It’s great that John Legend and Common won a Golden Globe on Sunday night for their song “Glory,” featured in the movie Selma. It’s an excellent song and it deserved to win.
But Selma’s shutout in the other categories for which it was nominated—best director for Ava DuVernay, best actor for David Oyelowo and best picture—has made for a very disappointing award season for the civil rights drama. And how many Academy Award nominations the film will get on Thursday is anyone’s guess.
First off, Selma failed to pick up nominations for awards given out by three of the four most important Hollywood guilds: the Producers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America (which deemed Selma ineligible for its award). DuVernay, who was the first black female director to earn a Golden Globe nomination, still has a shot at a Directors Guild nomination when they’re announced Tuesday.
Not getting nominated by the Producers Guild is particularly troubling for Selma because the PGA is one of the best predictors for the best picture Oscars—the last seven films that won a best picture Oscar also won a PGA Award. Still, as Steve Pond of The Wrap points out, since the Academy Awards expanded the best picture nominee list to include up to 10 films five years ago, there’s always been at least one film to receive an Oscar nomination that did not receive a PGA Award nomination. Selma will likely be that film this year.
Not to pile on, but the movie even failed to earn any nominations for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards last week, even though four of the film’s stars—David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth and Tom Wilkerson—are Brits.
So what happened? Selma was supposed to be an Oscar front-runner. But these snubs indicate otherwise.
Some will point to the negative buzz swirling around the film’s portrayal of the relationship between Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson—a “controversy” that conveniently started right around the time Oscar ballots went out. But a better explanation, as mentioned by Variety’s Tim Gray, is that Paramount Pictures, Selma’s distributor, failed to send screeners to guild members. Paramount did send screeners to the more than 6,000 Oscar voters, so all hope is not lost.
If you actually want to win, building award-season buzz for Oscar nominations is almost as important as putting out a quality film. Even negative buzz can give a film a boost—it might force the academy voters to see what all the fuss is about. But that positive buzz that comes with award nominations and year-end accolades from film critics’ groups—which also supposedly didn’t receive screeners—is what makes people want to see the movie, lest they be the last ones in on a hot thing. Right now, Selma doesn’t have a lot of heat. If it gets a few Academy Award nominations, it might make Oscar voters dig through their mail pile for those screeners.