While it’s tough to get critics to agree on anything these days, it’s a good sign that a few notables have gone for Paranorman, most especially the NY Times’ Manohla Dargis, who writes:

The story, an amusing if not especially fresh tale involving a witch and some Puritans, is principally a vehicle for the movie’s meticulously detailed pictorial beauty, which turns each scene into an occasion for discovery and sometimes delight. Far more than Norman’s adventure, which takes him from home to a cemetery and deep into his town’s history, what pulls you in, quickening your pulse and widening your eyes, are the myriad visual enchantments — from the rich, nubby tactility of his clothes to the skull-and-bones adorning his bedroom wallpaper. When Norman pauses while brushing his teeth to make a scary face in the mirror, the foamy toothpaste dripping like zombie drool, you may find yourself tapping into your own inner monster and goofily grinning right back.

Animated Feature will start with Pixar’s Brave. But it will face competition, despite its hefty box office for not being “Pixar enough.” Therefore, it’s open season in the category.

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  • ParaNorman, teaser

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  • BOriginal

    Loved every minute of it.

  • Chris

    Can’t wait to see this one. I always support Aussie talent, and Kodi Smit-McPhee is one of the best child actors working (The Road, anyone?).
    LOVED Brave, and it’s currently my favourite animated film of the year, but it’s certainly no WALL•E, and I can’t see it taking out the Animated Feature Oscar.

  • Mel

    I had to make a choice between this and Killer Joe last night and I chose Joe (which was AWESOME). I think I will see it at a matinee tomorrow perhaps. It looks great.

    Brave was amazing and beautiful. I really think it takes flack b/c it’s lead is a girl whether people consciously realize it or not, I think it bugs them. Many men complain that the men in the movie function as nothing more than idiots or buffoons and my favorite female reply to that was, “Oh really? You feel your gender has been mocked and marginalized in a film? That must feel really awful”

  • Saw Paranorman last night. It blows every other animated movie this year out of the water, Brave included. Perfect combination of thrills, laughs and emotional content. And a great message for kids. Not to mention the fact that (SPOILER) one of the main characters in this film is openly gay. Repeat: an openly gay character in a mainstream Hollywood animated film marketed to kids that nothing bad happens to and he’s not looked down on and not portrayed as a stereotype. That right there is significant in and of itself. Good for us all that the movie with the balls to go there happens to be pretty great. I highly recommend this one for most kids. Some of the scarier stuff at the end may be a little too much to handle for the under 4-5 set, but if you’ve got a 10 year old, they will EAT THIS UP.

  • Pulp Fact

    No Mel, its not getting flack because its lead by a female. -_-. Many other animations have female leads, both great and bad films. Its getting flack because it doesn’t quite reach the standard of most Pixar films. Which is a fact, as beautiful as it may be.

  • Mel

    Its getting flack because it doesn’t quite reach the standard of most Pixar films. Which is a fact, as beautiful as it may be.

    Everyone says this, but then they don’t explain why or how. Just, “it’s not up to Pixar standard” and not explanation really. It’s the only Pixar with a female lead. Is that what people mean?

    I think I am the only person on the planet that doesn’t think the Toy Story movies are the cat’s ass. They are actually on the bottom of my Pixar ladder, with Wall-E being #1, The Incredibles #2 and Ratatouille #3.

  • Nr27

    I will never understand why people nowadays always use the word “fact” when they mean “opinion” …

  • Not Harrison Ford

    Brave doesn’t get flak because of a female lead that makes men uncomfortable, it gets flak because the female lead is an uninteresting whiny brat with no character arc and the movie around her is extremely forgettable. Pixar’s track record aside, what does this movie have going for it besides it animation?

  • Chris

    ^ Well besides the animation, I’d just like to list the many notable elements of Brave.
    1. Humour – the wizards at Pixar are masters at comedic timing.
    2. Boldness – This film is BOLD with a capital Bear and the redheadedest person I’ve ever seen (and I’m a redhead).
    3. Original script.
    4. The Animation – it’s just that good.

  • Brave isn’t guaranteed the Animated Feature Oscar, but I can’t imagine ParaNorman, as extraordinary as it is, taking out Disney/Pixar. If any film beats Brave this year, it’ll probably be DreamWorks’ Rise of the Guardians, one of the Gkids-distributed flicks, or maybe even Disney’s own Frankenweenie.

  • JP

    If Frankenweenie is great, I will totally support its win. It would be amazing to read Academy Award winner Tim Burton. It’s probably his best shot of his carreer to get an Oscar.

  • Geremy

    I wish Brave had taken its time more. I felt like I was being shown an incredible world with fascinating characters, but from a car going at 100mph. I wasn’t invested enough in the survival of this world by the time they started tearing it apart. That’s my reason for not thinking it was quite up to snuff Pixar-wise.

    The Animated Feature race is probably gonna be between “Wreck it Ralph,” “Rise of the Gaurdians” and “Brave” (it may not be grade-A Pixar, but it is still Pixar. And if “Cars” could win on that alone then so can this.)

  • Pulp Fact

    But Cars didn’t win…

  • Max

    I don’t think Brave was up to par with the rest of Pixar’s work, mostly because of that [SPOILER if you haven’t seen it yet] mother-turns-into-a-bear plot twist. Seemed like such an easy way out, and somewhat lazy.

  • Geremy

    @ Pulp Fact
    Wow, you’re right… the even worse Happy Feet won that year. 2006 was horrible for animated movies.

  • Kelly

    @Mel: When people can’t give a reason, it’s usually because there isn’t one and they’re saying that to skirt around the Elephant in the room, which in this case is the fact that a girl is the lead and men are uncomfortable with it.

    @Pulp Fact: That’s your opinion, not the world’s fact.

    @Not Harrison Ford: “it gets flak because the female lead is an uninteresting whiny brat with no character arc”…. yeah because that never happens with male roles ever… they’re all so perfect.

    People need to admit that their problem with Brave is the fact that the lead character is a girl. Western society has been brainwashed over the years into finding the female gender and her sexuality inferior to the male gender and his sexuality. This way of thinking was only further ingrained into our minds, societies, etc. by 18th and 19th century German philosophy.

  • Kelly

    I hope Paranorman is great… really looking forward to seeing it!

  • My issue with Brave (which I liked better than A Bug’s Life and both of the Cars movies and about as much as Monsters Inc) is that the themes and the actual plot of the movie do not co-exist organically. The themes of “Destiny” and “Free Will” are just MacGuffins that serve to thrust the characters into the conflict of the movie, and by the end of the film those two themes are basically thrown out and the movie says, “No actually this movie is really just about a Mother and a daughter understanding each other better.”

    You could have swapped out those initial themes of “changing my fate” and “not wanting to marry a suitor” and focused more on the mother-daughter dynamic more at the beginning and this would have been a much more focused story with a clear message, instead of a movie that seems to be about one thing at first, but turns into something else about halfway thru. I’m only guessing at the truth here, but Brenda Chapman says the movie she wanted to make was directly inspired by her own relationship with her daughter. I assume that her version of the movie was primarily focused on this, and once that dude came in and took over the movie, they added in all that fate and destiny nonsense. I have to assume this because those elements feel tacked on to the movie and don’t feel important anymore by the time we reach the conclusion. Perhaps Pixar was worried about alienating the boys in the audience and bringing that guy in was their idea of hitting that quadrant. In my opinion, admittedly based on some assumptions, this was a fail and they should have allowed Brenda Chapman to make the personal movie she set out to make.

  • I’d like to add that I quite enjoyed the second half of the movie post-bear, and the few parts of the first half that dealt directly with the mother-daughter conflict. It’s beautiful to look at, and there’s some well staged action and humor in the movie. It just felt thematically confused, which ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth, and for that reason it falls just short of greatness. But go ahead and tell me I didn’t like it cause the main character is a girl.

  • I think The Secret World of Arrietty and Pirates! Band of Misfits are strong contenders too. Plus we still have Frankenweenie, Wreck-it Ralph, adn Rise of the Guardians yet to come. And Hotel Transylvania, but that doesn’t look like a strong contender.

  • Not Harrison Ford

    Nope Kelly I hate movies with poor male leads as well. The Lorax, Madagascar 3 and Pirates! Band of Misfits all had terrible characters as well and I don’t like them either. Really has nothing to do with gender.

  • Bren

    Why is it always about gender issues on this site? It’s ridiculous and from both sides.

    Chris Price hit it on the head and I basically agree with his assessment. I went into it with bad reviews and good word of mouth and fell in between. It really is an unfocused film and definitely feels pieced together.

    I feel that right now Wreck-it Ralph is the front runner (without having seen it, of course) and I thought Arrietty wasn’t eligible for the Oscars this year? Am I thinking of another movie?

  • Pulp Fact

    @Geremy. Lol! indeed it wuz an awful year. Monster House wuz the best of the three.

  • julian the emperor

    I would be really interested to know, Kelly, which brands of German philosophy of the 18th and 19th century that has “brainwashed” our culture “into finding the female gender and her sexuality inferior to the male gender and his sexuality.”?

    No, wait a minute, don’t bother…

  • I liked Brave, but Paranorman blows it out of the water, as does Pirates! Band of Misfits. Disney might have better contenders in Frankenweenie or even the excellent Wreck-It Ralph, which I saw an early cut of a few months back. This is really an *excellent* year for animation.

  • Tara

    Oh no. I saw Paranorman today and was miserable. While it was funny and the animation was good at the beginning…it started to drag on and on…and then, I began to feel that the message was that no matter how bad the thing was that you did, it’s okay and can be forgiven because you were scared. I kept wondering if the Nazis would also be the comic relief Zombies who only killed all those people cause they were
    different. Ugh. I ultimately hated the film. The last 20 minutes were painful!

  • tombeet

    I’m pretty sure “The Secret World of Arriety” was ineligible for Oscar this year, and “From Up On Poppy Hill” will be distributed by GKIDS next year.

    Many of GKIDS’ flicks was/ will be released this year, such as Zafara, Tales of the Night, Letter to Momo. One of them could sneak into the main competition. GKIDS became one of my favorite distributors, as they released many amazing animated films (Sita Sings the Blues, The Secret of Kells, Chico & Rita, A Cat in Paris…)

    The best animated movies in 2006 was Paprika ^^, and A Scanner Darkly was pretty solid too.

    My Animation Feature Prediction so far:
    -Pirates! Bands of Misfits
    -Rise of the Guardians/ Wreck it Ralph

  • Astrid

    I wasn’t terribly impressed with Brave, though I wanted to be. It reminded me very much of How To Train Your Dragon which I felt was simply a better movie. ParaNorman was fun and I appreciated it the deeper themes in the film. I can’t wait to see both Frankenweenie and Rise of the Guardians. It’s too early to say but this could be an interesting year for animation.

  • Greg Y

    Yes, exactly as ^. There seems to be a lot of butthurt going around regarding the lukewarm response of Brave, with most of the rebuke being, “oh you guys just don’t like it because it’s about a female protagonist.”

    Wrong. I would love to see more movies with female protagonists in general. Brave is not receiving an “eh, ok” reception on that count. Rather, it’s just not the top tier storytelling that we have come to expect from Pixar. It rushes into plot and conflict too much, at the expense of actual character or atmosphere development. Given what you know of the characters by the end of the movie, do you feel like they’ve grown (in ways that don’t feel shoehorned in by storytelling demands) or that they are real people?

    To me, Wall-E, Sully, Nemo and so on feel far more real, human and empathizable than any of the human characters Brave presents. That’s because the movies they come from loved them, and took its time telling us about them and the world the lived in, unlike this one, which mostly threw away the romantic storytellinf possibilities an ancient civilization of the past could entail.

    Instead it rushed headlong into a plot that could incidentally have been rich with flavour from children’s stories and folk tales, but merely skimmed all of that for wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am. I would gladly have given up 30 minutes of chases around the castle and bear fights for just 3 more minutes of Brave and her mother living together in the wild for one night.

  • Evan

    Just wanted to point out that the protagonists of other Pixar films aren’t “boys,” they’re bugs, robots, rats, and cars. As for female leads, it sure didn’t hurt Ariel or Belle.

    Is there a bias against female-led films? Yes. But how ’bout none of us overstate our opinions. Not everyone who dislikes Brave is sexist… Surely the vast majority aren’t.

  • Ian

    I’m almost certain Rise of te Guardians will win. It’s coming out closer to awards season, its content is sure to make it a hit, and it’s testing two points higher than How To Train Your Dragon with audiences. It’s due for a Dreamworks movie to win.

  • walter

    Count me in as a big supporter of ParaNorman. Fantastic stop motion animation. Good laughs and great story. I liked Brave but this one is my choice for Best Animated Film of the year. So far.

  • Sara

    It’s hard for me to decide between “Brave” and “ParaNorman” as the film I want to win the Oscar. I haven’t seen the others (“Madagascar 3” and “Pirates!”) so I can’t include them in my predictions.
    I love “Brave” because it’s Pixar (me being a big fan), it had beautiful animation and a pretty good story, BUT it had really good development in the mother-daughter relationship, and I love that in a film. On the other hand, “ParaNorman” had an original (and solid) story, great stop-motion, interesting characters and it actually managed to be emotional at times. I especially loved the twist in the story and the fact that the film’s humour can hit a chord with both adults AND kids.
    So all in all, it’s tough for me to decide. However, I’m leaning more towards “ParaNorman” as the victor. For now, at least. It just seemed a lot stronger than “Brave”. Now before some of you jump at my throat, let me just say that I enjoyed “Brave” immensely (I thought it was a good bounce-back from “Cars 2”), but I like “ParaNorman” a little more.

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