A new year is upon us, which means Oscar nomination announcements are just around the corner. Like most years, I only pay attention to the animated feature and short categories, so today I'll weigh in with my meaningless predictions.
The feature category seems fairly straightforward, with maybe a few uncertainties.. but looking at the usual patterns, and the acclaim and award buzz these films are generating, it seems likely we'll get the following:
The Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
At least one slot usually goes to an international piece, and no foreign film this year has been praised as much as Mamoru Hosoda's wonderfully mesmerizing and deeply touching film 'Mirai.' Do check it out if you are able - it's maybe my favorite animated film of 2018 (a very close second going to Milorad Krstic's 'Ruben Brandt: Collector,' but that's a whole other blog post).
The short category is usually fairly diverse, and much harder to predict. Luckily, I've seen all ten films that have been shortlisted (some might still be available to watch here), so here are my quick thoughts on each, and which 5 of the 10 will see a nomination.
Age of Sail - The simplicity of the story itself is pretty solid as the relationship drama unfolds, though it doesn't pack as much of an emotional gut punch as some of the other entries. Google Spotlight Stories, who produced the film was previously nominated in 2016 with 'Pearl,' and director John Kahrs previously won in 2012 with Disney's 'Paperman.'
Animal Behaviour - Directors Alison Snowden and David Fine previously won back in '94 with Bob's Birthday (later spawning the series 'Bob & Margaret'). It's a nice satire on social norms, and quite funny, but is perhaps too dialogue heavy, and not as visually immersive for the medium as I was hoping for.
Bao - A wonderful and culturally diverse entry from Pixar, and the first of their shorts to be directed by a woman - Domee Shi. Very heartwarming and hilarious all at the same time.
Bilby - Another funny and heartwarming story. It's heavily reliant on visuals and slapstick, and though the premise is light and simple, it seemed reminiscent of the whole 'Mindy and Buttons' routine of a hapless protector in constant peril (but a bit more appreciated in this instance). Wonderfully made, but nothing we haven't seen before.
Bird Karma - A very simple premise and a surprise ending, but the traditional hand-drawn style, while flawless and beautiful, comes across as overly-animated and over-produced. I can appreciate mastery of the form when it comes to drawing, but when every last detail is on display, sometimes it's hard to tell if the main attraction is the animation itself or just the animators.
Grandpa Walrus - Probably the most narratively ambitious of the ten. Wonderfully hand-drawn 2D style, and a nice little oddball story and characters that win you over. It's a bit longer than most of these entries, though it keeps you invested enough you don't really feel the length.
Late Afternoon - Surprisingly light-hearted and uplifting, as it tackles some rather complex subject matter. A superb use of the art form and how animation can visually transport us across moments in time, and through a whole range of an emotional spectrum. Another gem from Cartoon Saloon.
Lost & Found - Hands down my absolute favorite of the ten, and the one I'll surely be rooting for. Unparalleled stop-motion, adorable characters, and an emotional roller coaster unlike anything else. True artistry at play here.
One Small Step - Another emotional roller coaster of a film, simple and well-developed characterization, with an inspiring story and visuals. A great first entry from new studio Taiko.
Weekends - Beautiful hand-drawn 2D style, and based on a personal story. I can appreciate the more dream-like moments in this simple, yet also complex story, but it's the longest of the ten, with very methodical pacing, so the story lingers on probably a bit more than it needs to.
My five nomination predictions:
Age of Sail
Lost & Found
For Age of Sail and Weekends, their stories and premises are very award-friendly, plus Weekends has been a solid contender at other festivals. Bao was a huge hit, and with Pixar's long reach, it will certainly be nominated. Later Afternoon was also a big awards contender, and should be a good bet, based on Cartoon Saloon's track record. Finally, based on personal bias alone, I'll throw the fifth slot to Lost & Found. Maybe the Academy will have the same profound experience I had seeing it for the first time. It's also the only stop-motion entry of the ten, so if they wanted to diversify in terms of style, there's your answer.
Let's check back next week, where we can see how right or wrong I was! And visit the link above to see them yourself (at least those that are still posted), and draw your own conclusion!