Oscar Preview: Weekend of Sep. 7-9, 2012

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

Toys in the Attic

More often than not, surprises appear on the eligible films list for the Academy’s Best Animated Feature award. Every year, the list of little known titles on the shortlist make Oscar prognosticators scramble for details on the latest contenders. The reason is clear. In the last five Oscar outings, four have had a foreign entry on the list. Two years (2010 and 2007) saw well positioned and critically elevated pictures, The Illusionist and Perspolis respectively, take Oscar nominations. Two other years (2011 and 2009) had films that were on few radars emerge as nominees, A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita in 2011 and The Secret of Kells in 2009. None of the five films were traditionally animation techniques and none were computer animated films.

Toys in the Attic shares a lot of similarities with these films. This Czech feature started out in it home country in 2009 before finally finding release in the U.S. with noted voices at the head of the cast list including Forest Whitaker, Joan Cusack and Cary Elwes. It’s a stop-motion animated film about abandoned toys in an attic who come to life when no one is looking. While it would be easy to compare the concept to Toy Story, this film is a lot darker and more bleak than that Pixar legend. Comparisons will be everywhere. What makes me doubt the film will make the list is that I’m not even sure it will be eligible. Had it released in 2011 or 2012 in the Czech Republic, its eligibility wouldn’t be questioned. Three years to come to U.S. markets may blunt its eligibility.

The applicable Academy rule that puts its chances in doubt is under Rule Three, Item 3 (“A picture first theatrically exhibited outside the U.S. prior to the Los Angeles County qualifying run shall be eligible for submission provided the prior exhibition takes place in a commercial motion picture theater after January 1, 2011. After the start of its initial theatrical engagement, a picture may be exhibited on television and other nontheatrical media, provided those exhibitions occur outside the U.S. No film that is shown inside the U.S. in any nontheatrical medium prior to its Los Angeles County qualifying run shall be eligible for Academy Awards.”)

That being said, the question of creative release may be an important one. What exactly is considered a “commercial motion picture theater” in Czech Republic? And was it a full run or a partial one. I admit I don’t have the data for this, so I couldn’t say. The question may not be fully answered until mid-November when the Academy announces the finalists for the Animated Feature award nominations. Until then, apart from this and a list of four films GKids recently announced that they are pushing for Oscar consideration, the list of eligible features may be known farther in advance than previous years, which is certainly interesting.

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