After earning near unanimous approval from critics, Disney rolled out the first TV spot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens featuring quotes on Monday. It’s a sign that the studio might be preparing for a serious Oscar campaign, but does the film actually have a shot?
To be more specific, the question should be “Does The Force Awakens have a serious shot outside the Visual Effects category?”
The short answer is no. Based on recent Oscar winners, we see that there is still some animosity among the Academy against big franchises. The only true franchise movie to win Best Picture remains The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (which is one of two sequels to win – the other is The Godfather – Part II). Of course, there have been huge financial successes nominated, like last year’s American Sniper (which only made its money after it was nominated) and Avatar.
But ultimately, the recent winners have been low-grossing movies like Birdman, 12 Years A Slave and The Artist. So, The Force Awakens has a better shot at a nomination, but its chances of beating films like Spotlight is slim. (The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road are two other big blockbusters from this year vying for a Best Picture nod.)
The Force Awakens actually stands a very slim chance in the other categories. While John Williams’ excellent score is a shoe-in for a nomination, it’s hard to see where else the film has a shot. It could do well in the sound categories and maybe production design.
Star Wars does have a history with the Academy, although only A New Hope ever scored a Best Picture nomination. The 1977 film probably would have won Best Picture, too, if it hadn’t been for Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. In total, the film won six Oscars and was nominated for four others, including the series’ only acting nod for Sir Alec Guinness’ performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The Empire Strikes Back’s only Oscar came for Best Sound and it received a special achievement award for its visual effects. By 1984, visual effects were still a special award and it went to Return of the Jedi. That film was nominated for four regular Oscars and lost all of them.
None of the Prequels won Oscars. The Phantom Menace was up for three, while Attack of the Clones lost Best Visual Effects. Bizarrely, Revenge of the Sith’s only nomination came for Makeup (which it lost).
The Force Awakens will definitely do better than the Prequels, but there are just too many great movies from this year that could keep it from a Best Picture nomination. Still, it would be nice. (Also, how cool would a Best Supporting Actor nod for Harrison Ford be?)
Daniel S Levine is a longtime movie fan and a graduate of Hoftsra University. I also know just about everything you might need to know about Star Wars.