Friday, April 17, 2015

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Animated Feature 2001

The Contenders:

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Monsters, Inc.
Shrek (winner)

What’s Missing

When a new award is brought into the Oscar fold, there’s always a bit of fumbling around until a better sense of the award is understood. With Best Animated Feature, this took some time, as evidenced by the number of years with only a trio of nominees. I could, for instance, mention the miss on Miyazaki’s Spirited Away for 2001, but it was nominated (and won) the following year. Millennium Actress was at least visually interesting, although I wouldn’t have picked it to win. I’ve heard the same about Metropolis, but I haven’t seen that. I also haven’t seen Waking Life, but again, this was a new award in 2001, and evidently the Academy didn’t want to even consider films that weren’t done specifically for kids.

Weeding through the Nominees

3: I rather like the nomination for Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. While the film itself has some significant issues—it’s too short and involves the main character essentially causing xenocide—it’s inventive and creative and has a unique visual appeal. It’s an ultimately forgettable movie, though, which works to its detriment against the other two nominated films. It’s the worst of a good lot, more or less, and there’s no chance of it winning against its competition.

My Choices

2: I didn’t expect that an award category with only three entries would be this difficult, but here we are, with me picking two out of those three as appropriate choices. I like Shrek a lot. This is a funny, funny movie that works for an audience of any age. It’s cleverly written start to finish and has good, memorable characters. It also plays very interestingly with the damsel in distress meme, since Princess Fiona, who demands to be rescued to fulfill a romantic ideal, is capable of taking care of herself. The race here is close for me. Of the two top films in this category, I think Shrek is a lot funnier. I don’t have a serious objection to Shrek’s win, but I wouldn’t have picked it.

1: Monsters, Inc. is a better film. Both films are incredibly creative, have great stories, and work with established stories and expectations beautifully. And yes, Shrek is a funnier movie. Monsters, Inc., far more than Shrek gives us complete characters (not that Shrek doesn’t) and gives us a logically consistent world. It’s also a film with moments that are emotionally intense enough to cause my eyes to leak. That’s exceptional in the first place and even more so when the cause is a blue and purple furry monster. Ultimately, Monsters, Inc. is the more human story and the more universal one, and it should have won.

Final Analysis


  1. I haven't seen Jimmy Neutron. I've seen the other two, of course. I'd call them co-winners. I like them both quite a bit.

    I've seen Waking Life and I hated it. I equated it with being trapped at a cocktail party with a bunch of people, all of whom are shouting their opinions on things you care little to nothing about, and every few minutes someone's voice manages to drown out the others for a bit.

    It got some critical praise, though. The animation style is rotoscoping (painted over live action film) so perhaps some people felt that wasn't "real" animation. Linklater used it to much better effect in his later film A Scanner Darkly (which also didn't get nominated). In fact, we've had hand drawn, cgi, and stop motion films all nominated for the Oscar, but have we had a rotoscoped one? I can't think of one right now. I also can't think of one that combined animation and live action (i.e. The Lego Movie, Avatar, etc.)

    1. I seriously considered "co-winners" for this, but I prefer not to have a tie. I really have no problem with Shrek winning. It's a hell of a good movie.

      I don't know if rotoscoping is common enough to make it a "thing" that one hasn't been nominated yet.

    2. I realized later that this year's nominee The Box Trolls has a very brief scene of live action mixed with stop motion animation in it, but nowhere to the extent of The LEGO Movie or Avatar.

      I also realized I had left out motion capture animation films (i.e. Avatar again, 2007's Beowulf, etc.) I don' think any of those have been nominated, either. Monster House might be one. I have a vague memory of watching an extra for it that showed kids in motion capture outfits with the ping pong balls on them.

      I tried to do a search on rotoscoping for a keyword on IMDB, but it was returning movies like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (opening credits, maybe?), so I gave up on the results.

    3. It would be interesting to look at. Unfortunately, this particular award hasn't been around long enough for us to really look at any meaningful trends.

  2. Shrek and Monsters Inc are both so close to my heart hat my preference would depend on the day that you ask. I see and agree on your points for both of them, just do not ask me to choose. They are also good case examples of why sequels is a menace. Both movies would be better off standing alone instead of being the begining of a franchise.

    1. I can't speak to the sequels on Shrek because I haven't seen them. I agree that Monsters University is very much in the bottom tier for Pixar films.

    2. While I wouldn't put it above the original, but I do think Monsters University is a one of those Pixar films that's a lot better than many give it credit, mostly because it subverts the typical kids movie formula of the hero achieving everything he desires, and replaces with not always fulfilling your dreams because sometimes you may not have the natural talent of what you want to become, no matter how hard you try to prove yourself.

      Sure with many of us being familiar of the original, we all know how things with turn out, but for the sake of the story, it's a good message to send to children just to show them what real life is about.

    3. I think that's a fair point, so while I'll agree with you that the message is an interesting one, I'm not sold on the movie that gives us that message.

  3. This is an easy one for me. I thought Monsters Inc. was way better than Shrek. To me Shrek was one long predictable movie with bad jokes and a predictable ending. Monsters Inc. was much more creative and with more heart in my book. Then again, I guess people rate them close to even, so maybe I missed something with Shrek.

    1. We'll disagree on Shrek. I think there are a lot of very good jokes in it, much of them spoken by Donkey. And, in truth, a lot of those jokes work specifically because of how Eddie Murphy says the lines. But I agree that Monsters, Inc. is a better film overall, and I completely agree that it has much more of an emotional footprint.