Thursday, February 10, 2011

The argument for 'Toy Story 3'

...after it becomes clear that studios besides Disney are capable of creating some truly wonderful animation, Oscar finally creates a Best Animated Feature category. Admittedly, this has become Pixar's stomping ground, but let us not forget that films like SPIRITED AWAY, HAPPY FEET, WALLACE & GROMIT, and SHREK have all taken home the gold. The problem is, now that this category exists, Oscar's group think is "Why should we consider an animated film in the Best Picture race? It has its own category." Which brings us back to the EMILE ZOLA/SNOW WHITE paradox.
Sometimes folks, an animated film is just that good.
I wasn't gonna bring this up, but since the comments for this post have been disabled, including mine (they were originally powered by Disqus, but not anymore), I wanted to re-state my case for the record. Plus, I haven't talked about this movie much here.

No one denies that Toy Story 3 is an outstanding film. The issue presented here is why should it be nominated for Best Picture when it's already nominated for Best Animated Feature? Is it redundant? It's no more so than, say, having the Coen brothers nominated for writing and directing True Grit. The whole point of having multiple categories is that some movies are especially good in multiple disciplines. It's an unfair advantage to the other Animated nominees? Too bad. Some movies will always have more nominations than others.

Some people argued that the Animated category should be abolished altogether, and I can understand the logic behind that, since more and more animated films have become part of the mainstream, making lots and lots of cash. The category has almost become a victim of its own success, since Academy voters may feel justified in acknowledging it on its own terms, but not in the overall Best Picture terms. I think the
Animated category may be necessary if for no other reason than to remind Academy voters that yes, animated films are worthy of Oscar consideration too.

Which brings me to the point I also brou
ght up during this discussion: whether or not an animated movie should be nominated for Best Picture is one thing, although to most people's minds, it's a moot point - it has become a reality and it's here to stay. It's another matter, though, whether Academy members will actually vote for it over a live-action film.

Toy Story 3 is in an incredibly unique position: it's the most critically acclaimed film of the year (though I suppose that depends on whether you go by Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic), the (presumably) final chapter of a beloved trilogy of films embraced by an entire generation of filmgoers worldwide, and one that made mountains of money. If a film like that doesn't win Best Picture, who knows how long it'll be before another animated film gets that close - even with a Best Picture nomination?

The actors are the biggest voting bloc within AMPAS, and the belief is that they want to see actors acting, and you can't see that as easily in an animated film (which also rules out documentaries from the top prize). But as we're seeing with motion-capture technology, that's an obstacle that's starting to get overcome, little by little. Academy voters weren't ready to nominate Zoe Saldana for her mo-cap performance in Avatar, however, even though James Cameron did his best to educate people on the mo-cap process. We've still got a long way to go before AMPAS' biases towards animation can be laid to rest.

All signs point to The King's Speech as the Best Picture Oscar winner, and it would be a worthy choice, but it's a crime that a film with greater critical and commercial success isn't even considered in the running. What more would an animated film need to get taken seriously for Best Picture?


  1. When I started reading this post, I thought "Cripes those words seem familiar"...and then I realized what you'd done.

    Many thanks sir, I'm not the sort that people quote.

    I can't remember what I said last week (hell, I can't remember what I ate for dinner last night), but the more I think about this, the more I want to see it happen.

    I did a post a few days back reassessing ten films Oscar dubbed Best Picture, and I had to crack a grin when I glanced at the eleventh. For a moment I was thinking about 1995, where BRAVEHEART took the big prize, slightly upsetting APOLLO 13 which was the presumptive favorite.

    The funny thing? Neither film has aged as well, or had the lasting legacy of another 1995 film - a film left entirely on the sidelines...


    What will it take for Oscar to recognize that? Not to sound cliche, but lightning in a bottle. If these films can stay in the conversation, they have a chance...but it will have to be that animated film that comes along once in a blue moon and really ups the ante.


    TS3 is a special film, and in many other years it could make a serious case for best-in-show...but sadly not this year.

    While the onus will be on voters to recognize when animators do something special, the onus is just as heavily - perhaps more so - on animators not to rest on the laurels, and for them to continue to push the artform towards "something special".

  2. Yours was one of several blogs I'd seen talking about this (some were LAMB blogs), but for the life of me, I couldn't remember what the others were.

    One could argue that 'Wall-E' upped the ante when it won the LA Critics award, which was very unexpected. Not even TS3 did that. A lot of people were crying that year over 'The Dark Knight' not making the cut, but as far as I'm concerned, the real crime was 'Wall-E' missing out.

  3. Animations that resonate like Toy Story 3 are rare. To admire an animation is to praise a different art to 'live action'. For animation to go above that, to hit you somewhere universal, takes a tremendous amount of skill. I think that deserves to be recognised with the others, but only occasionally. If there wasn't an animation category, most would never get a look in.

  4. Well, that's why I emphasized the fact that TS3 is the perfect storm for animated films that may not come again for awhile. It's certainly possible, of course, but TS3 hits on so many cylinders that it's unique.


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