Under the Circuit: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

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phil-lord-and-chris-miller

Most Known For: “The LEGO Movie,” “21 Jump Street,” “22 Jump Street”

Snubbed For: “The LEGO Movie”

Everything was not awesome for Phil Lord and Christopher Miller on Oscar nomination morning as “The LEGO Movie,” which they wrote and directed, was amazingly left out of the field of five of Best Animated Film nominations after being the perceived favorite. But Lord and Miller have been proving themselves as top tier filmmakers outside of “The LEGO Movie” and even have a previous gripe with the Academy.

cloudy2LgThat gripe came in the pairs’ first feature film, another animated film, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” “Cloudy” received a pretty solid reception from critics, and even a solid awards track record with nominations from the Golden Globes, the Annie Awards and the Critics Choice Awards. When it came to the Oscars, however, the film was left out. It was, however, quite a competitive year in the category with “Up,” “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Coraline,” “The Secret of the Kells” and “The Princess and the Frog” ending up with the nominations. It is hard to argue “Cloudy’s” exclusion over those films, though timing was just off, as 2009 is bookended by years when only three animated films were nominated.

“Cloudy” created a solid base for Lord and Miller, but they became ones to watch when they rebooted “21 Jump Street.” No one expected much of anything from this film, a reboot of a moderately popular 80s series with Jonah Hill before “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Channing Tatum before “Magic Mike.” What we got was wholly unexpected. “Jump Street” exceeded everyone’s expectations with its satirical edge. Lord and Miller may not have had a hand in writing the script, pretty much the only element of the film that could be argued for Oscar consideration, but they put their stamp on Hollywood with this film.

The sequel, “22 Jump Street” would continue and in some people’s opinion, mine included, improve what the first film accomplished.

But now for the elephant in the room, “The LEGO Movie.” Much like “Jump Street” nobody had any expectations for this film; it was a movie based on LEGOs for crying out loud. But after what they accomplished with it, Lord and Miller should be given carte blanche (or Cate Blanchett for you “Jump Street” fans) to make a film on nearly any topic they want.

lego_a“The LEGO Movie” was original, witty and undeniably touching in ways that you would never expect from tiny toy versions of Batman and other popular franchises. Much credit must be given to the voice cast that included Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell and Liam Neeson, but this film is Lord and Miller’s all the way.

The snub for Best Animated Feature is obvious and egregious – no one knows what the academy was thinking, and sadly we likely never will – but the script from Lord and Miller also could be considered a snub. It was a long shot to get in a very competitive year for Original Screenplays, but the idea definitely had merit, even more so after a surprise win for Original Screenplay from the National Board of Review. Alas, the long shot fell short.

Lord and Miller have also made splashes in TV over the last couple of years, directing the pilot episode of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and the first two episodes of the new show “The Last Man on Earth.”

As far as what’s next for Lord and Miller, we know they are writing the script for “The LEGO Movie Sequel,” but they will not be returning as directors. Outside of that, we don’t know what the duo has planned, but whatever it is will likely be a very exciting prospect and not surprise anyone this time around.

When it comes to the Oscars though, it will be an interesting thing to see if they ever come close again. Their style and film history thus far seems to suggest that Best Picture or Best Director odds would be long shots – can’t see them directing an Oscar-bait kind of biopic. If they’re ever going to have a shot it likely will be either for Screenplay or a third attempt in the animation field. It would be pretty cool to see Oscar-nominated filmmakers in front of every Lord and Miller movie if it ever does happen.

  • Troy F

    Enough with the Lego Movie already, it was a decent enough joke-athon with a touch of heart.

    Did anyone actually bother to watch Song of the Sea or Princess Kaguya? It’s pretty obvious why an animation branch would gravitate towards those instead. They are absolutely stunning and animators are gonna realize how much work goes into creating those films.

    • doughyjunn

      Completely agree on Song of the Sea and Princess Kaguya. They’re my two favorite animated films of the year and Song of the Sea will probably make my top ten list after I catch up on a few stragglers.

      I thought it was a really solid year for animation and, while I enjoyed Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and Boxtrolls, the Lego Movie would be my solid 3rd.

    • jmlatinsir

      I didn’t see Big Hero 6 or Song of the Sea…and I still say that The Lego Movie deserved to be one of the nominees if not the winner…as much as I loved Princess Kaguya (and I am a huge fan of Gihbli), I enjoyed it but found it a bit on the long and it began to sag in the latter part. Nevertheless, the animation was awesome. I didn’t expect anything when I went to see Lego… and I found to be totally original, funny and beautifully written and directed. Dragon was good but not up to the original.