Wonder Woman: A Superhero Oscar Contender?
Since its release, Wonder Woman has been surrounded by rumors of being a serious Oscar contender. We’re not just talking about the usual technical categories like Special Effects, Sound Mixing and Editing, or Makeup and Hairstyling. We’re talking about major categories like Best Picture.
As a seasoned film analyst, I’ve always hoped that deserving films, regardless of genre, would receive the awards attention they deserve. However, I never truly believed that Wonder Woman would achieve the kind of award attention that movies like The Dark Knight and The Avengers couldn’t manage. If a 2017 superhero flick was going to warrant serious attention in major Oscar categories, my money would have been on Logan.
Warner Bros. Believes in Wonder Woman’s Oscar Chances
Warner Bros., the film studio behind this summer’s highest-grossing film, is launching a full Oscar campaign for Wonder Woman in all major categories, including Patty Jenkins for Best Director, Gal Gadot for Best Actress, and the highly coveted Best Picture award.
A few years ago, this kind of all-in campaign for a summer blockbuster would have been unthinkable. The Academy of Motion Picture Sciences has always been a particularly stuffy crowd — very old, very rich, very white — whose singular tastes have typically lent themselves toward a specific type of film. Serious dramas have been the perennial favorite, with the occasional comedy or thriller thrown in if they were feeling especially risqué when casting their ballots.
Changing Times and a New Academy
But times are changing. In the face of growing controversy about their homogenous membership — spearheaded by campaigns like #OscarsSoWhite — the Academy has taken great pains to broaden and diversify their voting membership. Long-since retired Academy members were quietly stripped of their voting powers, while a young and incredibly diverse class of new members were inducted into the group.
The last Oscar ceremony was the first under the new and greatly changed Academy. Instead of the odds-on favorite, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, the winner was an ambitious movie about the gay Black American experience: a small, indie race drama that wouldn’t have stood a chance in any previous Oscar race.
Wonder Woman’s Perfect Timing
Filmgoers have been hungry for a new kind of film for years now. Wanting more than just period pieces starring the nearly interchangeable lineup of straight-jawed white dudes named Chris, the doors have been flung wide open, allowing anything and everything a chance to compete at the highest levels.
In this new awards season landscape, Wonder Woman might just be the perfect movie to win on Oscar Sunday. It’s directed and headlined by a woman. It’s a massively popular blockbuster whose vocal fan base is already demanding some kind of recognition for it. It has the momentous winds of history on its side, both in terms of the importance of its character and its place in Hollywood.
Recent Oscar Nominees Offer Hope
There are even analogs among the Oscar nominees of recent years. After all, the Academy threw a surprising amount of its weight behind Mad Max: Fury Road: a high-octane, woman-centered blockbuster. Both films achieved similar successes with critics and audiences alike, but Wonder Woman has the benefit of a new Academy behind it: one that might not be as conservative as the one that determined the fate of Fury Road.
At any rate, it will be interesting to see how far Wonder Woman can get with the Academy. Merely getting a nomination for Best Picture will show just how much the Academy has changed in a few short years.
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