Superhero movies may rule at the box office, but when it comes to garnering Academy Award nominations, the genre doesn’t receive as much attention. This year, there was hope that may not be the case and the Academy would allow Deadpool to sneak in as a Best Picture nominee, or at least a Best Screenplay nominee. But, in the end, the Academy didn’t grant the R-rated Ryan Reynolds flick a single nomination.
In the past, we have seen genre-based action movies like Mad Max: Fury Road and Gladiator get nominated for major Oscars – and even win them. Horror movies like The Silence of the Lambs and science fiction films like The Martian have also managed to sneak into the Oscar conversation over the years. Many have wondered why some genre films are considered legitimate while superhero movies, in addition to most comedies and animated films, are still thought of as not dignified enough to warrant inclusion in awards season discussion .
One person who seems a little perplexed by the lack of “popcorn” movie nominees is Jimmy Kimmel, the host of this year’s Oscars. In a profile for Variety, Kimmel discussed the lack of Academy love for the superhero genre and expressed talked about how Deadpool did not get the nomination many expected it to receive:
“I would have liked to have seen Deadpool get nominated. I do think there’s a certain type of movie that’s not considered for awards. It’s a shame, because there’s nothing serious about the movies; they’re an escape. … I think comedies are also underappreciated. There’s maybe too much gravity applied to the nomination process.”
The lack of comedies, superhero movies and animated films among nominees is arguably even more frustrating now that there can be as many as 10 Best Picture nominees in any given year, up from the previous limit of five. Over the past few years, science fiction films like Arrival, Gravity and The Martian have been nominated for Best Picture, but superhero movies, comedies and animated films still have a hard time cracking that annual short list, with superhero movies being the most neglected genre of all.
Considering the amount of money superhero movies like Deadpool make for studios each year, the Academy may want to recognize the genre in some form beyond the standard nominations in technical categories like visual effects and sound. The Academy’s unwillingness to recognize the superhero genre in major categories tends to reinforce the perception that the organization is out-of-touch with mainstream audiences. “Fun should not necessarily equal unworthy,” is the general point being made by Kimmel and others.
Maybe it will just take time for superhero movies to achieve the awards recognition many think they deserve. Sci-fi was not originally respected either, but over the years more artistically valid and mature sci-fi movies were made, and the Academy began recognizing those films. As superhero movies evolve out of being mere “popcorn” films and begin handling their subject matter in a more adult way, perhaps they will receive recognition from the Academy. Could this year’s R-rated Logan be the movie that finally ends the superhero awards drought? We’ll see next year.