‘Transformers’ At the Oscars Isn’t the Joke You Think it Is

By  · Published on December 11th, 2014

Paramount Pictures

What’s the easiest target in Hollywood? Simple. Transformers: Age of Extinction for Best Picture of the Year.

Awards season is upon us, and like every other studio in existence, Paramount has been sending out a bevy of “For Your Considerations” – polite requests that you consider their year’s fare for a crop of Oscars. Among that crop is Age of Extinction, a film with a sickly 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, that managed the unconscionable sin of having a giant robot wielding a sword and riding on an even giant-er robot that’s also a T-Rex that can breathe fire…and still being a thick grey slab of dullness.

Check out the “For Your Consideration” here if you’d like – it’s probably worth a look, if just for Stanley Tucci’s “running in slow-mo” face. And, as you can expect, this move is the current laughingstock of the Internet, prompting a stream of pointing, giggling and the occasional middle finger from both online publications and regular Joes on Twitter. Let’s get something straight. You and I and people who’ve never seen a single Transformers film and even the Pope, probably, all know that Age of Extinction will never be nominated for Best Picture. It’s probably safe to say that Paramount knows it too (hell, if they’re savvy enough to steer this clunker to more than a billion dollars worldwide, they’re savvy enough to know how Oscars work).

This is more than likely just a push to get Age of Extinction out there on the awards circuit in a big way – where it will no doubt be passed over for Best Picture (also Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, both of which are on the ad) and considered for the mass of technical nominations that are more Transformers’ forte. Also, awards pushes like these are often part of the contract when studios finance a film, meaning Transformers for Best Picture was a gambit decided upon long ago.

But even that’s beside the point. Because while the Internet was busy pointing and laughing at these silly metal monstrosities – how dare they think they can win awards? – Transformers was busy reeling in a shit-ton of awards.

Seriously.

Transformers

First, there’s the original 2007 Transformers, which was nominated for three Oscars, albeit with no wins: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement in Visual Effects.

That’s about par for the course – Transformers scored either sound effects or mixing nominations from the Cinema Audio Society, the Motion Picture Sound Editors and the Online Film & Television Association. Effects-wise, Transformers won awards from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, the Awards Circuit Community Awards, Hollywood Film Awards, the Los Vegas Film Critics Society, the Online Film & Television Association and the Visual Effects Society Awards. And then a heap of noms on top of that.

Then come the categories you’d never expect – a Saturn Award nomination for Best Science Fiction Film and a BMI Film Music Award for composer Steve Jablonsky, And of course, wins that absolutely don’t count- stuff like the MTV Movie Awards or the British National Movie Awards, which are decided on by popular vote (where a box-office slugger like Transformers is a shoo-in to win).

That Transformers gets so many sound/effects-based nominations shouldn’t be surprising in the least – when picking a crop of four or five top films, people will probably choose the largest films with the largest amount of dollars spent on VFX. Films that are exactly like Transformers.

What’s odd is how often Transformers won out against others, considering how often the Transformers look and sound like mismatched Erector sets having sex. Especially in 2007 – a year that also hosted the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie and its remarkably real Davy Jones. That Pirates didn’t sweep every category may have more to do with the technical side of things – how well did the sound effects team capture the sound of lusty Erector sets? – more than the artistic value of such an awful thing.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Next comes 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It’s largely a repeat of last time. A sound mixing nomination from the Academy Awards, the Cinema Audio Society, the Motion Picture Sound Editors and a Satellite Award nom thrown in for good measure. Visual Effects nominations came from the Satellite Awards and the Visual Effects Society. Like the first Transformers, Steve Jablonksy’s getting a BMI Music Award and the film’s getting a Best Science Fiction Film nom from the Saturn Awards.

Yet there’s a general drop in quantity here. There’s a handful of new accolades – say, a nod for compositing from the Hollywood Post Alliance, a SAG Award nomination thrown at a laundry list of stuntmen, or a hard-to-believe acting nomination for Ramon Rodriguez (playing Shia LaBeouf’s wacky roommate is apparently worthy of praise) from the American Latino Media Arts Awards. But mostly, what was “won” is now “nominated,” and what was “nominated” is now gonezo. Transformers won more VFX awards than Revenge of the Fallen was even nominated for.

Whether the effects in Revenge of the Fallen were actually worse or not, the movie certainly was. And that might have been all the awards-giving population needed (that and the general sense of “been there, done that” that comes standard with any sequel) to move onto greener technical awards pastures.

Also, Revenge of the Fallen was the only Transformers film to win a Razzie (three of them, no less- Picture, Director, Screenplay). That’s got to count for something.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Finally, there’s 2012’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Where Revenge of the Fallen only pulled one Oscar nomination (Sound Mixing), the third film checks the same three boxes as the first – Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects.

It’s like that all around – awards conglomerates that shied away from Revenge of the Fallen welcomed Dark of the Moon back with open arms. The Visual Effects Society, which gave four wins and a nomination to the first film but only a single nomination to the second, have returned with two wins and three nominations for number three. The Hollywood Film Awards, the Motion Picture Sound Editors and the Satellite Awards continue to heap awards on the franchise, and even the SAG Awards upped the amount of stunt ensemble-based nominations they’re handing out.

No Best Science Fiction Film nom from the Saturn Awards this time, but a win from the Annie Awards for Animated Effects in a Live Action Production. And, as usual, Steve Jablonsky wins his BMI Film Music Award, for music that’s never really stood out that much over the gnashing of metal on metal.

All in all? A shit ton of awards for a series as bottom-barrel as Transformers.

Keep poking fun at this franchise all you want (heck, I do it all the time, even in this article). But even though it’s not ending up on any Best Picture Nominee lists, those “For Your Considerations” will do their job. When it comes time to rattle out a few visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing Oscar nominations (as well as a stampede of similar noms from smaller awards shows), Age of Extinction is going to clean up. And after the haranguing its taken for grasping at Best Picture, it might even deserve to (okay, not really).