×

Oscars: Resistance to the Rescue

When “The Dark Knight” failed to secured a best picture Oscar nomination, the snub was said to have prompted the Academy to expand the category from five nominees to as many as 10.

A decade later, maybe out of fear that something similar might happen again to the immensely popular “Black Panther,” the Academy announced — then withdrew — its intention to create an award for most popular film. The idea was derided as a bald attempt to shore up sinking ratings for the Oscar telecast, as opposed to honoring the quality of the filmmaking.

Black Panther” earned its spot in the best-picture category anyway, the first comicbook movie to do so. The film embedded itself in the culture so deeply and so quickly that “Wakanda forever” has been used as a knowing comic punchline everywhere from “Saturday Night Live” to the new film, “What Men Want.”

But “Black Panther” isn’t the only story about a hero with extraordinary powers, standing up for the little guy in an age of influence and corruption, this year. Each nominee can be seen as the tale of a superhero battling the resistance. Consider:

“Black Panther”
Obviously. Ryan Coogler’s film is the only one in the group that features actual comicbook characters who are enhanced humans. Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa assumes the throne (and powers) of the hidden African kingdom of Wakanda, then must decide whether to keep secret the magical element vibranium, while fighting off efforts to exploit it. With great power comes something … who said that? Anyway, he’s got to fight off his own cousin, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who wants to use vibranium to take over the world. But even when he wins, T’Challa will be joining an even greater resistance: the one using vibranium against fossil-fuel-powered greed that threatens to destroy the planet.

BlacKkKlansman
Spike Lee adapted this true story, of an African-American Colorado Springs cop who managed to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. The superpower of Det. Ron Stallworth (John David Washington)? Messing with and exposing these white supremacists, while disrupting KKK plans to put a family-friendly face on their group. Stallworth fought the kind of racism and ignorance he assumed would be vanquished in his time, but Lee propels the viewer from the 1970s into today’s resistance, still battling white supremacists in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., and beyond.

Bohemian Rhapsody
Rami Malek’s multi-award-winning performance as Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, celebrates not just Mercury’s mammoth voice and range but his genuine superpower: the ability to resist the scaredy-cat caution of timid music-industry executives, who shrank from the loopy, lengthy grandiloquence of the film’s title song. Mercury’s own sexually omnivorous appetites? Well, even in this film, that’s still more of a secret-identity kind of deal. One more thing: Those teeth look like they should have superpowers of their own — the ability to bite back at critics, perhaps?

“The Favourite”
Superheroes in early-18th century England? Why not? Granted, it’s still decades before the masked heroes of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and centuries before “The Mask of Zorro” will battle the powers-that-be in the name of the little guy. But look at Emma Stone’s Abigail as an early superhero in the class struggle against the whole system of royalty and nobility. If her queen whisperer routine reveals her power, it’s because she’s the Frenemy, cozying up to (and replacing) Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), right hand to the painfully co-dependent Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). Lady Sarah is really the power behind the throne — and the Frenemy wants to replace her. Because, of course, not all superheroes use their power for good. (See “Vice.”)

Green Book
The Musician and the Lip, aka pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his driver, Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), cut a swath for the resistance through the Jim Crow South at the height of the civil-rights era. As with the best contemporary superheroes (even in a historic setting), they lose a couple of skirmishes (including being tossed in jail by racist cops). But, in the end, they get some impressive wins (as in Atty. Gen. Robert Kennedy helping get them released) and learn something about themselves along the way.

“Roma”
A hero will rise — oh wait, that was the catch-phrase for “Sausage Party,” the animated film about horny hot dogs. But it might also be said of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), the young servant for an upper-middle-class Mexico City family. She is nearly invisible to the family she serves — not exactly Sue Storm-level disappearing powers, but Cleo can anticipate their whims almost before they have them. And she risks her life to keep the children out of deep water.

“A Star Is Born”
OK, this one is a stretch but stay with me. Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) has a superpower: the ability to take a massively talented unknown named Ally (Lady Gaga) and turn her into a star, as the title suggests. Think of this as one of those power-transfer tales, the kind where, in order for the hero to save and advance the life of the heroine, he has to sacrifice himself, in this case on the altar of booze and TMZ.

“Vice”
No one is a villain to himself — especially if he’s Dick Cheney (Christian Bale). Instead, Adam McKay’s film offers us the
former vice president as Confidence Man, the superhero who takes over the world. Confidence Man always acts with assurance because he always knows he’s right — and even when he’s wrong, he’s confident.

More Film

  • Venice Opener

    Hirokazu Kore-eda’s 'The Truth' to Open Venice Film Festival

    Palme d’Or-winning director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s hotly anticipated new film, “The Truth,” starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke, will open the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival. “The Truth,” which marks the director’s first work set outside his native Japan, will screen on Aug. 28 in competition. Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or at [...]

  • it chapter two, comic con

    Comic-Con: 4500 Gallons of Fake Blood and Everything Else to Know About 'It Chapter Two''

    Comic-Con 2019 kicked off with a stacked presentation from the director and cast of “It Chapter Two” on Wednesday, inspiring a curious amount of joy at San Diego’s Spreckles Theater in spite of the abject terror offered up by the film. The closing chapter to 2017’s record-obliterating “It,” the highest grossing R-rated horror film of [...]

  • 'Between Me and My Mind' Review:

    Film Review: Trey Anastasio in 'Between Me and My Mind'

    Trey Anastasio doesn’t look like a rock star. With his thick rimless glasses and flop of sandy red hair, you might say he resembles John Sebastian, but really, he looks like a mashup of Mike White and Jon Cryer and the filmmaker Chris Smith. He’s an appealingly ordinary shaggy-geek dude, like some guy you might [...]

  • Photo taken July 18, 2019, from

    More Than 20 Feared Dead in Arson Attack on Japan's Kyoto Animation

    UPDATED: More than 20 people are feared to have died Thursday in an arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company in Japan, shocking a nation in which extreme violence is very rare. Emergency services in Kyoto City received a call about 10:35 a.m. local time Thursday reporting an explosion on the first floor of the [...]

  • sith trooper

    Sith Trooper Revealed From 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

    “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” revealed a new storm trooper uniform Wednesday at San Diego Comic Con as part of a special exhibit celebrating the evolution of the storm trooper design. Dubbed the Sith trooper, the new uniform sports all-red armor plates with a matching red and black blaster. Also decorating the armor is [...]

  • Dunkirk

    Harry Styles Is the Perfect Prince Eric; Why He'd Rock 'Little Mermaid' Role

    Could Harry Styles be the perfect Prince Eric? One day after the announcement that the One Direction star is “in early negotiations to play the iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ role,” the internet exploded with speculation as to how he would portray the object of Ariel’s affections. “I can see lots of reasons why Harry is perfect,” [...]

  • The Lion King

    Film News Roundup: PETA Sponsors Rescued Lion in Jon Favreau's Name

    In today’s film news roundup, PETA honors Jon Favreau for “The Lion King,” “Tigers Are Not Afraid” gets a theatrical release, a Kirk Franklin biopic is in development and “The Sixth Sense” gets an anniversary showing in Philadelphia. HONOR The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is sponsoring a rescued lion to honor director [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content