Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Look at the Oscar Chances for "Deadpool"

Scene from Deadpool
It has happened again. Deadpool has gotten another award nomination, this time by the Writers Guild of America (WGA). It is an honor that comes as a big surprise to those who wish to write off the superhero satire that broke the fourth wall as well as box office prognostication; creating a belief that an R-Rated superhero movie could be commercially viable. It is far from the first nomination to happen. This upcoming Sunday will see it go up against awards heavyweights like La La Land and Florence Foster Jenkins for Best Comedy or Musical, as well as an acting nomination for lead star Ryan Reynolds. It's a bizarre trajectory, especially for a film released back in February of 2016. However, there is one question to ask ourselves: is Deadpool capable of being an Oscar contender? There's not enough to say it is official, but the Golden Globes and WGA nominations help to spread certain doubt.

It is true that the Golden Globes hold very little precedent at predicting the Oscars. Past Comedy or Musical nominees like The Hangover, Spy, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen all earned their fair share of nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) before missing out on a single nomination. With that said, few of these films showed much of an impressive run elsewhere during awards season and made their chances of being nominated a tad more difficult. Yet there is almost a cult now around Deadpool; a group who consider it to be the pinnacle of modern superhero cinema, on par with The Avengers' ability to make a zeitgeist movie that showed the potential of cinematic universes. In this sense, Deadpool comes up short. However, the fact that the WGA has become the latest to add their name to the list recognizing the film does make a curious argument.

One fact that is often overlooked, and profoundly baffling to begin with, is that Deadpool director Tim Miller was actually an Oscar-nominee for the Best Animated Short entry Gopher Broke. While it is easy to see prestigious directors having this clout going into a superhero film, Miller's status seems particularly odd, especially since his biggest achievements were largely based around film design, including the title credits to director David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Having Deadpool as his feature length debut seems odd for an Oscar nominee. Then again, the hope of the film turning out halfway decent was always going to be problematic. 

Yet with an 84% on critics aggregate website and lines like "I know right? You're probably thinking, 'Whose balls did I have to fondle to get my very own movie'? I can't tell you his name, but it rhymes with 'Polverine.'" this has become an awards contender. To some, it's a refreshing turn from the increasingly dour superhero genre. In my opinion, it's a fine movie that is given too much credit for being a great movie. More than any other film, I do believe that Deadpool will be one of the worst aging superhero films of 2016. It isn't just because it attacks conventions we all take for granted, but because it's frankly just a mediocre script with juvenile jokes that you'll get tired of hearing eventually. It's a film meant for grindhouse; cheap and jealous of bigger productions, but whose heart is worn so superbly on its sleeve. Then again, its one advantage is that Deadpool's marketing campaign has kept it as one of the most talked about movies of the year. In a sense, that perfectly nails it as a zeitgeist movie worthy of awards - but not really.

To run down the hurdles that Deadpool is facing, let's look at comic book movies as they relate to the Oscars. There has never been a superhero film nominated for Best Picture. The only comic adaptation to do this was 1931's Skippy (which also received a Best Actor win for Jackie Cooper). The only other major Oscar acting win came for Best Supporting Actor winner Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (A History of Violence's Best Suporting Actor nominee John Hurt didn't win). Since the comic book renaissance (post-1989 with Batman), only two comic books have gotten a writing nomination, which were A History of Violence and Ghost World - the latter holds the honor of being the only such adaptation to be have its creator nominated.  The rest are largely technical fields that don't really matter in a discussion like this.

To be honest, I'd rank Deadpool's chances very low on getting a Best Picture, Best Actor, let alone a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. I am aware that screenplay fields often go into weird territories, but I don't feel that its innovation is more than artificial and that it isn't the most ambitious superhero movie of recent years. Best Adapted Screenplay is a category I would argue should be reserved for films that show some challenging work on a story and lyrical level. Deadpool doesn't have that. It's merely juvenile jokes disguising itself as smart satire. It's fun, sure, but I don't think that its writing is necessarily where it stands out, and frankly I would be offended if it got anywhere near the technical fields.

I will admit to having a long wishlist for things that I want to see done at the Oscars. I want to see stop motion actors get a category. Same for stunt performers and voice actors. I would love to see a superhero film get into the Best Picture field, because I do believe they have the cultural significance to do so. I just simply believe that The Academy blew it a little by not nominating the one film that deserved that right (The Avengers). With all of this said, I'm also a big endorser of choosing the best of any given year and frankly overcoming the Oscars So White backlash is a tad more important right now than using Deadpool (in a misguided way) as the film that ushers in superhero films as Oscar-worthy fare. The film's marketing campaign is a thing of beauty for sure, but the film itself has no right to be judged as better than films like Captain America: Civil War.

Reynolds claims that Logan star Hugh Jackman is going to be giving an Oscar-worthy performance this year. It wouldn't be too ridiculous to think so, especially since the first trailer shows a deeper emotional cut than your typical X-Men fare. Speaking as The Academy also like Jackman enough to have him both host the ceremony and have a Best Actor nomination for Les Miserables, his odds of making the final cut are a little better - especially if the narrative suggests this nomination as a retrospective award. With that said, it's rare otherwise to find performances in these films that stand out as being more than fun. I hope that Reynolds is right. I'd love to see a great superhero performance. But I don't think Reynolds himself gave one in Deadpool. Is the merc with the mouth going to get an Oscar nomination? I hope not. But whatever these voters are smoking must be some pretty wacky tobaccy. 

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