"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" broke box office records in its opening weekend. Now, our Oscar experts (journalists who cover this beat year-round for leading media like USA Today and Yahoo) are predicting it will break into the Best Picture lineup. Seven of the 23 leading Oscarologists are forecasting that this seventh film in the series will be the first since the original to contend for the academy's top prize. Expect that number to rise in the coming days as the rest of our experts update their predictions.
The Oscar experts backing "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in the Best Picture race are: Tariq Khan (Fox News), Keith Simanton (IMDB), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Brian Truitt (USA Today) and three of us from Gold Derby — Jack Mathews, Tom O'Neil and myself. That support puts it in 10th place on our chart, with odds of 40-to-1.
We think that the film will inspire enough passion to be ranked first by the 5% or so of Oscar voters needed to make the cut. After all, this reboot by J.J. Abrams is a heartwarming nostalgia trip for those of us old enough to remember the original (and that demographic encompasses most of the academy membership).
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" sits at 95% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes and 81 on MetaCritic based on 51 reviews. MetaCritic scores on a sliding scale and the "Star Wars" rating is akin to that of "Avatar" (83), which was nominated for Best Picture in 2009. The Rotten Tomatoes score, calculated on a pass/fail basis, is much higher than "Avatar" (which was 83% fresh). Considering these two numbers together we know that "Star Wars" is more well-liked but less divisive than "Avatar." And we think that combination translates into the needed number of Oscar voters putting it at the top of their nominations ballot.
Back in 1977, "Star Wars" lost Best Picture to "Annie Hall." And creator George Lucas lost both the directing and writing races to "Annie Hall" triple threat Woody Allen. "Star Wars" had to settle for six competitive awards as well as a special one for sound editing.
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"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" photo credit: Disney