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Foggy Ruins of Time – We Have As Much of a Chance as Spielberg Has of Winning an Oscar?

05_Flatbed_2 OCTOBER

This is the latest in a series giving you the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of Seinfeld will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal). Here is an archive of all the Foggy Ruins of Time installments so far.

Today we take a look at a reference to a down point in Steven Spielberg’s career, as reflected in an issue of the Avengers…

This was suggested to me by reader Dennis L. to be used in my “hilarious in hindsight” column, The Past Was Close Behind, as Dennis notes “Wasp and Ant-Man remark that they have as little of a chance of winning as Spielberg has of ever winning an Academy Award.” And of course, in the years since this comic book came out in 1986, Spielberg has won two Oscars for Best Director.

However, that’s NOT what the reference was. Here is the moment from Avengers #275 by Roger Stern, John Buscema and Tom Palmer…

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As you can see, the reference is PAST tense.

That is because this is a reference to the 1986 Academy Awards where Spielberg was famously snubbed out of even receiving a NOMINATION for Best Director for The Color Purple, despite the film receiving 11 nominations in total.

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The American Comedy Network put out an amusing list of explanations for why he was left off of the list…

“We`re sure you`ll have a favorite `Amazing Excuses` why Spielberg wasn`t nominated. Ours is he`s kind of wimpy looking and he needs a haircut,“ the Comedy Network says. Another possible reason: “Everyone voted for someone else because they all thought the other guy was voting for Spielberg.“

So Ant-Man is saying that they have the same odds as Spielberg had of winning the Oscar, which was zero percent because he was not even nominated. He was obviously being too pessimistic, since he and Wasp DO pull the victory out.

In any event, while it didn’t work for Past is Close Behind, Dennis, it DID work for Foggy Ruins of Time. Thanks!

If you have a suggestion for a future installment of Foggy Ruins of Time, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

11 Comments

How about Leonardo’s case? Is there any comics similar to Leo’s situation?

nice i remember that issue and how steven got snubbed by hollywood for one of his best film works. interesting how out dated that crack by ant man is now after all this time.

If I recall correctly, Scott Lang’s primary character trait at the time was “movie buff.” The guy couldn’t go more than three panels without referencing a movie, usually an older film, but he sometimes broke out modern references as well.

Spielberg ,up until SCHINLER’S LIST, I honestly remember, was always being chided by critics as being too commercial of a filmmaker. Ergo, people would pay to go see his films.

I’d add that even if Spielberg had been nominated, it probably wouldn’t have helped: the film famously was nominated for eleven categories, but failed to win in any of them. Whether this was because of issues with the film itself (which received a lot of criticism both for being overly-sentimental and for its representation of black men) or because of Hollywood’s long history of racism, despite the many nominations, the film—and Spielberg—seemed destined to be ignored at the Oscars.

It really wasn’t so much that Spielberg didn’t have a chance of winning IF he’d been nominated. The real problem was that Spielberg was unfairly snubbed with “The Color Purple” (especially as he’d won the Director’s Guild award for the film–his first win; Spielberg became the FIRST DGA winner to NOT be nominated for the Best Director Oscar). Contrary to what The One and Only posted, “Purple” was actually Spielberg’s first film that was really made FOR the critics, rather than the public (it was Spielberg’s lowest-grossing movie since the 1979 flop, “1941″). I’m also not as ready as Darth Weevil to attribute racism as bearing responsibility for the film’s lack of Oscars. For starters, Whoopi Goldberg’s loss for Best Actress is likely the same reason that caused Meryl Streep to lose; each actress basically canceled out the other. Anne Bancroft probably didn’t have as much chance for “Agnes of God” since there was speculation she and Meg Tilly were put in the wrong categories and Jane Fonda had been snubbed as well. And Jessica Lange gave a bravura performance as Patsy Cline in “Sweet Dreams”–I vaguely recall she was considered the most likely to benefit from a Goldberg/Streep split. However, Oscar went with sentiment, awarding the Oscar to Geraldine Page for “The Trip to Bountiful”–she’d been nominated for Best Actress THREE previous times in addition to 4 Supporting Actress nominations. In the Supporting Actress category, it’s rarely helpful when you’ve got two nominees from the same film and Oprah and Margaret Avery likely canceled out each other’s chances of picking up the Oscar. Meg Tilly’s nomination was, as noted above, seen by some as misplaced (she played the title character in “Agnes of God” but she only got a “Supporting” nomination?) and Amy Madigan was pretty much a longshot (her nomination was the only recognition for “Twice in a Lifetime”); the winner was Anjelica Huston for “Prizzi’s Honor” (picking up the only win for that film).

In the Adapted Screenplay field, racism can only be blamed if homophobia can (“Kiss of the Spider Woman” was also nominated in this category). The Music categories were really NOT racism. The Original Score probably suffered from “too many cooks” (there were 12 people involved with the score including Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton and Andrae Crouch; the other 4 nominees were all composed by individual artists) and the Best Song nomination (“Miss Celie’s Blues [Sister]“) which was co-written by Jones, Temperton and Lionel Richie lost out to Richie’s solo song from “White Nights” (“Say You, Say Me”). In Art Direction and in Cinematography, again, racism is hard to attribute the loss since Kurosawa’s “Ran” also lost out in both categories. For Makeup, “Purple” lost out to “Mask”–need I add anything? And in Costume Design, “Purple” lost out to “Ran” (depression-era South costuming vs Sengoku-era Japan? no contest).

Just to clarify, I wasn’t exactly saying that the movie’s failure at the Oscars was due to racism, as that that has been claimed (I mentioned it as part of a—in retrospect overly simplistic—either/or, where the “either” focused on some of the legitimate problems with the film). JosephW does a great job of offering a third option—the film might have been great, but simply failed to live up to the competition—that I ignored in my original post.

One and Only, some critics still carped about Spielberg being too commercial when Schindler’s List came out. The mere fact he’d directed it tainted it too much to be art. Lord knows there are things I dislike about Spielberg’s work but he gets a lot of crap flung at him too.

The headline says “Spielberg has” but the actual quote is “Spielberg had”.

“each actress basically canceled out the other.”

That’s not true; Streep herself was campaigning for Page because she loved Page and had won a year or two prior, and because she didn’t expect to win because it was widely believed that Goldberg was the favorite.

Also, you are ignoring the big fat rhino in the room that is the racism argument, that the Academy voted for ‘Out of Africa’ [white people taming the dark continent via love] instead of ‘The Color Purple’ [black lesbians]. [This was also two years before the Best Picture winner featuring an inexplicable moment involving blackface.]

interesting to see how hollywood had come around with this year’s oscars

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