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Should “Hamilton” Be Up For Oscar Attention?

This weekend, the filmed version of the record breaking Broadway musical Hamilton finally came to the masses. Dropped on Disney Plus, Hamilton has quickly drawn rave reviews (including our own right here), leading to some awards speculation. Namely, is this eligible for Oscar attention? If so, will the Academy go for it? Today, we begin to dive a bit into those somewhat muddy waters. In short…the rules are likely to deem it eligible for the Academy Awards (barring a surprise), but voters may well end up a bit on the skeptical side. That being said, it’s early, so a lot can change.

In case you don’t know, this is a combination of a few live performances in 2016 of the smash-hit Broadway show of the same name (featuring almost all of the original cast, too). It tells the story of the life of one of America’s foremost (and arguably most underrated) founding fathers, as well as the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda). The story is well known by now, but follows Hamilton, a former orphan, as he makes his mark in America, developing an initial friendship with Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.) that eventually becomes a deadly rivalry, as well as a wife in Eliza Schuyler (Phillipa Soo). From a revolutionary under General George Washington (Christopher Jackson) to a builder of the nation, he’s constantly at odds with Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs), while also slowly moving towards a date with destiny between him and Burr. Thomas Kail directs, while Miranda’s book is obviously used, as well as his music. Supporting players include Renée Elise Goldsberry, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and many more. The cinematography for this filmed version is by Declan Quinn.

The main debate is over if Hamilton should be considered among other films at the Academy Awards, with TV movies at the Emmys, or neither…the latter of which is a ridiculous proposition. Now, the rules, as they are, would make it Oscar eligible. Now, that’s only one element, since members of the Academy would have to then cast ballots for it, and I’m at least initially skeptical about voters seeing it on the same level as whatever flicks wind up in major contention. That’s merely a sense I have right now, though talking to the membership between now and nominations in March will certainly impact things. So too will whatever the Guilds decide, so keep an eye on those, too.

For me, this version of Hamilton is a unique entity, and while I can’t argue whether or not it’s a film, it does strike me as something separate from what AMPAS honors. A special achievement citation or something of the sort would make sense, but the magic of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s epic is on the stage, not necessarily in the movie. The filmmaking isn’t what stays with you. So, while I may think it’s something that shouldn’t be considered, if it is, it may well turn out to be a contender, in particularly for the cast, and maybe in Best Picture. A field like Best Director would be a bridge too far for most, I suspect.

Time will tell where this road leads, but Hamilton is certainly an achievement, regardless of it ends up being embraced by the Emmys, the Oscars, or whatever the case may be. Whether you think it’s a film or a filmed event, it’s certainly an accomplishment, that’s for sure. The debate about it will rage on, but luckily, none of it is about its quality. Either way, sit tight and we’ll find out what happens together…

Stay tuned to see if Hamilton winds up an Academy Award player!

(Photos courtesy of Disney)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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