What's up laymen?! Welcome back to the Layman's Movie Corner! I hope you're having a blessed day! Last time we were here, I got halfway through my Top 10 List of 2017. While I promised to finish the last 5 slots on the list with my next post, it's taking a little longer than I was hoping to wrap that up. So instead, I'll leave you with something a little different to hold you over until I knock out the rest of the list (I get it! I'm lazy, leave me alone!).
As you may or may not know, the 90th Annual Academy Awards are announcing their full list of nominations tomorrow. While I do think the Academy has gotten better about picking legitimately good movies instead of simply the most obscure indy flicks with political messages that no one outside Hollywood has seen, the voters still just can't help themselves sometimes. Personally, I think the superhero genre has been systematically and deliberately ignored ever since 2008's The Dark Knight didn't even receive a Best Picture nomination, one of the biggest Oscar snubs of all time. There has consistently been at least one superhero movie in my Top 10 list each year (SPOILER ALERT: 2017 is no exception), and it pains me to see the Academy failing to recognize legitimate contenders each year.
With this righteous indignation at full tilt, I am presenting you today with a poem and/or ballad I wrote in college that I think fits the timing of all this Oscar talk just right. As part of my Irish Comedy & Literature college course (it was a late senior year elective, don't judge me. And yes, it was a real course), we had to write a poem in the style and structure of Brian Merrimen's The Midnight Court. I'd highly recommend reading it in order to make sense of my poem (both mine and his are fairly lengthy so buckle up!) and get a feel for the flow of it. Let this ballad serve as both a plea and a mild threat to Hollywood and the Academy to please get off their high horses occasionally and recognize genre films, in particular superhero films, that are deserving of the recognition!
Without further ado, here is "The Justice Court of Avengers," written by yours truly! (circa 2015 A.D.)
Part I: Opening
One day, when all my work was done and gone,
I took a stroll to ease my stress ‘til dawn.
The “HOLLYWOOD” letters before me stood
Far more glorious than I ever could.
There I walked so underneath them I could lay
And contemplate the movies of the day.
For many years I worked for the Academy:
Far gone the days of gold in movie history;
Far gone the men like Humphrey Bogart; gone
The time of treasures like Goldie Hawn.
Instead of art inspired by Cit’zen Kane,
Ludicrous explosions the box office reign.
For hours I pondered the film industry’s plight,
As well as films that still provide it light,
And just as I was moments from my sleep,
A thund’rous crash above me bellowed deep.
Unholy darkened clouds suddenly formed,
The wild tempest raged and howled and stormed.
A streak of lightning flashed across the sky;
The vicious hail did fall down from on high.
The storm subdued, I staggered to my feet;
A massive Nordic man my eyes did meet:
With face disheveled, long blonde greasy hair,
A pungent smell lingered in the air.
His armor’s molded with a chiseled physique,
But underneath, his overflowing flab’s unique.
With little more than unintelligible grunt,
The oaf did grab my arm with magnificent
Strength, and hurled the pair of us into the sky.
Away we flew, but I did not know why.
Part II: The Young Web-Slinger
Although it was a blur, a stone floor broke my fall,
I stood and found myself in a great, big hall.
Pillars, statues and paintings of heroes old,
Spread throughout the court, many epic tales they told.
Inside a courtyard I stood with trembling knee;
A bench of superheroes lay in front of me.
At the head, Kal-El himself did preside,
With Batman, Wonder Woman at his side.
The edges of the hall, swarmed with heroes all,
Ones I’d seen in films, and others I couldn’t recall.
A slender figure, from the rafters, swung,
Inches away from my nose, upside down he hung,
Then, with grace, he landed in the court away from the rest,
In red and blue tights with an emblem of a spider ‘cross his chest.
Though his mask, a hole for his mouth, did lack,
A teenaged voice came from this Spider-man’s unseen trap –
"Welcome, above all to you, Kal-El,
To your enemies, you bring ‘em hell
To the people of Earth, you bring ‘em hope
And, hopefully to Thor, you bring him soap.
Before you all, I bring my case against this man
Whose crime against our genre of film is grand.
Despite our progress into legitimate art,
Our recognition is lacking, thanks to people like this old fart.
The Academy, it shuns us, it is true,
Because we succeed, and are sexy too.
Our stories, inspired by the Greek gods themselves,
Are dusted off and gloriously taken off the shelves.
Shakespearean drama permeates the stories that we have told.
In our feats of great strength, the core of humanity you can behold.
Alas, the Oscars refuse to justify awarding our works.
Instead, we play second fiddle to Cohen films, which have no words.
The “subtle” films about social injustice reign supreme,
While people like him only high five our FX teams.
Despite the critics seeing the merits in what we do,
The rip-off of Schindler’s List wins because it’s important to me and you.
Until a change in the Oscars is made, there is no fixing
Being relegated to perpetually winning “Best Sound Mixing.”"
Part III: The Old Academy Vet
From the shadows, in an uproarious rage,
Came a spry old man of twilight age.
A director he was, an old school soul,
His angry bellows filled the hall, entire and whole –
"How dare you question classic films of yore?
Artistic masterpieces made before you were born!
Casablanca, Gone with the Wind,
To question them is worse than sin!
The Godfather and Raging Bull,
To place them with your films is to blacken the soul!
All your stories offer, other than cheap thrills,
Are grown men gallivanting in their silks.
You speak of human emotion, but where is it found?
With a man who can raze entire cities to the ground?
In what way can an audience connect with a man
Who beats a slew of criminals with his bare hands?
The only story close to matching the art of true drama
Was the Dark Knight, but to that I still say “Nuh-uh.”
Speak the reason why that admirable plot
Was muddled with a giant bat whose voice was shot.
The film’s critical ceiling is forever hamstringed by limitation,
Because of the hero who, if going for a throat cancer patient, did a suitable imitation.
The Academy, it does it right.
Rewarding true art, that is its mission alright.
It has no time for drivel such as this,
Superheroes dancing around with hardened fists."
Part IV: The Young Web-Slinger Again
At the close of the old director’s words
The young web-slinger sprang up and cursed –
"You old swine, lying in the mud of your ego!
Where in the industry did integrity go?
Brown-nosing, you do, at every turn,
What honorable achievement did you honestly earn?
You stand for true art? That narrative must end!
For all you care is that indy film made by your friend.
Give the award to a film deserving of recognition so great?
No, give it to the snooze fest made in ten years with a Super 8!
The Dark Knight, yes, true art deserving of a nomination,
But did it get it? No, it lost to a series of abominations.
The winner of which, Slumdog Millionaire, how inspirational!
A kid using his odd life experience to get rich and, in turn, the girl.
We make billions, you call it drivel,
At our art you sneer and snivel.
But did you stop to think that the stories we tell
Mean more than the “tour-de-force” that did not sell
A single ticket, for the world to see it,
Not because it’s unappreciated,
But because it’s self engorged in superiority,
To the point that the beholder cannot understand it with clarity?
I’ve laid out my case against these men and the industry.
I’ve exposed, clear as day, their hypocrisy.
Until we get the respect we deserve, indeed,
To your judgment, Kal-El, I do concede."
Part V: The Judgment
The sun emerged from the horizon, East,
Deliberation from everyone ceased,
And Superman arose, his cape flowed free,
With unquestioned authority, he did decree –
Thank you, Spider-man, for your speech.
Impassioned, it was, inspiring to each.
After consideration of the points, strengths and flaws,
From this day forward, all follow these laws:
One: At minimum, the Oscars will res-
Erve a nomination in two major categ’ries
For superhero films each year. If this
Requirement’s not met, your punishment is
Torture at the hands of villains’ tools.
Away to their lairs they’ll drag you fools.
Two: If categ’ries’ noms have more than two of the four
For independent films, but none for ours,
All involved with those films forbade,
For five years, from having movies made.
Three: For past transgressions made against our species,
Best Picture winners from post-sixties
Will burn in flames, never again to be,
And you must watch, your eyes must see.
With that, the heroes ‘round me swarmed,
They tied me up with their powers armed.
The Human Torch a pyre before me wrought,
And Batman, a box, menacingly brought.
From inside the box, he revealed
Every Best Pic from 1970 on, in their case sealed.
As Patton dropped into the burning flames,
I struggled and screamed the filmmakers’ names.
Before I lamented the writer, Farago,
From a deep and dark sleep I woke.
I looked into the city, the lights did gleam,
I caught my breath – ‘twas nothing but a dream.
(Merriman's "The Midnight Court": http://abitoblarney.com/themidnightcourt.htm)
What'd you think laymen? Is the Academy a bunch of crusty old farts looking for the next tour-de-force, or is there hope that the voters will learn the error of their ways and recognize superhero films (good ones anyway) as legitimate art and entertainment? We'll find out tomorrow when the nominees are revealed!
Until then, my fellow laymen, God Bless and stay tuned!