No Oscar Nods For 'Star Wars' Rey Or Kylo Ren

The newly minted Star Wars royalty will have to settle for being a part of the biggest movie in history. The Academy held its press conference announcing the 2016 nominations on Thursday morning, and Star Wars' Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley were snubbed by the Oscars for their performances in The Force Awakens. Recognition for the young actors who introduced Rey and Kylo Ren into the Star Wars universe was a longshot in this case; the Oscars don't go for genre movies usually, except in the technical categories. (The Force Awakens is being recognized with nominations for score, editing, and visual effects, among other fields.) But the critical acclaim that's been heaped on Driver and Ridley since the film's premiere had fans hoping that the Academy would make an exception and seriously consider the acting in a sci-fi/fantasy film for once.

It's a strange bias that the Academy has against movies like The Force Awakens. Filmmakers are always creating worlds in non-documentary film. The universe that Driver and Ridley's characters occupy just happens to be occupied by aliens and droids in addition to people. What's the difference between putting actors in waistcoats and corsets to drop them hundreds of years in the past and draping them in Jedi robes to load them onto the Millennium Falcon? No matter how out-there the setting of the movie is, the performances have to be real. Both actors played honest, human emotion. Kylo Ren is desperate to prove himself; Rey is abandoned and seeking family. Without lightsabers and deadly space stations, these characters would still have motivations and relationships for audiences to identify with.

If Driver had been nominated, it would have been in the Supporting Actor category. In that race, the Academy instead put Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge Of Spies), and Sylvester Stallone (Creed). That's a tough category, with not a lot of room for a relatively young actor from a fantasy film. Ridley, meanwhile, was submitted as a Best Actress contender. That trophy will be given to Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), or Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) on Oscar night.

Still, there will be other chances. Ridley is just 23, and Driver is 32. I can't imagine that either of them signed up for their roles in Star Wars for the sole purpose of courting awards attention; if they did, they were misinformed about the Oscars' attitude towards space operas. The Force Awakens and future episodes in the franchise will open a lot of doors for two actors who are still in the early stages of their careers. Ridley's voice talents will be heard in the upcoming Studio Ghibli film Only Yesterday, a first-time American release of a 1991 film. Driver has a few films listed in post-production, including the Jim Jarmusch project Paterson and Silence, Martin Scorcese's next epic. He'll also be back on HBO as Adam Sackler on the fifth season of Girls, the role he was best known for before putting on Kylo Ren's mask.

The Oscars snub of Driver and Ridley won't hurt two careers that are currently red hot, but it does set genre films back yet again in the battle for awards season legitimacy.

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