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Saturday, January 28, 2017
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Oscars 2017: Can ‘Arrival’ Pull Out a Best Picture Win With No Acting Nominations?

Amy Adams in 'Arrival' (Courtesy: Paramount)

Amy Adams in ‘Arrival’ (Courtesy: Paramount)

By: Carson Blackwelder
Managing Editor

With the dust settling after the big reveal of the nominations for the 2017 Academy Awards, there’s one film with a very uncertain future: Arrival. Yes, the film was nominated for best picture as well as garnered attention in a slew of other categories, but it was noticeably overlooked in one major area. We are, of course, talking about Amy Adams not being nominated for best actress. How does not having any acting nominations had an effect on a film’s chances at winning best picture in Oscar history?

Heading into the big show, Arrival has eight shots at taking home a trophy. Here are the categories the Denis Villeneuve-directed flick is nominated for: best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, best cinematography, best film editing, best production design, best sound mixing, and best sound editing. What we’re really concerned about here are Arrival’s chances in the best picture category, in which it’s nominated alongside Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight.

In the history of the Academy Awards there have been 170 films — including this year’s cop of nominees — that have been nominated for at least eight Oscars. Of those films, there are a few stats to keep in mind: 64 of the total went on to win best picture, only six of the total didn’t receive best picture nominations, only 19 of the total didn’t receive any acting nominations, and the vast majority of the films — around 80 or so — received both a best picture nomination and at least one acting nomination.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dive into how the films that didn’t receive any acting nominations fared in the best picture category so we can see if Arrival still has a shot. The films that were just nominated for best picture with no acting nominations are 1962’s How the West Was Won, 1967’s Doctor Dolittle, 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2003’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, 2009’s Avatar, 2010’s Inception, 2012’s Life of Pi, 2011’s Hugo, 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

The films that ended up winning best picture with no acting nominations are 1951’s An American in Paris, 1956’s Around the World in Eighty Days, 1958’s Gigi, 1987’s The Last Emperor, 1995’s Braveheart, 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire. As you can see there are nearly doubt the number of films without any acting nominations that didn’t eventually win best picture versus those that did win in the end — 12 versus seven, to be exact. This data means that it’s a little more likely that Arrival won’t win best picture but anything is possible.

We say that anything is possible because, while the data might lean toward Arrival not having a big shot at winning best picture, it shouldn’t be completely discounted because it is at least eligible for the honor. Arrival’s best picture nomination signifies that it does have fans in the Academy and at least a solid group of them listed it as their favorite film for 2016. But without an acting nomination it bares mentioning that, since the acting branch of the Academy is the largest, if they weren’t thrilled enough to nominate Adams for best actress — something many expected — that those people might be unlikely to vote for Arrival to take home best picture.

Is the snub of Adams for best actress mean Arrival’s chances at winning best picture are totally dashed? Not exactly, but the historical precedent for this happening is not that great — with only about 4% of the 170 films (7/170) that have received at least eight total nominations having done so. We’ll have to sit back and wait to see how Arrival performs at the Oscars on February 26 to see if it makes history by snagging Hollywood’s biggest award.

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