There was a time, a few years back when the term "comic book movie" was an insult that the Hollywood establishment hurled around when a movie they hated was successful. Not any more ...
It appears to me that big studio pictures based on comic books are undergoing the same transformation that science fiction and fantasy movies underwent from 1977 onwards, after the release of Star Wars. Think about it. Before George Lucas' masterpiece what big studio-financed fantasy movies were there?
Well, there was 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). That was financed by MGM and did manage some grudging acknowledgement from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It was nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Original Screenplay, but won only in a technical category, Best Special Effects. The same year, Planet of the Apes, which was a big budget 20th Century-Fox production, was nominated for Best Costume Design and Best Music Score and was given an Honorary Award for Best Makeup, a category that didn't exist at the time, and wouldn't be introduced until 1981.
There were no nominations for sf or fantasy pictures in 1970. Or 1971.
In 1972, Stanley Kubrick was nominated for Best Director for Clockwork Orange. The movie also gained a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and another for Best Editing, a category it shared with Andromeda Strain (if that even counts as a science fiction movie). And When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth got a nominated for Best Visual Effects.
And no nominations in 1973 ...
In 1974, The Exorcist was nominated in 10 categories, including Best Picture, and won in only two - Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay.
1975 had no nominations, unless you count Young Frankenstein's Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay. I don't, as I consider it a comedy movie, rather than sf or fantasy.
Nothing in 1976 ... In 1977, King Kong was nominated for Best Sound, a Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects, as well as Best Cinematography, a category it shared with Logan's Run. Another thing these two movies shared was a spectacular lack of understanding of what makes a good science fiction or fantasy film. And The Omen gathered two nominations for Best Score and Best Song.
|Does anybody actually like the 1976 King Kong? For me it was a colossal failure on every level ... from its "camp" script by Lorenzo Semple Jr to its dreadful man-in-a-monkey-suit effects. And don't even get me started on Logan's Run ...|
|Best Effects, Visual Effects||Star Wars|
|Best Art Direction-Set Decoration||Star Wars|
|Best Costume Design||Star Wars|
|Best Film Editing||Star Wars|
|Best Music, Original Score||Star Wars|
|Best Sound||Star Wars|
|Special Achievement Award, Sound Effects||Star Wars|
|Best Cinematography||Close Encounters of the Third Kind|
|Special Achievement Award, Sound Effects Editing||Close Encounters of the Third Kind|
|Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Alec Guinness, Star Wars|
|Best Director||Star Wars|
|Best Picture||Star Wars|
|Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen||Star Wars|
|Best Director||Close Encounters of the Third Kind|
|Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Melinda Dillon||Close Encounters of the Third Kind|
|Best Art Direction-Set Decoration||Close Encounters of the Third Kind|
|Best Effects, Visual Effects||Close Encounters of the Third Kind|
|Best Film Editing||Close Encounters of the Third Kind|
|Best Music, Original Score||Close Encounters of the Third Kind|
|Best Sound||Close Encounters of the Third Kind|
Granted most of the wins were in the technical categories, but look at the nominations ... Best Director, Best Screenplay ... Best Picture?
|What Star Wars and Close Encounters both had that both King Kong and Logan's Run hadn't was humanity. It was emotion that connects Lucas' and Spielberg's films to audiences. As demonstrated by the slew of Awards both films garnered.|
|Even though it wasn't a Marvel Studios production, I thought Columbia's first adaptation of Spider-Man was a pretty good effort, thanks in no small part to the skills of comics fan Sam Raimi.|
And this year - 2019 - was the big breakthrough year. Just look at this results table for the recent Academy Awards ...
|Best Achievement in Production Design||Black Panther|
|Best Achievement in Costume Design||Black Panther|
|Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)||Black Panther|
|Best Animated Feature Film||Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse|
|Best Achievement in Visual Effects||Avengers: Infinity War|
|Best Achievement in Sound Editing||Black Panther|
|Best Achievement in Sound Mixing||Black Panther|
|Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)||Black Panther|
|Best Motion Picture of the Year||Black Panther|
So maybe this is the start of a new trend ... and even if it's not, it wouldn't bother me one bit. I'm just grateful that Stan and his collaborators made all those great comics characters fifty-odd years ago and that Marvel was smart enough to form their own production company and make movies that honoured and respected the source material.
My ten-year-old self would have loved The Avengers, Doctor Strange and Black Panther as much if not more than I do now. My only regret is that Stan didn't live long enough to witness the results of the 2019 Academy Awards himself.
He would have been proud.
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