Oscar Preview: Weekend of January 1 – March 1, 2019

We had two films release so far this year with the potential for Oscar nominations.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Five years ago, The Lego Movie thrilled audiences and soared to $257 million at the domestic box office and racked 25 wins as Best Animated Feature through precursor season, 22 more than its nearest competitors (How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya with three each).

Yet, despite the acclaim and the accolades, the film was the shock omission at the 87th Academy Awards. The film still managed to pick up a nomination for the song “Everything Is Awesome,” but it went down in defeat to “Glory” from Selma.

In the interim, the franchise put out two more films, The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie in 2017. The former made $175 million at the box office while the latter made a scan $59 million. The Lego Batman Movie picked up a single award from the Detroit Film Critics Society for Best Animated Feature. It did earn 17 nominations, which was third after Coco‘s 21 nominations and Loving Vincent‘s 19. Ninjago got nothing. Yet, the Academy ignored it as well.

This brings us to 2019 where The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is hoping to rectify the omissions of five years ago. The problem is that there will be stiffer competition this year. It is also limping past the $100 million line (currently sitting at $91 million in its fourth weekend. While it’s 86% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes is solid, the original had a 95% rating and Batman had 90% (Ninjago was at 56%, so that explains its failures). As a counterpoint, the original had a 83 from MetaCritic, with Batman at 75, Ninjago at 55, and this film at 65. Those aren’t great statistics for overcoming the aversion the Academy has of sequels.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

It’s interesting to note that the only two films from the first two months of the year to be considered Oscar contenders are both animated films. Typically, dramas aren’t seen this early in cinemas, but animation needs longer windows between to avoid cannibalization. Here we are, though. Compared to The Lego Movie 2, the third and final film in the How to Train Your Dragon series has an excellent shot at a nomination, especially considering it’s one of the few animation franchises to net nominations for a sequel.

The original film released in 2010 with a $43 million opening and went on to $217 million. The sequel, released in 2014, with a $49 million opening and a $177 million tally. This third film opened to $55 million and is about to hit $100 million just after its second weekend in release. Unlike Lego Movie audiences are definitely supporting the film in droves.

On the critic front, the original had a 98% Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes and a 74 at MetaCritic. The second film was 92% at Rotten Tomatoes with a slightly better 76 at MetaCritic. This final film has a 91% from Rotten Tomatoes and a 71 at MetaCritic. Critics are still strongly supportive of the film as well.

Nominated for Best Animated Feature in 2010 and 2014, the films have been honored by critics quite frequently. The original earned two awards in 2010 opposite the juggernaut that was Toy Story 3 and did even better in 2014 with three awards against The Lego Movie. The sequel might not have won the critic battle, but it did win the Oscar battle and even picked up two of the bigger honors of the season, the Golden Globe and the Annie Award.

So, here we are today. The biggest threat is still the bountiful array of animation contenders this year. The sequel issue is still a problem even if the series has bucked tradition once before. That said, a lot of what’s coming out this year doesn’t have a lot of promise, meaning How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is in a good position to rally a third nomination. A victory is unlikely, though, especially against Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2, its chances are a bit weak.

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