Several weeks ago, Gold Derby reported that it looked like there would be 16 films in the animated feature race. As per academy rules, reaching that magic number would allow for five nominees rather than the usual three. And with the race so crowded this year, that could be a reprieve for two worthy contenders.
Then the Japanese feature "Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone" went and got disqualified leaving only 15 films in the running. Now Steve Pond reports that “The Missing Lynx: Paws on the Run” is in the middle of a qualifying week-long run at an LA county cinema. As per Steve, this feature from Spanish filmmaker Raul Garcia is an "ecologically minded tale of animals being hunted down for mysterious reasons." It won the Goya for best animated feature in Spain.
While "Lynx" won't be seen my many people this week in Encino, the only audience that matters is the screening committee at the academy. Members grade the films from 6 (poor) to 10 (best). As only those films that average 7.5 or better are even eligible to be nominated, we may still not see five nominees. Last year the music branch gave Bruce Springsteen's Golden Globe winning ditty for "The Wrestler" a failing grade and passed on just three best song nominees.
Among this year's crop of animated features, only "Up" is virtually certain of a nomination. It scored 97% at RottenTomatoes.com and is the year's third top-grossing flick behind "Transformers 2" and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." If there are five nominees, count on at least one surprise bid a la "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" and "Surf's Up."
Animated films have been gaining stature among Oscar voters in recent years. Beginning with "Toy Story" in 1995, six animated movies have earned screenplay nods. The others -- "Shrek" (2001), "Finding Nemo" (2003), "The Incredibles" (2004), "Ratatouille" (2007), and "Wall-E" (2008).
With the best picture race expanding to 10 entries, an animated film could feature there, following in the paw prints of the landmark 1991 bid by "Beauty and the Beast." Oscar watchers believe "Up" -- co-directed and co-written by past Oscar nominees Pete Docter and Bob Peterson -- could be the one to watch for on nominations morning. Docter reaped bids for co-writing "Wall-E" and "Toy Story," co-directing the animated short "Mike's New Car" (2002) and co-directing and co-writing nominee for best animated feature "Monsters, Inc." Peterson nabbed a writing nom for "Finding Nemo."
Photo credit: Kandor Graphics