They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

The Other Feature Films

By J. Don Birnam

February 12, 2015

We just want to hug Toothless all the time.

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Let’s take a break from the Boyman/Birdhood (or whatever) cacophony and explore the other three feature length film award categories at the Oscars. The Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary, and Best Foreign Language Film races showcase different types of movies from the mainstream, and provide very different experiences both emotional, mental, and of entertainment value. To me, it’s always a delight to delve into these and to try to guess which bland choice the Academy will go for.

Best Animated Feature

The biggest story on Oscar morning was arguably the snub for The LEGO Movie, and that became the biggest story in this category. The big question is: with LEGO gone, who will win? It seems from the Annie awards and other precursors since the nominations, that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the consensus favorite.

Here’s a funny bit: The LEGO Movie was winning every precursor in sight (though Dragon did win the Globe) and then when the Academy snubbed it, it stopped winning (but it did win the BAFTA). It’s funny how the industry kowtows to the Academy like that, and/or seems to want to rubber-stamp or agree with its choices. One would hope for a bit more originality sometimes, but alas.

(On the other hand, it is also funny how BAFTA this year seemed to say to the Academy that they were going their own way with Boyhood and The LEGO Movie. After six consecutive years of anointing the Academy’s Best Picture winner in the weeks before the show, I find it somewhat comedic that BAFTA now decides to show off its independence.)


In any case, Dragon is the likely and worthy victor. The original entry in this movie fell to Toy Story 3 (which was then a Best Picture nominee), but this is their chance to reward a well-respected (by audiences and critics) franchise. The score is again exquisite, and the story is refreshingly different from the first while keeping the same overall themes that made it successful.

My personal favorite, and likely the runner-up, is Big Hero 6, this year’s Disney entry into the race. Like its old ally Pixar, Disney really knows how to bring imagination and warmth into old cartoon formulas, providing new depths of both animation and story-telling. Watching the movie next to my niece and seeing her enthralled by the plot shows how transcendent these movies are. It’s the old Toy Story/Shrek formula, and it keeps going strong.

Beyond that, I have to confess dereliction. I saw The Boxtrolls but actually kept falling asleep repeatedly. The plot seemed uninteresting, and I can’t imagine this winning. To be fair, the animation is exquisite and the story, if told somewhat tighter, is compelling. But it’s a distant third. The other two entries, meanwhile, are happy to be nominated. Song of the Sea, by the studio that brought you the surprise nominee Secret of Kells in 2009, is a traditional animation piece telling an old Celtic tale. The Tale of Princess Kaguya, an expected nominee by the same studio that brought you the 2002 winner Spirited Away and last year’s exquisite nominee The Wind Rises, is the kind of artistic Japanese animation that the branch loves to nominate, but the Academy has only once rewarded. Indeed, that was the only year that traditional animation has won in this category, and I do not expect that streak to be broken.

Mark down How to Train Your Dragon 2 for the easy win.

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