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What Non-Aardvarks are Pondering

By Curtis C. Chen

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December 14, 2001

Seeing and Believing

Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the list of films which are eligible to be nominated for the new "Best Feature-Length Animated Film" award, which will be presented for the first time next year.

I know I'm not the only one who thinks this is a stupid idea. Take a look at the list of eligible films:

What do all these films have in common? That's right: absolutely nothing. How can anyone compare Osmosis Jones with Monsters, Inc. or Waking Life? They might as well create categories for "Best Color Film" and "Best Black-and-White Film," "Best Film Shot in Flat 35mm" and "Best Film Shot in Anamorphic Widescreen," "Best Film Edited on an Avid" and "Best Film Edited on a Flatbed," "Best Sound" and "Best Sound Editing."

Hey, wait a minute...!

So there's precedent. It's a bad precedent. With "Best Animated Film," the Academy has created a category which is defined by a simplistic technical classification, but designed to be judged on overall content. It's not an award for animation technique (as both Sound awards are), which would at least make sense; it's an award for the film in toto, which makes no sense at all.

The implication is that animated movies are intrinsically different from live-action movies, and that's a colossal fallacy. What happens when computer animation produces images that are indistinguishable from real-world photography (as Pixar undoubtedly will in my lifetime)? What happens when a movie has more visual effects-- which are, after all, animated-- than live-action content? Seriously, will Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones be eligible for a "Best Animated Film" nomination?

A more important precedent is the 1991 nomination of Beauty and the Beast for Best Picture. Not "Best Animated Film"-- Best Picture, period. Some will argue that this was an aberration which only occurred because the Best Animated Film category didn't exist, but I believe there was nothing wrong with putting an animated film up against Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides, and The Silence of the Lambs (the winner). That's the way it should be.

We don't need a special Oscar category for animated films. We need better animated films, we need more animated films, and we need to disabuse people of the notion that animation is not a mature, respectable art form. The "Best Animated Film" award will only encourage the continued ghettoization of animation. It's affirmative action for filmmakers who deserve better than to be treated like indigents. It's an insult and a damn crying shame.


Pop quiz: can you spot the animated films in these lists of top-grossing international releases?


The broadband saga continues:

The [Connecticut] attorney general is also looking into AT&T Broadband's decision to cap its maximum download speed at 1.5 megabits per second, about half of what Excite@Home customers enjoyed. AT&T Broadband's bandwidth cap--charging customers the same price for slower service--raises a new issue for the attorney general's office... [December 14, 2001]

-- PC World

Is my AT&T Broadband cable modem slower now than it was last month, when the service was still provided by Excite@Home? Yes. Should I be paying less for it? Hell yeah.. Will AT&T Broadband lower prices? Not a chance.

Note to AT&T Broadband: your customers don't care how difficult it was to build a new network on such short notice. We don't care how much blood, sweat, tears, and overtime went into making the transition as smooth and painless as it was. We only care that we're paying the same as we always have, but getting less for our money, and there's no good reason for it. You may have a de facto monopoly right now, but if you don't wise up, we'll dump your monolithic ass at the earliest possible opportunity.

ObDisclosure: I work for AT&T Labs, but the opinions expressed above are mine alone. Duh.




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