The year 2012 will not go down as an especially memorable one in the history of filmmaking in general. The genre that particularly took a hit was comedy. What is most disappointing is that even animated movies-which have been experiencing their own Golden Age in the 21st century-chose 2012 as the year to tarnish their glitter.
Animated movies can be dramatic, but one look at the list of winners of Best Animated Feature tells you that Oscar voters look to animation mainly for laughs. Hollywood's biggest names did not exactly fill theater audiences with the sound of laughter in 2012. "Brave" managed to erase much of the memory of Pixar's unseemly fascination with NASCAR humor, but hardly made anyone forget flying houses or lost clown fish.
Sequels to prehistoric animals battling climate change and modern animals escaping Africa did not exactly set gold standards for animated comedy. Adam Sandler managed find a hit in a cartoonish world of horror film characters and Dr. Seuss proved profitable when the result was nowhere near as ideologically complex as an elephant discovering the value of life.
The only possible conclusion is that 2012 failed to rise to the heights experienced by most other years of the decade in the arena of animated comedy. Which leaves the door open for Oscar voters to break with tradition and reward an animated film that maybe tries something else. Maybe the 2013 Academy Awards will be the year that a studio other than Pixar or Dreamworks is recognized as contributing something of value to the astonishing evolution of the animated film in the 21st century.
Twenty-one animated feature films have been submitted for consideration for nomination as Best Animated Feature by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Chances are that nominees will ultimately include those with titles that include the words Madagascar and Ice Age because, well, Oscar voters are lazy.
I have been quite vocal in my belief that Pixar should make an animated biopic of Steve Jobs. That would be the kind of film that could completely transform the darkening of Pixar's reputation in recent years. It is also the kind of animated feature that the genre is ripe for at the moment. During any Golden Age there comes a time when the laurels of the past somehow become fodder for a future retroactively described as resting. Golden Ages continue only through a revolutionary explosion. Pinning your hopes on evolutionary spark rarely pays off.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members who vote on nominees for Best Animated Feature are facing a rare opportunity to light the wick that results in that explosion. By turning their back on the laurel-resting that marks the 2012 candidates for Oscar glory and instead going out on a limb and awarding more experimental fare like "A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman." Such a choice would do much to open up the concept of what kind of material is appropriate for animated films.
If a mostly untrue animated biography could cop an Oscar, it might be just the thing to get the ball rolling on my fervent belief that Pixar cartoon would be the ultimate method for telling the story of Steve Jobs.
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