Continuing on with the theme of unknown Oscar-nominated, animated movies, here's one I once reviewed on the old site, in preparation for the upcoming 2010 Oscars. This one was nominated for Best Animated Feature, alongside such titles as 'The Princess and the Frog', 'Fantastic Mr. Fox', 'Coraline', and of course, 'Up', which ended up winning. When this title was mentioned, however, it was definitely the "what?" title that year, much like 'My Life as a Zucchini' was last year.
The story, in question, is based on the origin of the Book of Kells; a Latin manuscript containing the four gospels of the New Testament. It tells about a young boy named Brendan (Evan McGuire) who lives a sheltered life in a remote outpost. When a master illuminator named Aidan (Mick Lally) comes by with an ancient book. He calls Brendan to adventure, by sending him out into the wilderness to gather gall nuts to make ink with. In the forest, Brendan encounters various situations in which he has to face challenges as well as his own fears, and meets a forest spirit named Aisling (Christen Mooney).
As far as the rest of the movie goes, it's essentially a fantasy back story to something that exists in real life that I'm not sure a lot of us knew about. That is to say, at least I was blind to it. It seemingly went kind of ignored, despite it's nomination. But was it worth ignoring? Being a film having to do with religion and all, one might imagine it to be preachy in parts, it's anything but.
This movie has a lot to do with facing adversity head on just as much as it's a religious fantasy, if not more so. Most of this comes from the Vikings coming to attack the outpost while finishing this book holds the hope that it will draw back "evil forces", keeping them at bay. So there's a certain realism to this movie as well, covering the Viking raids of Ireland back near the end of the 700's.
Between the style of animation, making a historical and religious fantasy tale exciting, and even a bit of comedy here and there, I'd argue that it's the overall mood of the film that really makes it pop. It has this overall dreamy atmosphere going on throughout it, and it really shows with how beautifully animated it all is. When there's a scary scene, it looks and feels like a nightmare. When there's a pleasant scene, it looks and feels like some pleasant dream that might make you ponder things upon waking up. All in all, it's a rather intriguing escape.
It remains pretty under the radar as it is, but in my humble opinion it's well worth checking out. It's about an hour and twenty minutes, easy to get through, and it really does engage every emotion from the viewer. It seems clear to me that it was nominated that year for obvious reasons.