Friday, January 16, 2009

A Robot, the Oscars, and Animated Features

As is so often the case in human endeavors, a decision made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2001 to increase recognition of animation films had an unintended effect. Ten years after the first and only animated feature film was nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast), they created a new award: Best Animated Feature Film. Since that time, no animated film has ever achieved the distinction of being nominated for Best Picture, even though arguably a couple could have even won the award outright.

2008 was by some accounts a weak year for film. Not only that, but as in many of the past few years, an animated film has made it’s way onto many of the top ten lists for the year. Wall-E has been touted as “pure cinema” and a fresh look at what the medium of film can do. The question is: will this finally be the year that an animated film gets nominated for Best Picture since the animation award was created?

Wall-E is not perfect. The live action humans and their transition to animation over the years is less than convincing. That being said, the first half of the film is an experience in visual storytelling unlike hardly any film has achieved since the silent era of film. The way the filmmakers communicate Wall-E’s personality and tell an engaging story with very little dialogue or current points of reference is amazing.

At first glance the message is obvious and slightly heavy handed. However, the ecological “Don’t liter!” imperative is not the real point of the story. This is a story of culture, societal interaction, life, and love. The truly subtle commentary is deftly balanced between the anthropomorphized robots and the personality deficient blobs of flesh posing as humanity. Check it out.

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