Adventures in Toyland

Oscar oglers know that the Best Picture award has often left us with a why-on-earth feeling. Can we explain Rocky beating Taxi Driver, or Dances with Wolves getting more votes than Goodfellas, or Forrest Gump winning over Shawshank Redemption?

I know I can be disappointed again when I put my tuppence this year on Toy Story 3. But there's reason for hope - reason that can put the film buzzing lightyears ahead of competition. Say, how many films can pack - apart from humanoids - two dinosaurs, an octopus, a donkey, a pig, a dog, three-eyed green aliens and a strawberry-smelling teddy bear into a tight plot? The plot itself twists effortlessly from grown-up Andy's disused play cabinet, to a playpen ruled by fascist toys, to a terrifying rubbish dump and back. Our friends - Woody (inflected not only by Tom Hanks's voice, but his morals too), Buzz (also seen in a schizophrenic 'demo' mode), Jessie and their pals - are carted off to a daycare centre where every toy is not as huggable as they seem at first.

Rather than sinking more of the hookline into our friendly waters, let's see how the sharks - those fickle Oscar voters - might take to it. The voters minded of the Oscar Legacy need only look back at the series. Remember, the movie has also snatched a nomination in the 'best writing based on material previously produced' category. Some of this year's voters might have even played with a Buzz Lightyear model not long ago.

Those tut-tuting over the animation should be easier swayed. Thanks to Pixar, TS3 makes the line between them toys and us humans so fluid that the difference between a crying Woody and his plasticky movie merchandise self is a blink. Never before would you have seen as funny a flamenco performance as when Buzz's settings are changed to a 'Spanish' mode.

Those worried of the tale's soul - and there are loads of them on the Academy voters' list - shouldn't worry at all. In another review, this could be made out to be a story of recycling. Not to forget a basic question the movie asks: if someone has cared for you for years (Andy, now a college-goer), should you run away from him or her just to have fun?

There was a eureka moment earlier this year when I thought How to Train Your Dragon was The One, despite its instructional title. It has a thrilling losers-can-be-winners plot, prickly humans and bristly dragons, and a lighting that's more sophisticated than in most humanoid features.

But then I watched Toy Story 3.


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