Friday, November 10, 2017

26 to 5 to 1: Animated Feature Oscar Nomination Runner-Ups Revealed

Every November... You know the drill...

Though, things might be different this coming Oscar season.

I'm sure a lot of you may know by now... The Academy Awards have made some rather sizable changes to the Best Animated Feature category. New rules have been put into place regarding animated features. Up until now, members of the Animation and Short Films branches picked the animated nominees. The Animation branch is actually made up of animators and people who are at least waist-deep in the industry. You know, people who know a damn thing or two about the medium.

In the recent years, their decision-making has attracted controversy from inside and outside the Academy. It was in early 2015... When the branches were nominating five 2014-release animated features for the grand prize, a particular movie was left out. A popular, critically-acclaimed movie no less... The Lego Movie. That year, the nominees were Big Hero 6, How To Train Your Dragon 2, The Boxtrolls, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, and Song of the Sea. Two films were CGI, one was stop-motion, two were traditionally animated. Where was The Lego Movie?

I remember that morning very well. The Lego Movie itself was a much bigger trending topic than the Oscars or the nominees. Its snub shook the industry, shook the general public even. How could such an awesome movie not get the nomination? I always felt it had to do with tight competition and the fact that The Lego Movie, great as it was, was ultimately a 90-minute movie about a decades-old, best-selling construction toy. And you know the Oscars, all hoity-toity and not into movies like that... Except they are.

I think the animation branch could've easily swapped Big Hero 6 for Lego, but that obviously didn't happen because Big Hero 6 is a Disney animated film that got strong reviews and did very well at the box office. (And I think that movie is very good, too... But Lego Movie and Dragon 2 were better.) Perhaps it could've swapped spots with How To Train Your Dragon 2, but it seems like DreamWorks secures nominations almost every year. 2012 was a rare exception, because the competition that year was particularly heavy... However, Dragon 2 was a great film and it was pretty successful as well. There was no way LAIKA's film would make way for Lego Movie, either. I actually felt that The Boxtrolls - despite being done in lovely stop-motion animation - was the weakest of those five nominees, and wouldn't have minded Lego Movie taking its place... But oh well...

It's only a gold statue after all, just an excuse to put a sexy "winner of 5 Oscars" blurb on a DVD jacket.

In response to The Lego Movie's snub, the Academy created a new mandate in an attempt to make sure that popular, acclaimed hits like The Lego Movie won't get left out of future animation races. Now, every single member of the Academy can have a say in the nominating process... Not just the people in the animation and shorts branches... We also know that a chunk of the Academy doesn't even care about movies, most of them don't even watch the films, and a lot of them certainly couldn't give two rats' asses about animation. The Best Animated Feature award, despite its upsides, is really just a token award and always has been. The sort of "yeah yeah, here ya go, shut up" award for inferior sideshow kiddie movies. The Oscars enterprise continues to look down on the medium.

Insider reports indicate this: Academy board members feel that the animation/shorts branch has a "bias" towards "old school" forms of animation. A.k.a. traditional animation and stop-motion animation.

You can't make this stuff up!

All because of The Lego Movie not getting the nomination in a year where two big-budget CG films were in the running... And one of those CG films won. When was the last time a stop-motion film won a BAF Oscar? 2005. When is the last time a traditionally animated film won a BAF Oscar? 2002. Every year, at least two nominees are CG films. Give me a f*cking break about this "bias," excuse my language.

Ever since these rules were put into place, I've been concerned...

The one good thing about the Best Animated Feature category is that it actually gives some much-needed, albeit brief spotlight to great independent and foreign films that would otherwise go unnoticed. Would the general public have ever heard of, say, Song of the Sea if there was no Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars?

These new rules could very well squeeze those "old school" movies out for good. Or, to quote an Academy member, "obscure freakin' Chinese f*ckin' things that no one freakin' saw."

Don't be surprised if, on January 23rd, you find out that the five movies in the running for the Oscar are The Lego Batman Movie, The Boss Baby, Despicable Me 3, Coco, and Ferdinand. Strong indies like The Breadwinner and The Girl Without Hands don't show up.

Anyways, every year I make some predictions... I list all the eligible films, and say what kind of chances they have at getting a nomination, so... Here it goes! All 26 of 'em!

The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales - The new picture from the folks behind the 2013 nominee Ernest & Celestine. 50% chance.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children - This Spanish entry made a splash at the recent Animation Is Film Festival, and GKIDS does have it, but I feel that GKIDS is ultimately putting all the oomph into The Breadwinner. 30% chance.

The Boss Baby - Given that new rule, its successful box office, and perhaps one of the few films that the Academy members actually saw (I'll vote for the one my kids dragged me to!), yeah... This one I think has a strong chance. DreamWorks has the whole For Your Consideration campaign rolling, too. 50% chance.

The Breadwinner - GKIDS' release of the new Cartoon Saloon feature, which is getting acclaim left and right, and is quite timely. In any other year, I'd say it has a 100% chance, but again... Those new rules... 90% chance.

Captain Underpants - DreamWorks' other feature of 2017. While this one got much better reception than The Boss Baby, it wasn't anywhere near as big. Though because of its quality, I suppose it has something of a chance. 40% chance.

Cars 3 - Kind of hard to say. This film got better reception than Cars 2, but I suppose that isn't enough to get it into the final five. Finding Dory did't make it last year, that got great reception. Monsters University didn't get nominated in its year, either, and that had good reception. However, because of the new rules, Cars 3 could very well squeeze itself in. 50% chance.

Cinderella the Cat - An adult-oriented Italian animated feature, probably doesn't have much of a chance, though it's cool to see something from Italy in the early running for once. 10% chance.

Coco - Pixar. Critically acclaimed. Timely. Has musical elements. Most likely the winner. 100% chance.

Despicable Me 3 - Well, Despicable Me 2 was nominated in 2013 (I would've swapped it for Monsters University), so the third one has a strong chance at getting in. While reception was middling, that doesn't really matter - the film was a huge hit. 90% chance.

The Emoji Movie - Despite being a mainstreamer, this wasn't all that big at the box office, got terrible reviews all across the board, and it's also based on some kind of product. 0% chance.

Ethel & Ernest - Oh look, another Ernest movie in the running! GKIDS apparently doesn't have this one, so I don't see it lasting long. 20% chance.

Ferdinand - A little up in the air, as it's not out yet. Even with middling critical reception, it could still score because of the new rules. 40% chance.

The Girl Without Hands - From GKIDS. Might have a chance, though again, The Breadwinner will likely be their ticket. If they miraculously get two slots, then this might have a big chance. For now... 30% chance.

In This Corner of the World - A FUNimation anime feature release, though probably not the biggest anime candidate because I think the one that's going to get it - if it ever does - is Mary and the Witch's Flower. 20% chance.

The Lego Batman Movie - The Lego Movie's snub was what got this new ball rolling, so yeah. 100% chance.

The Lego Ninjago Movie - Middling reception, meh box office, Lego Batman being out the same year. Yeah... 10% chance.

Loving Vincent - A grand experiment for sure, it's doing well for an indie, it actually does have a chance I'd say. 70% chance.

Mary and the Witch's Flower - The anime feature that I think has the biggest chances. 60% chance.

Moomins and the Winter Wonderland - Looks to be like one of those films that's in a series. 10% chance.

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea - Acclaimed GKIDS release, but again... The Breadwinner. 40% chance.

Napping Princess - An anime release, also from GKIDS, but the reception for this one seemed kind of middling. 10% chance.

A Silent Voice - Another anime feature, this one got some acclaim. 20% chance.

Smurfs: The Lost Village - Wasn't all that loved, just did so-so business, has little going for it. 5% chance.

The Star - Doubt it. 5% chance.

Sword Art Online: The Movie - Not much of a chance there. 5% chance.

Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming - Another timely work, but I have a feeling this one will come in behind the GKIDS contenders and such. 20% chance.

So there you have it... If the Academy members really don't pitch in on the animation nomination process, I think we'll be looking at...

The Breadwinner
The Lego Batman Movie
Loving Vincent
Mary and the Witch's Flower

In scenario 2, where most of the Academy pitches in... Then, I think it'll be nothing but mainstreamers, and Breadwinner possibly, luckily getting in. That has some strong backing, plus Angelina Jolie's involvement.

Predict away!

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