Can ‘Spider-Man’ swing into the Oscars?

A woman and a man dressed as Spider-Man swing across a city skyline in a scene from "Spider-Man: No Way Home."
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” hopes to parlay its commercial success into a best picture nod.
(Matt Kennedy )

It’s the last day of 2021 and, owing to the weather and, um, yeah, a certain highly contagious virus, I think I’ll be spending the evening hunkering underneath a blanket, listening to The Times’ best 100 songs of 2021 and wondering how much homemade eggnog I need to drink before visions of sugar plums start dancing in my head. (I know, I know ... that line’s from the Christmas poem, but I haven’t taken down the tree and I’m not ready to let go. Talk to me in a month.)

Right now might also be a good opportunity to catch up with movies. I’m Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times, host of The Envelope’s Friday newsletter, wondering what are you doing New Year’s Eve?

‘Spider-Man’ has a billion dollars. Now it wants Oscar gold

Have you seen the new “Spider-Man” movie? If not, you’re apparently one of the three people who hasn’t braved the multiplex, as “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, becoming the first film to do that during this seemingly endless pandemic. My colleague Ryan Faughnder explores the picture’s commercial success, wondering if it’s the latest example of how moviegoers flock to brands like Marvel instead of stars like, say, Will Smith.

Now that “Spider-Man” has become a singular sensation in these last two lean years at the box office, its makers are arguing that it belongs squarely in the best picture conversation, with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige likening it to “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” the culmination of a beloved franchise. This was pretty much the same argument he made a couple years ago for “Avengers: Endgame,” a case that Oscar voters summarily rejected, giving it one measly nomination for visual effects.


This time could be different, however, owing to the number of best picture nominees now being set to a fixed 10. And that there might also be a natural impulse to reward a critically approved movie that has resonated with filmgoers during a time when moviegoing feels ... I don’t know ... doomed. (Is “doomed” too strong a word?) Martin Scorsese probably isn’t voting for it, but other motion picture academy members just might.

A man dressed as Spider-Man crouches in the movie "Spider-Man: No Way Home."
Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
(Matt Kennedy)

Oscars actors’ power rankings

Before I went on holiday, which feels like about 100 years ago, I put together a little list of mostly deserving actors who are making noise this awards season. Were the rankings somewhat random? Perhaps. Did I maybe exclude a worthy contender or two? Of course. As reader Sean Topps asks, how could I make a list like this and not include Andrew Garfield, who was sensational as playwright Jonathan Larson in “Tick, Tick ... Boom!”?

Good question. I did have him in mind, but I stopped the list rather arbitrarily at 15. But the gung-ho Garfield deserves whatever glory comes his way this season, as he also delivered a thoroughly committed performance as televangelist Jim Bakker in the biopic “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” And I continue to have lasting memories of his powerful performance in Scorsese’s underappreciated, profoundly searching 2016 film “Silence,” a movie he made shortly after leaving the “Spider-Man” franchise, a decision I trust Feige won’t hold against him.

A smiling man holds a microphone in the film “Tick, Tick … Boom!”
Andrew Garfield in “Tick, Tick … Boom!”
(Macall Polay / Netflix)

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Speaking of “Tick, Tick ... Boom!” ...

... Garfield isn’t the only one of its cast members warranting attention. Times contributor Ramin Zahed talks with theater veteran Robin de Jesús, who plays Larson’s level-headed, gay best friend, Michael, in the film.

“One of the big questions of our movie is what are you doing with your time?” De Jesús says. “These types of questions are good for us to ruminate over. As someone who performed in ‘Rent,’ I can tell you that everyone who has been in that show is part of a tight community. It all keeps bringing me back to Jonathan [Larson], and how one man created so much community, and did so much good for those communities, and they are all connected because of him.”

And since we’re ruminating over time, I’m going to exit stage right and not take up any more of yours. Happy New Year! Fingers crossed for a more normal-adjacent time ahead.

A bearded man contemplates things.
Robin de Jesús, excellent in “Tick, Tick ... Boom!”
(Jesse Dittmar / For The Times)


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Can’t get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter.