Oscars 2016: Academy high-fives ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

After swiftly climbing to the top of the all-time domestic box-office chart, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” added to its larder with five Academy Award nominations Thursday.

J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the venerable space saga earned nods for film editing, original score, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects, but missed out on a best picture nomination. A long shot at best in that category, “The Force Awakens” was hampered by its December opening and the fact that it did not screen for critics groups. The film garnered strong reviews — 93% positive on Rotten Tomatoes and an 81% Metacritic score — as well as multiple guild nominations and recognition from the American Film Institute.

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Back in 1978, the original “Star Wars” (released in 1977), now known as “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope,” captured 10 nominations, including picture, adapted screenplay and supporting actor for Alec Guinness’ portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The film went on to win six Oscars, plus a special achievement award for Benjamin Burtt Jr.’s creation of alien, creature and robot voices.

Among the other “Star Wars” films, “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) nabbed three nominations, including a win for sound, and a special achievement award for visual effects; “Return of the Jedi” (1983), four nominations, plus a special achievement award for visual effects; “The Phantom Menace” (1999), three nominations; “Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “Revenge of the Sith” (2005), one nomination each. The series now stands at 27 nominations, with seven wins, plus the three special achievement awards.


The best comparison for the “Star Wars” series may be the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” trilogies. “LOTR” earned 30 nominations and 19 Oscars, including 11 for 2003 best picture winner “The Return of the King.” The three “Hobbit” films fared less well, with seven nominations but no wins between 2012 and 2014.

“The Force Awakens” may have eclipsed James Cameron on the all-time domestic box office leader board, but it was no match for his epics, “Avatar” and “Titanic,” in terms of Academy Award nominations.

In 1998, “Titanic” won 11 of 14 categories, including best picture. “Avatar” lost to “The Hurt Locker” in 2010, but took home three Oscars in technical fields out of its nine nominations. “The Force Awakens” overtook the Cameron films, previously ranked one-two in all-time box office, to become the first film to gross more than $800 million domestically.

Among other films in the all-time top 10 for box office, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” (2008) received eight nominations, winning for actor in a supporting role — Heath Ledger as the Joker — and sound editing. The film’s failure to earn a best picture nomination despite critical acclaim is largely credited with spurring the Academy to expand the best picture roster of nominees 10. In 2012, the system was changed to allow for between five and 10 nominees each year.

The last five movies to top the annual box office met with varied results at Oscar time: “American Sniper,” six nominations, one win; “Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” no nominations; “Marvel’s the Avengers,” one nomination; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” three nominations; and “Toy Story 3,” five nominations, including best picture, and two wins.


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