From the outside, today’s topic seems to be all sewn up. Only three films were nominated for Oscar’s Best Animated Feature this year, despite there being a glut of animated films last year. Some of the omissions were pretty good (Disney’s Tangled), pretty bad (the wretched Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) and a whole lot of Mr. In-Between (Megamind, Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After).
The odds-on favorite of the nominees is Toy Story 3, and for fans of the Pixar franchise, it was a well-produced, heartwarming (perhaps heartbreaking) send-off for Woody, Buzz and Company. I’m not inclined to disagree with the quality of their efforts, but I don’t believe it is going to win.
Did I just get your attention? Excellent! Read on.
The Illusionist: From the makers of The Triplets of Belleville comes this animated feature based originally on a screenplay by Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday). As you can guess, no matter how charming the film might be, it won’t overcome the fact of not being a domestically-produced film. Do I think such prejudices are fair? No, but there ain’t much in this life that’s fair. Chances: Nil. Enchante, yet En Francais.
Toy Story 3: Little Andy is growing up and moving on, and the time has come for his beloved toys to do the same. Upon its release, the film was hailed for dodging what would be the easy ending, instead seizing upon the truth of the situation. It was a surprisingly mature turn of plot. However, the movie was also the darkest of the three and parents, who had to cope with the morbidity of Up now needed to explain other life lessons to their kids. These, however, are not reasons why the film won’t win. Chances: In what can only be considered an upset stunner, the Academy will recognize that Pixar really has had their fair share of Oscar gold over the years. If it was up against a weaker pack of films, it would be the obvious winner. Instead…
How to Train Your Dragon: Dragon has been reaping a slew of awards lately and there is a fair reason for this. Breaking from the usual Dreamworks mold of cramming their movies with references, anachronisms and feeble attempts at trying to be hip, Dragon played it fair and square. It is a visual treat with a solid story not just about levels of prejudice, but one of the few father-and-son tales that keeps from demonizing one or the other. Sure, it loses points for employing one of Hollywood’s oldest and dirtiest narrative tricks at the end (Hint: think Finding Nemo‘s ending and you’re on the right track) but I think it will be forgiven. Chances: I’m taking the longshot on Dragon for several reasons. It will be a sign from Hollywood that Dreamworks can achieve great levels in their animation department without being thoroughly insipid in the story department. It will be one of three Dreamworks films that came out last year (once again, Megamind and Shrek Forever After) but most likely the one that an audience won’t be averse to revisiting.
Finally, this will be a retroactive thumbs-up to creative team of Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois who helmed Disney’s last truly great 2-D animated film Lilo and Stitch, although nobody could have known that at the time. Sure, they say they’re back in the 2-D game, but after The Princess and The Frog‘s lukewarm reception, I doubt it. By blessing Dragon with Oscar gold, they ensure at least one more film from the team.
- Oscargnosticator: 2011″²s Special Effects (popdose.com)