Isle of Dogs

There’s something to be said about a Wes Anderson feature film. For one thing, not only does Anderson direct, he also writes and produces all of his films. He has received six Oscar nominations in his career as of the date of this post and has not won one yet. These nominations have come in those three categories respectively: original screenplay, directing, and production. His last feature, “Grand Budaphest Hotel” earned him the holy trinity of Oscar nominations. Well, I think it’s high time for him to win one and the film with which he should win (at least one) Oscar is “Isle of Dogs.”

Let me say right off the bat that I predict “Isle of Dogs” will be nominated for Best Picture. Not just best animated feature, (of which a nomination is all but certain) but also Best Picture. No animated film in the history of the Oscars has ever won Best Picture and the last animated film to be even considered for such an accolade was “Toy Story 3” back in 2011. It lost to “The King’s Speech” but still managed to take home best animated feature.

So what is it about “Isle of Dogs” that makes it so magnificent? It’s a monumental achievement in stop-motion animation and puppeteering. Four years of production, 27 animators and ten assistants were needed to bring this story to life. I can only imagine the monumental difficulty that goes into making inanimate objects not only express emotions such as anger, sadness, excitement, or humor; but to be able to express it in a convincing and raw way that made me feel for these characters throughout the entire story.

The story of “Isle of Dogs” is a simple one. Set twenty years in the future, every species of dog is infected with a severe case of canine flu in the fictional city of Megasaki, Japan and are exiled to a garbage island outside the city limits. One little boy steals a plane and flies there in the hopes of finding his dog. The boy is unable to communicate directly with the dogs and vice versa.

Speaking of communication, let me also mention how phenomenal the voice-acting was. If you’re familiar with Wes Anderson movies, you’ll recognize immediately the voices of Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and F. Murray Abraham to name a few of regulars that always manage to get happily sucked into the worlds that Wes Anderson creates, but also performances by Jeff Goldblum, Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johannson, narration by Courtney B. Vance, and newcomer Koyu Rankin are equally incredible. I really appreciated a hilarious back-and-forth between the dogs constantly discussing rumors that one of them had just heard. There’s something very… human about that.

The direction and visual storytelling is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. A good portion of the movie is actually in Japanese with nearly no subtitles. Everything is explained to you by interpreter appropriate to the scene or through visual cues given to the audience. The contrast of the two different worlds in which the story takes place; a fictional Japanese city and a floating landfill shows throughout with spectacular effects of lighting and set design.

“Isle of Dogs” is definitely a top 3 movie that I’ve seen this year and I hope that my predictions are correct in that Wes Anderson will finally get at least one much-deserved Oscar for his work. “Isle of Dogs” in my mind is a masterpiece.

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