There is no joy in nerd-dom this cold winter's day: Once again, the Oscars have almost completely ignored those people who care only about superhero stories and big-ticket blockbusters.
Or, in other words, the overwhelming majority of the movie-going public.
As in years past, the Oscar voting committee sprinkled a few charitable offerings to popcorn blockbusters among the nominations announced on Thursday morning.
Predictably, the fantasy-film genre received the most nods in the category of best visual effects, which included Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy, which will go up against Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Interstellar on Oscar night.
Curiously, Guardians also received a nod for best makeup and hairstyling (possibly because of Benecio Del Toro's impressive alien coiff as The Collector), where it will compete against the intense factual drama Foxcatcher and Wes Anderson's fanciful The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Does any of this make sense to anybody?
By now it has become entrenched Oscar tradition to disavow those films fiercely revered by ticket-buyers and fans. Despite earning nearly $8-billion (U.S.) worldwide, the Harry Potter film franchise never received a single Oscar – despite eight nominations spread out over eight films.
Obviously, nobody should expect rhyme or reason when it comes to choosing the nominees for the movie industry's biggest night.
Never forget that way back in 1977, the Oscars chose to hand out a best-picture nomination to George Lucas's Star Wars, while almost completely ignoring Steven Spielberg's more thoughtful Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
No question there will forever be a vast gulf of creative intent separating films like The Imitation Game from Transformers 4: Age of Extinction (which by the way was last year's highest-grossing Hollywood film with more than $1.2-billion box office worldwide).
At the same time, would it kill the Oscars to throw blockbuster-movie fans a bone once in a while?
For the record, I've seen all the films in the best-actor category and to my trained eye, Chris Pratt's performance in Guardians is every bit as Oscar-worthy as those essayed by Michael Keaton (Birdman), Benedict Cumberbatach (The Imitation Game), Eddie Redmayne (The Importance of Everything), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) and Steve Carell (Foxcatcher).
In fact, I'd argue strongly that Pratt actually deserves the award even more than those nominees.
Whereas Keaton blusters, Cooper broods and Carell wears a weird prosthesis and growls huskily (at moments he appears to be revisiting his Greek character of Mykonos from The Office), Pratt, heretofore known primarily for his role on the sitcom Parks & Recreation, fully reins in his actorly abilities to play the cocky-yet-likeable space adventurer Peter Quill, a.k.a. "Star-Lord."
And if you think it's easy for any actor or actress to play a role less rather than more, you would be mistaken.
In the same vein, it was only a few years ago that the Oscars deigned to reward Jennifer Lawrence with a trophy for her role in The Silver Linings Playbook. Yes, she delivered a remarkable dramatic performance in that film, but she was even better this year in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Even while wearing the scaly blue skin of her shape-shifting character Raven/Mystique in Days of Future Past, Lawrence acquits herself admirably in the story based on comic-book characters. In several scenes, any actor appearing opposite her on-screen seems to disappear – and we're talking actors like Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart and Michael Fassbender.
Here's a bold idea: The Oscars organizers should consider the idea of blending in the blockbuster movies, if only to prove that the people who reward the people who make movies are still capable of thinking outside the box.
That's how Hollywood was built, people!
Case in point: If the Oscars really wanted people to pay stand up and pay attention at next month's ceremony, they should have handed a best supporting-actor nomination to Vin Diesel for his work in Guardians of the Galaxy. Diesel is known almost exclusively for knocking heads together in action movies like The Fast and the Furious, but on this occasion he essayed a towering and moving performance.
More impressively, Diesel did it with only three words.
In Guardians, he supplied the voice for a scientifically engineered character who is more tree than human named Groot, who only knows how to say, "I am Groot."
And Diesel says the same line, over and over, roughly two-dozen times over the course of the movie's rollercoaster ride, but with unique intonation in keeping with each scenario. More than once, the tree creature's protective attitude toward his bloodthirsty mercenary companion Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and guileless expression had moviegoers on the verge of tears.
Not coincidentally, Guardians was also responsible for the introduction of Baby Groot, a tiny dancing spawn of the original Groot, who became an Internet sensation last summer and will turn up in the sequel slated for mid-2017.
Baby Groot, start your Oscar nomination campaign now.