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Why Don’t Superhero Movies Ever Get The Recognition They Deserve?

Defending 'Deadpool' (and Ryan Reynolds) from a blatant Oscar snub
by Anton D. Umali | Feb 1, 2017
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Oscar fever is in the air, and if you’re an avid moviegoer, it’s safe to assume that you’ve seen your fair share of this year’s contenders. Wagons upon wagons of people are celebrating the musical mediocrity that was La La Land online—possibly this year’s biggest joke with 14 nominations (tying Titanic, which is a masterpiece compared to director Damien Chazelle’s gross display of showmanship, for the most Oscar nominations in history). Movies like Moonlight, Fences, and Hidden Figures—with their predominantly African-American casts and moving scripts—have been rightfully recognized as well. Arrival, auteur filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s Amy Adams fronted sci-fi oeuvre has also been receiving great word of mouth.

'Forget Ryan Gosling. What about Ryan Reynolds getting nominated for a Best Actor? Where’s his gold star?'

But one Oscar snub that not many are screaming injustice over is the non-nomination of Deadpool, the genre-bending superhero action-comedy that was universally praised and critically acclaimed. Forget Ryan Gosling. What about Ryan Reynolds getting nominated for a Best Actor? Where’s his gold star?

Superhero movies have become such a prevalent part of pop culture, yet award-giving bodies, specifically The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, usually fail to give credit where credit is due when it comes to the acting present in these kinds of films. Let’s not get things twisted, numerous comic book adaptations have been nominated and have won for achievements in fields that involve production design, styling, editing, and sound. Come on, Suicide Squad was a shitty movie at best, and yet the Academy nominated it this year for makeup and hairstyling. Truth be told, Harley Quinn’s look was in no way, shape, or form revolutionary. Deadpool, despite being a fresh take on an otherwise saturated genre, sadly, had zero nominations to speak of.

But is there really a lack of thespianism in popcorn flicks like Deadpool and its predecessors? The last performance to actually nab an Oscar for acting in a superhero movie was Heath Ledger’s psychotic turn as supervillain Joker in The Dark Knight. He bagged the Best Supporting Actor award, and the depressing fact is he earned this posthumous. Although his portrayal of Batman’s arch-nemesis was indeed disturbing, deserving, and highly effective, one can’t help but think that it was partly a pity prize. The only attempt the Oscars have made at being more inclusive of caped crusaders is with the 2014 multiple nominations and Best Picture win of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, which intellectualized the concept of the superhero by zooming in on a has-been actor who once played a popular superhero. The smart thing about this film was that the actor playing the lead was Michael Keaton, real-life washed-up actor famous for playing Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton’s version of Gotham’s brooding vigilante.

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'But is there really a lack of thespianism in popcorn flicks like Deadpool and its predecessors?'

Now, in order to understand the blatant Deadpool snub, you need to take a look at the Merc with a Mouth’s contemporaries and competitors, particularly in the Best Actor category. With industry heavyweights like Denzel and Viggo (are there any other?), and young-ish character actors like Casey Affleck, Ryan Gosling, and Andrew Garfield in the fray, the super-unlikable Canadian that ruined Green Lantern for DC fans was unlikely to sidle his way in. All the performances nominated in this category are hinged on heavy emotional gravitas—portrayals in either serious dramas or tragicomedies. Movies that are, in the strictest sense, very Oscar-worthy. But if the Oscars really choose to honor diversity, then superheroes need to be considered and taken seriously.

'All the performances nominated in this category are hinged on heavy emotional gravitas—portrayals in either serious dramas or tragicomedies. Movies that are, in the strictest sense, very Oscar-worthy. But if the Oscars really choose to honor diversity, then superheroes need to be considered and taken seriously'

Deadpool’s secret weapon is that it subverted the genre. By being self-aware and breaking the fourth wall, the character was able to reflect and voice and enact what the viewer was already thinking in their theater seat. Ryan Reynolds' skills were so on point that the role reinvigorated a career that was dwindling due to a string of miscasts in subpar rom-coms and studio projects. Crass and complicated, Deadpool and his R-rated ways don’t mirror the All-American sensibilities present in most modern-day characters of his ilk. And maybe this is why he wasn’t invited to join the Best Actor club this year. There is a price to pay for being too forward after all. And that price is usually castigation and exclusion. But that’s all right. When the Deadpool sequel premieres in 2018, Ryan Reynolds and the team behind this extraordinarily unique, game-changing franchise will be eating chimichangas all the way to the bank. And the Oscars? Well, they’ll continue to be exposed for the growing joke they are starting to become: a self-congratulatory, self-loving body of supervillains that won’t let a real hero get paid his dues, even if he actually deserves it.

 

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