Oscars 2022: Which film might be named fan favourite?

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

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Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Benedict Cumberbatch stars in best picture favourite The Power of the Dog, but fan favourite could reward a more mainstream film

Far be it from us to suggest The Power of the Dog isn't a crowd-pleasing thrill ride, but it's safe to say this year's best picture favourite doesn't have mass appeal.

The slow-burn Western, which should not be viewed while operating heavy machinery, is a strong contender at Sunday's Oscars alongside films such as Coda, King Richard and West Side Story.

But there are plenty of more mainstream films that missed out on nominations. Which is why the Academy has introduced the "fan favourite" this year - a prize decided entirely on public votes from social media and the Academy website.

The winning film won't receive one of the gold statuettes like the others, so it's more of a bonus category, introduced for younger and more online-skewing audiences.

"It's not an Oscar and it's not an award, it's really just an acknowledgement," the producer of this year's ceremony Will Packer told Little Gold Men. "And to me, that's a good thing. This ceremony doesn't have to be all awards, bereft of entertainment, just all about the amazing artists and craftspeople. We can do both."

The fan favourite concept hasn't gone down well with everyone though, with some Oscars fans recalling the doomed attempt to introduce a similar category a few years ago.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Box office magnet Samuel L Jackson says more popular films should be recognised at the Oscars

"I don't understand why they're trying to capture the public in a similar way to the idea of the Popular Oscar from 2018, which was just not a good or well-defined idea," said awards watcher Sophie Ciminello on the Next Best Picture podcast.

"Nobody cares what the public thinks, you can go to Box Office Mojo for that. They want to know what the industry thinks, what the people who actually make movies think, that's why you watch the Oscars."

But some high-profile stars are in favour. "They should have an Oscar for the most popular movie," actor Samuel L Jackson recently told The Sunday Times. "Because that's what the business is about."

Asked if the Academy should give Spider-Man an Oscar, he replied: "They should! It did what movies did for ever - it got people to a big dark room."

The award might be well-intentioned, but that's no guarantee it will entice the desired audience. Younger age groups who watch short viral clips online are unlikely to sit through a three-hour ceremony just because they voted.

But either way, this gives us an excuse to look over some of the films which might win fan favourite, and why.

Cinderella

Image source, Amazon Prime Video
Image caption,
Camila Cabello, best known for hits like Havana, Señorita and My Oh My, stars in the latest version of Cinderella

Description: A musical adaptation of the classic fairytale starring singer Camila Cabello and Pose star Billy Porter as the Fabulous Godmother.

Why it's in the running: Cabello has enjoyed a dedicated and mobilised fan base ever since her Fifth Harmony days. They are just the kind of group who can pull themselves together for a targeted Twitter campaign.

Box office: The movie didn't play in cinemas, but more than one million households watched it on Amazon Prime Video on its opening weekend.

IMDb rating: A rather dubious 4.3.

Number of Oscar nominations: Zero.

What critics said: The Wrap's Yolanda Machado said the film lacked substance, "ultimately making this a one-time, forgettable watch," but IndieWire's Kristen Lopez said "the flaws in the narrative are nothing in comparison to the vibrancy and energy on display with each and every musical number".

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Media caption,
Tom Holland: "There are kids who look up to Spider-Man"

Description: Everybody thought No Time To Die would be the film that saved cinema and brought the public back out to movie theatres. In the event, Spider-Man stole its thunder two months later, taking twice the amount of money as 007 at the box office.

Why it's in the running: Fans loved it and many went to see it multiple times. It is, quite simply, the biggest film of the last year.

Box office: $1.8bn (£1.38bn).

IMDb rating: A superb 8.6.

Number of Oscar nominations: One - best visual effects.

What critics said: Empire's Dan Jolin said it was a "monumentally successful Spider-instalment which pulls off a tricky and ambitious narrative trick with all the grace of a balcony-top backflip", but Total Film's Neil Smith said: "Though delightful in places, the third entry in Sony's third Spider-Man cycle feels both overstocked and underwhelming."

Minamata

Image source, Larry D. Horricks
Image caption,
The Johnny Depp-starring film was released without much fanfare and performed poorly at the box office

Description: Johnny Depp stars as war photographer W Eugene Smith, who documents the devastating effect of mercury poisoning in Japan's coastal communities. It was released quietly following Depp's high-profile court battle with ex-wife Amber Heard.

Why it's in the running: The actor has an extremely dedicated fan base. Remember, when Depp lost his libel case against Heard and was ostracised from Hollywood, sales of Dior's Sauvage fragrance (which Depp is the face of) actually increased. His fans know how to show their support.

Box office: A poor $1.5m (£1.15m) - more than $1m of which was made in Slovakia.

IMDb rating: A strong 7.5 - higher than The Power of the Dog.

Number of Oscar nominations: Zero.

What critics said: Noel Murray of the LA Times said the movie "is direct, compelling and hard to dismiss", but The Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young suggested the film uses "a mass of groan-worthy genre clichés that ill-serve the truth they are trying to recreate."

Army of the Dead

Image source, Netflix
Image caption,
The Academy rarely recognises zombie films, so fan favourite gives Army of the Dead a path to recognition

Description: A zombie heist film directed by Zack Snyder, who also helmed Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.

Why it's in the running: Well, it's partly because Snyder encouraged his followers to vote. But it's also the kind of movie which wouldn't otherwise get a look-in from the Academy, which usually turns its nose up at zombie films.

Box office: Only $1m (£770,000) in cinemas but in its first 28 days on Netflix it was watched by 75 million households.

IMDb rating: A not-brilliant 5.7.

Number of Oscar nominations: Zero.

What critics said: Time's Stephanie Zacharek said it was "too scattershot, perhaps too derivative and definitely too long", but The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney argued there was enough "excitement, suspense, jokey camaraderie, sorrowful losses, satisfying comeuppances, twists and turns" to justify it.

Dune

Image source, WARNER BROS / CHIA BELLA JAMES
Image caption,
Zendaya starred in Dune, the sequel to which is planned for release in 2023

Description: Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya star in Denis Villeneuve's attempt to finally make a beloved film version of Frank Herbert's epic science fiction novel.

Why it's in the running: Dune is one of the only fan favourite contenders that already has lots of Oscar nominations, including best picture. But as it's only likely to win in the technical categories, this would be a way of rewarding its huge box office success.

Box office: $400m (£306m).

IMDb rating: An impressive 8.1.

Number of Oscar nominations: A stonking 10.

What critics said: The Independent's Clarisse Loughrey said Dune is of "such intimidating grandeur that it's hard to believe it even exists in the first place", but Slate's Dana Stevens thought it was a "visual and aural marvel that is also a crashing bore".

Tick Tick... Boom!

Image source, Netflix
Image caption,
Andrew Garfield (pictured with Alexandra Shipp) is the sole nominee for Tick Tick... Boom! with his best actor nod

Description: Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda directs Andrew Garfield in a musical which tells the story of the late Jonathan Larson, the composer who wrote Rent.

Why it's in the running: It's a high-quality, well acted and moving film which has built a strong following particularly among musical theatre fans, who will be keen to make up for its absence in the best picture category.

Box office: Negligible as it's another Netflix release. And we don't know how many people watched it there because Netflix don't systematically release viewing figures. Well done everyone.

IMDb rating: A healthy 7.5.

Number of Oscar nominations: Two - best actor for Garfield and best film editing.

What critics said: CNN's Brian Lowry said the film was "anchored by a sensational performance by Andrew Garfield", but Screen Rant's Mae Abdulbaki thought it was "messy, missing a distinct spark and emotional depth".

The Suicide Squad

Image source, Warner Bros
Image caption,
Idris Elba plays Bloodsport and Sylvester Stallone voices King Shark in The Suicide Squad

Description: Margot Robbie and Idris Elba star as mercenary supervillains in James Gunn's attempt to make a better version of 2016's poorly-reviewed Suicide Squad.

Why it's in the running: This iteration of Suicide Squad went down better than the previous one (which has a 5.9 IMDb rating), so fans have been keen to show their approval for DC's attempt to get it right. Plus, many are miffed that it missed the visual effects category.

Box office: $167m (£128m).

IMDb rating: A decent 7.2.

Number of Oscar nominations: Zero.

What critics said: IndieWire's David Ehrlich said it was "the most fun and least depressing superhero movie in a very long time" but The New York Times' Manohla Dargis felt the violence "grows tiresome in its thudding repetition".

Malignant

Image source, Warner Bros
Image caption,
Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is tormented by visions of strangers being murdered

Description: A crime horror in which lead character Madison has nightmares about grisly murders, which she discovers are in fact happening in real life.

Why it's in the running: Because you should never underestimate cult horror fans and their level of dedication.

Box office: $34m (£26m).

IMDb rating: A mid-ranking 6.3.

Number of Oscar nominations: Go on, have a guess.

What critics said: The Wrap's William Bibbiani described it as an "absurdly entertaining frightfest" but Screen Rant's Debopriyaa Dutta concluded: "Malignant has its remarkable horror moments but ultimately succumbs to a tale that is more style than substance."

Sing 2

Image source, Universal
Image caption,
Sing 2 features the voices of Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Letitia Wright, Halsey and U2's Bono

Description: Remember Sing? Great, this is a sequel. Animals sing songs. No you're rapidly losing enthusiasm for this article.

Why it's in the running: Outside of best animated feature and sometimes best original song, there is rarely any recognition at the Oscars for children's films, so this new category is somewhere a popular-but-neglected film could make a splash.

Box office: $367m (£280m).

IMDb rating: A rocking 7.5.

Number of Oscar nominations: Zero.

What critics said: Variety's Peter DeBruge said it was "another easy-to-swallow confection designed to maximize audience delight", but Empire's Ella Kemp added: "The cacophony grows a little tiresome. The show can go on, but that doesn't mean it must."

The Oscars take place on 27 March.

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