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David Poland

By David Poland

Woe For Pixar… Heavy Hangs The Crown

A wacky Patrick Goldstein column. So odd, I almost think that the author twisted himself into a rhetorical pretzel to avoid being accused to writing the column in payment for the Disney ads that surround it. Almost. Probably not.

The reason Pixar is not seriously in the running to win Best PIcture has some history.

1. Beauty & The Beast is the first animated picture nominated for Best Picture in 1991.
2. The Lion King doesn’t get nominated for Best Picture in 1994.
3. The Academy creates a Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2001.
4. The pressure for Best Picture nominations for animation subsides.
5. The Academy switches to 10 nominees for Best Picture in 2009.
6. Up gets nominated for Best Picture and wins Best Animated Feature
7. Toy Story 3 gets nominated for Best Picture and wins Best Animated Feature.
8. For the first time in modern 10 nomination history, no animated film gets nominated for Best Picture and Happy Feet 2 wins Best Animated Feature.

Oh… got ahead of myself.

But this is no different than foreign language or documentary. When you give a genre its own category, the Best Picture race becomes almost impossible. The same principle speaks to the Indie Spirit Awards, which if you are presumed to be the inevitable winner in the ISA’s Picture category, makes your film unlikely to win the Oscar. It has nothing to do with not appreciating the work. It has to do with human nature.

Moreover… the idea that a Rotten Tomatoes perspective on Best Picture is relevant is just stupid. Every year there are movies of the moment. And sometimes they get nominations… sometimes even wins… but often, by the time the year end roles around, they are forgotten by Academy voters.

I loved Toy Story 3. And it won’t be in my personal Top 5 this year. It’s not because it’s animated. It’s no because I don’t appreciate the magic work being done by Pixar. It’s because the film, terrific as it is, just doesn’t bring the weight of some of the other films I have seen. It doesn’t bring the weight, for me, of Up or Ratatouille or The Lion King. That’s the way things roll.

And just to make one point… the sentence, “If there were ever something that Hollywood should be embarrassed about, it’s that Pixar has never won an Oscar for best picture — despite making 11 consecutive commercially successful and critically acclaimed movies,” is journalistically grotesque.

There are so very many things for Hollywood to be embarrassed about… or to even think about for a single minute…but Pixar not winning Best Picture? Seriously? How would that ever make the agenda? Pixar has won only 5 of 9 Best Animated Feature Oscars. So in four of those years, in spite of quality and commercial success, The Academy didn’t even see Pixar’s films as the best of the animated films. Scratch those of the outrage list. Neither of the first two Toy Storys nor A Bug’s Life had a category to compete in, aside from Best Picture.

So… should Up have beat The Hurt Locker? Not on my dance car… and I adore Up.
Was Wall-E better than Slumdog MIllionaire? Some would say, ‘yes.” Not me.
How about The Rat? More deserving than The Coen Bros and No Country For Old Men?
The Incredibles lost to a little movie called Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
And Finding Nemo over Chicago? Personally, I’d go for that one… but one strong case doesn’t make for the most embarrassing failure in Hollywood this week, much less of all time.

Just saying… Pixar has five Oscars. That’s more than Hillary Swank!!! Put your Kleenex™ away.

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23 Responses to “Woe For Pixar… Heavy Hangs The Crown”

  1. bradz says:

    The Incredibles would have been up against Million Dollar Baby. Which was shit.

  2. Rob says:

    Does anyone watch The Good Wife? I don’t usually, but I caught an episode last week featuring Ana Gasteyer as a judge who forces lawyers on both sides to end every sentence with “in my opinion.”

    That’s what I want to do when Patrick “informs” us that, say, Ratatouille is as good as Atonement. Because the Academy didn’t agree, and they have no obligation to represent anyone’s opinion but their own.

    Now this is the part when IO chimes in that if the Academy wants anyone to watch the ceremony they’ll have to nominate Iron Man 2.

  3. MarkVH says:

    “So… should Up have beat The Hurt Locker?”

    Yep. Abso-freaking-lutely.

  4. Brian says:

    What bradz said.

    And Finding Nemo would have been up against LOTR 3.

    Pixar has only lost twice (Shrek over Monsters Inc. and Happy Feet over Cars). They didn’t have a film the years Chicago and Crash won.

  5. Right there with you, MarkVH. I thought UP was easily the best picture of the year. Not hating on HURT LOCKER, it just didn’t do it for me.

    In my naive way, I was actually hoping for some sort of AVATAR/HURT LOCKER split thereby allowing UP in — hey, a girl can dream.

    But Dave is right, too. CROUCHING TIGER and LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL got the nods, but were never gonna go all the way because they have their own category.

    I loved TS3, and expect it will receive a Best Pic nom, but don’t believe it should win.

    In my opinion.

  6. Edward Havens says:

    “Pixar has won only 5 of 9 Best Animated Feature Oscars. So in four of those years, in spite of quality and commercial success, The Academy didn’t even see Pixar’s films as the best of the animated films.”

    Correction… Pixar is 5 of 7. Two of the years, 2002 and 2005, Pixar did not have a movie in the marketplace. You can’t win if you don’t play.

  7. The Pope says:

    “You can’t win if you don’t play.”

    Yes Edward Havens, but if you don’t play, you don’t win. So, Pixar is still won five times out of the nine years the animation category has been in play.

    On another note, is animation a genre? Surely not. You can have comedies, action-adventures, sci-fi, war, romance, musicals etc. They can be live action or animation. So to prove my point… is live-action a genre? Surely not.

  8. Keil Shults says:

    Ratatouille and Zodiac should have been nominated for Best Picture in 2008, alongside TWBB, NCFOM, and something else.

    Wall-E and Up were both probably good enough to be among a list of Top 5 Best Pic nominees for their respective years, though Wall-E’s second half is not nearly as great as its first. In fact, both Wall-E and Up both seem to lose some steam during their action-packed final acts, which may be why I feel like Ratatouille has always been Pixar’s greatest and most complete achievement. Of course, the original Toy Story is right up there too.

    TS3, however, has not held up well after only a second viewing. It’s still a really good movie and amusing as hell, but it certainly feels less strong, cohesive, and compulsively watchable as its predecessors. It feels more like a string of comedic bits than a really solid story. One of my year’s Top 10? Probably. Worthy of Best Picture? No way.

  9. Direwolf says:

    Curious about this comment:

    “It’s because the film, terrific as it is, just doesn’t bring the weight of some of the other films I have seen. It doesn’t bring the weight, for me, of Up or Ratatouille or The Lion King.”

    Shouldn’t the comparison be between TS3 and King’s Speech or Winter’s Bone or True Grit, etc? Or is the reality that Pixar needs to truly make its best film ever to win despite that year’s competition?

  10. hcat says:

    Pope – Animation is not a genre any more than foreign language (which has comedy, drama, action) is.

  11. IOv3 says:

    Yeah yeah yeah Rob. Inception is where it’s at this year but you just wanted to be a funny guy. Ha ha ha. So funny.

    That aside, Up was indeed Oscar worthy. You sure as shit better believe that Slumdog does not deserve it’s Oscar. That Oscar would be better off associated with Wall-E but you know, the Academy love making moronic decisions, so Slumdog fits right in with their moronic decision quota.

    So, yeah, Pixar should have at least two Best Picture Oscars. Hell, let’s be honest, and give them another one for Toy Story 2. That’s three awards it should have but Poland is not alone is his thinking and Pixar will never get their due.

  12. Sam says:

    Stupidly reductive quote from that article:

    “If you look at Oscar winners from the 1930s through the 1960s, they were often crowd-pleasing films that were rewarded for their entertainment value, not necessarily for any weighty drama or social themes. The winners list includes such popcorn pictures as 1934’s “It Happened One Night,” 1942’s “Casablanca,” 1956’s “Around the World in 80 Days,” 1963’s “Tom Jones!” or 1968’s “Oliver!” Even as late as 1976, “Rocky” beat “Taxi Driver” and “All the President’s Men.””

    Admittedly, I do prefer the popcorn thrill rides “Gentleman’s Agreement,” “All the King’s Men,” “On the Waterfront,” “The Lost Weekend,” and “A Man For All Seasons” to the pompous arthouse meditations “Chicago,” “Gladiator,” “The Departed,” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

  13. leahnz says:

    animation is a technique, not a genre

  14. Keil Shults says:

    @Sam: How are any of those films you named “arthouse meditations?” I don’t particularly think that any of them were the best films of their respective years, so I’m not simply whining because I love the movies you’re chastising. I honestly don’t understand how you could label any of those movies as “arthouse meditations,” let alone pompous ones.

  15. Brian D says:

    Keil Shults says:
    I honestly don’t understand how you could label any of those movies as “arthouse meditations,” let alone pompous ones.

    I’m afraid you missed the dripping (and artful) sarcasm in Sam’s comment.

  16. hcat says:

    The problem is in the quote, in 1942 Casablanca was not considered a popcorn picture and its themes were highly relevant and weighty at the time.

  17. leahnz says:

    having now read goldstein’s rather tinpot article, i’d venture the reason no animated feature has won best pic – and won’t for quite some time – has nothing to do with anything mentioned in the article or here thus far for that matter and everything to do with WHO votes for the ‘best pic’ award: the entire academy, of which actors are still the largest voting block (at least as far as i know).

    animated film-making is not the same as live-action film-making, involving a very different skill set dependant on virtual artists and technicians. the academy voters are largely comprised of branch members who work/have worked in traditional areas of film-making such as acting, designing, directing, photography, etc., – involving a certain degree of manual labour – and these traditional artists/techs are unlikely to judge animation on the same level as live-action film-making, wherein logistics and the components required to make a real-world movie are far more difficult to achieve than that required for the virtual world of animation, as wonderful and moving and heart-felt as animation can be.

    perhaps ‘avatar’ has provided a bit of a litmus test and signaled a sea change/broken down the barriers in traditional thinking with the advent of so-called ‘photo-real’ rendered mo-cap with actor-dependant perfs and virtual photography blended with live-action photography with seamless compositing muddying the waters, but the fact is a bunch of actors who only hear their voices but don’t see their faces and production/costume designers and photographers and directors and such who don’t see their ‘real’ blood sweat and tears up there on the screen but rather virtual versions are very unlikely to vote for an animated feature as the ‘best’ example of film-making for any year, it goes goes against the grain of their professional endeavour.

    this is why a separate category for the technique of animation was instituted, to honour those films that supposedly excel within the parameters of the art-form. clearly there is admiration for the art-form, but as yet there isn’t parity in terms of the attitudes of the film-makers who vote for the award — and perhaps there never will be.

  18. Edward Havens says:

    Pope, by your logic, 99% of the people here are Oscar losers. Doesn’t work that way. But I guess it’s my bad for not pulling the quote as good as I could. Let’s try it again…

    “Pixar has won only 5 of 9 Best Animated Feature Oscars. So in four of those years, in spite of quality and commercial success, The Academy didn’t even see Pixar’s films as the best of the animated films.”

    Which proves my point valid. Two of those four years Poland talks about, the Academy could not see a Pixar film as the best of the animated films that year because Pixar did not release a film in those years.

  19. IOv3 says:

    Leah, the acting branch may be unlike to vote for an animated film but let’s be honest: animated films get a lot of actors fact paychecks and for that alone, they should be willing to throw a truly great Animated film a win one day.

  20. leahnz says:

    maybe. i had a quick look and the acting branch is the largest but only 25%, so if pixar for example is ever going to win ‘the big one’, more than just the acting branch will have to come round to vote as ‘best’ a style of film-making in which most of their ilk have no place. a hard row to hoe.

  21. Triple Option says:

    Could it be that animated films are facing a double hurdle? Besides the aforementioned theory about their own category, could the fact that they most are essentially comedies, which no matter how good generally get no love from the voting members?

    Next, I remember how there was all this talk following LoTR: Return/King, (or whatever the 3rd one was), that it was really viewed/(judged) as one 3 part complete work, not the last film being so great to clean up at the Oscars while the other by virtue of comparison were basically ignored. If this were/is the case, do you think Toy 3 would have a better shot if it was made closer in succession as the previous two?

    There were aspects of all three Toy movies that I liked, however, only the 3rd had me bawlin’ like a little 10-yr-old. Which, ironically, I’m not so sure they would’ve been moved to tears by the ending as adults.

    It may take a perfect storm to happen, like down year, it being directed by a well known and respected live action person, heavy storyline, but I suppose I could see it happening. Though I could also see it being sort of a makeup award. Like assuming the forthcoming comic book films step their game up and one finally gets an award but purists always harking back to some thing like The Dark Knight should’ve won. Not sure what I’d bet to first win a BP statue, animated or superhero flick. The Academy could be happy doing montage tribute after tribute but neeever quite handing over the gold for one.

  22. LexG says:

    Cartoons aren’t movies.

    See also: Documentaries.

    Seems pretty simple to me.

  23. I’m pretty sure you have to be a certain age (post-college at least) to cry at the end of Toy Story 3 (same with Up). I openly and loudly wept at both of them. But then I’ve become a full-blown sentimentalist over the last half-decade; even before I had a kid. I’m hoping Pixar has a sense of humor and advertises Cars 2 as ‘come see the Pixar film that won’t leave you devastated and an emotional wreck on the drive home!’

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