Kudos to the Academy this year, for recognizing two foreign films in their Best Animated Feature category. The votes could have easily gone to features like “Cars 2” or “The Adventures of Tintin” (which I wholly expected), but instead, went off the beaten path to “Chico & Rita” and “A Cat In Paris”. Though I have yet to see the latter, I did have a chance to view “Chico & Rita”. Reminiscent of last year’s “The Illusionist”, “Chico & Rita” is a nod to old school, hand-drawn animation. Let it be noted that this is not an animated film for children, as there is extensive nudity and love scenes, which surprises me that it made it through the normally-kid-friendly Academy.

The film is set in several different major cities and countries, starting in Havana, and moving from New York to Las Vegas. The story is told through flashbacks, as Chico, aged, sits at a table looking through a box of his memories. He remembers being a talented pianist with his agent Ramon. He remembers meeting Rita and falling for her, but there is always an obstacle to present itself in keeping them apart. “Chico & Rita” really is a great film, both for an animated film and a narrative. Few films can effectively utilize a “full spectrum” plot or a plot that follows characters throughout their entire lives, but this film achieves that feat wonderfully.

The key question is whether I think it can win Best Animated Feature, and to that I can’t say I’m too hopeful. Not that this isn’t a great film, but I think it was lucky to get nominated and though the Academy may be ready to start nominating foreign films more frequently in the Animated category, I don’t think it’s ready to start awarding it with its highest honors, especially due to its graphic nature and the Academy’s love for Dreamworks & Pixar-esque style films. For that, I feel like “Rango” is the clear-cut winner without “The Adventures of Tintin” to give it competition. But having the opportunity to see a film like “Chico & Rita” is always awarding in itself.

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