Oscar Preview: Weekend of Mar. 29-31, 2019

We had one film release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

Dumbo

The latest film in Disney’s attempts to update their animated properties into live-action, Dumbo takes us back to the world of an elephant with huge ears who can fly. The original delight audiences for generations since its 1941. Will returning to this ell benefit Disney in terms of Oscars?

The 1941 version was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Original Song for “Baby Mine,” which features prominently in the trailers for the new film. It won the Oscar for scoring. There are two reasons why this remake has a chance for Oscar nominations. The first reason is Disney. Dumbo is the seventh overall film to directly adapt an animated classic into a live-action feature. The first such film was all the way back in 1996 when 101 Dalmatians hit the cineplex to modest success. However, it was Tim Burton who kicked off the current string of reimagined hits with 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. His first film scored three Oscar nominations for Disney and took home two. Maleficent picked up one; Cinderella gained one; The Jungle Book earned one and won one; and Beauty and the Beast took two nominations. That means that every single 2010 and later outing so far has earned at least a single Oscar nomination.

The other factor going in Dumbo‘s favor is Burton himself. This is his nineteenth theatrical release. His first was Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in 1985. Since then, twelve of them have earned Oscar nominations. That’s an impressive feat. This gives Dumbo a chance of earning Oscar nominations, specifically in the Production Design and Costume Design categories. That his films’ last Oscar nomination was for Animated Feature Frankenweenie and his last live-action Oscar nomination was Disney’s Alice in Wonderland nine years ago is a sign that the bloom may be off the rose. This is his fifth film since Alice and his fourth live-action film since then.

The other factor hindering his chances is the response of critics. With a 52 from Metacritic and a 50% from Rotten Tomatoes, it’s clear that the response has been muted. The A- CinemaScore will help it with audiences, but ultimate, the critical response is what prognosticators should be most worried about. With this effort, the number of Burton’s films that have gotten rotten responses from critics were, with one exception, Oscar no-shows. Alice in Wonderland is that one exception. Will his fifth, Dumbo, be the other? Big Eyes and Miss Peregrine were positively reviewed, but were ignored by Oscar, so that suggests that even when he’s well liked, he cannot guarantee Oscar attention.

Ultimately, I think it’s probable that he could earn nominations at the Oscars. It’s also equally probable that he’d be ignored. If the film were a rousing success, then he would be almost assured consideration.

2 Comments

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  1. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” won Best Song. Dumbo won for score.

    1. You’re absolutely right. It’s what happens when I’m writing in a rush and don’t proof what I’ve written. I’ve updated the reference.

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