So, what happens next? The two foreign dark horses may stand a chance, though I’ve seen neither. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya comes from Studio Ghibli, which essentially printed out my childhood memories on film, but in recent years (pretty much everything after Ponyo), I’ve admittedly fallen off the wagon. Honestly, I’d bet that Big Hero 6 pulls out the win. It’s Disney, it’s got the eastern-inspired flare, and it’s the most fresh in people’s memory compared to the others. Though the first How To Train Your Dragon lost to Toy Story 3 back in 2010, and I’d love a movie in that franchise to win a Best Picture award, I don’t think part two deserves it. Similarly, The Boxtrolls, while charming, is easily Laika’s least continuously clever film.
The LEGO Movie doesn’t need an Oscar to confirm its classic status, of course. It’s got a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes (with 9 unlucky souls in disagreement, woe be unto them) and everyone who’s seen it knows how good it is, but it’s undeniably disappointing. I get that some couldn’t get past its “gimmicks” or that it was too wacky for them, but even its pundits have to admit how much worse the whole thing could have turned out to be. The movie felt essential when it opened in the early-February dumping grounds last year, and the lack of any proper Pixar film in 2014 (though that’s not exactly a shoe-in anymore) made it a clear frontrunner for awards season. It lost to How To Train Your Dragon 2 at the Golden Globes last Sunday, and seemed ready for the big win at the Oscars.
“This is not a tragedy,” director Phil Lord said to console fans on Twitter after the announcement. But it is, Phil. You made a movie that will become required viewing for kids in ten years (and should be already), entertaining them with its colorful wackiness as toddlers, irreverent jokes as kids, and hidden brilliance as they grow older. It’s a testament to the movie’s endless endearing spirit that it makes the actual nominees look like blips on the animated flick radar, but it does. Lord, Chris Miller, and company essentially created an Iron Giant for this generation, except a lot of people saw it and loved it and it didn’t take a decade for everyone to realize its genius.
The movie’s biggest asset rests in its final moments, which may either leave you with goosebumps or scratching your head (as previous data implies: 9 in 212 will be head-scratchers). It’s a universe-changing, important in-all-caps moment that not only justifies the entire movie that precedes it and unearths a surprisingly deep emotional core, but also preps younger viewers for the oh-gosh moments that film as a medium will provide them as they grow older. Not to mention, it’s one of the best movie moments of the year. It not only works, but it makes the big emotional plot points of its nominated rivals look shockingly sparse. “Instant classic” as a phrase has never been used more right. Which is all to say: President Busin—err, the Academy, can have their own Best Animated Film of 2014, ever-so-slightly off-base it may be. And we, the Internet, will always have Emmet.