2023 Oscar Fantasy Films

An overview of the 2023 Oscar Fantasy Films with recommendations and a few extra from last year.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
2023 Oscar Fantasy

Everything Everywhere All at Once (4.5*)

Avatar: The Way of Water (4*)

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (4*)

The Sea Beast (3.5*)

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2.5*)

Turning Red (2*)

It is somewhat embarrassing to admit that Fantasy Films is a genre I don’t understand very well.  To me there are big overlaps between this genre and that of science fiction and adventure.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film in this category that doesn’t also appear in at least one of the others – so it isn’t clear to me how this is different.  Nonetheless, it is still singled out by others, so I’ll talk about this year’s six films in this genre, and recommend three from last year.

My favorite film in this category, and also the Best Picture Oscar Winner, was Everything Everywhere All at Once (4.5*). Made on a shoestring budget, it still managed to attract top actors like Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis.  The story is as wacky as you can get, and yet it invokes deep concepts like the multiverse and nihilism.  This film won’t work for everyone, but if you want a short trip that gets you thinking about your own sanity, this movie is for you.

And who can’t love the David Cameron’s sequel Avatar: The Way of Water (4*). It is filled with terrific computer animation (especially some amazing underwater scenes), rich deep characters, imaginative and fantastic creatures, and a plot that digs at environmental economics.  Although burdened with setting up complex plot lines for future sequels, the film is a visual and family-story delight.

If you are more internet savvy than I am, then you may already be familiar with the characters in Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (4*).  In his first feature-length film, we see an intriguing mix of stop-motion animation and live-action movie-making telling a simple story of relationships as well as painting a metaphorical picture about the human relationship with our environment.

Finally, the computer animation in The Sea Beast (3.5*) is rich in colors and the details regarding the ocean and sailing are, seemingly, very accurate.  I also have to believe there are multiple political metaphors woven into this film to interest the older members of the family.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend the other two films in this genre, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2.5*) and Turning Red (2*).  In both cases, I felt the filmmakers were more interested in making a film for themselves than in thinking about their broader audiences.  Still Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a master class in stop-motion animation, and Turning Red shows Pixar’s skills in computer animation as well as introducing the world to the difficulties of pre-teen girls.  So you might find some reason to include them in your fantasy viewing lists.

I recommend three films from last year in this genre category.  I unexpectedly enjoyed Spider-Man: No Way Home (4*) because it seems to run very different from most superhero films by focusing on characters and relationships.  Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (3.5*) had a lot of intriguing family dynamics.  And Disney’s Encanto (3.5*) is an animated film involving a magical family in Columbia, faced with a crisis.  It also had terrific music.  Any of these three “fantasy” films from last year should keep everyone in the family happy.

And that’s what I have to say about Fantasy, until next year!

2023 Oscar Fantasy Films
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