Just as he did with “The Shape of Water” (2017) and “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), Guillermo del Toro finds meaning in film by examining the dark side of life. Here we have a puppet carved out of wood who learns to enjoy each moment of life as death awaits us all.
Living in Italy between the two world wars, you watch woodworker Geppetto (David Bradley) lose his beloved 10-year-old son Carlo (Gregory Mann) in a bombing. He is left in anguish as he spends each day for years in a drunken state visiting Carlo’s grave.
Geppetto carves out a wooden puppet known as Pinocchio that comes alive with the appearance of a wood sprite (Tilda Swinton). Geppetto has as much trouble raising him as his son as Pinocchio does following his new father’s instructions.
Ridiculed at church for being a demon, Pinocchio falls under the influence of Count Volpe (Christoph Waltz), a villainous carnival manager, and his monkey assistant Spazzatura (Cate Blanchett). Performing on the road in Italy to raise money for his desperate father, Geppetto joins forces with Sebastian Cricket (Ewan McGregor), a smart insect that narrates the unfolding journey.
The film finds room for the growth of fascism in Italy as Mussolini (Tom Kenny) rises to power. All our characters wrestle to find meaning in life as they endure the Nazi salute.
Much more happens in the movie that I dare not give away. But the film’s strength comes from accepting that life ends in a death for everyone except Pinocchio. He learns to experience the joy of social relationships as his friends age and die. He values the time they spent together and cherishes the memories as he leaves their graves and trots into the sunset.
This is a movie to cherish. While life is full of mistakes, learn from Pinocchio and embrace every moment.
And let me end by saying it should win the Oscar for best animated film.
Oscars picks 2023
Let me start with several observations. First, seldom have so many average films been nominated for best picture. Second, the racial discrimination permeating the academy is disgusting. Please tell me why both “Till” and “The Woman King” were ignored?
Regardless, here are my picks:
1. Best documentary: “Fire of Love”
2. Best international feature film: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
3. Best visual effects: “Avatar: The Way of Water”
4. Best animated feature film: “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
5. Best makeup and hairstyling: I pick “Elvis,” though “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” could win.
6. Best picture: I pick “Avatar: The Way of Water,” but it will likely be “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” It doesn’t deserve it, but other than “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Top Gun: Maverick,” none of the others do either.
7. Best director: Todd Field for “Tar.” He doesn’t deserve it, but the other nominees don’t either.
8. Best lead actor: I pick Austin Butler for “Elvis,” though Colin Farrell for “The Banshees of Inisherin” lurks in the weeds.
9. Best lead actress: Michelle Yeoh for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” though the money is on either Cate Blanchett for “Tar” or Michelle Williams for “The Fabelmans.”
10. Best supporting actor: I think Judd Hirsch sneaks in for “The Fabelmans,” though Brendan Gleeson deserves it for “The Banshees of Inisherin.”
11. Best supporting actress: Angela Bassett for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Maybe the academy can swallow its prejudice and do the right thing.
12. Best adapted screenplay: I pick the challenging “Women Talking” by Sarah Polley.
13. Best original screenplay: “The Banshees of Inisherin” by Martin McDonagh. A fascinating film overcoming a dull plot.
14. Best cinematography: “All Quiet on the Western Front” by James Friend. “Elvis” could sneak in.
15. Best film editing: “Top Gun: Maverick.” As noted, it has to win something.
16. Best original song: I pick “Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” but “Hold My Hand” (Lady Gaga) from “Top Gun: Maverick” lurks.
17. Best production design: “Avatar: The Way of Water”
18. Best visual effects: “Avatar: The Way of Water”
19. Best costume design: “Elvis”
20. Best original score: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
21. Best sound: I pick “All Quiet on the Western Front,” even though “Avatar: The Way of Water” could get this.
So there you have it. I didn’t see the Oscar-nominated shorts, so you are on your own.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.