‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: How many Oscar nominations for biggest movie of the year?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is set to break box office records this weekend. And even Oscar voters will have to get in line early if they want to see it at the official academy screening. Will they be as wowed by this seventh film in the franchise as fans and critics? 

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After all, the original “Star Wars” (1977) was nominated for Best Picture while creator George Lucas contended for both writing and directing. “Annie Hall” won the top prize that year as well as two for Woody Allen for his helming and screenplay (co-written with Marshall Brickman). “Star Wars” had to settle for six competitive awards as well as a special one for sound editing. 

Based on the Oscar history of the franchise (as detailed at the bottom of this post), we can expect the new flick to be competitive in at least five below-the-line categories. However, what of the top categories? 

Best Picture
Remember, to make it into the Best Picture line-up, a film needs to inspire enough passion that it is ranked first by about 5% of Oscar voters.

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.” Will that be enough to get Oscar voters to put it at the top of their nominations ballot? 

Best Director
Many of the rave reviews have singled out Emmy champ J.J. Abrams (“Lost”) for his deft helming of this reboot of the fabled franchise. He has been praised for crafting a film that works as both a nostalgia trip and a new beginning. Of note, “Avatar” director James Cameron reaped a bid for that blockbuster but lost to his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow who helmed Best Picture champ “The Hurt Locker.” 

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Best Adapted Screenplay
Abrams is one of the co-writers, along with four-time Oscar nominee Lawrence Kasdan and Oscar winner Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine,” 2006). Kasdan penned the scripts for “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Return of the Jedi” (1983) before turning to directing such Oscar contenders as “The Big Chill” and “The Accidental Tourist.” And Arndt was nominated in 2010 as part of the team that wrote “Toy Story 3,” another celebrated revisiting of a beloved classic. However, this category is crammed with contenders and this trio is likely to have a hard time breaking in to the top five. 

Best Supporting Actor
Sure, Sir Alec Guinness contended in this category for the first film. And Sir Ian McKellen was nominated for the first of the “Lord of the Rings” films. However, the only title Harrison Ford has is one-time box office king. He has been nominated just once in his storied career, for Best Actor in 1985 for “Witness”; he lost to William Hurt (“Kiss of the Spider-Woman”). And while this category is often used as a defacto lifetime achievement award, there is another Hollywood vet more likely to reap a bid for reprising a role: Sylvester Stallone in “Creed.” 

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Best Cinematography
Long-time Abrams collaborator Daniel Mindel handled the lensing but he is a longshot to eanr his first Oscar nomination in a race dominated by veterans, including a slew of winners and past nominees. 

Best Film Editing
Likewise for cutters Mary Jo Markey (2005 Emmy winner for “Lost”) and Maryann Brandon (2003 Emmy nominee for “Alias”). 

Best Production Design
Rick Carter, who won one of his two Oscars for “Avatar,” created the various worlds seen in this sci-fi epic. This versatile artist (he won his other Oscar in 2012 for “Lincoln”) is currently ranked seventh by our experts, with six of the 23 predicting him to be nominated. 

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Best Score
John Williams won the third of his five Oscars for composing the iconic music heard in the original “Star Wars.” He is heavily favored by our experts to make it an even half dozen Oscars this year. His last win was back in 1993 for “Schindler’s List” though he has reaped 18 bids in various categories since then. 

Best Sound Editing/Best Sound Mixing
Though “Star Wars” is all but certain to contend in both these races, our experts give the edge to “Mad Max: Fury Road.”  

Best Visual Effects
The wizards at Lucas’ company, Industrial Light and Magic, are tipped to take this award. The first film won when this was a competitive category while “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Return of the Jedi” both received special awards. Of the three prequels, only “The Phantom Menace” (2000) and “Attack of the Clones” (2002) were nominated; the first lost to “The Matrix” and the latter to “The Two Towers,” the second of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy which owned this award three years running. 

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While each of the six previous films earned at least one Oscar nomination, the last to take home a competitive trophy was the second in the series, “The Empire Strikes Back.” 

“A New Hope” (1977)
Best Art Direction – won
Best Costumes – won
Best Visual Effects – won
Best Film Editing – won
Best Score – won
Best Sound – won
Best Picture – nominated
Best Supporting Actor Alec Guinnessnominated
Best Director George Lucasnominated
Best Original Screenplay – nominated
Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing – won

“The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
Best Sound – won
Best Art Direction – nominated
Best Score – nominated
Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects – won

“Return of the Jedi” (1983)
Best Art Direction – nominated
Best Score – nominated
Best Sound Mixing – nominated
Best Sound Editing – nominated
Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects – won

“The Phantom Menace” (1999)
Best Visual Effects – nominated
Best Sound Mixing – nominated
Best Sound Editing – nominated

“Attack of the Clones” (2002)
Best Visual Effects – nominated

“Revenge of the Sith” (2005)
Best Makeup – nominated

Do you think “Star Wars” will be nominated for Best Picture?  Make your Oscar predictions beginning with this category to the right or at the bottom of this post.

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“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” photo credit: Disney

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