Oscar Predictions 2014: Animated Feature

Since its inception in 2001, the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature has been awarded to a wide range of movies. Though in recent years — 5 out of the last 6, to be exact — it’s basically been The Pixar Award. Despite the quality of the other contenders, Pixar seems to wrap it up without fail year-in and year-out. This year, there is no Pixar film nominated, leaving the field wide open for a bunch of newcomers.

From cavemen to super-villains to ice princesses, this year’s group of nominees is diverse. But does that make it a more competitive field? We explore as we break down the nominees and predict a winner (shown in red).

The Croods

The Croods

Why Was It Nominated

The Croods may be the film that benefited most from an average year from Pixar, which released Monsters University. It’s perhaps the least challenging of the nominees, as well. Big celebrity voice cast, slick Dreamworks animation. It’s all very… easy.

Why It Might Win

In the event that the members of the Academy catch on with the Internet’s obsession with Nicolas Cage, this one would be a winner. Did you see it? He voices a hilarious paranoid caveman!

Why It Might Not Win

As I mentioned, it’s a safe family comedy that isn’t overwhelmingly beautiful. And as much as the Academy overall doesn’t like to be challenged, the Animated Feature category usually requires a little more pizzaz.

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Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2

Why Was It Nominated

“Endlessly charming” would be the easiest way to describe the entire Despicable Me franchise at this point. From the music by Pharrell to three adorable little girls and their super villain dad (voiced with Steve Carell’s horrific Eastern European hodgepodge accent), everything about Despicable Me 2 oozes fun. Just like its even better predecessor. Perhaps this nomination is payback for not nominating Despicable Me in 2010.

Why It Might Win

It would be a delightful surprise, and perhaps more along the lines of the aforementioned payback. Chris Meldandri’s Illumination Entertainment has done some great things over the last 4-5 years, but they are yet to strike pay dirt, so it’s easy to say that they are working the Pixar model until it brings home a gold man.

Why It Might Not Win

Sadly, this probably won’t be the year. Which is fine, as it leaves the door open for a 2015 Oscar win for The Minions movie.

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Ernest & Celestine

Ernest and Celestine

Why Was It Nominated

It’s from France, so of course it’s a bit more stylish and arty, thus impressive to Academy committees. Beyond that shallow assessment, Ernest & Celestine also brings with it the pedigree of previous French efforts such as Triplets of Belleville. That and it’s hand-drawn watercolor style animation is mesmerizing. It’s whimsical enough to make you believe that these filmmakers who made A Town Called Panic, then turned 180-degrees and made this, are truly on to something (or on something, either way).

Why It Might Win

There are two nominees in this group that are incredibly artful and full of innovative spirit. This is one of them. It would be a worthy winner.

Why It Might Not Win

Because of the two nominees below and the pedigree of their creators.

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Frozen

Frozen

Why Was It Nominated

Frozen was the knock-out animated film of the year. With Pixar taking it slow (and back to college), Walt Disney Animated Studios took us back to their roots. Sparkly princesses singing Billboard-topping songs and an unexpected hero’s journey. The kind of world-building that only Disney seems to be able to do. It fits right in there with a class of movies that was being nominated for Oscars before there was ever an Oscar for animated movies.

Why It Might Win

It probably will win, mostly because it’s (a) deserving enough on its own merits and (b) has the best publicity team of the bunch. Everywhere you look in the U.S., it’s Frozen. It will win plenty of votes from Academy members who are paying attention and then grab the votes from the lazy ones, too.

Why It Might Not Win

There’s only one thing standing in the way of a Frozen victory on Sunday night… history.

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The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises

Why Was It Nominated

In the short history of this award, no solo director has been nominated as many times as Hayao Miyazaki. If the award had been created earlier, he’d have won many by now. But he’s only got one win, for Spirited Away in 2002, to go along with two other nominations. The Wind Rises is the culmination of a career in animation that began over 50 years ago, a retirement send-off for one of the industry’s legends. If it wasn’t nominated, it would be a reason to lose faith in the entire affair.

Why It Might Win

The Academy, if it is sensible, may want to send Miyazaki off with one more accolade for a retirement gift, to make up for all those years when he was making amazing films for which their was no Oscar category.

Why It Might Not Win

Because Frozen is the knock-out, a classic Disney princess story. And this Oscar category has never been one for sentimentality.

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What Should Win

Frozen is the most likely winner in a world where marketing for Oscars matters. Not that it doesn’t deserve a great deal of honor, it’s a great movie and perhaps the ultimate return of Disney to the infectious-soundtracked princess films that have permanent residence in the hearts of children everywhere. However, The Wind Rises is the movie that should win. The Academy has before (and will again) give awards to people who are due, even if they aren’t nominated for their best work. And Miyazaki is due, in a sense. And while this may not be his absolute best work, it’s still top-tier Miyazaki. And top-tier Miyazaki should win just about every time.

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Oscar 2014


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