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Silence of the Lambs Retrospective

"Don't help the man with the broken arm! Don't get in his van! Too late... She does it every time. Which is why this is such a good movie: it really makes us care, and even when we know what's going to happen, we hope it won't."- Edward

"Such a great BP winner. I remember seeing it when I was a teenager and even then I noticed the eyelines being so close to the camera, and the way Clarice was framed in a male-dominated world as though she was being watched and judged." - MSD

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Entries in animated films (292)


Oscar Updates: Doc, Shorts, and Animation Charts

The Academy branches have been furiously screening all sort of less heralded fare of late. Tim already talked us through the animated shorts and I'm most intrigued by the Chilean allegory about a bear ripped from his circus life and a film about Russian astronauts. But there's more to uncover!

Heads up that we've updated that shorts, animation, and documentary section of our famed Oscar Charts. Click over and read up on the fascinating competitions.

As with all things Oscar, the shorts categories do get more attention than they once did many moons ago -- particularly with that mini theatrical tour of the nominated films each year --  but it's still not much.

Live Action Shorts
This year we've got barbers shaving cartel leaders, interpreters delivering babies, nuns interrupted, little boys in big wars, father and daughter visits gone awry, and much more in the Live Action shorts category. There's even a title with Q'Orianka Kilcher from The New World (!!!) and Vincent Kartheiser from Mad Men in the mix called Winter Light that bills itself as a "revisionist Western thriller". The ten finalists are quite a mix of types with thrillers, comedies, dramas, war films, and westerns accounted for.

Documentary Shorts
This tends to be the category most likely to trigger massive depressive episodes and this year is no exception: war, ebola, war, honor killings, war, The Holocaust, rape, and did I mention war? I personally can't even deal. Not this particular season.

Animated Features
This category continues to feel sewn up for Inside Out but the real drama is "how many nominees will we get?" since there's less films eligible than usual. If they still go with five, do you think Peanuts can surprise?

Documentary Features
I've been grilling members of the documentary branch over cocktails and light h'ors doeuvres at various parties of late. One charming older gentleman even pulled out a handwritten list of his favorites to read from only to pocket it again as if to torture me from suspense. High profile competitors (Amy, Going Clear, The Look of Silence, Best of Enemies) definitely have fans. Not that that means anything as this branch often surprises with both their finalist list and what gets shut out so nothing can be called "safe". But if something is safe maybe it's Cartel Land which has been name-checked with great frequency. Random shoutouts abound including Iris, Winter's on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom, Where to Invade Next, and Meru. Sadly I haven't heard one mention of friskier / weirder critical darlings like The Wolfpack or Laurie Anderson's Heart of a Dog.

See the charts


The animated short films Oscar shortlist

Tim here. Today, the Academy announced that it has whittled the initial list of 60 titles eligible for the Best Animated Short Film Oscar down to ten finalists that will go on to compete for the five nominations in January. Like all of you, I imagine, I haven't seen most of these ten, but let's run through them quickly to see what we've got:

Bear Story (Historia de un oso) - Gabriel Osorio, director; Pato Escala, producer (Punkrobot Animation Studio)
This Chilean effort - Cartoon Brew notes that it would be the first Chilean film ever nominated if it makes it - looks to be a toy-esque animal fable done in charmingly plasticky CGI. Trailer

Carface (Autos Portraits) - Claude Cloutier, director (National Film Board of Canada)
A car with, get this, a face, sings "Que Sera, Sera", accompanied by images in thick lines and full color of cars and machines. It never does to count out the NFB, which has one of the most reliable histories of producing terrific animated shorts anywhere in the world. Trailer

The other eight nominees below the jump

Click to read more ...


The Honoraries: Debbie Reynolds in "Charlotte's Web" (1973)

TFE is celebrating the three Honorary Oscar winners this week. Here's Tim discussing Debbie Reynolds' first time as voice actor in an animated feature.

Celebrity voice casting in animated films are older than you'd probably think, and usually as bad you'd probably expect. But sometimes, it works out well enough; sometimes, in fact, it turns into stone-cold classic cinema, as happened the first time Debbie Reynolds lent her voice to an animated feature. The film was Charlotte's Web from 1973, adapted from E.B. White's great 1952 children's book by Hanna-Barbera, the nation's leader in dismal television animation in the '60s and '70s. Ah, but Charlotte's Web is the exception: the handsomest and most emotionally rich thing Hanna-Barbera ever made by far, and Reynolds is the primary reason for that emotional richness.

She plays the title character, Charlotte A. Cavatica, a barn spider. Should I assume you've all read Charlotte's Web? You really ought to have. [More...]

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The Oscar Eligibility List for Best Animated Feature

The 16 official submissions for the Best Animated Feature Oscar have been revealed. The finalists include expected high-profile entries like Pixar's Inside Out and the still-to-come festival darling Anomalisa, and some you are maybe hearing about for the first time. Here's the list:

After racking up Pixar's second highest domestic gross, Inside Out is the early frontrunner. Its potential is also boosted by its Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay prospects, and it has the blend of brains and heart that have lead Pixar to more wins in the category than any other studio. There is also The Good Dinosaur coming for Thanksgiving and hoping to celebrate Pixar's first dual release year with dual nominations.
Pixar isn't alone in bringing a high pedigree. Anomalisa stands to benefit from its uniqueness among the pack: already boasting the Academy-approved pedigree of Charlie Kaufman, it's also a rare entry intended squarely at adults. GKIDS, who have found favor in this category with lovely low profile films, have three eligible candidates, including Studio Ghibli's When Marnie Was There. Will Blue Sky's The Peanuts Movie register with nostalgic love or will it have similar poor luck to the other releases by the studio?

This category also has some tricky qualifications to note. The short version is that there could be five nominees (provided every single one of these meets release qualifications), but that depends on how well the nominating committee rates each film. If they think the field is weak, we could see less than five.

Tim's Toons: Peanuts at the movies

Tim here. One of the all-time iconic snippets of American pop art returns to movie theaters this weekend: The Peanuts Movie from Blue Sky Studios (of the regrettably deathless Ice Age movies) converts Charles Schulz's comic strip characters to CGI, and the results have been getting surprisingly warm reviews (I haven't seen it yet, and am only now letting myself start to get really optimistic about it). In its honor, and in case it turns out to be bad, let's revisit the animated Peanuts films to have gone before. For even setting aside the God knows how many television specials, this is the fifth Peanuts feature, and while some of them have been weaker than others, there's not a true clinker in the bunch.

A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)
The first in this case is pretty emphatically the best: based (like all of the movies and TV shorts, ultimately) on a couple of narrative arcs taken from the comic strip, A Boy Named Charlie Brown is the one that gets the essentials most perfectly. It's a story of perpetual loser Charlie Brown finding something he's genuinely terrific at, and coming up short in the end, anyway. The specific thing the film hinges on is a spelling bee, but that's almost beside the point; the film takes its time getting to that point, dwelling on Charlie Brown's keen awareness of his own shortcomings for a good third of the running time before the plot even announce itself in earnest.

It could be mopey, and it sure as hell sounds mopey, but A Boy Named Charlie Brown benefits from having the genuine anguish on display cut with the same sense of wry humor as the comic strip – as well it ought to, being written by Schulz himself (like the other features and basically every Peanuts animation prior to his death in 2000). And there's also the flights into broad comedy on the back of the Snoopy B-plot, to knock the rest of the edge off. It's perfectly bittersweet, funny enough that it's never hard to watch (it is, after all, for children), but deeply felt and never, never willing to join in the general mockery of Charlie Brown himself.

There's a distinct stiffness to the dated and even awful (but Oscar-nominated!) song score, which jangles badly against the terrific instrumental jazz score by Peanuts mainstay Vince Guaraldi, but that's really the worst thing to say against it. The animation is as ambitious as the series ever got, with shifts into an almost experimental mode, the child cast's voice acting is right on point with sharp frustration and melancholy, and the pragmatic moral – "The world didn't come to an end" – is one of the great moments in all of Peanuts.

Three more Peanuts classics below the jump

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YES, NO, MAYBE SO: Anomalisa

Coco here, ready to talk about the trailer for Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa


- Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine... Even if you don't love Synecdoche New York, a Charlie Kaufman project deserves enthusiasm.
- We don't get enough stop-motion animation in our screens, and even fewer animated movies aimed at adult audiences.
- In a sea of computer generated mediocrity, it's always nice to see a strong voice be inspired by the medium of animation, which seems to be a good way for auteurs to find revitalizing force. Think, for example, of Wes Anderson's wave of success after Fantastic Mr. Fox. 

Click to read more ...