Oscar-Worthy but Ignored – Superhero Edition


The awesome ‘Oscar-Worthy but Ignored’ series has been the sole effort of one Slam Adams – but today I’ll be hijacking the concept in order to examine the unsung successes of the currently popular superhero subgenre. We’ve decided to narrow the field further by focusing on just superheroes and not all comic book adaptations. These films have trouble getting genuine recognition as it is without competing against Road to Perdition and Ghost World.

So check out our nominees and winners below! No doubt you’ll have some disagreements with what I (and Dr. Funk) have selected so post them below!

Best Supporting Actress Nominees

Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight)

Taking over the role from Katie Holmes Gyllenhaal brought a new level of depth and talent to the part. No longer was Rachel a carrot to motivate Bruce Wayne but a conflicted character who presents both sides of the coin – what he could have, and what he was sacrificing.

Rosario Dawson (Sin City)

Sin City isn’t lacking in female roles, but they are all fetishised strippers and prostitutes. Gail could still be fitted with this label, but the strength of the character and brought by Dawson makes it a stand-out performance.

Carla Gugino (Watchmen)

Stealing the spotlight from the actual female lead in the movie, the original Silk Spectre is a bold and complex part played perfectly by Gugino.

Hayley Atwell (Captain America: The First Avenger)

Although on paper the role looks little more than a token love interest, Hayley Atwell stands on her own two feet to be more than a cardboard cut-out tough girl.

…and the winner is…

Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2/The Avengers)

Going purely of the performance in Iron Man 2, this seemed like a pretty shallow role. She’s seductive and then kicks ass. Rolling it together with The Avengers we get to see just how much Johansson brings to the part. Although she’s tough and a professional she’s still very much human, and a human with a heavy cross to bear. Her manipulation of Loki is the real selling point.

Best Supporting Actor

(NB: Heath Ledger disqualified from the list for having won a well deserved favour Oscar.)

Tom Hiddleson (Thor/The Avengers)

Unlike Hugo Weaving, Jeff Bridges, Sam Rockwell and Micky Rourke playing their two dimensional punching bags, Hiddleson brought life to Loki. He’s the most engaging and sympathetic of the villains in the Marvel canon. Shifting from mania to doubt and back again in the space of a scene.

Gene Hackman (Superman)

The casting of Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor is nothing short of genius. The sheer amount of fun he has with the megalomaniac villain was the perfect contrast to Christopher Reeves sincere Superman.

Billy Crudup (Watchmen)

It’s no easy thing playing a god with such sincerity without looking goofy, especially when you’ve got a big blue wang in between you and the camera. Crudup brings deep pathos to the part.

Nicholas Cage (Kick-Ass)

Given that the Oscar Winner has been reduced to little more than a punchline the fact that he carried this role so well is quite surprising. Yes, Big Daddy is a maniac but he’s a very heartfelt maniac.

…and the winner is…

Michael Caine (The Dark Knight)

Being the softer side of the Batman dynamic is no easy feat, but with his easy charm and good natured humour Michael Caine recreated the role of Alfred Pennyworth and almost steals every scene he’s in. It’s little wonder that the small role features so heavily in the promotional material for the trilogy.

Best Design

Hellboy

A dark twist on traditional fairy tales with a religious angle, the set designs are rich with detail and worth taking the time to pick out the hidden objects.

The Crow

Back before it was cool to make dark comic book films, the tone of the tale of a resurrected, vengeance fueled guitarist is one of the great selling points of the film.

V For Vendetta

This brutal recreation of London under a totalitarian regime is filled with subtle details that paint an over-all picture. It’s a realistic imagining of a future that might come to pass.

X-Men: First Class

Combining fashion and style from the 1960’s with superhero costumes may have lead to awkwardness, but this is ten kinds of rad. Extra points to the Hellfire Club for being the classiest villains since ever.

…and the winner is…

Batman (1989)

The re-invention of Gotham City and Batman from the embarrassing 1970s era of Baby-Batman and Crazy Quilt to a uniquely dark, mist filled goth masterpiece. The combination of the modern and depression era art deco styles is genius and it breathed new life into the character.

Best Original Soundtrack

Superman (John Williams)

In a word – iconic. You can not feel your spirit stir when you hear that opening theme.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Various)

Not only did Edgar Wright collect together some awesome indie bands to provide existing tracks, but record some new ones. Metric, Beck and others lend their talents to the fictional bands on screen.

Captain America: The First Avenger (Alan Silvestri)

Three words: Star. Spangled. Man.

The Dark Knight (Hans Zimmer)

Hans Zimmer, you are indeed awesome. Every time he knocks boots with Christopher Nolan magic happens.

…and the winner is…

Batman (1989) (Danny Elfman)

Not only did Danny Elfman perfectly capture the tone of the Dark Knight, but defined him. After making a debut in Burton’s Batman it started turning up everywhere, most notably it was used as the opening theme to Batman: The Animated Series. It’s even been used in recent releases such as Lego Batman and yes, my ringtone.

Best Editing

300

It slows down, then it speeds back up…genius!

The Dark Knight

Pure magic. It’s beginning to feel like action movies approach editing with an electric threshing machine. Lee Smith knows when to hold back and when to let lose.

The Avengers

The Avengers is 142 minutes and feels like 5.

Spider-Man 2

Here’s the film that almost defined the cinematic approach to comic book action films.

…and the winner is…

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

I’m still pissed that this didn’t catch a nomination. Brilliance.

Best Special Effects

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

The thick layering of the computer graphics, texts and…stuff…adds ten kinds of awesome to the style.

Superman

We actually did believe a man could fly.

The Dark Knight

He actually flipped that goddamn truck. HE FLIPPED THE TRUCK FOR REAL!

X-Men: First Class

It isn’t easy to wow audiences these days, what with the saturation of CGI in everything. The design work and spectacle makes this bring the wow.

…and the winner is…

Watchmen

Nite Owl’s ship looked cool. The Vietnam War looks cool. Rorschach’s mask looks amazing. But Doctor Manhattan is a ground breaking, bar raising work of art.

Best Actress

Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: First Class)

Pure class. She carries the every scene without Xavier and Magneto, and even some of the ones with them. Naive, curious, sympathetic and unconsciously intriguing. A star making turn.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)

Whilst Zooey Deschnal is trying to force ‘quirkiness’ and ‘indie’ down our throats using a pneumatic drill, Winstead shows us how it’s done. Part mysterious and part coy, and ready to kick all kinds of ass.

Natalie Portman (Thor/V For Vendetta)

Here’s the one nominee who got the strongest argument for this award. Natalie Portman did damn well in Thor, but it’s her work in V For Vendetta that stands out. The journey from naive girl in a dangerous world to hard edged revolutionary is a brilliant piece of work.

Selma Blair (Hellboy)

Selma Blair could’ve been tagged as the token normal looking person alongside Hellboy and Abe Sapien. Performing largely alongside a rubber mask yet brings warmth and humanity to what could’ve been a token role. The relationship between Hellboy and Liz feels genuine.

…and the winner is…

Chloe Grace-Moretz (Kick-Ass)

Although the Academy is allergic to nominating child actors in the major award categories alongside their peers (‘Best Supporting’ nom for Keisha Castle Hughes? Who was she supporting, the whale?), there’s no denying the strength in this performance. Chloe Grace-Moretz as Hit-Girl is the damaged, manipulated daughter of a sociopath, an innocent young child who wants to make her father proud and a stone cold assassin – and she does it all at the same time. This role is on par with Natalie Portman in Leon, and all evidence suggests an equally impressive career will follow.

Best Actor

Michael Keaton (Batman)

After quite a bit of deliberation between Keaton and Bale we had to settle on one. Why Keaton? While Bale is a damn fine Batman we can understand everything Keaton says. He also plays Bruce Wayne a bit closer to the chest – the quiet, introspective moments speak volumes.

Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class)

Holy cowburgers, how did he play Magneto better than Sir Ian McKellen? Seeing the darkness continue to grow inside him in spite of Xavier managing to reach through to the goodness lying dormant is one of the best performances in comic book villainy.

Christopher Reeve (Superman)

Playing a genuine hero is no easy feat. Most people will go for sincerity and wind up with cheesiness. Somehow the All-American Reeve wore the red and blue tights brought the Man of Steel into the real world in the perfect way.

Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen)

One of the most layered, complex and disturbing characters ever devised on the paneled page, the casting of Rorschach was the subject of much discussion. When former child star Haley was named for the part it made a weird kind of sense and damn if he didn’t nail it. “You’re trapped in here with me” – chills.

…and the winner is…

Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man/The Avengers)

Fuck yeah. Cool, genuine, heroic and inspirational. He’s both the true-blue hero we need and the partying, douchebag billionaire we want.

Best Director

Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins/The Dark Knight)

Nolan has not put a foot wrong yet, and this is one of his best roles. The drama is as driven as the action is intense and the characters couldn’t be better handled.

Tim Burton (Batman/Batman Returns)

We wouldn’t have serious comic book movies is Burton hadn’t made this happen. Dark, fun and enjoyable for the whole family.

Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)

Scott Pilgrim is one of the freshest, most original comics of the past few decades. The fact that Edgar Wright brought the unorthodox material to life in his own style without losing the tone of the source material is pure genius.

Zack Snyder (Watchmen/300)

Between the two films (and let’s face it, he used the same style across the two) Snyder proves that his own visual panache is perfectly suited the world of comic book adaptations.

…and the winner is…

Joss Whedon (The Avengers)

How on Earth did he manage it? Taking four existing big-budget franchises and winding them together in the perfect explosion of action, comedy and drama – this is Whedon’s opus. A master director at work.

Best Film

Iron Man

A masterwork of popcorn cinema. Bright, fast and fun it delivered everything people hope to see when the lights go down in the cinema.

Batman

Dark and brooding  while being larger than life, Batman was a new take on old material that became a runaway hit and pioneered a genre.

Watchmen

The industry changing graphic novel finally makes it to the big screen in great style. Condensing down the complex themes of the source material without losing any of their impact and pitch perfect casting make this an impressive feat.

The Avengers

I think we’ve all written enough about this sucker recently. It rocks.

…and the winner is…

The Dark Knight

There’s no question about it, this is as good as the genre gets. It’s setting and themes are dark without getting mopey. The characters are larger than life while still being grounded in reality. It’s complex and clever without talking down to the viewers. It wasn’t afraid to give us villains who we’d be scared off, or to challenge how we viewed the world. Everyone about it is perfect. Unless The Dark Knight Rises can top it…