The nominations for this year’s Oscars were released on Tuesday — and like every year, cinephiles and the average moviegoer alike were up in arms over “snubs” by the Academy.
None greater than the “snub” of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” — a “will they, won’t they” that dominated the discourse in the runup to the release of the nominations. The end result was obvious — Spider-Man will not be in contention for Best Picture. And why would it have been? Including a film like Spider-Man, the antithesis of the standard Oscar-bait fare, would have run counter to 90 years of Oscar history.
Still, the question over whether it would be nominated ignited a debate as to what an “Oscars movie” should be.
The fact is that the Oscars have never really awarded what the general public would call the best movie. More specifically, to win an Oscar, one must not simply make the “best movie.”
If the best movie were rewarded at the 2018 Oscars, we would probably have seen a “Get Out” Best Picture. It was the rare film that checked both boxes, it was critically acclaimed and accepted by audiences. Instead, the Best Picture was awarded to “The Shape of Water,” a film about a woman’s romantic relationship with a fish-man.
While it’s unclear why “The Shape of Water” won an Oscar, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would call that their favorite movie of 2017 or someone who would call that the most entertaining movie of that year.
A movie like “Get Out” is rare to find — one which is eligible for an Oscar and is popular with moviegoing audiences. In the 70s and 80s, many films nominated for Oscars were critically acclaimed and commercially successful.
The standard box office metrics are rewarding big event movies like Spider-Man that bring people away from Netflix and into the movie theaters. People don’t want to leave the comforts of their home for a movie musical like “West Side Story,” which bombed at the box office. Unless you have a giant robot or superhero or mutant creature destroying a city, then you probably won’t get folks off their couches.
This brings us back to the Oscars. Should they fall in line with the economic trends of the film industry and reward the comic book films at their award shows?
The idea of the Academy Awards recognizing something that’s designed to be commercially successful, above all else, is against their ideals. This isn’t to say that a large amount of creative thinking doesn’t go into producing a Marvel movie. It’s just that the reason why Marvel greenlit Spider-Man 3 probably wasn’t for artistic reasons.
But if the Oscars don’t recognize films that try their hardest to be commercial, they also shouldn’t recognize films that try their hardest to win Oscars. For a while now, the Academy has rewarded the equivalent of pick-me-girls in their show. If we’re barring something like Spider-Man, we should also bar “The Artist,” which won the Best Picture in 2011. “The Artist,” a film that throughout its runtime tried so nauseating to win an Oscar that the only message it ended up conveying was a “please give me an award.”
The Oscars should represent movies that are truly good and show us something we’ve never seen on screen before. Films like “Moonlight,” “Get Out,” and “Parasite” broke new ground while also entertaining audiences. That’s what the Oscars should be about.
And if a Spider-Man movie comes along that does those things at some point, the snooty Academy should give it an award.