Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Oscar Narrative: Final Nomination Predictions - Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and Foreign Language Film

The time has finally come to start my final predictions for the Oscar Nominations. It is hard to believe that one week from today the Oscar Nominations will be announced. So tonight we start with three major awards:

Best Animated Feature
The Croods
Ernest and Celestine
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

Other Contenders - Despicable Me 2, Epic, A Letter to Momo, O Apostolo, Free Birds, Turbo

Commentary - I am not sure that there will be five nominees this year. Unlike last year, this has been a relatively weak year for animation. If there are only three nominees, expect The Wind Rises, Frozen, and Monsters University. That could be where the story ends. But since there is a possibility of more than three, I am going with five just to be safe. The Croods seems like a safe bet out of Dreamworks. It has a talent voice cast and is beautifully animated. And I have seen ads for the film, meaning that they are pushing for it. The last slot is tricky. The obvious choice is Despicable Me 2, which got BAFTA and PGA nods. And the new, more populist voting system could help its cause. But something just feels off. They failed to recognize the first film, and even in a more populist vote, the Animation Branch still has enough individualistic voters to go their own way (I hope so). So I am still sticking with the lovely French effort Ernest & Celestine. American animation this year was weak, but some of the foreign entries are certainly worthy, and I hope the branch takes notice.

Best Documentary Feature
The Act of Killing
The Square
Stories We Tell
20 Feet From Stardom

Other Contenders -Tim's Vermeer, Cutie and the Boxer, God Loves Uganda, Life According to Sam, The Armstrong Lie

Commentary - Six great docs for five slots, I'm still thinking I will regret excluding Tim's Vermeer, which is an entertaining and populist enterprise. But alas, it just to competitive. The Act of Killing has won the most critics awards, but I think that the Academy, under this more inclusive voting system, will go for a lighter, more entertaining doc, something like the engaging Stories We Tell from Oscar nominee Sarah Polley, or 20 Feet from Stardom, which is a revealing, yet also entertaining enterprise. Rounding out the top five will most likely be The Square which lit up the IDA awards, and Blackfish, which is really grabbing headlines lately for its expose work of the cruelty of Sea World.

Best Foreign Language Film 
Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Notebook (Hungary)
Two Lives (Germany)

Other Contenders - The Grandmaster (Hong Kong), Omar (Palestine), The Missing Picture (Cambodia), An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Commentary - With so many big contenders left off like Wadjda and The Past, this race has shifted dramatically in the last couple of weeks. The Hunt and The Great Beauty have done relatively well on the circuit and will most likely get in on popularity along. The Notebook has the subject matter and Two Lives just feels like something this branch would nominate. Finally, I expect Broken Circle Breakdown to be very popular among this branch and could be a big contender for the win. Obviously I have excluded The Grandmaster. It could surprise in the Cinematography category, but I would honestly be surprised if it made the cut here, although this category is historically known for its surprises. 

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