Yes, Spider-Man: No Way Home is expected to be nominated for Best Picture. To say otherwise is like trying to argue that we should stick with VHS tapes for screens. Or that we should avoid wi-fi and stick to dial-up modems. You cannot fight cultural evolution. You have only two choices: adapt or die.
I love the scene in The Insider where Al Pacino tries to get his story published about Big Tobacco’s efforts to cover up the evidence that smoking causes cancer. It’s one of those scenes that can be applied so generously at all levels. Here I would say the “cat, totally out of the bag and still struggling” scene would reflect the fact that the Oscars couldn’t be in a worse position heading into this year’s ceremony.
Granted, that’s no guarantee that many more people will watch if Spider-Man: No Way Home is nominated. They probably won’t, as it’s hard to bring viewers back to events they’ve given up on. The Oscars have been slowly bleeding audiences over the past ten years. But it has gotten worse over the past five, as the country has become extremely partisan, and the Academy – especially through its more outspoken members – has made no secret of where their loyalty lay. It wasn’t that they had to be non-partisan, but going to the full-fledged Democratic National Convention every time was off-putting, even for some liberals.
But that’s not the reason for naming Spider-Man. The reason for the nomination is that it deserves to be nominated. It’s that rare organic entry that lands in the Oscar race from time to time. I’ve written about this several times, but let’s get back to it. The Oscars are a pre-planned, well-oiled machine. Publicists target certain films months in advance that they think will appeal to Oscar voters, and they work most of the year to get those films nominated. To do that, they have to woo people like me with parties, giveaways, interviews, free screenings – you get the idea. Think of the lobbyists in Washington.
If pundits keep predicting the same movies over and over again, they are forging a consensus without any organic movement needed. What is organic movement? It’s when the public spontaneously likes a great movie, for example.
It often happened. This does not happen rarely anymore. If anyone at Sony had any idea how AMAZING this Spider-Man would be, they might have brought their publicists into the Oscars sooner. But as it is, it alone is the only true organic HIT that has been released this year. With ten nominees, ignoring this film is ASSISTED SUICIDE for the Academy.
Or to quote Owen Gleiberman, writing for Variety, after explaining that the film is not his cup of tea but that he still thinks it should be nominated:
Who cares what I think? Audiences love “Spider-Man: No Way Home”. Critics, with a few exceptions, absolutely adore “Spider-Man: No Way Home”. The whole world adores “Spider-Man: No Way Home”. So if you really think i’m wrong (and pretty much everyone is), what’s stopping everyone from demanding that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” become one of the Oscar nominees of this? year for the best film? What planet does it sound like it shouldn’t be on?
Ah yes, the old logic of Oscar middlebrow snobbery. In the past, members of the Motion Picture Academy viewed superhero movies as entertainment, not art, and the Oscars are meant to be about art. We’ve been through this debate many times, most spectacular in 2008, when “The Dark Knight,” the greatest superhero film ever to make, couldn’t find a nomination for Best Picture.
And then he declares what anyone who doesn’t live in the Twitter bubble already knows:
Now, however, there is a bigger reason to name “Spider-Man: No Way Home”. The Oscars are on life support, or at least they’re headed for it. They need general credibility; in the future, it is nothing less than oxygen that will allow them to survive.
And he ends it with this wonderful paragraph:
This year, would it really be such unspeakable vulgarity for the Oscar list to include “Spider-Man: No Way Home”? Not as a symbolic mainstream gesture, but because it’s a film that honestly meant something to the general public. Why has it become such a crazy idea? What’s really crazy is leaving a movie like this out of the mix. If the Oscars want a future, it would be a smart strategy for them not to kill themselves with a thousand cuts using the dagger of elitism.
The reason there are ten nominations for Best Picture, which was meant to help them develop and hopefully improve their brand, is to include “genre films”. Why on earth wouldn’t they name a genre film that could very well become the highest-grossing film of all time, or one of them, in the midst of an overwhelming global pandemic? How disconnected do people have to be to think this isn’t one of the best movies of the year?
You can’t watch Film Twitter to figure this out. They are happy with the way things are and why shouldn’t they be? They live the most spectacular experiences of their (our) life. Not only can we be close to the best and the brightest, we never have to pay a single dime for anything. We are the film cover aristocracy. So other than helping negotiate the Oscars for the people who want them, what’s the point of it all? Seriously, what’s the point? Why is BAFTA reorganizing its candidates to “select” more inclusive candidates? What’s the point ? This does not create any momentum for those selected. It’s just stickers to put on their box that say, “See, we’re actually inclusive and diverse.” No, you are not. Not if you have to override the will of your own membership with external curators. It’s not that.
The Oscars show films that are supposed to represent their tastes and the image they want to project. But the general public, the people for whom films REALLY are, are often left in awe. The disconnection only gets bigger. The Oscars are systematically isolated from the country and from the industry at large. It is not a good thing. Assigning a movie like Spider-Man also raises the bar for tentpole movies to aim this high, to make a movie this good. It is possible not to totally touch the worst movies just to make money. The Oscars may be the group that say they understand the world has changed and the movie industry has changed, but they still think quality matters. They can always reward the highest achievements of the year, even if some of them exist outside their comfort zone.
Their counter-argument is that they believe if they approve of this film that they no longer care about the fight to make art. Emma Stone was meant to be Birdman’s villain, and we’re meant to mourn the loss of the great art in the movie.
I’ve been watching the Oscar race since 1999. Every month of every year since then. I was here when the Oscars were still a popular event. I remember being excited about them in early spring in Los Angeles. The jasmine was in bloom. The city was preparing for pomp and circumstance. Everyone was excited about them. Over the years things have started to change. The Oscars have pushed back their date, which means the race has been handed down to film festivals and bloggers like me. At the same time, people like me tried to shape the race based on what we thought of Oscar voters. This meant that only a certain type of film would even be considered.
Every now and then there would be a popular crossbreed – like Argo, for example. But in general, the “Oscar movie” has come to represent something very serious, often very depressing, and something that not only a few people have watched, but that no one remembers even after it is over. ‘year. So many films ignored by the Oscars have left their mark on culture. Two that come to mind right off the bat would be Gone Girl and the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Oscar ignored them, stupidly, based on their own island rules and ignoring how popular the films were with audiences.
This was not the case before. If Jaws was a hit, the Oscars cared. Even though Fatal Attraction, Love Story, or The Towering Inferno weren’t exactly critical darlings, they were hits and it mattered. They had a cultural impact. They were called back. The Oscars noticed it.
Many would argue that Hollywood has indulged in tented superhero franchise films to attract ticket buyers in China and the lucrative international market. I can’t argue with this. But then what? They are not that different from other genres that were popular at times, like musicals or westerns. They seem less original, more repetitive and branded. I agree. But the time is up. Now is the time to change. It’s time to give away the best of the year, and it’s hard to argue that Spider-Man: No Way Home isn’t one of Hollywood’s best efforts of the year.
What will it take? Well, all he needs is about two or three hundred Academy voters to put Spider-Man: No Way Home in first place – the voters in the Sound or Editing or Animation branch or Production to say, “I’m going to do my part to save the Oscars and save the industry” – and then he has a fighting chance.
I don’t think the Oscars can survive or should survive if they continue to serve a small group of elites who never have to pay a dime to see any of these movies. With ten nominees, there should be room to include all kinds of films – genre films, animated films, documentaries and international entries. It can be an extremely competitive category once we realize that this is a much bigger world than the one we’re trying to micro-manage from October through January.