We had two films releasing this weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.
In the style of Henry Selick's praised Coraline, that film's storyboard artist Chris Butler joins Sam Fell, the director of Flushed Away and The Tale of Despereaux. Although those two features weren't Oscar nominated, Butler's attachment to Oscar nominee Coraline gives the film an added dose of support in its bid to earn the pair Oscar nominations this year for Best Animated Feature.
Critics haven't seemed impressed with much of this year's animated output, ParaNorman is one of the best reviewed with a Rotten Tomatoes aggregate rating of 87% and a 73 rating from MetaCritic. Only one other animated film so far this year has managed to score higher from either aggregate site: The Secret World of Arrietty. Still, Coraline's nomination wasn't assured two years ago and not being from one of the major animation houses was one of the barricades to its success. Can the style and appreciation of critics help the film emerge as one of the top tier nomination contenders or will the big studios bump out the less "established" set?
I mentioned this some time ago and again before the weekend, but buzz will build around a posthumous acting nomination for Whitney Houston. Although her performance isn't earning raves, that won't stop people from championing her for Oscar recognition. The problem is that the Academy isn't always that sentimental. Some will undoubtedly bring up Heath Ledger, which would be one of the most egregious cases of overreach I've ever heard. Ledger was a prominent actor, seen as a rising star in motion pictures starring as a certifiably psychotic bad guy in a film that was a box office sensation largely due to his involvement. Sparkle is none of those things.
The film looks more like a Dreamgirls clone than anything and although Houston's character doesn't have a Dreamgirls comparison, the film isn't likely to have the same overwhelming success of the Bill Condon-helmed Oscar nominee. There are a handful of places the film could arise as a nominee, though the chances of Oscars are very unlikely. Being set in the Motown era, Costume Design and Art Direction could be justifiable inclusions, but ultimately, I think the Academy will reject the film in favor of the overwhelming amount of period adventures set for late-year release (Anna Karenina and Les Misérables undoubtedly among others). There is still the possibility for Houston to get that posthumous nomination, but it won't be in Best Supporting Actress. Being one of the co-writers of the original songs in the film could garner her attention from the songwriting community who undoubtedly have a better appreciation for her talents than the rest of the Academy at large. Look for the strong possibility that one or more songs from the film could appear on the Oscar slate for Best Original Song. Other than that, I wouldn't expect to see it anywhere near the Oscars.