At this year’s Oscars, James Cameron’s Avatar tied with Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. Each film received nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. That makes Avatar one of the two top contenders for the Best Picture Oscar, right?
Well, think again.
Yes, Avatar received a total of nine nominations — but not for best screenplay. Whether due to karma or just poor writing skills, Cameron was also bypassed for his Titanic screenplay 11 years ago. (Must be karma, considering the kind of stuff that gets nominated in the Academy’s writing categories.) Something else about Avatar’s Oscar prospects: the film was also ignored in the four acting categories.
The only two acting-less, writing-less Best Picture winners* to date are William A. Wellman’s Wings and Edmund Goulding’s Grand Hotel. Wings was a silent movie. Grand Hotel was a 1932 release. The Oscars weren’t even known as "the Oscars" back then.
Among this year’s ten Best Picture nominees, the only other film that failed to get a writing nomination was The Blind Side.
But Avatar fans shouldn’t lose hope. After all, Kathryn Bigelow will probably become the first woman director to win an Oscar. So, why can’t Avatar become the second talkie to win for Best Picture without any acting or writing nominations?
Just make sure to think twice before betting any money on it.
* There were no official nominations in the Academy Awards’ second year, the year the musical The Broadway Melody won as Best Picture. However, one of that film’s stars, Bessie Love, was one of those "unofficially considered" for the best actress award.
In the Academy Awards’ second and third year, there was only one writing category. There were three writing categories from 1940 to 1956 (except for 1948, when there were only two). There was also some overlapping, as a number of movies were nominated in two different categories.
The best supporting actor/actress categories were instituted in 1936. Prior to that, most years had fewer than five nominees in the best actor or best actress categories.