“AFI Postpones Awards Announcement to Consider Star Wars”
That was the headline I saw on THR two days ago, and my instant reaction was, “Wait, what?” An actual awards entity, in this case The American Film Institute, is changing its schedule (moving its awards announcement from Dec. 7 to Dec. 16) because it thinks Star Wars: The Force Awakens might be an awards contender? Bullshit. Movies like Force Awakens win technical awards and the immense satisfaction of crossing $1 billion in worldwide gross. They don’t win anything more than that, unless they happen to be named Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
Oh, sure, Avatar was nominated for all of those Oscars, but it lost to The Hurt Locker just like the original Star Wars lost to Annie Hall. In a couple of years, will those long-promised Avatar sequels be awards contenders? Heck, they probably won’t even be any good, but even if they are they won’t be challenging for Best Picture. The awards entities already don’t like big budget action/sci-fi movies, but they really, really don’t like sequels. For example, The Empire Strikes Back is arguably better than the first Star Wars (them’s fightin’ words, I know), yet it was only nominated for three Academy Awards (all in the technical categories) compared to New Hope‘s ten (including Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Screenplay). Starting a story is more impressive than continuing one, as far as the Academy is concerned, with Godfather 2 being an obvious exception.
However, right now The Force Awakens is part of a group of great unknown late-December releases. No critic has seen Force Awakens, David O. Russell’s Joy, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant or Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, and in a down year for prestige movies those four could significantly alter the awards landscape. Well, not so much The Force Awakens, but that’s just it – you can’t really write it off for sure because pretty much no one has seen it yet. Those other ones will probably screen for critics between now and their release dates, but The Force Awakens is content to simply have its Hollywood premiere on Dec. 14 and open in theaters on Dec. 19. Will it be Best Picture material? Go buy a ticket and find out.
Frankly, though, who really cares if the 7th Star Wars movie gets nominated for a Best Picture award it will surely lose?
Um, ABC cares. They’re the ones who have to broadcast the Oscars. They’d love it if this year’s nominees include at least a couple of widely seen movies, not just The Martian. Plus, expanding the number of potential Best Picture nominees, i.e., The Dark Knight rule, was supposed to allow bigger movies into the conversation, not just widen it to include yet more little-seen gems. Last year’s batch of Best Picture nominees had the lowest-combined gross since the category switched to more than 5 movies in 2009, and the resulting awards telecast delivered the Academy’s lowest ratings in the past 6 years. If Force Awakens had come out when it was originally supposed to, specifically in May, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation, but now that it’s coming out smack dab in awards season it could be [wait for it] ABC’s only hope.
It does make for an interesting story to follow: Will the Academy get caught up in Star Wars mania just like the rest of us? What would George Lucas possibly think of that? He only went to the Oscars in 1978 because his then-wife was nominated for editing Star Wars, and she won. To this day, he’s still not a member of the Academy. His successor, J.J. Abrams, has only ever been an awards darling on the TV side of things, not film. Still, an Oscar insider told THR, “I don’t count out [Force Awakens]. J.J. is a good director.”
The force might be strong with this one. Or not. Eh, we don’t really know if this movie will be any good, but at least all of the awards entities are in the same boat with us. We’ll all just have to find out together next month.
Here’s the Japanese trailer: