The Oscars are coming again this weekend and since the nominations came out in January there has been general uproar (again) about the lack of diversity. As somebody who enjoys cinema I can’t help but agree but I also believe that it goes so much further than that. We’ve reached a point where the Oscar nominees and winners are getting predictable. You could argue that it’s formulaic.
Last week I spoke about Pixar and they, together with Disney, have won nine of the fourteen Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature.Today, I want to focus on the superhero genre which anybody could tell you is leading the film industry at the moment but is yet to be recognised by the Academy.
There’s no denying that comic-book films are a huge section of the film industry at the moment. Particularly with the MCU, the box office has been dominated by Marvel and DC titles in the last few years, with The Dark Knight & The Avengers actually having the highest worldwide gross of 2008 and 2012 respectively.
As a kid who loved the cinema, I thought of the Oscars with a level of reverence that I reserved for them and them alone. If you (as an actor, director, writer etc.) or your movie won an Oscar then that meant more than any review or anybody’s opinion – clearly your work was the best. Now I’m not too sure about that.
You’re familiar with the term “oscar bait” – a film that is produced with the intention, and likelihood, of winning at the Oscars – and right now that seems largely to be biopics and epic period dramas. I don’t want to disparage the recent Best Picture winners or nominees, I’m actually a fan of the majority of them, but I believe that they’re missing something key.
Empire is the biggest selling film magazine in the UK and if you look at their last three covers, they’re all superheroes.
Empire hold their own awards every year – the Jameson Empire Awards – in which the winners are voted for by the readers of the magazine (people that love cinema). The difference in nominations is astounding. Moving past superhero movies for a second, films like Star Wars, Harry Potter and The Hobbit all receive critical acclaim. Regardless, they’re snubbed by the Oscars when it comes to the coveted Best Picture award but are recognised in the Empire Awards. Voting in the Empire awards is open to everybody; the Oscars are based on exclusion.
The problem with the Oscars at the moment is that the same people are voting for the same types of films over and over again. A 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times showed the following to be true of Academy Award voters:
- 94% Caucasian
- 77% male
- 54% over the age of 6o.
Clearly this is not representative of all people who watch films throughout the year.
You may think that if these films are the highest-grossing in the cinema and they receive so many other accolades, then should some gold statue really matter? The Academy Awards are recognised as the most prestigious awards in the film industry – perhaps these superhero films don’t need to win Best Picture but if the vast majority of people agree that something was the best feature film of the year, then shouldn’t it win the award?
What do you think about the Oscars? Should the superhero genre be allowed a space in the Best Picture category? What was the best film of the past year for you? Let me know in the comments.