AFI Awards: Disney & Majors Dominate Film; Rookies Shine On TV Side

By Pete Hammond, Nellie Andreeva

As the awards accolades continue to pour in, the American Film Institute has weighed in with its annual unranked list of year’s best in film and television. The movie side is thick with titles that have been bandied about the trophy circuit, but major studios dominate with seven of the 10 film listed. On the TV side, the AFI Awards went for a major overhaul, with FX’s The Americans and Fargo and HBO’s Game Of Thrones as the only shows from last year’s list to return. Both full lists are below.

Mad Men Season 7AFI also recognized the departed Mad Men with an AFI Special Award, acknowledging its landmark contributions to America’s cultural legacy across nine years. No other TV program has earned as many honors in AFI Awards history.

Disney made a big showing on the film side with three of the 10 honorees: Steven Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies, Pixar’s Inside Out and the juggernaut-in-waiting Star Wars: The Force Bridge Of SpiesAwakens. That’s big for the company, which has yet to pick up a Best Picture Oscar in its history that wasn’t from Miramax. With only Carol, Room and Spotlight representing the indies, this definitely is looking like a year when the major studios could be the big breadwinners. AFI had delayed its announcement this year so that The Force Awakens could be seen – and it paid off for Disney, J.J. Abrams and company with its inclusion on the list — the first opportunity it has had to show if it was an awards player or not. It is.

Big box office hits scored very well with Mad Max: Fury Road,  The Martian, Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton and The Force Awakens, all grossing well north of $100 million. Paramount’s late-in-the-season decision to put The Big Short into this year’s race also paid off with AFI.

Perhaps the biggest snub was Fox’s The Revenant, which had scored with Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and SAG but not here. Its exclusion might be a bit of a damper on tonight’s premiere. Fox’s other Christmas Day release, the Jennifer Lawrence starrer Joy, also failed to make the cut, as did contenders Steve Jobs, The Danish Girl and Brooklyn. The latter may not be eligible since it was not an American produced film.

better call saul amc season 1 episode 10Meanwhile, the shakeup on the TV side was huge. As usual, the AFI Awards stepped up to recognize newcomers — its list of first-timers include AMC’s Better Call Saul, Fox’s Empire, USA’s Mr. Robot, Lifetime’s UnReal and Netflix’s Master Of None. But in a rarity, there is also a veteran — Showtime’s Homeland — that had fallen out the past two years, making a comeback after a strong season. And sophomore ABC comedy Black-ish, overlooked last year, is making a first appearance to carry the flag for broadcast TV alongside Empire.

“Since AFI’s founding in the White House Rose Garden 50 years ago, its mandate has been to celebrate our nation’s storytellers,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President & CEO. “This is the goal of AFI Awards — to bring together our community as colleagues, not competitors, and to shine a proper light on their collective efforts to entertain and enlighten the world.”

Here are the honored pics::

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Straight Outta Compton

And the TV shows:

The Americans
Better Call Saul
Game of Thrones
Master Of None
Mr. Robot

Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.


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