‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Oscars windfall? Why the sequel could score nominations when the original couldn’t

Wonder Woman 1984” launched simultaneously in US movie theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, setting off debate about the future of movie distribution. But what about the Oscars? Could the blockbuster sequel be a contender? The previous “Wonder Woman” film from 2017 was shut out by the motion picture academy, but there’s reason to believe this time could be different.

The earlier “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot just like the sequel, was critically acclaimed and an $800 million box office behemoth worldwide. It won a SAG Award for its stunt ensemble and was cited by the American Film Institute and the Producers Guild as one of the year’s best films. It also prevailed with the Costume Designers Guild and earned nominations from the Cinema Audio Society, Art Directors Guild, Casting Society of America and Motion Picture Sound Editors. But none of that materialized into Oscar nominations.

That awards season was already crowded with a couple of commercial blockbusters like “Get Out” and “Dunkirk,” and the below-the-line crafts awards were full of technical achievements like “Baby Driver,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “War for the Planet of the Apes,” and ultimate Best Picture winner “The Shape of Water.” So “Wonder Woman” just couldn’t get a foothold, though I’d bet it came close in a few categories.

“Wonder Woman 1984” doesn’t have the acclaim of the first film — the reviews have been quite mixed actually — but it may have openings that the original film didn’t have. Due to the pandemic, big-budget movies like “Dune,” “West Side Story,” “No Time to Die,” “Black Widow” and “Eternals” were moved out of this eligibility period. So while this film probably isn’t going to get much traction in, say, Best Picture, there may be openings for it in races like Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Costume Design.

Then again, the film may face some backlash from the industry due to the Warner Bros. plan to release all their 2021 films to HBO Max concurrent with their theatrical releases. Even filmmakers in the Warner Bros. family objected to the decision, including past Oscar nominees and current/upcoming contenders Christopher Nolan (“Tenet”) and Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”).

Might the motion picture academy hold that against “Wonder Woman”? It’s certainly possible from the organization that has denied streaming service Netflix a Best Picture win thus far, though Netflix has still won multiple other categories in recent years. But in a year without blockbusters, it may be harder to deny the Amazonian.

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