Oscar 2013: Avenging the Marigold Kingdom Part II
By Tom Houseman and David Mumpower
June 20, 2012
Tom Houseman: David, I didn't know that the Dumbledores were from Tennessee. That would explain why Aberforth has such an affinity for goats.
I'm glad you're bringing up all of the relevant arguments for why one might consider The Avengers a potential Best Picture nominee, so that I can hopefully avoid having to talk about it again until at least December, at which point its exclusion from the awards of every major Guild will be all the proof I need to shut people up.
You compare the Academy's expanding of the category to ten nominees to the MPAA adding the PG-13 category, but I would say that it is more akin to when they changed the X rating to NC-17. It was an attempt to fix the symptom without having to deal with the underlying problem, which is that the members of the Academy - much like the MPAA - are out of touch with mainstream audiences. Yes, the voting system changed, but the voters are still the same old crotchets around whom I'm sure you'd feel very much at home. The fact is, for a mainstream blockbuster to get a Best Picture nomination it has to be more than just popular. If all it took was a boatload of money, Twilight would be riding a string of Best Picture nominees.
Let's look at the nominees from last year, because if the voting system remains the same (which is not a certainty) then that will give us an indication of what type of films we can expect to see. It is safe to say that the films that would have made a five-film list would be The Artist, Hugo, The Help, Midnight in Paris, and The Descendants. That means that the four films that got in thanks to the expanded list were Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. None of these were a big popular blockbuster, but rather films that Academy voters really enjoyed. Those are the kind of films that get in with a category that fits more than five films, no matter what the Board of Governors want the effect of the expanded field to be.
Titanic, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar, and Inception were all films that had an indelible impact on the cultural zeitgeist. Yes, The Avengers has made, as we've established more than once, all the money, but in the end, it's just a really popular superhero movie. It is in the same category as Star Trek, which was also talked about as a potential Best Picture nominee, but was overlooked. Also, those films I mentioned above were all made by highly respected directors, and while Joss Whedon has his cult following, he is not the sort of director behind which the Academy can rally, a necessity for these sorts of blockbusters.
Multiple nominations? Maybe. Visual Effects is extremely likely, and it has a shot at one or both of the sound categories. But what else? Acting? Writing? I have a better chance at having a threesome with Scarlet Johannson and the actual Black Widow (it would be a Purple Rose of Cairo situation, because yes, I have seen at least one movie made before 1995) than anybody in that cast has of getting nominated for their performance. Films like this are driven by the popularity of their director, and if The Avengers gets a DGA nomination, then we can talk. Until then, I can't imagine 5% of Academy members putting this one at the top of their list.