Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:
Today, Jay Cluitt, (the LAMB Shepherd) of LIfe Vs. Film is here to look at the nominees for Best Animated Feature.
Best Animated Feature
Best Animated Feature is an odd award at the Oscars. Similar to the newly renamed Best International Feature and, to a lesser extent, Best Documentary Feature, it’s a sub-category within a larger field, an almost patronising hat-tip to these bizarre oddities that are worthy of a little praise, but are unlikely to be discussed in the conversation for the Best “Proper” Film. To date only three animated films have ever been even nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast, Up and Toy Story 3), and none of them went on to win, despite all of them being the best films of their respective years. And don’t get me started on how Wall-E wasn’t even nominated in 2008, being dismissed in favour of the likes of Frost/Nixon, Milk and The Reader, or The Great Lego Debacle Of 2015.
Anyway, this year is very interesting in terms of the nominees for Best Animated Feature, in that right now, as I start writing this piece, I have absolutely no idea which of the five nominees I think will win, a problem exacerbated by one of the front-runners for the crown, Frozen II, not having even been nominated! I haven’t seen it, but from what I can tell this is an unprecedented turn of events and is possibly due to the tumult of other sequel options available for nominating across the board. Also not nominated is The Lego Movie: Part 2, which is considerably less incredible than the first Lego Movie, but I would’ve included it over at least one of this year’s nominees. It’s less of a snub than the first film though. Oh, and the undisputable greatest animated film of 2019 wasn’t nominated because it didn’t get much of a release outside of the UK. It’s Farmageddon. Farmageddon is all kinds of incredible, and I fully expect it to win the Animated Feature award it’s eventually eligible for. So, that’s the films that weren’t nominated, now lets look at the ones that have been:
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Of the five, this is the one I’d replace with the Lego sequel. It’s not bad, it’s just that the How to Train Your Dragon series has never fully won me over, and the third instalment is the least great of the trilogy. The character design, especially of the dragons, is still on point, and the visuals are stunning, but something has always been missing with these films. I’ve heard buzz that this film should win to make up for neither of the other two films winning in their years, but as far as I’m concerned no argument could possibly be made for How To Train Your Dragon beating Toy Story 3, and perhaps part 2 should have won out over Big Hero 6, but 2014 was a weak year for animated nominees. My main reason for The Hidden World not winning the Oscar? Well, on the island of Berk, all the adults speak with thick Scottish accents, whereas the kids are all very American. That’s fine, whatever, but I’d assumed that at some point the human characters underwent a kind of second puberty wherein their vocal chords took on a broad, resonant brogue. The Hidden World sees the child characters grow up, and there’s even a flash forward at the end, during which I was excited to hear the likes of Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera deliver some nice highland tones, but alas, they remained American, and I remain disappointed.
I Lost My Body
I hadn’t seen this when the nominations were announced – to be honest I’d barely even heard of it – but I’m delighted to have been informed this film exists (and is on Netflix!), as now I’ve seen and loved it. It may even be my favourite of the nominees. It’s a wonderfully odd yet also heartbreakingly real story of a boy-then-young-man named Naoufel (Hakim Faris in the French original, Dev Patel in the English dub) trying to make his way in the world and sweetly stalk-dating Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois / Alia Shawkat), a woman he initially only meets over an intercom. Meanwhile, a disembodied yet still alive hand makes its way across a city, fending off all manner of obstacles. Either story on their own would be fine, but splicing the two together works incredibly, bizarrely well. I’d love it if I Lost My Body took home the prize on Sunday, but I know it’s very unlikely. I’ll just be happy that it has gained more attention from the nomination.
When the nominations were announced I didn’t think Klaus had much chance of winning. I watched it on Christmas Eve whilst wrapping presents and found the present-wrapping took a lot longer than expected because I was basically just not wrapping anything and watching the film instead, but it seemed an underdog to the two biggest films in the category. Now, however, it’s won seven awards at the Annies, including Best Animated Feature, and it took home the Best Animated Feature at the BAFTAs, which hurts more than a little because that was Farmageddon‘s for the taking. Anyway, Klaus follows lazy, spoiled postman Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) as he is forced to set up a flourishing post office on the remote island of Smeerensburg, where everyone hates each other and no-one ever sends anyone any letters. The island is split into two warring factions embarking upon never-ending pranks and attacks, for reasons they can’t even remember. You can see where the film is going to end up almost immediately, and the addition of Rashida Jones’ bitter aspiring-teacher-but-reluctant-fishmonger, who initially hates Jesper, and J. K. Simmons’ gruff, hulking carpenter don’t shy away from the standard characters you’d see in this kind of story, but it’s still delightful throughout. The animation style is also beautiful, with a blend of cel-shaded style and computer wizardry providing a very unique aesthetic. I think Klaus has a very good chance of winning on Sunday.
Laika’s fifth animated feature is also in with a good shot, given it picked up the Golden Globe version of this award, but it hasn’t won much else. That’s a shame, because as we’ve come to expect with Laika, the stop-motion animation here is beyond incredible. It boggles the mind how much effort has gone into producing many of the film’s sequences. However outside of the skill on display the story is a little weak, which may be the reason behind the flagging momentum of Missing Link throughout the awards season. I’ve seen it twice now (it’s also on Netflix!), and to be honest I can’t see myself being drawn to a third viewing any time soon, as long as I can find the end credits song to listen to elsewhere.
Toy Story 4
I think if you’d asked me to pick a winner at the start of the awards season, before any of the nominations or ceremonies had taken place, my money would’ve been on Toy Story 4. Firstly I loved it, mainly due to the host of fun new characters like Forky, Ducky & Bunny and of course 2019’s MVP, Duke Kaboom, but also because it’s a Pixar film, and a great one at that, and generally when Pixar films get nominated they tend to win. Aside from 2016, when Finding Dory wasn’t even nominated, the last time the field was as split as this year was probably 2012, when the academy was presented with three all-time greats in ParaNorman, Frankenweenie and The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists, but instead opted for the safer, fine, but by no means correct choice of Brave (Wreck-It Ralph has always been just OK). Whether the same will happen again this year, with a quality mixed bag allowing a safe choice to rise to the glory as yet remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
So who will win?
Well, with Farmageddon ruled out (seriously guys, it’s awesome, and apparently will be available on Netflix imminently!) then my prediction is Klaus, due to the BAFTA and Annie wins. Genuinely though it could go in almost any direction. If I had to break it down then I’d say I’m leaning 40% towards Klaus, 35% to Missing Link, 15% to Toy Story 4 and 10% to I Lost My Body, and really I’ve got no problem with any of those four winning. Who do you think will win?