Another year has come, where genre entertainment fans are up in arms about their favorite films not getting the prestigious Oscar nominations outside of categories where they typically receive them. Joker is the only film to receive nominations of “note”…a whopping 11 of them, outpacing every other film in the running. But the ones fans care about most, Best Picture of The Year, no genre entertainment movie has come close to winning it. Black Panther was nominated last year, and despite the phenomenon that it was, no one had any false hopes of it actually winning it. Joker this year will be no different. Despite the fact that as a genre film it isn’t actually much of one, Joker isn’t close to being the best actual film up for the award in most people’s opinion.
But that’s not the point of this think-piece, the point I wish to bring up, is that time and again, the films that actually win the coveted Best Picture Film are NOT genre films. In fact, The Lord of The Rings: Return of The King is 1 of only 2 genre films to win the award in the last 61 years. SIXTY-ONE YEARS. (The other was the dark fantasy/romance film, The Shape of Water in case you were wondering). Sure there have been some other notable nominations: Raiders of The Lost Ark, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Avatar, A Clockwork Orange; but none of those films were ever in serious contention.
The Academy Is Biased, And They Aren’t Bashful About It
The Academy, formally known as Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has a stated goal of “advancing the arts and sciences of motion pictures”, yet its always the genre films, the ones that typically push the boundaries of what films are able to do on screen to tell stories, that get left out of its highest honor. The Academy has a well known bias against these types of films, for lack of perceived depth or overall critical acclaim. The proof is in the results really, as two films in over 60 years is a less than 3.5% success record.
The Academy even attempted last year to introduce an Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film category. The award would basically honor blockbuster and popular films that ruled the public consciousness, like Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War. The award was met is widespread negative reaction from the people who carry the most influence with the Academy: it’s voters. The arguments against it were that it was pandering to mainstream fans (not sure why that’s an issue), lessening the chances of nominated films in the category for winning Best Picture (even though they could be nominated), and the problematic name implying that films like Black Panther (which provided the push for creating the award in the first place) would be viewed as “separate but equal” from the film that wins Best Picture. The award was quickly put right back on the shelf.
So Why Do Genre Fans Keep Caring About The Oscars?
There have been a few writers who’ve championed the cause for Blockbuster films, including Academy voter Gene del Vecchio who wrote this piece in the Hollywood Reporter on the subject. Yet, there’s no bright star on the horizon that shows this is going to change any time soon. The Academy has been playing gatekeeper on what determines what type of film is the Best Film for almost 100 years. They view genre films as low-brow entertainment, that aren’t worth consideration since they are based in fiction and not historical retellings of actual events. They eschew escapism choosing to favor films that have deeper social meaning or lessons to be learned/taught.
If they view the films we enjoy so much with such disdain, why do our tongues wag when one of our own gets a token nomination for its best award? Its almost like the Academy is Lucy Van Pelt holding the football for us poor Charlie Brown’s to run up and try to kick it. The Academy is a group of stodgy older people who are very much removed from the pulse of the mainstream. Avengers: Endgame broke the internet when tickets went on sale…people were selling out theaters for DAYS trying to see it. It got the people excited and people talking about what they saw and experienced. Why is that type of film not worthy of being called Best Picture? Is not a film that so captures the imagination of the world not the epitome of the Best Picture?
According to the Academy, the answer is no. So to hell with them. If they don’t value what we love, who needs them.