Following from the film’s eight BAFTA nominations, Skyfall has been nominated for five Academy Awards. Roger Deakins has received a nomination for cinematography, Thomas Newman has a nomination for best score, Adele's title song has been nominated, and Skyfall has also been recognised for sound mixing (Scott Millan, Greg Russell and Stuart Wilson) and sound editing (Per Hallberg and Karen Baker).
The James Bond films have rarely been nominated. Even Casino Royale, which won one BAFTA (for sound) and received a further eight nominations, was ignored by the Oscars. Before Skyfall, the last Bond film to be Oscar nominated was For Your Eyes Only (1981), which was considered for Best Song. The film completed a short run of three consecutive Bond films to receive nominations. Moonraker (1979) was nominated for visual effects, while The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) was considered for best song, best original score and best art direction. Before then, Diamonds Are Forever (1971) was nominated for best sound. Two films have won Oscars. John Stears won the Oscar for special visual effects for his work on Thunderball (1965), while Norman Wanstall won a best sound effects Oscar for Goldfinger (1964).
While it seems unlikely that, until Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond, the producers and directors seriously regarded the Bond films as contenders in the principal award categories, they may have felt some disappointment that the series hadn’t received more nominations for technical and music categories. However, analysis of previous winners in those categories suggests that action adventure films (a category into which the Bond films can be comfortably placed) have rarely won, or even been nominated, and that the chances of Skyfall taking home the prize in its five categories at the 2013 award ceremony are unfortunately somewhat on the low side.
We can see this when we examine the types of films that won the Oscars for categories in which the Bond films have competed or are competing – best visual effects, sound editing, score, song, art direction (now production design), and sound mixing. Considering just the awards for the years in which Bond films were released (giving us a sample drawn from 22 years of award ceremonies), nine of the winners in the category of production design were historical epics or period dramas; both musicals and science fiction/fantasy films, which are also typically lavish productions, each won the Oscar three times. Action adventure films have won just twice. Not surprisingly, ten winners of the Oscar for visual effects in the sample were science fiction/fantasy films, and clearly the spaced-themed plot of Moonraker helped with its nomination in this category. For best score and song, the winners are dominated by contemporary dramas (romances, as well as those dealing with more serious issues), which won 10 and 11 awards respectively. Family films that include a substantial musical element, almost exclusively Disney films, have also had success in the song category with five winners. Among the sample, cinematography has seen eight winners from period films, and seven from contemporary dramas. Just one film was an action adventure. Both sound editing and sound mixing offer a mixed picture. In editing, there are five action adventure films in the sample, joining five science fiction/fantasy films, two period epics, two dramas, and two comedies, among others. Sound mixing had two action adventure winners, but six dramas, six musicals and five period epics.
The association between film type and award category can be seen clearly in the correspondence analysis plot below. This multivariate technique groups categories that are statistically associated; in this case, the closer a film type is to the award category on the plot, the stronger they are associated with each other. In the top left quadrant, then, we see that the award categories of score and song are congregated around comedies, family films and drama, indicating a strong association. In the bottom left quadrant, period dramas, and to a lesser extent musicals, are strongly associated with cinematography (photo), sound mixing and production design. Action adventure films are closest to sound editing in the bottom right quadrant along with science fiction and fantasy films, which are as expected strongly associated with visual effects.
Based on these data, the best chance for Skyfall is in sound editing. In cinematography, the main competition will be the period dramas of Lincoln and Anna Karenina, while in sound mixing, Les Misérables and Lincoln will be the films to watch. The winner of best score seems likely to come from Argo or Life of Pi, while Life of Pi or Ted may have the best chance for best song. However, given its five nominations, its billion-dollar receipts, and critical acclaim, Skyfall is no ordinary Bond film, and it may yet win in all its categories. I certainly hope it does, and I await the award ceremony in February with great interest.