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Oscar Watching: Will PARANORMAN Shake Up the Animated Feature Race?

The New York Film Festival added some films and, for the first time in its history, tributes to its lineup. Also, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master has screened in various locations across the U.S. But let’s reserve that conversation for next week because, well, will we need to talk about Premium Rush?

Speaking of films we won’t need to discuss, let’s rule out The Expendables 2 and The Odd Life of Timothy Green. The films neither impressed the critics nor have the outside factors to push them into contention. Sorry, Sly fans. There’s also the musical Sparkle, but considering the critical indifference to the film, its best bet for major recognition is at the Golden Globes – perhaps even a posthumous nomination for Whitney Houston – and maybe an Oscar nod or two for Original Song.

On the indie side of things, Ann Dowd might earn a nomination for her work in Craig Zobel’s drama Compliance. The film accounts for the real-life abuse of a fast food employee, with Dowd playing the manager who torments. She’s already made her way into contender lists of two very important awards prognosticators, Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience and Sasha Stone of Awards Daily, and could easily score a Jacki Weaver-style nomination if the Supporting Actress race thins out.

That being said, the big Oscar story of the week is Chris Butler and Sam Fell’s ParaNorman. The film, about a social outcast who can communicate with the dead, comes from the team behind the 2009 hit Coraline, production company Laika Entertainment and distributor Focus Features. Like that film, this is a horror-tinged stop-motion feature. As if its backing pedigree wasn’t enough, ParaNorman has earned rave reviewsincluding my $0.02 – in its own right.

But will that be enough for a nomination? The critics might favor ParaNorman for now, but it lacks the critical enthusiasm of Coraline, which also benefitted from competing in a relatively weak field. While the accolades for ParaNorman certainly help, it might not perform admirably in the coming weeks, and love from the critics isn’t everything in the tricky Animated Feature race. Just look at Tangled and Winnie the Pooh.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax probably won’t be a factor this year thanks to tepid critical reaction, and we’re definitely not talking about Ice Age: Continental Drift and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. However, we already have the assumed frontrunner Brave (discussed earlier, when it still felt like a possibility for major Oscar attention) and The Pirates! Band of Misfits to consider, and DreamWorks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians and Disney’s similarly-themed Frankenweenie and Wreck-It Ralph arrive before the end of the year.

As if those five films didn’t make for enough competition, Gkids also looks to score in Animated Feature. The distributor first nabbed a nomination for 2009’s The Secret of Kells – alongside Coraline –and picked up two nominations last year; this year, several films under the Gkids banner – such as Kokuriko-zaka kara (From Up on Poppy Hill) and Le chat du rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat) – will have eligibility runs.

ParaNorman is in a very unique position. Based on what we’ve seen thus far, the film feels like a slam dunk for an Animated Feature nomination and huge possibility to even pull off an upset win. However, when throwing it against the sight-unseen contenders – and even Brave – we see that it’s not guaranteed anything.

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Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.