There has been a bit of speculation that has caught the internet abuzz lately, and it has to do with next year’s Academy Awards, and if a certain superhero movie, Avengers: Endgame, will be included in the discussion. As the fellow who tried his best last year to call who would win and be nominated by the Academy last year, I will now try, at this early stage, to say whether or not these fans should lower their expectations or if their praise of the film may be warranted in a few months’ time.
First off, before we speculate on what awards Endgame could receive or if the film is worthy of any, I have to establish this: Oscar nominations are not announced until Monday, January 13th of next year, so that’s almost a full eight months from now. Between now and then, nobody, and I mean nobody, has the first clue as to which films still to be released this year will launch an Oscar campaign, or if they will also be fighting for nominations. So to say right now that any quality of Avengers: Endgame is guaranteed a nomination, or should be promised one, is grade-A horse manure. You personally might feel like it will be the best film of the year, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but just because you like this movie a lot right now doesn’t mean you have to disregard seven months’ worth of films as unworthy.
Now, as far as my own personal feelings on the film, it’s a tremendous follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War, and has the grand epic scale that’s very reminiscent of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which many fans remember as the most winningest film in Oscar history, taking home 11 Oscars wins from 11 nominations. That’s an impressive feat that will likely never be repeated or outmatched, so I would call that high praise for the film. That being said, it’s my third-favorite of the Avengers movies and doesn’t crack my personal top five of Marvel Cinematic Universe films. It’s very good, it has some dope action scenes, and some very emotional moments, but I wouldn’t put it on the pedestal of films grouped as “best of all time”.
You might ask why my personal opinion matters, and the reason I add it is because it’s my speculation here. Not to get too defensive, but as somebody who has spent the last seven years trying to figure out which five to ten films will land Best Picture nominees depends on two things: how I feel about the film, and if the movie’s a good fit for what the Academy traditionally thinks of as Best Picture material.
So for myself, I’m going to wait and see what else comes down the pike this year before I put Avengers in my predictions for Picture. There are some heavier bets that go ahead of it, like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman (as long as it meets the deadline), A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (the Mr. Rogers biopic with Tom Hanks), Greta Gerwig’s remake of Little Women, and the already released Us from Jordan Peele. There are a few other films on the radar, but I don’t know enough about them to call them likely Best Picture nominees. For these five, though, I’d say they’re easy bets right now, but again, it’s very, very early.
For the second part of my argument, will Endgame be a film the Academy will go for? Well, based on the history of comic book movies at the Oscars, it’s a slim shot. Black Panther broke through the glass ceiling last year and landed the first Best Picture nomination for a comic book movie, but I attribute a lot of that to the cultural significance of having a $200 million plus superhero film focus on a black hero. I think the box office also helped that film stick around for Academy voters, and yes, Endgame is in the same series (so to speak) as Black Panther, and has nearly doubled what Panther did at the worldwide box office, but Black Panther was helped by its accessibility. Being on Netflix last year helped Panther, but since Endgame will go on the upcoming Disney+ streaming service, it’s going to lack that advantage.
Through the history of comic book films at the Oscars, the most common nomination is Visual Effects. Through the years, nine MCU movies have been nominated in this category alone. Spider-Man 2 won this category in 2004, and the original Superman with Christopher Reeve won this prize as a special achievement back in 1978. Outside of Visual Effects, though, it’s been films like The Dark Knight and Black Panther that have made their bank with the technical categories, but even Dark Knight couldn’t make the list for Best Picture in 2008. It’s common knowledge that the expanding number of Best Picture nominees was to accommodate this oversight, but since then, only Panther has landed that coveted Best Picture nomination. One other side note to mention is that Logan was the first comic book film to secure a Screenplay nomination two years ago.
So on the grand scale, Endgame is fighting an uphill battle for top categories like Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, etc. But there is one category that Endgame might have a shot at: Best Actor for Robert Downey, Jr. Like Best Picture, it’s a complete guessing game right now as far as who likely contenders in this category will be, but Tom Hanks might secure his first nomination in nearly two decades for playing Mr. Rogers, Robert De Niro’s reuniting with Martin Scorsese might trigger his first lead actor nomination in almost three decades, either Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio could land a nomination for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and just before the release of Endgame, the internet was ready to award Joaquin Phoenix as Oscar likely with his portrayal of The Joker (which might also end up playing for some Oscar bids).
So again, the competition right now doesn’t look easy. Downey’s performance in this film might be one of the best of the franchise (for me, his performances in Iron Man and Captain America: Civil War were better), but because of everything this movie throws at him, Downey will probably have something of a campaign courtesy of Marvel. Though we have to remember, only Heath Ledger has been nominated for portraying a comic book character. Even Black Panther couldn’t get Chadwick Boseman or Michael B. Jordan in their respective categories. That being said, there is some help for Downey thanks to two previous Oscar nominations for Chaplin and Tropic Thunder, and from what the acting branch has shown recently, being a past nominee helps secure a future nomination.
That’s it for the top categories. For the technical categories, though, I see Endgame having a much easier time landing nominations. For example, Visual Effects should be an easy bid. Infinity War’s only nomination was for this category, so the direct follow-up should also be selected as one of the five. The two Sound categories (Mixing and Editing) are easy bets right now, though again we might see future films knock out Endgame.
Film Editing is a wishy-washy guess right now. Blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens have achieved nominations before, so it’s possible, but right now I’d lean on a pass for this category. There are a few great long takes in the film, so Cinematography might end up being a surprise nomination, though cinematographer Trent Opaloch is not a known commodity, and the cinematographers branch loves to nominate cinematographers that films fans know. The score by Alan Silvestri has a shot as well, though many would complain the reusing of previous themes should knock him out of consideration. Say that to John Williams, who has been nominated multiple times in spite of reusing some scores on Star Wars sequels. Costume and Production Design seem far afield for Marvel and co., and Makeup is unlikely as well, despite the category opening up to five nominees starting this year.
Once again, I have to emphasize how early it is in the Oscar season. Just because right now I say Endgame will have a hard time in certain categories doesn’t mean it’s over and done with. If we do have a disappointing crop of Oscar bait films this year, blockbusters like Endgame could rise up and take on more nominations than we expect. For now, the high box office totals do help the cause, and high critical praise (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) is always a good sign, but because of the Academy’s history of snubbing comic book movies in top categories and nominating them in craft categories, it doesn’t spell great tidings for Avengers: Endgame. Right now, I’d say it earns four nominations tops: Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Film Editing.