‘Logan’: The Oscar case for the acclaimed western that also happens to be a superhero movie

The Oscars would do well to remember “Logan” when they’re considering the best films of 2017. This latest film in the “X-Men” franchise was released back in March. That is an awfully long time ago for awards voters who rarely remember movies that came out before September, but it was a huge hit, currently ranked seventh for the year in domestic box office ($226 million). It also earned acclaim from critics, scoring 77 on MetaCritic and 93% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes.

Hugh Jackman plays the title character, aka Wolverine, who is a little older and worse for wear as he embarks on a road trip to protect a young mutant (Dafne Keen) from capture by sinister forces. Already a past Oscar nominee for “Les Miserables,” Jackman plays the kind of mentor that won John Wayne his Oscar for “True Grit” (1969), and he suffers on-screen at least as much as Leonardo DiCaprio did to win for “The Revenant” (2015).

Patrick Stewart reprises his role as Professor Charles Xavier, who is also older and infirm, struggling to control his mental powers at his advanced age. Returning to an iconic role to explore the character later in life worked for Sylvester Stallone, who earned an Oscar bid for Best Supporting Actor for “Creed” (2015) Stewart has also never been nominated before and has a wide-ranging fan base that could help him appeal to a broad swath of the ever-changing academy — from younger fans of “X-Men” and “Star Trek” to older fans who might know him best as a Shakespearean actor. One of the Expert film journalists we’ve polled, Tim Gray (Variety), currently predicts a nomination for Stewart. (We interviewed Stewart back in the spring; watch it below.)

Granted, the motion picture academy doesn’t usually care much for superhero movies, with rare exceptions. “The Dark Knight” earned eight nominations and won two including Best Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger, posthumously), but was notoriously snubbed for Best Picture and Best Director. However, while “Logan” is technically a superhero movie, it has more of the DNA of a western, and those have a better track record at the Oscars. (Click here to see our gallery of Oscar westerns.)

The westerns “Cimarron” (1931), “Dances with Wolves” (1990) and “Unforgiven” (1992) won Oscars for Best Picture. So did the more recent neo-western “No Country for Old Men” (2007), which bears a closer resemblance to “Logan” than most of the “X-Men” movies from which “Logan” was spun off. And Best Picture nominee “Hell or High Water” from just last year demonstrates the academy’s continued taste for this style of contemporary film in the western tradition. “Logan” itself also contains references to another classic western, “Shane” (1953), itself an Oscar nominee for Best Picture.

“Logan” director James Mangold has another acclaimed western on his resume: the 2007 remake of “3:10 to Yuma,” which earned Oscar nominations for its score and sound mixing. But a couple of Mangold’s other films have even better awards track records: namely, “Girl, Interrupted” (1999), which won Best Supporting Actress for Angelina Jolie, and “Walk the Line” (2005), which won Best Actress for Reese Witherspoon. If nothing else, that indicates his strength working with actors, and “Logan” has at least a couple of performances that would probably be clear awards contenders if it weren’t for the typical bias against superhero movies.

Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives and top name stars can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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