What the techies think

Posted by · 5:22 pm · February 11th, 2009

There’s an interesting article in Popular Mechanics, in which several industry experts offer their own predictions in a number of technical categories. Like Kris’ earlier post about the DPs’ thumbs-up to “Slumdog Millionaire,” it offers a perspective on the race that can widely differ from that of critics, audiences and even the Academy itself.

I’ve often wondered just how differently the tech winners would turn out if they were voted on by the individual branches rather than the entire Academy membership. I think it’s likely that Emmanuel Lubezki would have a cinematography Oscar for “Children of Men,” for example, or perhaps the costume design gong wouldn’t always go to the film with the most opulent threads.

Here, sound mixer Richard Van Dyke and sound editor Brian Riordan both name “WALL-E” the clear winner in their respective fields, with the latter simply remarking, “If you mute ‘WALL-E,’ you don’t have a movie … if you mute ‘Slumdog’ for five minutes, it’s still amazing.” Both men approve of the work in “Slumdog,” while Van Dyke has some qualms with the mixing in “The Dark Knight.”

There’s an interesting conclusion in the makeup category, where artist Barney Burman’s personal standout is “Hellboy II,” though he rather surprisingly predicts that the general membership will lean towards “The Dark Knight,” given how powerfully the makeup job supported Heath Ledger’s performance.

Meanwhile, in the Animated Feature category, animation historian Jerry Beck offers an opinion that might to some extent explain the shocking results of the recent Annie Awards:

While Beck’s personal pick is Kung Fu Panda, he’s betting that WALL-E will win “because WALL-E might be perceived as superior,” he says. “WALL-E looks like the progression of animation. It’s critically recognized as a great movie and generally beloved. I believe animators know that Kung Fu Panda is the superior movie, but animators look at different things [than the general membership].”

So I keep hearing. I admit I’m far from an animation expert, but I fail to understand how “WALL-E” is a lesser feat of artistry or storytelling than “Kung Fu Panda.” Can someone explain it to me, please? I’m interested. Judging from the results of today’s poll, it seems most of you don’t get it either. In some cases, perhaps it’s just as well branch voting doesn’t rule.

→ 8 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

8 responses so far

  • 1 2-11-2009 at 5:50 pm

    N8 said...

    Not only is the notion of Kung-Fu Panda being a superior film to WALL-E baffling, but I was confused at why Popular Mechanics were classifying Best Animated Feature as a tech category. wtf?

  • 2 2-11-2009 at 5:50 pm

    Matthew said...

    I remember reading something that Lou Romano wrote – he’s an animator for Pixar. He said that Wall-E was fantastic, but Kung Fu Panda wasn’t limited by photo-realism, it was… I’ll just put it down. Quote: “In this case, I think Pixar can take a lesson from Dreamworks. Kung Fu Panda is a great CG “cartoon”, with design that is caricatured, appealing and not limited by photo-realism.” I think that animators would respect that because it is more in keeping with what animation is supposed to be – creative images, drawn, etc. – and not simply special effects. While I personally prefer Wall-E, I can certainly understand that.

  • 3 2-11-2009 at 6:08 pm

    Ryan said...

    I had an argument with a couple animation geeks over Wall-E. Both of them think the film is wholly unremarkable, and that Kung-Fu Panda is fantastic.

    Here is the disconnect: I judge films, animated or live-action, based on the strength of ALL its qualities, including the writing, directing, lighting, score, etc.

    However, none of that is of much significance to an animator. For them, it’s all about the strength of the animation, things like imaginative character design and complicated movement. If we compare Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda in those areas, and only those areas, then I see their point.

    Frankly, I think that’s a rather shallow approach to film, but to each his own.

  • 4 2-11-2009 at 6:19 pm

    Sound Designer Dan said...

    I agree with Van Dyke that The Dark Knight had so-so mixing. I couldn’t even hear what Oldman was saying the final minute of the movie. If Dark Knight had images that could say a million words, Wall-E had a soundtrack that could show a million images.

  • 5 2-11-2009 at 6:21 pm

    Matt said...

    “I fail to understand how “WALL-E” is a lesser feat of artistry or storytelling than “Kung Fu Panda.” Can someone explain it to me, please? I’m interested.”

    It’s impossible to explain without lying. WALL-E was clearly superior, simple as that.

  • 6 2-11-2009 at 6:23 pm

    Ryan said...

    I have my fingers crossed for a Best Score, Best Song, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing sweep for Wall-E. It truly deserves all of them.

  • 7 2-11-2009 at 10:25 pm

    Cinnamon Life said...

    Piggy-backing on what Matthew and Ryan already said:

    Animators don’t just respect the technical aspects of the craft. They are really looking for heart, or charm, or the animator’s personal touch to come across in the characters. Many animators might have felt that WALL-E and EVE, and all the other robots lacked that certain something. Also, KFP had many different types of animals to animate, which is more difficult than say, a cube and an egg.

    I definitely do not believe that KFP is superior to WALL-E. But purely from the actual animators’ standpoint, KFP might be that movie that they say, “yeah, I would have rather done that one.”

  • 8 2-12-2009 at 1:27 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Indeed Wall-E deserves so much more besided Best Animation. The sound categories should both be in the bag for them. I think thery’ll get Sound Editing with Mixing going to TDK.