"And the Oscar Goes to...Anime?"

With the Autumn season around the corner, I figured that now was the best time to discuss the Oscars. You might think I’m crazy to mention something that doesn’t occur until the end of February, but this is the beginning of the biopic/Oscar drama cycle anyway. Besides, anything to be heard before I’m drowned out by the whiners!

There’s a lot to unpack with the Oscars. On one hand, there’s the horse betting, or picking a movie and getting mad when it, yet again, loses to something “inferior”. I find that tedious and subjective, something I doubt most people understand, so I won’t discuss it. Then there’s the racial politics, which is a little more interesting, but-again-I’ll avoid that because it’s complicated. Finally, there’s the issue of whether or not there even needs to be an award ceremony, especially given the first two points I mentioned. Once again, however, I’ll be avoiding that.

I’d like to, instead, focus on something that’s been bothering me for a while now. It’s not really about the Oscars, but rather how it’s perceived by certain groups in the film community. More specifically, how it’s perceived by the anime community. I’m sure some of you know where I’m going with this, but it’s worth re-stressing: whether or not an anime film deserves Best Animated Feature simply because it’s an anime film. The short answer is, “No, so stop asking.” But since it requires elaboration, especially whenever a Studio Ghibli film gets nominated, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

I’ll get the pink elephant in the room out of the way right now: Studio Ghibli films aren’t underrated. At all. They have more films in the IMDb Top 250 than any other anime film studio. In fact, next to Pixar, they’re easily the most well-loved animation house there. 8 of the company’s 22 films have fallen under the criteria for that list, 6 from Hayao Miyazaki alone, second to Pixar’s 9. This isn’t even counting the consecutively strong reception on Rotten Tomatoes, with all but Tales From Earthsea reaching “Fresh” status, and their strong showings on Metacritic. Calling Studio Ghibli “underrated” is like calling water “dry”: it’s nonsense.

That having been said, I still don’t think Studio Ghibli deserves every Oscar simply because it’s Studio Ghibli, and the reason is quite simple:

See, there’s this arrogant notion amongst many anime fans that anime is better than Western animation. It doesn’t matter if that claim is weightless, it’s touted as factual. The problem is that anime’s another form of animation. Regardless of region of origin, it has to take into consideration storytelling, character writing, direction, lighting, blocking and music, to name a few details. Saying that anime is inherently superior to Western animation completely ignores the human factor. Like it or not, everything about art, right down financing, begins and ends with people.

I mention this because talent doesn’t discriminate. Pixar, for example, are incredibly talented, and they deal with computer animation. They’ve completely flipped the whole “machines lack heart and soul” argument on its head by sheer virtue of their line-up. Even their weaker movies have talented people behind them, that’s undeniable.

So to say that Studio Ghibli deserves the Oscar every year for merely being itself is disingenuous. For one, they have competition in Pixar. And two, even outside of Pixar, they have competition every year anyway. Howl’s Moving Castle had to compete with Aardman Animation’s Wallace an Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Ponyo lost its nomination to The Secret of Kells and Up. The Secret World of Arrietty and From Up On Poppy Hill were both released too late in North America to qualify, and even then I don’t consider them the best offerings of 2010 and 2011. The Wind Rises had to compete with Frozen, while The Tale of the the Princess Kaguya only had a shot because The LEGO Movie didn’t get nominated. And, of course, Only Yesterday was a 1991 movie released here in 2016, so it missed the boat by 15 years.

Honestly, the only time Studio Ghibli stood a chance, both qualitatively and timing-wise, was with Spirited Away. And even then, Disney had to-allegedly-kneecap its promotion of Lilo & Stitch. Spirited Away wasn’t the rule, it was the exception. For another Studio Ghibli movie to win the gold, it’d have to lay down the cards in the exact same way as that film, which is next-to-impossible.

I remember once stupidly responding to a YouTube commenter who was mad that The Wind Rises lost to Frozen, using an explanation of why I thought it was the inferior film. To say that I got barraged with angry responses is an understatement:
“captain raccon whatsoever , youre a fuckin idiot.
Yes , i do see your point on the writting , but i dont see a problem in that here , besides , myazaki is trying to show something that really happened. It can get somehow of a bit not so good on the writing , but the key of the movie is ANIMATION. The movie is gorgeous and it tells a simple beutiful story about life. U can literally see their lives from the moment they are born till they die. I dont think its one of myazakis worst , its one of the best , and he he goes out with a bang. the only one i though that wasnt so good was nausica , and thats still a really fuckin good one in what it tries to do.
And seriously , fuck Frozen. No , it didnt deserve to win over the wind rises , far better animation , far better story , its just fuckin beutiful.
Frozen is disney trying to get back to her old self , its a princesses movie , and im not saying it is bad , i enjoyed it. But to say its better than this ? Nop , its not. Disney has far better movies , frozen is just plain overrated with cheesy fans like yourself who think it was so damn good. When , in fact , it was not.
Its movies like this that makes us think about life in general , that is what the wind rises is all about , a lesson that disney needs to remember again.
Have a good day.”
The above comment is one of many lobbed at me for stating my thoughts. Ignoring the typos and grammatical inconsistencies, it represents the overall sentiment when I claimed that Frozen was better: I was a blind fanboy who couldn’t see past the film’s clichéd and bland story. This ignores that I’ve been openly critical of Frozen in the past, but whatever!

As a final note, I can’t stay silent about the claim of how The Academy hates Studio Ghibli, as it isn’t true. Studio Ghibli has been nominated for Best Animated Feature five times, winning once. You know how many times the late-Satoshi Kon was nominated? Zero. You know how many times Mamoru Hosoda has been nominated? Zero. Studio Ghibli is extremely well-loved by The Academy, or they’d have been nominated zero times too.

This ties in with my belief that Studio Ghibli fans are entitled brats (some of them, anyway). So what if your movie of choice didn’t win the Oscar? So what if it only got nominated? It’s not the end of the world, is it? You can toss out as many excuses as you want, but at the end of day you’re still getting mad over celluloid.

Besides, the Oscars have problems worth criticizing. Like how the members of The Academy are mostly old, white males, hence their perspective is really limited. Or how movies that get nominated are partly nominated based on box office returns. Or how most Oscar winners for Best Picture are rooted in one of two genres, the biopic or the drama. Or even how the voters for Best Animated Feature have little-to-no respect for animated films. There’s stuff to be angry about, and yet, every single year, it boils down to people’s horses not winning the race.

But whatever, who am I to talk? It’s your choice!


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