Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Spinning Wheel

From the Gray Lady.

... Winning an Academy Award is a coup for any movie company, but the “Frozen” honors carry extra weight for Disney. Ever since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created the best animated feature prize in 2001, Pixar has dominated the category, winning seven times. Rivals including DreamWorks Animation have won all other years.

Enter “Frozen.” Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and produced by Peter Del Vecho, the film captivated women and girls in particular, thousands of whom started posting videos of themselves online singing “Let It Go.” The soundtrack, with original music written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, spent five weeks as No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. ...

Everybody puts too much stock in Little Gold Men.

Beauty and the Beast didn't win the Best Picture Oscar twenty-odd years ago, but it should have. It lost to a spooky, tricked up procedural named Silence of the Lambs. And lost, in my opinion, for a specific reason: the Academy is dominated by actors and live-action crews, and you'll never see the live-action faction casting ballots for a cartoon. Just won't happen. The sun will reach its red star phase before the Motion Picture Academy sees its way clear to nominate, let alone cast a plurality of votes for a Toy Story, Aladdin, How To Train Your Dragon or any number of other long-form movies that, if they had flesh-and-blood actors in them, would be shoo-ins for a spot in the awards beauty pageant.

So it was very nice that AMPAS created the "Best Animation Feature" category, because at least now animated movies will get a little reflected glory that comes from winning a Little Gold Man, even though they throw off plenty of bright, white light all by themselves.

But what does winning an Academy Award really prove, anyway? Some of the most iconic and enduring American films of the past 75 years are animated features. Think of titles that have molded and touched our lives: Snow White. Dumbo. Pinocchio. Lady and the Tramp. 101 Dalmations. Toy Story. Little Mermaid. None of these pictures got a "best picture" or "best director" nomination from AMPAS, yet all are among the best films of their respective years.

The reason, friends and neighbors, is simple: these titles are animated. And until a few years ago, when huge global earnings made animated features impossible to ignore, long-form cartoons were treated like mongrel curs crashing a "Best of Show" competition at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.

So I ask: How seriously are we supposed to take the "Best Picture" category anyway?


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