Monday, October 27, 2008

Wall-E for Best Picture?

The New York Times is reporting that the Hollywood studios have decided to push box offices success for the Academy Awards this year. With the viewership of the awards telecast falling every year for the past several years, the thinking is that the TV audience has no rooting interest in the independent, small films that the Academy usually honors. The way to higher TV ratings is to nominate films that the audience has actually seen.

Disney will be campaigning for Wall-E in the best picture category.

As early as midsummer Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal’s film critic, was arguing that “Wall-E” should be considered for best picture. “The time to start the drumbeat is now,” he wrote in a July 12 essay, noting the extreme difficulty animated films, while hugely popular, have faced in vying for the most prestigious Oscar. Only one, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” released in 1991, has ever been nominated for best picture.

“If we didn’t do it, I don’t think we’d be giving the movie its due,” Richard Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, said of the decision to promote “Wall-E” for the top prize, even if that complicates the movie’s simultaneous bid for the more easily won award as best animated feature. One problem is a presumed tendency to split votes. Academy members can vote for a film in both the best picture and best animated feature categories. But they may not be inclined to do that or even know that the rules permit it.
The awards are often a rebuke to mainstream Hollywood, where the creative community gets to place art over business. The big question is whether the Academy membership, whose votes determine the nominees and the winners, will go along with this approach.


Pete Emslie said...

I have very mixed feelings over this attempt by Hollywood to push forth films which did bigger box office and therefore have a higher profile with TV viewers. Back in the glory days of Hollywood movies, it was often the case that the big, splashy films would not only be nominated for Best Picture, but would also regularly win the award. But then this was when Hollywood movies really could be both meaningful and vastly entertaining at the same time. Nowadays it seems to be an either/or situation, where you have the meaningful but limited appeal type films made by the independent filmmakers or "boutique" studios that are smaller divisions of the big players; or you have the big "event" type films from the mainstream studios that are entertaining but require you to check your brain at the door.

Somehow, the Hollywood films of "The Golden Age" managed to appeal to a wider spectrum of viewers. Maybe films just naturally all felt like "events" because you had to line up outside the theatre for an hour or more, sometime braving the elements, before the doors opened up and the crowd clamored inside for the best seats. Nowadays, you're often sauntering lazily into a nearly empty theatre in a multiplex venue where the same big film may occupy several screens, while the small but important films are relegated to a single screen not much bigger than what you can now buy for your own home theatre. And yet it is these somewhat ghettoized smaller films that frequently end up with the Oscar nominations in the categories that matter, while the big dumb crowd pleasers only get noticed in the technical award categories.

I can certainly understand the resentment, and yet I really wish Hollywood would get back to making movies that used to appeal to viewers of a wider spectrum, that are both entertaining and smart. To its credit, I think "WAll-E" attempts to bridge that gap and perhaps should be promoted as a candidate for a Best Picture nod. However, I personally share your rather low opinion of the film, Mark, as it was just so full of flaws in the plot concept that much of it really didn't make any logical sense. Also, though it most certainly is an "animated" film in the strictest technical sense, the entire first half of the film on earth could more easily pass as a live-action film with special effects robots. Maybe "Wall-E" should compete for the Best Picture award and not in the Best Animated Film category at all.

Adam Pockaj said...

Maybe the reason not many people watch the academy awards is because they are sick of seeing over-valued actors pat themselves on the back in yet another ridiculously glorified awards show. I mean, between the oscars, the golden globes, the screen actors guild awards, etc, maybe people have finally gotten sick of actors. Cause actors are probably the only reason anyone watched in in the first place. Now that its bogged down with all the "minor technical awards" (in other words anything other than acting or possibly directing) they just can't be bothered to waste 4 hours of their lives on something that really isn't that important. And they're not that important, the oscars that is. They shouldn't be anyway. It's actually kind of sad that anyone can tell you who won an oscar last year, but no one can tell you who won a nobel prize last year. Considering the unimportance of yet another film-based awards show, I think they are lucky to get the viewers that they do get.

King Marvin Mugabi said...

It's a respectful move

Settling for that category they gave this industry to fight amongst itself for seems compliant...
(all do respect to those that have won it in the past and will win it in the future)

Maybe Clooney should worry about animation and animators as competition.