I love The Avengers. I’ve seen it five times (no regrets) and it’s probably my favorite movie in the last few years. If you follow this blog you’ve heard over and over again why I love it (great script, excellent direction, etc). The Avengers is a movie that shows how good not only a superhero movie can be, but a summer blockbuster. Yet for all that it won’t get an Oscar or any serious recognition.
Okay, so it may get an Oscar for Sound Editing or Visual Effects or one of those technical ones that these sorts of movies (y’know, Star Wars or The Dark Knight) tend to win. But to get Best Picture (Or Best Adapted Screenplay – which it most definitely deserves), well, it’s not happening.
For some reason, groups like the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences find that popcorn fare isn’t good enough to be bestowed with a title like Best Picture, they need their movies to be ‘better’. No, not better quality like how Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings is far better than Ralph Bakshi’s; better in the sense that Loki thinks that he’s better than humans (I swear I’ll get The Avengers out of my system eventually).
In other words, it’s got to be ‘art’.
But how do we define ‘art’? Why was The Return Of The King awarded Best Picture but The Dark Knight Rises passed over? Both were excellent adaptions of previous work, proving that their sources could be turned into legitimate movies of excellent quality. Where is the line of art drawn?
Could be scope. The Return of the King is about good triumphing over evil on the grandest level possible. But The Hurt Locker is comparatively tiny and still won Best Picture. Historical significance would make sense then (The Return of the King was adapted from the third best selling novel of all time). The Hurt Locker is about a controversial war and The King’s Speech about a king, um, giving a speech during a war. The Artist is a silent film and The Titanic about the titular ship.
The other route would be to go for something relevant or something that tugs at heart strings. Over recent years, the trend for award-winning movies has become borderline formulaic that videos have popped up on YouTube lampooning them. It’s not hard to know what sort of movies will win. Art has given way to predictability, quality to relevance.
So maybe it’s time to look beyond the Oscars and Golden Globes. Amazing stories can be found in movies ignored (500 Days of Summer) and mediums completely written off by the majority of mainstream media (The videogame Uncharted 3). Quality can be found in blockbuster summer movies (The Avengers). Art doesn’t have to be pretentious.
Ultimately, an award is just an honorific paired with a shiny trophy and a measure of press. Years down the line the movies that stay in our consciousnesses aren’t always the award winners. Movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club have become iconic over the years though neither were anywhere near award winning. The Hurt Locker is already fading into obscurity whereas Avatar is still remembered.
Cult classics: that’s the name of these movies. They may not win the most glamorous awards but they remain favorites years and years down the line. I know they’re not always snubbed: sometimes The Return Of The King does take home Best Picture and ten other Oscars. But maybe cult classic-hood is the true measure of a film’s success. Crowdsourcing is the big thing these days, anyway.
It’s easy to say we’ll just disregard award ceremonies and strive to live life without them. I write all this but I can guarantee that come award season I’ll wait with bated breath to find out to the winners. But, even though a movie like Life of Pi will probably take home Best Picture, I’ll still know The Avengers was better.