kitschy and simple motives of the story move fluidly and fit in nicely with the rest of Burton’s work. But the most satisfying part of this movie is Burton’s return to form, the plucky and kid-friendly Poltergeist-esque homage to the Frankenstein story echoing the creepy/weird/adorable aesthetic of his magnum opus modern fairytale Edward Scissorhands. After all of the time he’s spent in the filmmaking business showcasing his strongest and most poignant narrative work to date, imbued with knowledge and aesthetic developed over almost thirty years, executed with veracious focus, proves why Burton resurrected this story that is obviously very dear to him (either that or he rather enjoys goofing around with his movies). Seeing this movie in the IMAX was a revelation: the detail and construction were amazing and in perfect keeping with the Burton-isms and not diminished in the slightest by the black-and-white picture, which was a clever nod to its cinematic inspirations. It doesn’t have borderline arcaneness to its themes like Brave nor does it have the visual intricacy of its kindred nominee ParaNorman, but with the rave reviews it received upon release and the delight of Burton’s comeback could rocket this movie straight to the winner’s circle.