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There’s been a lot of talk about this year being a great year for animation. I went through the list of eligible animated features this year and… not so much. Actually, last year was a much better year for animated films. Look towards that crop for a group of entertaining and ambitious films.

So what if I had a ballot? Well, I would have had to see more of these, for one. Voters must see 80% of eligible films and then award scores from 6-10 to those films. The Academy defines 10 as excellent, 8 good, 7 fair, and 6 poor. To me, this means a 6 can run the score between mildly disliked and outright hated. A film must achieve an average score of 7.5 to be nominated.

And unfortunately The Illusionist, one of my most anticipated films, has not come to DC yet. When it does I’ll see it and add it to the list.

Despicable Me: 7

A cute movie, but not particularly noteworthy. It also isn’t all that funny. It just doesn’t have any spark to make it memorable.

How to Train Your Dragon: 8

I wasn’t bowled over by this one as so many seemed to be. But it is charming and has some terrific animation. A couple flying scenes really use the 3D well.

Idiots and Angels: 6

Bill Plympton has two Oscar nominations for shorts and I like that he brings a neat, hand-drawn style to this year’s race. The wordless plot follows a jerk who sprouts angel wings and changes his life. But it’s actually really boring, unfortunately.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole: 6

A standard, poorly-drawn (in plot and character development, not animation) fantasy film. But with owls. It does have some beautiful animation and I bet all the flying looked great in 3D.

Megamind: 6

I had been looking forward to this one for a long time due to its terrific premise: a supervillian whose life loses meaning after defeating his superhero foe. Unfortunately it’s seriously deficient in humor and the plot is not nearly as clever as the premise.

My Dog Tuplip: 8

A very nice film based on JR Ackerly’s memoir of his time with his often misbehaving dog. The story is amusing, touching, and frank while the hand-drawn animation style is neat. Oddly, it’s not a film for children as a surprising amount of it deals with topics like Tulip’s urination habits and procreation.

Shrek Forever After: 6

At least it’s a huge improvement over the putrid Shrek the Third. It also has a lot of good jokes. The plot is awful and barely thought-out, however. There’s nothing to enjoy between hilarious one-liners.

Tangled: 6

Another one that just didn’t move me like it did others. It always seems to be lacking something: a joke that doesn’t quite connect, an emotional connection that doesn’t quite hit home, a plot point that doesn’t quite work.

The animation is also disappointing and sort of drab. I think part of it is that I saw it in 2D. Some scenes that aren’t visually interesting are probably improved by 3D. One romantic scene surrounded by floating lanterns is dull in 2D but I bet looks neat in 3D. Similarly, Rapunzel’s animated hair doesn’t stand out as much.

Toy Story 3: 9

Again, can’t really say it slayed me like it seemed to everyone else, but still very good with a tight story.

I couldn’t see everything (for some it was actually impossible) and these are the other eligible films:

  • Box office bomb Alpha and Omega
  • DVD sequel given a qualifying run to try to push the category over the threshold for five nominees (which it did not) Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue
  • Animated hybrid Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
  • Asian imports Summer Wars (Japan) and The Dream of Jinsha (China)
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Oscar nominations arrive Tuesday, January 25. To prepare, we’re giving you our sharpest insight and predictions. Today: What disappointing nominations do you anticipate?

Jared:The Fighter should be KO’d

At first I wondered if the cut of The Fighter in my theater was different than what everyone else seemed to have saw.  But no, the audience in my viewing seemed to have enjoyed themselves.  So I’m left to conclude that David O.Russell managed to incorporate some subliminal message telling people they love the movie and my brain just isn’t wired to receive said messages (kinda like how I can’t see those 3-D Magic Eye pictures).  Because the film is bad, failing on nearly every conceivable level, other than the acting.

I’d call the story cliche, but that would assume there was any semblance of a story.  We get very clear depictions of each character’s lot in life, but no clue as to got they got from point A to B.  To wit, the relationship between Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams is almost entirely glossed over.  They meet, go out on a date, some undefined time apparently passes and then they are inseparable.  Time, I should point out, is also irrelevant to the filmmakers.  Anyone have any clue the time between Wahlberg’s first fight show in the film and his title bout?  Melissa Leo and Christian Bale both see their characters kinda sorta maybe have a change of heart, but it isn’t clear how superficial that change is or why we should care.  Of course, that little change is really the only character or plot development in the entire film.

But OK, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a simple story.  The Fighter is a boxing movie and obviously a good chunk of boxing movies involve the fights, and it is hard to advance the story too much while the main character is in the ring.  But here’s why I’m absolutely appalled David O. Russell is on the shortlist for a best director nom: the boxing is depicted as if he really rather doesn’t like the sport.  The final match aside, the fights are glossed over at best, portrayed as some weird rejected video game cut scene at worst.  Not even bland, the fighting scenes are, if you’ll excuse my limited vocabulary, stupid.  They aren’t suspenseful, interesting, exciting, or even artistic.  Just a complete waste of time.

"Say hi to yourself for me."

Absolute worst of all, though, was the character interactions.  It felt like a quarter of the movie could be described in the following three beats: Character A says a line talking at character B.  Character B “responds” with something no human would say and tangentially relevant to what character A said.  Then there’s a cue (be it in the dialogue or visual) about how these people are white trash.  I could see a line or two for comic relief, maybe, but the filmmakers felt this bizarre need to consistently unsubtly describe the characters and their town as white trash.  It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t clever, it was just obvious and worse, it was mean.

So when Mo’Nique reads off The Fighter as a best picture nom, I’m going to be disappointed that a movie which had great acting, but failed on nearly every conceivably important other level is taking the place of so many other actually watchable films.

John: Man the levies, nomination waves are coming!

The nomination wave: it’s a common occurrence in Oscar season. A beloved film gets support across all guilds, sweeping many to nominations even if their work wasn’t as exemplary. It’s going to happen to two supporting actresses this year.

She wasn't nearly as committed to head enlargement in The King's Speech

The first, and most prominent, is Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech. Carter is a great, versatile actress, but this is such a nothing performance. It’s not like she’s bad, but she’s a stock supporting character without a ton to do. She’s more interesting this year in both Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter. Even she admits to being puzzled over why this performance is getting singled out for award attention.

I'm wicked strong willed!

The other is Amy Adams for The Fighter, a sentiment I know is not shared by many. I’ve actually seen plenty of arguments that she’s the supporting female star in the film and not supposed category front runner Melissa Leo. I just don’t think she does much beyond sporting a Boston accent. The film’s treatment of her character bothered me, and part of it is due to her performance (though the bulk is probably the script’s fault).

I’ve always said I’m an Amy Adams fan, but this is the third time I’ve come to complain about her on this blog so maybe my affection is waning? But maybe she just gets recognized for the wrong roles. Oscar nod for Doubt, critical acclaim for Sunshine Cleaning, and a probable nod for The Fighter, but not enough support for Enchanted or Julie & Julia.

Brian: The Town will rob a nomination from a more deserving film

Jared and John adeptly discussed why The Town is overrated last month. As Jared put it in his elegant way, “Frankly, I don’t even think the film is particularly good genre fare, much less a good movie.” So since they’ve covered much of why its bad, especially the horribly underdeveloped relationship between Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall, I’ll keep my entry to this category short.

A Best Picture nom for The Town would be an embarrassment as it would only provide fodder for those critics who last year assailed the Academy’s decision to expand the category to 10 films. “It will allow mediocre, commercially successful films to sneak in,” they warned — and The Town is just that. After last year, when the final 10 offered a little something for everyone to be happy about, I hoped that these concerns would be laid to rest. But I imagine they will reappear on Tuesday when The Town gets its undue recognition.

Does anyone know why we love each other?

How anyone can deem that the best of the year is beyond me. The characters were one-dimensional (ooh, Jeremy Renner as a hothead!), the stakes were non-existent, the shootout at Fenway was cool to watch but ultimately unfulfilling, and the heists were forgettable. It’s as if the Academy has a Departed hangover and thinks that all Boston-related movies are somehow deep because people have funny accents. (Also see: The Fighter) So put this down as my big disappointment.

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