I am not a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. I do not know what was in the heads of everyone who voted in the various awards categories. But I do know this:
Avengers: Endgame had been discussed in the entertainment/film media as being oscar-worthy in numerous categories. Obviously, it was considered a shoo-in for the technical categories such as visual effects, sound editing, production design, make-up, and so on. But Avengers: Endgame was even in the discussions for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and definitely a nod for Robert Downey, Jr. As well it should have been—the critical reviews were excellent (its aggregated Rotten Tomatoes score still sits at 94% “fresh” from a total of 504 published film critic reviews).
But then Martin Scorsese started doing press for The Irishman, and decided to use the opportunity to denigrate Marvel movies, saying that they’re not “cinema” and are just like “amusement park rides.” He got a fair amount of press, for those words, so he decided to double down and expand his comment into an entire New York Times op-ed about why he decided to slag off movies that so many love.
I could spend an entire essay discussing how vehemently I disagree. We have reached the point where “comic book movie” is almost a misnomer, because superheroes are becoming simply an element placed into genre movies in general: Man of Steel is a science fiction movie, Ant-Man is a heist movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a political thriller, Logan is a Western, and so on. Just look at last year’s Joker—it is definitely not a “comic book movie” it is a 70s suspense character study, and it’s got award-worthy acting, direction, and so on. Sure, there are “tentpole” movies of all genres, and from all studios, that are simply rehash money grabs, but you can’t lay that at the feet of all movies that have source material from graphic novels or Marvel specifically.
And if I really wanted to get into it, I could seize on Scorsese’s complaint that “In many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition” as proof that his motivation is sour grapes, and the real reason he’s bad-mouthing his colleagues (and a lot of great actors he’s worked with have done “amusement park movies”) is out of jealousy that he’s not getting the budgets or cinematic distribution that he feels he’s entitled.
But that’s not why I’m writing this—that’s the background information. I bring it up because it was not long after Scorsese’s trash-talking (and writing) that the Academy Award nominations were released, and Avengers: Endgame didn’t even get the technical awards for which it was discussed, other than visual effects. Joker got a lot of Oscar nods, so it wasn’t a rejection of all movies made with comic source material, it was very specifically a Marvel snub. Why? And why now? Considering how well reviewed and beloved Avengers: Endgame was, it seems pretty obvious to me that Scorsese’s rant had a lot to do with Marvel being shut out.
Ideally, film award nominations, in my opinion, should serve as a way of highlighting works that exemplify the tradition of storytelling. And to me, and to obviously lot of others, Avengers: Endgame fits in that tradition. And it would likely have gotten those nods, if Scorsese hasn’t signaled to the voters that in his opinion, Marvel isn’t “worthy.” And ultimately, these nominations are not “objective truth” they are the opinions of the voting block, and they have their own agendas when they vote. The snub of Avengers: Endgame is just the latest example of that.
I am not an awards show junkie. I can’t remember the last time I watched the Oscars (maybe 15 years ago? I think Chris Rock was hosting…I just looked it up; I was right, that was in 2005). In truth, even if Avengers: Endgame had been nominated for many awards, it’s doubtful I would watch the Oscars anyway. But this is one of those snubs that, to me, shatters the illusion that these awards represent anything other than the whims of the voters. It obviously meant more to them to show Scorsese that they agree with him about Marvel movies than to judge Marvel films on their merits. That’s disappointing, and doesn’t speak well of either the academy or Scorsese.
Please enjoy this video of How It Should Have Ended’s humorous take on the whole thing. And if you do like the Academy Awards, by all means, enjoy them. But every time you see a category come up for which you are missing Avengers: Endgame, know that things are very likely the way Scorsese intended them to be.
Published on: February 6, 2020