With Oscar season about to be in full swing, Deadline has an interview with Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors Joe and Anthony Russo about the Academy’s relegation of superhero and comic book films to technical categories. The brothers want to see that mindset change and such adaptations recognized for their artistic merit.
“It’s strange that the comic-book film genre is so often thought of only in terms of its economic merits,” Joe Russo said. “Yes, it’s shockingly popular and continues to grow, and yes, the box office success of these films can often embarrassingly outweigh their merits, but as Christopher Nolan perhaps first proved, real and valuable filmmaking can be achieved with the genre. It’s sad that some people, seemingly soured by having to endure the massive cultural presence and expectations that even mediocre or poor examples of the genre can generate, react by trying to reject the genre as a whole.”
The article points out that this year’s batch of comic book films — specifically Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past — all achieved high marks from critics. All three have a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes than the 88 percent of potential Oscar favorite Gone Girl, yet that most likely won’t help these superhero films’ chances. “Snubbing comic book movies because of their ubiquity is akin to dismissing the Western as matinee fodder,” said Joe Russo of the Oscar trend that was finally bucked when Unforgiven and Dances With Wolves both won Best Picture.
“[Captain America: The Winter Soldier is] a real movie, real filmmaking, and it has really high aspirations, in terms of what cinema can be and what it can do, and what our experience of it is,” said Anthony Russo. “It has every intention on the part of the filmmakers to reach audiences on the deepest level.”
The Russos hold out hope that having Robert Redford in the cast will get the film the attention they feel it deserves. “The moment we were able to cast Redford changed everything, because it gave a deeper cultural context to the movie,” Joe Russo said. “Not only are you taking one of the most famous actors of all time, you’re taking one of the most famous thriller actors of all time. And we’re subverting his on-screen persona and his off-screen persona at the same time. He’s a villain in the movie. He’s never played a villain, and not only is he a villain, but he’s a fascist.”
Many films receive Oscar buzz thanks to campaigns launched by their studios, which is a practice that Joe Russo just doesn’t see Marvel picking up. “I think you look at all those awards ceremonies, there’s a whole process of advocacy for those awards, right?” Joe Russo said. “What is the value of the award [to Marvel]? And why should they spend the money required to go down that road? To create the box office? They already have the box office.”
The nominees for 87th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 15.
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