‪Oscars: Could 'Wonder Woman' Break Into Best Picture Race?

THR's awards columnist reports on the Academy's packed Saturday night screening for members and speculation that the film might be able to crack the Oscar race.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment
Patty Jenkins (left) and Gal Gadot on the set of 'Wonder Woman'

It's not often that I wake up to a mailbox full of unsolicited comments from Academy members about a movie, especially in June, a half-year before any of them receive their Oscar nomination ballots. But that's precisely what happened on Sunday, the morning after Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman screened for the organization's members at its Beverly Hills headquarters. The pic — the first big-studio superhero film in either the current DC or Marvel movie universes centering on a female character, starring Gal Gadot — opened nationwide on Friday, garnering 93% favorable reviews and grossing $100.5 million at the domestic box office.

Before reading my emails, I checked Twitter to see what sort of chatter was going on there. "I've never seen more people at an Academy screening," tweeted Tony Pierce, a community manager at the Academy, along with a picture of the crowd. "Last time I saw a crowd like this here was for The Force Awakens," noted Peter Clines, who attends Academy screenings as the significant other of a member. Academy members are invited to bring up to three guests to screenings at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre at this time of the year, meaning the crowd wasn't all members. But, even so, now I was intrigued and couldn't wait to read what members' reactions were.

"Large, enthusiastic crowd," wrote one male member of the public relations branch who is not connected to Warner Bros., the film's distributor, or the film itself. "Big applause for Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot. Boos when [executive producer turned Trump treasury secretary] Steve Mnuchin's credit came on screen. Very mixed crowd. A large percent were non-members, for sure — some teens, which you don't usually see on a Saturday night — but also quite a few older Academy members, so clearly they were interested in the film. It played extremely well. If a film like this can get Oscar attention, this might be the one this year." He continued, "My guess is that the directors might want to nominate Patty Jenkins for reasons you can divine, though not undeserved. Remember, the pic got great reviews. On the other hand, WB couldn't get any Oscar action for very well received Harry Potter and Batman films [apart from a posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger]. Oh, and on a personal note, if the film stopped the moment Gal Gadot made her stunning entrance, I'd give it five stars and go home happy — she's incredibly beautiful and, more importantly, quite a good actress, at least for this role. The film is really wonderful. Gotta hand it to Patty Jenkins."

It's worth noting, at this time, that only 27% of Academy members are female, so the film almost certainly will need male members to react like that one if it's to register in any major categories at the end of the year. On average, only one or two female-centric films receive best picture Oscar noms each year.

"The theater was 90% full," wrote a female member of the sound branch. "Lots of applause for the credits. Some sniffling here and there. The sound was good — seat-rattling, and not in the Michael Bay hit-you-over-the-head way. Nice mix too. The VFX were okay — some mattes were cheesy, but the production design was great and the music, as well, was stellar. The screenplay was smart, so that's a possibility. Hard film for the Academy to ignore, and the fact that so many showed up and applauded is a good sign. It's fun and patriotic in its innocence, meaning if you are an America First Republican it hit you over the head! As soon as Chris Pine comes on the scene, the film takes flight and never lands or takes a breath. It could actually garner a best picture nomination. And Gal Gadot is perfect."

Not everyone felt the same way as those two, though.

"This movie is so hyped and the reviews are so good, of course members are going to turn out," wrote a female member of the producers branch, acknowledging that there was "not a seat empty." She continued, "I don't like these movies — I don't even go to them, usually, because I'm bored by them. Where are the comedies? I want to be entertained and laugh and not be bombarded by stupid action sequences. Even though the action sequences are a little different than usual, they're not original — there's crashing and fighting and flying and killing. Doesn't anybody remember Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? This felt the same. Also, I was a big fan of Boardwalk Empire and Jack Huston, who wore the half-mask on the show, and that's what the villain wears here, so that's not original either! Everyone's saying the film is fresh, but I think they're being blinded by the female-empowerment thing — it's really not, and that's irritating. I thought the origin story was pretty lame and I really thought, 'Oh, we're in trouble' — and then we get to her saving his life, and that's when it picks up. As soon as they wear their city clothes, it's better, to me — they're a handsome couple and that was my favorite thing. I give it a B+." She added, in reference to the Oscars, "If I were a betting woman, I wouldn't bet on it. We have yet to see all the movies in the fall, and by that time people will not remember this so much. So I would be surprised."

One female member of the executives branch who was not able to attend Saturday night's screening also wrote me: "I'm eager to see it. It sounds absolutely wonderful. And truly, there's nothing else to see."

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