J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens isn't just a box office giant that's breaking records left and right, it's also the most critically acclaimed franchise installment since 1980's The Empire Strikes Back. As of this writing, The Force Awakens has a sublime 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and last week it was honored by the American Film Institute as one of the 10 best films of 2015.
Star Wars 7 was absent from all of the awards nomination lists prior to the AFI announcement because Disney chose not to send out early screeners to voting bodies (in order to protect the film's closely-guarded secrets), meaning certain groups could not see it until after their deadline. But that didn't stop the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) from retroactively honoring the movie after they saw it.
In a press release, the BFCA announced that The Force Awakens has received a Best Picture nomination from the Critics' Choice Awards, after holding a special referendum to determine if the group would have recognized it had they seen it prior to initial balloting. It is noted that this exception only applies to Best Picture, and all the other categories remain the same. Star Wars 7 becomes the 11th Best Picture nominee for the Critics' Choice Awards.
It is rare for the BFCA to amend their list after the fact, but it is not unprecedented. In 2000, they did the same thing with Robert Zemeckis' Cast Away, which had also been screened too late for normal consideration. While it's nice to see one awards group go back in time to nominate Star Wars, it's unlikely the BFCA will start a trend. This seems to be a unique element to their show, so fans shouldn't get visions of Star Wars crashing the Golden Globes, for instance.
However, with the reception The Force Awakens is getting, it is fair to wonder if the blockbuster can sneak into the Academy's Best Picture lineup. Star Wars isn't just one of the biggest commercial hits of the year, it's also become an outright critical darling that recaptures the magic of movies. The film will continue to be a dominant talking point throughout the beginning of winter (which coincides with peak awards season), making it very difficult to ignore. The Oscars have a stigma of being out of touch with the general public, and nothing would hammer that point home more than a Force Awakens snub - especially since there can be up to 10 Best Picture nominees.
Time will tell just how much of a player on the awards circuit Star Wars 7 can become, but this is a great start that few people could have predicted. It's refreshing to see a massive populist movie such as Force Awakens gain traction with awards groups, joining the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, and The Martian. Awards organizations are supposed to celebrate the year in film, so overlooking the most beloved movies wouldn't make sense. Regardless of what happens, the Force is strong with the Star Wars brand again.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.