[note]After the heated discussion yesterday about Toy Story 3, I invited a commenter Michael Nader to write up why he felt Toy Story 3 DID deserve to win. This is what he wrote.[/note]
Ignore the fact that Toy Story 3 is animated; ignore the fact that it‚Äôs a second sequel. Forget about the studios behind it. Jettison these associations, these often negative and purely political attributes of a film, and you have peeled away the deceptive exterior and can see the true value within. Toy Story 3 is utterly innovative, thematically resonant (to all ages), and above all, a stunning cinematic experience.
This film does what all films ultimately strive to do; importantly, however, most films are not bold enough to strive for all of these things at once. Most films only attempt to attain one or two of the numerous distinctions Toy Story 3 can claim.
Firstly, it is an incredibly entertaining and engaging film. It yields laughs, tangible suspense, and considerable emotion. On its very outer, surface level, Toy Story 3 is among the most affecting films to be released this year.
Going deeper, the film has a wide range of meticulously crafted characters that reach a certain authenticity and depth rarely attained by actors in live-action films; these characters are computer-generated toys. This accomplishment in itself is dazzling; characters like Buzz and Woody serve dual purposes, providing rich entertainment to younger audiences and relating complex, layered, and utterly humanistic dilemmas to those with a more piercing, cinematic eye.
At its greatest depth, Toy Story 3 is about something that appeals to all people, all ages, all demographics; it‚Äôs not really just about letting go of childhood, but something far less specific and infinitely more incisive: at its core, it is about the inevitable passage of time. It seems utterly simple and yet essential: we must all, at some point, let go of the here and now. The cruelty of the human condition is that time never ceases moving forward, and every moment in life is fleeting. No sooner have you grabbed hold of something that gives you happiness and self-fulfillment than the unstoppable motion of your world has stolen it away. Childhood is simply the vessel through which Toy Story 3, and to a lesser extent its two predecessors, channels this fundamental idea onto the movie screen and into the collective consciousness.
Ultimately, this film succeeds on every level and does so with ease. The running time is airtight, with not a moment wasted; each second is devoted to one level or another of its multiple purposes. It is always either bringing sheer entertainment, provoking intellectual curiosity, or simply relating a timeless, human message. The technical wizardry is unparalleled, and the voice-acting impeccable. All forces at work on this cinematic endeavor were firing on all cylinders, and their true belief in the importance of their work radiates through every single frame. The film represents to me simultaneously the most deeply satisfying cinematic experience I have had in years and the most profoundly influential on my own self-reflection. A film that is so deeply rooted in the reputation of its production company, the expectations generated by two earlier films, and the distinction of being animated is incredibly daring to provide such rich, thoughtful commentary on what it truly means to be human.
Toy Story 3 absolutely deserves to join the ranks of Slumdog Millionaire, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Forrest Gump, and seventy-nine other films as Best Picture winners. Is it The Godfather? Of course not. Is it far superior to efforts like Braveheart, A Beautiful Mind, and Dances with Wolves? Undoubtedly. It is simultaneously more effective in its pursuits and a more piercing insight into deep thematic realms. Looking at more recent entries, How to Train Your Dragon is, while excellent in its own right, hopelessly inferior in structuring, pacing, and character depth. The Social Network is phenomenal and ultimately is only barely outmatched by Toy Story 3‚Äôs sheer emotional power. There are many other outstanding films that certainly deserve a spot close behind at the finish line, but it is Toy Story 3 that will truly resonate, that will truly remain in our cinematic subconscious the longest. It has the widest appeal and captivates the broadest range of audiences. It is the most well-rounded production, with not a single element slacking the pace. And, most importantly, it digs the deepest into that baffling entity we call a soul.