As it turned out, Hayao Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises" wasn't quite the mighty magnum opus we might have hoped from the Japanese animation master's farewell feature -- but at this stage, the man is a victim of his own high bar. It's still a lovely, distinctive and technically awe-inspiring achievement: the lulls in its biopic narrative pass fairly easily when the visuals are so consistently ravishing.

I would therefore be pretty surprised if, in what has so far been a pretty unremarkable year for the form, Studio Ghibli doesn't score their third Oscar nod for Best Animated Feature come January. Miyazaki of course won the 2002 award for "Spirited Away," and was nominated three years later for "Howl's Moving Castle"; within the animators' branch, peer admiration for the new film's dazzling technique, combined with sentiment surrounding his retirement, should translate into votes.

Ghibli and Disney, therefore, are probably making a smart move in giving the film an Oscar-qualifying release in New York and Los Angeles from November 8 to 14 -- even if an English-dubbed version of the film won't be ready in time. This will therefore be Miyazaki's first film to enter the Oscar race in subtitled, Japanese-language form -- though the film is so image-driven, I don't see that being a significant hurdle.

The film will, however, be dubbed into English in time for its official US release next February, whereupon audiences will have the choice of watching either version. (Incidentally, Disney is releasing it under their Touchstone Pictures banner, which feels appropriate given the film's more grown-up slant.) It will open in limited release on February 21 and expand the following week -- perfectly timed, then, to capitalize on that probable Oscar nod (and to coincide with the last few days of voting). 

In my review of "The Wind Rises" from Venice, I described it as "a work that shows Miyazaki as an artist not just at the very apex of his own creativity, but of the entire animated form. No one in animation -- whether hand-drawn, computer-generated or a sleek fusion of the two -- is creating canvases quite this epically fluid and color-saturated, yet still alive with witty individual flourishes."

Do you think "The Wind Rises" can soar in this year's Oscar race? And which version are you planning to see it in? Tell us in the comments.