On Broadway, Hamilton awed audiences, thrilled, critics, and scored a ton of awards, including a Grammy, Kennedy Center Honors, a Billboard Music Award, 11 Tony Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. However, Hamilton will not win an Oscar. So says The Academy.
On Friday, Disney+ released a filmed performance of the original Broadway cast, which caused a fresh flood of fervor for Hamilton. Immediately, fans and film critics began to debate if this digital offering counted as a “movie.” If so, could it compete at the Academy Awards?
Some argued that while this filmed version is technically a movie, it’d fall into the documentary category, comparing it to concert docs like the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense. Docs don’t get much attention outside of the Best Documentary category at the Oscars. However, Pajiba contributor Jason Bailey pointed out an Oscar rarity.
Yes, HAMILTON is a movie and yes (because I guess we care about such things), as such it should be eligible for awards consideration.— Jason Bailey (@jasondashbailey) July 5, 2020
Not to try and lawyer anybody but there is a clear precedent: pic.twitter.com/eLPHiJey5r
In 1975, the one-man stage show Give ‘Em Hell, Harry was recorded, released in movie theaters, and earned James Whitmore an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. So could that mean that Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Leslie Odom Jr., and Lin-Manuel Miranda could be contenders for Oscars 2021? Nope.
Because of theaters shuttering across the nation, The Academy did change their rules this year, allowing films that were intended for theatrical release to be eligible, even if they went to VOD without a qualifying run. This might have opened the door for a Hamilton if it weren’t from a rule change from 1997, which declared unequivocally: “Recorded stage productions are not eligible for consideration.”
Don’t weep for Hamilton. Its latest release has proved the musical still has a huge fandom. The filmed theatrical is being credited with Disney+ seeing a 74% spike in app downloads. And as Disney is deep in the Lin-Manuel Miranda business (see: Hamilton, Moana, Mary Poppins Returns), it seems possible this massive studio could produce a movie adaptation of the widely acclaimed stage musical.
A film adaptation of Hamilton would be Oscar eligible in most categories, save Best Song. To compete there, Miranda would have to create a new song, like Andrew Lloyd Webber did with Taylor Swift and for Cats. Them’s the rules.