3 reasons why Dunkirk won’t win Best Picture

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If the Academy Awards were tomorrow, there’s little doubt that Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk would pull off a clean sweep. However, we’ve still got several months to go until Oscar Sunday and a lot can change within that time. Heck, if Moonlight’s triumph over La La Land proved anything, it’s that a lot can change in just a couple weeks. With that said, here are just a few reasons why Dunkirk probably won’t win Best Picture, even if it deserves the prize.

  1. It’s Bound to Miss Out on a Couple Key Categories

In addition to Best Picture and Best Director, Dunkirk will likely be nominated for several technical awards, including Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects. Even if Dunkirk leads the pack with the most nominations overall, though, there are still a couple key categories it could miss out on.

For starters, it’s hard to imagine Nolan’s screenplay making the cut. That’s not to say the script was bad. If anything, it was very cleverly constructed, observing events from three different perspectives. But let’s be honest. This material wouldn’t be especially compelling if you just read it on paper. The film’s emotional impact stems from its action and visual storytelling. The same can be said about Mad Max: Fury Road, which got technical nominations across the board, but got no love for its screenplay. The last movie to win Best Picture without a Screenplay nomination was Titanic, which was already so unsinkable that nothing could stop it.

Best Picture winners also usually merit at least one acting nomination. Dunkirk certainly had some strong performances from Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, and Harry Styles, just to name a few. The problem is that they all give understated performances, which Oscar voters don’t always go for. The Academy prefers to recognize performances that involve passionate speeches or ugly crying. Even if Dunkirk can’t get any acting nominations, though, it’s not doomed per se. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Slumdog Millionaire managed to win big without any acting nominations. Those films also won the SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, however. If Dunkirk’s ensemble can’t get recognized there, it’s all over. Just look at what happened to La La Land and The Revenant.

  1. The Academy Resents Moneymakers

There was once a time when Best Picture winners were synonymous with financial success. A lot has changed in recent years, though. While Moonlight, Spotlight, and Birdman all won Oscar’s top honor, they didn’t leave the largest impressions at the domestic box office. It’s clear that the Academy would rather single out lesser-known films instead of blockbusters that already have mass followings. That might be why The Dark Knight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the Harry Potter saga couldn’t break into the Best Picture field. Of course even when a non-franchise movie performs well at the box office, it can still hurt its Oscar chances.

La La Land, The Revenant, and Gravity were all huge hits with audiences, but the Academy ultimately favored films that were still struggling to find a following. While Dunkirk hasn’t broken any box office records, it’s still done pretty darn well, making nearly $400 million worldwide over the past few weeks. Plus, it’s been one of 2017’s most talked about movies amongst audiences and critics. Since the Academy seemingly resents popularity, though, the early buzz will likely hurt Dunkirk more than it will help.

  1. It’s a Summer Movie

The greatest hurdle Dunkirk will have to overcome is the Academy’s short-term memory. So many Oscar bait movies come out in October, November, and December that it’s easy for the Academy to forget about movies that were released earlier in the year. Granted, there have been exceptions. Crash was released in May, but still pulled off an Oscar upset. The Silence of the Lambs was released all the way back in February, but wasn’t overlooked almost a year later. History shows, however, that movies have a better shot at Oscar gold with an awards season release date.

The last summer movie to win Best Picture was The Hurt Locker. Then again, that was also a movie that delved into the horrors of war. On top of that, Dunkirk is one of the more relevant war pictures of recent times. Sure, it’s set during World War II, but in an age where humanity seems more divided than ever, Dunkirk focuses on a few different cultures that united together as one. Giving the film a Best Picture award would make a significant statement against Trump’s America, as well as Brexit. So maybe the odds are in Dunkirk’s favor after all. We’ll have to wait until March 4, 2018 to find out.

Be sure to check out our roundup of all of the articles we’ve written on subjects pertinent to the Oscars 2018.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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