Monday, November 22, 2010

Pixar at the Podium


The news has gotten around that Disney is not content to collect the inevitable Best Animated Film Oscar and plans an aggressive campaign for Toy Story 3 in the Best Picture category. The most amusing thing about this news is the implicit acknowledgement that previous campaigns for the likes of Up and WALL-E were half-hearted attempts willing to settle for low-hanging gimme nominations like Animated Film and Score along with a long shot nod for Screenplay. But why rehash previous campaigns when what I want to do is stand up and cheer. Disney studio chairman Rich Ross was quoted in Deadline saying, "We decided this year we had the biggest and best reviewed film of the year. If not this year, and not this movie, when?" Damn straight.

Of course it's going to be an uphill battle. Even those supportive of the idea of an animated winner will likely be instinctively averse to picking a cartoon, especially when they can let the animation category serve as acknowledgement.

Then there will be those who flat out refuse to support an animated movie for Best Picture, seeing it as something that needs to stay seated at the kid's table while the grown-ups debate 127 Hours vs. The Way Back. If I can be less than scholarly for a minute let me just say this: Screw 'em.

Seriously. Screw 'em. If folks want to claim that beloved masterworks like Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, or Spirited Away would somehow spoil the rarified air occupied by movies like Crash and Driving Miss Daisy then who needs them. There is no logical argument to be made for excluding animation that doesn't boil down to plugging their ears, shaking their fist and shouting down reason.

Best Picture is about the movie that has the biggest impact on the audience. It's about which movie best succeeds in staking out a place in the public imagination.  It's about which movie is going to best stand the test of time as a testament to the power of the moving image. Whether or not those images are animated or not is beyond irrelevant.

Any argument that excludes Toy Story for being too childish would also leave out King Kong, Star Wars, or The Wizard of Oz as well. Any explanation as to why Up would be too fake would necessitate ruling out Avatar, Lord of the Rings, and Pan's Labyrinth with it. Movies are the product of so many levels of falseness and illusion that ruling out animation because it goes one step further is nonsense.

I feel like I'm wasting my time pointing out the illogic of excluding animation because it is so clearly a knee-jerk emotional reaction, not a sensible one. Saying animation shouldn't win is no different than saying comedy or horror or sci-fi shouldn't win. People keep ruling out fantastic films they consider "less than" and then they complain when the Oscars end up honoring middle-of-the-road snoozers like A Beautiful Mind year in, year out. At the end of the day a movie is the accumulated power of one shot placed next to the other and that's all.

Now I'm not convinced Toy Story 3 is the most deserving film of the year. My vote would lean towards Social Network at the moment. But if someone considers Pixar's film the highest cinematic achievement of 2010 then they should bloody well vote for it.

Unworthy?

And get this - It could win.  Anyone declaring it an impossibility is spouting hot air. You can say it's a long shot. You can say it's never happened before. You could say it's would be a shocker. But one thing you cannot say is that it can't happen. They said the same thing about fantasy, horror, and sequels. Everything is a rule until it's not. If people vote for it, it wins. That simple. And if enough Academy members decide they don't like being told what they will and won't do,  if they decide that, dammit, no film moved them as much, got to them as deeply, or simply gave them as much joy, then yes it will win. And if that happened 2010 would be one of the rare cases when movie lovers could look back and say, "Damn, the Academy sure knew what they were doing that year."

1 comment:

  1. this is coming from a huge animation buff:
    (speaking of which, OT, loved this recent instalment of unsung heroes!)
    but really, to say that animation should be relegated to the animation category only is ludicrous.
    a good film is a good film is a good film.
    and as you point out, a simple comparison should put the naysayers to their place. toy story 3 would, in a few years time, stand out as one of the worthiest winners, far ahead of some of the past winners.

    at the moment, it's third on my list of the best of the year, sitting after the illusionist and the social network.
    too bad the illusionist will have absolutely no shot at this. that'd be one hell of a worthy winner too.

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