Film & TV

Spider-Man’s Swings and Misses at the Oscars

Photo credit: Erik Mclean on Unsplash

By Amelia Chambers

Have you found yourself stuck in the Spider-Man frenzy currently taking over the web? From scenes of the film and official press interviews to Andrew Garfield obsessed TikTok videos (guilty as charged!), the latest Spider-Man film certainly left an impression. So why has the film been left out of the Oscars, one of the most prestigious film award ceremonies?

Director Jon Watts’ 2021 Spider-Man: No Way Home was undeniably one of the biggest box office movies of the year. Earning $1.53 billion at the global box office, it claimed the title of highest-grossing movie of 2021. With leading man Tom Holland portraying the web-slinging hero, he provides an engaging and, at times, surprisingly emotional performance. 

Combined with an impressive supporting cast, including a great performance from Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, and a fun filled plot, the film is a sure fire win. The decision to include previous Spider-Men, Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield, allowed the film to pay homage to its previous iterations and consolidated itself as arguably the most memorable of all the Spider-Man films. 

Yet, when it comes to esteemed awards Spider-Man has been left out like an unwanted stray cat. The infamous Martin Scorcese comment that Marvel films “aren’t cinema” feeds into the underlying issue of conflict between highbrow and lowbrow culture. Or in other terms, what is perceived as sophisticated and intelligent versus what is easier to understand, and therefore deemed inferior.

This ongoing conflict feeds into the cinematic world. It is most present in the Oscar nominees for Best Picture 2022, a list filled with lesser known indie films like Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast and politically relevant films like Netflix’ Don’t Look Up. Only Dune is able to worm its way onto the list as the sole box office hit up for Best Picture. Whilst I am sure these films deserve to be in the running for the Best Picture Oscar award, it reflects the dismissal of Marvel, or more generally, superhero films. 

There are some notable exceptions to this rule, including Joaquin Phoenix’s win as Best Actor for Joker in 2020 and Black Panther’s nomination for Best Picture. There have also been nominations for Marvel films for technical awards, with Black Panther winning three awards for Production Design, Original Score, and Costume Design. However, there is a significant lack of nominations for the acting itself within these films. Considering the dark themes and violence of Joker, it escaped the condemnation of superhero films by falling into more highbrow culture. Marvel films lay firmly outside of this realm.

But is it right to condemn films for being fun? And entertaining? And widely popular? The Emmy awards seem to ignore this conflict resulting in wins for Marvel’s series WandaVision, including Best Actress and Best Actor. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the exclusion of lowbrow cinema from awards. 
Either way, I for one will be rewatching Spider-Man: No Way Home upon its release on Starz later this year.

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