The only nominee not riding on pop-culture nostalgia boasts a unique brand of purity as it darts among the hills and braes of the Scottish Highlands. Helmers Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews rightfully took bows as Pixar finally highlighted a fearless female in young Merida, but “Brave” is no mere politically correct gesture. Pic brings it on in an explosion of whizzing arrows and tearful, earned sentiment.

This graft of monster movie tropes onto a boy-meets-dog story, wrote Germany’s HFPA member Scott Orlin, is sparked by “the signature Tim Burton thing: this amazing horror background at the crossroads of comedy and a little bit of satire.” Stop-motion puppetry, Orlin said, “is as special now as when people first started doing it, because so many things are C.G. now. When you see stop-motion you say, wow, they really took a chance.”

One of three entries in this category choosing to follow the “Toy Story” playbook, in which familiar childhood figures are juxtaposed with fictional ones. Here it’s the famous monsters of filmland who create chucklebait through amusing variations on their well-known personas. (The Invisible Man sucks at charades! Frankenstein’s monster travels in pieces!) Genndy Tartakovsky helmed the troubled production into hit status with funky panache.

DreamWorks enlists Santa, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost as a set of watchmen — or perhaps more accurately, as the avengers — protecting all the good little boys and girls rightfully wary of the Boogeyman (Jude Law, as gleefully slimy a villain as animation has known since the “Snow White” wicked witch). Peter Ramsey keeps the thrills and wry wit going in effective parallel.

Disney has classic videogame heroes and foils rubbing elbows in a Grand Central Station of USB ports and cables. Prior knowledge of the likes of QBert and Ms. Pac-Man can’t hurt, yet even auds unfamiliar with arcade arcana can enjoy the struggle of the eponymous, doomed-to-destroy game villain who yearns to be seen in his own, positive light. Rich Moore’s helming never causes a tilt, and Alan Tudyk’s channelling of Ed Wynn racks up bonus points.

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And the nominees are…
Best Picture – Comedy/Musical | Best Picture – Drama | Actor | Actress | Animated
Cecile B. Demille Award: Jodie Foster