Inside Out is a shoo-in for a Best Animated Feature nomination. It has an outside shot to steal a nomination for Michael Giacchino’s wonderful score, as well. But many still consider it a fringe contender for Best Picture. Hopefully, that won’t be the case.
With the advent of the Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2001, Oscar voters were able to assuage their guilty consciences over not nominating animated films for Best Picture. ‘At least those animated movies will get a Best Animated Feature nom,’ they might say. Animated movies have had to deal with “less than” status for a long time. Only three animated movies have ever been nominated for Best Picture (Beauty at the Beast in 1992 BEFORE the field for Best Picture was expanded; Up and Toy Story 3 in 2010 and 2011, respectively, when there were 10 nominees). WALL-E was snubbed along with countless other animated titles over the years that were more than deserving but looked over because they were created out of hand-drawn or computer-drawn images.
I can’t shake the feeling, though, that even those three movies were mostly nominated out of guilt–a feeling that the voters need to toss the animated branch “a bone” every now and then to keep them happy. Though I hope that is not true, when worthy animated movies come out, it still takes lobbying on the part of critics and the public to even make an Oscar nomination possible. When something as clever and amazing as Inside Out comes out, there is a palpable sense of fear in the articles written about it. Critics and entertainment publications are afraid that it will miss out on its rightful Best Picture nomination.
That’s a shame.
Inside Out was one of the smartest movies to come out last year, boasting a well-researched script by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley. It’s old news to celebrate Pixar’s unparalleled ability to appeal to both children and adults, but Inside Out also manages to be an informative piece on how the brain works. Though the movie is (obviously) highly metaphorical, I found that, like Variety’s Peter Debruge, I left the movie contemplating my own thought processes: thinking about how I think.
But even reducing the movie to a treatise on “how we think” sells it short. It features amazing voice work (especially by Phyllis Smith and Amy Poehler) and manages to once again evoke the most emotional nostalgia in its manifestation of childhood imaginary friends, Bing Bong. Richard Kind’s pink creature ultimately reduced me to a teary mess (like Toy Story 3 before it) by reminding me how fleeting our younger years really are. And the movie’s final revelation, that sadness can be as important in our lives as happiness, feels revolutionary in a family film but also essential. Variety recently argued that Docter and co-director Ronnie Del Carmen deserved Oscar nominations for their deft direction. With a movie that gut-punches you multiple times and yet still has you leaving the theater feeling inspired and more intelligent, I don’t disagree with them. That being said, it’s sometimes about baby steps. Right now, a fourth Best Picture nomination for an animated movie is probably the best we’re going to get. Though Inside Out is brilliant enough to win the darn thing, that outcome is just wishful thinking. Or is it?