Welcome to our annual Oscar Look series, formally known as “Oscar Circuit” – our deep dive look into each and every category that will be presented at the upcoming Academy Awards. Each writer of AwardsCircuit.com will tackle a different category, offering up their own perspectives on those specific races. If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Look 2018. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions for that particular race by clicking on the link here or at the bottom of each article. Make sure to include your own predicted winners in the comment section too!
And the Nominees are:
- “Incredibles 2” – Brad Bird, Nicole Paradis Grindle & John Walker
- “Isle of Dogs” – Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales & Scott Rudin
- “Mirai” – Mamoru Hosoda & Yūichirō Saitō
- “Ralph Breaks the Internet” – Phil Johnston Rich Moore & Clark Spencer
- “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” – Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman
No medium of film gets the bum rap that animated features do, but the genre continually surprises in terms of talent. Even this year, a relatively weak year for the category, resulted in five superb nominees. Nothing in the race can really be seen as less than a three-star film, and each definitely has its fans. While one feature seems to be running away with the category, the top three would all be worthy winners in other years. We also got great variety among our nominees. Two showcase CGI animation from Disney, another utilizes stop-motion, “Mirai” features Eastern hand-drawn styles, and “Spider-Verse” mixes animating in 1s, 2s, and 3s. The category really pushes the boundaries or artistic merit this year, so let’s check them out.
“Incredibles 2” (Walt Disney Pictures)
Nominees: Brad Bird, Nicole Paradis Grindle & John Walker for “Incredibles 2”
Oscar Scene: Elastigirl chasing the runaway train
Brad Bird looks to becoming the win leader in the category. No director has won three Oscars in the Animated Feature category. Bird’s last win was for 2007’s “Ratatouille,” which made him the first filmmaker with two animated feature statues. Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich joined the club in subsequent years. Bird showcased his talent as a director with “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” in 2011.
“Incredibles 2” is at its best when it becomes an action flick. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) has the best storyline by far, and the movie uses her powers to elevate the action set pieces. Ultimately, the Screen Slaver villain feels preachy, but the film was a runaway success, becoming the highest grossing animated film in the domestic box office. However, box office did not help “Finding Dory” or “Shrek 2” win the big prize, and they are second and third in the domestic box office among animated features. The branch has only given the prize to a single sequel, “Toy Story 3,” which got a Best Picture nomination. Still, Pixar’s brand remains strong, and if it can pull off the upset, this would not just be a rubber stamp win.
“Isle of Dogs” (Fox Searchlight)
Nominee: Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales & Scott Rudin for “Isle of Dogs”
Oscar Scene: Spots transfers his duties as Atari’s protector to Chief
While it was once bogged down in controversy, “Isle of Dogs” overcame the hurdle to become one of the better-animated features of the year. Wes Anderson injects his aesthetic into every frame of this film, and his excellent cast adds layers of humor throughout. The story of a gruff dog coming to love a young boy would be awards fodder on its own. The epic nature of the story, a stunning score by Alexander Desplat, and the slick design of the world makes this a threat to win. After all, Wes has no Oscar at this point, and the Oscars have rewarded popular filmmakers their first Oscar in this category before. George Miller won his Oscar for “Happy Feet” and “Isle of Dogs” exceeds the quality of that feature in every way. If you are looking for the upset pick, look here.
Nominee: Mamoru Hosoda & Yūichirō Saitō for “Mirai”
Oscar Scene: Kun sees his family history in the tree
A surprisingly emotional journey through a family history, “Mirai” brings GKIDS back to the Oscars for a sixth straight year. The little animation distributor that could continues to push for its first Oscar, and someday they will certainly take the prize. “Mirai” feels like a traditional Japanese animated film, taking magical realism and blending it into an extremely personal story. After the birth of his little sister, Kun must understand his place within the family. The palpable emotion and search for understanding makes the film absurdly relatable. Yet the film really soars due to its use of CG to create stunning visuals throughout the film. It is quite pretty to watch. An excellent all-around feature, “Mirai” may not have a shot at winning, but it remains one of most gorgeous films of 2018 to watch.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” (Walt Disney Pictures)
Nominee: Phil Johnston Rich Moore & Clark Spencer for “Ralph Breaks the Internet”
Oscar Scene: Vanelope Sings “A Place Called Slaughterrace”
Using the two core characters from “Wreck-It Ralph” to create a sprawling story on the internet was a fun ride. The questions it raises about toxic relationships add a level of depth to the story that many other films miss. While it could easily be written off as an attempt to cash in on cheap pop culture jokes like “The Emoji Movie” tried, this Disney film had far too much heart to be brought down. Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly deliver heartfelt vocal performances that draw you into each moment of the film. The animation and story never quite lives up to this relationship, and that likely hurt the film’s chances of taking home gold. However, there are moments in this film that are among the best of the year. As Vanellope (Silverman) launches into “A Place Called Slaughterrace,” you will remember why Alan Menken is a god. Yet the presence of “Incredibles 2” likely leaves this in the bottom tier of the race.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Nominee: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
Oscar Scene: Miles creates his own Spider-Suit and jumps from the skyscraper
The latest film to enter the animated feature race also became one of the landmark films of the year. If “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” released before Thanksgiving, it could have found its way into races outside of animated feature. Production design, sound editing, and adapted screenplay should have been on the table. The real bright spot of the film came from the performances of the cast. Shameik Moore stuns as the already iconic Miles Morales with genuine hope and emotion flowing through the character. Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, and Brian Tyree Henry all deliver beautifully complex and emotional performances as well.
I’ve written about “Spider-Verse,” which really pushes forward the genre with its gorgeous animation. Somehow the ninth iteration of Spider-Man became its most relatable and uplifting tale. The original creators of Spidey, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, both passed away last year. This helps the movie take on an extra emotional heft or rewarding the two iconic comic book creators. The message of taking control of your story made “Spider-Verse” an inclusive tale unlike any other.