We have seen an unprecedented amount of hustle and thirst from Ryan Reynolds this award season as he pushes Deadpool as the year’s most improbable contender. And, well, it’s working, because besides those Golden Globe nominations, Deadpool has also bagged a Writers’ Guild and now a Producers’ Guild nomination. The PGA is a particularly good indicator for Oscar—watch who wins at the PGA and SAG to handicap your office Oscar ballot—as the producers’ branch is one of the biggest in the Academy.
The knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss Deadpool’s Oscar chances outside of the VFX and maybe sound categories, but 2016 was a weak year for film. There were good movies, but not ten solid good ones, which means the Academy—currently turning in nominations—is groping around for nominees this year. They’re not obligated to nominate ten movies, and I think it’s likely that the Best Picture breakdown is eight or nine films, probably the PGA list minus Deadpool, but as an outsider? On the chance of a surprise nomination?
Working for Deadpool is Ryan Reynolds himself, present and accounted for at every award season campaign stop, with his beautiful wife and adorable daughters in tow. Everyone knows the story of how hard Reynolds & Co. worked to get Deadpool made, how they gave up money in the budget to stay true to their R-rated dreams, which is the kind of “this movie was REAL WORK” story people like to hear come Oscar time. It’s a popular movie with a well-liked star and a scrappy backstory. If it weren’t a superhero movie, it’d be a shoo-in on that alone.
But of course, it is a superhero movie, and there is a STRONG anti-superhero streak in the Academy. The PGA nomination surprised me because there is a deep resentment for the superhero genre and how it has forced everyone to chase cinematic universes, and squeezed out investment in mid-range films as studios invest ever more in comic book properties. That’s why Marvel will never get a mainline Oscar nomination, and why they’ve never won even for VFX. There are people who HATE their impact and influence on the industry, and simply refuse to acknowledge them even if they do make a worthy movie.
And though Deadpool is technically Fox, that “Marvel” logo in front of the film will turn those people off. I think Reynolds knows that, which is why he’s been working so hard and focusing on the story of his personal struggle to get the movie made, fighting the studio the whole way, to paint Deadpool as an underdog that defied even the massive comic book machine. He’s made himself seem like one of them, struggling to nurture his vision through this inhospitable landscape, even though his movie really is just another franchise launching pad.
Which is Deadpool’s biggest hurdle—Deadpool itself. It doesn’t really hold up. It’s fun the first time, because it feels different and funny and Reynolds really is so good, but once you know the “trick” of it—the cursing and the violence—it’s just a standard superhero origin, and has all the standard problems of superhero movies: Underwritten female character, generic forgettable villain, choppy editing that undercuts emotional beats. I gave it a mostly positive review, but in hindsight I overrated it (as did everyone else). Fellow producers reward it for surviving development hell, but that might not be enough to impress the Academy, even in a weak year.
Here are Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively last night after the Golden Globes.