Yesterday, I was taking a casual stroll through the depths of twitter, as is tradition for a late afternoon, and I stumbled upon a brilliant hypothetical: Should Robert Downey Jr. be nominated for an Oscar for his role in “Avengers: Endgame”? (I should say that this idea is not my original thought and if you would like to see the original post from Barstool Sports, I will leave the link here.) You know I love the Oscars so naturally; this is a topic I immediately had a lot to say about.
WHY IT WON’T HAPPEN
Conventional wisdom says it isn’t even worth bringing up. It simply won’t happen. In the long history of the Oscars, only one person was ever nominated for an acting Oscar for a role in a comic book movie, that being Heath Ledger in 2009 for “The Dark Knight”. Ledger, of course, actually won but there is a myriad of factors as to why that was different than this instance, including the legendary performance, the weaker competition, and of course Ledger’s untimely death. Every other performance in the genre realistically never even smelled a nomination.
The Oscars have always been behind the curve as far as modernization goes, and to this day, they do not fully take most blockbusters seriously. Recently, they have acknowledged comic book films more, but only with the narrow filter of technical achievements. In the eyes of the voters, these films just lack the sophistication to genuinely be considered amongst the perennial crop of biopics, period dramas, and melodramatic monologues that so desperately beg for validation. Even new, younger voters can still be influenced by an ingrained prejudice towards genre films, even if they do not actively hold the same elitist attitudes. Everyone has been told for so long that they are too childish to ever be considered.
And is the role all that challenging? I mean, you or I couldn’t do it. You try acting in front of a green screen against a giant purple man and making it look half believable. But do you think the Academy considers it a worthy role? Clearly not. RDJ has been playing Tony Stark/Iron Man brilliantly for over a decade and voters never seemed to consider it. What’s worse is that Marvel has so many actors expertly cast into roles that fit them like a glove, RDJ becomes one of many instead of a single exceptional circumstance. And as monumental as he has been for the franchise, the genre, and pop culture itself, the Oscar’s have never given out a nomination for the entirety of an actor’s run as a character, only a singular performance.
WHY IT SHOULD ABSOLUTELY HAPPEN
Of the entire original argument that I read, the one point that made the most sense to me is: Of all the movies, and all the roles within those, which single performance had the largest impact on the most amount of people? There is nothing to think about here. It is unequivocally Robert Downey Jr. in “Avengers: Endgame”. I do not care what comes out before the end of the year, I will wager that there will be no performance that makes audiences experience as emotion as RDJ did for that movie. This role changed the status quo for an entire genre, if not the entire world of cinema. If you were to put the very same elements of his performance into a more mainstream drama, I have little doubt that it would be receiving awards buzz.
The fact that “Avengers: Endgame” is now officially the highest-grossing film of all time also really helps his case. The previous 2 films to hold the title, “Avatar” and “Titanic”, were both nominated for Best Picture, a feat that I fully expect “Endgame” to match as well, and being the pseudo-leading man in a Best Picture nominee usually boosts an actor’s chances of seeing award recognition themselves. If voters are already watching the film for other aspects, it gives him more exposure which can only help his case.
To my count now, I only have seen 2 other roles that I expect to be nominated for Best Lead Actor: Taron Egerton in “Rocketman” and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood”. That leaves potentially 3 nominations remaining (or a wide-open Best Supporting Actor race that he could campaign for instead) with about 50% of the eligible year remaining, including the ever-potent “Oscar-season”. Once we get into the fall, the typical dramas will liter our screens as they fight over who did the best impression of a dead person. If the year is “weaker” year, as it has the potential to be, and there are not enough of the usual suspects to fill up the ballot, I can definitely see the internet making a lot of noise for this to happen.
Personally, I believe this performance is worthy of garnering a nomination, but sadly, I do not have say. In this instance, he doesn’t need to win it, just place top 5, which certainly makes it possible. If I had to give it a guess, I would still only give this a 15% chance of happening just because I really do not have faith in the Academy to make a bold selection like this. Yeah, they are slowly getting more accepting of new genres, but that is ultimately a slow process and more often than not, they still favor the typical dramas over comic book and science fiction films. I just think it is a lot to hope for an organization who gave Best Picture to the hackneyed and stereotype-filled “Green Book” just last year. They’ve got their heads so far up their own asses, they only appreciate the smell of crap sometimes.