First off, I should admit that while I don't have much respect for the Academy Awards, I still get excited when movies I like are nominated or win. It feels more like affirmation that the things I like are liked by other people. However, there's a lot of politics in the Oscars that I just don't like, and sometimes it can feel like the awards are awarded for sentimentality, not for pure quality. But that is neither here nor there and this post is not a criticism of the Oscars. For the sake of brevity, I'll just be mentioning categories where animated films were nominated (starred with an asterisk indicates an animated film)
So, to start things off, I should mention that Toy Story 3 was nominated for Best Picture! I absolutely think it's deserving of a nomination, but I highly doubt it's ability to win. OK, some small Oscar criticism: There have only been 3 animated movies in the history of the Oscars to get nominated for Best Picture. Beauty and the Beast in 1992, Up last year, and Toy Story 3 this year. I feel like there have been many more movies that should have been nominated that weren't. I definitely think animation still doesn't get taken that seriously as a legitimate art form, but having two years in a row where an animated film is nominated for Best Picture (albeit, the same years where there were 10 nominees instead of 5) looks like a good sign. But Toy Story 3 has some excellent competition. Christopher Nolan is my favorite director, and I'm a big fan of Darren Aronofsky and Danny Boyle, and an even bigger fan of the Coen Brothers. So, personally, I wouldn't mind Inception, Black Swan, 127 Hours, or True Grit winning either. Though, seeing the competition they have, you can't really go wrong this year. But if Toy Story 3 wins, I will poop right in my pants.
Best Adapted Screenplay
This one is actually kind of confusing to me, but apparently it's a legit thing that I just didn't know about: All sequels are automatically considered adaptations, because it has to be based on the original movie. Was totally unaware.
But whatever the case, I have no idea if Toy Story 3 will even have a chance here. Like I said, True Grit or 127 Hours could easily win, and The Social Network also looks promising.
Best Animated Feature
You know, I was actually very surprised to not see Tangled get nominated. OK, let's be honest, it was a very good movie, but a little standard-Disney. Even so, I preferred it to The Princess and the Frog and that got nominated last year. Plus, there were only 3 nominees. Might as well throw Tangled in for the sake of it.
Anyway, I have to start by admitting that I, embarassingly, had not even heard of The Illusionist until I saw it was nominated. As for HTTYD and Toy Story 3, they are both no-brainer excellent choices for the category. And finally, finally, Pixar has some legitimate competition from Dreamworks with HTTYD (and I'll never forgive the Academy for passing up Monster's, Inc. in favor of Shrek, but that's another post). I fucking loved both of these movies. And, listen, if it were almost any other year, I would think that HTTYD could win against a Pixar movie. But, Toy Story 3 is just such a perfect and poignant end to a perfect and poignant trilogy that I just can't put my money on anything else.
Best Animated Short
Again, embarrassingly, I tried and tried but could not find any of these (besides Day & Night) on the Internet. So, really, I can only comment on Day and Night. My view might be unpopular but I actually thought it was one of Pixar's weakest shorts. I absolutely loved the 2D animation, don't get me wrong. And Teddy Newton is really hilarious. But I just was not that into it. Maybe in a few years I'll grow to appreciate it more but, yeah, I just wasn't blown away like I thought I'd be.
Best Original Score
Back to HTTYD, I really loved this score immensely. I think John Powell absolutely captured the feeling of the movie in the score. I don't really have anything else to say about that. Loved the score.
Best Original Song
This one also surprised me. Half of the category are animated films, which you don't tend to see. Anyway, all of these are great choices. Though my money has to be on "I See the Light." I mean, Randy Newman is a brilliant song composer (though maybe not one of the best film composers), and "If I Rise" is also great. But, man, Alan Menken can't go wrong. He's won 4 Oscars and has been nominated for 14.
Best Sound Editing
OK, I won't pretend to know anything about sound editing. But, I think by default, I can hope Toy Story 3 wins. And, just going by memory, Inception had an amazing aural atmosphere. I just don't really know enough about sound editing to be conscious of what makes it good and what makes it bad, so I'll just leave this one here.
So, all in all, Toy Story 3 is up for 5 nominations and How to Train Your Dragon. Last year, Up also had 5 nominations. In 2009, Wall-E had 6. In 2008, Ratatouille had 5. But before then, it seemed to average around 2 or 3 nominations for an animated film per year. Is the quality of animated films improving? Overall, sure. But Pixar has been pretty consistent with quality even since Toy Story. Maybe the more important factor is that animation is starting to be taken more seriously. Is that true? I really don't know, but I certainly hope so.