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Oscars 2017: Best Animated Feature Eligibles

It feels like it’s been forever since I posted on here. That’s entirely my fault. Life and time constraints getting in the way. I have like 50 years of top ten lists to write up, and I just can’t find the time and the brain space to actually finish doing so. Plus, my favorite time of year is coming up, and at this point I want to stall for time just so I can get to that. Most of my time has been dedicated to work, trying to write my own stuff, and furiously trying to attend as many screenings as I can and see stuff before it comes out.

Anyway, they announced the list of qualifying Animated Feature candidates today, and since it’s not 92 movies like the Foreign Language list, I can write about it quickly and not have to do crazy research. And also because I wanted to try to get ahead of all the articles that will undoubtedly be written that say “Is this the weakest year for animated films ever?” Because I saw this coming months ago and have been telling anyone who would listen to me about it. Because it is. The major studio animated output has been complete garbage this year and now you’re about to potentially get an Animated Feature category in which most people probably have really only heard of one of the nominees.

So without further ado, here are the 25 other movies that will automatically lose to Coco this year at the Oscars:

The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Captain Underpants The First Epic Movie
Cars 3
Cinderella the Cat
Coco
Despicable Me 3
The Emoji Movie
Ethel & Ernest
Ferdinand
The Girl Without Hands
In This Corner of the World
The Lego Batman Movie
The Lego Ninjago Movie
Loving Vincent
Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Moomins and the Winter Wonderland
My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea
Napping Princess
A Silent Voice
Smurfs: The Lost Village
The Star
Sword Art Online: The Movie – Ordinal Scale
Window Horses The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming

Like every Animated Feature eligibles list, you’ve never heard of a bunch of them. Unfortunately, this year, the list of films you’ve never heard of is more than half the list.

I’m pretty knowledgable about the films that are coming out, and tend to be more up on titles than most, but I’ve legitimately never heard of:

The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
Cinderella the Cat
Ethel & Ernest
The Girl Without Hands
In This Corner of the World
Moomins and the Winter Wonderland
My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea
Napping Princess
A Silent Voice
Sword Art Online: The Movie – Ordinal Scale
Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming

That is 12 out of 26 films. And do you know why it’s not 13? Because I randomly came across Mary and the Witch’s Flower while searching for films that could potentially contend for a nomination and saw that it was basically a Ghibli movie without being a Ghibli movie. (A bunch of their animators started their own company.) Of the twelve, let’s see which ones are worth knowing about:

The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales is French. They like those. It’s the directors of Ernest and Celestine, which was nominated. So I guess we gotta consider that a contender based on that. It’s more of an anthology film, looks like, and the tone doesn’t seem to fit what they like here. However, they like to go with certain people they like, so definitely something we put in contention.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is never gonna get nominated. Looks nice, but like most of these, it’s easier for me to discount them and just be wrong if they manage to gain enough traction to get on. Unlikely, but possible, is my feeling.

Cinderella the Cat is an Italian movie. Sounds interesting. Doubt it gets anywhere. Not thinking very much about its chances. But in a year like this, all bets are off. So an unlikely bet most years makes it a solid contender this year. This could take one of those “artistic” spots that have been open the past few years. (Recently, it’s been two spots, and here, it could straight up be three.)

Ethel & Ernest is about “the life and times of two ordinary Londoners living through extraordinary events.” Voices by Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn. I guess theoretically this could happen, if people like it enough. Trailer looks like they’re going for it, and it looks terrific. Gonna see it this weekend and go forward based on that.

The Girl Without Hands. “In hard times, a miller sells his daughter to the Devil. Protected by her purity, she escapes but is deprived of her hands. Walking away from her family, she encounters the goddess of water, a gentle gardener and the prince in his castle. A long journey towards the light..” Could happen. They will go with things like this in weak years. But who the hell knows. Let’s call it a long maybe.

In This Corner of the World. “Set in Hiroshima during World War II, an eighteen-year-old girl gets married and now has to prepare food for her family despite the rationing and lack of supplies. As she struggles with the daily loss of life’s amenities she still has to maintain the will to live.” See, a synopsis like this makes me want to see it, but the fact that it is a non-Ghibli anime tells me it’ll never happen. It hasn’t until this point, and until I see some precursors start to happen, I can’t take this seriously as a potential nominee. But I sure as hell am gonna watch it within the next month, so there’s that.

Moomins and the Winter Wonderland is a movie I don’t even need to look up because at least one Moomins movie was eligible before and got nothing. Never gonna happen.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. Talk about a long shot. Don’t rule anything out in a year like this, but at this moment in time, don’t look for this one to make waves. This looks like it was better served if it were a short. If this were 30 minutes long and in the Animated Short category, I would say this was gonna get nominated. Here, I’m gonna say probably not and let it surprise me.

Napping Princess. Anime. These never get nominated. I’m sure it’s perfectly fine, but look at the history. The Academy just doesn’t go for it. It is what it is.

A Silent Voice. Same thing. Anime. Can’t waste time looking at stuff that won’t get nominated. I remember last year, people were talking about that one anime that make a shit ton of money in Asia. Didn’t get nominated at all. Something really needs to cross over to even have a chance at this, even in a weak year like this one. Very unlikely. Though I’ll see it and maybe it can change my mind.

Sword Art Online: The Movie – Ordinal Scale. Title alone tells me this will never happen. There’s always one.

Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming. “A young Canadian poet with Chinese and Persian parents travels to Iran to perform at a poetry festival.” Oh yeah. People are gonna be jumping over their chairs to nominate this one.

Yeah, so about the same as per usual. And now for the stuff we’ve heard of:

Most people don’t even know a Smurfs movie came out, and if the first two didn’t get nominated, don’t bet on the third. The Emoji Movie was such an unholy piece of shit that even a town as jaded as this one turned on it. No way they’ll turn around and nominate that. Captain Underpants was thought of as a cute but insignificant movie. Can’t see that happening. It has reviews that are good enough (more on that in a second), but the way this branch votes, I’m not putting my money on it.

Academy Award nominee The Boss Baby would be really nice, but it doesn’t have the reviews to get on. I say it every year, and so far I’ve yet to be wrong — no “Rotten” film has been nominated in the category in over a decade. It’s only happened twice, and not since 2004. And, to put an even finer point on it, only four times ever has an Animated Feature nominee been below 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. The two that were below? 69%. So yeah.

Cars 3 — the first one was nominated, the second one wasn’t. Pixar, in years where they’ve had multiple entries, have not been nominated twice. And, in recent years, they’ve been left off entirely. Finding Dory wasn’t even nominated, and that got way better reviews than this. And no Pixar sequel has ever been nominated. So there’s that. You gotta consider it because of the lack of depth, but with Coco on the list, I’m gonna put money on some traditionally animated foreign film getting on over this. And while we’re here, not only is Coco automatically nominated but your presumptive winner until I see anything to the contrary.

Ferdinand — gotta see the reviews, but it certainly doesn’t look good, or like the kind of film they nominate here. So consider me dubious on this one’s chances. Though until it’s out, we call it a 50/50. As for the other movie that’s yet to come out — The Star is never going to happen. Pull up the IMDB page. Watch a trailer. You can tell immediately. No way.

Despicable Me 3. I think they’re over this franchise. The first one wasn’t nominated, the second one was. I think people are done with the minions and have basically forgotten that this even came out.

Two Lego movies. Ninjago came and went without a blip, so that’s out, and Lego Batman was well received, but is almost forgotten by now. Do they nominate it because the other one got shafted years ago? Maybe. The year is pretty weak. I could see them maybe going there. But these animation branch folks are tricksy. I’ll call it a likely nominee just because I haven’t seen them go below 2 mainstream entries, but I’m not sold on this as a nominee at all.

Loving Vincent is automatically nominated. This year is so weak this could even contend for a win. It has no profile, so it won’t win, but a movie where every single frame is a hand-drawn oil painting, they will 150% nominate this movie. (It’s incredible, by the way.)

That leaves The Breadwinner and Mary and the Witch’s Flower. Both of which, sight unseen, I consider major contenders. The Breadwinner is by one of the two directors of Song of the Sea, and is about an Afghani girl who disguises herself as a boy to provide for her family. Looks great, seems likely to be nominated to me. This fits with what the branch does more than Cars 3. Mary and the Witch’s Flower, meanwhile, is another anime. It looks good, and all the Ghibli animators made this. So I consider that a likely contender, even if it does tend to look more like the anime they don’t go for. Not gonna assume it gets on, but also, with the lack of depth, have to consider it pretty likely at this stage of the game.

– – – – – – – – – –

So, here’s what I’m thinking, sight unseen, off only my instinct and experience alone (and irrespective of the quality of these films), about each film’s chances at a nomination:

Locks:

  • Coco
  • Loving Vincent

Very Likely:

  • The Breadwinner

Solid Contenders:

  • The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales
  • Cars 3
  • The Lego Batman Movie
  • Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Maybe, Maybe Not:

  • Captain Underpants The First Epic Movie
  • Cinderella the Cat
  • Ethel & Ernest
  • Ferdinand
  • The Girl Without Hands

Very Unlikely:

  • Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
  • The Boss Baby
  • Despicable Me 3
  • In This Corner of the World
  • The Lego Ninjago Movie
  • My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea
  • Napping Princess

Not a Chance in Hell:

  • The Emoji Movie
  • Moomins and the Winter Wonderland
  • A Silent Voice
  • Smurfs: The Lost Village
  • The Star
  • Sword Art Online: The Movie – Ordinal Scale
  • Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming

We’re still in November. There’s so much room for me to change my mind. But that’s how I’m seeing it.

Gun to my head, the category I’d most expect to see, based on nothing, is:

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

The top three seem pretty locked to me. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is there based solely on their respect for Ghibli. Not 100% sold on it as of now, but what else is there? Unless they’re gonna go straight artistic outside of Coco, your second ‘big’ film is gonna be either Lego Batman or Cars. And given Pixar’s recent track record (no sequels ever nominated and no double nominations), why would I think Cars has a chance? Not to mention, there are some pretty big shoes that might drop around that company pretty soon (especially related to the Cars franchise specifically, for a lot of reasons) that could affect this race. Coco seems to be safe, but you never know.

All that being said, I feel pretty safe assuming Cars 3 is not on, and if there is gonna be a second major studio movie on, Lego Batman is the most likely choice. Though I wouldn’t be shocked if even that gets left off. But for now, with the solid reviews, good box office and the “Lego Movie snub” from a few years ago going for it, we’ll say it gets on. But honestly, I feel like they’re just as apt to go for one of the other “artistic choices, be it Cinderella the Cat, Ethel & Ernest, The Girl Without Hands or The Big Bad Fox. I’m not-so-secretly rooting for utter chaos this year.

So I’m off. Gonna go back to catching up on stuff. A lot of things to watch this weekend. And don’t worry, we’re almost at Thanksgiving, which means we’re practically in Oscar season, where you’re gonna get at least one article a day out of me. You know I look forward to that shit all year.

– – – – – – – – – – –

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3 responses

  1. At least this will interesting this year around in terms of nominations, even if Coco will most likely walk away with it anyway. But looking at the list really drove home how much I missed Aardman, Laika and Disney proper this year.

    November 11, 2017 at 2:57 am

  2. To start…you do recall that, shortly after the last ceremony, the Academy announced that they’re opening up the nomination phase for this category to the entire membership, not just the animation branch, right? There were many think-pieces at the time of the announcement about how that will eliminate the branch’s tendency toward artsy/foreign nominees (which is more negative than positive).

    Here are my personal nominees for Best Animated Feature:
    (out of 14 of the eligible animated films seen as of this comment)
    …..
    — Cars 3
    — The Girl Without Hands
    — In This Corner of the World
    — Loving Vincent
    — My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

    These are just the ones I’ve seen that I liked the most. (Loving Vincent only gets on because of the technical achievement; its whydunnit story is okay at best.)

    Second, until I watch Coco, Mary & the Wtich’s Flower, Breadwinner (these three I should see in a month or so), and Big Bad Fox, I regard In This Corner of the World and The Girl Without Hands as hands-down 2017’s two best animated films (as of this comment). If neither of them get nominated, I WILL throw a chair.

    Admittedly, The Girl Without Hands and My Entire High School… are long shots, but I’d like to see them get nominated. In This Corner of the World, however…it actually BEAT Your Name. (i.e., “that one anime that make a shit ton of money in Asia” and “didn’t get nominated at all”) and A Silent Voice for last year’s Japanese Academy’s Best Animation prize. Not that that means much, but if Japan got tired enough of Your Name. to award what’s basically the more positive Grave of the Fireflies, Americans might lean towards the slice-of-life during WW2 angle (especially with Dunkirk as a major Best Picture contender, even though both depict WW2 on opposite sides of the globe).

    Honestly, Corner deserves placement in the “Maybe, Maybe Not” category more than The Girl Without Hands.

    (Your Name. didn’t get nominated because Funimation, its distributor, stupidly didn’t give the film a general release in the US until April, completely not taking advantage of either pre-nominations influence or post-nomination hype. Choosing to release in April not only killed Your Name’s. Oscar chances, but also the chance to earn even half of Spirited Away’s $10 million N. American gross, despite becoming the highest grossing anime film worldwide.)

    As for Mary & the Witch’s Flower…would it hurt if voters realize that it’s not Ghibli? The fact that it’s not actual Ghibli will hurt it more than help it, methinks.

    Lego Batman annoys me to this day (after two viewings), while you perfectly described Lego Ninjago’s impact. In fact, Ninjago’s non-impact confirms in my mind that people only flocked to Lego Batman because of the Batman part and the film was obnoxiously up its own ass in terms of Dark Knight obsession and referencing. Lego Batman is easily my pick for the most overrated film of 2017.

    Let’s wait and see what happens with this category in this most underwhelming year in animation.

    November 11, 2017 at 4:20 am

    • It’s not quite as blanket as “every Academy member is voting on the category.” The way it’s working is — Academy members have to OPT IN to vote for the category in the nominations stage. So it’s open to everyone, but you have to want to do it to be able to do it. The people who don’t care can just sit back and not do anything and they won’t be able to vote. If you opt in, they give you links to all the movies and then you are on the honor system that you watched at least half of them before voting. So I don’t think that will impact the voting as much as the headline announcement made it seem like it would. I’m sure there could be some people who opt in just to vote for their studio’s movie, but that still doesn’t sway it AS much as the body at large voting blindly.

      I suspect the category will largely look like it has in recent years, maybe with ONE outlier voted in by the people who only saw the mainstream entries, likely being Cars 3. But there’s time. We’ll see.

      November 20, 2017 at 12:57 pm

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