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Best Animated Feature - 2020

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The Annecy Film Festival's feature competition lineup has been announced--that festival is taking place online this year--so I figured that now is a good time to start a thread for the category. There's several questions to consider for this category.

 

- How would the postponing of the awards affect the category and its nominations? Which films will choose to vie for next year with a theatrical release?

- How will straight-to-streaming affect the chances of films like Trolls: World TourScoob!, and The Wolf House?

- How about the animated films released straight to Netflix like The Willoughbys be affected?

 

This might be a category to keep an eye on...

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14 minutes ago, SLAM! said:

The Annecy Film Festival's feature competition lineup has been announced--that festival is taking place online this year--so I figured that now is a good time to start a thread for the category. There's several questions to consider for this category.

 

- How would the postponing of the awards affect the category and its nominations? Which films will choose to vie for next year with a theatrical release?

- How will straight-to-streaming affect the chances of films like Trolls: World TourScoob!, and The Wolf House?

- How about the animated films released straight to Netflix like The Willoughbys be affected?

 

This might be a category to keep an eye on...

Anything that was intended before the middle of March to have a theatrical release this year but ended up going straight to VOD can qualify.

 

Onward and Soul are the only two movies that are sure to be nominated. In most years the former would probably be snubbed but with a barren field and being the biggest box office casualty of COVID-19 it's as safe as anything even with its "Lesser Pixar" status.

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I've done it in the past, so I'll do it again now. These are the films in competition at Annecy--hopefully, one of them surges to become an Oscar contender:

 

  • 7 Days War (Japan) - An anime film based on a novel.
  • Bigfoot Family (Belgium, France) - A sequel to The Son of Bigfoot.
  • Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary (France, Denmark) - A female-driven western from the director of Long Way North.
  • Ginger's Tale (Russia) - Russian fantasy film.
  • Jungle Beat: The Movie (Mauritius) - An alien grants African animals the ability to speak. This is a children's film based on a episodic show, but as a feature film, it's historic for the country of Mauritius.
  • Kill It and Leave This Town (Poland) - A somewhat disturbing surrealist film ruminating on a childhood in 1970s Poland. This film previously received favorable reviews at the Berlin Film Festival.
  • Lupin III The First (Japan) - A CG-animated feature featuring a well-known Japanese character.
  • Nahuel and the Magic Book (Chile, Brazil) - A film in which a boy finds a magical book and sets out to rescue his father.
  • Little Vampire (France) - A vampire living in a haunted house with other Halloween-type monsters ventures out to interact with outside folks.
  • The Nose or Conspiracy of Mavericks (Russia) - Critique of Stalin-era communism.

This is an exciting lineup, but for the competition, I think it's between Calamity and the Polish film.

 

The films in the competitive Contrechamp section include:

 

  • Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery (Croatia)
  • Beauty Water (South Korea)
  • The Knight and the Princess (Saudi Arabia, Egypt)
  • Lava (Argentina)
  • The Legend of Hei (China)
  • My Favorite War (Latvia, Norway)
  • The Old Man--The Movie (Estonia)
  • On-Gaku: Our Sound (Japan)
  • The Shaman Sorceress (South Korea)
  • True North (Japan, Indonesia)

Currently, the highest-profile films in Contrechamp are Legend of Hei and On-Gaku.

 

Well, I figured I'd list all of the feature films in competition. Some of these films might not be able to surge to an Oscar nomination, but a few could have a chance.

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I think Connected looks like it has a cool animation style. think it looks good for a nomination if it gets released. There's also Netflix's Over The Moon which will be the feature directing debut of animation legend Glen Keane (he won the short oscar a couple years ago for the Kobe thing)

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I think there's three high-profile foreign films that have a chance.

 

Ride Your Wave by Masaaki Yuasa has a chance. Gkids decided not to submit it last year, and it had a theatrical release through Fathom Events last February (which ended up being beautiful timing). In such a dry year, the more serious animation voters might seize the chance to nominate a film by Yuasa.

 

The Bears' Invasion of Sicily, which I think is a French film, is in a similar boat to Ride Your Wave. The film was at last year's Toronto festival and everything, but it wasn't submitted to the category last year--which means this year is last chance junction for the film's submission.

 

There's also The Wolf House; the filmmakers took the opportunity to release the film on their website during this time, and I think it'll end up being eligible. It's a disturbing stop-motion film from Chile with political connotations that currently has a 92 on Metacritic. I think it might have a chance.

 

I think it's important that films like these are submitted at all, because this could be the first year in a long time where it's only three nominees in the category. Any amount of submission less than 16 means only three films are nominated. And there's only a few films from Hollywood this time. Assuming they're all released in time, there's OnwardTrolls: World TourScoob!Soul, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the RunConnectedThe Croods 2. That's it. I don't think The Willoughbys will count--which is a shame. So if Netflix and other streamers don't have anything up their sleeve, that's only seven films. So that's a whopping nine films that need to come from other sources to unlock a five-nominee field. I think it's possible, but it could be a challenge. And, personally, I really don't want a three-nominee field. That's not fair to the brilliant indie/foreign stuff that would be snubbed without hesitation. I guess we'll see what happens!

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44 minutes ago, SLAM! said:

.

 

I think it's important that films like these are submitted at all, because this could be the first year in a long time where it's only three nominees in the category. Any amount of submission less than 16 means only three films are nominated. 

this rule was actually axed a year or two ago it's just a straight five now

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Two other indie/foreign films I've just now thought of that could make excellent submissions to the category:

 

Bombay Rose debuted at TIFF last year, but wasn't submitted for the Oscars--which means it can be submitted this time.

 

Studio Colorido (Penguin Highway) also has their next film, A Whisker Away, debuting on Netflix in June. The film was originally intended for release in Japanese theaters, so there's no doubt in my mind that it'll be eligible for submission to the Oscars.

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Some interesting statistics:

 

The vast majority of nominees in the history of this category are American. As far as other countries go, France and Japan have far and away had the most success with getting their films nominated. France has the films by Sylvain Chomet as well as stuff life A Cat in Paris, Ernest & Celestine, and I Lost My Body. Ireland is heartily represented by Cartoon Saloon, who've had three nominees.

 

Beyond that, there's only two films from other countries. Chico & Rita is mainly Spanish, while Boy and the World is Brazilian. So my takeaway is that if a film is not American, French, Japanese, or made by Cartoon Saloon, then it'll immediately become much harder for the film to break in. We saw an example of this when Ruben Brandt, Collecter, a Hungarian film, couldn't find a space for itself in the 2018/2019 field despite backing from Sony Pictures Classics--granted, that was a stacked year, and Sony also wanted to secure a win for Spider-Verse.

 

This is my current prediction, though:

 

Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary

Connected

Onward

Soul

The Wolf House

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There's also another anime that I expect to see submitted to the Oscars, and that's The Wonderland, a film similar to Alice in Wonderland that has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently screening via "virtual cinema."

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https://www.cartoonbrew.com/festivals/annecy-preview-6-highlights-from-this-years-virtual-program-193087.html

 

So I have some exciting news to share about the Annecy Film Festival! Because of the festival's shift from public showings to online showings, general audience members are able to have access to a great deal of content--animated feature, work-in-progress stuff, shorts, interviews, and so on and so forth--for a frugal amount of money. I'm going to post the quote from the article:

 

Annecy [Film] Festival is spending its sixtieth birthday online. This year’s edition, initially conceived as a special anniversary extravaganza, is going virtual, like so many other events. The organizers announced the change “with tremendous disappointment,” but an upside is that anyone with a stable internet connection and 15 euros (USD$16.70) to spare can watch the whole program of the world’s biggest animation festival.

 

Pretty awesome, right? People will have access to these films from June 15th to June 30th. (Now, there's the 15-euro ticket that gives access to the films, and there's a much more expensive one granting people access to pitch meetings--make sure you know which ticket you're getting before you purchase, because it's a really steep price gap.) 

 

I want to encourage other fans of animation to watch the films of Annecy! I think it'll be a fun experience for many people! I'm also interested in posting what I think about the films I watch! I'm really excited about this!

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Well, my time watching Annecy's film selection is off to an interesting start. Public access is set up like a streaming service, and the service works well. Some of the films had an "extract" label on them, which means--and I learned this the hard way--that only ten-twenty minutes of the film are available for public viewing; this means most of the big ticket feature films aren't publicly available to view in their entirety. Which is fine! The films that are available to watch are films that may not be available traditionally years down the line.

 

The first feature I watched was the Russian film Ginger's Tale, which is 2D animation with 3D aid by way of Klaus. It's extremely reminiscent of Disney, hitting all of the familiar story beats of an old classic. The animation is great in terms of bringing the character models to life, and the director frequently makes smart cuts from one shot to another. I think it falters when it tries to rush from story beat to story beat, and I think some of the animation can be blocky and stilted. I think if there were five-ten extra minutes added to the runtime--just to allow the scenes to flow at a more elaborate pace--this film would become more of a standout than it is at the moment. And hey--maybe they have time to fix it. But as it stands, the film is a functional fairy tale for kids, and I think people will find value in it. The story's moral is especially strong, which is good for kids.

 

I also watched the 12-minute extract of 7 Days War. It's definitely an anime film, and there's hints of a strong plot as well. From the twelve minutes I saw, I don't think I'd go around calling it the next Your Name or Weathering With You--at least not yet--but I think the film could strike a cord with fans of Japanese anime films. 

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I went ahead and watched the rest of the films in competition that only have an extract available--and I've come away with some impressions.

 

Bigfoot Family has CG-animation comparable to the picturesque quality of modern Pixar films--at least to the level of something like Wonder Park. It seems like a good sequel and a good film for kids.

 

Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary showed a short documentary of behind-the-scenes footage, but I'm very confident in this film from the snippets of the score, animation, and voice performances I saw. The painterly design fits wonderfully with the western theme. This will delight many people.

 

Lupin III The First is a major breakthrough for CG animation in Japan. Sometimes character models can be stiff, but that's my only complaint. It's the style of the Lupin franchise by way of The Incredibles. I'm serious when I say that this film rivals Hollywood's CG-animated films.

 

Little Vampire really caught me off guard--though I should've suspected something when I saw it only had an extract available. This film is based on the popular character Petit Vampire who's comparable to Charlie Brown and Hello Kitty for its home country. This was another behind-the-scenes documentary, but I found out what I consider to be an innovative film style. A crew recorded footage of the voice actors acting out their parts in a sound-stage, and the animators translated the actors' performances in order to inform the 2D animation of their characters. That's really impressive stuff, and I think this film will delight many people.

 

Those four were in the official competition; moving on to the Contrechamp section that has "more challenging features," Beauty Water is a South Korean cel-shaded CG-animated film that plays out like a melodramatic internet comic with elements of horror. I'd say it's not for the faint of heart, and I wouldn't say it's my favorite, but I applaud it for being something drastically different from most other animated films.

 

On-Gaku: Our Sound, about Japanese high schoolers who start a band on a whim, is one of the most exciting anime films in years. I say this because its experimental qualities and dry comic timing set it apart from everything else. Definitely one to watch out for.

 

And finally I watched ten minutes of The Legend of Hei, which was a huge box office hit in China. I'm not going to say anything else about it----I'll just say that you should definitely watch it. It's China's answer to Ghibli.

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Annecy Update

 

So I watched two sneak-peek presentations of films that are out-of-competition, and well as the first ten minutes of a film that's in competition, and I have some impressions.

 

Jungle Beat: The Movie is a colorful, vibrant, and expressive film that will entertain young children around the world. The strong character animation and committed voice acting make it easy to see why the jury selected it. I'm glad it's here, and I hope it serves as a point of origin for animation in Africa.

 

Connected has a special preview in which the filmmakers talk about the film, and I'm definitely more confident that the film will be well-received. A fascinating project. Hopefully we'll be able to see it in theaters.

 

Cartoon Saloon also has a work-in-progress showcase video for their new film, Wolfwalkers, which is aiming for a release in 2020. They're taking their time, and the fruit of that decision is easy to discover in the footage and storyboards I've seen. I won't say anything else about it because you'll be happy to go into the film as blind as possible. Wolfwalkers will be a major competitor in this category if it is finished in time for eligibility, which has become much more likely because of the eligibility extension, and Apple TV will be very happy with the fruit that comes from backing this project. This film further validates Cartoon Saloon as a force to be reckoned with in the industry.

 

I'm also posting a link to an interview with the director of On-Gaku: Our Sound; I found it to be very inspiring!

https://www.cartoonbrew.com/interviews/no-budget-no-animation-pros-no-problem-for-kenji-iwaisawa-director-of-the-madcap-anime-feature-our-sound-193188.html

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https://www.cartoonbrew.com/awards/calamity-the-physics-of-sorrow-top-annecy-2020-honors-full-list-of-winners-193574.html

 

Well, I fell out of reporting on the Annecy Film Festival... But they've given out the awards, and Calamity: A Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary won the Cristal for animated feature. I understand that French films could have had a home-field advantage here, but I still think the award bodes well for the film if they can manage to release it in time for eligibility.

 

The Nose or The City of Mavericks won the jury award. That's about the famous Russian novel The Nose, and it commentates on culture and politics. Animation isn't flashy, but it's a work of art.

 

The Kill It and Leave This Town earned a jury distinction; that film took the guy 14 years to make, and it's a personal and visceral work of art. If this one surged to an Oscar nod, I'd be pleased as punch.

 

In terms of other awards given to features that have a legitimate chance, On-Gaku: Our Sound won a music award, which makes sense because the film's about a rock band.

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