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With a strong showing in the crafts categories, Star Wars: The Force Awakens earned five Academy Award nominations on Thursday including score, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects — meaning that there might be some moments of history repeating itself on Oscar night.
Nearly four decades ago, 1977’s Star Wars won six competitive Oscars as well as a Special Achievement Award that was presented to Ben Burtt for the creation of the robot (including R2D2) and alien voices in the film. The original pic was nominated in 10 categories including best director for George Lucas and best picture.
Among the wins for the 1977 film was John Williams’ iconic score. This year, he’s back in the race with the score for Force Awakens, which also extends his record for most Academy Award nominations for a living person from 49 to 50.
At that time of the original film’s release, the effects category was very different than it is today. Some years, effects were not recognized. Each year and at its discretion, a committee had the option to present a Special Achievement Award to a single film or nominate two to five films for a competitive award. Star Wars won a competitive Oscar, nominated alongside another sci-fi classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The original Star Wars trilogy’s next two films, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, each received Special Achievement Awards.
An effects Oscar win for J.J. Abrams’ Force Awakens would give the Star Wars franchise an Oscar in the category now-called visual effects. From the pre-digital effects days, the work on the original Star Wars was largely created with in-camera models, miniatures, motion control and the like. This time, explained Force Awakens VFX supervisor Roger Guyett of lead VFX house Industrial Light & Magic, “we wanted all of the charm of the in-camera stuff meets this 21st century contemporary technology.”
Guyett is nominated alongside Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould. The 1977 team that won the Oscar for the effects included John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlundh, Grant McCune and Robert Blalack.
Star Wars might also see a repeat of sorts in sound, though this is now two separate categories: sound editing and sound mixing. Force Awakens is nominated in both, with Matthew Wood and David Acord mentioned for sound editing and Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson for sound mixing. In 1977, the sound team of Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler and Derek Ball claimed the Oscar.
Meanwhile, Abrams’ longtime editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey are nominated for film editing. The editors of 1997’s Star Wars — Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew — won in the category for the original.
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