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Friday, June 14, 2019

Will the Oscars Finally Recognize Superhero Films? The Lord of the Rings Example

by Ray Keating
June 14, 2019

Can Avengers: Endgame lay waste to Hollywood’s Oscar bias against superheroes?

The Academy Awards just announced the date for its 2022 Oscars show, and confirmed the dates for the 2020 and 2021 shows. I understand that February 9, 2020, for the upcoming Oscars seems pretty far off, and we still have plenty of movies to watch in 2019, but this announcement got me thinking about whether or not Avengers: Endgame might finally have the power to break through the Academy’s opposition to superheroes.

If there’s hope on this front, it can be found in The Lord of the Rings movies. The first in that film trilogy – The Fellowship of the Ring – hit theaters in December 2001, followed by The Two Towers in December 2002. Both films were nominated for Best Picture, but failed to win, only taking home technical and music Oscars. And then came The Return of the King in December 2003. All three movies, by the way, were filmed together, and then released over those three Decembers.

It was noted at the time that Academy voters were holding off on awarding the big Oscars until the last movie in the trilogy. However, that was no slam dunk. It needs to be pointed out that no true fantasy movie had ever won Best Picture. In fact, Fellowship and Two Towers were, it can be argued, the only other true fantasy films ever nominated for Best Picture to that point.

So, at the 2004 Oscars, The Return of the King broke through, winning Best Picture, Best Director (Peter Jackson), and a total of 11 Academy Awards.

There are parallels when it comes to Avengers: Endgame, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Released in April 2019, Endgame not only was the second part of an epic story that began in Avengers: Infinity War (April 2018), but it brought to a close this part of the MCU that covered a breathtaking 22 films, starting with Iron Man in May 2008.

Also, no superhero movie has ever won a Best Picture Academy Award, with Black Panther (February 2018) becoming the first movie in the genre to be nominated for Best Picture. And there have been assorted snubs in terms of nominations over the years, in particular with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008).

And of course, there is the critical and box office success of Endgame itself (see the DisneyBizJournal review) as the crescendo of these 22 interlocking movies that included very few misses. 

Also, if the Academy sees wisdom in nominating Endgame, and it is considered a serious contender, people might actually watch the February 2020 Oscars show, as opposed to the show’s long decline due to, in large part, a lack of interest among most of the movie-going public for the films nominated.

Endgame and the entire MCU truly rank as a monumental achievement in cinematic history – one that deserves recognition by the Academy. And that recognition should come not just in the form of a Best Picture nomination for Avengers: Endgame, but in the actual awarding of the Best Picture Oscar. It made sense for The Return of the King and it does for Avengers: Endgame.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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