Prepare to have your efforts to manage your expectations for Star Wars: The Force Awakens seriously undermined: this movie might be Oscar-worthy.
At least that’s what THR’s awards analyst Scott Feinberg thinks. Like apparently half of Hollywood, he was at the film’s Los Angeles premiere last night, and he’s not allowed to really share too much of his opinion of the movie. Not completely at least, since there is a review embargo in place. He can give us a general “It was amazing!” followed by “And absolutely everyone I talked to at the after-party thought so too!” However, “Everyone seems to really like it” is not exactly Oscar territory. Don’t worry. He offered a little more reasoning than that, which I’ve broken down below:
1. The first Star Wars was nominated for Best Picture as well as Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor. It was also nominated (and won) in several technical categories, and all the Star Wars movies since then have been well-represented in the technical nominations. However, at one point Star Wars was considered so new and exciting it warranted a Best Picture nod, and The Force Awakens could enter into that same conversation nearly 40 years later.
2. There can be as many as 10 Best Picture nominees now
3. Occasionally, the Academy does embrace well-made mega-hits instead of focusing solely on little-seen indies and prestige dramas. That doesn’t mean they’ll actually win (sorry Avatar, the first two Lord of the Rings movies, Inception), but sometimes they do (Titanic, Return of the King). It’s an honor just to be nominated (oh, wait, sorry about that, The Dark Knight).
4. The anticipation for this movie is so astronomical that if it manages to actually be really good it will seem all the more impressive since we are now so conditioned after the prequels to secretly except to be let down
5. This has been “a year with a lot of movies that many people like, but not a lot of movies that many people love, and the passion that Academy members feel for a film or the people associated with it — as reflected on a preferential ballot — really matters”
The Golden Globes, SAG and Critics Choice awards/nominations have elevated the profiles of traditional Oscar fodder like Trumbo, Carol and Spotlight, but Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t going away and those soon-to-be-released surefire Oscar contenders haven’t been overly embraced by critics (Joy, Concussion, The Hateful Eight, The Revenant). So, if Mad Max: Fury Road and Creed can be legitimate contenders in a year in which viewers and awards bodies alike have been increasingly immune to obvious Oscar bait, then why couldn’t The Force Awakens be part of the picture if it’s really as good as the reactions from last night’s premiere indicate?
6. Most of those celebrities raving about the movie on Twitter after the premiere are voting members of the Academy, e.g., “might be the best blockbuster since the original… delivers on every level” (doc branch member Brett Morgen) and that it “totally delivers… just wow” (acting branch member Elizabeth Banks) and “Great. Nothing more to say. Just go.” (short films and feature animation branch member Andrew Stanton) and that it’s “a movie that DELIVERS… cried like a baby, whooped like a teen” (acting branch member Rob Lowe).
Ironically, you know who has seen this movie but is not actually a voting member of the Academy? George Lucas.
Ultimately, though, who really cares if the 7th Star Wars movie gets nominated for a Best Picture award? Regardless of whether or not that happens, the mere fact that it’s being discussed by someone who’s job it is to be an expert at film/tv awards is a sign that with mere days until Force Awakens‘ release the “It will probably suck just like Phantom Menace” knee-jerk defense probably no longer applies.