The Oscars Relationship With Animation

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So, I’m sure no one saw the Oscar nomination reveals and no one cares, even though we all care and get mad no matter what happens. All joking aside, in general, the Oscars this year is exceptionally fantastic. It has lots of variety in films, directors, actors, and movies. I know some are bummed out about Wonder Woman not headlining any awards even though it was one of the most important films of the year, but I get it.  However, out of all the categories to cause uproar, it was the ghettos of the Best Animated Feature category. The five officially nominated animated films for this category are Coco, Loving Vincent, The Breadwinner, Ferdinand, and The Boss Baby. I’m sure reading and knowing that, the Sesame Street song of “One of these things is not like the other” pops right up in your mind as you stare at those five films. Of course, the one that’s causing the biggest issue for many is The Boss Baby. Out of any movie, this is the one causing the biggest stir. Does it deserve such hate? Or is the problem deeper and grayer than black and white?

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Let’s get the personal subjective opinion out of the way first before we can get into the more layered conversation pieces of this editorial. In my personal opinion, I think The Boss Baby can be a very charming and a very funny movie with some downright amazing and trippy animation. However, seeing it as an overall film, it’s not great. It has a weak story, forgettable characters, and the film’s lineups of jokes don’t bring in many laughs. It only was a financial hit because it lined up its release with the very popular Alec Baldwin Donald Trump skits from SNL. It’s a mostly flat experience, but it’s also fairly harmless with a solid amount of creativity. It simply needed more fleshing out in the story and world-building department. It is a tad distracting to see an organization that’s all about awarding and giving attention to the best of the best from every year, nominate a film with a 52% overall score on Rotten Tomatoes and was not a critical or audience hit. I could think of 10 or so films that could take its spot. In short, I don’t like that it took one of those spots.

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Now then, let’s dive into the conundrum of the category of “Best Animated Feature”. The first question that comes up is what should be considered for a spot in this category? Well, since film is a visual medium and The Boss Baby does have some rather impressive animation, should that be enough to just have amazing animation? On the other hand, film does rely on a good story, writing, and characters. The Boss Baby, in terms of critic and audience reaction to it, was found to be lacking, so that should disqualify it from the running, despite having amazing animation. Does that mean the five contenders should have good writing, story, and characters? I mean, we kind of expect high quality animation for these awards. Even with this current conundrum, the voters wouldn’t be dumb enough to vote for something like Norm of the North.   But does that mean we should sacrifice the quality of the animation if we look at these award nominees in terms of story, writing, and characters?

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Okay then, so, what about the Academy itself? Can a lot of this be put on them? Well, we saw this coming when they announced that the voting pool was going to be open for all Academy members, and my overly hopeful editorial from last year thought it wouldn’t change. It’s not like it was a surprise that this could have happened. With this side of the argument, does that mean the Academy should bring back the voting limitations? On one hand, they probably should. You have a branch for the people that work in animation for this reason. Why on earth would you let outsiders who don’t know jack, and don’t even watch every film (which is funny since most foreign animated films are at the very least, 75 minutes long) into an area that was specially made for one group of voters and only that group of voters? You don’t tell a football player to bake a cake for a baking competition, why would you want anyone else, but the animation section of the academy to vote on this category? Then again, the entire point of opening up the voter account to non-animation individuals was to open up nominees of more casually popular films. I know that sounds like a bad idea, but then again, don’t we constantly criticize the Oscars for nominating and awarding critically acclaimed films that no one gets to see until like, the last minute on demand or a month before the awards? Shouldn’t we have more than what the critics got to see in limited screenings? You could argue they opened up the voting because animation is getting more recognition, since a lot of the most successful films of every year are animated films. At the same time though, the Academy is cynical about praising the best of the best, so why would they choose a film with such negative reviews to nominate, besides the obvious fact that DreamWorks marketed that film hard to the Academy?

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So, how would I solve this? I don’t know if I have a right answer to this situation. I mean, yeah, the obvious solution would be to gate off the animation section again, and have them vote for that section only. That way, something like The Boss Baby doesn’t get through again. Or, maybe the Academy needs to do something like the Annies, and have a US theatrical feature category and a foreign animated feature category to make it fair for both sides. I feel like the Academy needs to define what qualifies for certain categories, and not let it be handled by how much a studio is willing to give to individual voters. I feel like being more limiting would be regressive, and if we want to see improvement, and have more diverse films getting nominated, we need to be open to change. Maybe talking about how studios bribe/market their films to voters should be its own discussion, along with how if you are an Academy voter, you should watch every film being nominated. In the end, let’s be real, Coco is going to win, and The Boss Baby won’t. Let’s keep the conversation going though. What do you think about The Boss Baby being nominated? Do you think it deserves it? Doesn’t deserve it? Or do you think it’s a bigger problem with the Academy in general?

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