January 14, 2016 – Despite Star Wars: The Force Awakens becoming the biggest U.S. box office release of all time, it has zero chance of receiving an Academy Award for Best Picture. Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominations for the 2016 Oscars. None of the major-category nominations (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, etc.) included The Force Awakens.
We predicted the Oscar snub in a December 1, 2015, article. But we also predicted that TFA might garner some nominations in the “lesser” categories nonetheless:
Fantasy space operas rarely win the major Oscars. Yes, The Force Awakens may get nominations in – and even win – the technical categories (effects, sound, editing and so on). But fantasy-type movies, especially sci-fi productions, rarely get anywhere near Best Director or Best Picture.
Today, the Academy nominated TFA for five technical awards:
- Original Score (John Williams)
- Film Editing (Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey)
- Sound Editing (Matthew Wood and David Acord)
- Sound Mixing (Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson)
- Visual Effects (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould)
Why Star Wars Can Never Win a Major Oscar
1. Sci-Fi Rarely Ever Wins:
Disney/Lucafilm made a realistic decision to not campaign for any Oscars for strategic reasons. The deadline for movie candidates to submit their films for screening was in early December, 2015. Disney made the conscious decision to skip the process, thus removing the opportunity to be considered by the National Review Board (Dec. 2nd), the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Some speculate that Disney’s decision was an attempt to prevent any unwanted leaks before the Dec. 14th premiere in Los Angeles. Others believe the secrecy was meant to forestall video piracy. But the most credible view was that Disney believed The Force Awakens had very little chance to snag any major Oscars, so why bother.
2. Sequels Rarely Ever Win:
The “why bother” argument is also based on the historical knowledge that the Academy, since the first Oscars were awarded in 1929, has rarely bestowed Best Picture, Best Director or other major-category awards upon any sequels. The Academy is averse to considering sequels, though there are two exceptions: The Godfather: Part II (1974) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) won Best Picture.
Star Wars’ best chance of snagging a major Oscar was in 1977/1978, since it was innovative and groud-breaking in so many ways. Nor was the movie a sequel. Accordingly, the Academy honored Star Wars: A New Hope with an incredible ten nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Original Screenplay. And while the movie did win an impressive six Oscars, including one for John Williams’ musical score, it lost out to Annie Hall for Best Picture and to Woody Allen for Best Director.
Since then, it’s been downhill for subsequent Star Wars movies: For example, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – despite being widely hailed by critics and audiences alike as being perhaps the best written and produced Star Wars film – received only three nominations and won only for sound (plus a special award for visual effects). Return of the Jedi (1983) garnered four nominations, but won nothing – except a “special achievement citation” for visual special effects.
The prequels had even less success: The Phantom Menace (1999) received three nominations, but no wins. And both Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005) scraped the bottom with just one nomination each, and no wins.
3. The Politics and Bias of the Academy Do Not Favor Star Wars:
The public misunderstands the Academy, which is made up of approximately 6,000 actors, writers, directors, editors, and the like. As a somewhat older group of voters, the Academy members are not looking for the movie with the greatest box office receipts (easily The Force Awakens, which is No. 1 at the U.S. box office and has so far grossed $1.76 billion worldwide in less than a month); the highest audience attendance (same); or the most popular movie of the year.
The Academy, in theory, seeks to honor and shine the light on those movies it believes to show the best of what Hollywood and filmmakers can produce in a particular year. It’s aspirational. It’s artsy-pie-in-the-sky. And, frankly, the awards are sometimes bullsh*t, based on behind-the-scenes politicking and campaigning for an award, based on who knows who, and whether or not the members have actually seen and screened each submission. (They have not; it’s impossible to see all submissions by the deadline).
If there is a silver lining to what some might call an Oscar snub, it is the fact that The Force Awakens is under consideration for five Academy Awards in the technical categories. Those are more nominations than Empire (3), Return of the Jedi (4), Phantom Menace (4), Attack of the Clones (1) and Revenge of the Sith (1) ever received.
The five nominations are a major accomplishment for which J.J. Abrams and his crew can be rightfully proud.
In the final analysis, the Star Wars universe is so beloved by a worldwide audience that it does not need a stamp of approval from the Academy Awards.
Besides, when’s the last time you went to an Annie Hall convention, collected Annie Hall action figures and memorabilia, or discussed the next Annie Hall sequel? See our point?