Oscar's Animation Ghetto

Reader and Ghibli Freak Tim Maughan wrote an interesting comment that got me thinking today. I posted a couple replies in the comments section, but decided I should also throw it up on the main page.

Here's what Tim wrote:

"I have to say - with the exception of last year's Wall-E - I'm not much of a Pixar fan. Their stuff looks too plastic for me, and over-animated. Plus I was hoping Ponyo might get a look in for the Oscar next year, but no - I'm sure this will grab it for Pixar. Ah well."

This got me thinking about the Oscars and their Animation categories, and here are my thoughts on the matter, with a couple of edits and additions:

Yes, it's probably a foregone conclusion that Pixar will grab yet another Oscar for Up. The sorry ghetto of the "animation" category all but precludes it. Of course, if there was actually some worthwhile competition, maybe things would change.

I do expect Ponyo to be nominated, but given the usual politics of the Oscar Academy, Miyazaki has already been given his Oscar in honor of his prestigous career. His name is famous enough for his movies to be nominated, while great movies such as Persepolis, Paprika, Tekkon Kinkreet, Innocence and Mind Game were ignored.

The Best Animated Film category is a ghetto largely because of the Academy's prejudices. They've got better things to do with their time than watch a bunch of silly kiddie cartoons, especially those weird ones where all the people talk funny. Just give the damn statue to Pixar and be done with it.

Mind you, my criticism is with the Motion Picture Academy, not any of the nominees. It's the Academy that follows the same tired, predictable formulas, the same hackneyed "dramas" for the major Oscars, year in, year out. There are many great movies that have been shuffled off into ghettos - animation, documentaries, and foreiegn movies. I think all of these are worthy of the top honors.

My favorite movie of 2008 was Werner Hertzog's Encounters at the End of the World. I think some of this decade's best movies have been documentaries, and if you're lucky enough to live in a large enough city, you were able to see many of them in your local theater. All I can say is, thank goodness for DVD and Netflix.

As for animation, we already have seen Piece, Sita Sings the Blues, Bashir's Waltz, and Coraline. What are the odds those films will see nominations? Fat chance. The slots are already reserved for "Pixar Movie," "Disney Movie," and "Dreamworks Movie." There ain't no room left. Sorry. The Best Animation Short category might fare better, but it's a woefully overlooked and underappreciated category. If any class of movies deserved to thrive in the age of YouTube and iTunes, it's short films.

Oh, and just for the record, my favorite movie of the 2000's is....envelope, please...

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Discuss! Tawk amongst yourselves!


Tim Maughan said...

LOL - thanks for the mention man. I think you hit the nail on the head there - I'm confused as to why the Oscar must be limited to three nominations. In fact, I wrote a short piece on Oshii's failure to get a shout this year:

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Yeah, actually, Oshii's last few movies haven't been seen or heard from over here. Innocence was the last one. What's the name of his movie where he animated still photos of real people? I really wanted to see that, just because the idea seemed so good. Yuasa did the same thing in one scene from Mind Game.

Oh, and Toshio Suzuki had a small part in that movie, too. I guess it's time to dig around and catch up.

When it comes to foreign movies, animation is just left out in the cold. They are really only considered once there has been a US release, even if only in New York and L.A. But this comes back to the problem of the Motion Picture Academy handing out all the nominations to that summer's offerings from the Hollywood studios.

Ah, well. We shouldn't complain, really. Promoting these sort of movies is what we're supposed to be doing. Thanks for visiting and all your good work. I'm telling myself to mention your recent Ghibli Museum posts one of these days. I'll be sure to read your Oshii posts, too.

Tim Maughan said...

Tachiguishi-Retsuden: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters is the Oshii film you're thinking of (I think). It is worth seeing, very experimental. You must also, when you get the chance, check out Sky Crawlers - which I think is one of his bravest works to date.

And thanks for the kind words - means a lot, have been a big fan of this site for a while now - keep it up!

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Yeah, thanks. I just Googled Fast Food Grifters and read a few reviews on it. That was definitely something that was on my radar, but it appears to be just a little too "inside baseball" for the non-Japanese audience. I understand the DVD doesn't include English subtitles, which is unfortunate. If that's so, I hope there's a fansub available somewhere.

As for Sky Crawlers, I'm surprised it hasn't been picked up for US distribution. Mamoru Oshii is a popular enough name in anime circles to at least warrant a small theatrical run and DVD release.

Oshii is definitely an interesting character. I might have to write more about him and his work sometime.

Geoff N said...

Hey guys,

just to let you know, it is possible for the nomination shortlist to contain 5 films instead of 3. For that to happen though, 16 animated films need to qualify for the Academy Award.

This has only happened once since the Oscars created a "Best Animated Feature" category back in 2001. In 2002, when Spirited Away won, there were 5 nominations.

As for "Waltz with Bashir", that film got a nomination in the 2008 "Best Foreign Language Film" category.

Lastly, have any of your heard of or seen the film "Piano no mori"? (Piano Forest) I recently watched the Subbed version on youtube, great film. It was nominated for the Best Animated Film at Japan Academy Awards, but lost out to "Tekkonkinkreet"

Geoff N said...

Oh, and as for "The Sky Crawlers", it is being released on DVD/Blu-Ray on May 26th.

Tim Maughan said...

Ah, you beat me to it Geoff;) Was just dropping in to give some details about the SC release.

Plus it's been a while, but I'm pretty sure the version I saw of Tachiguishi-Retsuden had fansubs..

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