It’s finally happened. The Oscar Blitz has officially entered the preliminary stages, at least from a public-facing perspective. The deadline for specialty feature films to submit to the Academy was on November 1, and typically as soon as eligibility is determined, the powers that be at AMPAS publish those lists. For whatever reason, we had to wait an additional five weeks this year, to the point that we’re only two weeks away from the shortlist announcements.
Still, better late than never. There are two major stories that go along with today’s release, one I’ve harped on quite a few times over the last several months, one that’s an intriguing possibility for a record-breaker.
For the complete lists, you can read the Academy’s press release here, which includes links to all three groups: Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Feature. A few things to note, there is one fewer Animated submission this year, and the International list is the same length as last year, with one country dropping off and Somalia submitting for the first time. But what really stuck out from a sheer numbers perspective is that there are 138 Documentary submissions this time, down a whopping 100 from last year. A lot of that can be chalked up to the pandemic, as the logistics and funding to do documentaries – the vast majority of which are independent – would be nightmarish to impossible under most circumstances.
So, my two takeaways. First is that, as mentioned at multiple points recently, it is a down year for animation. As evidence, I present the 26 films submitted this year:
The Addams Family 2
The Ape Star
Back to the Outback
Bob Spit – We Do Not Like People
The Boss Baby: Family Business
Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko
Josee, the Tiger, and the Fish
The Laws of the Universe – The Age of Elohim
The Mitchells vs. The Machines
My Sunny Maad
Paw Patrol the Movie
Pompo the Cinephile
Poupelle of Chimney Town
Raya and the Last Dragon
Ron’s Gone Wrong
The Spine of Night
The Summit of the Gods
Now, a good chunk of this list you’ve heard about, either from me or from watching the films or seeing the trailers. I have personally reviewed six of them so far, with a seventh coming soon. However, a whopping seven of them have been featured in “This Film is Not Yet Watchable” at some point this year. There are more terrible animated films in the commercial sphere than passable ones at this point. And if you think I’m projecting my own personal bias, think again. Of the seven featured in TFINYW, the highest rated one on Rotten Tomatoes is… (drumroll) Paw Patrol, at 79%, though there aren’t enough reviews to give it a Certified Fresh rating, and even the “Critical Consensus” is that it’ll give the target audience (toddlers) exactly what they want. The next closest is Wish Dragon, which at 65% is the only one with a non-Rotten rating (Sing and Outback don’t have ratings yet). A couple others that I missed along the way (Vivo and Cryptozoo) also have decent ratings. Conversely, of the seven I’ve seen (and rated six), the lowest rating is an 80% for Ron’s Gone Wrong.
I am a little bit surprised that one entry is missing, and that’s the latest Sword Art Online movie, Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night. Maybe it’s because it’s a niche audience, but Demon Slayer: Mugen Train was submitted last year, and when it was released stateside, it became the highest-grossing anime film ever. Also, the vast majority of the unseen movies on this list are anime-based (except for two that I can’t even find on RT), so I’m curious as to why this one was left out. Oh well. You’ll have one superfluous review coming in the next week. And as always, I’ll try to track down any that I can find for quickie reviews.
The second big piece is that for the first time since I’ve been monitoring this process, one film appears on all three lists. That is Flee, an animated documentary that serves as Denmark’s submission for International Feature. I saw it over the weekend, and I’ll have the review soon. I’ll give you a brief spoiler – it’s stupendous. For the last two years we saw dual nominations for International Feature and Documentary Feature from North Macedonia and Romania. If Flee gets the love I feel it deserves, it could be the first to be nominated across all three specialty categories.
As I mentioned when I reviewed Encanto, I think we can safely assume that it, Raya, and Luca will be nominated. I also feel pretty strongly that Mitchells should get a nod, but it’s not a guarantee. In my mind, that leaves one or two spots open for some combination of Mitchells, Ron, Flee, and Josee (which has a 100% rating on RT) unless something else on this list completely blows me away, or unless the Animation/Short Film Branches smoke a whole bunch of crack and nominate Boss Baby again.
Like I said, the shortlists will be announced in two weeks’ time for nine categories, including Documentary and International (Animated Feature has no shortlist because there are already so few eligible films). In the meantime I’m going to cram as many International submissions in as I can. I have two reviews in the chamber for later this week, and 10 more that I plan on watching over the next few days thanks to a streaming hub I found through the California Film Institute. With luck, that’ll make it so I see the entire shortlist before it’s even announced, though Colombia’s film, Memoria, is doing a very unique – and very frustrating – theatrical run that won’t begin until Boxing Day, and may not get to Los Angeles (or San Francisco) before nominations are announced. We’ll see. The goal is still to see all 15 films once they’re narrowed, but as long as I can clear the category ASAP, the entire Blitz will be that much less stressful. Keep it locked here for more updates as they come in!
Join the conversation in the comments below! How many of these films have you seen? Which were your favorites? Is there a dark horse you hope gets nominated? Let me know!