You would expect The Los Angeles Times to have a blog dedicated to The Oscars (it is Oscar season, you know). Their latest entry is entitled CAN WALL-E MAKE OSCAR HISTORY?
You know how WALL-E would make Oscar history? If WALL-E had won the award for Best Picture or Best Director (had they been nominated, of course). Sure, Andrew Stanton and the rest of Disney/Pixar are going to put their best face forward and graciously accept the nominations they did receive (Best Animated Feature, Best Music Score, Best Song, Best Original Screenplay, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing)… but deep down, you know that this is one case where the Academy needs to stop considering animated films as a red-headed stepchild to be regularly ignored or swept away.
Beauty and the Beast aside, animated films are never considered for the major awards. So after a lot of fuss (and Shrek), the Academy decided to create a category just for them. A children’s table, if you will, at the big adult award banquet. It does beg a question: what does a film as critically acclaimed as WALL-E was have to do to make it to the big dance?
Let’s run the numbers:
- Critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes shows 96% favorable reviews for WALL-E out of 217 total. Slumdog Millionaire received 94% favorable reviews, and Oscar frontrunner Milk has 93%.
- Metacritic, another critic aggregator, has WALL-E rated as the third best movie of 2008, with a critic score of 93. Slumdog Millionaire is at 86, and Milk is at 84.
- Metacritic also calculated their own listing of Best Picture awards and critics’ 2008 Top Ten list rankings (counting just those #1 entries, of course). The top five films – with their win numbers – were: WALL-E (14.5), Slumdog Millionaire (12.5), Milk (6), The Dark Knight (6), A Christmas Tale (6).
- According to Top Ten List aggregator Movie City News, if you look at mere appearances on a critic’s Top Ten list, regardless of ranking, then WALL-E outranked every film released in 2008 by a wide margin, with 162 mentions. The film that came in 2nd on that listing, The Dark Knight, had 134. Slumdog Millionare and Milk came in ranked 3rd and 4th, at 123 and 131 mentions respectively.
I could go on – critically, WALL-E has proven statistically to be the film to beat.
So why isn’t it getting recognition from the Academy? A film that well-received doesn’t direct itself. An animation director still has to direct voice talent (or sound talent, in Wall-E’s case), set design (even if it’s done in a computer), costumes, lighting, etc. As is often said about Pixar’s choice of creating films by computer – it’s not the medium of the film that has made Pixar and their films so successful. It’s the story. In other words, Pixar’s philosophy is no different from that of any other film studio.
It makes you wonder why Schindler’s List wasn’t nominated in the “black & white film” category. That’s right – color vs b&w film doesn’t matter. The Oscars can continue to have a category just for animated features, but they need to remember that an animated feature is still qualified to be nominated for every other applicable feature film award as well.
Everybody gets to move up from the kiddie table at some point in their lives. WALL-E has proven that it should be sitting with the adults this year. Animated films have grown up. The question is, when will the Academy?