Welcome to Nick Picks, a regular column by Nick Spake. There are countless important questions regarding the current state of cinema and I’m here to answer them.
With award season officially underway, the SAG Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and various critics awards have given us an idea of what may merit Oscar love on January 14, 2016. So far, movies like Spotlight, Room, Carol, and even Mad Max: Fury Road have been gaining momentum. There’s still one little movie that the vote is still out on, though: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
One of the reasons The Force Awakens hasn’t been recognized by any predecessor awards so far is because it hasn’t been screened for any groups. The studio is so keen on keeping the film’s plot hush, hush that they basically decided to skip the first half of awards season. With that said, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will hit theaters on December 18 and the whole world is bound to see it. Once Oscar voters finally get to watch The Force Awakens, could the anticipated blockbuster score a Best Picture nomination?
First and foremost, we’re probably jumping the gun talking about the film’s Best Picture potential. After all, virtually nobody has seen the picture outside of it’s cast and crew. For all we know, The Force Awakens will be closer to the prequel trilogy than the original trilogy (God forbid). If the film does live up to the incredible hype, however, I believe it can get into Best Picture for several reasons.
You may be thinking to yourself, the Academy will never go for a science fiction movie like The Force Awakens. Some people forget, however, that the original Star Wars was nominated for Best Picture back in 1977. While the film lost the top prize to Annie Hall, it did win six technical Academy Awards. Although other sci-fi adventures haven’t performed as well with the Academy, they have recognized the genre several times over the past few years.
In 2009, not one, but TWO sci-fi movies got into Best Picture: Avatar and District 9. If the lineup wasn’t already so crowded, it’s possible that the Academy also would’ve nominated the reboot of Star Trek, which was coincidentally directed by J.J. Abrams of The Force Awakens. In 2013, Gravity took home the most Oscars, including a Best Director win for Alfonso Cuarón. This year, it’s entirely possible that The Martian will also join the race. Who’s to say The Force Awakens won’t too?
One major thing that’s going to help The Force Awakens is its inevitable big box office. Sure, the Academy hasn’t always honored blockbuster hits, even exceptional ones like The Dark Knight. If The Force Awakens becomes the highest-grossing movie of all time as some are predicting, though, it may be too big for the Academy to ignore.
Throughout history, several films have broken the record for highest grossing movie of all time: The Birth of a Nation, Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Titanic, and Avatar. Among those films, the only two that didn’t achieve Best Picture nominations were The Birth of a Nation and Jurassic Park. Of course The Birth of a Nation came out before the Academy Awards even existed and Steven Spielberg still won an Oscar for Schindler’s List the same year Jurassic Park came out.
Speaking of Jurassic Park, you might be wondering why I’m not talking Jurassic World since I’m putting such an emphasis on the coloration between box office and Oscars. Jurassic World was the biggest hit of the summer, becoming the third highest-grossing movie of all time. With that said, Jurassic World still couldn’t take down James Cameron’s Avatar or Titanic, both of which received Best Picture nominations. If any film can take down the reining champs, however, it’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
It’s hard to think of a film that’s had this much hype since well…The Phantom Menace. Of course we all know how The Phantom Menace turned out. As much as people hated the prequel, it still became a huge hit that everybody saw. Yet, one could argue that The Phantom Menace was still a box office disappoint to an extent. Upon its release, some people expected it to take down Titanic as the highest-grossing movie. Since it didn’t have the staying power of the original trilogy, though, it only became the second biggest film worldwide at the time.
There’s zero doubt that The Force Awakens will climb high, but how high it’ll climb will primarily depend on its quality. If it’s just all right or worse, then it will probably just be the biggest movie of the year and earn a few technical Oscar nominations. If critics and audiences adore it, then the film could dominate the worldwide box office and get into the Best Picture race.
The Academy has demonstrated time after time that they’re out of touch with mainstream audiences, ignoring franchises that were both big hits and critically acclaimed. As of late, though, people seem to really be pushing for the Academy to step outside their comfort zone. That’s just one of the reasons why Mad Max: Fury Road has defied expectations, earning Best Picture and Directing nominations left and right. If the Academy wants to get back in touch with mainstream viewers, recognizing The Force Awakens, as well as Mad Max: Fury Road, would be the perfect way. Plus, have I mentioned 2015 is the year of the nostalgic blockbuster?
Again, this will all come down to how good Star Wars: The Force Awakens is. We don’t know if The Force Awakens will be the best movie of the year or even the best action movie of the year. Once the film comes out next week, perhaps we’ll discard it from our Best Picture predictions. But as of now, a Best Picture nomination certainly isn’t out of the question.