OSCAR TRACKER: Predicting the Documentary and Animated Races

'Paranorman' (2012) Laika Studios

View the Updated Oscar Predictions

Best Animated Feature Oscar Predictions

Last year was a particularly weak year for animated movies in terms of box office with only one of the year’s ten highest grossing films being animated. This year there are already three animated films in the top ten with a few more strong contenders on the horizon.

The most exciting thing about the Best Animated Feature race is that it is no longer a category that belongs solely to one studio. In past years we would already know the winner in this category after Pixar’s Summer release secures the trifecta of critical praise, audience adoration, and Box Office domination. However, after Brave received the third lowest Rotten Tomatoes score for a Pixar movie, there is plenty of opportunity for another studio to emerge as the frontrunner.

This might be a rare year where computer generated animation loses out to hand-drawn or stop-motion animation. The masters at Studio Ghibli have already released on of the most acclaimed films of the year with the hand-drawn Secret World of Arrietty. The film had a low Box Office gross, but strong enough reviews to allow for a resurgence during awards season if the rest of the field turns out to be weak.

'The Rabbi's Cat' (2012) Best Animated FeatureSpeaking of hand-drawn animation, the up and coming studio GKIDS has managed to get obscure animated films nominated in this category in recent years including Chico and Rita, A Cat in Paris, and The Secret of Kells. They favor hand-drawn fare and have an impressive release of potential contenders for the 2013 race including Japanese films A Letter to Momo and From Up on Poppy Hill and French offerings Le tableau and The Rabbi’s Cat. The Rabbi’s Cat has an impressive voice cast including Mathieu Almaric and received strong reviews when released in France, so it seems like a strong possibility. The others are almost impossible to call, especially considering these films will probably only receive limited theatrical runs at the end of the year before being widely released after the Oscars.

Stop-motion animated offerings this year include a return to form for director Tim Burton with his latest movie Frankenweenie. His only stop-motion animated movie in the last decade was The Corpse Bride, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature. Frankenweenie will have strong competition, however, from Laika Studios and their newest offering ParaNorman. Laika’s previous effort Coraline was a strong contender in the category three years ago and remains one of my favorite animated movies of all-time (and my favorite 3-D film). There is a new director for their latest effort, but if their attention to detail is as precise as before, ParaNorman could be the film to beat.

Other possibilities for the category include computer animated films like Wreck-It Ralph, Rise of the Guardians, or The Lorax, which is the third highest grossing movie of the year so far. To the 11 titles I have mentioned so far, add Madagascar 3, Ice Age 4, Hotel Transylvania, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, and two more GKIDS titles (Wrinkles and Zarafa) to give us more than the 16 films needed to secure 5 nominations in the category.

Check out the Oscar predictions for Best Animated Feature.

'Bully' (2012) Best Documentary Feature

Best Documentary Feature Oscar Predictions

Predicting the Best Documentary Feature category is a significantly bigger challenge than Best Animated Feature, especially since the Academy has such a curious propensity for ignoring or disqualifying the most acclaimed documentaries in a given year. Last year at this time it was looking like The Interrupters, Senna, Tabloid, or one of two Werner Herzog documentaries might be the frontrunner. However, the Academy thought differently and did not advance any of those films to the shortlist before nominations were announced.

The challenge in predicting this category is not only to figure out which films might earn critical acclaim and enough exposure to get an Oscar campaign, but also to determine which upcoming releases will align with the documentary branch’s particularly specific tastes. War documentaries have been released ad infinitum over the past several years, but they somehow continue to secure nominations at the Oscars. Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War, about rape in the U.S. military might be the film to fill the obligatory war movie slot this year.

'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' (2012) Best Documentary FeatureThe two most financially successful documentaries of 2012 have been the high school movie Bully and the surprise hit Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Bully was distributed by The Weinstein Company, so it seems like an almost sure thing for at least a nomination unless the studio is too focused on campaigning in the bigger races. Jiro Dreams of Sushi has immense critical acclaim to accompany its Box Office success, so it seems like a strong possibility.

The upcoming film Ethel offers a detailed portrait on Ethel Kennedy and is directed by her daughter Rory Kennedy. It received mixed reviews when it played at Sundance, but was picked up by HBO Films, which means it will be receiving a sizable audience. There has also been a strong surge in documentaries about artists with Pina securing a nomination last year and Exit Through the Gift Shop and Waste Land the year before. This trend could help Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry or Marley make it into the competition.

I have offered up ten potential nominees in this category, but in a few months I fully expect them to have completely changed. Check out the Oscar predictions for Best Documentary Feature.

Which animated films or documentaries do you think we should keep an eye on for the Oscar race?

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  • I really don’t know anything about the Documentaries but Animated movies this year have been and from what i see the upcoming ones are just boring. I only see Frankenweenie and ParaNorman making the cut while Brave might make it just because it was better than Pixar’s last offering. Foreign Animated Movies will be a strong competition this year too. Arrietty wasn’t very impressive at all, in fact it was one of the weakest Ghibli Movies.

  • I’ve read in multiple sources that, due to how long it was between its original release and its American one, that Arriety will be ineligible for consideration in this category. Have you heard anything to this effect. Please debunk it if it is false.

    • Froggy, you may be correct on that. It came out in Japan in 2010, which means it is probably ineligible for 2012 Oscar consideration. I’ll have to double check the rules.

  • FilmFlam

    Keep an eye on “Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story” for best feature doc. It’s one of the most moving films I’ve seen this year. Also, Ken Burns doc “The Central Park 5” and “First comes Love” just premiered at Toronto.

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