Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #11

Re: WALL•E (2008)

In your article on 2008 family films you mentioned the possibility of Wall-E for Best Picture. I thought that the reason they created a “Best Animated Picture” category was to avoid having an animated film among the final nominees for Best Picture.

Not at all. The animated picture category was created to create more room for honoring deserving animated films that might otherwise be neglected, just as the foreign film category is meant to honor deserving foreign films — without prejudice to the possibility of a foreign film, or an animated film, winning best picture.

The top prize is still open in principle to films eligible in the specialized categories. That the specialized categories are felt to be necessary may reflect a sense that a deserving foreign film or animated film faces particularly steep odds in the best picture category competing against live-action Hollywood films. This is partly based on the law of averages and related factors, and may also have something to do with Academy voter prejudices.

At the same time, the existence of such sub-categories is a mixed blessing. Yes, a deserving foreign or animated film that might be squeezed out of best picture contention can still receive recognition in its own category. But this very fact can make it harder for the picture to land a nomination or a win at the highest level, even if it’s deserving.

Academy voters may reason that there is always the specialized Oscar for the deserving foreign or animated film, where in the absence of such a consolation prize they might be more willing to consider it for the top prize. Even when such a film is a serious contender for the top prize, its double candidacy may work against it, splitting support from voters who think the want to see it get the top prize and those who think the category award is the best way to honor the film. Academy voters may not even be aware that they can vote for the same film in both categories — or they may want to split their vote to help more than one film.

I think Wall-E definitely deserves a shot at Best Picture.

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