The Oscars in Retrospect: 2005 Best Animated Feature

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2005 was one of the weakest years in animation that I’ve lived through, and not just in terms of the number of films submitted for the award. There was no Pixar film, so for Disney their biggest hope in the category was Chicken Little. The year was so weak that many thought it had a chance despite it’s weak animation and just general unpleasantness. They same goes for Valiant, which got a release here for being Disney’s first co-production with China.

Dreamworks had the fun-but-unremarkable Madagascar, which was thought to be a lock for a nomination, but didn’t come pass after the voters decided to reward art over entertainment for the final spot in the category.

Other studio stuff included Fox’s Robots which was a fun and colorful piece of entertainment, but it wasn’t memorable, which hurt it since it came out way in the beginning of the year.

Then there was the foreign and independent stuff. From India there is a dreadful-looking adaptaion of Gulliver’s Travel. From Japan there was Steamboy, which got praised for it’s visuals, but divided people on it’s plot. And there was Hoodwinked from The Weinstein Company, which may not have gotten nominated, but somehow managed to make over $110 million worldwide.

In the end, Disney and DreamWorks managed to get in with films they had no hand in producing. Also, after being in the business for over 20 years, Tim Burton scored his first Oscar nomination. And once again, given the choices, the winner was extremely obvious.

The Contenders

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Corpse Bride (Tim Burton, Mike Johnson)

I have an odd relationship with this film. I’ve seen it many times since it first came out, and every single time I end up feeling indifferent towards it. It’s not a bad movie by any means as there are a couple of great moments, it’s obviously beautifully designed, and features great work from Helena Bonham Carter and Emily Watson. But besides those moments, the films kind of lifeless (no pun intended, maybe). Most of the musical numbers are mediocre, there are only two fairly well-written characters, the villain sucks, and except for those I’ve previously mentioned, the performances are flat.

And yet, I keep coming back to it. In fact, including this viewing, I’ve seen it three times since August of last year. And I have a feeling that in the not-too-distant future I will have the itch to watch it again. I have nomidea why that keeps happening.

So, though it’s nice that Burton was finally acknowledged by the Academy, it’s sad that it was for one of his lesser films.

On an unrelated note, recently I went through Tim Burton’s filmography. I had planned to do a write-up but it won’t happen, so see my rankings of all of his films here.

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Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki)

On the surface, Howl’s Moving Castle has what it takes to be a great Miyazaki film, at the very least. Every frame is an absolute thing of beauty (the castle has got to be one of the greatest animated creations of all time), it has flight sequences, and what seems to be an epic story. But for some reason, it didn’t quite get there, and were it not for his Goro Miyazaki’s Tales from Earthsea, it would be the worst film Studio Ghibli ever made.

Miyazaki’s films generally don’t bother explaining what they are about, and that’s one of the things that make him such a great filmmaker. As you watch the film, the point becomes clear even if the character don’t spell it out. This one is confusing right away. There’s so much going on within the first act (a war, witches, a girl with low self-steem, a wizard who likes beautiful girls), that it just becomes a bore. After that, once we enter the titular moving castle, things get more entertaining as thing become slightly more focused and we get to see some of the great set pieces that Miyazaki is known for. However, nothing about the plot becomes clear because there’s still so much going, and in the end it left me with more questions than in the beginning. I guess I’m going to have to read to book at some point to see if I finally get some answers.

It’s easy to see why the animators in the Academy would take to the film as, like I’ve said, it’s a visual wonder and it does get entertaining after a while. That alone makes it worthy viewing multiple times, but it’s painful to see a less-than-great Miyazaki film.

The Winner

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Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Nick Park, Steve Box)

Much like the short films that preceded it, Wallace & Gromit in the The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is an absolute delight.It has a ridiculous story that allows it to go off the rails without it being jarring (and it does), and it’s filled to the brim with jokes (visual and aural) that start from the very first second and don’t stop until the bitter end.But that is not the biggest reason why this film is so good. As it has been the case with since the short films, this all works because of the titular characters. It just wouldn’t work without Wallace’s happy-go-lucky personality and insane ideas, and especially not without Gromit’s endearing, voiceless voice of reason. It’s one of those simple delights that cinema needs every once in a while. And for this reason, in the year when the best picture Oscar contenders were about racism, a tragic gay romance, an author researching a massacre, a massacre at the olympics, and McCarthyism this win remains the very best of that evening.

Did the right one win? Yes

Should anything else have been nominated? If so, what should have been left out? Why did I even bother asking this? No, just no.

Up Next: We go back to 2002 to see a young girl in an extraordinary adventure face off against an unlikely family trying to save a baby, a little girl bonding with a scientific-experiment-gone-wrong, the life of a horse, and space pirates searching for a legendary planet.

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One thought on “The Oscars in Retrospect: 2005 Best Animated Feature

  1. Disagree with a lot of what you said but interesting nonetheless. I love all 3 of these films. What’s cool about this year is it will probably be the last year that no CG film is nominated for best animated film. I don’t see that happening again. Out of those 3 I don’t know which one I would give it too because they are all so different. I love Corpse Bride especially the music so I would pick that.

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