by Ray Keating
January 23, 2020
Joker is the Oscars’ kind of superhero movie. How so? Well, it’s not really a superhero film.
At the Academy Awards on the evening of February 9th, we’ll find out how well Joker performs in terms of what trophies it takes home. But with 11 nominations, including one for best picture, Joker already ranks as the biggest winner for a ... well ... superhero-related movie.
The problem is that Joker takes arguably the most well-known comic-book super-villain – the Joker – and makes him barely related to the DC universe. The movie itself is a strangely engrossing – though a convoluted story with lots of holes and a lack of originality – and dark take of one man’s descent into mental illness, violence and evil. But there’s nothing that really ties in with the superhero genre, nor is the character formidable in any way that super-villains tend to be, or even must be – including, well, the Joker.
Meanwhile, Avengers: Endgame, which hit theaters in April, served as a capstone for the first 22 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie provided nearly everything one might want from such a film (though it had its shortcomings as well), and it earned high praise from both critics and moviegoers. (See our review here.)
The audience not only was treated to the best of superheroes in Endgame, such as courage, sacrifice, loyalty, and compassion, but also to powerful resolutions for key characters, as well as to one of the most formidable villains in the history of superhero movies in Thanos. (See our take on Thanos here in our Infinity War review.)
In June, I wrote about Endgame and the Oscars, comparing it to the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, with The Return of the King winning best picture, best director (Peter Jackson), and a total of 11 Academy Awards at the 2004 Oscars. I concluded: “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.”
Nonetheless, Endgame only earned one nomination for visual effects.
Am I surprised that the Academy disagreed? Not at all. But I am disappointed. Meanwhile, I would argue that Black Panther (2018) remains as the lone superhero movie to be nominated for best picture – with Joker being, again, something other than a superhero movie. So, in reality, the Oscar bias against superhero films persists.
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of The Disney Planner 2020: The TO DO List Solution and the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.