Sunday, September 30, 2012

"The Avengers" and the Academy Awards

Should The Avengers get nominated at the Oscars come next year?  It's a simple question, and one that I feel is worth exploring.  The Avengers is the best film of the year so far, and if I gave away any awards at this point, it'd sweep.  It's a fantastic film, one that I think will become a classic, and while there is still a lot of year to go, and many, many more movies, I know that The Avengers will still remain in my tops for the year, no matter what comes out.  Of course, I am not the Academy, and they have their own minds when it comes to blockbusters getting nominated.

The Academy Awards have always had a strange relationship with blockbuster filmmaking, a fact that has in many cases led to snubs like The Dark Knight not even getting nominated for Best Picture four years ago.  One reason may be the snobbery of the Academy, not thinking such material is serious enough to warrant consideration, I mean having explosions mixed with emotion and thought is such a terrible combination (note the sarcasm).  Another reason I've always heard is that these blockbusters are just so popular already, they don't need the exposure that the Academy Award lends to a smaller film, but there and again, if the institution desires to truly honor the best in film for a given year, the size of its scale and its budget should not dictate its Oscar chances.  If a big blockbuster truly is the most moving, most thoughtful, and most enjoyable experience of that year -- like The Avengers has been for this year -- then doesn't it deserve the honor of being crowned Best Picture for that individual year?

Now, let's take a step back.  We've just explored all of the reasons why it will be an uphill battle for The Avengers to get nominated for the Oscars, and the aim here isn't to talk about if it even could get nominated, but rather explore why it should.

The Avengers truly is a groundbreaking film.  In this era of franchise filmmaking, where Hollywood wants to create as many sequels as possible off of a pre-existing brand, what The Avengers has done is astonishing.  Not only did The Avengers successfully bring together four different film franchises -- Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor -- but it also helped redefine what a film franchise can be.

What Marvel has been working toward ever since they started producing their own movies with the first Iron Man, was to create a shared cinematic universe for the Marvel characters.  Like in the comics, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) would feature great solo stories, while also creating the possibility for familiar characters to crossover between movies.  Like in the comics where some characters, say Nick Fury and SHIELD, will show up in Iron Man the same month they show up in Thor.  What this allowed Marvel to do was to shoot for the stars and say, "We really could make an Avengers movie and bring all of these characters that you already know and love onscreen together," and that is exactly what they did.

Now, something that is often forgotten about the Oscars is that Best Picture is honoring the producer of a film.  The entire cast and crew doesn't receive a gold statue, not even the director, the producer is the only one who gets the Best Picture statue, and no producer deserves to be recognized for his vision more than Kevin Feige.  He is the glue that has held the MCU together.  Some credit Robert Downey, Jr., others will even just credit Marvel and the comics themselves, but Kevin Feige is the only constant for all six of the Marvel Studios' movies.  He produced each and every film, it was Feige who had the initial vision to create a Marvel Universe on film that would allow a film such as The Avengers to exist, and The Avengers is the film that bore all of the fruit of his hard work.  You can say that Marvel has been doing the crossover for four years now with little cameos in one another's movies, but The Avengers is the main event, and in many ways, honoring The Avengers would not just honor Feige for that one movie, but honor him for all six Marvel Studios' movies.

All of the Marvel Studios' movies are fun, entertaining, and exceptionally well made, while some have been slightly better than others, there has not been a genuine stinker of the bunch.  The thing is, if one of those movies had not worked, say Iron Man just flat-out flopped, then there would be no The Avengers.  The fact is, there is The Avengers, and it is because all of the Marvel Studios' movies have been great movies, and when there is a consistency of quality, then someone did something right, and that someone was Feige.  An Oscar for a film has never been more deserved, and I don't think there will be another movie this year that is more deserving when taking into account how awesome and groundbreaking The Avengers was.  Now, what about the rest of the fields at the Oscars?

Technical categories such as Special Effects, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing, will more than likely go their way, but things such as Editing, Production Design, Cinematography, and Original Score, wont, and nor do I think it should.  Neither one of these areas were showy enough in The Avengers from other, similar films, to get it in there, even if it is all solid and well done.  Same goes for directing, even though Joss Whedon did a terrific job.  As for acting, a SAG Best Ensemble award would definitely be warranted, but there is no individual performance that stands out, which is all the Oscars honor, so it wont and I don't think should happen.  The only other place I feel The Avengers truly deserves Academy recognition is in the writing.

Best Adapted Screenplay should go to The Avengers.  This is where Joss Whedon really shines and stands out, with his showy, distinguished writing.  First off, to take four different characters that have proven they can be the sole protagonist of their own movies and put them all in one movie, is a challenge.  It's a balancing act to try and give each character equal screen time.  Then, take into account how well Whedon did this, while also retaining the comic book personalities of each character, and I don't think anyone could make a better case as to why The Avengers shouldn't get nominated for Adapted Screenplay.  It's a smart, witty script that is a master class of how these big blockbuster films should be written.  It dots all of the i's and crosses all of the t's of the traditional three-act structure, and yet it still feels fresh and original, due to the marvelous dialogue and characterizations.

Can The Avengers possibly score these nominations?  I am not sure.  Marvel Studios will have to really work at it, spending tons of money to get it to the Academy's attention with screeners and for your consideration ads to let them know that they are taking it seriously and want to get nominated.  From my experience in watching the Oscars, if you don't campaign for it and let the Academy know that you want it, you wont get in, and that is what Marvel must do if The Avengers is to get nominated.  However, the matter as to whether or not The Avengers should get nominated and be considered one of the best films of 2012 is inarguable, there hasn't been a movie thus far this year that is more worthy of the Best Picture crown.

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