I wasn't much of a fan of Ratatouille, but the film critics of America certainly "ate it up" (sorry). It's currently the best reviewed film of the year as scored by Metacritic, and unless Atonement, Sweeney Todd, or There Will Be Blood contain exactly zero elements that anyone might dislike, Brad Bird's portrait of an artist as a young rodent will by numerical critical consensus be the best film of 2007. However, Ratatouille is unlikely to get an Oscar nom for Best Picture because animated films have been ghettoized into their own category since the 2001 awards. It was then that the Best Animated Feature category was introduced, which has since been treated more like Least Bad Kiddie Movie, judging by some of the nominees. While the existence of the category doesn't actually bar animated films from Best Film competition, most don't bother to campaign, nullifying their chances. But according to this NY Times Article, the folks at Pixar are making a go of it, perhaps inspired by their own odds-overcoming cartoon rat.
As much as I'd like to see Pixar set a precedent for high-quality animated films competing on the level of other critically acclaimed films, I don't see it happening this time around. 2007 looks to be a pretty damn good year for American films, this being the year when the US's endless war anxiety finally rose to the surface in an eruption of downbeat, bloody movies, setting up a crowded playing field that I doubt Ratatouille will squeeze into.
What would it take, I wonder, for an animated movie to get nominated these days? The first and last cartoon to compete for Best Picture was Beauty and the Beast; has there been another animated film released in America since then that has had the same winning combination of production value, dignity, and traditional storytelling? The Triplets of Bellville was a bit hit with critics, but it was way too weird to play as an Oscar movie (although that year the extremely weird Return of the King won, which in addition to being a mess was one of the most boring movie I've ever seen, despite featuring a scene where a man on fire jumps off a mountain). Action-comedies are persona non-grata as far as the Oscars are concerned, so The Incredibles is out too. I think the only animated movie in the last seven years that could have had a shot was Spirited Away, which was also foreign and pretty bizarre, but was easy to watch and by a famous and celebrated filmmaker. But Spirited Away has come and gone, let's look to the future. If Ratatouille can't change Americans minds about animated film, perhaps Persepolis can. With an amazing looking trailer and extremely timely subject matter (a first person recollection of Iran's Islamic Revolution), Persepolis is poised to be one of the biggest adult-oriented animated features in U.S history, and will also likely determine commercial viability of animated films adapted from comics. Given those stakes, I hope Persepolis lives up to it's hype. But as far as awards go, it'll have a hard enough time wrenching that statue out of Ratatouille's hands in the Animated Feature category, especially if the Best Pic campaign fails. Or who knows, maybe Jerry Seinfeld will do his stand-up in every Academy voter's living room and Bee Movie will take the whole thing.
Related: My schizoid review of Ratatouille with a title that makes zero sense.
Geekanerd's look at Persepolis' acting talent, plus one of the early trailers.