Oscar Watch: Sing and Kubo and the Two Strings

Much attention has been paid on this blog to the Best Actress race at the 2016 Oscars and deservedly so as it figures to be the most competitive it’s been in some time. Yet there’s another category that’ll be fun to watch. This year has been a banner one for animated features. In some years, it’s a bit of a challenge to think of five worthy of inclusion. In 2016, it’ll be fascinating to see what’s left out.

Two contenders have an odd thing in common: Matthew McConaughey. The 2013 Best Actor winner for Dallas Buyers Club has his voice featured in both Kubo and the Two Strings and Sing, which has screened in Toronto and will be out statewide in time for Christmas. Animated McConaughey has, in fact, had a much stronger year than the Lincoln Lawyer in human form. His summer Civil War drama Free State of Jones was a critical and commercial flop. Late last month, he starred in Gus Van Sant’s drama The Sea of Trees. It also received scorn from reviewers and has grossed a truly embarrassing $20,000 in its limited release. Perhaps this December’s Gold will turn things around for him.

Back to his cartoon version. Kubo opened last month to decent box office numbers (it’s made $40 million domestically thus far). Critics went wild for it though and its RT score stands at 97%. Though there’s other animated material that will gross far more than it, its inclusion for a nomination looks solid.

One of those movies that’ll probably far outgross it is Sing. The 3D computer animated musical comes from the company behind the Despicable Me franchise. In addition to McConaughey, it feature the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth MacFarlane, and John C. Reilly. Early reaction from Toronto is positive and suggests it’ll be a major holiday hit.

Yet its chances at an Animated Feature nod appear murkier due to the aforementioned heavy competition. Let’s briefly run the rest of the contenders down. There’s Disney’s spring juggernaut Zootopia. It’s in. There’s Disney’s Moana, their November offering from the team behind The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. Most prognosticators, including myself, are reserving a slot for it. The foreign title The Red Turtle opened to raves at Cannes. Japanese entry Miss Hokusai looks to be a factor. And there’s mega-hits like Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets to think about. Finally, how about Sausage Party?

All in all, this is one of the most exciting races to follow in 2016 and who knew the stoner guy from Dazed and Confused would be right in the thick of it?



Kubo and the Two Strings Box Office Prediction

The animation division of Focus Features/Laika hopes for another solid performer as Kubo and the Two Strings plays theaters next weekend. The 3D stop-motion fantasy set in ancient Japan features a number of recognizable actors voicing the action, including Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, and OG Sulu George Takei.

Travis Knight directs and he’s served as lead animator for all of Laika’s previous efforts. Those would be: 2009’s Coraline, which opened with $16.8 million; 2012’s ParaNorman, which debuted at $14 million; and 2014’s The Boxtrolls, which premiered with $17.2 million.

Those are some pretty consistent numbers and I believe Kubo should fall right in line with them. In fact, I believe Two Strings has a good shot at just outpacing its two competitors opening against it: the pricey Ben-Hur remake and Jonah Hill action/comedy War Dogs. My prediction puts this right at where Coraline got things started seven years ago and Boxtrolls left things two years back.

Kubo and the Two Strings opening weekend prediction: $17 million

For my Ben-Hur prediction, click here:


For my War Dogs prediction, click here: