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Joker and Penguin score Oscar noms, Riddler snubbed

Comic book movies are quietly everywhere in 2023

The Riddler from the 2022 Batman movie wearing his leather mask and glasses and big green coat Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

On Tuesday morning, many great films, actors, and crafts teams were nominated for Oscars that’ll be handed out at the 2023 Academy Awards in March. But in case you are laser-focused on the ups and downs of the Marvel and DC cinematic universes: The Joker and Penguin scored big, and The Riddler got left at Arkham Asylum. Hela has ascended to the top of Asgard, but Ying Nan is offering stiff competition. Robotman and Ramonda, Queen of Wakanda, might finally get their due.

Weirdly, this year’s Oscar nominees stand as a testament to just how deeply comic book movie culture has entrenched itself in movie culture. And observations like this are highly amusing.

Here’s the math: The Batman’s Riddler was played by Paul Dano, and Michelle Williams got her moment as Lady Venom in the original 2018 Venom. They shared the screen last year in Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, playing the proxy parents of the legendary director. Sadly, only Williams made the cut in Best Actress, while Dano was woefully overlooked by voters.

The Batman turned out to be a big winner. On top of the DC reboot’s actual nominations for Sound, Visual Effects, and Makeup and Hairstyling (who could forget Bruce Wayne’s eyeshadow?), Colin Farrell aka The Penguin picked up his first-ever Oscar nomination for the fabulous The Banshees of Inisherin while his costar in that film, Barry Keoghan aka The Batman’s post-credits-scene Joker, squeezed into the Best Supporting Actor category. Amazingly, both actors have done the comic book thing prior to The Batman: Keoghan played Druig in Eternals and Farrell gave it all he had to Bullseye in the 2003 Daredevil movie, praise be. To complete the trifecta, Kerry Condon, nominated for Banshees in Best Supporting Actress, was the voice of FRIDAY, Tony Stark’s JARVIS replacement, in Avengers: Agent of Ultron. The casting in Banshees is deserving of some kind of award, right? An Eisner?

This is just the beginning of the 2023 Academy Awards superhero crossover. While we all love her in Tár, Best Actress nominee Cate Blanchett also rocked a horned helmet in Thor: Ragnarok as the villain Hela. Elsewhere in the same category is Michelle Yeoh, whose storied action career led her to Everything Everywhere All At Once but was also Ying Nan, the guardian of Ta Lo, in Shang-Chi. And let’s just say Viola Davis should have been in this category, too. DC’s Amanda Waller got snubbed.

But wait, another Amanda Waller, this time from the Green Lantern movie most people do not care for, may actually win an Oscar! There is a high probability that Marvel will pick up its first acting win thanks to Angela Bassett’s emotional turn as Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (which picked up film nods in Makeup and Hairstyling, Visual Effects, Costume Design, and Best Original Song). Also in the running for their first statue: Ke Huy Quan, soon to be see on Loki season 2, and Brendan Fraser, best known as [checks notes] Robotman on HBO Max’s DC series Doom Patrol. Maybe not, but them’s the facts.

Less likely to pick up a statue on Oscar night but no less valuable as a performer/silly connection to comic book culture is Hong Chau, who starred alongside Fraser in The Whale. Let’s not forget she played Lady Trieu on HBO’s Watchmen show — it counts, dammit! So does Brian Tyree Henry, who melted hearts in Apple’s under-the-radar drama Causeway and also played Phastos aka a Nice Dad in Eternals.

If you mostly stick to superhero stuff throughout the year, consider going back and watching some of 2022’s best movies. If you are Kevin Feige, CAST JUDD HIRSCH IN A MARVEL MOVIE.

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