Monday, December 27, 2010

Toy Story 3's Brilliant Oscar Campaign


Let's talk about the best FYC campaign of the year. The one where Pixar tries to build a case for Toy Story 3 as the Best Picture of the year, not just a nominee. Pixar won't be happy to just get the annual ghetto Oscar for Animated Feature, they want the big one. Do you believe this is possible? I can't say that I do...

Or, rather, it's possible but not bloody likely. A good correlation might be the foreign language film category. They also have their own category and very few have ever been nominated for Best Picture and none have won (the closest to a "foreign" winner is Slumdog Millionaire which is technically a British film but is partially in Hindi).

But let's look at the ads themselves, from worst to best, which use "Not since _____ " to compare TS3 to previous Best Picture winners.

Here's the two I find most problematic. I can't think, other than gender, how Jesse connects to Annie Hall (1977)? From body language to clothing, speaking patterns to personality, Jessie and Annie couldn't be any more different. And I can't see the connection in the photo either. The "Not since Titanic" ad is gorgeously composed but... seems rather tasteless to equate toys in the garbage dump to the who died at sea when the Titanic sunk.

I've heard the argument that it's okay to compare TS3 to the cheese-tastic epic that is Titanic and I heartily agree on that point. Both films are highly entertaining adventures. But the ad still screams "people who drowned!" only these toys don't actually die. Spoiler! TS3 is a lovely funny movie but it gets credit for really weird things, like for this scene which 'bravely confronts mortality'. The American animated film hasn't confronted death very often at all; it's a downer. Outside of Bambi and Up, when does it ever happen? Oh, sure, the villains die (usually accidentally or via a third party so that the hero/heroine isn't guilty of murder or manslaughter) but the audience is expected to cheer; it's not far removed from a knockout in a boxing movie. Characters regularly cheat death in animated films (by miracles, magical tears, kisses, luck, etcetera) but surviving the swing of the grim reaper's scythe is not the same thing as facing mortality. It's the opposite.

These two, referencing Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and The French Connection (1971) are a smidgeon better but the connections... The atonal torture stuff in Slumdog is not something to remind us of (worst part of that movie) and I'm blanking on the telephone thing. When we think of The French Connection, don't we think of car chases?  When I see the words French Connection and a big phone, I think immediately of Gene Hackman and so the phone makes me think of all those recording devices in The Conversation but that didn't win Best Picture. Still, it's one of the best films of the 70s which is saying a lot.

These are cuter. American Beauty (1999) uses American icon Barbie. And we readily forgive the literal toilet humor of this On The Waterfront (1954) gag because Pixar is one of the rare animated studios that doesn't regular subject us to that kind of desperate humor. And Woody spinning on that toilet roll was a really funny bit of slapstick.

The Platoon connection is obvious but the simplicity of the image is great and I think those anonymous green soldiers are insufficiently honored in discussions of the Toy Story movies. They're almost as great as the linking red monkeys. The Rocky (1976) joke is even better because it's not an exact parallel but it's the last man standing in the ring.

And from this point forward they're all brilliant. Big Baby and Lotso subbing for Clark Gable and Charles Naughton in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). Love it. And not just because I think the movie is totally underrated. This bit using "Not since... The Sting " (1973) is just so smart. Pixar movies have such great camera angles. They do always shoot them like classic movies inside those computers.

UPDATE 12/28: Oopsie, I missed this Silence of the Lambs (1991) spoof when I posted this. Or perhaps it's new. Sick humor -wheeeee -- but isn't the Mr Potatohead tortilla gag the most memorably weird image in the movie?

Love the bold color and compositions of The Godfather Part II (1974) and Return of the King (2003) ads. The RoTK ad is especially choice because it's such a beautiful twin, visually, of such an indelible moment in another famous threequel.

And finally, my choice for the two best ads which use Shakespeare in Love (1999) and The Sound of Music (1965) so fondly. Who didn't love discovering the thespian tendencies of Mr Pricklepants and to imagine him getting another big Shakespearean moment? Heaven.

Finally, we have Ken as one of the Von Trapp children. I'm bravely confronting mortality because I just died and went to heaven.

Adieu adieu to you and you and you ♪ ♫ 


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