The First Evidence of the Oscars Sucking This Year...

...And the nominees for Best Animation Feature, Moderately Entertaining to Immensely Overrated Piece of Shit Division, are:

___ Cars (John Lasseter)
___ Happy Feet (George Miller)
___ Monster House (Gil Kenan)

Oh, look! Three underlined areas where I would never feel compelled, had I the chance to participate, to place a checkmark or an 'X'. What gives, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, often scientific but rarely artful? Is your august organization as befuddled in this matter as millions of vapid parents? Where's the love for the animated film that was more outright entertaining than all three of these films put together (and then some), and just as well-executed technically: Over the Hedge?

I'm not going to get into the whole "is motion-capture technology animation?" argument; to me, motion-capture is merely the most recent update of rotoscoping (essentially, tracing over live-action film), a money-saving animation process which worked plenty well for the Fleischer brothers and was used sparingly but successfully over the years by many of the top animators, including Disney (and, for someone like Bakshi, rather profusely), and I've never heard anyone say that the films they created were not "animated". And weren't we having this same argument about computer animation in general just a few years ago, and now, especially with the wild success of Pixar, it is pretty widely, if not begrudgingly in certain circles, accepted? There is plenty of room for all manner of passengers on this ship -- cel-heads, digitizers, even capturers -- if the film or sequence in question is not composed of mainly untampered live-action photography, then it should be considered animation, whether or not someone merely drew or painted over film. Or even if someone captured a live-acting performance and used a computer to do so. Thus, I am willing to accept anything outside of a standard filmed movie as "animated".

The real question here, though, is worthiness of celebration. Cars is mainly on this nominee list because it is from Pixar, and Pixar has a rep that it maintains very carefully, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy this film on a level just a notch above average. I rated it as a "6" on my chart, like Happy Feet, so I consider them to be, at least, merely "good", but it is, by a wide margin, my least favorite of Pixar's output. The problem is that Pixar's history is filled with such high quality work that the merest drop in story success leaves you with a merely good film. Still enjoyable, but with severe deficiencies in the story department, not least of all is the nagging question of "Where the hell are the human beings?" Even in Toy Story, the humans existed, even for the toys. In all of the Pixar films, the human presence is not just undeniable, but it is also commented upon by the non-human characters. In Cars, the vehicles seem to have invented themselves, or else they have become sentient beings and overthrown and destroyed the human race. Even the agent for the lead car is played by another car. The stands are filled with other cars, not cheering humans. This, for myself, digs for the film a deep and chilling chasm over which I may never be able to leap the General Lee in a half-corkscrew. And I kept waiting for a human played by Charlton Heston to show up in the town and yell, "Keep your filthy radials of me, you damn, dirty machines!!"

I might be tempted to root for Happy Feet, simply because it has been brought about by the man who gave us Mad Max, George Miller. Of course, despite the fact I liked it, I also said that I never needed to see a fucking tap-dancing penguin again in my life. Though the film seems like a carefree study of musical-bound penguins, Miller's action roots still get a chance to shine here in a pair of Jaws-like sequences involving first a most frightening leopard seal and then a killer whale duo that delight in slowly torturing their intended prey by tossing them about by mouth and nose through the air to each other. Aside from this, though, one swiftly comes to the realization that these penguins are just like us: dopey enough to enjoy bad (really bad) popular music and to allow religious zealots to infiltrate and control their system of government. I also imagine that penguin parents would also plop their kids down in front of each and every animated film that came along, should penguin parents have that option, and then the Penguin Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would then pick their Best Animated Feature nominees from some arcane process that only allows three nominees when there are enough films available to at least nominate a full five. (Even if only one actually deserves the honor...)

As for Monster House, which is one of the most wildly over-acclaimed films of recent memory, amazingly thumbed up by the likes of Ebert and Roeper, I can only say that I should love this film. There is no single element of its structure that I shouldn't enjoy: it takes place on Halloween, there are monsters, there is a circus subplot, there is an angry old man voiced by Steve Buscemi. Let me shout it: I... SHOULD... LOVE... THIS... MOVIE!!! Let me then shout this: I FUCKING DON"T!!! The closest parallel that I can describe is to bring up The Goonies. I enjoyed The Goonies when it came out, because I was young and generally uncritical. I just wanted to have fun at the movies in that period. And then a couple of years later, after rewatching it on VHS, I was struck with the notion of how truly bad it actually was. Not bad in a vile sort of way, but just annoyingly bad like when you get a headache after being around bratty screaming children for about twelve straight hours. The kind of headache you get that can only be tempered by crushing your skull with a vise. I left The Goonies alone for about a decade, and then I ran into it again a couple of years ago. This time, with a full understanding of the desperate straits that popular film, and society in general, were in during the Reign of Ray-Gun, I approached the film as openly and non-judgmental as I try to be when attending a film these days. And I got the same exact headache! I understand the nostalgia appeal for a film like The Goonies, and there is still a certain camp appeal to it, but it is a piece of crap.

This same exact fate awaits Monster House. People will run into it in a couple years and realize the error of their ways. They will see a badly-scripted, lazily detailed film with a cast of dead-eyed, creepy children, who are all voiced screamingly by some very poor actors -- and they will take themselves and their own children straight away to therapy. That therapy will consist of watching a good animated film like Over the Hedge, which will restore their faith in popular culture, and leave them feeling as zippy as Hammy the Squirrel. They will laugh along with well-constructed comic lines delivered by perfectly cast actors, and the once afflicted will suddenly feel better about themselves and others. And the world will be suffused in the glow of a giant Day-Glo rainbow, and zillions of Skittles will fall from the sky. And this bombardment of delicious candy will swiftly choke to death all of the Rapture-waiters, who will have their mouths agape in misplaced wonder. People will stop believing in fairy tales, society will be allowed to progress and take to the stars, and the world will be a better place.

And if none of this happens, it will be because Monster House won a friggin' Oscar. And I will blame the Academy for society's continued downfall...


Two things; At least the Barnyard wasn't on the list, because sometimes it seems the academy is stretching for nominees in this category.

And I'd hate to believe that the rotoscoped A Scanner Darkly wasn't considered. That would've been a coup!

Popular posts from this blog

Refilling the Flagon of Chuckles (or at Least an Extra Tall Improv Glass)...

Before We Take Off...

The Monster's on the Loose!!! Non-Chaney, Pt. 2: Werewolves Along the Wall

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home with Monsters at LACMA 2016, Pt. 2

Ignoring the Ignoramus...