So why does “Endgame” feel like such a long shot? Here are four possible reasons.
1. Odds are against the Academy picking two superhero universe movies
Last year, Marvel’s “Black Panther” became the first superhero film to receive a best picture nomination, serving as a reminder that such prior acclaimed movies as 1978′s “Superman” and every entry in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy were snubbed. So just one year later, it’s a tall order to expect Oscars voters to pick more than one comic-book film in the same year.
Based on such bellwether honors as the Producers Guild Awards and SAG Awards, the comic-book movie that will probably elbow past the Russo Brothers’ “Endgame” is Todd Phillips’s “Joker.” The irony here is that for all Marvel’s success, a DC Comics film could receive more Oscars love in 2020.
2. One billion-dollar movie is ‘enough’
The Oscars telecast viewership has declined precipitously enough in recent years — to a record low 26.5 million in 2018 — that the Academy considered introducing an outstanding achievement in popular film category. (Thankfully, blowback prompted leadership to reconsider. The Oscars did get a ratings uptick in 2019.)
That’s where “Joker” comes in.
Although “Joker” did nowhere near the record-breaking business that “Endgame” did, the Batman archenemy’s story — starring Joaquin Phoenix in a Golden Globe-winning performance — grossed $1.07 billion worldwide. As far as the Oscars are concerned, just one billion-dollar movie in the big category is likely enough to avoid charges of pop-taste irrelevance.
Also worth noting: Although “Joker” was among the top-10 highest grossing movies of the year worldwide, none of the other PGA best-picture nominees — again, a fair reflection of likely Oscar nominees — cracked the top 30 in global box office.
3. ‘Endgame’ is not picking up actor nominations
Despite speculation last spring that Robert Downey Jr.'s likely final performance as Iron Man might receive Oscars attention, those chances have faded as such actors as Phoenix, Adam Driver, Leonardo DiCaprio, Eddie Murphy, Taron Egerton and Adam Sandler have moved to the fore.
“Endgame” might boast nearly 20 past Oscar winners and nominees in its massive cast, but none is widely predicted to receive acting nominations for Marvel work this year.
So again, if in the Academy's minds it comes down to two comic-book movies to choose from, the one featuring Phoenix's bravura performance gains an edge.
4. 2019 is a deep field for contenders
Since the rule change about a decade ago to allow a maximum of 10 best picture nominations, the Academy nominates eight or nine movies most years — and 2019 has at least a dozen strong candidates to fill out the field before even getting to “Endgame."
Plus, there is a healthy mix of works among the leading contenders — from a war epic like “1917" to a small-scale drama like “Marriage Story” to “real life” biography like “The Irishman.” If the final field only runs eight deep this year, “Endgame” will almost assuredly be shut out in the big category.
But that said: Do expect “Endgame” — like its fellow Disney films “The Lion King” and “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” — to clean up in the technical nominations.