The 87th Academy Awards, February 22, 2015: the night that Birdman beat American Sniper and the award for Best Animated Feature went to Pixar's Big Hero 6. The nominees, other than the winner: not The LEGO Movie, not The LEGO Movie, not The LEGO Movie, and not The LEGO Movie. That's right, you remember. The wonderful surprise of 2015, the hilarious, heartfelt, ingenious and infinitely rewarding LEGO Movie, received one—one—nomination at the Oscars: Best Original Song. For "Everything is Awesome." This was and is a tragedy.
The song. The song is a horrifically catchy earworm and is meant to be. It's a perfectly engineered piece of satire, just like the entire film. The drunken Golden Globes at least nominated the movie for Best Animated, but it lost to, wait—not Big Hero 6, but How to Train Your Dragon 2. These award shows consistently boggle the mind.
The LEGO Movie is not an advertisement for LEGOs. It's also not liberal propaganda. It's a movie about toys learning to work together and think creatively to stop the evil tyrant who's threatening to freeze the world in place so that everything is always perfect. The song is part of his propaganda machine, as is the brain-melting TV program that's the favorite in this fictional world. But at face value its message for kids is creativity, open-mindedness and teamwork.
The villainous businessman, anticapitalist hints and ruthless police officer are messages for the adults. They're not subliminal messages to brainwash children; they're subliminal jokes that make the film an absolute joy to watch for adults, too.
Perhaps all of this has something to do with the Academy's choice to ignore the movie…
Lord Business is trying to freeze all of the pieces and minifigs in place with the Kraggle. If you haven't seen the movie, stop reading now and watch it because the payoffs to things like the Kraggle are too incredible to ruin with spoilers.
They're gone? Alright.
It has the best balance of kids' material to adults' inside jokes as Pixar's most recent masterpiece Inside Out, and it throws it at the audience breathlessly. The movie hurls jokes at you so rapidly that it's impossible to see them all the first time, and you'll still find more after three or four viewings. Morgan Freeman's Vitruvius (relation?) holds a staff that's a chewed up lollipop stick. His robes gradually open to reveal a tie-die shirt underneath.
Too-cool Superman and fanboy Green Lantern bicker, why? Because Superman is Channing Tatum and Green Lantern is Jonah Hill. That's a joke that'll sail right over a kid's head, unless the kid is surprisingly fascinated in who voiced the characters who most kids think of as purely characters. Young children aren't thinking about the person under the Mickey Mouse costume.
Emmet, Lucy and Batman
Will Arnett's hapless, macho Batman easily stole the spotlight and warranted a spinoff sequel. Part of the beauty of using LEGOs as the model for the film is that the writers weren't limited to the Marvel universe, or the Star Wars universe, or anything specific. They were able to write the Millennium Falcon into the same scene as the Batwing and a giant-robot-pirate.
Lord Business and Emmet.
And The Man Upstairs, the ominous, omnipotent villain who threatens the whole world, finally comes downstairs. Will Ferrell the animated character and Will Ferrell the live-action character become the same villain, the threat to creativity and to LEGO city that Emmet, everyman, must save. The Hero's Journey at its finest.
The writers—Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the powers behind 22 Jump Street and The Last Man on Earth—pushed the LEGO medium to its limits with the movie's indescribably clever build sequences, jokes and its beautiful combination of stop-motion and CGI animation.
All of this is not to say that The LEGO Movie is a better film than Big Hero 6 (despite what I think, personally). Award shows are, well… they don't mean a whole lot in the end. But this movie certainly deserved to be nominated, at least.
A Best Animated Feature nomination should have been a given. A win, likely. And if any of that year's animated nominees stood a chance at a Best Picture nomination, it wasn't Big Hero 6; it was The LEGO Movie.
Only three animated films have ever been nominated for Best Picture: in 1992, for Disney's Beauty and the Beast; in 2009, for Pixar's phenomenal Up; and in 2010, for Pixar's wonderful Toy Story 3. Beauty and the Beast lost to Silence of the Lambs, Up lost to The Hurt Locker and Toy Story 3 lost to The King's Speech. Obviously, the Best Picture field is stiff competition. It will be an immense task for an animated film to beat nine non-animated films to be named the best of the year, overall.
The LEGO Movie would have had to beat Birdman, Boyhood, Whiplash and six others to the top. If it had come out for this year's awards, its journey would have been even more difficult. But why is it that the Best Animated feature category only started in 2001, with Shrek beating only two other nominees: Monsters, Inc. and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius? Have their really only been three animated films worth featuring in the Best Picture category?
One of Pixar's best films, WALL-E, had fans and critics hoping for a Best Picture win at the 81st Oscars. Nope. Time Magazine, reporting on the possibility, wrote: "…for WALL-E to have a shot at the big prize, Disney, Pixar's parent company, would have to foot the bill for a Best Picture campaign, and it is not clear the studio is ready to do that." That's something, isn't it? The studio behind the movie has to fork up money to run a campaign for votes . What is this, politics?