Part two of my Beauty and the Beast article isn’t ready yet and my backup plan just fell through. So in the meantime, please enjoy this short video of Belle and the Beast (and one stowaway) presenting the award for Best Animated Short Film at the 64th Academy Awards. Who knew that Beast wore reading glasses?
Posts Tagged ‘awards’
Another Oscar Night has come and gone and another lucky few animated films have been recognized by the Academy. I just barely managed to stay up for the animation awards this year. (This week’s Monday Movie post explains why.) As usual, I’m not taking the Oscars too seriously, but I do think they’re an interesting look at how Hollywood perceives animation and how that changes as the years go by.
I’m in for a pretty busy week, mostly due to the new addition to my family:
So while I try to keep this little girl from eating every piece of lint she finds, please enjoy the trailer for the winner of the 2011 Academy Award for Best Animated Short film, The Lost Thing.
Since my last article was on the controversy over this year’s Annie Awards, I thought it was only fair to show one of the highlights of the ceremony as well. Brad Bird was one of the three winners of the 2011 Winsor McCay Award, which recognizes individuals whose work has made a significant contribution to the art of animation. (The other two equally deserving winners were Eric Goldberg and Matt Groening.) The above video includes a retrospective of Bird’s animation career and his prerecorded acceptance speech. If you’re not already familiar with Brad Bird, this is a great introduction to his work in animation, including films and shows your probably know and others you may want to checkout. If you already know who he is, skip ahead to about four and a half minutes in for the not-to-be-missed acceptance speech.
The 2011 Annie Awards were given out on Saturday and there’s been no shortage of coverage from animation sites. This year’s awards were marked by controversy over the voting process that led to one major studio withdrawing from the Annies entirely, and different reporters handled it in different ways. Some merely noted the winners and gave little or no mention of the drama surrounding this year’s event. Some dug deeper into the story and examined the issues that led to the notable absences at the Annies. Other suggested – some calmly, others in near-hysterical tones – that in light of this year’s awards, maybe it was time for the Annies to come to and end.
What I couldn’t find without some searching were the details of why this happened, of what voting issues led to one studio deciding to skip the Annies completely. If you’re similarly confused, or if you’re still wondering what the heck an Annie is, read on.
So the 2011 Oscar nominations are out and I have a confession to make.
I have only seen one of the Best Animated Feature nominees.
I think I can be forgiven for not having seen The Illusionist yet. This latest film from Sylvain Chomet – director of 2004 Best Animated Feature nominee The Triplets of Belleville – is still gradually making its way across the country and won’t be playing near me until this Friday. (To see when and where it’s playing near you, check the official site.) But I have no excuse beyond bad timing for missing How To Train Your Dragon. Despite numerous reports from critics and friends whose opinions I respect that it’s quite good, I just haven’t made the time to see it. It’s a problem I intend to remedy before the Oscars are handed out.
So what can I say about this year’s Best Animated Feature nominees? Sizing up the competitors
The holiday craziness has finally caught up with me. The good news is that I had a great time with lots of friends and family who I don’t get to see very often and among the gifts I received are a couple of items that will likely be fodder for future articles. The bad news is that I haven’t had time to put together the final installment of my Toy Story 3 analysis. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything for you this week. With something as interesting as the ad campaign to get Toy Story 3 nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
Studios putting out ads asking Academy voters to consider their films for particular honors is nothing new. But the aggressive push to get an animated film into the running for the top honor is a more recent phenomenon. The expansion of the number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten has put the top prize (or at least advancement to the final round) within the reach of a greater range of movies. Up being chosen as one of the Elite Ten for the 2010 Academy Awards made it clear that animated films had an equal shot at being nominated. Disney and Pixar aren’t alone in seeking Best Picture consideration for their animated offerings; I’ve seen ads from Dreamworks promoting How To Train Your Dragon as a potential Best Picture nominee. What’s garnering attention for the Toy Story 3 campaign is the comparisons it draws between the Pixar film and past Best Picture winners. The intent is not to suggest that Toy Story 3 is like all of these movies rolled into one, but to remind Academy voters of past winners that may not have fit the stereotypical Best Picture mold. Combined with the mention of the movie’s near-universal critical acclaim, it makes a strong case for Toy Story 3 as a Best Picture nominee.
Will it work? I wouldn’t be surprised, at least as far as the nomination goes. Toy Story 3 has enjoyed both commercial and critical success. It’s shown up on enough “Best of the Year” lists that it’s exclusion from the field of Best Picture nominees would raise quite a few eyebrows. But can it go all the way? I want to believe that an animated movie can win the Oscar for Best Picture. All the same, I realize that animation hasn’t completely escaped the unfair “kiddie flicks” label it’s been saddled with in the U.S. Even putting that aside, Toy Story 3 is a film that can be enjoyed by young kids as well as adults. It’s a fantastic family film, but the Academy isn’t known for handing the Best Picture award to family films (or comedies or anything other than a drama). While I do love the movie, I haven’t seen every other film that came out this year, so I can’t say for certain whether it will be the most deserving of the ten films up for the award. I can see Toy Story 3 getting a Best Picture nomination and possibly walking away with the Best Animated Feature award. But I’ll be very surprised if Pixar manages to crack the animation glass ceiling and take the Best Picture Oscar home.
Image in this article is copyright Disney/Pixar.
The first Oscar Night since I started the Ink and Pixel Club has come and gone. Though enjoy watching the festivities (for as long as I can stay awake), I try not to take the Academy Awards too seriously. I realize that an Oscar can be a great boost to an individual or film. But these awards are not chosen by the almighty drama gods or FilmCriticBot 3000. They’re picked by people. Smart, talented, qualified people, yes, but people nonetheless. Academy voters don’t get sequestered away from the world for a year so that they can judge films solely on their inherent merits. They have their own tastes, prejudices, and biases. So while winning the Oscar may be a great honor, it isn’t factual confirmation that one person’s film, performance, or behind-the-scenes work is better than anyone else’s in the past year. I try to keep the role film industry politics plays in mind as the prized statuettes go off to their new homes.
That doesn’t mean I don’t get disappointed when I think the Academy has made a bad call.
Up winning Best Animated Feature Film was not a disappointment. Admittedly, I’m a big fan of the older styles of animation, so part of me was a little sad to see the Oscar go to the one computer animated film nominated. But even that part of me recognizes that Up is a very good movie that does push some boundaries for animation. Pixar always delivers films that are top notch visually, but the story of Up is equally groundbreaking, if not more so. I’ve watched Pixar gently nudge mainstream audiences towards the idea that animated films don’t have to be all about kids or kid-relatable characters and their problems. Up represents a big step in that direction. This is a film that stars an elderly man and starts off by taking us through the decades he spent with his beloved wife up until her death. At least one analyst predicted that the firm would not be commercially viable. How many studios would have caved in to panicked marketing execs and dumped the whole opening, or made Russell the main character and altered him to make him more “aspirational” for a young audience? In his acceptance speech, director Pete Docter thanked Disney and Pixar for backing such an “oddball” film, something that not every studio would do.
The outcome of this particular race was considered a foregone conclusion by many critics and fans. As I mentioned in my earlier article about the Oscar nominees, Up was the only film in contention for Best Animated Feature to also be nominated one of the best films of the year overall. Going purely on logic, that would indicate that the Academy sees Up as the best animated film of the year. But Pixar’s film was up against some stiff competition. The past year was a very good one for animated features, as evidenced by the fact that there were five worthy nominees this year instead of the usual three. Up is a worthy winner and Pixar should feel even happier about bringing home the award because of the high quality of the film’s competitors for that honor.
The Best Animated Short Film category generally gets ignored by everyone but animation fans. Critics usually skip it when making their predictions for the winners. The general public has seldom seen more than one of the nominated films. This was not always true. Back in the days when moviegoers could expect to see one or more short films before the feature presentation, shorts were widely seen and some became incredibly popular and well-known. But the cost of producing shorts, the arrival of television, and other factors led studios to abandon the format. In recent years, some of the major animation studios have started producing shorts again, recognizing their potential for experimentation and telling different kinds of stories. These studio shorts are usually run before a new animated film and often included on the DVD release, meaning that a large number of people sees them. But studio animated shorts are still far less common than they were in the heyday of the short film format. Most creators of animated short films – particularly the ones that get nominated for Best Animated Short – are independent animators, toiling in relative obscurity and known only to those fans who seek out the animation festivals where their work plays.
Because of this, I have a soft spot for the independent animators who usually nab the bulk of the Best Animated Short nominations. These are people who don’t get recognized for their work very much outside of the animation community, so it’s good to see them get their fifteen minutes – or thirty seconds. I am sure that Nicolas Schmerkin and the rest of the crew of this year’s winner Logorama worked very hard in the six years it took them to make their film and that the Oscar will help them to gain broader recognition from people who can fund their next project.
That said, I absolutely hated Logorama.
I didn’t feel like there was a real stand-out in this year’s Animated Short nominees. My prediction was that the Academy would hand the Oscar to A Matter of Loaf and Death, based on their past fondness for Aardman’s work. I love Wallace and Gromit and the film is solid, but neither the story nor the animation felt like anything new or groundbreaking for the series. Either French Roast or The Lady and the Reaper would have been a fine choice. Like the Wallace and Gromit film, they aren’t terribly innovative, but both are stylish and fun. Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty has a fun premise, but doesn’t explore it enough and features some weak character design. But Logorama was the one short I never wanted nor expected to win.
Rather than character or story, Logorama is constructed around a concept. This does not automatically doom it. I have seen very interesting and entertaining films that focus primarily on concept and the short film format is an ideal way to explore an idea without risking the audience growing bored or confused by the lack of traditional narrative. The concept in Logorama is a world where virtually everything – people, objects, vehicles, buildings, and landscape – is a logo or commercial spokescharacter. The problem is that this idea on its own isn’t enough to sustain a short film – much less a short film that runs sixteen minutes. Logorama doesn’t give the audience anything beyond this initial concept: no compelling characters to follow, no engaging plot thread, no underlying commentary on our advertising-saturated society or anything else. The film presents recognition of these familiar logos as all that is needed to keep us amused. It reminds me of those shorts that ran before the Pokémon movies where the main purpose was to cram as many of the marketable little critters as possible into the allotted time. The humor feels like it might have been sharp and cutting edge ten or more years ago, but comes off stale and tired today. Normally innocuous figures from pop culture out of character has been done before and the short presents nothing more original than Mr. Clean with an effeminate voice. What plot there is jumps around from one event to another without offering much reason to care about any of them. There is a lot of action that should be upping the excitement level, but with nothing to ground it but a pack of characters as one-dimensional as they are when they’re hawking hamburgers and toilet paper, the film merely drags. The animation is nothing new: computer animation made to look more graphic and hand-drawn. The novelty of spotting logos and seeing how they are integrated into the world wears off quickly, leaving the viewer with nothing but a dull, unwieldy waste of time.
I can see how Aardman’s past Oscar wins might have worked against the studio. But if the Academy had wanted to recognize fresh talent rather than rewarding Aardman for doing the same thing well one more time, why not pick any of the other nominated films, all of which are at least superior to Logorama? I found this film incredibly disappointing and the Academy’s choice to award it the Oscar even more so. If Nicolas Schmerkin follows up on his desire to spend the next thirty-six years working on a feature film, I can only hope that he comes up with a better idea than a gun-toting criminal Ronald McDonald.
I’d like to end on a happy note, in honor of the good the Academy has done in recognizing the art of animation this year and in years past. One of my favorite parts of the whole broadcast (or what I stayed up to see) was the characters from the five Best Animated Feature nominees discussing how they felt about being nominated. It was a real treat to see what may be the last new animation of many of these characters. These fun little moments with the animated stars speak to the power of animation to create believable characters who can be just as convincing and beloved as their live-action colleagues.
UP is copyright Disney/Pixar. LOGORAMA is copyright Autour de Minuit. ACADEMY AWARD(S)®, OSCAR(S)®, OSCAR NIGHT® and OSCAR® statuette design mark are the registered trademarks and service marks, and the OSCAR® statuette the copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This web site is not affiliated with or otherwise sponsored, endorsed or approved by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or Academy Awards®.