×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

5 Reasons the Academy Overlooked ‘The LEGO Movie’

It’s the morning that the Academy announces its Oscar nominations, and “The Lego Movie” is on the ballot. No surprise, right? Wrong. Thing is, “Lego” landed just one mention — in the song category for its infectious “Everything Is Awesome” anthem — but not in the animated feature category, where many were predicting that the toon blockbuster might win.

That oversight comes as a total shock to Oscar pundits — arguably the year’s biggest snub, alongside the fact that “Selma” placed in only two categories (for which theories abound). From the point of view of the animation community, however, there was always a risk, and here’s why.

1. Animation professionals pick the nominations.

At this stage in the Oscar race, it’s the die-hard animation pros who decide the noms. “The Lego Movie” may have been the year’s top animated movie in the public’s eye, earning more than $257 million and placing second highest on Rotten Tomatoes’ (adjusted) best-reviewed list of 2014 with a 96% fresh rating, but that doesn’t mean it represents the kind of artistry that the industry wants to celebrate.

2. A record number of eligible toons means tougher competition.

Back in 2001, when the Academy first added the best animated feature category, it wrote in a rule that in a year when fewer than eight toons opened in theaters, the prize wouldn’t be awarded at all. In retrospect, that seems laughable, considering how the medium has boomed, resulting in an all-time high of 20 Oscar-qualifying submissions fighting for five slots in 2014.

3. Voters watch all 20 contenders, so the best rises.

Unlike normal audiences (or the Academy at large, who often pick a widely seen film to win), the animation branch is obliged to screen all eligible contenders. Each film is scored on a 10-point scale, and the five that receive the highest score go on to be nominated. That means each toon is considered on its own merits, and for this group, technique is perhaps the most important. In other categories, nominations go to the five films that received the most first-place votes, resulting in a diversity of choices, but in this category, it’s literally the five movies the branch likes best.

4. The animation branch loves handmade movies.

This is the second time popular “Lego” directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been edged out of the Oscar race by a pair of tiny toons most moviegoers haven’t heard of: The same thing happened in 2009, when “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” got shut out in favor of “The Secret of Kells.” While the “Lego” team licks its wounds, the folks no doubt celebrating today are New York-based indie distributor GKids, which released two of the nominees: “Song of the Sea” (a dazzling, highly stylized 2D toon from “Kells” helmer Tomm Moore) and “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” (a career-crowning hand-drawn beauty from Japanese animation maestro Isao Takahata). Also celebrating today is Portland-based Laika Studios (“Coraline,” “ParaNorman”), which earned its third nomination for its third feature, “The Boxtrolls.” Industry pros love stop-motion. It’s by far the most painstaking form of animation there is, whereas the computer-animated “LEGO” was cheekily designed to parody bad stop-motion.

5. Traditional forms and classical storytelling win out.

“Song of the Sea,” “Princess Kaguya” and “Boxtrolls” were always going to be nominated. That left just two slots open for the remaining 17 movies. The very same reasons the general public loved “Lego” — its jokey tone, quick pace and irreverent sensibility — probably worked against it with that group. After all, how often does that kind of movie get rewarded in other Oscar categories? By contrast, “Big Hero 6” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2” are both relatively traditional, well-told stories hailing from studios (Disney and DreamWorks, respectively) with a long tradition of Oscar support. “Lego” fans shouldn’t conclude that the Academy doesn’t like that movie; it’s just that they respected five films more.

More Film

  • Danny Glover

    Danny Glover Joins 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' Sequel

    Danny Glover has joined the cast of Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” sequel. His role is being kept under wraps, as is the storyline. Glover will star opposite Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, all of whom are set to return. Awkwafina is in final negotiations for a significant part in [...]

  • DJ Khaled Bad Boys

    DJ Khaled Joins 'Bad Boys' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    DJ Khaled has rounded out the cast of Sony’s upcoming “Bad Boys” sequel “Bad Boys for Life,” joining returning stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Khaled will also join series newcomers Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Jacob Scipio, and Paola Nuñez. Joe Pantoliano is on board to return as Captain Howard. Production is currently [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    M. Night Shyamalan's 'Glass' to Break January's Slow Box Office Streak

    No plot twist here: M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller “Glass” will dominate the domestic box office. As this weekend’s lone wide release, “Glass” looks to be the de facto choice for moviegoers during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Now the only question is: how big of an opening can “Glass” pull off? Mediocre reviews don’t [...]

  • Iranian Film Festival NY Review: 'Sheeple'

    Iranian Film Festival New York Review: 'Sheeple'

    The cinema of Iran has often been marked by stylistic qualities of delicacy and restraint. It has found ways to speak loudly with a whisper. But “Sheeple,” the traumatically explosive closing-night selection of 1st Iranian Film Festival New York, amounts to a rather spectacular counterexample. It’s a drama set in the lower depths of society [...]

  • Sundance Film Festival Placeholder

    Sundance Film Festival Launches Talent Forum for Indie Creators

    The Sundance Film Festival is launching a new program to offer industry mentoring to under-represented and indie creators, the festival announced Tuesday. Based out of Park City, Utah’s Kimball Art Center, the program will include focused mentoring for filmmakers, writers, producers, and beyond, as well as keynote events with “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler and [...]

  • Aisha Tyler

    Aisha Tyler to Host 2019 Directors Guild Awards

    The Directors Guild of America has selected Aisha Tyler to host its 71st annual DGA Awards on Feb. 2 at the Hollywood & Highland Center’s Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles. “We’re excited to have Aisha on board for the 71st annual DGA Awards,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “She is ideally suited to host [...]

  • Caleb Landry JonesNY Premiere of "Three

    Caleb Landry Jones Joins Ralph Fiennes in 'The Forgiven' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Caleb Landry Jones will co-star with Ralph Fiennes, Rebecca Hall, and Mark Strong in “The Forgiven.” John Michael McDonagh is directing the film, which is an adaptation of the novel by Lawrence Osborne. It deals with the reverberations of a random accident on the lives of an English couple, their friends and local Moroccans who [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content