In a year of unprecedented change, the 2017 Oscar race might be next on the list.
While the Academy Awards have traditionally been dominated by art films produced and distributed by smaller studios, 2017 has given room to a number of blockbusters to launch competitive Oscar campaigns including Dunkirk, Wonder Woman and Get Out.
These include re-releasing films to freshen voters’ minds, hosting question-and-answer screenings with filmmakers and actors and sending out For Your Consideration DVDs to voters—all in hopes of bolstering the chances of their blockbuster film’s nomination.
Warner Bros. is in an especially enviable position.
Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s critically-lauded World War II epic, has long been considered a frontrunner for Best Picture since its release.
Consistently dubbed as Nolan’s best film, the film earned major praise for its story structure, direction, acting and Hans Zimmer’s intense score. The film also grossed an impressive $525 million against a $100 million budget, giving Warner Bros. a leading contender in the Oscar race outside of technical categories (editing, art direction, special effects, etc.).
The studio also holds the title of releasing the highest-rated superhero film on Rotten Tomatoes, Wonder Woman. The film, starring Gal Gadot (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Furious 7) as the Amazonian princess, became the studio’s first critical and commercial success for its DC film universe with critics commending its direction, script and message of female empowerment.
Warner Bros. has capitalized on this, making major pushes for Gadot and director Patty Jenkins (Monster) in their respective categories, including a Best Picture campaign.
Other studios haven’t fallen behind. Universal has begun to push Get Out, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut for Best Picture.
While the film was released in late February, a rather ignored section of the year by Academy voters, the film’s cultural resonance and its addressing of social issues has made it linger among the Hollywood sphere.
Walt Disney Studios has also begun an extensive campaign for Beauty and the Beast, its live-action reimagining of the fairy-tale epic directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2), with For Your Consideration advertisements appearing on entertainment websites.
The studios are hoping to take advantage of 2009 and 2011 rule changes in the Best Picture category, which allowed between five and ten films to be nominated for the award. This was changed to allow films that made ground in technical categories to be more competitive in the Best Picture race, something evidenced in the nominations of Inception and Gravity.
While the blockbusters still have to contend with award favorites like Call Me By Your Name and The Florida Project, 2017 has given rise to the possibility that a blockbuster film can compete with an art one, something that will be tested when Oscar nominations are announced on Jan.23.