Eye on the Oscars: The Nominees

PERSEPOLIS
Why it’ll win:
Movies with dark and serious themes dominated this year’s nominations, and “Persepolis” fits that mold. Its emphasis on character and story is a rarity in animation, and an Oscar would go a long way toward showing the art form isn’t just kid stuff. Plus, a statuette would poke a finger in the eye of the Iranian government, which pressured international film festivals to reject the pic. Cannes ignored that call and recognized it with a special jury award.
Maybe not: The simple black-and-white animation is no match for the depth and complexity of “Ratatouille’s” visual style.
Critical quote: “With its powerful fusion of the whimsical, satirical and emotional, ‘Persepolis’ may well be the most original, inventive and moving film of the year,” says Claudia Puig, USA Today.

RATATOUILLE
Why it’ll win:
The eighth feature from Disney-owned Pixar has been heralded for both its animation and story — a rarity in toon land — and is the only one of this year’s three contenders to receive Oscar nominations outside of this category (original score, sound editing, sound mixing and original screenplay). At one point last year, there was talk about Disney’s enviable awards-season dilemma of deciding whether to also market “Ratatouille” for best picture.
Maybe not: The movie has been a front-runner in the animation Oscar derby since its June debut, but end-of-the-year release “Persepolis” appears to be peaking at the right time and is closing in fast.
Critical quote: “The characters are irresistible, the animation is astonishing and the film, a fantasy version of a foodie rhapsody, sustains a level of joyous invention that hasn’t been seen in family entertainment since ‘The Incredibles,'” says Joe Morgenstern, the Wall Street Journal.

SURF’S UP
Why it’ll win:
While overlooked in some circles (the Golden Globes, New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. each picked one or both of the other pics in this category), a split vote could benefit “Surf’s Up,” which is riding the wave of 10 Annie Award nominations — second only to “Ratatouille” with 13.
Maybe not: Academy voters may feel they’ve already fulfilled their penguin quota by tapping “March of the Penguins” for the documentary feature Oscar in 2006 and “Happy Feet” last year in this category.
Critical quote: “Much effort was expended in getting the waves to look just right — do they ever — but pic’s true innovation is the ability to approximate handheld camera work, allowing the directors to ‘discover’ the action within each shot, just as they might in a live-action film,” says Peter Debruge, Variety.

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