By Penny Theodorakopoulou,
In less than 24 hours, the 94th Academy Awards will take place in the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, and everyone is thrilled for the ceremony — from nominees, directors, and other people in the film industry, to cinephiles and Oscar-enjoyers. So, continuing from where we last left off, we will take a quick look at Disney’s five remaining film nominations: Free Guy (2021), Luca (2021), Raya and the Last Dragon (2021), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), and Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021).
1) Free Guy (2021)
Shawn Levy’s Free Guy is an adventure comedy film that was aired on August 13th, 2021 in the US, and caused quite the “ruckus” with its trailer, featuring a plethora of popular streamers on streaming platforms like Twitch (Pokimane, Ninja, etc.), as well as famous YouTubers, (Mr. Beast, Jacksepticeye, and DanTDM).
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is an oblivious NPC (non-playable character) living in an inventive fictional video game called Free City. He was happy with his simple albeit regularly violent life in Free City, before meeting Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer). To get the girl of his dreams, Guy snatches a pair of sunglasses that let him see the world as the players do: full of power-ups, loot, and missions, which make for some fun call-outs to the world of video games, with nods to Super Mario Bros, Grand Theft Auto, Fortnite, and more. As Guy sets out on a mission to level up by helping other people (other NPCs) instead of killing them, in order to help Molotov Girl, which is pretty much the point of Free City, we are treated to a whole host of action sequences. However, after being told that he was not “real” and that all his life would be destroyed, he decides to take action and save himself, his people, and Free City.
- Best Visual Effects (Swen Gillberg, Bryan Grill, Nikos Kalazitzidis, and Dan Sudick).
2) Luca (2021)
The director of La Luna (2011), a short film that had been nominated for Best Animated Short Film in 2012, Enrico Casarosa, and Pixar collaborated and released Luca last year, the only Pixar film in this year’s Oscars that is nominated.
Off the coast of Portorosso, on the west coast of Italy, in the depths of the Tyrrhenian Sea, there is a small community of sea “monsters”, including the little shepherd Luca Paguro (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), who, despite his parents’ prohibitions, dreams of coming to the surface and meeting the “earth monsters”. With the help of his new friend, Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer), Luca makes his dream come true, and realizes two things: one, when he comes out of the water, he transforms into a human; and two, the “earth monsters” are not so scary after all — quite the opposite. The two children are living the time of their lives by eating a lot of gelatos, spaghetti, and dreaming of getting a Vespa to see the whole world, with crafty Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman) accompanying them. With her help, they decide to take part in the local triathlon, and with the money of the prize to buy the legendary motorcycle. Of course, they have to be careful, because any contact with the water gives them back their “monstrous” form…
A film that was quite controversial as of Luca and Alberto’s friendship (numerous people and critics insisted that the film had a hidden message for the LGBTQIAP+ community, it still got the recognition and fame it rightfully deserved, both for its story and its smooth and colorful animation, which traveled the viewers to the crystal clear waters of the Italian Riviera. As you can guess from the aforementioned, Luca has one nomination for:
- Best Animated Feature Film (Enrico Casarosa and Andrea Warren).
3) Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
The screenwriters of Raya and the Last Dragon, Qui Nguyen (The Society, 2019) and Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians, 2018), born in Vietnam and Malaysia respectively, have done a great deal of research on Raya on their respective countries’ cultures, based mainly on the folklore of Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) lives in a fantastic land called Kumandra, a mix of Southeast Asian nations and cultures that include hundreds of miles, languages, cultures, and islands. This different part of the planet is now concentrated in a group of five races that have not been clearly mapped to any particular culture. In this fantasy kingdom, dragons and humans lived in harmony. At the threat of the evil Drunn demons, dragons were sacrificed to save humanity. Five hundred years later, the demons will reappear and Raya, a young and brave warrior, is determined to find the last dragon to save them once and for all. With the planet out of ecological balance and the other races in conflict, Raya, without alternative, is dedicated to trying to find the place where Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon in history, is hidden, hoping Sisu would help heal the world. On this journey, she will realize that, in addition to the magic of dragons, she also needs faith to save humanity.
Even though Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim have Asian roots, it is said by a variety of film critics that Raya and the Last Dragon is not “accurate” and “literate” enough, when it comes to Asian culture. Nevertheless, its animation, as well as songs and societal messages have rightfully earned its nomination for:
- Best Animated Feature Film (Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Osnat Shurer, and Peter Del Vecho).
4) Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Like Black Panther (2018) before Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Destin Daniel Cretton’s film seems to have a somewhat heavy burden to carry. This is because by introducing here the first Asian protagonist superhero in the Marvel film universe and hosting almost exclusively Asian characters, he tries not only to celebrate Asian heritage and culture, while delivering an impressive film but also to correct some of his controversial choices in both MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies and comics.
Young Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) lives in San Francisco and works as a valet until a group of executioners steals the pendant that his mother had given him when he was a child. With his best friend Katy (Awkwafina), he embarks on a journey to Macau to warn his sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), of the danger she will face anytime soon. Shang-Chi, trapped in the nets of the mysterious and dangerous clique called “Ten Rings” led by his estranged father, Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), is called upon to face his past.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first Marvel movie that depicts an Asian superhero, which is quite the novelty. As Marvel wishes to release more heroes from other cultures, Shang-Chi is the perfect example for a new beginning in the MCU. The film has acquired one nomination for:
- Best Visual Effects (Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker, and Dan Oliver).
5) Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021)
The Harlem Cultural Festival took place in a moment of intense political confrontation and under the shadow of a violence that could break out at any moment and was a way out, but also a moment of clear awareness for thousands of African American people in Harlem and in New York. As one of his viewers puts it: “It was the first time I saw so many truly happy black people, at a time when America was triumphantly reaching the moon, but Harlem was sinking into heroin”.
In the summer of ’69, at the Harlem Cultural Festival, 300,000 people watched live legendary names such as B.B King, Mahalia Jackson, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and tens of others. “Soul Summer”, as it was called, was scandalously lost for half a century until today, at last, it is finally brought to the surface by Questlove (Ahmir Thompson) of The Roots, delivering an amazing documentary that floods with rhythm and emotion, a film about the summer, “where negroes died and black people were born” and at the same time one of the best concert films of all time.
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who is responsible for Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is an extraordinary documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival, which took place in the same year as Woodstock Music and Art Fair, another festival that wrote history. So, the 23rd nomination for Disney on Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is in the following category:
- Best Documentary Feature (Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent, and David Dinerstein).
Disney’s 23 nominations in this year’s Academy Awards are worth-earned. From this article and the previous one, we can conclude that Disney’s debut is not only focused on its animated films, but also in live-action ones. One thing is for certain, though: whether they win in every category or not, Disney’s 10 movies have made their viewers feel a plethora of feelings — be it happiness, joy, overwhelmedness, or sadness in more emotional scenes. But talk is cheap, and we cannot wait to find out the results of the 94th Academy Awards. Stay tuned!
- The Walt Disney Company Earns 23 Oscar® Nominations, thewaltdisneycompany.com, Available here
- Free Guy review – irresistible gaming caper, theguardian.com, Available here
- Luca, rogerebert.com, Available here
- Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon is a sumptuous fantasy — but it makes a mess of Southeast Asian culture, vox.com, Available here
- ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Review: House of Hidden Dragons, nytimes.com, Available here
- Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, pitchfork.com, Available here
- The official page of the Oscars 2022 | 94th Academy Awards, abc.com, Available here