Could the foul-mouthed, irreverent 'Deadpool' actually be nominated for an Oscar?
By TRAVIS M. ANDREWS | The Washington Post | Published: January 5, 2017
At one point in Marvel’s R-rated superhero movie “Deadpool,” the titular character pauses in the midst of graphic bloodshed and flashes back to a memory of -- there’s no polite way to say this -- his sexually pleasuring himself while staring hungrily at a stuffed unicorn.
The list of things that come to mind upon hearing that probably does not include the thought “Oh, I guess that film will be an Oscar contender.” In that spirit, weeks after the blockbuster hit theaters, its lead actor and producer, Ryan Reynolds, launched what could only have been considered a fake Oscar campaign (particularly since the film was ineligible for the 2016 Oscars).
He wrote a letter, in turns sweet and snarky, to Academy voters thanking them for supporting the film and offering them “backstage passes to my heart.”
At the time, it was all written off as a joke, albeit a sincere one. After all, it follows an ordinary man left disfigured after an experimental operation, which leaves him with the power to heal quickly (such as from gunshots fired at close range). So he dons a superhero outfit and sets out for revenge.
And the movie’s main character in the meta comic-book film is a self-aware misanthrope with a penchant for slicing people open with swords and drinking everything he can get his gloved hands on.
More importantly, while the film was half-laughs and half-action, it was also offensive and irreverent - aggressively so. That is not the type of movie that generally gets nominated.
Then a year passed.
And now, a deep look at the awards show landscape - namely, the other film industry awards leading to the 2017 Oscars - hints that the movie might actually get a nod when the Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 24.
The movie has enjoyed a surprising run in the awards circuit so far, beginning with the Golden Globes. In a move Vanity Fair claimed it “never saw coming,” the movie was nominated for best picture in the comedy or musical category, and Reynolds received an acting nod in the comedy or musical category.
That’s nearly unprecedented. As The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna noted at the time:
“The most recent superhero film to be nominated in the Globes’ comedy or musical category had been Pixar’s animated ’The Incredibles’ for the 2005 awards (if you don’t count the movie ’Birdman,’ the 2015 Globes nominee and Oscar best-picture winner that satirized superhero stars). But ’Deadpool’ can be considered the first true live-action superhero film to be nominated in this category.”
Less surprising but still significant was its (impressive) four nods at the Critic’s Choice Awards: one for best action, one for best comedy and two for best actor (action and comedy). This looked like momentum, but it still did not signal much. As Vanity Fair wrote, “the overlap between critics groups, Golden Globes voters, and Academy members is minuscule.”
But the voters for the Writers Guild Awards have considerable overlap with Academy voters; and alongside this year’s usual suspects such as “Moonlight,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “La La Land,” “Deadpool” received a nod (for best adapted screenplay) on Wednesday.
Sure, as many have noted, the Oscars’ categories vary from the WGA’s idiosyncratic ones.
For one, films that are not written under a WGA contract are not eligible for its awards - one reason, as the Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg noted, that Quentin Tarantino movies are never nominated. This year, the list of ineligible films included “Zootopia,” “The Lobster,” “Lion,” “Elle,” “Toni Erdmann” and others.
The WGA also considered “Loving” and “Moonlight,” two Oscar front-runners, as original screenplays (and gave both nods), while the Academy will consider them as adapted scripts.
Still, it’s the best predictor we’ve got at this point, and it’s surprising that the crude action-comedy has made it this far. The nominations act as yet another notch in “Deadpool’s belt ... err ... spandex.
Not that it needed one. Since the moment it was released, “Deadpool” smashed records. As The Post’s Kristen Page-Kirby noted soon after its release:
“Biggest February opening. Biggest opening in the history of 20th Century Fox. Biggest opening for a first-time feature director. What everyone is focusing on, though, is that it’s the biggest R-rated movie opening of all time.”
With a total worldwide gross of almost $800 million, it went on to earn the title of highest-grossing R-rated film ever. (It earned silver in the Christian-heavy United States, where “The Passion of the Christ” remains top in that category.)
But unlike with many blockbusters, money wasn’t its only reward.
In interviews, Reynolds called the movie a “game changer,” noting its mix of crude humor, sex and cartoonishly gory violence normally missing in the Marvel and (especially) D.C. Comics movies that flood our multiplexes.
And some of its lessons seemed to have stuck. The final “Wolverine” film, for example, will bear an R rating, a fact that seems obvious from the trailer.
Whether “Deadpool” wins, or is even nominated for, an Oscar is almost a moot point. By now, that would be icing on what has proved to be a sweet cake for Reynolds, who strove to make his pet project for a decade before finally receiving the green light.