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Oscars 2017: Another Word on Best Animated Feature

Usually I’m content to wait until nominations time after I initially talk about this category, but between the time they announced the list of eligible films and now (so… call it three weeks), I’ve seen just about every nominee. And now that I’m more educated on the category, I felt it was a good time to check in. Plus, as you can see, I’m building myself up to full-on Oscar season mode. Once that happens, I can talk about this stuff for hours.

There are 26 films eligible for the category this year. And as of this moment, I have seen 23 of them. And I now feel like I have a really good handle on what will and won’t be nominated. So I’m going to share that knowledge with you now. Because I’m nice like that.

As a refresher, here is the list of films eligible to be nominated this year:

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

Cool. So as of this moment, I have seen 23 of them.

Right now, were I to pick my preferred nominees, they would be:

The Breadwinner

Coco

The Girl Without Hands

Loving Vincent

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Honorable mentions to Ethel & Ernest and My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea. But that’s just me, not what will be nominated. (Though when you get to the end, you’ll see there’s a pretty good chance this could actually be the category, which would be awesome.)

Of the 3 I have left to see:

— Ferdinand doesn’t come out for another ten days or so. I’ll see it within the month.
— Moomins I’ll also be able to see within the month. Do I need to? No, because it won’t be nominated. But I still will.
— The other one is Cinderella the Cat. As of now, it’s barely been released anywhere.

So now, having seen the remaining 23 films, I can say the following with near certainty:

  • Coco WILL win Best Animated Feature.
  • The rest of the category is anyone’s guess, but I think I can narrow it down.

Based on what I’ve seen, the films that will not be nominated are:

  • Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
  • Captain Underpants
  • Despicable Me 3
  • The Emoji Movie
  • The Lego Ninjago Movie
  • Moomins and the Winter Wonderland
    Napping Princess
  • Smurfs: The Lost Village
  • A Silent Voice
  • The Star
  • Sword Art Online

Eleven straight off the top. Disregard them. If there’s anything on there that I could say has like a 2% chance, it’s Captain Underpants, but who the hell thinks that’ll happen? Adults vote for this, and at best they’ll think it was a cute movie their kids liked. Definitely shouldn’t get anywhere with them.

That leaves us with 15 films that could get on. I’m gonna take another eight off as ones that seem unlikely, even though they theoretically have a chance:

  • Window Horses is about poetry. It was nice, but it doesn’t amount to much and feels like something better served as an Animated Short. Highly doubt it, and the only thing keeping me from discounting it entirely is the fact that the Academy has allowed the voting body to see the movie. So you never know. (Then again, they also allowed them to watch A Silent Voice. But at least there, I know the Academy doesn’t like straight anime. This is more of an educated guess based on what I’ve seen.)
  • My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. It’s really well animated. I have a difficult time thinking it’ll get the votes to be nominated. But in a year like this, anything is possible. Not sure if I’d guess it, but I did like it and I bet others will too and this does have an outside chance in a weak year like this one.
  • In This Corner of the World. I liked this. It is closer to a Ghibli-style animated movie than to a straight anime. I differentiate them because — anime never gets nominated. If it’s somewhat like Ghibli, maybe it has a chance. They haven’t offered this to the voting body to watch, which greatly diminishes its chances. I feel like this ends up as a #8 or #9 in the final guess rankings. Wouldn’t be shocked if it did happen, but there’s a lot of precedent going against this, which doesn’t make this the strongest of choices.
  • Ferdinand. Look at it. Does it look like it’ll be nominated? Until I see this I can’t 100% eliminate it for sure, but since I won’t be covering this category again until nominations time, I’ll leave you with two things to look for. 1) How is the film reviewed? If it’s below 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, throw it out. If it’s 60-65, consider it with reservations. Anything higher, then we can talk. 2) How does it do at the box office? If it opens soft and doesn’t make a boatload of money, I really wouldn’t hold my breath on this one getting anywhere. But even that means little, since this category is more about critical acclaim than box office. 3) Look at the trailer: does this look like a film that’s gonna get nominated? (Note: This WILL become available to the Academy, but who does actually think, at this moment, it stands a chance?)
  • The Boss Baby. 50-something percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Made money, but if it wasn’t truly loved, why would they nominate it? I mean, sure, I’m holding out hope because it would amuse the shit out of me, but I’m not seeing it. Let’s call this a very unlikely candidate for now, if not an out and out ‘never gonna happen’.
  • Cinderella the Cat. They like foreign arty type animated films. So this has to be considered a fringe contender. However — not available to the voting body as of yet, which limits the people who will vote for it to animation branch members who happen to have seen it. If everything stays the same, I’m gonna have to leave it off my guesses list with the caveat of ‘don’t be shocked if it happens’. Doubtful, but possible, is how I’ll call it for now. (Though it looks great. I hope I get a chance to see it over the next month.)
  • The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. By the team that did Ernest & Celestine. It’s fine. It’s cute. Doesn’t amount to much and isn’t as touching as that film was. It’s more of a comedy. If you see this get on, then they’re voting for the team than the film (like Aardman. Remember when The Pirates! got on?). It is available to the Academy voters, but from what I saw, seems unlikely they’d go there, even in weak year like this. Though it’s definitely in the 6-10 range of contenders.
  • Ethel & Ernest. I saw it. I liked it a lot. Definite fringe contender. But one destined for me to leave off and let them nominate. Not available to voters as of yet. This feels like the kind of movie I’d leave in the running until the very end, but ultimately leave off my list because I can’t see them actually nominating it. It feels like something they could go for, and as such, might end up in the top seven. But again, don’t see myself picking it. We’ll see. (Also one of a small number of films not currently available for voters.)

That leaves seven films. Let’s discuss:

  • Coco is on, and winning. Let’s just accept that now, and then once nominations happen, we’ll see if it can be beat.
  • Loving Vincent is on. The artistic feat in even making this film is something they’ll reward. What it does not have, however, that Coco does, is a story that’s strong and hits emotionally. Which is why, no matter how great the achievement is, it won’t win. But it will be nominated.
  • The Breadwinner. Absolutely lovely, directed by one of the Secret of Kells directors and the closest thing we have to a lock after those other two. You’d be nuts to not guess it’ll be nominated.
  • Cars 3. It’s Pixar. so in a weak year like this, you have to consider it a major contender for a nomination. Cautions against it are the fact that no Pixar sequel has ever been nominated outside of Toy Story 3. Cars 2, Monsters University, Finding Dory, all left off. Also, in years with multiple Pixar choices, they only got one film on. That’s really only Inside Out over The Good Dinosaur. Then again, The Good Dinosaur wasn’t that great a film. So there’s that. You can make arguments for and against this. Right now, I’m 50/50 on it. I’m leaning toward no, but with the entire Academy able to vote if they want, I might guess that it gets on to help my odds and then see where they go if not this.
  • The Lego Batman Movie. Tough call. The first Lego movie not being nominated is three years ago now and people have let that go. It’s not like actors and makeup Oscars where they go, “Shit, this person should have won,” and then they rush to give them an Oscar for a lesser performance. Plus, this came out back in February. I’ve talked to people who don’t even think this came out this year. That definitely hurts its chances. Plus, it was just okay. Did the business and did the reviews, but it wasn’t a phenomenon like the first Lego movie was. I don’t know. Most years I would say not a chance on this. The only reason I’m considering it is because the year is weak and they opened up voting to everyone. So I guess we keep it as a contender, but I’m still dubious about it’s chances. Put it this way: if it doesn’t get on, then I think, “Well sure, that makes sense.” And if it does, I go, “Okay,” and then think it made the overall category weaker (even though admittedly, this is one of the top five eligible films that people have heard of).
  • The Girl Without Hands. Saw this. It was lovely. Exactly the kind of movie that could get on as the other ‘art’ film of the bunch. Remember Boy and the World? This could be that entry. It was quite beautifully animated. Right now, without much of anything else to go on, I think this might end up in my final five. Assuming the voters watch it, I can’t see this not being right near the top for a vote.
  • Mary and the Witch’s Flower. It’s by the producer of Princess Kaguya and When Marnie Was There and was animated by a bunch of Ghibli people. On that alone, it’s a major contender. And it’s a really good film to boot. I’d say there’s a pretty good chance this gets on, if it’s not already a lock.

Now would also be a good time to discuss just how the voting works for this year.

The entire Academy is able to vote on this category. However, if they choose to vote for it (you have to opt in to vote for it. It’s not like you just get a ballot and are told, “Here. Nominate stuff”), then there are still restrictions. In order for a vote to count, the member must have seen a minimum of 13 of the 26 eligible films. And, once they opt in to voting, they are split into two groups, Group 1 and Group 2. Each group is assigned 9 films they must watch as part of their 13. (Which slightly increases those 9 films’ chances, but it’s not like they’re telling people they can’t watch the others and have to vote for those. They just need to be seen.) Currently, half the films are available for opted-in voters to stream (with more to be added over the next month). And there were a specific handful that were sent to the entire Academy, whether they’re part of the nominating committee or not. Voting happens just after the new year.

Based on that, it tells me that the only people voting are people who really want to vote for this. People who actually will see half the movies and put in an educated vote based on what they saw. That doesn’t preclude people from lying about what they saw just to vote for a specific film or films, but it does keep the voting mostly honest. The animation branch is already voting as-was, so let’s put them as a given for now.

The average non-branch member who opts in to this — they’re gonna have probably seen some of these movies in theaters, especially if they have young kids. So they’ve probably seen stuff like Cars and The Boss Baby and Captain Underpants and Coco. Now, they’re given a bunch of films and told they need to watch 13 total and 9 specifically. I think they’re gonna look at what’s available and first, see what each is about. They’re gonna look at stuff like Smurfs and skip it, but they’ll look up what Loving Vincent is, or The Big Bad Fox, etc. At this point, of the 13 films available, only about five or six of them are on their list of must watch. So unless they’re really shirking duties, they’re probably gonna watch some of the other stuff, which I think will allow the true cream of the crop to rise and not just give us a list with the most well known films.

All that boils down to this… this is what I think we’re gonna see come nominations:

The Breadwinner

Coco

Loving Vincent

(TBD)

(TBD)

Most Likely:

  • Mary and the Witch’s Flower
  • Cars 3
  • The Lego Batman Movie
  • The Girl Without Hands

Possible:

  • The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales
  • Cinderella the Cat
  • Ethel & Ernest
  • My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

Unlikely:

  • Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
  • The Boss Baby
  • Captain Underpants
  • Ferdinand
  • In This Corner of the World
  • Window Horses The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming

No:

  • Despicable Me 3
  • The Emoji Movie
  • The Lego Ninjago Movie
  • Moomins and the Winter Wonderland
  • Napping Princess
  • A Silent Voice
  • Smurfs: The Lost Village
  • The Star
  • Sword Art Online

Gun to my head, I’d go Mary and the Witch’s Flower and either The Girl Without Hands or Cars 3 as my guesses for the last two. I really don’t see them doing two Pixar movies, but I also can’t guess what the other under the radar choice is gonna be. And something tells me Lego Batman is a red herring. But that’s now. Maybe that changes in a month. Who knows.

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2 responses

  1. Cars has the reputation of being Pixar’s cash grab franchise, being mostly around to sell toys. It being nominated would be kind of a Transformers movie getting a nomination. I don’t think that it will happen.

    I also can see the Lego Batman movie getting a nomination, because someone or something being nominated to make up for missing out on the award earlier is actually a pretty common occurrence. And it has happened in the animation category before when Brave won in the same year as Wreck it Ralph, Rise of the Guardians and Paranormal got released. Three Oscar contenders who would have all deserved the win, and they honour a fourth one mostly because of its original director (who didn’t even finish the movie).

    But Coco will naturally in. This hasn’t been as clear since Frozen (which was also released in a year in which the mainstream studios offered a terrible output)

    December 3, 2017 at 6:18 pm

  2. Here are my personal nominees for Best Animated Feature:
    (out of 17 of the eligible animated films seen as of this comment)
    …..
    — The Breadwinner
    — Cars 3
    — Coco
    — The Girl Without Hands
    — In This Corner of the World

    These are just the ones I’ve seen that I liked the most. I know Loving Vincent will get nominated because of the technical achievement, but since I liked three other animated films more, I’m fine with not including it in my personal category.

    I do buy your doubts on In This Corner of the World, though. For most, it has come and gone with its limited release already. I do hope it prevails in the end.

    On the other hand, I still have strong doubts about Mary & the Witch’s Flower. I really don’t think voters will take the time to realize that it’s not Ghibli or made by ex-Ghibli personnel. The fact that it’s not actual Ghibli will hurt it more than help it, methinks. I can easily see voters passing it over like they do with most other anime films. What also will hurt it is the mainstream commercial factor. As far as I know, the only way average Americans can see it will be through Fathom Events on the evening of Thursday, January 18th (i.e., 6 days after Oscar nomination voting has ended and 5 days before the nominations are announced). There doesn’t seem to be plans for a wider release, regardless of an Oscar nom or not.

    As always, we shall wait and see.

    December 3, 2017 at 11:57 pm

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