No, I haven't seen this yet. I won't be seeing it until sometime next week, unfortunately, but that doesn't mean we can't talk about this, since everyone else is. So, what exactly are we pondering? Now, this may seem way far fetched, but there have been rumblings for months now that this was Pixar GOLD and by gold, we mean Oscar gold, and so maybe this is something you'd already semi-considered; but today we're pondering whether Inside Out could actually make a dash for Oscar's big prize; Best Picture.
Yes, this is a serious post.
Now, I know that the odds are stacked against a film like this from the very start. It's animated film, and those have never won the big prize. In fact, only one animated film has ever even been nominated for Best Picture in a field of five (Beauty and the Beast) and since it only two others have been nominated in extended fields (Up & Toy Story 3). Even Frozen, despite the raves and clear populous vote (like, when has a film ever been so popular?) could not sneak into a field of potentially ten. Still, one has to wonder if there will come a day when an animated film could actually contend for the Best Picture Oscar, and if that were the case, what kind of film would that be?
Could this be that film?
Well, we kind of touched on this already, but the odds aren't great. In fact, just a brief look at recent Oscar history will further point us in the direction of 'not going to happen'. Other beloved animated films, like Toy Story 2 (Golden Globe WINNER for Best Comedy), Shrek (Globe/BFCA/BAFTA nominee and single handedly responsible for the creation of the Animated Film Oscar category) and The Incredibles (Globe and PGA nominee) were all snubbed Oscar nominations for Best Picture, and then there's Wall*E, which was praised as a masterpiece and even was so lucky as to be released in a year that was, statistically, pretty weak (and won important Critic's Awards like LAFCA) was also snubbed in favor of typical Oscar bait.
Well, couple thoughts. First, while it may not always happen, we know that there are occasional exceptions to the norm. Look at Katheryn Bigelow. She was the first ever woman to win a directing Oscar. She may go down in history as the only (I have a feeling there will be another, and possibly even this year), but she broke a decades (near century) 'norm' of sole male winning directors, and in a year where there was legit competition. I firmly believe that one day, we will have an animated film win Best Picture at the Oscars. I'm not sold on it being this year, but there are certain factors that have me optimistic.
First, there really doesn't seem to be any clear frontrunner or even select group of ponies in this race yet, and by this time in the year, after the festivals have played their cards and tooted their horns (yes, we are still waiting on a few later festivals, so this post is EXTREMELY presumptuous, and I know that), there is at least one film (usually a few) with their eyes on the prize. Silence is the only film that, to me, feels like it could be a winner and we're not even sure that is going to see a 2015 release date. Films like Carol and Sicario and Youth have the reviews and the pockets of passion that could very well secure them nominations, but none feel like winners, and while we have yet to see reactions from The Danish Girl or Bridge of Spies or Joy, I'm struggling to place them as Best Picture winners.
Suffragette, at the moment, is my hedged bet for an actual Oscar victory in this category, of the live action films.
So, a presumably weak (and I say presumably because, at this point, what do I know) year is the beginning of a perfect scenario for an animated film to win top honors, but there's something more than that.
Yes, it really does all come down to the reviews. Even in a weak year, without the reviews to back it up, an animated film wouldn't even come close to a shot at the title.
So, what are people saying?
At once sophisticated and simple, made with visual magic and emotional sensitivity, casually probing deeper questions about what matters in life, "Inside Out" typifies the best of that cartoon colossus. It goes not only to places other animation houses don't dare, but also to places the rest of the pack doesn't even know exist. ~ LA Times
A little over five years ago, Pixar writer-director Pete Docter tried to imagine how the world looked through the eyes of his sad 11-year-old daughter, and the movie he was moved to conceive, Inside Out, will likely help sad girls and boys and the grown-ups they become for as long as there are movies. Set largely inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, this teeming, tear-duct-draining, exhaustingly inventive, surreal animated comedy is going to be a new pop-culture touchstone. In all kinds of ways it’s a mind-opener. ~ Vulture
...this isn’t a story simply for the children to enjoy in their own way and adults to enjoy separately — it is a film meant to be shared by parents with their children, to bridge a gap between adolescents and adults, more than any animated film I’ve ever seen. ~ Forbes
The achievement of Inside "Inside Out" is at once subtler and more impressive. This is a movie almost entirely populated by abstract concepts moving through theoretical space. This world is both radically new - you've never seen anything like it - and instantly recognizable, as familiar aspects of consciousness are given shape and voice. Remember your imaginary childhood friend? Your earliest phobias? Your strangest dreams? You will, and you will also have a newly inspired understanding of how and why you remember those things. You will look at the screen and know yourself. ~ NY Times
That makes it perhaps the craziest movie Pixar has ever come up with. Imagine Fellini using animation to create a narrative starring the limbic system, with diversions to the subconscious (“where they take all the troublemakers”), treacherous trips into abstract thinking and rides on the highly erratically scheduled train of thought. From a story hatched by co-directors Peter Docter (Up, Monsters, Inc.) and Ronaldo del Carmen, Inside Out is nearly hallucinogenic, entirely beautiful and easily the animation studio’s best release since 2010’s Toy Story 3. Stylistically Inside Out is nothing like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, but for its scope in examining the maturation process, it might well be called Childhood. ~ Time Magazine
Pixar's 15th feature is another landmark, an unmissable film triumph that raises the bar on what animation can do and proves that live action doesn't have dibs on cinematic art. ~ Rolling Stone
Entertainment Weekly wrote a rave review as well, but they used the word 'tween' so I've boycotted it.
Anyways, you get the point. This is just a smackling of the reviews that are pouring is, but for me it was the latter quote from Rolling Stone that says it all. Live action films do not have dibs on cinematic art, and Inside Out is proving that.
Right now, Inside Out has a 93 Metacritic score, with 34 positive reviews and 3 100's (Entertainment Weekly, Vulture and Washington Post) and it has 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, with 111 fresh reviews and then this dick.
You can say that this is all nice and cute, but statistics don't lie, and you'd kind of be right. I mean, statistics are statistics because they rarely change and, ultimately, shape an eventuality, but in recent years, especially with regards to Oscar, we've seen the norm challenged by oddities no one would have predicted. Look at the everything from Best Picture to Director to Supporting Actor for 2012 alone. That was a giant cluster of 'that shouldn't be happening' and yet it did.
I'm not saying Inside Out is going to win Best Picture, but if and when an animated film does win Best Picture, I have a feeling that it's going to look a lot like this. A film that critics are applauding as bridging that gap between childhood and adulthood, a film that is exploring what it means to be human, a film that, as the New York Times states, demolishes the assumption that movies cannot think, that they cannot "take us past the external signs of consciousness". This is a film that reaches people on a personal level, and it is that sentimentality, that ability to pierce into the person that is watching this film and find that common ground, that I feel could set this apart and make this a benchmark for animation, and if that is the case; it could be a real contender.
Oscar loves statement pieces, and that's exactly what (it appears) Inside Out is.
It's chances may be slim, true, but this is one of those rare cases where it seems like there's actually is a chance, and so because of that, maybe we should be pondering...