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2018 Oscars: Animated Feature Oscar Race – Which Indie Films Can Go All the Way?

Earlier this week we took a look at this year’s unpredictable Animated Feature race and the reasons why literally any animated film can make – or miss – the final 5 without any real shock. With weak studio fare and a new voting role that allows all AMPAS membership to vote on the 5 nominees in this category, it’s anyone’s game.

There’s no doubt Oscar players like GKIDS who distribute indie animated contenders (and have over 5 contenders this year alone) will need to up their game and find unique strategies to reach AMPAS voters this year. It will certainly be interesting to see whether initiatives such as the newly launched Animation Is Film Festival (by Annecy, Variety and GKIDS) will have an impact on this year’s crop of nominees and whether AMPAS will be inclined to look beyond studio fare and embrace more indie films that offer more daring storylines on much smaller budgets.

Here’s a rundown of the top 8 indie animated contenders and how their Oscar chances look right now:

The Breadwinner (GKIDS)

Why it can score a nomination: It’s from Cartoon Saloon, the studio behind the Oscar nominated Song of the Sea and Secret of Kells. Plus, it’s GKIDS’ biggest Oscar push as it’s their first production involvement in any animated project instead of just serving as distributors.

Why it can miss: Some reviewers at TIFF felt the film is uneven as it mixes between two storylines with two different animation techniques and hoped that the film would only focus on his young heroine.

We’ll be reviewing this film from next week’s BFI London Film Festival.

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales (GKIDS)

Why it can score a nomination: It’s directed by Benjamin Renner who was previously nominated in this category for Ernest and Celestine. The film was rapturously received in Annecy and was a modest box office hit in France.

Why it can miss: The film is a 100% comedy tale in three chapters, with each telling a completely different story. As such, some may feel it’s uneven and too light for a nomination.

We’ll be posting more insights on this film from next week’s BFI London Film Festival.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (GKIDS)

Why it can score a nomination: It’s getting a good push by GKIDS and if nominated, it won’t come as a big surprise as AMPAS has shown some support of anime films lately, albeit from Studio Ghibli primarily. It has elements of fantasy and heart – a good mix that usually appeals to voters.

Why it can miss: Japan’s Your Name., the biggest box office success in the history of anime, just got snubbed last year. It seems that AMPAS trusts the Ghibli brand unlike any other anime film brand, so the film could suffer from some skepticism among voters.

In This Corner of the World (Mappa, Genco)

Why it can score a nomination: This is one of the best reviewed animated films of the year and won the Jury Prize at Annecy. It’s also an anime but has a heavy and baity theme (impact of war on children) so it could score with voters.

Why it can miss: Just like Mary and the Witch’s Flower, non-Studio Ghibli anime films rarely score noms from AMPAS who tend to name check Ghibli’s films more than other anime studios. Will this buck the trend?

The Girl Without Hands (GKIDS)

Why it can score a nomination: It was one of the best reviewed films in Cannes 2016 and was bought by GKIDS and held back for a year. It scored a Cesar nomination this year and also scored a Jury Prize in Annecy. One of the strongest films in the race.

Why it can miss: Strangely, GKIDS doesn’t seem to be campaigning for the film. In fact, it was strangely omitted from GKIDS/Variety’s Animation Is Film festival screenings – not a good sign in terms of its Oscar campaign.

Loving Vincent (Good Deed)

Why it can score a nomination: It’s a high-profile contender and the world’s fully painted animated film. It won the Annecy Audience Prize this year and definitely has the artistic narrative considering it’s been 10-years-in-the-making project.

Why it can miss: There’s much debate over whether it will actually be eligible for a nom due to the animation technique used in it – as it was painted after it was completely filmed in live action. Plus, reviews are a bit mixed due to the film’s thriller style.

We’ll be posting more insights on this film from next week’s BFI London Film Festival.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (GKIDS)

Why it can score a nomination: It can be this year’s Boy And The World, a powerful contender from Latin America. Plus it has Goya and European Film Awards nominations under its belt.

Why it can miss: It’s a very low-profile film against more well known, or better campaigned, indie contenders. Can it be this year’s underdog that surprises on Oscar morning or will it be ignored in favor of better known titles?

Lu Over the Wall (TOHO)

Why it can score a nomination: It surprisingly won the Cristal Prize for Best Animated Feature in Annecy, the same prize that eventual Oscar nominee My Life As A Zucchini scored last year.

Why it can miss: The film is very similar in style with Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo and could be seen as both light and derivative. It’s also from a new filmmaker and doesn’t carry the Studio Ghbili brand name.

We’ll be posting more insights on this film from next week’s BFI London Film Festival.

Mina Takla

Mina Takla is a foreign correspondent for AwardsWatch and the co-founder of The Syndicate, an online news agency that offers original content services to several film brands including Empire Magazine’s Middle East edition and the Dubai Film Festival. Takla has attended, covered and written from over 10 film festivals online including the Dubai International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Cannes, Venice and Annecy Film Festivals. He been following the Oscar race since 2000 with accurate, office-pool winning predictions year after year. He writes monthly in Empire Arabia, the Arabic version of the world’s top cinema magazine and conducts press junkets with Hollywood stars in the UK and the US. He holds a Master’s degree in Strategic Marketing from Australia’s Wollongong University and is currently based in Dubai, UAE.

About Erik Anderson

Erik blames his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched them together since he opened his eyes. They also watched Miss Universe religiously every year (the pageantry!) and Erik came to the conclusion that the combination of these two things ultimately led him down the path to obsessing about awards and ACTRESSING. He began at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

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