Black Panther’s Oscar nomination is historic, but these 5 equally deserving superhero films were ignored
Black Panther’s Best Picture Oscar nomination is historic, but here are five other superhero movies -- The Dark Knight and Logan -- that were equally deserving of Oscars love.Updated: Feb 23, 2019 08:29 IST
Between 1930 and 1954, approximately 2700 Westerns were produced. This was the Golden Age. During this time, the Academy honoured several great Westerns -- nine were nominated for Best Picture, of which one (the largely forgotten Cimarron) won the coveted Best Picture Oscar.
But there was clearly a disconnect. Westerns were immensely popular, and would often be listed among the highest grossing films of the year, but they’d rarely receive the sort of critical acclaim usually reserved for period pieces and musicals. In fact, The Searchers -- often considered the greatest Western ever made -- wasn’t nominated for Oscars at all. It’s proven to be an all-time classic, though -- often topping respected ‘best of’ lists, boasting a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and having influenced everything from Star Wars to Breaking Bad.
There are similarities to be drawn between Westerns and superhero movies -- both have been the most popular film genre of their respective eras. And with the recent historic Best Picture nomination of Marvel’s Black Panther, they seem to be charting similar paths as well.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas -- two of the most successful directors of all time, therefore worth listening to -- have compared Westerns and superhero movies, albeit negatively. “We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western,” Spielberg said.
Whether or not his prediction turns out to be true, there’s no doubt that superhero movies are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. And the recognition the genre has been given -- at least at the Oscars -- has been long overdue.
There have been many superhero films over the years that have been just as deserving of a Best Picture Oscar nomination as Black Panther, just as subversive, just as culturally important, and just as emotionally stirring. Here are five.
For many years, Spider-Man 2 had cemented its reputation as the greatest superhero movie ever made. It offered the old-school charms of a classic Hollywood tentpole, with flash-bang visual effects wizardry never before put on screen, and an emotionally resonant story. It was the best Spidey movie until this year, when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did for the character (and the genre) what the Lego Batman Movie did for the Caped Crusader. Curiously, both films are written and produced by the great Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Evan as fans continue to bemoan the fact that there hasn’t yet been a definitive big screen version of the Fantastic Four -- the First Family of comic book superheroes -- we mustn’t ignore the fact that Brad Bird’s the Incredibles is basically a Fantastic Four film, only with different characters. The glass ceiling for animated movies at the Oscars had already been broken in 1991, when Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film to bag a Best Picture nod, and several Pixar movies have since repeated the feat.
The Dark Knight
Possibly the most influential blockbuster of the last decade -- Black Panther certainly owes it a hug -- Christopher Nolan’s second Batman movie was considered by many a shoo-in for the Best Picture nod. It’s snub at the 2009 Academy Awards was seen as the industry altering moment when the Academy, realising that it had been bitten in the butt by its own rules, decided to expand the Best Picture nominees field from five to 10 the following year. The move paved the way for films such as District 9, Avatar and Nolan’s own Inception to be nominated for Best Picture.
It still feels strange to call Logan a superhero movie, because it’s so much more than that. But crucially, it never seems to be ashamed of its populist origins. It harnessed all the goodwill star Hugh Jackman had built over his 17 years with the character of Wolverine, and funnelled it into a bold new vision -- a superhero film that came the closest to resembling the Westerns of old. Logan is possibly the greatest example of how the two genres are, and will forever be intertwined -- technically, thematically, and now ever visually.
It is likely that being released in the same year, Logan and Wonder Woman ended up cannibalising each other for the Academy’s votes. To have just one superhero film as a Best Picture nominee is the rarest thing in Oscars history, but to have two would be blasphemy. But if you think about it, no other popular film of 2017 created the level of conversation as Wonder Woman did, and no other film was as socially relevant, considering it arrived in the year of the #MeToo movement.
Each of these five films -- and surely many others -- has sacrificed glory for the future of the genre. That’s how I look at it.