This morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — an institution that in March of 1995 declared Forrest Gump to be a superior film to Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption and Quiz Show (Quiz Show!) — has decided that The Lego Movie, which was animated for the most part by Australian studio Animal Logic, is not one of the five best animated movies of last year. This is not a snub. This is a brickin’ joke.
It is possible to conceive of a world in which The Lego Movie was not one of the best movies (animated, live action, documentary, fever-dreamt) of 2014. I’ll concede that. It’s hard to put gentle goofiness up against the first truly great MLK Jr. biopic and Bradley Cooper… murdering the shit out of people? Sure! That sounds good too. No Lego Best Picture nom is fine.
But to put The Lego Movie up against other pieces of gentle goofiness and decide that its gentle goofiness is of an inferior quality, to cast it aside in favour of a movie dedicated to a young man who apparently has still not sufficiently trained his dragon despite all evidence to the contrary (and not even to get into the issues surrounding dragon subjugation in the first place), is absurd. How could this have happened?
Let’s start with the premise that there is anything objectively bad about The Lego Movie. Surely there must be? Of the 221 reviews listed on Rotten Tomatoes, 9 are negative, and the 4.1 per cent are fairly consistent in their critiques. Ed Whitfield of something called The Ooh Tray deemed it “the greatest commercial ever made”, which was meant as an insult but I’m not sure really is one, even if you accept the premise, which I don’t, because the only thing The Lego Movie sold me is whimsy and Will Arnett’s Batman viability. The New York Daily News and Reel Film Reviews both found it “exhausting,” which I read as “too much fun, we want less fun next time.” And the others are a hodgepodge of that same misguided crankiness. I dismiss them all in full, and you should to. The Lego Movie is pure joy distilled and then infused into a billion bricks.
But! Maybe, despite The Lego Movie‘s unquestionable excellence, there were five animated movies this year that were even more unquestionably excellent? Perhaps it’s just The Lego Movie‘s rotten luck that the animated equivalents of Laurence of Arabia, Citizen Kane and Ben Hur were all released in 2014? Or maybe they just nominated Frozen again five times? Let’s take a look!
A technologically innovative movie that has some heart. Which sounds a lot like The Lego Movie except with trolls that live in boxes (or wear them as… clothes?) instead of awesome Lego people.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Remember the hijinks a boy and his dragon got into a couple of years ago? Here are more hijinks. And more dragons.
Song of the Sea
No idea. Probably good? It’s DEFINITELY Irish. Guessing it could have used more Lego.
The Tale of the Princess Kayuga
Not thaaaat interested in irate emails from Studio Ghibli fans so let’s just say this looks magical, sure.
Big Hero 6
A technologically innovative movie that has some heart. Which sounds a lot like The Lego Movie except with obscure robots instead of awesome Lego people.
All of these movies either are or seem perfectly OK and good. But to choose them and to ignore the most commercially, artistically and technologically viable animated film of not just last year but the last several years is unfathomable. I can’t fathom it. There’s no fathoming to be done. We are all fathomless.
Ultimately it’s fine, of course. Everything is still awesome, despite the MPAA’s bafflement. The Lego Movie doesn’t need any more validation than it’s already gotten. And even if it did, as co-director Philip Lord made clear, it can find that in itself.
It's okay. Made my own! pic.twitter.com/kgyu1GRHGR
— Phil Lord #BlackLivesMatter #StopAsianHate (@philiplord) January 15, 2015
Which is really what makes Lego special in the first place.