They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?
The Other Best Pictures: Foreign, Animated, Documentary
By J. Don Birnam
February 11, 2016
We continue our look at the Oscars category by category with analysis of the “other best picture” awards, given to the best feature length Documentary, Animated Feature, and Foreign Language Films. This year, all three seem to have clear, consensus winners. The question is whether we will see upsets like we had last year for Big Hero 6 over How to Train Your Dragon 2 (in retrospect, a super obvious call). I highly doubt it.
The handicap of the technical races is here and here, and I looked at the shorts, here. Twitter and Instagram have additional content.
Best Animated Feature
The animated branch likes to reward true quality, and this year was no exception. While some were picking relative duds like Minions or The Good Dinosaur to make it in, the branch gave us five amazing movies, nominating Inside Out, Anomalisa, Shaun The Sheep, When Marnie Was Here, and Boy And the World.
This is the easiest call of the night. People who like Anomalisa will try to tell you that it can beat Inside Out, just like they tried to tell you that The Wind Rises could defeat Frozen. To be sure, Anomalisa will turn out to be more watched than the Japanese feature, but I assure you most Academy members saw Inside Out in theaters. Its touching portrayal of emotion and the important of sadness was one of my favorite movies of the year. Its original screenplay nomination and the 10 Annie Awards, moreover, pretty much guarantee its victory. No animated movie that has ever received a nomination outside the category has lost the animated feature Oscar. It’s a sign of support and prestige across the Academy.
Anomalisa is, in any case, a beautiful examination of emotion in a different way - from the perspective of an adult who is disenchanted with life and who sees and hears monotony in everything. This changes for a brief moment when he encounters a plainly ordinary woman who changes his perspective for a fleeting few hours, only to tragically fall into the same pattern of ennui that has taken over his life. With a reflective voice performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa is a movie, like all Kaufman movies, that stays with you long after you see it, and that begs to be rediscovered even despite its more esoteric sequences. It’s a worthy second place finisher if there ever was one. Shaun the Sheep is also a superbly entertaining movie, following the adventures of a group of sheep that accidentally send their farm master into town on a roving SUV, only to find he becomes famous and forgets them. The touchy story, combined with hijinks, laughs and adventure, make it another great movie.
And the two foreign entries are no slouches. Boy is a mostly silent, moving tale about a boy who gets lost exploring the world, and turns into a commentary about globalization, industrialization, and environmental issues. The Japanese Marnie, meanwhile, is a moving story about a girl who develops a strange fascination for a girl named Marnie - who may or may not be entirely a figment of her imagination. Both are touching and showcase different animation styles, but neither has a prayer.
Will win: Inside Out
Could win: Anomalisa