Spider-Man: No Way Home would take home a Popular Film Oscar in a heartbeat but the film was never getting a Best Picture nomination.
You’re only kidding yourself if you thought it had a chance for Best Picture. It never did. The film might be emotional and full of fan service but at the end of the day, it was never getting a Best Picture nomination. I say this as a Marvel fan. A film can be popular and the source of comfort food but still not be one of the best pictures of the year in an Oscar sense.
If you look at my most-viewed films during the pandemic, it’s mostly Marvel, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park/World. What I like to watch at home is very different from the films that I’ll sit down to watch at a movie theater. Trust me, I’ve had no shortage of struggles in watching films that receive critical love. A lot of films end up being one-and-done over here. During the pandemic, I will never know what my headspace will be like on a given day! If depression is bad, I’ll just turn to comfort movies. I’ve clocked at least 10 Avengers: Endgame viewings since the initial release. I’ve also been spending time rewatching many of Steven Spielberg’s filmography. Academy voters come in all forms. They might not gravitate towards Marvel movies in the same way that others do. We’ve heard how Martin Scorsese and Steven Soderbergh feel about Marvel movies.
There are over 9,000 voters in the Academy. Thanks to the diversifying of membership, it’s up from just shy of 7,000 a few years earlier. Parasite, Drive My Car, and The Worst Person in the World are getting nominations in multiple categories for this reason. In previous years, international films stood their best chance in one category. Every now and then, they get lucky and pick up multiple nominations. I didn’t include Roma in this because Alfonso Cuarón had previously won Best Director for Gravity. It goes without saying that Netflix and Neon have been changing the game in the past few years alone. Neon released their first film in 2017 and they now have 5 wins out of 18 Oscar nominations. Starting with the 86th Academy Awards, Netflix has picked up 116 nominations, wining 15 to date.
Black Panther landed a nomination for Best Picture. One year earlier, it was Logan becoming the first superhero movie to land an Academy Award nomination for screenwriting. Sound and visual effects nominations are the norm for comic book movies but Logan only got the one nomination. Where Logan was able to land a nomination, DC’s Wonder Woman was completely shut out. Spider-Man: No Way Home is lucky for landing its sole nomination in visual effects. The tech categories are where comic book films have their best chance of winning. If not for The Dark Knight leading the academy to expand Best Picture to over five nominees, Black Panther and Joker would probably have missed out on their nominations.
Where a film can get critical love, it might not get any Oscar love. It’s something we’ve seen time and time again. My tastes are different than yours and my awards ballots will reflect that. That being said, Spider-Man: No Way Home did make my top five films of 2021. I also recognize that, again, my tastes are different. Film is so subjective. I’ve seen the best performances of the year get completely snubbed come the Oscar nominations. Take Clemency, for example. It was my final film of Sundance 2019. Alfre Woodard was on my ballot during the entire season. Jessie Buckley, too, for her spectacular performance in Wild Rose. If I love a film or performance, I’ll be talking it up until the end of awards season.
The beauty of film criticism is that I can love a film like Spider-Man: No Way Home as much as I love Don’t Look Up, Belfast, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, and CODA. Whether Kevin Feige will ever produce an Oscar-winning Best Picture remains to be seen. I’m not in the Academy but asking me to choose between Don’t Look Up, Belfast, and CODA is not an easy feat.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is currently playing in theaters. The 94th Academy Awards will air live at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT on ABC.
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