Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rats! Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences® blows it by snubbing the real Best Picture of 2007-- and one of the best movies ever made

It’s an off-year in more ways than one for the Academy Awards®. The 80th version of the show might be turned into an old fogey scab-ridden clipfest if the Writers Guild of America strike manages to stop the live televised ceremony from taking place, and even if the show does go on with awkward scab-writer Jon Stewart as host, the movies up for Best Picture (that Stewart is probably scab-writing jokes about as we type) constitute a bunch of real downers-- a pregnant 16 year-old, a maniacal killer, a British romance, two-hours-and-thirty eight minutes of Daniel Day-Lewis acting up a storm in the dust, and a serious, ignored George Clooney legal drama— it’s not exactly shaping up into a crowd-pleasing Titanic kind of show.

And the members of the Academy® could have turned things around with one small act of bravery and anti-elitism. All they needed to do was eke out Michael Clayton or Juno, which are nice, well-made movies that-- let’s be serious-- don’t deserve Best Picture at a Canadian film festival nor have a chance of winning the big prize— and slip into the Best Picture competition the film that was surely the Best Picture of 2007, and in fact, one of the Best Movies Ever Made®:


Ratatouille, the Pixar flick about the rat who dreams of becoming a world class chef, has been exiled to the “Best Animated Feature of The Year” category—- stuck behind the docos at the kid’s table, along with hipster grim Persopolis and the mundane Surf’s Up (were they thinking of the grimmish Happy Feet from 2006?)-- while its director, Brad Bird, was unjustly ignored in the Directing category (though he nabbed a very deserved nomination for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen).

The last and only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture was Beauty & The Beast in 1991. And as good as the Broadway version was, it doesn’t hold a candle (no pun intended) to the wondrous animation and great script and performance of this landmark in animation and cinema.

Or as A.O. Scott wrote with much more elegance in the New York Times:

"Written and directed by Brad Bird and displaying the usual meticulousness associated with the Pixar brand, 'Ratatouille' is a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film. It provides the kind of deep, transporting pleasure, at once simple and sophisticated, that movies at their best have always promised.

'Its sensibility… is both exuberantly democratic and unabashedly elitist, defending good taste and aesthetic accomplishment not as snobbish entitlements but as universal ideals. Like 'The Incredibles,' Mr. Bird’s earlier film for Pixar, 'Ratatouille' celebrates the passionate, sometimes aggressive pursuit of excellence, an impulse it also exemplifies.

'…Perhaps because animation, especially the modern computer-assisted variety, is the work of so many hands and the product of so much invested capital, we are used to identifying animated movies with their corporate authors: Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar and so on. But while the visual effects in 'Ratatouille' show a recognizable company stamp, the sensibility that governs the story is unmistakably Mr. Bird’s. A veteran of 'The Simpsons' and a journeyman writer for movies and television, he has emerged as an original and provocative voice in American filmmaking.

"He is also, at least implicitly, a severe critic of the laziness and mediocrity that characterize so much popular culture. He criticizes partly by example, by avoiding the usual kid-movie clichés and demonstrating that a clear, accessible story can also be thoughtful and unpredictable. 'Ratatouille' features no annoying sidekick and no obtrusive celebrity voice-work…

"Moreover, his basic moral conflict— between family obligation and individual ambition— is handled with unusual subtlety and complexity, so that the reassurances and resolutions of the movie’s end feel earned rather than predetermined.

"And while the film buzzes with eye-pleasing action and incident-- wild chases, hairbreadth escapes, the frenzied choreography of a busy kitchen— it does not try to overwhelm its audience with excessive noise and sensation. Instead Mr. Bird integrates story and spectacle with the light, sure touch that Vincente Minnelli brought to his best musicals and interweaves the tale… with beguiling subplots and curious characters..."

Ratatouille is one of the Best Movies Ever made. It even has Cloud 9 connections: Brad Garrett, the voice of Gusteau, appeared with Paul Rodriguez in The College of Comedy with Alan King; and James Remar, who voiced the character of Larousse, acted in the 1987 Burt Reynolds comedy, Rent-a-Cop-- and that’s just from a quick look…


Anonymous said...

Heath Ledger Found Dead in NYC at Age 28

Anonymous said...

This year, the Oscars should have a new category. Best Drug Overdose.