The Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. named " Wall-E," Disney/Pixar's animated film about a little robot who falls in love, the best film of 2008 on Tuesday afternoon.Yay.
You notice I didn't say "Yay!". I'm not exactly gunning for Wall-E for the Best Picture Oscar or anything, but it's just so nice to see it win a major award, and I do hope it gets nominated in the Best Picture category in the Oscars. I know it probably won't win the top award, but here are my thoughts on why it should be considered:
Ok, so it's probably going to go to Milk, for a couple reasons. One, the Academy loves Sean Penn. Two, the Academy loves biopics. Three, the Academy wants to make up for its egregious snub of Brokeback Mountain in 2006, which was obviously politically motivated and, frankly, homophobic. (Btw, Crash? Really??) I haven't seen Milk (The Times of Harvey Milk was good though), but word around the campfire is that it is very well-made, and very Oscary. Milk FTW.
But Wall-E deserves to be in the running. The other likely Best Pic nods - Milk, Frost/Nixon, possibly The Dark Knight - are all based on nonfiction or preexisting stories. Wall-E is a genuinely original story - despite the fact that he really looks like Johnny 5 - which is something sorely lacking in film today (see my recent post on film remakes). Pixar - who I'm not usually a fan of, for the record - came up with a completely original story, not based on tired Hollywood stereotypical plot-lines (see Finding Nemo and Cars), and set it against a sharply socially-critical background. Wall-E wasn't afraid to piss some people off, and it wasn't afraid to be overtly sentimental. To me, that is the essence of courage in art. The story was built around environmental themes, they weren't added into the mix during production, and these themes were unspoken but apparent. The humans in the story were both hero and villain and - much like Hayao Miyazaki's anti-villains - they contained the capacity for good and evil inside them, Wall-E was just the unwitting catalyst of this internal struggle.
Above all, the film lacked a sense of regret. There was never a sense that the humans in the story deserved punishment for their past digressions. They came to the realization that they had fucked themselves over, and they began to build their world anew, with the added knowledge of what the consequences of said digressions are. I think it is one of the best environmental films of all time, and a great example of social activism and art in a successful fusion.