Hands down one of my favorite films of 2014
was the Phil Lord and Chris Miller directed “The Lego Movie.” It has everything that makes a movie great. Fun. Funny. Adventure. Excitement. A great satire on consumerism. And a poignant critique on both teamwork and individuality. As an animated feature, it struck the right kind of balance and exceptional writing that appeals to both grown-ups and kids. It’s the kind of animated feature that blasted Pixar to fame.
But don’t just take my word for it. It has over a 96% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was the 4th highest domestic box office grosser with over $257M (its worldwide take was $468M, nearly half a billion dollars!). It was on many critics’ top ten lists for all movies in 2014 (in fact, it won the Critic’s Choice award for best animated).
So one can unequivocally say it was both a critical and commercial success. It was a hands down favorite to win Oscar for best animated. It was movies like this that the animated category was created in the first place in the early 90s. Right?
When Oscar nominations were announced Thursday morning, the world drew a collective and proverbial gasp when “The Lego Movie” was not nominated for best animated feature. In fact, the only nomination it got was for that contagious song “Everything is Awesome.” (How ironic.) “How is that even possible?” you ask.
Well, as you most likely know, except for best picture where everyone in the Academy votes, it is the professionals in a particular category that nominate the movies for that category. That means, for whatever reason, the overwhelming majority of animators in the Academy did not believe “The Lego Movie” stood up artistically and/or technically to the animated features that did get nominated: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”, “The Boxtrolls”, “Song of the Sea”, “Big Hero 6”, and “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.” Yeah. I know. I’m still scratching my head.
A Lesson for Professional Creatives
Creatives have a strange fascination and desire for awards. Particularly awards that come from peers. In fact, peer appreciation is something we all strongly crave. When other professionals in your line of work praise the work you do, there’s a certain level of joy and contentment that seems stronger than when the average lay person does. For this reason, professional photographers and filmmakers love it when they rack up WPPI awards, Telly awards, Oscars, Emmy’s, etc. It’s why we long for large Vimeo stats (vs. YouTube stats) and Facebook likes on industry groups.
But there’s a delicate balance we need to strike between our desire and quest for peer appreciation vs. appreciation from the general public. Especially when you’re in this to make a living at it. We’ve all seen or know of studios and/or professionals in our respective industries that do work that we as professionals may think of as either just mediocre, or frankly not good at all. Yet they’re making money hand-over-fist, have 100,000s (if not millions) of YouTube views, and/or has a seemingly unending docket of work. Then there are those artists whose work we all salivate over, yet their public appreciation and/or revenue pales in comparison.
It’s the same in Hollywood. Would any of you debate that Jim Jarmusch or Richard Linklater are more talented artists than Michael Bay? Yet “Transformers: Age of Extinction” was the #1 grossing worldwide movie last year with over $1 billion in sales. If you were to ask Phil Lord and Chris Miller to make a choice between “The Lego Movie” doing the critical and commercial success that it did, OR, be a little known feature that wins an Oscar, my guess is that they would opt for the latter. (Although, I’m sure it still stings and hurts not to get that peer appreciation).
But would you?
That’s the question to ask yourself. What brings you the most joy or contentment? What decisions are you making in your craft and your business based on your peer vs. public appreciation? There’s no judgment here as to which one is best for you. Just an honest question worth pondering.
Or, are you the kind of artist that truly does not care for either. That the only appreciation you need is your own inner voice that you did a job well done. In the end, maybe that’s the best judge of all.