Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Brief Look at Stop Motion Films at the Oscars

As Oscar season rapidly approaches, it becomes exciting to speculate who the nominees will be. For instance, has anyone paid consideration to the Best Animated Film category yet? While we have already seen Inside Out, which was great, there's still a whole slew of animated movies to come - including another Pixar movie with The Good Dinosaur. However, there's something more interesting to ponder. Who are the outliers going to be? Last year saw The Tale of Princess Kaguya and Song of the Sea overcome steep odds to land nominations. Is this the year where we see another stop motion film get nominated? I am talking specifically about today's release of directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak's Shaun the Sheep Movie.

Considering the stranglehold over the category that Pixar has, it's a miracle that there have been eight stop motion films nominated over the category's 13 year existence. While it may just be that it is The Academy's way of recognizing a vast array of formats, it does help that the limited medium has actually been going strong thanks to the likes of Laika Studios and a few other noteworthy companies. The long process means that it cannot compete with the computer generated films, but that just means that the final product is far more impressive. 

Despite the better odds of a stop motion film not winning, there has been one exception: 2005's Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. While this sets the odds at 1/13 and likely to rise with each subsequent year, it does offer some optimistic side effects. In 2012, 3/5 of the nominees were stop motion with a diverse mix of stories. While the obvious factor is that stop motion is a genre that isn't associated with box office success and recognition, it just takes one film to get everything right and click with audiences to stand half of a chance at winning.

It may be premature to guess what will make this year's line-up, but I do place some hope on Shaun the Sheep Movie. True, the trailers have made it look like a silly family movie. However, consider the reviews. As of opening day, it holds 99% on critics aggregate Rotten Tomatoes. In general, the films with higher percentages in animation have tended to fare better. Its style is also complementary, with many reviews calling the humor to be akin to a silent comedy and smart. It is a perfect potential candidate for the category. As evident by last year's surprise nominees over clearer favorites like The LEGO Movie, there's some hope that diversity will remain consistent.

But we'll just have to see what the season holds for us. With many already expecting Inside Out to lead the pack, it will probably a tougher vote for runner-up. There's a whole line-up of films worthy of attention this fall. As the season progresses, I will likely be taking tabs on the formation of this category as well as many others. Even then, this is an interesting film because audiences are sure to like it, if they actually see it. This may end up being like The Pirates!: Band of Misfits where the Oscar nomination helps more than any press ever could. One can only hope this is the same here.

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