If you had told me in the beginning of the year that Spider-Man: No Way Home, the third film in a series yet to secure a single Oscar nomination, would be in my top 15 Best Picture predictions, I’d have thrown holy water at you. But just as major Oscar precursors started announcing their nominations, No Way Home swung onto the scene as a worldwide sensation.
Box office numbers smashed expectations as if immune to the pandemic as videos of crowds cheering in the theater circulated social media. The whirlwind around the film, plus its staggering 8.8/10 IMDb score got me thinking a Best Picture nomination might actually be in the cards.
A narrative has been building around the film as a moviegoing event that got the public excited about going to the movies again. The Academy is desperate for ratings, especially after last year’s ceremony, and a No Way Home nomination would undeniably bring attention back to the Oscars in a big way. It would also be a way to push back against the growing sentiment that they are out of touch with the average moviegoer. However, I am not cynical enough to think voters are going to mark their ballot based on wanting to improve ratings. The film would have to get in on sheer passion, and with a film this popular and well liked, it’s not impossible to imagine.
The only Marvel film the Academy has ever nominated is Black Panther, which had genuinely Oscar worthy crafts, was a landmark in representation, and had social commentary to boot. It worked well as a standalone film and is one of few Marvel films where you the voice of the studio doesn’t outshine that of the director. You don’t need to be invested in the franchise to get the full experience. These factors made it easier to package the film as an awards player. No Way Home, on the other hand, is very entrenched in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with all its tie-ins, easter eggs, and cliffhangers. There’s no talk about Jon Watts’ voice as a filmmaker as much of the filmmaking feels like the default Marvel approach.
The most comparable film to No Way Home is Avengers: Endgame, a big Marvel event film that left audiences in tears over characters they’ve spent years with. It failed to secure more than a visual effects nomination, likely for many of the reasons mentioned above. So why make the case for No Way Home when Endgame didn’t stand a chance?
Timing. Fortunately, the hype might still be fresh as we head into Academy voting, unlike Endgame with its summer release date. In addition, this year we have 10 guaranteed Best Picture slots for the first time in over a decade. With this additional slot also comes a rule change were a film no longer needs 5% of the Academy to place it as their #1 vote to get in. It just needs to make it onto enough top 10s. If this change were not in place, I would hardly be considering the film at all.
Many pundits, myself included, feel pretty good about predicting these nine films: Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, The Power of the Dog, Tick, tick… Boom! and West Side Story, based primarily on the fact that all films were nominated at both the Golden Globes and Critics Choice awards. We are wracking our brains about what that final slot could be. And Spider-Man may have just as good of a shot as anything. However, it’ll likely struggle to muster up many other nominations, perhaps only having a real shot with Best Visual Effects. It feels somewhat likely that it will receive a Producers Guild Award nomination, (a highly correlative Best Picture precursor), given that they nominated Wonder Woman and Deadpool. But that could easily be dismissed as PGA being PGA.
The Academy likes to award films that they feel represent achievements in storytelling, performance, and crafts. Comic book films that they’ve embraced thus far like Joker, Black Panther, and The Dark Knight (I know it didn’t get Picture but it got 8 nominations) were perceived as stylistically or narratively daring. No Way Home falls more easily into the category of blockbuster franchise popcorn entertainment, and I suspect Academy members will sense that distinction, even if they enjoy the film. So although I concede it's very possible, I am not currently predicting No way Home for a Best Picture nomination. Check back here at CinemaBlend for more awards analysis in the coming weeks.
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