The Pirates! A Band of Misfits

Best Animated Feature

Best Animated Feature is the youngest current Academy Award category, first given out in 2002 (to Shrek). It is often one of the easiest to predict, perhaps because of its youth but more likely because of the short list of films that qualify every year. There’s usually a very clear front-runner, and more than half of the time it’s been Pixar. That’s not the case this year. Competition is alive and well in the Best Animated Feature race. Here are the nominees with my prediction in red:

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Fresh Guacamole

As I watched this year’s nominees for Best Animated Short Film, I noticed something a bit strange. PES’s Fresh Guacamole, a 90-second stop-motion film, has no dialogue at all. Adam and Dog, set in a beautifully drawn Garden of Eden, has no dialogue either. The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare, being entirely about Maggie, of course has no speaking. Paperman is also silent, in the spirit of some more recent Disney and Pixar shorts. Head Over Heels, finally, is just as willfully mute as the rest. There is not a single audible word of dialogue in any of this year’s nominees. What’s the significance of this? The silence has no bearing on the quality of the shorts, though it works better for Paperman and Fresh Guacamole than it does for Adam and Dog and Head Over Heels. However, I do think it has some relationship with the old Oscar adage of “Most” rather than “Best.” It’s usually more apt to describe categories like Best Production Design or Best Costume Design, but I think it might be applicable here.

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Brave

In just a few months, a team of holiday warriors, an orange environmentalist and 19 other animated hopefuls will battle for an Oscar. Of course by then the number will have been whittled down to a handful (probably 5), but the astounding fact remains that this year features more award-submitted animated features than ever before. There are widely-released, popular entries like Hotel Transylvania, ParaNorman and Pirates! (THR has an excellent run-down of the entire list), but the large and diverse queue once again raises the problem inherent in having an animated category: animation is not a genre. While most of the films are aimed squarely at the young and young at heart, there’s also the wildcard Liar’s Autobiography which uses 17 different animation styles to tell the story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. That dark horse is awkwardly shoehorned into a category that might also be called “Best Family Film” at this point.There’s also Hey Krishna, an entry from India that tells about the childhood years of the dairy-loving God, and “Best Talking Animal Animated Film” could be its own subcategory this year (although it’s unclear what species The Lorax is). Since the category has cemented its own importance (and arguably achieved the goal of placing a spotlight on animated work), we have to ask every year whether it’s time for this style of movie to stand on its own in the “regular” categories. With Toy Story 3 being nominated for Best Picture at the 2011 broadcast and an undeniably […]

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Searching for Sonny Elliot reluctantly heads home for his ten-year high school reunion, but instead of the expected disappointments he discovers a missing friend, a murder and a mystery. Writer/director Andrew Disney’s feature debut is an indie rarity in that it’s as funny as any big screen comedy. The laughs come in part due to Disney’s sharp and witty script, but credit should also go to the main cast of Jason Dohring, Nick Kocher and Brian McElhaney. The trio has a smooth and perfectly timed chemistry together, and they help make the film a joy to watch. The lovely Minka Kelly helps in that department as well. [Extras: Commentary, additional scenes, bloopers, featurettes] Also available on Blu-ray.

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What is Movie News After Dark? Mostly, it’s a nice little nightly column about movies and entertainment. Before you came along, it was nothing. We begin tonight with a first shot of an independently produced Portal animated movie. It’s from an artist and animator named Alex Zemke, who plans to make a Portal short called Companionship. This reminds of Dan Trachtenberg’s indie short Portal: No Escape, but with some pretty cool animation. We’ll have to keep an eye on it.

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It’s already the second day of 2012, which means we’ll all be sober within the next day or two. It also means that we can officially start looking (through blurry eyes) ahead to the future. A future of promise and potential. A future of hope. A future of tingling anticipation that the road stretched out in front of us that leads to the cinema will be paved with gold. Will there be piles of excrement along the way? Of course, but we don’t know how many or how badly they’ll tarnish our yellow-bricked roller coaster ride. All we can see from this far out is the shimmering wonder of movies to come – the vast unknown that looks wonderful (and might just live up to the hype). In past years (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011), we’ve gone with a fairly arbitrary count of 20-30 movies. This year, we decided to prove that there were 52 movies worth prematurely celebrating (even though what we found were many more). That’s one for every week (even if there are some weeks with a few and some weeks with none at all). Regardless of the number, Rob Hunter, Neil Miller, Kate Erbland, Allison Loring, Landon Palmer, Brian Salisbury and Cole Abaius have joined forces to remind us all that there are a lot of great movies to hope for this year. Go grab a calendar and pencil in everything that gets your blood pressure up toward unsafe levels. It’s going to be a busy, flick-filled […]

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