Oscar Beat: Is ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ a Best Picture Contender?

     December 19, 2015


Come on, you knew this article was coming. Given that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the first-ever December release for a Star Wars movie, folks have not only been curious about the film’s box office prospects, but also whether it could be a genuine awards contender given its Oscar-friendly timing. Indeed, most of the Academy’s heavy hitters open during the October/November/December corridor, so it was impossible to ignore the potential of The Force Awakens landing some Oscar recognition.

Of course Star Wars is no ordinary film, and in an effort to prevent leaks, Lucasfilm and Disney declined to go the usual route one would take when courting Oscar: early press screenings, splashy film festival debuts, etc. Instead, everyone who wants to see The Force Awakens will do so on their own accord, at the movie theater over the holidays—although the Academy does have a pair of standard screenings set for members this weekend, while the movie is simultaneously in wide release.


Image via Lucasfilm

So now that we’ve gotten a look at the thing, does J.J. Abrams have his first big Oscar contender? Probably not, although the film will almost certainly pick up the most nods since Return of the Jedi. You can count on well deserved nominations for the film’s Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects is also probably a safe bet. I also would earmark a Best Original Score nomination for John Williams, who may offer the film’s biggest surprise in the sheer quantity of new music he crafted for the sequel. And there’s also a possibility of Rick Carter and Darren Gilford scoring a Best Production Design Oscar nomination as that category has become much more sci-fi/VFX friendly over the past few years.

Beyond that, there’s no standout performance that could feasibly break through any of the competitive acting categories at the moment (Harrison Ford is fine, but he’s no Oscar contender here), and while Abrams does an admirable job pleasing diehard fans of the franchise, his direction lacks the flash or vigor that would edge him into the Best Director race. In keeping with the series’ tradition, Abrams shoots the picture very classically, which is certainly fitting for the franchise but doesn’t put him in the Oscar conversation. Likewise, Dan Mindel’s cinematography is similarly solid, but lacking the edge or boldness that would nudge it into year-end consideration.


Image via Lucasfilm

But what about Best Picture? It’s not a total impossibility, but I wouldn’t count on a nomination for the big prize. Many Academy voters have already settled on a number of commercial favorites that are vying for slots alongside prestige dramas and indies, like The Martian, Straight Outta Compton, Inside Out, and the late-surging Creed and Mad Max: Fury Road. Will Force Awakens knock voters’ socks off enough to unseat one of their favorites of the year? When making nomination ballots for Best Picture, Academy members only have five slots, and I’m dubious The Force Awakens will conjure that kind of passion in this short amount of time before voting concludes on January 8th.

Again, I’m not saying it’s entirely out of the question for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to score a Best Picture nomination, but I don’t really see it being the kind of commercial game-changer that can break into the field this late in the season. That being said, it will almost certainly have some sort of presence at the Oscars in at least a couple of the below-the-line categories, and you can bet the telecast will lean hard on the film in order to bring in those ratings. George Lucas‘ Star Wars, however, will probably remain the sole Best Picture nominee of the franchise.

For more on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, peruse our recent links below:


Image via Lucasfilm

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