With the Oscars having now been and gone, leaving in their wake the traditional blend of mild surprise and widespread disappointment (for 80% of nominees, at least) it'd be easy to assume that the time for 2014-released movie controversy was over.
And, yet, over the past weekend, two leading Hollywood figures attacked a part of the industry beloved by millions of fans - and in so doing inadvertently called out one of the geek-gurus of our time, James Gunn.
The reason? The duo - comedic roundhouse-kick Jack Black and Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy - threw some pretty heavy shade in the direction of an entire genre: superhero movies.
Dan Gilroy Began the Assault on Saturday
Suggesting at The Independent Spirit Awards that:
"Independent film, the foundation and everybody here today, I think are holdouts against a tsunami of superhero movies that have swept over this industry. We have survived and we have thrived and I think that's true spirit."
Which is...not great, all by itself, but, since...
It Was Followed By Jack Black's Comedic Oscar Song
...there was a real sense come Monday that superhero movies - arguably the financial backbone of the entire movie industry at the moment - were under attack. After all, his part of the show-opening number included the lines:
“Opening with lots of zeroes, all we get are superheroes: Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Jedi Man, Sequel Man, Prequel Man, formulaic scripts!"
Now, in fairness, Black's whole Oscar bit was pretty funny - and in the context of the show (and his career) a whole lot more tongue in cheek than it reads on the page, but both quotes highlighted a widespread antagonism towards a genre that is enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Fortunately for superhero fans everywhere, we have a real-life hero of our very own:
Guardians of the Galaxy's James Gunn Leapt to Superhero Movies' Defense
And, being James Gunn, he did it pretty darned fantastically, posting the following thoughtful, astute and infectiously geeky reply to his Facebook page:
He Pointed Out That Jack Black Was Just Kidding
"I didn't really find the Jack Black superhero jokes offensive, did you guys? It was, like, a joke. I'm not sure if you guys noticed, but the writing on the Oscars didn't seem to be all that well thought out.!"
While throwing in a sly dig at some of the show's less than successful jokes.
Before (Politely) Taking Dan Gilroy to Task for Hypocrisy
"As far as Dan Gilroy saying that attendees of the Independent Spirit Awards have survived against a "tsunami of superhero films" - well it seems a bit weird coming from a guy whose wife has acted in two Thor films - really, that seems like you've drowned horribly in that tsunami. But I know I just kind of make up stuff as I go along on these awards shows, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt."
Yup, that's right, Dan Gilroy is married to Rene Russo, a.k.a. the Thor movies' Frigga (above).
At Which Point He Just...Got Awesome
"Whatever the case, the truth is, popular fare in any medium has always been snubbed by the self-appointed elite. I've already won more awards than I ever expected for Guardians. What bothers me slightly is that many people assume because you make big films that you put less love, care, and thought into them then people do who make independent films or who make what are considered more serious Hollywood films."
"I've made B-movies, independent films, children's movies, horror films, and gigantic spectacles. I find there are plenty of people everywhere making movies for a buck or to feed their own vanity. And then there are people who do what they do because they love story-telling, they love cinema, and they want to add back to the world some of the same magic they've taken from the works of others. In all honesty, I do no find a strikingly different percentage of those with integrity and those without working within any of these fields of film."
Before Finally Landing a Devastating Finishing Blow
"If you think people who make superhero movies are dumb, come out and say we're dumb. But if you, as an independent filmmaker or a "serious" filmmaker, think you put more love into your characters than the Russo Brothers do Captain America, or Joss Whedon does the Hulk, or I do a talking raccoon, you are simply mistaken."
Which, if you ask me, pretty much says it all.
Independent film-making is a wonderful and vital part of the cinematic world we love - but so are big-budget action epics, whether they're starring superheroes, Moses, or Tom Cruise. When it really comes down to it, good film-making is good film-making, whether there's a talking raccoon in it or not - and the rest of people's problem with superhero movies? Well, that just seems an awful lot like snobbery.
As Paul Thomas Anderson - himself a critically acclaimed independent film-maker - put it, when asked by Rolling Stone about the recent complaints about there being too many superhero movies:
"Ah, that's such a fucking crock of shit. I can't remember a year in recent memory where there were less complaints about the quality of movies. And what's wrong with superhero movies, you know? I don't know. You're talking to someone that enjoys watching those films. People need to get a life if they're having that discussion [laughs]. Those movies get a bad rap."