Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Animated Film

The Best Animated Feature category first appeared in 2001 (Shrek was the winner), and a cartoon has taken home the prize every year since. Crazy, right? And while the Pixar juggernaut has won this category four years running, their decision to focus on profit with Cars 2 instead of quality has cost them the nomination. Their absence has left the field wide open, and for only the third time in the past decade there are five nominees vying for the award.

Unlike some Academy Award categories, this year’s nominees for Best Animated Feature actually managed to include the year’s best animated feature. Even better? It’s going to win.

The nominees are listed below with my predicted winner in red

A Cat In Paris

Why It Was Nominated:

Because some members of the Academy mistook this for Woody Allen’s latest joint.

Why It Might Win:

This is the second animated feature from France to receive a nomination in as many years, and it’s encouraging to see a film community remain dedicated to the hand-drawn style. The film has fun with the artwork as well as it eschews realism in favor of a more stylistic approach. And in a world where Hollywood digitally erases guns from supposed kids films it’s nice to see an animated feature unafraid to include gun play alongside its child in jeopardy plot.

Why It Might Not Win:

A running time of just over an hour makes it the shortest of the nominees, and a relatively simplistic story makes it equally as slight. Even more telling though is the fact that in the decade that this category has existed only one hand-drawn film has won (Spirited Away in 2002).

Chico & Rita

Why It Was Nominated:

Because animated nipples rarely get the recognition they deserve.

Why It Might Win:

Most animated films are squarely aimed at younger viewers, but this Spanish film is a fully formed romantic drama that just happens to be animated. The two lead characters face difficult decisions in life and love, and the story moves them through treacherous terrain both emotional and geographic. The film has also received some heavy acclaim for its jazz-filled soundtrack and score that helps bring the times and cultures to life.

Why It Might Not Win:

The film’s adult nature may actually work against it for Academy members who feel animation should remain a family-friendly medium. And then there’s the same problem faced by the French film above in that only one hand-drawn film has won this category since 2001, and it was in 2002.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Why It Was Nominated:

Because the Academy loves Angelina Jolie beyond all reason. Oh, wait, that’s the Hollywood Foreign Press.

Why It Might Win:

Dreamworks recently entered into a major deal with China to build an animation studio in their country that will go by the name Oriental Dreamworks. This is a true fact. Also true in a far less true way? As part of the deal the Chinese government has guaranteed the studio an Oscar win, and the nation’s deep pockets can fund a whole lot of bribes. And that, in a nutshell, is the only way Kung Fu Panda 2 walks away with this award.

Why It Might Not Win:

As good and polished as the animation and fight choreography are, the film’s biggest drawback (well, second biggest after Jack Black) is the lack of anything compelling in the narrative. The story is far too simple in design and execution to move it past its intended goal of being a summer blockbuster.

Puss In Boots

Why It Was Nominated:

Because the annual slot guaranteed to Pixar was faced with the reality that is Cars 2.

Why It Might Win:

See Kung Fu Panda 2 above, but all joking aside the Academy likes box office hits, and Dreamworks’ two animated releases of 2011 grossed a combined billion dollars worldwide. In addition to their box office take both movies feature some fantastic CGI animation, legitimate laughs and fun, talented voice casts.

Why It Might Not Win:

That quality animation gets lost amidst the mediocre, volume-based storytelling. And while we can all agree that Antonio Banderas has a sexy voice, the character of Puss is not leading man material. The dashing, saucer-eyed cat worked in the Shrek films as a minor player, but the joke wears a bit thin at feature length. And if nothing else, the film’s chances are halved because the pussy vote is being split this year.

Rango

Why It Was Nominated:

Because eating strawberry Pop-Tarts with Kim Novak is a heaven we can all agree on.

Why It Might Win:

Not only is Rango the year’s best animated film, but it’s also one of the best movies of 2011 period. The animation is absolutely stunning, and the film’s design allows for the occasional seamless integration into live footage that works beautifully. Gore Verbinski‘s direction and John Logan‘s script keep things engaging, exciting and smart as it tells a fun story filled with homages to pop culture icons as diverse as The Man With No Name and Hunter S. Thompson. Johnny Depp‘s excessive quirk has grown tiresome in live action, but he finds a perfectly suited home for it here.

Why It Might Not Win:

At $123m domestic this was the lowest grossing of the three US nominees, and whether they admit it or not popularity sometimes plays a role in the Academy’s decisions. The film is also a bit challenging for some viewers who don’t appreciate or get the in-jokes, inferences and storytelling genius at play here. It’s far less of a children’s film than Puss In Boots or Kung Fu Panda 2.

Full Academy Awards Coverage


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