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The Oscar Checklist: What really makes a film get an Oscar nomination

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With the most predictable Oscars in a long time just around the corner – the decidedly average La La Land will romp home with most of the gold, and the names have already been minted on the acting Oscars. Oscars go to films that are designed to win them most of the time (the phrase ‘Oscar bait’ is well-known for a reason), but how does one design such a film? Here are a few of the rules you can follow if you want to win yourself an Academy Award.

Pick your genre

It has frequently been noted that the Academy favours dour, period dramas over most other films – they are disproportionately rewarded with statuettes. By contrast, the Academy does not have a lot of love for comedies, action picture or horrors – although it claims to recognise the best in film, it generally tends to stick to a very narrow purview. Even better (as quipped in an episode of Extras) is the Holocaust movie – any film set around that is guaranteed lots of nominations and wins.

Be disabled

It doesn’t matter if it’s mental or physical – Academy voters love giving acting Oscars to stars playing disabled people. It’s worked for Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis, Holly Hunter – the list goes on. Voters love to see people overcoming adversity, and filmmakers are particular keen to depict adversity as disability. Whether that’s right or not is a different question entirely.

Be Meryl Streep/John Williams

I’m not here to dispute their talent, but they both have nominations this year that can certainly only be put down to their names. If Streep is acting in a film, or Williams is providing the music, it’s customary for them to get a namecheck come awards season. It helps that the Academy have grown up with the two, and even an average day’s work sees them on the nominations list (as with Streep this year, whereas Amy Adams was far more deserving of her place).

Pat Hollywood on the back

What do The Artist, Argo and Birdman all have in common, aside from the fact they won the Best Picture Oscar? Oh right, they’re all about Hollywood – quite why the Academy chose to favour them quite as highly as they did is a mystery. This year’s probable winner, La La Land, is a love letter to Hollywood’s past, and it’s been claiming all sorts of love simply because of that. Ignore the fact it’s an average movie – Hollywood types love to honour films about Hollywood.

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