Each year, the Oscar nominations are announced, and each year the Academy proves unworthy of its role as gatekeeper for the film industry’s highest honors. Nowhere else is this more evident than in the Best Animated Feature category and this year’s inclusion of DreamWorks Animation’s “The Boss Baby” is just one of the more egregious misfires in recent years.
This year’s nominations sparked online controversy when it was announced that “The Boss Baby,” one of the year’s least-liked animated films, was up for nomination. The film follows the adventures of the titular character, an Alec Baldwin-voiced baby with adult intelligence and an office job. It was critically panned and mocked for being silly and shallow compared to better-received films like Disney’s “Coco.”
It is not as though “The Boss Baby” received no positive reviews. The Washington Post’s Pat Padua wrote that the film “strikes a fine balance between humor and sentiment,” and The New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger praised the film’s premise, claiming that “the contrast between the helpless-infant stage of life and corporate-speak is funny but fairly high-concept for a kiddie movie.” But there are many more negative reviews than positive ones. Owen Gleiberman wrote in Variety that “The Boss Baby” still feels standard issue and tiresome due contrived and cliche plot points.
Rotten Tomatoes’ scores for “The Boss Baby” in comparison to the four other nominees – “Coco,” “The Breadwinner,” “Ferdinand” and “Loving Vincent” – paint a more accurate picture of the movie’s reception. Out of 160 reviews from critics, “The Boss Baby” received a 52% rating. By comparison, “Coco” received a 97% from 262 critics, “The Breadwinner” received a 93% from 61 critics, “Ferdinand” received a 70% from 97 critics and “Loving Vincent” received an 83% rating from 124 critics. Even Rotten Tomatoes’ Audience Scores can’t save the film – “The Boss Baby” received a 52% score from audiences, whereas “Coco” received a 95%, “The Breadwinner” received an 89% and “Loving Vincent” received an 88%. Audiences only gave a slightly better rating than the 49% who approved of “Ferdinand.” Simply put, “The Boss Baby” does not seem to have earned its position among four other films that are widely agreed to be superior.
But does this truly matter? The Oscars, like any other award ceremony, are not truly representative of the impact a film has on the viewing public. The awards are decided by over 6,000 Hollywood personnel, not the audiences-at-large and critics. Those personnel base their judgments on unclear criteria and are influenced by massive campaigns orchestrated by public relations firms.
Time is a much more worthy judge of quality and impact than the Academy. The awards’ aversion to comedy is well documented with noticeable omissions of important films in the American canon, like 1993’s “Groundhog Day” and 1998’s “The Big Lebowski.” The Animated Feature category, added only in 2002 after decades of superb filmmaking in the realm of animation, has consistently failed to give justice to foreign animation, in particular Japanese anime. Despite the top-tier anime films reaching near-universal acclaim, only one anime film, Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away,” has ever won the category.
Unfortunately, the Academy, like many other film award groups, has remained behind the times and chosen to nominate films that audiences often consider rubbish. There is no use in raging blindly online about movie nominations, for the guidelines those nominations are based on are faulty standards. Oscar statuettes and Golden Globes are merely badges that eventually fade or fall off the movies they are slapped onto. Time, and time alone, is the only true judge of cinema.