Oscar’s Penguin Domination?
It’s shaping up to be the year of the penguin at the 2006 Academy Awards.
The shortlists in the Feature Animation and Documentary Feature Oscar categories have been released, with the penguin-centric ‘toon Madagascar and doc March of the Penguins making the initial cut in the respective races.
Madagascar, the celeb-laden DreamWorks pic that has banked $193 million domestically since its opening in May, has some stiff competition in the animation category.
Among its high-profile, big-money-making competitors are the Zach Braff-voiced Chicken Little, the Robin Williams vehicle Robots, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, the twisted take on Little Red Riding Hood tale Hoodwinked (due out Dec. 23) and the clay-animated Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which has been tabbed the early favorite by the Internet oddsmakers. The Wallace & Gromit shorts have already accounted for two Oscars.
The other films jockeying for a nomination are Gulliver’s Travel, Howl’s Moving Castle, Steamboy and Valiant.
The Best Animated Feature award has been around for five years, and at least eight films must pass muster in order for the category to be activated.
To qualify, a film must be a minimum of 70 minutes, contain more than 75 percent animation and utilize one of three styles: traditional cel drawing, stop-motion or computer-generated animation. The film must also open theatrically in Los Angeles prior to Dec. 31. Of the 10 ‘toons announced Thursday, three will ultimately vie for Oscar when nominations are unveiled Jan. 31.
Meanwhile, while March of the Penguins was passed over by France for consideration for Best Foreign-Language Film, the U.S. version, featuring narration by Morgan Freeman, is among the favorites for Best Documentary.
The feel-good flick, which has grossed a staggering (for a documentary) $77 million domestically, will face off against another feel-good flick, Mad Hot Ballroom, about underprivileged Manhattan kids learning to dance. Also making the cut were the critically acclaimed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Murderball, which follows a violent sport played by wheelchair-bound athletes. All told, 82 documentaries were deemed eligible, and 15 of those will compete to be one of the five finalists.
The other remaining contenders are: After Innocence, The Boys of Baraka, Darwin’s Nightmare, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Favela Rising, Occupation: Dreamland, On Native Soil: The Documentary of the 9/11 Commission Report, Rize, Street Fight, 39 Pounds of Love and Unknown White Male.
While there were no major snubs in the Animated Feature race, there were a couple of eyebrow-raising omissions in the Documentary field, notably Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, about an animal-rights activist’s fatal encounter with the bears he loved, and the dirty joke-dropping The Aristocrats.
Last year, The Incredibles beat out Shark Tale and Shrek 2 in the Animated Feature category. Born Into Brothels was named Best Documentary Feature.
And if the prognosticators are correct, expect to see the tuxedoed birds waddle down the red carpet at the 78th Annual Academy Awards Mar. 5, 2006, at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
Oscar’s Penguin Domination?