Friday, July 1, 2016

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Animated Feature 2009

The Contenders:

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up (winner)

What’s Missing

I’m often surprised by what I find when I investigate the movies in a particular category for a particular year. While I think this is a decent collection of nominees, I liked Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs better than a couple of the actual nominations. A Town Called Panic might get a nomination today, but may have been too much for the Academy in 2009. The biggest clear miss is Mary & Max, which I think would contend for the top position here in any year. I haven’t seen Monsters Vs. Aliens, so I can’t comment. I also thought 9 was a huge disappointment. It had so much promise and fell down so hard that I’m ultimately happy it wasn’t nominated.

Weeding through the Nominees

5: My problem with Fantastic Mr. Fox is that I have no idea of its intended audience. It’s so clearly a Wes Anderson film that it seems beyond an audience of children, and yet this is clearly a film intended for children. The only possible audience for this is the children of Wes Anderson fans, and I have to wonder how many of them there are. It doesn’t work for me on any level, and even the Wes Anderson fans I know generally think this is his weakest film. It doesn’t belong here.

4. The Princess and the Frog gets points for two things. First, unlike many Disney princess films, with Tiana we have someone who is actively working toward the future she wants instead of just sitting around waiting for a guy to solve all of her problems. Second, it has a great villain in Dr. Facilier, who should rank among the greats in the pantheon of Disney baddies. The problem is that the story isn’t that great and the original fairy tale isn’t that interesting, either. It’s a good step for Disney, as was their first African-American princess, but it falls short of true greatness in what Disney can do.

3. The first time I saw Coraline I really liked it. On the rewatch for the review, I found some things about it that I didn’t like nearly as much. One of the big problems is that the end of the film relies on the actions of a character not included in the original story, I think there are some real problems with Coraline in general that go beyond this, though. It’s a fine little movie and one that offers a few genuine kid-themed scares, which I appreciate. It’s just not nearly as good on a rewatch as I’d like, and that’s a problem in terms of winning, even theoretically.

2. At first blush, The Secret of Kells is too short and has weird artwork. After a few minutes, though, the artwork very much starts to become a thing of beauty. I was completely enchanted by this, finding it visually fascinating and with a story that was far different from many movies aimed at a younger audience. True, the story is basic, but at least as something based on Celtic myth, it’s not what we normally see. I like this a lot, and I love that it got nominated, if only because it increases the chance that other people will hear about it and seek it out. They should—it’s worth seeing.

My Choice

1: The only people in the world I know who don’t like Up are my wife and my daughters. I think their problem with it is the first few minutes, the section of the film that I think is truly magnificent. Those opening moments from Up are pure storytelling, pure movie magic. This would be spoiled if the rest of the film didn’t live up to the opening, but it does. The story is a fun one, and Dug is one of the great characters from Pixar’s arsenal. I’d love to have seen Mary & Max in the mix here, and it would be a closer race if it were, but I think I’d still go with Up. There would just be a much closer second place.

Final Analysis


  1. I like Fantastic Mr. Fox more than you, but your point is well taken. I'm an adult and liked it far more than my kids, yet it feels intended for them.

    I also like The Princess and the Frog and Coraline better. I'm particularly fond of Coraline which I think is fairly brilliant.

    Still, Up is clear and away the best movie of the nominees. My one caveat is that I haven't seen The Secret of Kells, yet. You're so right about the first few minutes of Up is spectacular filmmaking. Then, the rest of the film follows suit and is magnificent.

    That said, I think Oscar was wrong. Mary and Max is just perfect. I love everything about it. It keeps me fully engaged every second it's on and takes us through so many emotions. In most years, Up would be my lock for number one animated film of the year, but not this one.

    1. I don't really take issue with putting Mary & Max first. It would be in a very close second for me, only because I genuinely enjoy Up as a movie more. Mary & Max absolutely should have been in the list, though, and I'd have probably put it below Up, but still as a legitimately good/right choice.

      I like The Secret of Kells a lot, but Song of the Sea is a more mature film from the same team.

  2. Up is wonderful...but I'm one of those who actually feels Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of Anderson's BEST films...right behind Moonrise Kingdom, which is absolutely perfect.

    1. I just don't see it. I'd watch any of Anderson's films before I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox again.

  3. Up is one of Pixar's masterpieces. Great, great storytelling, an element which makers of many animated films forget. And not only is Dug one of Pixar's best characters, I'd say Russell is too. Enthusiastic, kind, and fun with a sad backstory, Russell is a realistic kid and I just love him.

    1. Most Pixar characters are well written. Russell, as you say, is completely believable. It's the same reason I love The Incredibles. Sure, they've got super powers, but those are real family relationships.