Actually, The Oscars Did Nominate 'Popular' Movies This Year
The Oscar nominations were announced today, thrilling everyone who loves both movies and awkward Zoom-based comedic banter.
And while a lot of great movies (and some real pieces of crap) were nominated, the biggest financial success of the year, Spider-Man: No Way Home was, according to several major media outlets “snubbed” for a Best Picture nod, reportedly leaving Marvel fans “furious.” Of course, No Way Home has the consolation prize of having already made well over a billion dollars at the box office – which is only not a crazy amount of money if you have to divide it between all three Spider-Men. And while No Way Home is pretty terrific, just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it should be nominated for an Oscar – but on the flip side, absolutely no one should get too high and mighty about the artistic integrity of an award that was once willingly issued to goddamn Green Book.
This debate has dominated Oscar discourse since well before No Way Home; remember when the Oscars “snubbed” The Dark Knight in 2009? The backlash from moviegoers prompted the Academy to widen the field of nominees, presumably to include more mainstream hits that would, in turn, lure TV viewers back to the Oscars. And when that didn’t work, in 2018 the Academy even announced that they would be adding a special “Popular Film” category. Thankfully the idea was scrapped, lest Parasite have won Best Unpopular Picture.
But even though that plan was canceled, the illusory binary divide between “popular” and “award-worthy” movies has stuck around, to the detriment of both blockbusters and more overtly prestige-hungry films. And the idea that the Oscars needs to nominate blockbusters in order to maintain even a semblance of cultural relevance creates a false narrative, which is especially evident this year.
Sure, Spider-Man didn’t get a nomination, but that doesn’t mean that the Oscars have necessarily doomed themselves to further irrelevance, because a lot of the movies that were nominated this year are legitimately popular – and not just box office hits like Dune and the much-crapped upon, yet frequently-streamed, Don't Look Up. Take the awards’ frontrunner; Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog starring – for all you Spider-Man fans – Doctor Strange and early 2000s Mary Jane Watson.
According to both Netflix and Nielsen, a massive amount of people streamed The Power of the Dog, like, way more than you’d expect for an art-house interrogation of Western masculine archetypes – possibly because it’s available to Netflix subscribers at the touch of a button, and it’s not like there’s a new season of The Floor is Lava to watch right now. But since the way streaming numbers are reported is needlessly confusing, measured not in dollars, but by minutes watched, and because older audiences may not be as vocal about movies on social media, we wouldn’t necessarily consider it to be a "popular" movie, when it very clearly is.
So it's not like this year's nominations are completely out of touch – and for all we know, that kid from Licorice Pizza was bitten by a radioactive spider offscreen at some point.
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Top Image: Sony/Netflix