Luke Owen on Logan’s “Oscar chances”…
Amidst all the news and rumours of a possible Deadpool cameo in Logan [see here, here and here], Ryan Reynolds announced that he had seen some of the film and praised what he saw. “Logan looks like a movie that might break that [Oscars] glass ceiling,” he told Variety. “I know first-hand that it’s amazing. I’ve seen some of it. It’s mind-blowing. It relies a lot on character.” It’s an interesting comment as it raises the discussion as to whether a comic book movie or tentpole picture could worm its way into the ‘illustrious’ Best Picture category at the Academy Awards. Perhaps even a Best Actor nod for Hugh Jackman, who has dedicated the last seventeen years of his career to this one role that is very special to him.
But let’s be honest, Logan – or any other comic book movie for that matter – will never get an Oscar nomination.
Last year I wrote a very scathing piece on the Academy Awards noting they are a, “shameful circle jerk charade” that was quickly cementing itself as consistently out of touch with each passing year. It’s snubbing of Straight Outta Compton for being “too loud” and The LEGO Movie for being a simple cash-grab have been well documented, as has the open admittance of giving 12 Years a Slave the Best Picture award despite not watching the movie. The Academy is little more than a group of middle-aged white men giving pats on the backs of those who they think ‘deserve’ recognition regardless of whether what they produced that year was worth the hard drive space it took to film and edit.
The same films get nominated every year, and the winners become more and more predictable. Was there any chance Leo wasn’t walking away with the tiny gold man last year for The Revenant? But this article isn’t about the films that do get nominated, but rather the films that don’t.
Reynolds’s comments about Logan‘s quality may be very true, and the film might be a fantastic character piece that transcends the ‘comic book movie’ bubble. The problem is that, should the film be put forward to the Academy board, it will instantly be dismissed as a comic book movie and therefore unworthy of an Oscar nomination. No matter how much comic book movies push boundaries or challenge audiences, they will never be seen as being on the same level as the likes of Spotlight, The Revenant or any other predictable ‘Oscar Bait’ affair. The LEGO Movie screeners weren’t watched by the Academy. They took one look at the title and made the incorrect assumption that it was a cheap, lazy, toy advert and dismissed it as such. It doesn’t matter how good of a performance Robert Downey Jr. gave in Captain America: Civil War – or how much the film was driven by his character – he was a man in an iron suit punching a guy dressed in red, white and blue spandex. To put it bluntly, the Academy would never “lower themselves” to nominate such ‘popcorn rubbish’.
One only needs to look at 2008’s The Dark Knight, a movie that was incredulously snubbed at the 81st Academy Awards despite being adored by both critics and audiences while also pulling in over $1 billion in box office revenue. Christopher Nolan may have created what many consider to be a cinematic masterpiece, but its central character was born from the one of the lowest of artistic ventures: a comic book. As several filmmakers have told me over the years, adapting a comic book for the silver screen is seen as being just a few steps above doing a video game movie or basing your film on a theme park ride. Heath Ledger, who gave an incredible performance as the deranged Joker, was given a posthumous nod for Best Supporting Actor that year. However one has to ask whether or not he would have been awarded the win had he not sadly passed away? More likely the award would have gone to Josh Brolin in Milk, and Ledger wouldn’t have even been considered for nomination. To date, Ledger’s Joker is the only nomination in a major category for a movie that came from a comic book – and he literally had to die to get it.
The Academy Awards are so scornful of anything outside of their comfort zone that they created the Best Animated Feature so those ‘dirty toons’ weren’t to be seen on the same level as their beloved arthouse pictures. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the only legitimate Best Picture nominee back in 1992 as it was during a time when only five films were put forward, unlike Up and Toy Story 3 which felt like pity nods after the nomination limit was increased to ten. Putting animated movies into their own category in 2001 set the table: if you’re a cartoon you don’t belong amongst the living breathing pictures which we deem to be ‘the best’. It’s like a real-world Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where the Toons live in Toon Town, only to be brought out when humans need them. The Academy are telling animators, in so many words, you don’t put the same amount of effort into your films as someone who works with real actors on actual sets. A bit like that Harry Enfield sketch, ‘Women: Know Your Limits!‘
Comic book movies are in the same predicament. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn argued when responding to Dan Gilroy’s complaints about the genre, “if you, as an independent filmmaker or a ‘serious’ filmmaker, think you put more love into your characters than the Russo Brothers do Captain America, or Joss Whedon does the Hulk, or I do a talking raccoon, you are simply mistaken.” Mr. Gunn is of course correct, but his work on Guardians of the Galaxy – or any other blockbuster movie for that matter – will never be as recognised as Nightcrawler, simply because its source material is a comic book. As long as the pretentious cinephile snobs that plague the Academy Awards and high-ranking critic circles make the decisions, blockbuster tentpole movies will just been seen as bubblegum fluff that isn’t worthy of celebrating. Perhaps when a new generation takes over – just as a new generation of filmmakers looked more kindly upon adapting comic books, video games and theme park rides – things will change. But for now, Logan stands as much chance of getting an Oscar nomination as I do.
If Star Wars: The Force Awakens becoming the first movie in history to make $1 billion domestically (while also being critically praised) isn’t enough to get it anything other than the technical awards, it’s going to be a long time before Iron Man and Batman are considered.
Myself and Oli Davis discussed this on the latest episode of The Flickering Myth Podcast, which you can listen to here.