With Oscar season in full-swing and pundits' predictions being changed each and every day, we are once again faced with the seemingly yearly question: Will the Pixar film be nominated for Best Picture? Last year it was WALL-E, in 2007 it was Ratatouille, and this year it is Up. All three films have certainly received good enough reviews to be among the final nominees, but up until this point, only Beauty and the Beast (1991) has received a Best Picture nomination as an animated film.
The Academy did something very peculiar this year by expanding the number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. Ever since that happened, Up has seemed like a lock for a Best Picture nomination, but the film's buzz has continuously died down since its release back in late May. I can't help but thinking that it will get passed over for a nomination, and how scary would that be? In other words, if the Academy doubles the number of Best Picture nominees and still doesn't find room for Up -- easily one of the year's best reviewed films -- among them, then when will we ever see another animated film in the Best Picture category?
If Up does indeed get looked over in the Best Picture category, it could still win the Animated Feature Oscar, right? Sure, but does that even count for anything? It seems to me that the Academy created this category so they would have the luxury of passing up these films when coming up with their Best Picture nominees. There is no doubt that more than a handful of animated films in the past decade have been successful enough -- critically and commercially -- to warrant Best Picture nominations, yet most of them have had to settle for the Animated Feature Oscar.
When it comes right down to it, it is almost a pity award. I find it very unlikely that Andrew Stanton (WALL-E, Finding Nemo) and Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) have accepted their Oscars without the slightest bit of disappointment. In the end, I see that Oscar as almost worthless. It's basically the Academy saying, "We're not going to nominate you for Best Picture, but we are going to create a category with three nominees so we can recognize your film". Who even cares at that point? I would be surprised to find a strong WALL-E supporter from last year that didn't feel any anger when Andrew Stanton accepted his Oscar.
What I'm getting at here is simply this: Should this category be eliminated? I think it should. The Academy needs to stop being let off the hook and start making some bold decisions. Maybe I'm misreading things, but if I was a director accepting an Animated Feature Oscar for my film, I would be feeling much more contempt than affection towards the Academy.