Marvel is having an Oscar campaign for its 2022 features, which could certainly generate some interest in the awards show — and possibly save it.
The Academy Awards have been a subject of criticism and controversy for a long time. Whether for failing to recognize actors and creators of color for their work or for constantly centering “Oscar bait” films over other genres, the awards ceremony has generated a little pushback every year for almost twenty years. Come 2022, Marvel Studios has decided to push for an Oscar nomination for all of its major films, Thor: Love and Thunder, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. If these films succeed, it could potentially change the game for the Academy Awards, a move that needs to happen if the ceremony wants to remain relevant.
The Academy Awards were founded in 1927 by a group of filmmakers as a push to get film taken seriously as an art form rather than a form of entertainment. The first Best Picture ceremony was split between two types of “Best Picture” and saw the award go to both an artistic family drama (Sunrise) and a big-budget action film, Wings. Since then there has only been one Best Picture, the most high-profile and controversial award of them all. There have been ups and downs throughout the awards ceremony history, but interest by viewers often dips when high-profile, mainstream films fail to be nominated for this award.
What Is the Oscar’s Best Picture Controversy?
The controversy over Best Picture peaked in 2008 when The Dark Knight and WALL-E failed to get nominated in favor of a group of more obscure pictures. This caused the ratings for the ceremony to bottom out, prompting the expansion to ten categories and the addition of Up and Avatar in 2009. However, despite this expansion, few high-profile action and animated films have made their way in since. The only Marvel Cinematic Universe film to be nominated so far was Black Panther in 2018, which controversially lost to Green Book. Despite Endgame being one of the biggest and best-reviewed films of 2019, it was ignored, as were all other MCU films.
While Marvel did run Oscar campaigns for several films, they went ignored, with again the notable exception of Black Panther. 2022 has seen the MCU’s three major films very much dominating the conversation, whether for good or for ill, and Marvel is once again running a campaign for its features following its success at the People’s Choice Awards. While fans have found the choice of Thor: Love and Thunder amusing, given its mixed reviews, there have certainly been far worse-reviewed films nominated for Best Picture; 2011’s nominee Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has only 45 percent on Rotten Tomatoes to Love and Thunder‘s much more respectable 64 percent. For a long time, Best Picture nominees have often been less “the best film of the year” and more “the kind of movies Oscar voters like.”
How the Marvel Nominees Could Change the Oscar Game
Star Wars was a Best Picture nominee in 1977, but The Empire Strikes Back was overlooked in 1980 in favor of films like Tess and Ordinary People, which most readers have probably never heard of and modern film experts would agree are nowhere as important to filmmaking as Empire. Since the 1980s, the Oscars has gotten this reputation, in addition to its poor track record with nominating films made by and starring people of color, female directors, and LGBT and international cinema. If the MCU is able to get not one but two films into the running for Best Picture in 2022, it could potentially change the game.
Wakanda Forever, Multiverse of Madness and Love and Thunder could upend the Oscar Best Picture nominee clichés. They feature women, actors and creators of color, and nontraditional resolutions. They are superhero action films based on comic books and big-budget action blockbusters with beautiful visual landscapes and fight scenes. All three films are certainly good, but again, the Oscar’s Best Picture nominees are rarely going to be the “most objectively well-made” (whatever that means; shot compositions are all flawless? Artsy direction? Flawless script?) films of the year, but rather the films the Academy determines are worth nominating. And if these Marvel films are worth it, they could save the awards going forward.