As the song says, this is truly the most wonderful time of the year. There’s all the Christmas stuff, natch; but for us, ‘tis the season for recognizing the year in film! What can we say? We love lists and awards! With the New York film critics set to reveal their top choices in a matter of moments and the wacky Golden Globe nominations scheduled for tomorrow, we are up to our ears in goodness. (We even got a little excited by the Critics Choice Awards, and Ben Lyons is involved in those!) Thus far, 2008 looks like the year of Slumdog Millionaire, with a dash of The Dark Knight thrown in for good measure. However the biggest beneficiary of this December surge has been another summer blockbuster: Wall-E.
Yesterday the Los Angeles Film Critics Association bestowed their top honor on Andrew Stanton’s Pixar smash, the first time in the 33-year history of the awards that an animated feature received the top slot. (The Dark Knight finished runner-up.) Meanwhile, the critics who have released their year-end lists are doing back flips over the tiny robot: David Edelstein of New York placed Wall-E number two on his list; Anthony Lane at The New Yorker writes that Wall-E is "the only American release of the year that filled its imaginative brief … All hail Wall-E"; and Time’s Richard Corliss calls it the best film of the year. With more recognition surely on tap at the Golden Globes announcements tomorrow, is Wall-E building towards a Best Picture nomination? We sure hope not!
We know this year was notoriously underwhelming, movie-wise, but if critics are proclaiming Wall-E as the movie of 2008, then 2008 was way worse than we thought. We’ll give them that the first hour of Wall-E is an unparalleled success–a deft mix of post-apocalyptic scare tactic science fiction, Stanley Kubrick, E.T. and Buster Keaton. If the movie ended after that point, it quite possibly could have been the best movie of the year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. There is the second hour, which was, for lack of a better term, a kids movie… and not even a particularly good kids movie! Did we cry? Duh. Obviously. However we always cry. (We’ve cried during episodes of Grey’s Anatomy this season and we hate that show.) But being touched should not be the sole arbiter to decide a film’s worth. We’re sorry, but when Jeff Garlin dominates a large chunk of your movie, hamming his way through line readings as if he was doing ADR on Daddy Day Care, it doesn’t deserve an Oscar nomination. So for all you Wall-E backers out there, be happy with the guaranteed Best Animated Feature award (also known as "The Pixar Award"), and leave the summer blockbuster Best Picture nomination to a more complete film… y’know, like The Dark Knight.