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In what should be recognised as a major reshuffling, the American Film Institute has made a rather huge change to the announcement of the AFI Awards so that they can take Star Wars: The Force Awakens into consideration. Sure, they only postponed the revelation of the awards until December 16, rather than the original date of December 7, but this decision was made purely so that they can take The Force Awakens into account.
Like a teenage boy trying to play it cool around the popular girl at school that they so obviously have a crush on, the American Film Institute didn’t specifically name-check Star Wars: The Force Awakens when confirming that they are postponing the announcement. Instead, they simply remarked, via The Hollywood Reporter, that they were making the change "to ensure the jury has the proper opportunity to see the unusual amount of late releases this year.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens might not be with us mere moviegoers until December 18, but it will have its premiere in Los Angeles on December 14, which is when many members of the AFI will have the chance to see it. The AFI Awards sees two juries – one for TV and the other for film – pick out their ten favorite feature films and programs of the year, which they then immediately label as the best, no questions asked. Obviously, questions immediately follow.
These are lists that every film and television show usually clamber to be on, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t need the recognition. And while the likes of David O. Russell’s Joy, Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, and Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant won’t be hitting cinemas until later in December, the huge unknown is Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The hype and downright hysteria surrounding J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens means that the AFI won’t want to overlook the film if, as is hoped, it’s blockbuster cinema at its very, very finest. However, let’s not forget that similar pomp and expectations greeted the first prequel, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. This same excitement ultimately dissolved into pangs of sorrow, disappointment, and even downright hostility. The same isn’t expected to happen with The Force Awakens. Otherwise the world just isn't fair.
Meanwhile, like the girl I mentioned in my above analogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens knows just how popular it is, and isn’t making it any easier for critics and awards groups to see the film so that they can know if it will be on their best-of-year lists, or in contention for awards.
Lucasfilm hasn’t made any announcement for when the film will actually be shown to the critical masses, teasing that it won’t be available to them until days before its official release date and premiere. That’s mainly because they don’t want spoilers to leak out. Though they're also probably enjoying messing with the critics and awards groups, too. Which is something that I think we can all appreciate.