Friday, November 21, 2014

Can an Animated Film Ever Win Best Picture?

Take a second and let this fact sink in: The Academy Awards have been around for 86 years, and over that entire stretch of time, an animated film has been nominated for best picture only 3 times. Full-feature animated films weren't around until 1937 when Walt Disney's Snow White blew everyone out of the water, but over those 77 years, the only animated movies to get recognized as having the potential to be the best film of the year were Beauty and the Beast, Up, and Toy Story 3. I'll buy the first two losses - Silence of the Lambs beat out Beast and the Hurt Locker beat Up, both really good films - but if you're trying to tell me that the King's Speech is better than Toy Story 3 in any single regard (apart from maybe the use of the word "fuck") than you're a liar and I hate you.

We're currently in the midst of an animated film "revival," of sorts, and I for one couldn't be more excited. Disney, in particular, is really hitting their stride with a string of great animated films, including Frozen, Wreck-it Ralph, and this year's Big Hero 6. There's some big films coming from Pixar too; they may have taken a few missteps by greenlighting unnecessary sequels to Cars and Monster's Inc, but they've got movies in the works about dinosaurs and emotions (which has the potential to be their best yet) that both look pretty incredible.

The question is: are they Oscar worthy? Academy voters tend to shy away from anything that's too - for lack of a better word - different. It's the same reason that Birdman probably won't win best picture this year; these movies are dangerous. The voters want something safe, like Colin Firth as a king with a speech impediment or literally any other British actor doing Britishy things; they don't want Michael Keaton marching in his underwear through times square or anthropomorphic toys teaching lessons about friendship, as sad as that may be. However, as the average age of Academy voters becomes younger (E.G. all the old people are dying), there's the potential to have more openness to the possibility of an animated movie taking home the big prize.

After all, there's nothing that "real" films do that animated films can't. I'm of the opinion that voice acting is still very much real acting, and story-wise, animated movies can pack as much of an emotional punch - hell, more usually - than traditional films. There's also more room for creativity. Sure, Matthew McConaughey can take a spaceship through a black hole, but Carl Fredrickson can attach his house to balloons and float to South America. We're willing to suspend our disbelief way more when we're watching animation, and this allows for basically endless situations and possibilities.

So, short answer, yes, I think it's possible that an animated film will win best pictures, for all that it matters. And I'm definitely not the only one. When it comes down to it, awards don't really mean shit; you should only judge a movie based on your overall enjoyment of it. That being said, I don't know anyone who hasn't immensely enjoyed a single animated film over the past 5-10 years, and I think it's about time the Academy reflected that.

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