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Contender: ‘The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn’

The Contenders 2011

It’s thirty years since Steven Spielberg’s Saturday-matinee throwback “Raiders of the Lost Ark” landed eight Oscar nominations, including mentions for Best Picture and Director. Now, Spielberg’s eye-popping adaptation of Belgian artist Hergé’s boy-adventurer comics works a similar retro, gung-ho groove, with the crucial difference that it comes rendered in cutting-edge motion capture technology. No helmer of an animated feature has yet been nominated in the Best Director category. Then again, most helmers of animated features aren’t Spielberg.

The three-time Oscar winner seems likelier to be recognized in the top races for his live-action WWI epic “War Horse,” which hits US screens mere days after “Tintin” in December. Should that film underwhelm, however, it’s not inconceivable that Spielberg supporters in the Academy could switch allegiance to the fluffier entertainment – assuming “Tintin” is as well-received by US audiences and critics as it has been in Europe, where the source material is more widely familiar.

At present, a Best Animated Feature nod looks to be the film’s primary target. Even there, though, it faces the obstacle of the animation branch’s occasional resistance to performance capture. With that in mind, nods for composer John Williams and the sound team could be the easiest gets of all.

Release date: Dec. 21
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