The Oscar Nominations Are In - Up is In, Ponyo is Snubbed

82nd Academy Awards Nominees

I'm sure everybody has had a chance to look over this morning's Oscar nominations.  It's a pretty good list overall, but I'm reminded of the Simpson's episode where Homer is recruited as a NASA astronaut and launched into space.  "Get the rating" seems to be the mantra.

And if Hollywood wanted an Oscar drama to bring in the viewers, hoo boy, they got it.  James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, divorced couple, in the lead for most nominations, for Best Director and Best Picture?  It smacks of calculation, but it just may work.  The expansion to ten Best Picture nominees was another attempt to attract viewers, and we can see an effort to pick movies outside of the art-house circuit.

Roger Ebert observes that the five Best Director films are the "serious" Best Picture nominees, the real contenders, and I'll have to agree with him.  It's not that I expected Pixar's Up to be a credible contender; we're just happy to be nominated.

I do think the push for Avatar speaks more for Hollywood's desperation to sell expensive 3D movies than anything.  Is Avatar really worthy of nine nominations?  Is it really one of the year's best movies?  I find that very hard to swallow.  In all fairness, I have to see this movie, but it's not the kind of movie I'd want to see.  Special effects blockbusters with video game graphics are not my thing.  I need more than sugar in my diet.  But I'll go watch one of these days and give it a fair chance.  Maybe it won't feel like an Xbox version of Dances With Wolves (ugh).

Now let's get to the Animation categories.  First, congratulations to Pixar for Up's Best Picture nomination.  Hollywood has now officially apologized for snubbing Wall-E.  I hope this bodes well for animation, and that it inspires studios to move beyond the safe boundaries of summer roller coaster rides and family formulas.

Now to Best Animation Feature.  Ponyo wuz robbed.  Boo!!  That's an unacceptable omission, and either reflects the Motion Picture Academy's ignorance of animation, or bias against foreign movies.  Perhaps they feel that Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli received their praises for the Spirited Away Oscar, and that's enough.  More "statement" awards.  I'm really tired of that.  It's as though everybody gets a nomination or a statue just for hanging around long enough.  This year, it's your turn.  Next year it's theirs.

I'll pull out this argument when Sandra Bullock wins over Meryl Streep.  Sorry, but some film artists simply dominate, and that should be acknowledged.

Nominations for Best Animation Feature: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, and Up.  Pixar is the easy favorite, as always.  There is a possibility, however, that the Academy will consider Up's Best Picture nod to be "their award" this year, and hand this Oscar to someone else.  I think Coraline could be a fan favorite, as it's a clever and charming movie that's skillfully hand-crafted.  Fantastic Mr. Fox is a critic's favorite, but its appeal is limited.  It's happy to be nominated.  Disney could win for Princess and the Frog.  That would be a plus for hand-drawn animation, but wouldn't that be a lazy win?  Will it be seen as a box-office disappointment, of an overlooked classic?

Secret of Kells is the real shocker.  I didn't expect this at all.  I'm not even sure if it played in the Twin Cities.  Another win for hand-drawn animation; in fact, this is a very solid collection of films.  It shows the diversity of the animation artform, its vitality and creativity.

Still, Secret of Kells snuck in like some lucky wild card team.  Ponyo deserved that spot.  Hell, Ponyo deserved a Best Picture nod alongside Up, but that's an old speech of mine, and it's all water under the bridge.  Life continues.

Up was also nominated for Music (Original Score), and I think they're the clear winner.  Michael Giacchino brought the film to life, especially the emotionally-charged opening act.  It's a beautiful score, reminiscent of Fellini's movies.  The only possibility of an upset is if Avatar sweeps everything - and remember, Hollywood is desperate to sell us on 3D movies and 3D televisions.  It's the battle between art and commerce.

Finally, Up received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and as a writer, I'm glad to see Pixar recognized for their work.  Far too many animated movies are nothing more than video game demos, roller coaster rides.  Pixar has wisely focused on the essentials of storytelling, focused on the craft of filmmaking, and that's why they're where they are today.  The competition is too fierce in this category, so I couldn't expect a Pixar win.  It's good to be nominated.

Don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to this year's Oscars.  This should be fun.  Just don't let Cameron walk away with everything.  Please let there be some surprises for once.


Anonymous said...

Saw this just a second ago. Kind of disappointed it didn't get a nod, it deserved it over Princess and the Frog, haven't seen The Secert of Kells so I can't comment. One day I hope Miyazaki gets more love for being an actual film maker here instead of being known as just one the few "good" anime directors <_<

Anonymous said...

As some people will agree, just because 崖の上のポニョ was a beautiful movie produced by a well-founded director does not entitle it to be called a good film.

Sean L. said...

A few thoughts...

I'm just plain mad about this to be honest. Before awards season got under way, I thought that "Ponyo" was a sure bet for Best Animated Film. The fact that it was snubbed by both the Globes and the Oscars is surprising and upsetting to me considering the level of critical acclaim for "Ponyo," and Miyazaki's previous two nominations. I do understand that the competition in the Animated category was exceptionally stiff this year. Damn.

But where the hell did this nomination for "Secret of Kells" come from? I'm not going to say anything bad about the movie itself, because I have not seen it, but I'm surprised that this happened. The movie apparently wasn't even released in theaters in the US except at a Film Festival. I've never even heard of it until now. To beat out Ponyo--a movie backed by Disney no less, complete with TV marketing and a semi-wide release--"Secret of Kells" better be a really damn good movie. Whatever. "Ponyo" definitely deserved that spot.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Joe Hisaishi wasn't nominated for Best Original Score for "Ponyo," but I still think it's an outrage. I wonder if Disney even submitted the score? I mean, it's one of the most enchantingly beautiful movie scores I've ever heard! I mean, I don't have to tell you how amazing it is, Daniel. I guess it's just too much to ask to nominate a foreign animated film's music. I wonder if Joe Hisaishi will ever get Oscar recognition? He's won plenty of awards in Japan, I know, but I believe that somebody so brilliant should be recognized internationally as one of the greatest film composers alive.

Don't get me started on "James Cameron's Avatar". Ugh. I want to say something more about it, but that's for another discussion. I shall refrain. I do, however, recommend you see it in 3D in the theater-- the spectacle is worth the ticket price, regardless of how big of a rip-off the story is.

@Alex Leavitt: "As some people will agree, just because 崖の上のポニョ was a beautiful movie produced by a well-founded director does not entitle it to be called a good film."
Ha, I would ditto that, except replace "崖の上のポニョ" with "Avatar."

Oh, and personally, I was never on the "Wall-E" bandwagon. I like it, but it's a very uneven movie for me, and oddly cynical for a Pixar film... except at the end, because it miraculously ends all happy and full of hope and yadda yadda. And I can't help but feel it's insensitive to people who are obese. Imagine watching that movie with somebody who's morbidly overweight; would they think that fat people rolling around is amusing? It's not best picture-worthy to me. The first act was brilliant, though.

greentea said...

As in Brendan and the Secret of Kells? That is a surprise... I only saw a bit of a trailer for it. Seems like an Irish ghost-fairytale drawn in a Disney/Kim Possible style. Nice to see something more from the independant circle at least.

I don't think Coraline deserves to win. The music was the best part of it for me. Its visual aspects were good, but the mood and presentation of the characters and events was so... bland, and combined with an unoriginal story... just didn't impress me.

*Sigh* I do wish Ponyo was nominated... If Disney and Pixar can be nominated over and over and win, why not Ghibli? Doesn't make sense...

returnofthesmith said...

Even though it thought it was a pretty average movie overall, I think Avatar is a much watch for all Ghibli fanatics. James Cameron has mentioned in the past his fondness of the works of Miyazaki, especially the car chase in Castle of Cagliostro. Avatar shares alot of themes and imagery from several of Miyazaki's work, especially Nausicaa, Mononoke and Laputa. I am really suprised that these comparisons haven't really been discussed yet (probably because Daniel hasn't seen it yet).

Hoody said...

"Ponyo" was my single favorite film of 2009, along with "Up in the Air". Real nice, Academy. Pull your heads out...

darren-s said...

My five picks for animated movie of the year were:
Fantastic Mr Fox
Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs

I haven't seen The Princess and the Frog yet and I really have no desire too. I have seen Kells. It's a beautiful and stylish film. But it doesn't have a hope in hell.
I admire how much you have been championing Ponyo. I'm curious, where do you rank it in Miyazaki's career though? I've only seen it once, I will watch it again when it comes out on dvd. But I think it is one of his lesser works. It suffers from the same problem Howl's does. Which is it falls apart at the end. I was with Ponyo and Howl and then, in the third act, instead of coming together in a wonderful captivating way, they fizzled. Leaving me disappointed and wishing Miyazaki was as good as he used to be.

From the Oscar choices I am rooting for Mr Fox. It's the funniest and most clever animated film this year, in a year of many quality animated films. But if I were to wager money it would be on Up (obviously).

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

I am surprised that Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was not nominated. Perhaps there were just too many good films and too few available spaces. It's striking that three of the five nominees are for independent films. That said, it's somewhat greedy to hand Disney the remaining two. If Up was to receive a Best Picture nomination -a far higher honor than Best Animation Feature, in my view - then that should have opened up room for one more animated feature.

I don't wish to be critical of the three independent films, because I'm sure they're all good, and the Oscar nominations will hopefully boost their careers. I'm sure there is a much greater interest in Secret of Kells now.

Still, it's rediculous that Miyazaki wasn't honored. Ponyo was a terrific movie and a tremendous achievement in 2D animation. I wonder if Ponyo turned off Academy members? The movie was confusing to many American viewers, as we all know, so perhaps this was a factor.

At least Miyazaki can take comfort - Clint Eastwood was also snubbed this year for the high honors. Very strange.

Where would I rank Ponyo? I'm never the best judge on these matters, because I always come away infatuated with whatever Studio Ghibli movie I just watched. My "favorite" Miyazaki film is usually the most recent one I saw. They're all excellent. If pressed, I'd choose Miyazaki's career highlights: Horus, Heidi, Conan, Nausicaa, Totoro.

We'll have to have a poll of favorite Ghibli movies this past decade. I'm still trying to decide if multiple voting should be allowed. I'll probably just flip a coin for that.

Doug said...

I recently have seen "Cloudy" and thought it was really quite fun, and extremely entertaining. More fun than Up! that's for sure.

I've always been a fan of Pixar but honestly the last two left me feeling that this writing by committee needs to go. Both movies suffered from trying to please too many viewers to make them great films. The first 1/3 of WallE was worthy of the short film nod. The rest ...bleh. The first 3 minutes (or so) of UP! same scenario. It could have stopped there and I would have been satisfied.

I fully expected Ponyo to get snubbed. I was totally into the movie from start to finish and I believe it was far deeper than could be injested on one viewing. However, we're trying to pump up Hollywood here, make no mistake about it. And Hollywood has not much to gain by pushing America's consciousness towards a foreign, aging, single-minded, and enigmatic director and his "hard to understand" movies.

I'll probably be having this same discussion next year after seeing "The Illusionist". C'est la gare!

J.R.D.S. said...

The Secret of Kells is getting an actual release in the USA starting March 19 2010 and here is when you'll probably find out where when it does. At least you have a release date, if a probably very limited one. And if the Kells character designs are to be likened something let it at least be Genndy Tartakovsky rather than Kim Possible; some are even positively UPA-ish in their abstraction (even though the colouring and shading and so on of the film is not)…

I was so surprised at the lack of a Ponyo nomination (especially when there were five slots this year) that I didn't even notice until reading discussions today that the far more unexpected choice of Cartoon Saloon's Kells managed to get in. I'm tempted to prematurely claim that I prefer this result but it's not as if I've experienced either yet, so I'll reserve my opinion until then; with Ponyo that should be soon corrected as that's released in the UK in a couple of weeks but I'm still holding out for Kells to get distributed here, rather than buying the Irish DVD… And even this nod is no guarantee of that, as $9.99 never got any kind of release here.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so much upset about Ponyo getting snubbed as I am about Mary and Max getting snubbed. That was in my opinion the best animated film of the year.

But I am surprised that Ponyo didn't get in, because I honestly thought it was a no brainer choice just like Ghibli films have been in the past. I guess they were avoiding no brainer choices and trying to pretend that they think hard about their decisions. But if they were really thinking hard about their decisions they wouldn't have nominated that overrated Secret of Kells movie. I wouldn't be surprised if they only chose it because it was a foreign indy film, but if that's the case they should have chose Mary and Max instead!

I'm glad Fantastic Mr. Fox and Coraline got nominated though. Maybe they avoided Mary and Max because they didn't want to nominate too many stop motion films. Who knows, but I think they should nominate films based on how good they are and not on what technology they used (cough*Avatar*cough)

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