To nobody's surprise, high profile, big-budget, mainstream features from gargantuan entertainment conglomerates get most of the nominations.
BEST ANIMATION FEATURE
The Boss Baby -- dir. Tom McGrath
The Breadwinner -- dir. Nora Twomey
Coco -- dir. Lee Unkrich
Ferdinand -- dir. Carlos Saldanha
Loving Vincent -- dir. Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Long, long ago, screenwriter-producer Niven Busch told me:
"In the thirties, the studios that people worked for expected their employees to vote for the studio's pictures for Academy Awards. Otherwise, you were considered a traitor and a bad employee." ...
Any number of smaller animated features that received strong reviews from critics got shouldered aside for the big-budget, high-profile extravaganzas that dominate this year's nominations.
I might be too cynical for my own good, but the rule change instituted last April, where Academy members unversed in animation could put in their two cents regarding potential animated nominees, seemed designed to tilt the playing field toward the majors.
The Walt Disney Company usually cops the "Best Animated Feature" award in the end, but nominations are valuable for raising a picture's profile, for putting more fannies in more seats and generating income. It wouldn't surprise me if Warners or, say, Paramount quietly whispered to the appropriate Academy authorities: "Hey now, we kick in serious money to your organization, so help us out a little. Lose the six-million dollar candidate from France and put our entry into the final lineup, okay?"
Dear Basketball -- Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
Garden Party -- dir. Gabrielle Grapperon, Victor Caire
Lou -- dir. Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
Negative Space -- dir. Ru Kuwahata, Max Porter
Revolting Rhymes -- dir. Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer
This category often seems like a dice toss. Do Academy voters like hand-drawn animation, or do they like CGI? Does the well-known Mr. Keane pull enough weight to get Dear Basketball across the finish line, or doesn't he? (Glen observed: "Very excited about the nomination. Thanks to Kobe’s beautiful words and John Williams emotional score and Gennie Rim and Max Keane, the best Producer and Production Designer imaginable. An animator couldn’t ask for more.") Guess we'll find out which entry prevails when the shiny trophies are handed out.
Blade Runner 2049 --John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 -- Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
Kong: Skull Island -- Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi -- Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould
War for the Planet of the Apes -- Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon, Joel Whist
When I was a tot, Academy Awards for visual effects went to artful models shot in slow motion, usually ships (Tora, Tora, Tora!), airplanes (Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo), or submarines (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea). (Old style visual effects figured prominently in war movies. I 1962, the Academy Award for VFX was awarded to The Guns of Navarone, a World War II epic that won because a couple of monster Nazi cannons were blown out of the side of a Greek mountain. Disney's The Absent Minded Professor was the loser.)
These days, analog effects are a distant memory and CG robots, CG lions, tigers, apes, and marauding robots are what rivet audiences attention. If The Life of Pi and The Jungle Book ("live action"/CG edition) are reliable sign-posts, then one of the science fiction movies released last year, populated with animals and robots, will end up the likely winner.