Oscar mystery: Will ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ snub lead back to five Best Picture nominees?

Those ready to see an end of more than five nominees for Best Picture may begin the slow clap now.

The Oscar nominations had many glaring omissions, including a lack of diversity amongst its nominees and films as well as snubs of director Ridley Scott (“The Martian”) and scripter Aaron Sorkin (“Steve Jobs”). And missing from the eight nominees for Best Picture was “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

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This reboot of the franchise is on track to take in well over a billion dollars domestically by Oscar Sunday (February 28). It has a stellar score of 93 at Rotten Tomatoes (which grades on a pass/fail basis) and 81 on the sliding scale at Metacritic. 

This is all eerily reminiscent of 2008, the year of “The Dark Knight.” That critically acclaimed second film in Christopher Nolan‘s “Batman” trilogy [Rotten Tomatoes (94) & Metacritic (82)] was also the highest grossing film of the year taking in just over one billion worldwide. However, it did not number among the five nominees for Best Picture: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Frost/Nixon”, “Milk”, “The Reader”, and eventual winner “Slumdog Millionaire”.

“The Dark Knight” won two of its six Oscar bids: Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger) and Sound Editing; it also contended for Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Makeup, Sound Mixing, & Visual Effects.

In a move to show it was still relevant, the academy expanded the Best Picture field to 10 in 2009. That lineup included: “Avatar” (the highest grossing movie of the year), “The Blind Side”, “District 9”, “An Education”, “The Hurt Locker” (the eventual winner), “Inglorious Basterds”, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”, “A Serious Man”, “Up”, and “Up in the Air.” Many applauded this mix of popular movies, independent films, and critical darlings.

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However, in 2011 the Oscars tweaked the rules, switching to a sliding scale of Best Picture nominees ranging from five to 10. Many Oscar pundits thought the critical and commerical hit “Bridesmaids” [Rotten Tomatoes (90), $170 million domestic] would manage to get the needed number-one votes to make the Best Picture line-up. It was snubbed, perhaps in favor of last-minute entry “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” In the years since, blockbusters have struggled to make the grade with Oscar voters casting their ballots for Best Picture.

If academy voters want to continue with a super-sized Best Picture category they should have fulfilled their reasoning for doing so in the first place and nominated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” But if an opportunity to end this experiment was what they were hoping for it has now presented itself. We may know more after next week’s meeting of the Board of Governors. Stay tuned. 

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Photos: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” logo (Disney)

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