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A promotional image for The LEGO Movie, featuring its cast of characters.
A promotional image for The LEGO Movie, featuring its cast of characters.

Shawn Mak

Commercial creativity: No love for creativity by creatives?

I love LEGO. And I love movies. Which is why when they announced they were going to make a feature film out of LEGOs, I was in geek nirvana. And then when The LEGO Movie actually rolled into the cinemas, I was at the front of the line. Delightfully, the film did not disappoint. Everything about it was, well, awesome.

Till last week.

To many Hollywood observers, The LEGO Movie was a shoo-in for the Oscars, with many predicting the battle for Best Animated Feature to be between The LEGO Movie and Big Hero 6. Both major studio releases did extremely well at the box office, featured the beloved classical hero’s journey storyline, and were at the top of their craft. One had heart and pathos, the other had big laughs and celebrated freedom of expression and the very idea of creativity. While Big Hero 6 slid in to the 2015 Oscar race, The LEGO Movie didn’t. What gives?

Did the commercial value of The LEGO Movie harm its perceived 'artistry'?

Interestingly, the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards that were given out mere hours after the Oscar nominations were announced awarded The LEGO Movie Best Animated Feature. Awkward…. So how is it that the broadcast critics (a notoriously snobby bunch) can laud a broad comedy about creative freedom that the Academy didn’t?

Is it possible that of the 6,000 Academy voters–all creative practitioners–there just aren’t enough supporters for a film that celebrates creativity, the very engine that drives their industry, even more so when paired with the commercial aspects of it? Evidently. The fact that Hollywood has been up-in-arms over the silencing of The Interview by North Korea has made the lack of support for The LEGO Movie at the Oscars even more deafly ironic.

Was it too commercial despite its creativity?

Theories for the snub are many. But I guess it’s mostly because Academy members are just not as enamoured with populist, big-budgeted marketing vehicles as fans are, opting instead for artsier films like Song of the Sea, even if the movie’s theme strikes at the very heart of their chief preoccupation. For shame. I believe that in our line of work, there ought to be room for art, room for commerce and a room where the twain can meet. (My colleague tells me that twain is advertising.) Truly, The LEGO Movie speaks of what we creatives believe: That creativity knows no bounds. Except–apparently–at the front yards of a few thousand Academy members.

If it’s any consolation, Team LEGO can always build their own statuette. And I bet it’ll be spectacular.