Oscar nod is the fourth for Miyazaki and sixth for Studio Ghibli, which last won the Best Animated Feature award more than two decades ago.

Earlier this month, Studio Ghibli’s The Boy and the Heron (also know as How Do You Live?) became the first Japanese movie to win the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film. While it’s an undeniable honor, the fact is that the Golden Globes are widely considered the B-tier of movie awards in the U.S., and so the big question is whether The Boy and the Heron can win an Oscar.

That still remains to be seen, but director Hayao Miyazaki’s latest work has passed the first test, as the Beverly Hills-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has now officially nominated The Boy and the Heron in its Academy Award for Best Animated Feature category.

This is the fourth time for a Miyazaki-directed picture to earn a nomination, following Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Wind Rises. This is also the sixth nomination for Ghibli overall, as The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and When Marnie Was There, respectively directed by Isao Takahata and Hiromasa Yonebayashi, were also nominated for Best Animated Feature.

The consistently media-averse Miyazaki has yet to publicly comment on The Boy and the Heron’s nomination, but veteran Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, who often serves as the public face of the studio, has released a statement saying:

“If we are able to receive a second Oscar, following the one for Spirited Away, I would be truly happy. I am eagerly looking forward to the award announcement in March.”

So now that it’s nominated, how are The Boy and the Heron’s chances of winning the award? Honestly rather good. As we discussed after its Golden Globe win, the competition in the animated feature film sphere isn’t particularly stiff this year. Looking at the other nominees for this year’s Best Animated Feature, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a sequel to a film that’s already won the award, and also the middle installment of a planned movie trilogy with a cliffhanger ending, al of which likely hurt its viability for the Oscar. Elemental doesn’t seem to have left much of an emotional impression on audiences. Nimona likely lacks either the high level of visual polish or experimental aesthetics that Academy voters tend to look for, and might also be hampered by its primarily Netflix release giving it a “not cinema” stigma. Robot Dream, in contrast to its Sunday comic strip-style look, might actually be the dark horse with the best shot at winning, given how it juxtaposes its cute character designs with the sadness they have to face.

▼ North American distributor GKIDS celebrates The Boy and the Heron’s nomination.

While it’s debatable whether or not The Boy and the Heron is Miyazaki’s best film, it’s still very clearly a Miyazaki film, mixing mystery and trepidation with a spirit of wondrous adventure, and a plot which wants to connect with larger themes of how to live one’s life without explicitly spelling them out. There’s also the likelihood that The Boy and the Heron will be Miyazaki’s last feature-length movie, seeing as how he’s 83 years old and his films take several years to produce. Since Spirited Away’s Oscar win at the 2003 ceremony, every Miyazaki anime aside from Ponyo has been nominated, and it’s possible that some Academy members will be casting their vote for The Boy and the Heron as a sort of de-facto lifetime achievement award for Miyazaki. Some of his greatest films, such as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke, were released before Studio Ghibli, and anime in general, were on the Academy’s radar, and some voters might see this as an opportunity to make sure that the man who’s largely considered to be the greatest animator currently in the industry, if not ever, among cinephiles in the present day ends his career with more than one Oscar win.

The Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled for March 10 in Hollywood.

Source: Oricon, Oscars
Images: Studio Ghibli
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