Film criticJoe Morgenstern says exactly what I was thinking after I saw WALL-E the first time… and the second time…

As each movie season unfolds, I try to concentrate on the horses, not the race — on individual films and their special qualities, rather than their chances for winning Oscars, or any of the other awards that come to dominate (and distort) our outlook toward the end of every year. And we’re only at the midpoint of a season that is shaping up slowly, to say the least. In a piece that Variety published last week under the headline “Late Arrivals,” Timothy M. Gray wrote: “The past six months have offered fewer potential contenders than any January-June period in memory.” Still, one entry is a horse of a different color — Pixar’s “WALL-E” — and my concern is whether it’s running on the right track.

If the pattern of the past seven years prevails, “WALL-E” will be nominated for the Best Animated Feature category; if justice prevails, it will win. But “WALL-E” isn’t just an animated feature; it’s a great motion picture by any measure, and has already been hailed as such — by critics who’ve called it a masterpiece (I’m one of them), by audiences who watch it in a state of enthrallment (which is one notch up from enchantment). In keeping with its singular distinction, Pixar’s latest gift to movie lovers should be a candidate for the most prestigious award, Best Picture, when Oscar time rolls around. And the time to start the drumbeat is now, because the path to that nomination is strewn with prickly practicalities and marked by timeworn doubts.

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