December 7, 2004
ASIFA's nominees for the Annies were announced today, and I'm struck by how ASIFA casually wades into the waters in which AMPAS (the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who hand out the Oscars) fears to tread. Three of the contenders for Best Animated Feature are The Incredibles, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Could you find three more different movies? One is comedy action-adventure, the other is pure comedy, and the third is gritty science-fiction drama. And because this is animation, where we tend to use technique as a measuring tool, one is pure CGI, another pure hand-drawn, and the third deliberately in-between.

AMPAS would never go near something like this for Best Picture. Comedies are rarely nominated for Oscars in the first place, even if they're crafted with the same care as a drama. It's just one of those hypocrisies: Hollywood relegates comedies to second-class status when it's time for awards to be handed out, based on the assumption that it's just about unthinkable that a comedy could never be an Important Film. Comedies have to work harder to be, er, taken seriously.

Animation has the same problem, but, interestingly, it leads to a different conclusion. The Academy, in creating the Best Animated Feature category, is forced to do what it doesn't want to do with live-action films: it has to judge comedy features against dramatic features. So far, it's had an easy time of it. But in a year with some pretty strong features of both stripes, I wonder how they'll fare.

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