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Those paying attention to the awards circuit this year have seen these titles continually brought up: La La Land, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea. Not only topping several 2016 Best Of lists, these three films have been the frontrunners for some of the biggest awards the film world has to offer. However, there's always that one film that gets overlooked during awards season despite its pedigree, and this year that film is The Founder. Despite its Oscar-y subject matter and the Michael Keaton of it all, the film failed to get any major nominations, and director John Lee Hancock chalks it up to poor strategy.
The Founder is based on the true story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a struggling, but relentless, salesman who discovers a little fast food burger joint called McDonald's. Kroc teams up with owners Dick and Mac McDonald to franchise the restaurant, but ultimately usurps them, taking control of their business and creating a global business empire. It had everything a movie needs to become an awards giant, but John Lee Hancock told Newsweek that it doesn't really matter if people don't know your movie exists. He said:
It's very disappointing. [Keaton's] so deserving. Nobody knew about us. We weren't in the conversation. The conversation for awards season starts months and months before, and it has to be carefully calculated, and it wasn't. Different people that were on the [Screen Actors Guild] nominating committee saw the movie and told me: 'This is my favorite movie of the year. I wish I would've known, I would've voted for Michael.' I don't know how to answer that except nobody knew about us. I can't answer the 'why wasn't it out there,' but I do know it wasn't out there. It wasn't positioned in a way to [earn awards]. I think everybody involved realizes the error of that. I certainly learned a valuable lesson - scream more.
Hancock is mostly upset that Keaton didn't receive the recognition he deserved for his performance, but no aspect of the film has received a nod from any major awards show like the Golden Globes or the Oscars. When it comes to winning awards, it really comes down to strategy. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes whining and dining that extends past just doing well with critics or scoring high at the box office (though that certainly helps). It sounds like the studio dropped the ball when it came to promoting The Founder and at least contributed to why it hasn't left much of an impression.
You would think that The Founder would have at least had a dog in the Oscar fight given the history behind the talent. Star Michael Keaton headlined the Best Picture winner for the past two years with Birdman and Spotlight, and The Founder seemed like it would at least score him a Best Actor nomination. Director John Lee Hancock also has a good history at the Academy Awards, earning a Best Picture nomination for The Blind Side and a win for Best Actress for Sandra Bullock. He also directed Saving Mr. Banks, which didn't get as many nominations, but it was at least in the conversation.
The Founder won't be there, but you can watch the 89th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, on Sunday, February 26 on ABC.