WILL “DEADPOOL” or “Zootopia” get any best-picture love from Academy voters Tuesday morning, when the 2017 Oscars nominations are announced?
Both smash-hit films — one featuring cartoon characters; the other, comic-book characters — seem to be on the outside looking in when it comes to this year’s big prize.
Yet there is a big difference between them in this awards derby: While “Zootopia” has precedent, “Deadpool” does not.
No true superhero film has ever received an Academy Award nomination for best picture. In other words, Ryan Reynolds has decades of history stacked against him.
“Deadpool” may have been appreciated by the Golden Globes, earning a nomination for best musical/comedy, but the math plays out differently at the Oscars, which has a much larger voting body. (There is also no separate category for musical/comedy, natch.)
The irony here is that the best picture category was expanded to a maximum of 10 films in response to a superhero film, 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” not scoring a nom.
“Deadpool” does have one factor especially going for it: When it comes to genres, the Academy has a definite taste for subversion.
Two years ago, “Boyhood” looked like the type of resonant, heartfelt fare that Oscars voters so often reward — yet the ultimate winner was “Birdman,” which beat with a subversive heart when embodying some of the absurdities and mundanities of both Hollywood blockbusters and backstage Broadway. (It helped, too, that the Academy loves to gaze at its own glamorized and/or tortured creative process; also see: “The Artist,” this year’s “La La Land,” et al.)
So if “Deadpool” gets a nod beyond effects or makeup, the film’s sense of genre self-awareness will certainly be a factor. Who knows? Breaking the fourth wall just may help “Deadpool” break through.
Facing even longer odds in this race, it seems, is Disney’s “Zootopia.”
On one hand, Disney/Pixar animation has a track record here: Both “Up” (2009) and “Toy Story 3″ (2010) received best picture nominations in recent years, after the category size expanded.
Yet “Zootopia” lacks the profound pathos that those two films have, so it almost surely will have to accept being the favorite in the best animated feature film category.
“Deadpool” and “Zootopia” can also console themselves with knowing that they stand as two of the seven highest-earning films last year in North America — with sequels on the way.