January 29, 2013
The Oscar for Best Animated Feature was first given in the 74th Academy Awards in 2002. The first winner was "Shrek" (Dreamworks, 2001). There are five nominees for Best Animated Feature this year. Of the three nominees that use Stop-Motion animation technique, two of them are in the horror genre. I have ranked them as follows based on the initial impression I had right after watching the films.
1. ParaNorman 9/10 (read my FULL REVIEW)
The stop-motion used in this film by Laika Entertainment is first class and finely detailed. The story about Norman, a boy who can see and speak with spirits. Circumstances turn this boy who was constantly bullied in school for his special gift into a hero who saves his town from destruction by a vengeful witch and her zombies.
Laika had already been nominated twice before. "Corpse Bride" in cooperation with Tim Burton Animation in 2005, and then "Coraline" in 2009. I believe that the top-notch animation technique used in this movie, together with its very good story and script, make "ParaNorman" worthy to be the winner this year in my book.
2. Wreck-It Ralph 7/10 (read my FULL REVIEW)
This is very good old-fashioned animation (in 2D and 3D) by Walt Disney Animation Studios. The story brings us into the world of arcade video games. Wreck-It Ralph is the villain of one such game, but he is tired of being the bad guy. We follow his adventures as he ventures out of his game and seeks the medal of honor that he seeks.
The Disney name is not a guarantee of a nomination nor a win. This is one of very few films from Walt Disney Animation Studios per se (not in cooperation with Pixar) that had been nominated, after "Bolt" (2008) and "The Princess and the Frog" (2009). Both did not win. "Tangled" (2010) and "Winnie the Pooh" (2011) were not even nominated.
3. Pirates! Band of Misfits 7/10 (read my FULL REVIEW)
This is a more modern take on the clay-type stop motion employed in previous films by Aardman Animations like "Wallace and Gromit" and "Chicken Run." "Pirates!" brings us along on the quest of a washed-up Pirate Captain as he seeks to be the Pirate of the Year. He encounters Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria as his misadventures find him mixed up with the scientific society in London.
"Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" won the big prize in 2005. Can "Pirates!" repeat the feat this year?
4. Brave 6/10 (read my FULL REVIEW)
Pixar's first "princess" movie is its entry into the Oscar race this year. This is the story of the head-strong Princess Merida who would rather hunt with her bow and arrow than get married to her unworthy suitors. Her imperious recklessness leads to an unfortunate fate of ursine proportions for someone very dear to her.
Many of Pixar's previous works have won this category handily, including "Finding Nemo", "The Incredibles", "Ratatouille", "WALL-E", "Up" and "Toy Story 3". I do not think "Brave" lived up to the standards set by those classics.
5. Frankenweenie 5/10 (read my FULL REVIEW)
This is Tim Burton's macabre animated offering, after his live action "Dark Shadows" earlier in the year. The animation of "Frankenweenie" is a throwback to the old-style stop animation with crude moving parts. The story is a homage to the Frankenstein myth, as we follow the adventures of an introverted boy named Victor who uses a scientific set-up to raise his only friend, his pet dog Sparky, from the dead.
Only one other grotesque animated work by Tim Burton had been nominated before, and that was "Corpse Bride" back in 2005. This film "Frankenweenie" is actually receiving a lot of positive buzz to win this year, but nevertheless, it does not really appeal to me. I am ranking this last in my opinion.