No Oscar nods for China despite box office success

Chinese Culture

‘Wolf Warrior 2’ is one of the world’s most successful movies. In less than two days, it surpassed $88 million in box office earnings in China. Within five weeks, it had taken in more than $800 million.

But you won’t find any sign of it in Hollywood.

CGTN’s Phil Lavelle reports.

It’s a Chinese-made movie, aimed at a Chinese audience. It’s not the kind of movie American audiences tend to be interested in.

China was hoping the Academy would be interested though. It entered ‘Wolf Warrior 2’ as its submission for Best Foreign Language film. But it wasn’t picked. Lebanon, Chile, Hungary, Sweden and Russia will be fighting it out for that honor, come Sunday, March 4.

In fact, despite China’s growing interests in Hollywood (the country’s money has been buying up studios, production companies and real estate for years), it appears to be having little luck when it comes to Oscar nominations. China has tried to get a movie in that Best Foreign Language listing 31 times since 1979.

But it’s only managed two nominations (once, 28 years ago and again in 2002) and on neither occasion did it lead to a win.

“Historically, when you look at the Oscars generally, the most commercial movies are not always the winners,” Max Michael from major Hollywood player, United Talent Agency said. “The Oscars, the Academy is looking at films that are a little bit smaller, artful, and not necessarily the most commercially successful.”

That’s spelled bad news for China’s efforts over the years, stressed Matt Pressberg, a reporter for ‘The Information’ website who specializes in Hollywood-China matters.

“The Academy has lots of Americans and Europeans,” he said. “It may be that it has a lot of people that are not familiar with some of the cultural tropes and some of the messages in those movies, but China is a very big part of the world market now and its absence from a lot of awards nominations is ubiquitous.”

Peter Debruge is Chief Film Critic at Variety. He denied that Best Foreign Language is a vanity project for countries and insisted people DO care about the category, even if attention is traditionally more focused on the bigger prizes like Best Picture.

“I think there is an issue that the Academy Awards are for the industry and a lot of the people who tune it at home don’t care about a lot of the smaller categories,” he said. “That said, what’s interesting about the foreign language project is the world cares about it and an entire continent may tune in only because they might have a horse in the race.”

China is quickly becoming the world’s biggest movie-watching market and injecting cash into Hollywood’s studios and the industry. Regardless, another year passes with no chance of glory.

But all is not lost. “I think they’re going to have their day soon, but maybe this just wasn’t the one,” Michael said.