In 2008, Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar for Best Picture. It beat out The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, and The Reader. One film Slumdog did not have to worry about at the 81st Academy Awards was The Dark Knight. The lack of a nomination for the film that many call the best superhero movie of all time is considered one of the biggest nomination snubs in Oscar history. Some even argue that the Academy expanded the field for Best Picture to ten because The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated.
What most people forget is that one other film was neglected from consideration for Best Picture in 2008. WALL-E, the computer-animated masterpiece from Pixar Animation Studios, also failed to garner a Best Picture nomination. It easily dispatched Bolt and Kung Fu Panda to win Best Animated Future, but WALL-E was more than a great, animated film. It transcended the form. Even though it didn’t receive the acclaim it deserved, the film did shift the way we look at animated films. In both 2009 and 2010, Up and Toy Story 3 respectively, were nominated for Best Picture. Today, animated films are highly regarded, and rightfully so. They are often great movies, whether animated or not.
After Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film to garner a Best Picture nomination in 1991, animated films took a backseat to live action motion pictures. In 2001, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars. This allowed the films to be honored, but it also pigeonholed the movies to that one award category. Meanwhile, Pixar was changing the game with its computer-animated features. Not to mention their short films.
Ratatouille in 2007 and then WALL-E in 2008 both earned high praise from critics and audiences alike. A. O. Scott, the New York Times in house Pixar reviewer, wrote of Ratatouille, “[it] is a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film. It provides the kind of deep, transporting pleasure, at once simple and sophisticated, that movies at their best have always promised.”
Then, of WALL-E, he wrote: “The first 40 minutes or so of WALL-E — in which barely any dialogue is spoken, and almost no human figures appear on screen — is a cinematic poem of such wit and beauty that its darker implications may take a while to sink in.”
These films are more than just an animated film geared towards a young audience. They are great works of art. Manohla Dargis compared the exquisite, four-minute montage of a love story from beginning to end in Up to the breakfast table scene in Citizen Kane. Animated features are more than just some movie now; they make up a section of the canon of great modern films.
In 2012, Brave failed to live up to expectations. I could argue that five years ago, the film would have been reviewed favorably. However, due to the high standards set by animated films leading up to it, it was viewed as being too broad and tedious. The movie was charming, funny, and even touching, but it failed to match the emotional authenticity of a WALL-E, Up, or Toy Story 3.
Critics and moviegoers take animated movies much more seriously now. Today, an animated film does not have the crutch of being an animated film.
Brave was a decent animated movie. It was also happened to be a decent movie.
Here are this year’s nominees for both Best Animated Feature Film and Best Short Film, Animated:
Best Animated Feature Film
Pirates! Band of Misfits
Best Short Film, Animated
Adam and Dog
Head over Heels
Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare