Why sum­mer’s best pop­corn movies could make Os­car noise this year

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - BRYAN ALEXAN­DER

Ryan Reynolds may have sought laughs with Dead­pool’s NSFW (Not Safe/Suit­able For Work) “For Your Con­sid­er­a­tion” ads. But “Dead­pool” was a se­ri­ous con­tender to be the first su­per­hero film to earn an Os­car best pic­ture nom­i­na­tion in 2017.

Though “Dead­pool” ul­ti­mately missed out, Reynolds’ su­per­pow­ered com­rades are show­ing early awards sea­son mus­cle.

“The award tides for block­buster and comic-book movies seems to be turn­ing,” says Pete Ham­mond, awards colum­nist for the in­dus­try web­site Dead­line.com. “There’s a feel­ing that the film academy is too snobby for these types of movies. But this year, there are a lot more po­ten­tial (nom­i­nees) al­ready. Maybe one of these big movies can come up and defy ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Here’s why things are look­ing up in the awards run­ning for block­busters. The movies are un­usu­ally strong. For ev­ery crit­i­cally de­rided No. 1 this year (“Trans­form­ers: The Last Knight”), there are shin­ing ex­am­ples of qual­ity with mass ap­peal. “Lo­gan” brought a gritty end to Hugh Jack­man’s Wolver­ine X-Men char­ac­ter and earned a thumbs up from 93 per cent of crit­ics on ag­gre­gate site Rot­ten Toma­toes. Patty Jenk­ins’ “Won­der Woman” won raves from 92 per cent of re­view­ers and gen­er­ated ex­cite­ment as the first woman-cen­tric su­per­hero movie di­rected by a woman.

“Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing” heads into the­atres this week with 92 per cent ap­proval, fol­lowed by Matt Reeves’ “War for the Planet of the Apes” (out July 14) with a favourable 96 per cent score and praise for Andy Serkis’ mo­tion-cap­ture per­for­mance as ape leader Cae­sar.

Christo­pher Nolan’s Sec­ond World War drama “Dunkirk,” which mixes pop­corn ap­peal with se­ri­ous awards pedi­gree, fol­lows on July 21.

“Over­all, the qual­ity of many of these sum­mer block­buster movies — not all of them — has got­ten much bet­ter,” says Dave Karger, spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent for the movie web­site IMDb.com. “There will be an in­creas­ing out­cry from movie fans to see these films rep­re­sented in the awards race.”

The Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences ex­panded the best pic­ture cat­e­gory (to ac­com­mo­date a field of five to 10 nom­i­nees) to pay re­spect to pop­u­lar films af­ter 2008’s “The Dark Knight” was snubbed for a nom­i­na­tion. ( Joker Heath Ledger did win a post­hu­mous best sup­port­ing ac­tor Os­car.)

There has been some success: 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” right­fully earned a best pic­ture nom­i­na­tion. The trend could grow this year, says Ham­mond.

“These films are ready to get their due, with the best chance to do it in years,” he says. “The Academy would love to see these movies rep­re­sented, and view­ers would tune in to (watch) the Os­cars.”

A record class of 774 new mem­bers in­cludes many who are pre­dis­posed to be sym­pa­thetic to block­buster nom­i­na­tions — from Star Wars fran­chise faces (Adam Driver, Riz Ahmed and Domh­nall Gleeson) to su­per­hero stars (Cap­tain Amer­ica Chris Evans, Thor Chris Hemsworth, and Won­der Woman Gal Gadot). “They can make some noise about these movies get­ting rec­og­nized,” Ham­mond says.

It’s too early to ac­cu­rately pre­dict the race. But the pieces are in place for a strong show­ing.

“I’m not ready to say that any of these movies will get a nom­i­na­tion. What it will come down to is what com­pe­ti­tion comes out at the end of the year,” Karger says. “But these block­busters are def­i­nitely in the dis­cus­sion right now.”

CLAY ENOS, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

"Won­der Woman": 92 per cent score of crit­ics on ag­gre­gate site Rot­ten Toma­toes.

CHUCK ZLOTNICK, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

"Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing": 92 per cent score.

TWENTIETH CEN­TURY FOX, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

"War for the Planet of the Apes": 96 per cent score.

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