If "The Dark Knight" couldn't earn a Best Picture nomination, "The Avengers" has virtually no chance of getting one this awards season.
Yet "The Master," a seriously flawed film from beloved auteur Paul Thomas Anderson, is an odds-on favorite to snag serious Oscar love.
That's not only a shame but a reason why that Oscar luster continues to dim. Entertainment takes a back seat to "Serious Movie Making," letting flawed material enter the picture on less than justifiable grounds.
"The Avengers," which comes to home video today, is a minor miracle of modern movie making. It's a tentpole feature with tons of marketing tie-ins, the kind of mass appeal product that often yields dispiriting results. Heck, if those "Avengers" T-shirts, mugs and toys sell out, does it really matter as to the quality of the film itself?
Frankly, the movie had every right to underwhelm us.
Instead, it packaged all the previous Marvel superhero films together into one whiz-bang presentation. "The Avengers" neatly incorporates the various personalities of these colorfully clad heroes, mixes in some super-sized laughs (like that Hulk sucker punch for the ages) and wraps with the kind of virtuoso action that put those shaky-cam sequences to shame.
It's a near-perfect realization of the superhero genre, a relentlessly smart and satisfying epic told by someone who deeply understands the comic book medium, writer/director Joss Whedon.
Meanwhile, we have "The Master," a film with snippets of genius storytelling in search of a soul. Yes, Philip Seymour Hoffman astounds as Lancaster Dodd, the man behind a '50s era cult dubbed The Cause, but so what? Where are the character arcs of consequence? Did movie goers feel anything during the film's running time? Was there a sense of elation in those waning moments, the gut instinct that a major story was being told?
Certain kinds of movies are routinely ignored by Oscar voters, and superhero films lead the pack. So "The Avengers" will have to settle for making millions and earning cheers from countless movie goers while a failed attempt at cinematic stands in its place.
Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies