Will a Superhero movie ever make the Best Picture lineup?

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HOLLYWOOD NEWS®: With The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hitting theaters today, the superhero genre is on my mind. Like with horror films and more often than not science fiction (though Gravity put a nice little dent in that last time around), movies about superheroes or comic book adaptations are basically ignored by the Academy when it comes to the Best Picture race. We all know that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight came the closest, and once upon a time Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 had a few fans clamoring for consideration, but it just doesn’t seem to happen. With Nolan’s franchise done now and Marc Webb taking Peter Parker in a different direction, I started to wonder if a film of this sort will ever crack the lineup…

In short, no, I don’t think one ever will. There were a few opportunities in the past, but the three instances I’m going to discuss below were the realistic chances. Now, I’d bet against one making it, though I’d love to be wrong. The facts and history just don’t support me having any optimism about it, at least for the foreseeable future.

The Dark Knight definitely came the closest. It was one of the highest grossing movies ever, captured the zeitgeist at the time in a major way, and had the added sympathy of Heath Ledger’s untimely passing. They also happened to really like the film, giving it eight nominations and two wins (Best Supporting Actor for Ledger and Best Sound Editing). They did snub it in the major categories, opting not to nominate Nolan for either his direction or writing, alongside the obvious Best Picture snub. This may have led to the expanded Best Picture field, but it’ll likely go down as the closest a movie of this ilk ever got to cracking the lineup.

The other two examples are from two years ago. Both Joss Whedon’s The Avengers and Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises had situations that could have translated into those nominations, but neither were able to go the distance, or even make too much of a dent in the race on the whole. That should tell you something about how little Academy members care about breaking this glass ceiling of sorts.

With The Dark Knight Rises, the Academy had a chance to make it up to Nolan and reward him for the conclusion of his franchise. Some had speculated that they would heap awards or at least nominations on him, following the route they took with Peter Jackson when he did The Lord of the Rings. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Not only did they resist the urge to throw him his first Best Director nod (he’s gotten a pair of Best Original Screenplay noms for non superhero work), they shut out the flick completely. Zero nominations is a far cry from the initial thoughts of it being a likely Best Picture nominee.

In the case of The Avengers, there was the potential due to it becoming one of the highest grossing movies of all time. Avatar and Titanic both got nominated, so why not this one? Well, they weren’t superhero flicks. As with The Dark Knight, voters found it easier to ignore the money when there were silly costumes involved. They did give the work an almost token Best Visual Effects nomination, but that’s a great deal off from the hopes that had sprung when the movie became THE must see movie of the time.

I know for a fact that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has no chance at a Best Picture nomination, but is it impossible for some future title to make the cut? Of course not, I just don’t see it right now. Again though, I’d love to be wrong. In the meantime however, we’ll just have to love superhero films and Oscar contenders in their own separate ways. There’s always the chance that they’ll become one and the same at some point, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. For now, just sit back, relax, and enjoy this latest Spidey flick for what it is…summer movie entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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