Oscar Experts Typing: ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ weaving way to Best Picture nomination

Welcome to Oscar Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Oscar race — via Slack, of course. This week, we wonder if “Spider-Man: No Way Home” can find a way into the Oscar-verse (spoilers abound, so be warned).

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! I hope your Spidey sense is Peter tingling, because we’re using this week’s typing to click-clack about the biggest movie of 2021, “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Why are we using this awards column to focus on superhero IP? Well, for starters, “No Way Home” features 40 percent of the potential Best Actor field and could conceivably score a Best Picture nomination now that the lineup is a set 10. That might read like blasphemy or foolishness, but as you pointed out in our chat earlier this week, the 2009 and 2010 Best Picture lineups did not lack broad audience fare, like “Toy Story 3” and “Inception.” A year after the lowest-rated Oscars telecast ever, and with near-universal acclaim from even the most hardened cynic, is “Spider-Man: No Way Home” grabbing a low-end Best Picture slot that hard to imagine? Certainly, it shouldn’t be — especially when the film itself pulled off what would seem impossible: mixing three separate “Spider-Man” franchises, with three separate Peter Parkers, into something not just coherent but also inspiring and awesome. You have called “No Way Home” one of your favorite movies of the year, and I would probably agree. It’s just so darn likable! Maybe with an expanded Best Picture field that counts for something — especially when the other options to fill out the Best Picture lineup include more polarizing stuff like “Don’t Look Up” and “Being the Ricardos” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” When we spoke previously, I suggested that perhaps “No Time To Die” would be the populist Best Picture dark horse no one saw coming — after all, it could get at least three or four nominations in the crafts categories. I don’t think “No Way Home” will perform as well as Bond — at best, it could get in for visual effects (something I will predict and wholeheartedly endorse). But in a polarizing time where everyone disagrees about everything, even “No Time To Die,” is Spider-Man the hero who can unite us all (and, in the process, push the Oscars viewership totals back into double digits)? At the very least, Marvel and Sony think the possibility exists, so why not?

joyceeng: I’m sure that somewhere in the multiverse “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the favorite to win Best Picture. In this world, it’s not gonna win, but like I’ve said, I would definitely not be mad if it made the cut. The whole reason the expanded lineup exists is because these people snubbed The Dark Knight” 13 years ago. They wanted to make room for different kinds of movies, but these broad, populist films haven’t really made a huge dent in Best Picture in the years since (so much so that we had that misbegotten Best Popular Film flop idea). “Black Panther” and “Joker” had other factors going for it — the former, a groundbreaking cultural touchstone; the latter, a gritty, dark affair — so “No Way Home” would be the first pure, “good times” comic book blockbuster to get in. Right now, it has a better shot at PGA ($$$) than the Oscars. But there are ostensibly one or two open slots in Best Picture, and as you’ve said, some of these Oscar-y type films with middling or divisive responses could inspire more apathy than passion among voters. The biggest knock against “No Way Home” is that it lacks the cultural significance of a “Black Panther” and snob appeal. There are definitely people, not just academy members, who will turn their noses up at the idea of a superhero film like this one in Best Picture. “No Way Home” also traffics heavily in nostalgia and is targeted more towards people like us who grew up with Sam Raimi’s trilogy (side note: a child in my row asked, “Who’s that?” when Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire showed up and I slowly withered into dust as if Thanos just snapped again). Do I think “No Way Home” is the best movie of the year? No, and if this were a field of five, I would not nominate it. But it’s the most fun I had watching a movie this year and I think that should count for something too. And wouldn’t you agree that “No Way Home” and, say, “Drive My Car” rounding out the top 10 would make things way more exciting and memorable than if it were just the baity films everyone had their eyes on for months getting caught in the Oscars’ web?

SEE Oscar Experts Typing: Who will round out the Best Actor lineup?

Christopher Rosen: I would! This is why as we’re typing I’ve switched to those two films in my own predictions. But beyond Best Picture and its own Oscar bona fides, I think “No Way Home” is significant because of that aforementioned Best Actor race. We’ve buried the lede here slightly — and spoilerphobes should run away now — but, uh, Andrew Garfield is in this movie and not in a winking cameo. The best Spider-Man (yes, I said it) has a lot to do here, mining deep emotions and landing funny quips that help “No Way Home” really work. With this kind of performance coming in the wake of “Tick, Tick… Boom!” it seems like this has become the Year of Andrew. That he also kind of blows Benedict Cumberbatch off the screen here as well makes me wonder if Best Actor has become Garfield’s to lose. We’ve been holding the Oscar for Will Smith, but with this kind of momentum, can anything stop Peter 3?

joyceeng: Well, in the words of our pal and MCU expert Kaitlin Thomas, “Peter 3? More like Oscar contender 1.” I walked out of “No Way Home” thinking, “I am ready to give the Oscar to Andrew Garfield.” He’s always been a great Spidey who was unfortunately trapped in the messiest films, and I think between that, the enduring affection for Maguire’s trilogy (“Spider-Man 2” remains superior, obviously) and Tom Holland crushing it, people’s short-term memories have forgotten just how amazing (pun intended) he was until now. The filmmakers and Garfield very clearly knew what he was coming back for, and he, as the kids say, understood the assignment. His performance is fun, funny, emotional and cathartic — I am still LOL-ing thinking about some of his line readings, especially one to Jamie Foxx (you know the one). I had already moved Garfield to first in my SAG Awards predictions last week when we discussed how he was an X factor in the supposed two-horse Smith-Cumberbatch race. But the real X factor was “No Way Home.” Everyone and their mothers love his crackling performance in “Tick, Tick… Boom!”, and as I’ve said, I feel like the love for him is carrying the movie to a Best Picture nomination. I think it also helps that he has been seen as the underdog. It was only a month ago that we were like, “Can he get in?” And now we’re like, “Can he win?” (Insert the “How it started / How it’s going” meme here.) But are we just basking in the “No Way Home” afterglow right now or can he — or even Cumberbatch, who also boasts one helluva year — really get a Spidey boost?

SEE Oscar Experts predictions slugfest: Analyzing the shortlists and what they mean for Best Picture?

Christopher Rosen: I’m sure that’s part of it, and clearly his performance in “No Way Home” doesn’t really have any bearing on whether voters warm to “Tick, Tick… Boom!” But it’s hard to ignore the narrative and the broad affection that exists for him as an actor. Everyone loves Andrew Garfield! The passion is there and while Smith is one of the biggest stars in the world, I just don’t see that same kind of excitement around “King Richard.” I hazard to compare anything to this past year but part of the reason I think Chadwick Boseman ultimately lost was that people just expected he would win — and then with that thought in mind, it allowed them to vote for their favorite performance, which in that case was Anthony Hopkins. (I believe you were at the forefront of that theory before the ceremony!) Could the same thing happen here? Smith has been the favorite for months. Is he at risk of frontrunner fatigue? I think maybe? Joyce, is this just multiverse nonsense talking, or am I onto something?

joyceeng: I don’t think it’s the multiverse, but it does feel like we’re in the Mirror Dimension (which, in that case, I guess we should have Cumberbatch winning?). Smith became the favorite out of Telluride, when “Tick, Tick… Boom!” was still unseen and would be for two more months, and I think it’s very easy to remain with the status quo unless/until there’s a huge shake-up. We touched upon it last week, but we’re all expecting Smith to start his run with the televised precursors because Cumberbatch would dominate critics awards. And Cumberbatch has, but the twist is that both Garfield and Nicolas Cage (let’s get Spider-Man Noir in at the Oscars too) have been pocketing more critics prizes so far than Smith has. To your point about last season’s contest, the one thing that’s been clear in recent years is that members will just vote for what they like the most. People flat-out loved Hopkins in “The Father” and Olivia Colman in “The Favourite,” and everyone ignored that passion in favor of the season-long frontrunners with narratives. That being said, “The Father” and “The Favourite” were stronger Best Picture players than “Tick, Tick… Boom!” will likely end up being. But also, how strong will “King Richard” be? (“The Power of the Dog” is obviously the strongest of the three, but is it gonna win five major Oscars?) Regardless if Garfield prevails for “Tick, Tick… Boom!”, we should just give him an Oscar anyway for lying his ass off the past few months about the worst kept secret in the multiverse.

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