Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Feb 21, 2015 2:10 am

Checking in again now that I'm up to 80% representation (only missing Song of the Sea).

I wish I'd read BJ more closely on Princess Kaguya; I might not have had my expectations scaled so high. Prior to seeing it, I had thought it might have a slim upset chance, simply because I've heard so many people touting it. But I found it fairly disappointing: nowhere near the Miyazaki films in quality. I thought it was way too long, and narratively wanting. Elements floated in and out -- she's growing at this inordinately quick rate...until she doesn't; her boyfriend appears occasionally -- at one point abandoning his family for her in a split second -- but never seems a firm part of the story; it's never clear whether the things her father does to change her life are right or wrong (in the end, they're meaningless); and the big "reveal" on what this whole story has even been about is awkwardly revealed at what seems a random moment. There are segments, especially early-childhood ones, that work individually, and the visuals are solid enough. But I'd be very surprised if there were enough voters in love with the film to give it much chance at winning.

The Boxtrolls has, typically for Laika, a great visual look, but the story's fairly humdrum. It's not boring (being nearly 40 minutes shorter than Kaguya helped there), but it's nothing special.

I'm pretty much rooting for Anything but Dragon, partly because I thought it an unnecessary, lackluster sequel; partly because their campaign has been as over-the-top as anything Weinstein's ever done (Mark Harris called it "aggressive-bordering-on-frighteningly-needy"); and partly because I suspect Dreamworks was most responsible for blocking The LEGO Movie's nomination.

LEGO remains my easy choice, were it available. I now see why the NY critics picked it, even though they'd normally go with a smaller item.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby nightwingnova » Sun Feb 01, 2015 12:41 am

BAM! How to Train Your Dragon 2 beats The LEGO Movie at the Annie awards for both director and feature film. Guess that's a clear sign.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby OscarGuy » Wed Jan 21, 2015 12:01 am

I enjoyed Lego Movie, but I don't get the level of acclaim its generated. It falls apart in the last half, is betrayed by the parent company's utter lack of imagination when it comes to toy sales (the film urges creativity, but Lego urges collecting and non-creativity with its multitude of pre-built set packages).

I loved Big Hero 6, but it has some weaknesses that I don't think can be overcome (Wreck-It Ralph was far superior to this one).

I adore How to Train Your Dragon 2. I don't understand why people hate it so. Sure, it may seem like a movie that's part-and-parcel with the original, but that's part of its charm. It's one of the best films dealing with the father-son relationship I've seen. It's heartfelt, sweet, soaring adventure. I think it gets a bum rap.

The Boxtroll is delightful, but isn't as strong narratively as the other Laika efforts. This is their most kid-friendly effort, but in getting more kid-friendly, the dark imagination that fueled the prior efforts is shunted to the background.

I have not seen the other two.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Jan 20, 2015 9:07 pm

I think, like the Selma shortfall, the LEGO omission is not due to one thing, but to several coming together: the fact that Warner Brothers doesn't have the dedicated animation unit Disney & Dreamworks do, thus fewer bloc votes; that the ranked ballot allows for some level of blackballing; and that, from what I hear, both the branch itself and those additional voters skew older. None of these helped LEGO, but I still think it's a shocking omission. If anyone actually cared about the animated feature award, it'd be a scandal in line with some foreign film oversights we've seen down the years.

It's left me essentially not giving a damn about this year's race. I think LEGO is better than any winner in the category since Toy Story 3, and at least on par with most nominees. (Maybe I'm lucky to have, purely by happenstance, seen it opening weekend, before hype got too ferocious, but I had none of BJ's issues with it; I thought it was a delight) I've only seen two of the as-is nominees -- Big Hero and Dragon; Boxtrolls should get to me via Netflix prior to showtime, but the other two are nowhere playing near me, and are very low priority in a season where I'm still short American Sniper, Inherent Vice, Mr. Turner and Two Days One Night. Of the two I've seen, I guess I'd prefer Big Hero 6 -- at least its first half has a lot of zip -- and I'd hate to have the idea Dreamworks voters somehow engineered a win for this mediocre sequel.

The category is, I suppose, more suspenseful than it would have been with LEGO aboard. But, as Pauline Kael once said in a different context, that suspense isn't necessarily pleasurable.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby nightwingnova » Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:02 pm

I would have preferred they just let the Animation branch make the nominations.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby Heksagon » Tue Jan 20, 2015 9:50 am

Ok, so I didn't even know the nomination process was different. Well, that certainly makes the omission seems much less surprising, whatever the exact reason why the pensioners didn't like the film.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby FilmFan720 » Tue Jan 20, 2015 9:11 am

Remember too that Animated Feature has a unique nominating process: 100 voters (half from Animation branch, half from other branches) watch and rate all the eligible films, then the highest rated films get nominated. Might The LEGO Movie have been too polarizing? Lots of high votes, but also some real low votes (whereas something like How To Train Your Dragon 2 or The Boxtrolls wouldn't have a lot of 10s, but could have generally positive numbers).
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby Heksagon » Tue Jan 20, 2015 9:06 am

It’s a good point that WB doesn’t have a lot of references for Animated Films, and it hadn’t occurred to me, but I would still imagine that they could get a nomination for such a popular film, at least in a five-nominee slate.

Now, I agree that a lot of the pensioners in the Academy are probably put off by the pop-culture references and that may be one of the main reasons why Wreck-It Ralph lost to Brave. But winning the category is quite different from getting nominated, as the latter just requires a fraction of the voters to make this film their highest pick.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby OscarGuy » Tue Jan 20, 2015 7:33 am

There are a number of reasons I think the film failed to get a nomination.

Nova hit on something with the pop culture element issue. Heksagon tried to dismiss it with the nominations of Wreck-It Ralph, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots, but those films had something Lego didn't have: major animation studio backing. Warner Bros. is certainly not a neophyte company, nor is it unused to animated films. However, among modern animation studios, it has absolutely nothing on the likes of Disney/Pixar/DreamWorks, from which those three films came.

Let's remember that Wreck-It Ralph was supposed to be the big Oscar winner. It had tons of precursors, plenty of studio love and faced one of the weakest Pixar entries in some time. Yet, it still lost out to the more traditional Brave. Most attribute that to the fact that Academy voters (who vote on the winners) are a significantly older, less hip group and thus found the rampant video game references off-putting. That doesn't mean much when they don't all vote on nominations, but may have been a contributing factor in this whole debacle.

The second contribution is that the film's supporters may have thought the film had a nomination in the bag and sent their votes another direction. If enough people vote in that method, it's possible that the support wasn't there in general and it just didn't get a lot of first-place votes as a result. Animators love computer animation, but they also revere the old ways, which is what helped both Song of the Sea and Princess Kaguya get nominated. I wouldn't be surprised if those traditionalists gave those films the edge as a way to make sure they were nominated, but failed to realize their lack of support for the presumptive frontrunner would lead to its entire exclusion.

Another factor that may play in here is that the film was supposed to be about creativity triumphing over rigid stricture. Yet, Lego has been actively diminished in its creativity for years. They focus primarily on building sets for collectors that sit on a shelf and don't get inventive or expanded on. They even turned the movie into pre-made sets. That rampant commercialism being so ironically supported and "preached against" at the same time may just have been too much for some. Sure, most studios go hell-bent on commercializing their toys, but this was a movie that was supposed to speak out AGAINST such notions.

It may also have just not been a film that was as well liked among animators as it was among the general public. Think about how The Simpsons Movie went into its race with everyone thinking it was a frontrunner, but ultimately failing to even get nominated. Simpsons is a cultural zeitgeist, but it's also a TV show making a jump to the big screen. That may have been what hampered its chances, but it's clear the film wasn't nearly a popular among animators as it was among the public. Of course, The Simpsons has also been criticized for its international outsourcing of animators, which I believe came to the forefront during the film's Oscar campaign, which may have hurt it.

Let's also look at the Annie Awards nominations for a clue. The Lego Movie received six, which included Best Animated Feature in a field of eight films. Boxtrolls received 13, How to Train Your Dragon 10, BIg Hero 6 and Song of the Sea 7 each. Princess Kaguya only got 3 (Note that The Wind Rises also only received 3 so that number doesn't seem so unusual). Its nominations were in major categories like Animated Feature, Directing, Production Design, Writing, Editing and Effects Animation, but that's not really that much when you consider how the others did. I also find my quote in my intro to the Annie Nominations on my site to be rather prophetic now: "There are two notable results here. One in that The Boxtrolls topped the nomination count over what would have been the standard DreamWorks topper How to Train Your Dragon 2 (though, if you look at history, Laika does really well with the Annie Awards). Two, The Lego Movie only secured 6 nominations, fifth-most for the day. It was nominated for the important awards, but a lower nomination tally isn't a positive sign."
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby Heksagon » Tue Jan 20, 2015 2:56 am

Although I can only speculate, I’m guessing the reason why Lego Movie is missing is because the Academy members viewed it as too much of a toy commercial. Unless the Lego marketers botched the campaigning - not going through the effort and thinking they had the nomination in the bag already - it’s hard for me to see any other reason for the snub, considering how well received the film was.

Regarding Nova's concerns about an excess of pop-culture references and fast tempo, and BJ's comments about the film being chaotic - well, they nominated Wreck-It Ralph, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots recently, and going back further, they had nominations for rubbish like Shrek 2 and Bolt in three-nominee fields. A lot of these films are even more pop-culture heavy than Lego Movie, and not significantly less hyperactive.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby nightwingnova » Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:18 am

I've only seen bits of The LEGO Movie. But it seems to me to be on the hyperactive brain wave level of today's kids and heavily tied into pop culture. That could be the turnoff for the Academy's voters or screening committee (not sure how these nominations are made).

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jan 19, 2015 7:58 pm

What had seemed like a race with a solid frontrunner got a big jolt when The LEGO Movie was omitted (though, in retrospect, that Golden Globe loss appears a bit more ominous), turning this race into a lot more of a free-for-all. I still find it baffling LEGO was boxed out, especially in a five-wide field, and one that wasn't hugely competitive either. I'm not even all that wild about the movie, and I still feel it should have been among the five. Perhaps my reaction has something to do with when I saw it -- I can see how critics who went in expecting kiddie junk would have been pleasantly surprised by the level of invention on display. But I saw it some time after its release, after many people had told me "I took my kids, and I ended up liking it even more than they did!" All I can say is, I don't know what movie those people saw. This would have been a shoo-in for Damien's Dramamine Award -- I found much of the movie to be rather chaotic, and I felt like I might suddenly contract ADD on the spot from watching it. This isn't to say there weren't inventive things in the movie -- both in terms of clever jokes and witty visual images -- but there were just so MUCH of them. And then when the movie finally took a chance to breathe, it expected me to be invested in a relationship between two suddenly-introduced characters about whom I cared absolutely not one bit. Maybe, like me, voters felt that everything here was NOT awesome, or not as awesome as they'd been led to believe by those critical raves, and that hurt the movie's chances?

Still, I have no idea how that led voters toward The Boxtrolls, which I think is the weakest of the actual nominees. Like the past Laika entries, it has a very inventive visual look, with a witty/grotesque world on display that finds consistently creative ways to play with its steampunk-style design. But I thought the plot fell far short, amounting to not much more than a standard story about a community trying to destroy outcasts it thinks are evil, only to learn that the true evil comes from the oppressor (rather enjoyably voiced by Ben Kingsley). I also thought it was WAY too long, without enough narrative invention to justify dragging out material so thin.

I figured the nominees would include Kaguya OR Song of the Sea, but not both, so it was nice to see both smaller efforts get a shot. But I have some of the same issues with Song of the Sea that I had with Tomm Moore's last nominee, The Secret of Kells. I think the animation in Song of the Sea is absolutely gorgeous, reminding us that in a sea of CGI, the simple beauty of traditional animation can still evoke a wow, especially through the rich colors and fantastical designs on display here. But, as in Kells, I wasn't as high on the storyline. I get a bit impatient with stories where fantastical things happen for seemingly no rhyme or reason -- when it feels like there are no rules to the universe, it's hard for me to become engaged. I don't strongly dislike Song of the Sea or anything -- as I said, I thought it was visually sumptuous -- but much of the story just sort of sat there for me.

I don't have an overwhelming preference for any of these nominees, but I'd probably choose The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, simply because it was the nominee that explored the most interesting adult material, in its story of a princess struggling to take agency of her own life in the midst of parental expectations and traditional social customs.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jan 19, 2015 7:57 pm

And it, too, had a lot of lovely, painterly images. I don't think the movie is a knockout -- there were times when its seeming lack of interest in narrative felt unfocused to me, and the ending fell into that strange-things-happening-for-no-reason pothole as well -- but it certainly feels like the most mature and thoughtful effort on the ballot. But given that it hasn't inspired Miyazaki-levels of buzz, I imagine that it (and Song of the Sea) will be relegated to nominee-only status.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jan 19, 2015 7:56 pm

With LEGO out of the running, it appears that How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6 will be the candidates to benefit most, as both earned strong box office and seemed reasonably -- though not ecstatically -- well-liked. How to Train Your Dragon's sequel status is interesting -- is it a help or a hindrance? Had the first Dragon premiered a year later, when it wasn't up against Toy Story 3, it very well might have won this race, and against much weaker competition, the sequel could give voters a chance to retroactively honor the whole series. And yet, will the been-there-done-that factor hurt it? I found Dragon 2 amiable enough, but lacking anything that pushed the series into any more special level of achievement (as I would argue the Toy Story sequels definitely did). For me, the movie felt mostly like another chapter of the same -- this was enough for the Hollywood Foreign Press. Will it be enough for Oscar?

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Categories One-by-One: Animated Feature

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jan 19, 2015 7:56 pm

My hunch at the moment is that the fresher Big Hero 6 will prevail. Had the second half of the movie maintained the quality of the first, it would have gotten my vote easily -- I loved the mash-up of San Francisco locales with Tokyo sensibilities in the visuals, found much of the family dynamics (and increasing pile-up of heartbreak) very touching, and thought the science students and their inventions were full of fresh energy. I thought the movie dipped in the second half -- it was pretty obvious that who the movie seemed to be setting up as the villain was going to be a misdirect, and by the time the team of students had turned into superheroes fighting a big spaceship over their city, I thought, well now we're just back in The Avengers. And the climax -- while poignant -- was virtually a direct lift from the same moment in The Iron Giant. Still, despite some derivative elements, it feels on the whole like something more imaginative than How to Train Your Dragon 2, and I'm leaning its direction in terms of my predictions.

But I could be persuaded with arguments from all of your sharp minds...


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