If we pretend this contest is a legitimate one, The Hollywood Reporter may be right that The Croods stands a fighting chance here. Except that anything DreamWorks Animation does to remind voters of the cartoon’s art and originality is to also remind them of its retrograde sense of moral values, which isn’t so easily forgiven by the story’s actual prehistoric setting. In the end, it seems that the sheer likability of the highest-grossing film in the category, Despicable Me 2, in which the franchise’s resourceful minions happily bust out the cute once more, makes the cartoon a more viable contender, at least more so than Ernest & Celestine, a lovely little triumph in world-building that may be the film with the least chance of winning an Oscar on March 2nd.
Two months ago, not having seen The Wind Rises, I might have told you that Frozen’s frontrunner status, in spite of the film’s near-unanimous critical plaudits and phenomenal box-office gross, was questionable. Today, and this is putting aside that Hayao Miyazaki’s ostensible swan song rather dully adheres to a conventional, Oscar-friendly biopic template, it seems all but assured given how little attention Disney is lavishing on the anime, having only screened it for one week in December for awards consideration, and not even in New York City, prior to its planned limited release at the end of this month. More telling: If you had seen, like I did last week during an appropriately snowy day in Brooklyn, a teacher friend happily use “Queen Elsa” as one of his three allotted names during a game of Celebrity, you’d agree that no amount of sentiment for auteurs hanging up their skates can ever hold a candle to the almost lurid nostalgia that people still harbor for cartoons that hark back to Disney’s problematic golden age of animation.
Will Win: Frozen
Could Win: Despicable Me 2
Should Win: Ernest & Celestine