Friday, June 5, 2015

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Animated Feature 2008

The Contenders:

Kung Fu Panda
WALL-E (winner)

What’s Missing

The most obvious miss from this year’s releases, at least based on reputation, is Ponyo. I haven’t seen it, though, and it’s not one that people jump to when they talk about the work of Hayao Miyazaki. Still, Miyazaki tends to be good enough that I don’t feel strange mentioning it here. I did see Horton Hears a Who and it shouldn’t have been nominated, so I’m happy it wasn’t. The movie that I think is missing is Waltz with Bashir. It’s certainly not a title for kids, but it’s one that should have gotten some play, even if it didn’t stand a chance of winning.

Weeding through the Nominees

3: Bolt isn’t a terrible movie, but of the three nominees, it’s clearly the least. It’s a cute story, but it’s also a film that has no secrets for where it’s going to go, even for younger film viewers without the film viewing background of an adult viewer. There’s nothing here that screams that it really deserved a nomination. Waltz with Bashir would have been a better choice, even if it still would have likely come in third anyway.

2: I like WALL-E, but I like the first half of it a lot more than I like the second half. The first half is some of Pixar’s best storytelling. We get real characterization and a real sense of both WALL-E and EVE. The minute EVE shuts down and this becomes a space adventure, the movie loses quite a bit. It also hammers its message so completely that it ends up feeling oppressive instead of hopeful or charming. It’s good, but it didn’t deserve to win.

My Choice

1: Kung Fu Panda should have won. This has everything that a movie well-designed for kids should have, including being entertaining for the adults in the audience. It’s funny, has a great sense of adventure, and also manages to get in a good message. Smart kids will pick up on the message immediately, while the rest of the audience eventually has it explained, but even in this it’s much more gentle and subtle in what it delivers. And it even incorporates some nice touches of philosophy, and does so with humor and grace. It’s clearly the best animated film from 2008 and it should have been rewarded as such.

Final Analysis


  1. I agree with your rankings and your what should have made its. Waltz with Bashir was good enough to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, but not for Best Animated Film? Seriously? I think this is the Oscar's bias against rotoscoping as "not real animation" I mentioned in a previous comment. Here's the thing, though; this film wasn't rotoscoped. It was shot live action, but then instead of painting over it they simply used it for reference when doing the animation.

    And I've seen Ponyo. While it probably wouldn't make my Miyazaki Top 5, it's still at least as good as Bolt.

    Maybe if there had been five nominations instead of three these two would have made it. Or not. Horton Hears a Who probably would have taken one of those spots.

    I've never gotten around to seeing it, even though it sounds interesting, but Sita Sings the Blues would be another potential good animated film from 2008.

  2. I've heard of Sita Sings the Blues and it's one I should probably see at some point. From what I understand, it's a miss in my first paragraph.

    Your comment on Waltz with Bashir was exactly my thinking. This is a movie that's good enough to be considered one of the five best non-English language movies of its year, but it's not better than Bolt?

    There are a few years (like 2003) where it was a stretch to get three nominees, which is the only excuse for a nomination for something like Brother Bear. I'm happy that this category has evidently moved to five nominees regularly, because as this year demonstrates, there are often enough misses in the category to warrant five nominees.

    1. If I remember correctly, the number of nominees on the ballot depends on the number of eligible films the Academy can think of. I think there needs to be at least 20 eligible films for there to be five nominees. Less than that means only three nominees. If I am remembering correctly then this means the Academy couldn't think of at least 20 animated feature films in 2008. A quick search of IMDB shows 127. Admittedly, I've never heard of most of them.

    2. I wasn't aware of that rule. It's likely that a good number of that 127 were direct-to-video, but I'd be shocked if there were fewer than 20 animated theatrical releases in 2008.

    3. I got curious and I found this. It's from Wikipedia, but lists the Oscar rules itself as a source.

      "Academy Award nominations and winners are chosen by the members of the AMPAS. If there are 16 or more films submitted for the category, the winner is voted from a shortlist of five films, which has happened six times, otherwise there will only be three films on the shortlist.[1] Additionally, eight eligible animated features must have been theatrically released in Los Angeles County within the calendar year for this category to be activated."

      So it's not even 20, it's 16. The key word might be "submitted", though. It sounds like if a studio doesn't bother to file paperwork for an animated film they did then it isn't considered for nomination; AMPAS doesn't just ask "what animated films were released last year?"

      And I love how the studios have to actually release their movies in the same county as where the Academy is located or there won't even be a category at all, no matter how many films are submitted.

    4. The "released in our county" rule is simply more evidence that the Academy frequently enjoys the odor of its own exhaust, which was more or less the reason I started this feature in the first place.

      Actually, there is a specific award in a specific year that pissed me off enough to warrant doing this feature each week. When I get to that one, I'll let you know.

  3. Of the three nominees, I've only seen Wall•E The Winner. Seems I'll have to hunt down the other two – and Waltz with Bashir – as well, judging from opinions here.

    1. You can comfortably skip Bolt. It's not bad, but it's not worth going out of your way to see. Kung Fu Panda is essential viewing in my opinion.