Wednesday, April 17

‘Spider-Man: No way home’: what if it wins the Oscar for best picture?

In just over three weeks, the Academy of Hollywood must publicize the movies candidates for Oscar in its 94th edition. Some seem to be more than guaranteed their presence, especially Kenneth Brannagh’s ‘Belfast’, Jane Campion’s ‘The Power of the Dog’, and Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’. But in recent weeks, and in the stealthy mode of seismic waves prior to a major earthquake, the possibility that ‘Spider-Man: No way home’, de Jon Watts, sneaks February 7 among the 10 nominees for best film. And not only that: that he ends up giving the blow and takes the golden statuette of Uncle Oscar in the style of what he already did in 2003 ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’, by Peter Jackson.

It is not a ’boutade’ to the joy of the noisy legion of Marvel fans and, especially, of the adventures of the young Spider-Man. The film, like the two previous installments of the saga starring Tom Holland, has not only been a planetary blockbuster, but has received the ovation of the critics, delivered to the glittering vitality of Peter Parker adventures in the very folds of the multiverse. Beyond the prejudices about superhero cinema, why couldn’t ‘Spider-Man: No way out’ win the Oscar for best movie? We try to answer the question here – and analyze in passing the global phenomenon that has supposed- in the form of five keys:

Third installment of a wonderful trilogy

‘No way home’ is, we will remember, the third of the films in which the young wall-crawler is played by Holland, after two previous sagas with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield under the tights. The character had made his presentation with his new incarnation in ‘Captain America: Civil war’ (Anthony and Joe ‘Russo, 2016), before his stellar appearance as the protagonist in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ (Jon Watts, 2017) and his reappearance in ‘Spider Man: Far From Home’ (Jon Watts, 2019). Nobody would have given a penny for the umpteenth reinvention of Spider-Man, since the character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko seemed fully amortized in the cinema; But Sony and Marvel nailed it: both installments were a fabulous success with the public and, of course, a third installment became inevitable with which to close not only this third cycle, but the previous two, in a perfect, almost alchemical symbiosis between Marvel’s present and his old memory. “A love letter”, as its executive producer, Amy Pascal, has defined it.

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Tom Holland, como Spiderman.

Self-referential magic

The action of ‘Spider-Man: No way home’ starts right where Spider-Man: Far From Home endsAfter the identity of Peter Parker was exposed by the villain Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), the life of our spider hero and his charismatic friends MJ (Zendaya) and Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) is literally turned upside down. You will then decide to contact el doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to help you hide your identity with magic. But the enchantment goes wrong and will cause a fracture in the multiverse through which various villains who had faced Spider-Man in other alternate realities will enter.

Benedict Cumberbatch y Tom Holland, en ‘Spider-Man: No way home’.

From here on, we’ll avoid further plot commentary to avoid spoilers that spoil the many surprises fans will find along the way. In any case, no need to carry the superhero encyclopedia: Any layman in the Marvel world, unless he has a stone instead of a heart, will be able to have fun – and move to tears – in this ravishing self-referential cinema exercise which is ‘Spider Man: No way home’.

Sony, ready for anything

The movie has exploded the global box office to unimaginable extremes in these times of high volatility and low attendance at theaters. Not only is it by far the most successful film of the pandemic era, it has become the eighth highest grossing in history, with more than 1,500 million dollars raised as of January 10, 2022, ahead of ‘The Avengers’ (2012) and very close to the seventh,’ The Lion King ‘(2019), and the sixth,’ Jurassic World ‘(2015). Only in Spain, the film has exceeded in less than a month since its premiere the 16 million euros of collection, doubling in the accumulated to his immediate pursuers, ‘Fast 9’, ‘Venom 2: There will be slaughter’ and ‘A full train: Asturias destination’, which have barely exceeded 8 million.

A public success that, together with the excellent reviews it has received (accumulates 93% positive votes on Rottentomatoes, the influential website that gathers reviews published in the US), has prompted its responsible company, Sony, to throw the rest in its attempt to make it visible to academics in the face of major Oscar nominations, including, of course, the best picture. “Academics should vote for our film because it is one of the top ten of the year,” says Tom Rothman, CEO of Sony Pictures, in a report by ‘The Hollywood Reporter’. To this end, the company will spare no effort: academics will be able to watch the film from Monday to Thursday in movie theaters for free, as well as via streaming through their own viewing channel. In addition, of course, to the usual campaigns in industry publications requesting a vote from academics.

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In this sense, the astute bosses of Sony and Marvel set their sights on ‘The return of the King’, tremendous closing of the trilogy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ that in 2003 won the 11 Oscars to which it was chosen, including the one for best film and director for Peter Jackson. “That was a celebration and culmination of the incredible work that went into that trilogy. In our case, it’s a celebration of our latest Spider-Man trilogy and the previous two, ”he observes. Kevin Feige, President and Chief Creative Officer, Marvel Studios. “It is essential that the Academy does not lose its connection with the quality commercial cinema”Rothman adds. And that is what, above all, ‘Spider-Man: No way home’ is: an effective destructive weapon against prejudices and the condescence that often surrounds superhero movies.

To the (good) taste of the public

At a time when the public’s disinterest, especially that of the new generations, for the Oscars ceremony is ever greater, with television audiences declining, nothing would have a more rejuvenating effect than the explosion of vitality of the two protagonists of ‘Spider Man: No way home’, Tom Holland y Zendaya, glittering youth idols who, as if that were not enough claim, have confirmed that they maintain a romantic relationship. Freshness and beauty for times of affliction.

Directors like Martin Scorsese have long been vilifying Marvel and lamenting the death of the old cinema, or at least its mutation into something more trivial. “The cinema no longer exists. The cinema that I grew up with and the one that I continue to make no longer exists”, Laments the director of ‘One of our own’, nostalgic for a time that will never return. Scorsese is absolutely right, and the proof of this is that an exaltation of classic cinema such as the marvelous ‘West Side Story’ de Spielberg has succumbed by technical KO in his box office match with ‘Spider-Man: No way home’.

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The cinema that today continues to attract audiences to theaters is, indeed, commercial to the bone, based on infallible formulas for success, fundamentally franchises, ‘remakes’ and reviews. And Watts’ film responds to that profile like a glove. But Sony and Marvel have been able to read the tastes of the public that continues to go to the cinema even in times of pandemic and, defying prejudices about the genre, has offered a splendid entertainment product, endowed with frenetic rhythm, charismatic characters, moral depth, sincere emotionality and self-tributes that take away the hiccups. Whether you are interested in the Marvel thing or not, whether you are attracted to the troubles of superheroes or not.

Bad precedents, but less

Make no mistake: the precedents are not good. So far this week has been left out of the BAFTA nominations. And superhero cinema, despite its overwhelming sense of the spectacle and its astonishing box office capacity, It is not usually present at the Oscars ceremonies except in the technical categories (visual effects or sound montage), production design or animation. Even so, some doors have been opened in the last five years: in 2018, ‘Black Panther’by Ryan Coogler made history by becoming the first title of the genre to compete for the Oscar for best picture, the same year it ‘Spider-Man: A New Universe’, by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, broke seven years of crushing Disney dominance in the animation category.

The late Chadwick Boseman, in a scene from ‘Black Panther’.

A separate box deserves ‘Joker’, by Todd Philips, with its two Oscars and its 11 nominations in 2019, including, of course, that of best film and direction. But this approach to Batman’s nemesis was, in truth, an almost political film, deliberately surly and dark, set light years from the festive standards of superhero cinema and, of course, from ‘Spider-Man: No way home’. In any case, the Marvel or DC universes, with their endless catalog of heroes and villains on the warpath, have fortunately ceased to be strange bodies at the great Hollywood party.

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