Our 28 Oscar experts, drawn from major media, are predicting that “The Red Turtle” will be the sixth film from Japanese anime house Studio Ghibli to reap an Oscar bid for Best Animated Feature. This dialogue-free film about a man, stranded on a desert island, who murders a turtle that then becomes his human lover — the plot is open to interpretation — marks the directorial debut of Dutchman Michaël Dudok de Wit and is Ghibli’s first international co-production.
It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section, where it was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics for North American distribution before winning a Special Jury Prize. Sony has set Jan. 20, 2017 for the film’s general release, having previously released it in select Los Angeles and New York theaters for the week beginning Nov 18, 2016 in order to qualify the film for this year’s Oscars. Early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive; “The Red Turtle” rates 92 on Metacritic.
“The Red Turtle” has fared well on the precursor circuit thus far. At the Annie Awards, it leads all independent animated films, with five nominations: Best Independent Animated Feature, Writing, Directing, Music and Animated Effects. It contends at Sunday’s Critics’ Choice Awards and was named runner-up with the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.
“The Red Turtle” is doing far better than Ghibli’s Oscar contender last year (“When Marnie Was There”), which was snubbed by all the precursors. None of those organizations share the Oscars’ stringent process and are prone to nominating recognizable brands, favoring the likes of “Minions” (2015), “Monsters University” (2013) and “Cars 2” (2011) over art house fare.
The Oscars uses a special voting system to determine the Best Animated Feature nominees. A committee screens all of the eligible contenders and scores each on its own merits. This levels the field for hidden gems against widely-publicized releases; the nominees are the films with the highest average ratings. (Winners are decided by a plurality vote of the entire academy.)
Under this system, Studio Ghibli has amassed five Oscar nominations: “Spirited Away” (2002 win), “Howl’s Moving Castle” (2005), “The Wind Rises” (2013), “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” (2014) and “When Marnie Was There” (2015). Ghibli was also a distributor of two other nominees: “The Triplets of Belleville” (2003) and “The Illusionist” (2010).
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Which five animated features do you think will score highest with voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how each film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.