Anghus Houvouras on Marvel movies and whether they should be considered serious cinema…
I have many fond memories of sitting at the kids table. You know, that second table at family functions where all the kids under a certain age were relegated to so that the adults wouldn’t have to deal with the loud nonsense being discussed by children who lack experience, perspective and volume control. This is where we would talk about our favorite comic books, movies, TV shows and toys while screaming our opinions over one another as we argued about which fictional characters would win in a fight. Eventually you mature and make your way over to the adult table where you have more nuanced, in-depth discussions. You can ask your barely-sober Uncle Walter who he thinks would win in a fight, Thor or Superman, but chances are you’re not going to get a coherent answer.
There’s a lot of fun to be had at the kids table. It’s less inhibited and there aren’t as many rules… but if you want to have a grown up discussion, you have to get up, wipe the mashed potatoes off your face and come over to the adult table where people are discussing issues that consider more than your dumb, one dimensional child-like perspective.
When I hear people mention Avengers: Endgame as a legitimate contender for a Best Picture nomination, I struggle to take them seriously. Just as I did when the same cinema obsessed masses were clamoring for Wonder Woman and Black Panther to be nominated for Best Picture. Like those examples, Avengers: Endgame is a very entertaining four-quadrant crowd-pleaser that deserves praise. It does not, however, deserve to be in the conversation regarding the Best Picture of this or any other year.
Before I start applying a critical eye to the most popular film of all time, let me say this: there’s nothing wrong with you loving Avengers: Endgame. Art is subjective. If you think Avengers: Endgame is an amazing motion picture experience, I’m happy. However, just because you love something doesn’t mean it deserves award consideration.
That’s really what we’re dealing with here. I doubt there are many people that genuinely believe that from a critical filmmaking perspective, Avengers: Endgame is the high-bar for quality. It’s more about people who love pop culture wanting to have their personal tastes validated by seeing whatever it is they’re passionate about nominated for the major awards.
My expert analysis of Film Twitter is that we have a generation of critics and columnists desperate to drag the kids table over to the adult table, making claims that their juvenile blockbusters deserve to be discussed over dinner. We can patiently listen as they try to string together their giddy, childish thoughts, but we can’t take them seriously. I admire passionate people, but saying Endgame deserves a Best Picture nomination (or Wonder Woman, or Black Panther) is like watching pre-teen girls get upset because BTS didn’t win Song of the Year at the Grammys. These are the thoughts of excited fans, not people using critical thought to realistically look at the merits of a feature film.
I don’t want to see blockbusters regularly nominated for Best Picture. I don’t want this mindset normalized. When I read a list called ‘The Best 30 Films of the 2010’s’ from a major online publication and I see movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Wonder Woman and other blockbusters taking up space on what should be reserved for better movies, I get triggered.
You can’t just replace the words ‘Favorite’ with ‘Best’. Your feelings, while a factor in determining what makes a worthwhile cinematic experience, isn’t the only one. There are elements to be considered: writing, performance, direction, cinematography, music, production design. These are things that have to be considered when we’re discussing ‘The Best’. Avengers: Endgame has a number of creative failings that I think you could argue prevent it from being considered on any ‘Best of’ List for 2019, but I don’t even want to waste your time trying to convince you that no movie with the line “That IS America’s ass” deserves to be an Oscar/BAFTA nominee.
This is my problem with the current state of the online film community: Too many people pretending to be mature students of cinema and throwing mediocre blockbusters onto their poorly thought out ‘best of’ lists. When you print adolescent ramblings about thinly plotted blockbusters supposedly being high art, you are telling everyone you still belong at the kids table.
Scorsese is right: Marvel movies are more like theme park rides than an artistic experience. While I don’t find these comic book blockbusters to be as abhorrent as Francis Ford Coppola does, I do think the vast majority of Marvel movies (and comic book movies/blockbusters in general) are formulaic, well produced pablum that should never enter a serious conversation about the best films of this or any other year.
I suppose I can sum up the concept of childish critical thought with a quote from the Bible:
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
Bringing a movie like Avengers: Endgame into the discussion of Best Picture is the product of childish thoughts. For those writers looking to be taken seriously, maybe it’s time to give up your childish ways.
Do you agree with Anghus’ opinion? Let us know in the comments below or on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…