Could 'Skyfall' Be James Bond's First Real Shot at the Best-Picture Oscar?

The film is so good that it could overcome the academy's bias against 007—and blockbusters in general.

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Director Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig on the Skyfall set. (MGM/Sony)

Daniel Craig may want to keep that snazzy 007 suit close and ready.

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, commemorated the film franchise's 50th anniversary with a record $87.8 million debut this past weekend. But the film didn't just score monster cash. It earned some of the most glowing reviews an entry in the series has even received, sitting with a stellar 91 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes right now. With critics and audiences both cheering the flick, could Skyfall, 50 years later, be the first film to score James Bond an invite to the Oscars?

The movie is a loving homage to classic 007, featuring Bond girls, winking humor, a raucous opening chase scene, and a dastardly villain. But helmed by Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and featuring four Oscar-winning co-stars (Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Albert Finney, and Ralph Fiennes), the film packs an emotional punch with as much wallop as any of the film's spectacular explosions (and they're really spectacular). A surprisingly poignant throughline carries the movie, with MI6 head M (Dench) finding herself getting pushed out of the organization, her long history with Bond explored, and the man with the license to kill's tragic backstory getting rare screen time. Even Skyfall's Big Bad, played by a scene-stealing Bardem, is given a painful past and sympathetic origin story. Skyfall is as thrilling as any of the year's big blockbusters, but it's a smartly written, affecting drama as well.

I'd argue, then, that Skyfall should be an obvious Best Picture contender at this year's Academy Awards. But with the Academy, nothing is ever obvious, or simple.

Over the past 50 years, the Bond franchise has only earned two Oscar wins, both in technical categories. Goldfinger won Best Sound Effects in 1965 and Thunderball took home Best Visual Effects in 1965, meaning it's been four decades since a Bond film earned Oscar gold. Since then, Bond movies have only earned nominations for songs (Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only), sound (Diamonds Are Forever), or effects (Moonraker). No movie in the franchise has been nominated since For Your Eyes Only's 1982 song nod, and there have been no mentions ever in more marquee races like Best Picture, Director, Actor, or Screenplay. Dr. No and From Russia With Love are canonical spy films, and certainly merited Director or Picture consideration. GoldenEye, without a doubt, deserved technical nods for its exhilarating action sequences. That "Diamonds Are Forever," "Goldfinger," or "Nobody Does It Better" didn't make it onto the Best Song shortlist is ludicrous.

If there's one thing going in Skyfall's favor, it's the timing. The Dark Knight Rises's momentum has stalled and The Hobbit's will just be getting started during campaign time.

When Casino Royale was released in 2006, it reinvigorated the genre and critical enthusiasm for the franchise, scoring a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It earned BAFTA nods for Daniel Craig, its screenplay, and a slew of technical categories. The Visual Effects Society, Motion Picture Sound Editors, Costume Designers Guild, British Society of Cinematographers, and American Cinema Editors all recognized the film. But when the Oscar nominations came out, Casino Royale was snubbed completely, even in the technical races.

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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