I thought maybe this year would be slightly different, and it wasn’t. It all started a few months ago when the Academy announced their nominations, and to my surprise some key films were not even mentioned. The Lego Movie, which was debatable, felt totally forgotten. An amazing masterpiece of a film in The Book of Life also not mentioned. The second of those movies could have been mentioned for a lot more than being a good film. Best set design that was filled with amazing Day of the Dead history, best song with “I Love You Too Much,” or they could have simply awarded it for groundbreaking technology being in full VR during some tech shows. Yet, nothing.
Instead they did nominate another of my favorite films of the year, How To Train Your Dragon 2. Now there is a lot of reason why I’m mad, but I’ll start off with this. Big Hero 6 was not a bad film and I’m a comic book fan so of course I’m happy for them at least winning. Yet it’s like nominating second best just because Disney hosts the event.
Look at it this way, since 2000 (when animation was finally added) Disney has won the award 9 times. Granted they only lost 3 times because in 2005 and 2011 they didn’t have a movie listed. Dreamworks has only won the award 1 time with Shrek, back in 2001. Plus the award has only ever been given to a gamble one time with Spirited Away in 2002, a beautiful Japanese film. This isn’t the first time How To Train Your Dragon was nominated and (unlike other Dreamworks movies) it deserved it both times. Both times it lost to a Disney film. First to Toy Story 3 and now to Big Hero 6, which is ironic considering the Academy is normally against sequels and comic book films.
Again, Big Hero 6 is not a terrible film; it was what you expect from animation. It was as “by the book” as you can get, which is fine. Trust me, I’m not the only one that feels this way either. Every animation board I visited was immediately shocked by the announcement and filled with “Big Hero 6 is alright, but HTTYD2 deserved it.” It’s almost like we are judging animation based on how they follow the “Disney formula,” since Disney started animation (Pixar started 3D animation too), and guess what? Disney can do Disney best, we get it, but isn’t it time to evolve?
How To Train Your Dragon is just like The Book of Life and could be branched out to all kinds of areas. We could even add in audio with great voice over work and the awesome score to go with the film. We could even push the film into best screenplay because the story was brilliant, and as a writer myself I think it could have totally pushed for a victory here. Yet for some reason we must confine animation to one category and every now and then allow it to have “best song” when Disney wants to market a song on the Disney Channel…
Why did it deserve better? It went in a direction that not many animated movies were prepared to go. It handled the idea of death without brushing it over, which I felt Big Hero 6 did. There were many critics asking “is this too much” after Dragon 2 released and the answer was no. We had a death and our main character dealt with it, and he overcame it. It was a powerful movie that wasn’t afraid of “grown up” ideas. The film didn’t need a “cute sidekick” for easy laughs like your stereotypical animation approach, and instead utilized great scripting to casually lead into laughter. The world they brought to life felt so authentic and wasn’t trying to be “big,” instead it felt magical. (Soaring through the clouds is one of my favorite scene’s.) It felt so far ahead of modern animation by going in a direction that never seems to get done. I even mentioned this film should have at least been nominated for best film.
Why is that idea so far-fetched? Why can an animated movie not be nominated for best screenplay with its story and dialogue? Why can’t it be nominated for best picture for moving you emotionally and breaking new ground? Why do animated movies need to be shoved off to the corner and put in simply so companies like Pixar stop asking you to nominate them for anything? How is it fair?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting an animated movie to win anything important any time soon, but what I mentioned to my friends was that they should at least nominate them. You don’t need to award them, just nominate them. I read a comment from James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) that basically said he was thankful that the Academy nominated his movie for specific categories, and was beyond thrilled he was listed as “should win” during many outlet predictions. Yet with all that being said he still stated “we don’t stand a chance at winning anything.” It’s the appreciation you get for just being nominated that counts.
The past few years we have had so many great animated films that it feels odd shoving a select few into one category and then only highlighting one of them. This is like taking every video game ever made, picking 5 of them, and saying this ONE is Game of the Year and leaving it at that. How many good games would be left out that you could highlight elsewhere? That’s how it feels as of late with films like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Despicable Me, and an endless list of animated features being forgotten and this is just the mainstream ones. (See, I’m not saying Disney should never win!)
Give animation some respect for what they are doing by telling these amazing stories and bringing these worlds to life. Isn’t that what film is all about? I’ve seen many films be nominated that were simply celebrating culture, or showcasing culture in their film, so that is why I found it completely absurd The Book of Life was not nominated for anything. As for How To Train Your Dragon 2, it deserved a best film nod let alone best animation.
Giving credit where credit is due, they did nominate Song of the Sea which too could be argued into several other categories! “Lullaby” should have totally won best song!
If you enjoy my take on The Oscars, be sure to read why I think video game stories would never win an award too!