It's Tim, wishing everybody a Happy Nomination Day! Obviously, the above-the-line categories hog most of our attention on this holiest of holy days (and they should – they’re kind of amazing this year), but there are 20 whole categories that have nothing to do with acting. And 19 of those don’t involve gawking at the hypnotically amateurish trailer for Alone Yet Not Alone.
So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of those other categories, and since I’m the resident animation guy, I assume it’s no surprise that I’m heading straight for Best Animated Feature. A race that is already kind of shocking because of an omission that, if not quite Tom Hanks/Emma Thompson scale in its “my God, did they really snub…” outrageousness, still pulled a pretty big gasp out of me this morning. I refer to the absence of Monsters University, only the second eligible Pixar film to ever miss out on a nod since the category’s creation in 2001. [more...]
I don’t really want to go to bat for it, since it’s only decent-to-good in my eyes, but it’s hard to see this as anything but a specific and deliberate “we hate you now” to the studio. Say whatever nasty things one wants to about the film, but surely it’s not any less inspired or accomplished than Despicable Me 2? (I’ll concede The Croods – the character design is outré enough for it to stand out in a homogenous marketplace). At a solely technical level, MU is at least a step up in terms of photorealism; DM2 doesn’t appreciably improve on its predecessor in any obvious way.
But let’s not harp on what didn’t make the cut, but turn to what did, with a quick look at the five nominees.
-The Croods (my off-site review)
DreamWorks Animation’s ninth nominee, and one that I’ve warmed up to ever since it opened: the weird and potentially alienating design is both a help and a hindrance in that process. It suffers from the reflexive anachronisms that are one of DWA’s main stocks in trade, but it pops right of the screen; still, it’s pretty securely in “glad to be nominated” territory.
-Despicable Me 2 (my off-site review)
The first nomination for Illumination Entertainment, and the first nominated sequel whose predecessor wasn’t also nominated (discounting the like Toy Story, and other films that came out before the category was created). I found it a little repetitive and far too reliant on the most easily-marketable elements of its plot, but clearly I’m in the minority: with more than $360 million in the U.S. alone, it’s the highest-grossing of the nominees, and likely to remain that way at least through the ceremony.
-Ernest & Celestine (review)
France has done well in this category: this makes the fifth film from that country to swing a nomination, and the second for studio Les Armateurs, who last showed up with the first French nominee, 2003’s The Triplets of Belleville. It’s the most visually unique of the lot, and the sweetest-natured as well; certainly, it’s my favorite, though that shouldn’t matter to anybody, since I am not an Academy voter. A surprise win would make this the first non-English language victor since Spirited Away in 2002.
The frontrunner at this point, if only for popularity’s sake: at $320 million and still doing brisk business, it has a fair shot at passing Despicable Me 2 by the end of its run to end up as the #3 highest-grossing film of 2013. I assume everybody here has a good handle on this particular film, but here’s a somewhat surprising piece of trivia for you: despite the primacy of Walt Disney Animation Studios in the development of the animated feature as a commercial and (semi-)artistic force in America, a win for Frozen would be the studios’ very first Oscar in this category.
-The Wind Rises (review)
The most serious obstacle to Frozen’s ascendancy, largely because it’s the final film of the legendary animator and director Hayao Miyazaki (though there are rumors that he might un-retire again, just like he did the last four or five times). The director’s Spirited Away won the second Best Animated Feature Oscar 11 years ago, and if he won now, he’d be just the third director with two victories here, after Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton. The Wind Rises would also, arguably, be the first winner made for a primarily grown-up audience.
I see this being a comfortable win for Frozen at this point, but here, with a whole campaign season in front of us, it doesn’t do to be certain. How do all of you see this race shaking out?