Rogue None: Why the Force isn't with Star Wars at the Oscars

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No gold statues: Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Donnie Yen at the London premiere of  'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.'No gold statues: Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Donnie Yen at the London premiere of  'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.'

Image: Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

2016%2f06%2f30%2ff1%2f201507140cheadshot 20.b2214.78bb0By Chris Taylor2017-02-28 00:33:16 UTC

As Yoda might put it: awards make not one great. 

That's about the only consolation for the Rogue One crew in the wake of the 2017 Academy Awards. The movie was nominated in two categories, visual effects and sound mixing. It lost in both — continuing a 33-year streak in which no Star Wars movie has won a single Oscar. 

If you're a farm boy just in from Tatooine, you might look at the list of winners and conclude that Suicide Squad was a greater success than Rogue One — a billion-dollar international box office hit that has garnered more critical acclaim than almost any other in the Star Wars franchise. 

Star Wars' finest hour on the Academy stage came in 1978, when the unprecedented success of the original movie made it impossible to ignore. John Dykstra's groundbreaking computer-controlled visual effects were justly rewarded, Ben Burtt received a special achievement award for creating the sounds of R2-D2, Chewbacca and Darth Vader, and for once, Oscar wasn't the most impressive golden guy in attendance.

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All in all, the space fantasy epic garnered seven gongs that day. But George Lucas had the misfortune to make it big just as Woody Allen released what is arguably his best picture, Annie Hall. Allen beat Lucas in three all-important categories: best director, best original screenplay and best picture. 

Lucas, who hates the Hollywood scene and considers himself an independent movie maker, professed not to care. But it had to rankle that the only Lucas to ever get a regular Academy Award for Star Wars was his then-wife Marcia, who won for film editing. (As a kind of compensation, George would win the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1992.)

The Empire Strikes Back is on many critics' all-time top 10 lists. But in 1981, the Academy only gave it one regular award — for sound — and another "special achievement" Oscar for visual effects. John Williams' awe-inspiring Imperial March lost out to the soundtrack from Fame

Lucas' VFX team won Return of the Jedi's only award in 1984, which isn't quite as impressive as it sounds; as in 1981, there wasn't another contender for the category. The entire original Star Wars trilogy won a grand total of nine Oscars — which doesn't seem too bad until you remember that the Lord of the Rings trilogy won 17. 

And that was it: the beginning of the long galactic dry spell. The three prequel episodes received a total of five nominations, most of them for The Phantom Menace. Last year The Force Awakens was nominated for five Oscars all on its own — for film and sound editing, VFX, score and sound mixing — but didn't even win one quarter portion. 

Why the ongoing shutout? It isn't that the Academy doesn't like science fiction; witness the eight nominations and one statue for Arrival. Oscar evidently doesn't hate franchises (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them won costume design) or comic-book movies (hello Suicide Squad). 

No, it seems to simply be a streak of bad luck: Star Wars movies tend to get nominated in categories where they have strong competition. It's the Annie Hall effect all over again. For example, Rogue One might well have won the visual effects award for resurrecting Peter Cushing — if not for the impressively furry animals created for Jungle Book. (Still, in 20 years' time, which effect do you think most people are going to remember?)

It remains to be seen whether The Last Jedi or the untitled Han Solo movie can break the dry spell in 2018 and 2019 respectively. 

Until then, Star Wars fans can gain some solace from the fact that Carrie Fisher was honored with the final spot in the "in memoriam" segment — speaking her final line in The Force Awakens, "may the Force be with you." 

Topics: Entertainment, Movies, The Oscars, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars

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