As Oscar season gets closer and closer, the more we find out. The critics' circles are currently picking the films they deemed the best of the year. Of course, they also have a slot for animated features. So far, the results have been... Interesting, to say the least.
It seems as if Tim Burton's Frankenweenie is getting a lot of love, on top of getting warm reception from critics. The Boston Society of Film Critics and The New York Film Critics Circle went for Burton's re-imagining of his 1984 short film. I have not seen the film yet, but I'm happy to see that stop-motion is getting some form of recognition.
Another stop-motion great got props from the Washington DC Area Film Critics, Laika's brilliant ParaNorman. How this one isn't edging out Frankenweenie on its story, creativity and originality is beyond me. Not that I'm decrying Frankenweenie, it could very well be a better film or one that's equally supreme, but ParaNorman seemed like it would be the year's best-received stop motion film.
The National Board of Review was the only force rooting for Disney's Wreck-It Ralph, which is the film I am personally rooting for in the race (as well as the Annies, of course). Perhaps the video game theme, the loud and busy pacing of the film and the familiar story turned off other critics. Or maybe they just felt that it held the film back from being the best of the year. That being said, it's still a very well-received film that's sure to at least get a nomination. I'm glad that one circle called it the best.
Brave, on the other hand, hasn't gotten any love. I have a strong feeling that the Academy Awards are just going to leave Pixar's film out of the race, since it got good-but-not-great critical reception. Then again, it was relatively more successful with critics than most of the films released this year, so it may get by on that. Disney's "For Your Consideration" ads are effective and striking, but who knows where that will get the film.
So what does that mean for this year's Best Animated Feature category? Here are my revised predictions for the Oscars.
Rise of the Guardians
The Rabbi's Cat
I had assumed that The Painting, a 2011 French animated film that will be released here this year, would be the foreign title to snag a nomination. This is the Academy's deal now, as they want to honor animated films from around the world instead of American endeavors. However, I think the nomination will go to another French-Austrian animated film, The Rabbi's Cat. This hand-drawn animated film also got a nomination for Best Animated Film in the Annie Awards, so I think it'll be the Academy's foreign animated pick.
I eliminated Rise of the Guardians, as the reviews were positive but the consensus is that it isn't anything beyond something simple. DreamWorks is pushing for a Best Picture nomination for this film (and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, which is absurd if you ask me), but I have a feeling that it will be left out of the race due to the reception it has gotten plus the box office numbers. The Academy Awards won't nominate a film that's deemed a box office dud or failure. This doesn't apply to independently released foreign films, for the most part. The Academy does tend to contradict the "box office" rule. (After it, it is the Academy Awards...)
I kept Brave and Wreck-It Ralph, because both films got better reception than most of the animated films released this year. Brave might be axed in the end if the Academy doesn't feel like giving three slots to Disney, or if some behind-the-scenes work gets it booted out. There's no way Frankenweenie can be cut at this rate, given the acclaim it's getting, but the box office returns may hold it back from winning. Wreck-It Ralph got a small piece of the acclaim, but Brave didn't get any. It might just not make it.
But if Brave were to go, what would take it's place? Another foreign animated film? Perhaps the Academy will also nominate The Painting or something else. Maybe Aardman's The Pirates! Band of Misfits? That got warm reception, though a few dissenting voices thought it could've been better. Anything else? Well something like The Lorax or Hotel Transylvania certainly has no chance, so it's either Brave or a foreign film. I still think Brave has a good chance because the film still got praise from a good number of critics. The critical reception was Cars-level.
ParaNorman also remains on board given some of the love it's gotten, and there's no way the Academy Awards should snub the film because it's a Laika film, the critical reception was great and the film is seen as a real game changer for animation (which I believe it is).
So there you have it, three Disney releases (unprecedented), a foreign feature and a Laika film. Out of those, who do you think would take home the prize?
What are your Best Animated Feature predictions?