Top 5 Reasons the Best Animated Feature Oscar is Great

The Oscars have come and gone, and amid all the forced social statements that only served to make the people involved feel important, some good did come out of the event. Mad Max: Fury Road won a bunch of stuff, and Inside Out won Best Animated Feature.

On the downside, Best Animated Feature was the only thing Inside Out was allowed to win, given the Academy’s blatant bias against animated films (diversity!). Lord knows more than a few animated films should have won Best Picture by this point, especially after the turn of the new millennium, when more and more animated films have become more and more sophisticated. It’s also well over due that a director of an animated film gets a Best Director nod, and hell, why not nominate a voice actor if their performance deserves it (in the case of Inside Out, Amy Poehler definitely should have got some recognition). And don’t get me started on why on Earth no animated film has been nominated for Art Direction (shouldn’t they dominate the category?). In short, it would be nice to see animated films win more than their token award and the music/song categories.

With all this said, the Best Animated Feature category, in the fifteen years its been around, has become something special in its own right. Now, the Academy has been sure to stunt it as much as they can, often handing the award out in filler moments and “bathroom break” segments, not to mention in the award’s early years they often had filler nominees (Jimmy Neutron? Shark Tale?!), many great animated films that should have been nominated weren’t (Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, etc.), and not all winners have been deserving (Happy Feet, Brave). But the award has slowly evolved into something meaningful, and even with all the missteps in its early years, it has greatly boosted the efforts of animation over the last decade and a half.

So while there’s still some work to be done, a lot of good has come out of the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Notably, it has allowed for certain types of films to be nominated (and win) awards that the other, more live-action-y awards would never allow.

Without further rambling, here are five reasons why the Best Animated Feature Oscar is not only great, but even manages to outdo the live-action awards present at the show, including Best Picture.

 

5: Films that make money can actually win

Frozen

While the Academy Awards often seem to have some kind of allergy towards movies that make money, no matter how good they might be (note that The Force Awakens didn’t win a single award), the Best Animated Feature Oscar is apparently immune to this particular bias. A number of winners have all been huge box office successes, with Toy Story 3 and Frozen both being billion-dollar movies. Not every movie that makes a lot of money is great, but there have been plenty of films that are both quality movies and financial successes, and it seems too often the latter prevents certain films from winning anything, so it’s nice that at least one award has the door open for movies that people actually cared to see.

4: Foreign films can be nominated… and win!

Spirited Away

How many times have foreign films been nominated for Best Picture? How many have won? The answer to the former is very few, and the answer to the latter is none. Meanwhile, Best Animated Feature has seen an increasing number of foreign nominees, from earlier years with the likes of The Triplets of Belleville to this year’s award with When Marnie Was There. Notably, the award’s second-ever winner, Spirited Away, hails from Japan. In just fifteen years, the Best Animated Feature award has shown more diversity than Best Picture has in eighty-eight.

3: The winners are actually entertaining

Inside Out

Okay, so this one’s more subjective. Look, there have been a number of entertaining Best Picture winners over the years, but most of them were decades ago. Aside from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, what Best Picture winner since the dawn of the twenty-first century has had any substantial form of re-watchability? Have any others been anything more than that same, particular style of “Oscar movie?” I’m not even saying they’re all bad, but are they the kind of movies you’d be quick to go to when you want to watch a great movie? Some of the nominees maybe (Mad Max), but probably not the winners. The Best Animated Feature award, on the other hand, has provided some highly enjoyable winners, and not just for children. Films such as Spirited Away and Inside Out are incredibly insightful, while still being a whole lot of fun.

2: History actually remembers the films involved

Finding Nemo

Let’s really think for moment how many recent Best Picture winners will go down in history as all-time classics. Does anyone even bring up Argo or Slumdog Millionaire (movies I enjoyed, by the way) in conversation anymore? Does anyone revere The Hurt Locker or The King’s Speech in the same way they do the classics of yesteryear?

You know what people do remember? The Finding Nemos, Toy Stories, The Incredibles, the Ups, the Spirited Aways, the Frozens, I could go on. Animated films simply have a universal appeal that break age and cultural barriers. More people will openly admit to crying during the first fifteen minutes of Up than they would about any of the recent Best Picture winners. Animated films have a way of leaving an indelible mark on audiences. That’s more than you can say about most the movies the Academy deems Best Picture worthy.

1: Animated films win something!

Big Hero 6

I’ve saved the most obvious for last! The number one reason why the Best Animated Feature Oscar is great is that it allows animated films to actually win something.

Yes, it’s a crying shame that the award has become something of a token, since there’s very little else the Academy seems interested in even thinking about nominating animation, let alone having them win. But as stated previously, the existence of the award itself has encouraged a stronger output of animated features. And because of it, some animated films that many audiences might not otherwise know about (like the aforementioned foreign films, or smaller features like the delightful Song of the Sea), can actually receive some recognition, and may gain an audience or two.

If only the award were given better treatment by the Academy itself. Still, the fact that this award allows animated films, and by extension, all the above categories, to be recognized in any way makes it a showcase for far more versatile and entertaining storytelling than Best Picture has allowed in a very, very long time. If not ever.

Top 10 Films of 2015

2015 was a fantastic year for movies (for me anyway, I don’t know about you). There were so many great films in so many genres that I had difficulty ranking a top 10. But ranking a top 10 I must, and I feel I’ve finally managed to properly list my ten favorite films from 2015.

You may (once again) notice that my list won’t look like a whole lot of others. I like what I like, and I try to be honest with that. This of course means I’m not just going to sprinkle in some indie films and Oscar-bait just so I look “credible” to the hipsters and snobs of the internet. Some Oscar movies and indie flicks always have the potential to make it as some of my favorites of the year (and in the case of the former, some did this time around), but only if they had enough of an impact on me personally.

I have to admit, a number of films I really enjoyed, such as The Revenant, Ant-Man and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, didn’t quite make the cut. 2015 was such a good year for movies that those films, contenders in their own right, miss the mark.

Also keep in mind that, although these ten films are ranked, some of them (particularly numbers 3 through 5) are pretty interchangeable. So if I ever say something down the road that contradicts what I say here, it’s not an inconsistency. Opinions fluctuate.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 films of 2015.

Continue reading “Top 10 Films of 2015”

Deadpool

Deadpool

I just saw Deadpool, and though I haven’t yet had the time to fully analyze it and let my opinions fully bake, I figured I’d write how I feel about the movie now despite my opinions still being in dough form.

Overall I enjoyed Deadpool more than I thought I would. I’ve admittedly never been a fan of the Deadpool character, as I tend to not usually be a fan of overly sarcastic, self-referential characters (I like my stories genuine, even if they’re ridiculous). But Deadpool worked for the most part.

Ryan Reynolds’ performance was particularly memorable, as he pretty much nailed the character’s comedic and fourth wall-breaking elements perfectly, and also managed to delve into some more serious territory when necessary.

The portrayals of fellow X-Men characters Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead were also enjoyable, as were the nods to the confusing continuities of the X-Men movies and this film’s relatively low budget when compared to them.

On the downside, Deadpool continues the recent trend of super hero movies of having a completely forgettable villain. The villain simply lacks presence, and in terms of super powers he doesn’t come off as a threat to Deadpool and company.

Though Deadpool starts things off with an interesting pace – beginning with a brutal action scene before going to the origin story and back again – it ultimately devolves into another predictable super hero origin story. By the end of things, it largely turns into one of the very movies it insistently mocks.

Overall, Deadpool was fun. It wasn’t great by any means, and I still can’t say I’m a fan of the Deadpool character as a whole, but the fact that I mostly enjoyed it despite my initial skepticisms is saying something.

Movie Awards 2016: Best Comedy

Comedy has always played a big role in movie history. Though many comedies seem to get dumber and tackier as the years go by, there are still a number of gold ones to be found. As far as 2015 goes, the best comedy may seem like a rather unlikely one…

 

Winner: Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie

There are few animation studios out there who display the painstaking attention to detail of the medium quite like Aardman. This quasi-spinoff of Wallace & Gromit is one of the studio’s most enjoyable features, and also one of their funniest.

What’s remarkable about Shaun the Sheep Movie is how it accomplishes its storytelling and humor through action alone. Not a single word is spoken in the movie (apart from background songs), yet it manages to produce a number of laugh out loud moments. It’s a great reminder that comedy is more than simple punchlines, and that humor itself can carry a story, and even produce some more sentimental moments.

Forget that it wasn’t the biggest box office performer out there, Shaun the Sheep Movie is an undeniable good time, and 2015’s best comedy.

Movie Awards 2016: Best Sequel

As much as we may begrudge the idea of sequels, let’s be honest, we all love a good franchise. Sure, there are a lot of cash-in sequels and franchises that get way more attention than they deserve (I’m looking your way, Transformers). But let’s face it, without ongoing movie series, the world of cinema would feel incomplete.

Sometimes, a series may dwindle in quality after a while. Other times they are able to pick themselves back up. I think we all know which franchise saw the greatest return to form in 2015.

 

Winner: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens

Though I truly loved Mad Max: Fury Road, it didn’t have a terrible prequel trilogy to redeem itself from. Star Wars, on the other hand, had the notorious Episodes I, II and III in the back of audience’s minds. Thankfully, The Force Awakens delivered an adventure that’s as fun, engaging and magical as Star Wars has ever been.

No Hayden Christensen, no Gungans, no Midichlorians, no Gungans, no political subplots, no Gungans, no poorly-written romances, no Gungans, no pointless Podraces, no Gungans, you get the idea.

Whatever bad memories were created by the prequel trilogy should be melted away by the sheer delight of The Force Awakens. It really is everything we’ve always loved about Star Wars made new again.

Thanks to The Force Awakens, it is now cool to like Star Wars again. Now Disney is left with one hefty task: topping The Force Awakens with the sequels.

Runner-up: Mad Max: Fury Road

My Opinions on the Oscar Nominees

They suck.

Anger

Okay, I guess I should elaborate more than that.

I guess you could say my problem with this year’s Oscar nominees is basically the same as my problem with the Oscar nominees every year. It’s once again not an award ceremony celebrating the best films of the year, but an love-fest dedicated to the best of certain types of films (save for Mad Max, which has miraculously snagged 10 nominations despite the fact that it’s actually entertaining).

It baffles me that every year you read how the Oscar viewership keeps slipping, and that they receive backlash from fans, yet they willingly continue to do the same things they always do, believing that simply changing the host will restore people’s faith in them.

If the Academy Awards really wanted to win over people and viewership, they should nominate movies people actually care about! Shocking, I know. But it’s crazy enough that it just might work.

Now, I’m not saying that they can’t also nominate the “smaller” artsy movies they love so much, or that they should just nominate any movie that a lot of people saw (that would equally as disastrous). But surely they can find some kind of middle ground?

The obvious omission this year is that Inside Out isn’t nominated for Best Picture, despite being the most acclaimed film of the year, one of the biggest box office champs of 2015, and probably one of the most warmly-embraced movies of recent memory. Sure, it got the token Best Animated Feature nomination, and a Best Original Screenplay mention, but there really is no reason why it shouldn’t be in the running for Best Picture, other than the Academy’s blatant bias against animated films. For people who often gloat about their embracing of the little guy and diversity, and trying to make changes to the world, they certainly are closed-minded when it comes to the movies they nominate.

Given that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is also critically acclaimed, and one of the biggest movies of all time, I think it’s earned a Best Picture mention as well. I mean, if James Cameron’s garishly CG’d retelling of Pocahontas, and Neil Blomkamp’s abysmal and pretentious District 9 can get a mention, there’s no reason why a return to form like The Force Awakens shouldn’t get its name in the Best Picture running.

Then there’s the other categories. Where is Inside Out’s Best Original Score nomination it so rightfully deserves? Or The Peanuts Movie in Best Animated Feature? Why the Hell has there never been a director of an animated film nominated for Best Director?

I’m also guessing that, just like last year’s award show, we’ll be seeing countless slams towards super hero films by the presenters, as they pretend that the artsy movies they nominate don’t have their own long list of cliches and predictability. God forbid some people make movies that actually gain an audience.

JJ Abrams Totally Real Quote

I’m probably getting too worked up over this. A wise man once said “you can’t win against fools.” And if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences can’t be more open-minded towards different mediums and genres of films, particularly ones that prove acclaimed and timeless, then they most certainly are foolish. They probably aren’t worth me writing all of this. I mean, if you can’t nominate the most acclaimed film of the year (Inside Out) or the biggest cultural phenomenon (Star Wars) for Best Picture, then they’re clearly in the wrong line of work.

If doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, then the Academy must be comprised of an insane asylum.

Audiences and Fans are Ruining Entertainment

"The average moviegoer of today."
“The average moviegoer of today.”

This past Thanksgiving, I went to go see Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur in theaters. It was a good movie, but far from Pixar’s best. Though I may wait to fully express my feelings for it, because my viewing was largely dampened (and distracted) by the audience, who were without a doubt one of the worst audiences I have ever had the displeasure of viewing a movie with.

No, I’m not talking about disruptive children. In fact, the one family who was attending the movie were the only group of people who were respectful to their fellow moviegoers. I’m talking about two groups of twenty-somethings who had zero respect for the movie or the other people in the audience.

I kid you not, the person sitting closest to me laughed through the whole thing. That’s not an exaggeration. They were literally snickering through the movie’s entire running time. It didn’t matter whether the scenes were supposed to be funny or not, they continued to laugh even in the film’s sad moments. And the group sitting a few rows behind me just had to give their own little commentaries on the movie whenever possible. Because obviously we were all dying to know what they were thinking, and not trying to watch a movie in a movie theater.

The sad thing is, I’ve noticed crowds like this are becoming more and more common. They come in with a cynical, disrespectful disposition, and treat the situation as though the movie is there for them, instead of them being there for the movie. They’ll talk whenever they feel like it, laugh during inappropriate moments, and give their two cents for all the world to hear whenever possible.

It’s really a sad reminder of how cynical and self-absorbed people have become in this internet age. These days, people are encouraged to dislike everything, because there’s always some yahoo out there who would remind them how “stupid” they are for liking something.

It seems like people no longer have respect for art and entertainment. This age of meme and internet culture has reduced people’s taste to bite-sized chunks. If something is anything more than a singular joke, it must be belittled and mocked. If a movie (or TV show or video game or whatever) gives an honest attempt at storytelling, then it’s an even bigger target for ridicule.

You’ll hear a lot of people say things along the lines of “I liked that movie because it didn’t take itself seriously.” Because heaven forbid an artist actually cares about the story they’re trying to tell. I’m not saying that stories need to be dead-serious (I personally have a preference for the lighthearted and whimsical), but people these days seem to think that unless something is entirely tongue-in-cheek and self-aware, it’s crap. We don’t want humor, we want mockery and self-parody.

We live in an age that feeds cynicism. We belittle the works of artist to satisfy our own egos, and blow the tiniest details of any given work out of proportion to give us something to complain about and make ourselves feel special. It’s sad that these days I see words such as “sentiment” used as a negative. How dare people have emotion!

It doesn’t help that these days we have things such as Honest Trailers on the internet, which basically roll with such cynicism and pretty much tell people to hate movies. I’m not saying people can’t make jokes about the things they like, but things like Honest Trailers and their ilk just cater to today’s self-important, cynical mentality. They don’t simply make jokes about movies, they more or less say “All these popular movies you like suck and you’re an idiot for liking them! Let us nitpick and tell you why you’re such a dumb ass for enjoying these movies.” 

Again, I have to say that it’s like we encourage people to not like anything. Back in the day, people actually formed their own opinions, and would talk about movies (or TV shows. Or video games. Or whatever) with their friends and family. They used to bring people together and give them something meaningful to talk about.

That wasn’t even that long ago. But this internet age has rapidly turned people into self-righteous punks who simply can’t be bothered to enjoy things.

Now, I’m not saying that people have to like everything. Of course not. There are plenty of  things that I don’t like, and this entire site is pretty much dedicated to my opinions. I’m not saying people can’t dislike some things, but the problem is that these days people don’t want to like anything.

In this day and age, people just seem to want to hate everything for any reason they can. I get the feeling that more people watch crappy parody videos on YouTube than they do the actual things they’re parodying. People flock to videos of some angry (and loud… Always loud) people who make fun of movies, video games, or anything else, and more or less tell people to hate them along with them. And the worst part is people go right along with it. Why actually give something an honest, insightful look and form an opinion when you can just write it off for being what it is, because some jerk on the internet said so?

I truly, truly feel bad for the creators of today. Especially those who put their own emotions and experiences into their work, because no doubt they’ll be belittled for creating something that’s more than just a picture with a stupid caption. It’s basically the artistic equivalent of someone opening up about something personal, and receiving mocking laughter in response.

"This is probably the reaction a movie like Schindler's List would receive if it were released today."
“This is probably the reaction a movie like Schindler’s List would receive if it were released today.”

I can’t help but think people laugh during sad moments in movies these days simply because they’ve forgotten how to properly react to something emotionally. Either they’ve covered up their emotions or outright denied them so frequently that they no longer appreciate (or care to appreciate) the honesty of emotion. They’ll talk during a movie because they don’t begin to contemplate that someone else might actually want to enjoy something. They’ll give their predictably contrarian opinions during a movie because clearly they’re better than it.

Frankly, this is all depressing. Gone are the days when entertainment brought people together. Now entertainment is little more than a target for us to aim our cynicism at just so we can pat ourselves on the back. Sincerity can still be found in a few movies here and there. But sincerity in their audience is virtually extinct.

Filmmakers > Nerds

There are a number of undeservedly popular trends in social media sites and viral videos that I find insufferable, but one that I have an exceptional distaste for is the trend of defacing movies with nitpicking and self-aggrandizing commentary. Granted, nerds have always found pleasure in ridiculing the works of people who can create things that they never could, but the social media age has given them a platform to become stars out of it.

This may seem a tad hypocritical coming from someone who’s dedicated an entire website to giving his thoughts and opinions on movies and video games, with a not entirely un-nerd-like field of preference. But I will defend my stance as someone who simply has opinions and wishes to share them. There are plenty of people out there who use blogs, videos, and other such methods of sharing their thoughts who can be constructive and well-meaning with what they do. While there’s always means for me to improve, I at least try to fit into such a category.

What I’m talking about are people who simply trash movies for entirely inconsequential reasons. A certain technical goof gets blown into a movie-breaking flaw, or a tiny gap in plot consistency demeans all merits a movie could have. Oftentimes, it seems even great movies are written-off for the most trivial things, these days.

The internet age has practically endorsed cynicism and self-aggrandizement, combine this with the nitpicking of nerds and it turns into a whole new beast. Every time I check into YouTube and see a new “Honest Trailers” or “Cinema Sins” video is up, I frankly feel a bit disgusted. Some would argue that they’re “all in good fun” and perhaps on occasion that is the intent. But there are plenty of other videos or blogs I’ve seen that can deliver some inoffensive humor towards movies without seemingly eviscerating them just to inflate their own egos.

"We didn't need to deliver a line about why the dinosaurs in Jurassic World don't have feathers, but we did anyway, because we really just didn't want to hear any more crap from nerds."
“We didn’t need to deliver a line about why the dinosaurs in Jurassic World don’t have feathers, but we did anyway, because we really just didn’t want to hear any more crap from nerds.”

I know, I sound like a horrible jerk now because I’m saying bad things about popular internet videos. The way I see it, these internet videos are the ones that are more or less bullying filmmakers and artists for inconsequential elements just to give themselves a pat on the back. Personally, if I had to pick sides, I’d always pick the artists and studios who are able to create wonderful works of art and entertainment over the nerds who belittle them.

There is the old of “everyone’s a critic.” But I feel things like Honest Trailers are taking it more into the realms of “everyone’s a self-righteous a-hole.” And well, I’d like to see anyone who makes any of these snarky videos even begin to make a movie even half as good as the ones they criticize. Of course, chances are their bully-like critiques probably stem from their inability to create what artists and studios can, and the jealousy that comes with that.

"How could Batman have escaped a nuclear explosion at the last second? This movie clearly sucks!" "Or, it was just a simple editing technique to make it look like he escaped at the very last second to build suspense, jackass!"
“How could Batman have escaped a nuclear explosion at the last second? This movie clearly sucks!”
“Or, it was just a simple editing technique to make it look like he escaped at the very last second to build suspense, jackass!”

Sure, The Dark Knight Rises may have some pacing issues or a couple of questionable editing choices, but it’s hardly the disaster that a lot of these popular internet nerd-baiting sites and videos would like to claim. Even if they don’t like a movie, it’s possible to share that opinion intelligently and even humorously. But pointing out the most throwaway inconsistencies and using them to fuel petty complaining has become so sickening. The sad part is these people get millions of views, proving that we’re willing to feed trolls at the expense of people who are actually creating great things just so long as it gives us a brief moment to feel more important than them.

To be blunt, I hate the whole idea of “nerd criticism” and how popular it’s become. It’s not constructive, it’s not creative, it’s not contemplative. And it most certainly isn’t honest. 

Go ahead and call me an elitist, but I find the things that filmmakers are doing, whether it’s creating something profound or simply entertaining, whether I like it or not, is infinitely more meaningful than the self-insistency of internet nerds.