So recently Ryan Reynolds was campaigning for Deadpool to win an Oscar. There was nothing explicitly forbidding the film from winning. It was eligible enough but the prevailing opinion was that Deadpool wasn’t the sort of movie that’s nominated for an Oscar. Which is true, it shouldn’t be true, but it is. Now, I’m going to begin by explaining why Deadpool was unlikely to be nominated for what it was. Then I’ll get to the reason I think it didn’t get the nomination.
First, we have to talk about genre and award shows. Deadpool is two things: a comedy, and a genre flick. Now, you might be thinking “comedy is a genre, that’s technically one thing”, which is kind of true, but when I say genre I don’t mean what we typically think of as genre. See, it’s probably obvious that my background is in creative writing and literature, not film. In fact, much of the stuff I’ll say here has been said in my rather enjoyable Patreon exclusive piece “Games as Art – So What?”. I’m going to briefly reiterate some ideas I had there.
So, in the literary circles that taught me, and as I understand the prevailing ideas across the academic literary world, is that’s there two kinds of writing: Literary and Genre. Like most things, it’s a sliding scale. Literary works tend to be works that win awards and get featured in literary magazines (not the technical definition). Literary works are sort of dense with all sorts of interesting technical devices, deliberate use of language, often a hint of surrealism or magic realism, purposefully written, and full of meaning. Far more than just telling a good story (which is a noble pursuit) it’s interested in experimenting with the form, and progressing the art form in some way. The works of Jorge Luis Borges come to mind (and while I’m not one for high art that often I actually quite enjoy his work).
Anyway, genre can sort of loosely be defined as everything that’s not literary, or works that have a style consist with a pre-established genre. You see now how it might get confusing somewhere in the middle. The more you study this dichotomy, the more it drives you made trying to draw a line through a spectrum. Let’s bring this back to film. Bruce Willis and Ben Kingsley can both be defined as bald actors, but the types of movies they do make them very different in practice. Die Hard compared to Gandhi (1982) for example. It can also work the other way, 12 Monkeys compared to Iron Man 3. Both of them just do what is appropriate for the film they’re in and writing is the same. If it works for the story, then use it even if the end result defies genre. Sometimes it’s easy to define genre, like Vin Diesel some creators find a sweet spot and stay in that terrain for as long as possible.
That took a long time to explain the difference between literary works and genre works. To bring it back around. Genre films, tv, and such often get snubbed for prestigious awards. Genre rarely wins the Emmys, for example. Well, technically that’s not accurate. Genre often wins technical awards. Just look at last year’s nominee’s . Of the best picture nominees only one is a genre film: Mad Max Fury Road (It didn’t win). Mad Max did however win six Oscars , all technical (Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup). So, bad luck there.
It’s also worth noting the more precise genre of comedy. Being a comedy puts Deadpool in with a good shot of being nominated. Comedy is the third most popular nomination category (albeit by a wide margin behind drama and romance). However, once nominated the odds are against it winning. Action, Deadpool’s other genre, is way less likely to be nominated (6.8% of nominees compared to 20.2% of nominees being comedies). But once nominated is statistically much more likely to win. On the balance of it all though it’s not likely to win when up against a drama or a war movie. Sorry Deadpool, chances of you getting your hands on those Oscar goodie bags worth $230,000 are slim.
It’s also worth noting that the 2017 nominees were a bit more diverse to help put the Academy back in everyone’s good graces after last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy. And boy howdy is the Academy white, and largely male, and on average old enough to complain about millennials. The personification of the Academy, taken on these statistics, would look like a member of Trump’s cabinet. Whether the Academy being a bunch of old white dudes helps Deadpool’s case or not depends on how much old people like juvenile humour.
Also, as pointed out in these two videos; one by Red Letter Media, the other by Film Theory; the Oscars are largely Hollywood congratulating itself. Films that tend to win Oscars are films about Hollywood or based on a true story. The Academy also loves a juicy acting part, and hiding behind the mask doesn’t help D-Piddy’s chances. Now if you watched the Film Theory video to the end you may have encountered one little thing that I haven’t talked about yet.
The host of Film Theory, MatPat, references a psychological phenomenon called the Recency Effect (a part of the Serial position effect). Basically this is a psychologically theory that posits that in a collection of items people tend to remember the first and last things in a group. If a thing is in the middle then it has a tendency to be forgotten. I know that when I used produced my Best Of lists last year that the most recent thing I watched tended to get the most love (Moana was released in December is Australia, and Overwatch was in the process of its Winter Event which I had played recently). That, and the first (Bowie’s Lazarus released in January and defined the year for me). Deadpool fares better than things released in May, and June for example (summer movie season).
However, putting Deadpool in February essentially shot its Oscar potential in the foot. That’s why most Oscar contenders release in November and December, you know, Oscar season. This is what I think killed Deadpool’s chances (Notably, shit-storm Suicide Squad received an award for Best Makeup, being released in August helped). What I reckon they should have done is re-released Deadpool into theatres late in the year (Arrival did so). Technically the first theatrical run is the only run that can be considered. Potentially what they could do is have people nominate the first run after having seen the second run. However, I have a better idea. Imagine they release a new cut of the Deadpool movie into theatres. Call it Deadpool: The Golden Cut. The film is exactly the same except a scene is added seamlessly into the cut wherein Deadpool performs all the Oscar Bait clichés. Like this but with more Deadpool.
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