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Oscars 2018: Best Animated Feature Eligibles

I guess this means it’s officially Oscar season, folks.

I, for one, am thrilled. I need something to get me focused enough to start writing on here again, and there’s nothing that gets the creative juices flowing like talking Oscars.

They announced the eligible films for Best Animated Feature this week. 25 of them. One less than last year, but still a solid number. I remember the days of like, 13 films in total. I will see all 25 by the time nominations come about. For now, I’m just gonna look them over and see what I think. This year more than ever, I’m feeling one particular trend is gonna stand out, but I think let’s look over everything and then go from there.

So here are the 25 films that can be nominated for Best Animated Feature:

Ana y Bruno
Early Man
Fireworks
The Grinch
Have a Nice Day
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
The Laws of the Universe – Part I
Liz and the Blue Bird
Lu Over the Wall
MFKZ
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms
Mirai
The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl
On Happiness Road
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Ruben Brandt, Collector
Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero
Sherlock Gnomes
Smallfoot
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Tall Tales
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
Tito and the Birds

On that alone, I can basically tell you what the category is gonna be, but I guess let’s go through it.

The movies everyone knows:

  • Early Man
  • The Grinch
  • Hotel Transylvania 3
  • Incredibles 2
  • Isle of Dogs
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet
  • Sherlock Gnomes
  • Smallfoot
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  • Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

Even if you haven’t seen or know the movies came out, you’re at least aware of what they are, even in a broad sense. The rest, you have to be into foreign animation or be digging deep to even know what they are. So those are the ones we’re gonna concern ourselves with right now, in terms of “what are they.”

We’ll begin with what is usually the biggest segment of the eligibles, Japanese anime.

Fireworks seems to be about a bunch of kids in the day before a giant fireworks show in their town. One of them is about to leave town after her parents divorce, and it’s about all of this going on as they try to settle an argument about fireworks. From the director of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica films.

The Laws of the Universe Part 1 is a continuation of a series of films that began with “Part 0” from 2015.

Liz and the Blue Bird is about two high school friends who play music and start playing songs based on a fairy tale. Seems to be about coming to terms with the fact that they won’t be close friends forever because people move apart. The director also made A Silent Voice from last year’s eligibles.

Lu Over the Wall is about a teenage boy whose life changes after he meets a mermaid. Seems to be one of those “shy kid comes out of his shell” kind of movies. The director has a second movie on this list, which we’ll talk about in a second.

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is about an immortal girl who falls in love with a human boy.

Mirai is about a boy who discovers a magical garden that allows him to travel through time and meet all his ancestors. From the director of The Boy and the Beast.

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is the second film from the Lu Over the Wall director. Seems to be about a girl who’s on an epic night of partying. Looks fun as hell.

So those are the anime ones. Here are the rest of them, which are mostly foreign, with surprisingly only one really low grade film.

Ana y Bruno is about “a young girl who seeks out her father in order to help save her troubled mother.” Mexican film.

Have a Nice Day is a madcap Chinese action movie. “In a desperate attempt to find money to save his fiancée’s failed plastic surgery, Xiao Zhang, a mere driver, steals a bag containing 1 million from his boss. News of the robbery spreads fast within the town and, over the course of one night, everyone starts looking for Xiao Zhang and his money…”

MFKZ is… I honestly don’t know what it is. “In Dark Meat City, a young man develops supernatural powers after an otherwise uneventful scooter accident.” It’s almost like the animated version of that Chance the Rapper horror movie.

On Happiness Road is a Taiwanese film. “Chi earned her American dream after persevering with her studies in Taiwan. Following her grandmothers’ death, Chi returns to her family on Happiness Road, where she begins to feel nostalgic about her childhood and starts to contemplate the meaning of “life” and “home”. What is happiness? Will Chi find her own happiness?”

Ruben Brandt, Collector is Hungarian. “A psychotherapist suffers violent nightmares inspired by legendary works of art. Four of his patients, expert thieves, offer to steal the works, since he believes that once he owns them, the nightmares will disappear. He becomes a wanted criminal know as “The Collector”. Who will dare to catch him and his gang?”

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is one of those Z grade animated movies. “The true story of a stray dog who joins his new master on the battlefields of the First World War. For his valorous actions, Sgt. Stubby is still recognized as the most decorated dog in American history.”

Tall Tales is a movie about crickets. Looks like a low grade movie from France.

Tito and the Birds is Brazilian. “The film tells the story of a boy who is responsible, along with his father, for finding the cure for an illness that is contracted after the person takes a fright.”

– – – – – – – – – –

I didn’t go too much in depth with all of those movies for two reasons. One, I’m gonna see them, and honestly don’t wanna be spoiled all that much. Two, the way they changed the voting for this category, I just feel like it’s not gonna matter what any of those movies are about.

First off — and this has been a refrain for years for me — I don’t care how much acclaim and money certain animes make overseas… the Academy hasn’t warmed up to the genre and has never nominated one unless it comes from the Ghibli tree. And now, with the voting skewing toward lesser American films (fucking Ferdinand got nominated last year), I see no reason to think one of those films (which already had a steep hill to climb) can overcome that. At least at the moment.

The way the voting changed from previous years is… now every member of the Academy is eligible to vote on the nominations process for Best Animated Feature, not just the Animated Branch. All you need to do is opt-in. Then, when you opt-in, what they do is put all eligible movies on their website to stream. Members can also see the films in theaters or at screenings. They’re given a section of films they have to see, which is half the total list of eligibles. They have to view at minimum those films, but can see them all if they so choose.

Now, in an ideal world, where everyone is on the up and up, that makes things more inclusive. You have to watch a lot of the foreign ones no one would see, and that gives them more of a chance to get votes. However, that does not prevent people from gaming the system. Since all you gotta do is tell them “I saw this movie not on the streaming site and in a theater” and they just count it toward your total. So someone can claim to have seen all the movies purely so they can vote for their movie. Which stands to help the American major studio releases. DreamWorks, Fox, Universal, Sony. Boss Baby was DreamWorks and Ferdinand was Fox.

I should also point out — while we think this voting change has majorly affected the Animated Feature category, we can’t honestly say that for sure without multiple years of evidence. In actuality, last year was actually a pretty diverse category, even with the rule changes. Coco was always gonna be the winner all the way through and was always gonna be there. But Loving Vincent and The Breadwinner are choices that perfectly fit with how the branch voted in previous years. The only two major outliers are Ferdinand and The Boss Baby. The Boss Baby was a big studio hit, and all it didn’t have were the good reviews that animated movies tend to have. But, most people who saw it thought it was a perfectly charming movie. I’m very biased toward it, so it’s hard for me to figure out what really happened there. Ferdinand is weird to me. It was well-received, but it wasn’t good and didn’t seem at all like something they would normally nominate. So I could only attribute it to the rules changes. But again, I can’ say that for sure.

The only other major American release last year was Cars 3, and we already know they don’t like Pixar sequels unless they’re great. I do feel somewhat sure that in previous years, something like The Girl Without Hands would have had a much bigger chance of being nominated over something like Ferdinand. So I feel like something was affected, but I’m still not sure how much, since it does seem like the Animation Branch itself is still leading the charge on nominations. But this year is a kind of make or break for the new system in terms of how we’re gonna view nominations going forward.

NOW… I should also point out… DreamWorks doesn’t have a movie this year. Nor does Fox. The American film choices are much smaller than in most years. That doesn’t mean that we don’t pretty much know how most of it’s gonna go. But if there was a year for an anime to make it on, this looks like it would be the one.

But enough rambling. Let’s get into how I see these movies.

I’m gonna straight up toss out all the foreign movies. Because having seen trailers for all of them, none of them seem like the kind of thing that will sway most voters. So, for the purposes of now, in October, without having seen ANY of them, I’d say all these films really don’t stand a chance to be nominated:

Ana y Bruno
Fireworks
Have a Nice Day
Hotel Transylvania 3
The Laws of the Universe – Part I
Liz and the Blue Bird
Lu Over the Wall
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms
MFKZ
Mirai
The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl
On Happiness Road
Sherlock Gnomes
Ruben Brandt, Collector
Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero
Tall Tales
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
Tito and the Birds

Hotel Transylvania 3… obviously. None of the others made it. Teen Titans Go… obviously. Sherlock Gnomes, obviously. Stubby you just need to pull up a poster to know it won’t. Tall Tales, same thing. Tito and the Birds and Ana y Bruno are the kind of things I’d give more of a shot if it were 2015, but even so they’d end up at like, 8th or 9th spot at best and I’d never actually guess them. On Happiness Road seems cute, but if Japan can’t make it on, Taiwan seems really unlikely.

Of the Japanese films… Laws of the Universe didn’t make it last time, no reason to think that’ll be the one. Fireworks… ehh. Lu Over the Wall, not a chance. Liz and the Blue Bird, unlikely. Maquia, long odds, so probably not. Mirai seems like the most likely of the bunch to make people’s lists based on its premise. I still don’t see it happening, but I’d put that highest of the bunch based on how it looks.

Of the remaining stuff, MFKZ seems too weird for them. Have a Nice Day looks fun, but they’ve never gone for that sort of thing here. The Night is Short looks awesome, but not in Feature. Maybe Short it could stand a chance. And Ruben Brandt… same kind of deal. These are the kinds of movies you watch and think are cool, but would never be nominated. I go through this every year. To think they have a chance is to delude yourself. To me, watch them, like them, but don’t pick them and just let them make it if they’re gonna make it.

But, based on that alone, I’ve eliminated 18 of the 25 films. Which means, without any effort, there are 7 films left and 5 of them will be nominated. Should be easy, right?

The seven films are:

Early Man
The Grinch
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Smalloot
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Now, other years, I’d immediately toss out the Spider-Man movie. But I haven’t seen a trailer and heard a bunch of coworkers saying it looks fun as hell. I’m really dubious about its chances, but sight unseen, I’m leaving it on, especially with what seems like a really weak year. Still, until I see it and love it and think it has a shot, it’ll be #7 at the highest for me.

UPDATE: I just watched the trailer. Not a fucking chance. At this point, nothing shocks me, but that would be weird, even for them. That’s the kind of thing where, if it makes it on, the category’s broken again.

Which makes my life easier. Looking at this, the locks are Isle of Dogs, Ralph and Incredibles 2. Early Man is Aardman, and seems likely that it’ll get a spot. And then figure Grinch or Smallfoot as the studio movie that makes it into that fifth spot. We’re still waiting on Grinch reviews, so that might be a factor, but right now, I’m saying it’s definitely up there.

Full disclosure, at the moment the movies I’ve seen are:

Early Man
Hotel Transylvania 3
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero
Sherlock Gnomes
Smallfoot
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

I have copies of Fireworks, Have a Nice Day, Lu Over the Wall and The Night Is Short Walk On Girl. Everything else I’ll see by the end of the year. But theoretically I’ll be more than halfway through by Thanksgiving.

Now, based solely on everything I’ve seen so far, working my way through the eligible films, if I were putting up my nominations ballot and guessing nominees, this is what it would look like right now (on likelihood to be nominated, not in terms of how much I liked them or their quality):

Best Animated Feature

Early Man

The Grinch

Isle of Dogs

Incredibles 2

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Alternate: Smallfoot

Dark Horse: Mirai

Surprise: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, Fireworks

Shocker: Ana y Bruno, Have a Nice Day, The Night Is Short Walk On Girl, Ruben Brandt Collector, Tito and the Birds

Don’t bother: Hotel Transylvania 3, Laws of the Universe, Liz and the Blue Bird, Lu Over the Wall, MFKZ, On Happiness Road, Sherlock Gnomes, Sgt. Stubby, Tall Tales, Teen Titans Go!

It’s interesting to me, because two of the main three contenders are sequels. But Incredibles got amazing reviews, which usually means good things for Pixar. Finding Dory got left off, but Disney had two movies on that year. Here, it’s one Disney, one Pixar. Isle of Dogs will get on for sure. Aardman is usually a good bet. Their last two made it on and it’s a weak year. So really it comes down to that last spot. You could double up and leave Early Man off and put the other two on, but at that point, it seems like one or the other.

Smallfoot is in that Ferdinand realm… it did decently critically, and did okay domestically, with more money being made overseas. Could happen, but Warners is not exactly an animation powerhouse, so I don’t know what to make of it right now. Grinch, meanwhile, is Illumination. Which means it’ll make a bunch of money. But I don’t know where the critics are gonna be. It’s… it could go either way. Illumination only has one nomination to its name, and that’s Despicable Me 2. They’re not exactly darlings when it comes to these nominations. Right now, I feel like it can make it on, but it also feels like the kind of thing I’d want to leave off in other years. We’re definitely in a weird moment in the animation field. When Smallfoot seems like the most likely contender for a fifth spot.

I don’t see how more than like, seven films really have a legitimate chance at a nomination. Most years, you don’t even get to ten. But here are, what I think (based mostly on synopses and trailers) are the ten most likely possibilities, ranked.

1. Isle of Dogs

2. Incredibles 2

3. Ralph Breaks the Internet

4. Early Man

5. The Grinch

6. Smallfoot

7. Mirai

8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

9. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

10. Fireworks

Maybe one of the other foreign ones like Bruno y Ana or Tito and the Birds can sneak on the bottom of this once I see them all, but at the moment, how could you not feel completely confident in those top six? I currently have no evidence that they’re gonna suddenly embrace anime (especially when one of them made like $300 million last year and was internationally beloved and they still ignored it), and there are only seven American movies that would make any sense as nominees, one of which is a Spider-Man movie. So right now, Grinch, Smallfoot. That seems like the only thing I really need to pay any attention to, because that’s the only form of major thought I’m gonna have to put into this category.

But again, it’s October. I’m just happy to be able to talk about this stuff again.

– – – – – – – – – –

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6 responses

  1. I am not sure about into the Spider-verse. Usually I would say: Superhero movie, not a chance. BUT: The movie is mixing different animation styles and has already gotten a lot of buzz because it just looks cool and different. If it is successful, this might sway the voters.

    I guess the Disney and Pixar offerings are a given. Isle of Dogs I usually would list except that the movie aired so early in the year, it’s possible that a lot of voters have already forgotten about it.

    October 27, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    • The three cons against Spider-Man right now are that the marketing is both setting high expectations as well as revealing too freaking much (i.e., that footage after Venom’s credits), and the Christmas movie season is already packed. (Alita: Battle Angel was pushed yet again to early 2019, probably a smart move given the film’s already-low prospects.)

      October 27, 2018 at 6:16 pm

      • Into the Spider-verse has the advantage of getting out slightly ahead of the “big weekend”. And it already gets a lot of positive buzz. Really, the only thing which speaks against it is that it belongs to the Superhero genre. But that might be less relevant in the animated category. After all, Big Hero 6 won too.

        October 28, 2018 at 1:41 am

  2. If I Nominated for Best Animated Feature:
    (11 of the 25 submissions seen; out of 179 new releases seen overall)
    …..
    — Incredibles 2
    — Isle of Dogs
    — Lu Over the Wall
    — MFKZ
    — The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl

    October 27, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    • Isle of Dogs and The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl are my favorites out of these 25 submissions. I really hope at least one of them gets nominated and wins. Also, as much as I love Isle of Dogs, it really wouldn’t look good if the Academy nominated Isle of Dogs and not a single one of the record eight Japanese submissions as well.

      Early Man, one of 2018’s earliest animated new releases, doesn’t deserve a spot at all. It’s nowhere near Shaun the Sheep. Aside from its very-British pun, quirky setting, and a few hilarious gags like the messenger pigeon scenes, Early Man is straight sports comedy.

      Incredibles 2 winning would be such a joke. I quite like the film, but I felt at once, and more people are slowly realizing, that it wasn’t the glorious return they were really hoping for. Isle of Dogs and Night Is Short… are much bolder and impressive films.

      Incredibles 2 is the definition of “safe” for this year’s category, while Ralph 2 is the definition of “makeup” given the first film’s arguably upset loss to Brave. (I think the first Ralph’s belated early 2013 British release led British voters to give Brave the votes it needed to overtake Ralph.)

      It’ll disappoint me greatly if the ultimate category is The Grinch, Incredibles 2, Ralph 2, Smallfoot, and Spider-Man. Proof, once and for all, that opening the nominating phase to those from the entire voting membership who opt in was an atrocious joke of a decision.

      October 27, 2018 at 6:30 pm

  3. I personally say that Teen Titans Go could get a nomination only because I can see Warner Animation really pushing for it through campaigns and money offerings.

    October 28, 2018 at 7:16 am

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