Feb 23, 2011

[Spoiler Alert] Best Picture Nominees #8: Toy Story 3

 This is flat out the best film that will not win Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards. It's hard to feel bad for Toy Story 3, though, as it's a shoe-in for Best Animated Motion Picture (or whatever that category is called). Of course, the success and emotional pull of the film is built heavily on the critical and financial success of the previous films in the Toy Story franchise as well as the unbeatable force that is Pixar. We care about the characters in this film right away, no need to spend time on exposition or dialogue to establish these relationships. The audience is already invested. The filmmakers don't squander this goodwill, though, but rather build on it to create something completely new:
a movie for children about letting go of your childhood and embracing life's next adventures. It's really more for the twenty-somethings that fell in love with Toy Story years ago, with Woody and Buzz and the complicated relationship between children and their toys, bringing to life an idea that's laid dormant in many a child's mind: what happens to toys when we don't play with them?

Pixar hasn't really made a false move in its ten-odd year of making movies, except possibly with Cars, which was really more of a light, DreamWorks movie anyway. They simply excel at telling stories that feel both intensely personal and universal. The movies connect to viewers and teach them complicated lessons about being themselves, standing up for their beliefs, cherishing their lives, etc. and do it all without seeming preachy or superior.

Toy Story 3 is, simply, an almost perfect film.  It tells the story of Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, and all the other characters audiences have grown to love as they embark on their next adventure: life without an owner, life without purpose. There are moments in the film that make people cry, make people despondent, and make people questions the fabric of being (okay, maybe not that extreme). Not to mention, it's incredibly funny.

Animation in general this year was incredibly strong.  How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, and Tangled were all really good films. Even Megamind wasn't bad. Animation has always had a place in the world of film, always creating moments of awe for the audience, be it Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or The Triplets of Belleville. People have done more with animation - through fully animated films and increasingly sophisticated CGI - to stretch the medium than with any other filmic device.  And Toy Story 3 is the capper on all of that.

Good Film: Yes
Best Picture: No award, but Best Picture caliber definitely
Score: 10/10
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