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New Oscars rules spark a debate on the line between special effects and animation.

New Oscars rules spark a debate on the line between special effects and animation. (photo)

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While there’s still fuss being made over the Oscars considering a date change, some of the rule changes announced last week have received less attention. Among them, the Visual Effects category will now have five nominations instead of three, which makes sense — there’s just too much groundbreak effects work getting done every year for only three picks.

More controversial are the new animation rules, which effectively disqualify motion capture-based features from being nominated for Best Animated Film.

Last awards season, there was a lot of debate about whether or not “Avatar” was animated in any meaningful sense (you can catch up on the basics here), and the new rule qualifies this:

An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of greater than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time.

With a movie like “Avatar,” it’s damn near impossible to tell where the actual animation vs. “mere” mocap line is drawn. So it seems safe to say that if process, not visuals, are the rules, it’s best to disqualify the murky outliers altogether.

07132010_happy.jpgBut — as Cartoon Brew‘s typically well-informed readers point out — under those rules, it’d be entirely possible that “Happy Feet” (which won in 2006) could be disqualified, since its dance sequences draw heavily on motion-capture (Savion Glover tap-danced to create Mumbles).

In the comments section, debate rages, but the bottom line’s something like this: motion capture is heavily animated and altered frame-by-frame, but does that mean it’s just a special effect or actual animation (an almost metaphysical question)?

Where does this leave rotoscoped films (assuming they ever got more mainstream than Richard Linklater)? And why, still, do animated films so rarely get nominated for straight-up Best Picture when people can’t stop drooling over Pixar, and their box-office potential is at least as good as most of the other films that get nominated for Best Picture?

These questions are best left to specialists — except the last one, which remains weird and worth thinking about. The general public doesn’t think of “Avatar” as animation and neither, it seems, does the Academy. Apparently, it’s one of those “I know it when I see it” situations more than anything.

[Photos: “Avatar,” 20th Century Fox, 2009; “Happy Feet,” Warner Bros., 2006]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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