Will 2019 Finally Be the Year When the Academy Takes the Animated Feature Oscar Seriously?

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Will 2019 Finally Be the Year When the Academy Takes the Animated Feature Oscar Seriously?

Will 2019 Finally Be the Year When the Academy Takes the Animated Feature Oscar Seriously?

A common complaint about the Oscars every year is that they inherently fail to honor the best films that came out over the course of the preceding 12 months.  That they are biased.  That so-called Oscar-bait has an edge over the competition not because of merit, but because of what an extremely white, extremely male, extremely old body of voters happens to like, regardless of how removed that makes them from general moviegoing audiences.

Now, not all of these complaints is entirely invalid.  In fact, even accounting for differing tastes, ineligible movies and the like, there always seems to be some great divide between what is good and what is Oscar-worthy.  One needs to look no further than this year’s crop of Best Picture nominees to find thoroughly mediocre offerings like Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), Vice (2018) and Green Book (2018) among legitimate, best-of-the-year offerings like Black Panther (2018), BlacKkKlansman (2018), Roma (2018) and A Star Is Born (2018).

Will 2019 Finally Be the Year When the Academy Takes the Animated Feature Oscar Seriously?

I think that it’s safe to assume that the Academy will never quite stop nominating (and awarding) bad movies.  That’s the nature of subjective art: nobody’s ever going to agree with what’s best, even when some arguments seem to have so much more meat on their bones than the opposition’s.  I’ve long since come to terms with that.  It is notably, however, how much more thoroughly bankrupt the typical nominee for Best Animated Feature is seemingly every year, with great works like Coco (2017) and The Bread Winner (2017) being forced to debase themselves by competing with dreck like Ferdinand (2017) and The Boss Baby (2017): movies that seemingly got in purely because they just so happened to be the movies that voters saw with their grandkids over the winter holidays.

Again, art is subjective.  It always has been, always will be and shouldn’t pretend to be anything different.  But there are better inter-subjective picks for this category especially — better consensus picks by those in that branch of filmmakers who are in the know and better equipped to judge these works than the Academy as a whole — which make you wonder how seriously the Academy really takes this particular Oscar race.

Will 2019 Finally Be the Year When the Academy Takes the Animated Feature Oscar Seriously?

2019 seems to be different, though, but as to whether this marks a lasting shift in the Academy’s animation ideology or an impermanent change in the wind remains to be seen.  There are, of course, the usual Disney-Pixar suspects: Incredibles 2 (2018) and Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) — both perfectly fun, perfectly fine sequels to much better movies, good and harmless fun that does represent the start of the medium’s upper ceiling in 2018.  We then have a foreign entry, the incredible-sounding and reputably amazing Mirai (2018) out of Japan.  As an interesting, if expected, counterpoint to this, there is Wes Anderson’s controversial Isle of Dogs (2018) from the beginning of the year.

Now, normally one or two slots in this race is reserved for mediocre family movies that aim for the lowest common denominator, don’t quite seem to manage that much, but make $100 million dollars, seemingly the threshold to garner the Academy’s notice these days.  These are your Boss Babys and Ferdinands.  But we don’t have one of those this year.  In their place is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) — unquestionably the actual best animated (and maybe even Superhero) movie of the year that emerged as a late-entry dark horse in the race.

Will 2019 Finally Be the Year When the Academy Takes the Animated Feature Oscar Seriously?

In ordinary times, we would never have one, let alone two, superhero movies (Marvel movies, at that) be up for one kind of a ‘Best Picture’ Oscar or another at the same time.  Yet these are not ordinary times, and concessions have been made for these movies’ undeniable quality and forward-thinking attitudes.  And maybe that’s not enough.  But then again, maybe it is.  Maybe this is the year where the Oscars actually start giving a damned about animated films.

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