The Motion Picture Academy doubled its roster of Best Picture nominees, many believe, because of Wall-E and Batman Returns, which many critics felt deserved to be nominated. This next year, the pressure will be to include at least one such movie in the category.
Given the ways of the Oscar voting, UP would be the easy choice for a Best Picture nod. But UP is 20 minutes of heartbreaking perfection that makes up for 90 minutes of fluff. It's Dr. Zhivago tacked onto Star Wars.
Ponyo is the better movie by far. It is the work of a film master, loved by Hollywood and the critics but ignored by the public, and fiercely defends the hand-drawn animation form. It bears the marks of human hands in an age of soulless formulas.
The Best Feature Animation category nominees are as follows: Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks. Sometimes an outside movie gets in, like Persepolis. Pixar walks away with the Oscar. This category is handed out by sheer reflex, and many cynically suspect the category only shuffles animation into a box under the bed.
Does the Academy realize that CGI has completely taken over Hollywood? Virtually every blockbuster by the major studios today is an animated movie. But these are still regarded as "special effects," even though it's plain that the real actors are shrinking and shrinking. One day, only the actors faces will be mapped onto the computer-generated cartoon characters.
Within this storyline, and the Oscars' need to stay relevant, the two greatest animation studios in the world - Pixar and Ghibli - compete in the same year. Pixar, again, would be the easy choice, the reflexive choice that requires no thinking, while Miyazaki has already received his "one" Oscar for Spirited Away, but really his career. The Academy typically plays catch-up with their awards.
Two angles to consider: One, would the Motion Picture Academy make a statement against the ugly blockbuster cartoons by nominating a true animation film for Best Picture? Two, between Pixar and Ghibli, will the loser of the Best Animation Feature category be compensated for a Best Picture nod (or vice versa)?
This is why I insist that those in a position of influence within Hollywood needs to start making the case for Ponyo now. NOW. I've laid out a solid narrative that works. It just needs to be sold.