As I wrote in yesterday’s LAFCA voting live-blog, GKIDS’ beguiling French creature feature “Ernest and Celestine” is making strides in the animated Oscar race. Yesterday’s win from the LA crowd, pipping early critics’ favorite “The Wind Rises” to the post, was an unexpected coup. It did well, too, in the Annie Award nominations, where it joined “Frozen” as the only films to score nods for directing and writing, in addition to the top prize. Add to that the news that the film’s English-language version — featuring the voices of Forest Whitaker and Nick Offerman, among others — has secured a shiny premiere slot at the Sundance Film Festival, and it’s clearly a viable contender.
Now, along with GKIDS’ other 2014 awards hopeful, Japanese anime effort “A Letter to Momo,” “Ernest and Celestine” is receiving another handy profile boost in the midst of the voting period — and it’s rather a sweet one. The two films have been named as part of an 18-film retrospective of the works that the independent animation distributor has brought to the screen.
“An Animated World: Celebrating Five Years of GKIDS Classics” will take place in New York’s IFC Center from December 20 to January 2. In addition to those two current Oscar players, the showcase will also include upcoming releases “Welcome to the Space Show,” “Nocturna” and “Eleanor’s Secret,” as well as a silver-anniversary re-release of Studio Ghibli’s masterful “Grave of the Fireflies” and “My Neighbor Totoro,” to which they now hold the theatrical rights.
11 of the films, of course, will be past GKIDS releases, including recent Oscar nominees “The Secret of Kells,” “Chico and Rita” and “A Cat in Paris,” as well as such films as “Summer Wars,” “From Up on Poppy Hill,” “The Rabbi’s Cat,” “The Painting,” “Tales of the Night” and “Sita Sings the Blues.” Tickets, if you fancy revisiting an old favorite or meeting a new one, are available here.
Anyway, the retrospective is a nice (not to mention timely) reminder of just how this scrappy outfit has made a name for itself — and sculpted a distinct, discerning brand in the process — in the last five years. It remains to be seen whether the Academy’s rule adjustments in this category will make life that much harder for independent outsiders. Either way, the films are their own reward — and in a year that many feel hasn’t been a vintage one for big studio animation, this couldn’t be a more opportune moment for GKIDS to, quite literally,.show everyone what they’re made of.