It’s that time again! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has named their shortlist of what they consider the top movies of 2021, and once again, it feels like a list that doesn’t match either what the general audiences consider the year’s best, nor what critics looking for novelty or artistry consider the year’s best. Well, some of them. Some of the latter have made the shortlist through sheer power of critical love, some through mounting award buzz, some because what are they gonna do, not nominate Spielberg? That’s crazy talk.
Actually that brings us to a sad fact about the Oscars, a tale told in two records set this year. Steven Spielberg became the first person to be nominated for Best Director in six different decades. Jane Campion became the first woman to be nominated for Best Director twice.
Nothing against Steven, man’s a legend, but… marinate in that a minute.
Anyhoo before we get to the rankings…
Should they have nominated Spider-Man: No Way Home?
Look I liked it a lot in theatres. I wasn’t compelled to watch it a second time, especially not if it meant dancing with Omicron. It’s good Spider-Man. But it’s good because it’s good at delivering fan service. It managed to hit us with two hours of fan service moments while still telling a story that made sense and was about the current, reigning Spider-Man. Like Day of the Doctor homaged 50 years of Doctor Who while still being primarily about 11 and Clara. That’s fun to watch, but that’s not enough for an Oscar, you know? And as a friend pointed out, yes, Oscar Bait has become such a precise science that there is such a thing as fan service for Oscar voters, looking at you The King’s Speech, but I want “He sure was a great man from history, let’s not unpack his flaws much” to stop getting Oscar love, rather than “He’s from the other movies!” to start so that it’s fair. Ghostbusters: Afterlife also had reams of fan service that didn’t stop it from telling its own story, you don’t hear me whining it was snubbed. I know the deal.
And yes, it made insane money, even if we weren’t still in a pandemic. It made huge bank, first movie since Rise of Skywalker to do so. But come on, peeps. Is that relevant. There was a time when earning more money than any other movie made the Academy think “Well it must be doing something right,” but that time essentially ended with ET: The Extra Terrestrial. Sure there’ve been outliers, but overall, being the box office champ only gets you a Best Picture nomination if you’re Lord of the Rings good or directed by James Cameron.
So no. No I don’t think Spider-Man: No Way Home particularly deserved a nod, even if there are some real questionable choices this year (as always), even if the Academy does need to open its minds to the possibility that popcorn movies can be good and legit classics (justice for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Chariots of Fire my entire ass), even if they required there to be ten nominees, the first time that’s happened in 11 years, seemingly for the express purpose of sneaking in a hit so that maybe the ratings would pull out of their death spiral.
I mean they did nominate a big tentpole flick, but… it’s probably not the People’s Champ they’d hoped for.
That said, as we rank this year’s picks, we will chat about movies that maybe should have made the list.
Next Page: The part where I’m extra sassy