From 'Spirited Away' to 'Arrietty,' we rank the Japanese studio's finest
A collective sigh may have been heard at many a viewing party a couple of weekends ago, when the Academy handed the Best Animated Feature Oscar to the conventional comforts of Pixar's "Brave" over the zappy multimedia invention of "Wreck-It Ralph," or the scrappy postmodernism of Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie." But it was easy enough to see what voters were going for: in a field thick with bristly new textures, the gentle, old-fashioned storytelling and comparative visual serenity of the Highland fairytale was that much more reassuring an option.
Not among the nominees, though it was on the category's shortlist, was "From Up on Poppy Hill" -- the latest from animation stalwarts Studio Ghibli. Only twice in the 12-year history of the animated feature Oscar has one of their films made the cut, yet Ghibli occupies a comparably elevated position to Pixar in the imaginations of animation enthusiasts. In an age where crude computer-animated money-grabbers are a dime a dozen, they're a trusted brand that stands for wholesome, attentive storytelling, meticulous artistry and genuine wonder.