What? James Bond movies can definitely win Oscars! Oscars for Sound Editing, Best Original Song, Visual Effects … You know, stuff like that.
Oh, you meant to ask why James Bond can’t be nominated for Best Film or Best Actor? Well, that’s a little different.
Let’s start by looking at the rules. What does a film or an actor in a film have to do to be nominated?
“Academy Awards of Merit shall be given annually to honor outstanding achievements in theatrically released feature-length motion pictures, and to honor other achievements as provided for in these rules and approved by the Board of Governors.”
James Bond films are theatrically released feature length movies, and presumably they are approved by the Board of Governors. So far, so good.
To be the best actor or actress or the best supporting actor or actress it seems you just need to get enough votes, and speak all your lines yourself:
“If, however, all the dialogue has been dubbed by another actor, the performance shall not be eligible for award consideration. Singing that is dubbed will not affect the performer’s eligibility unless it constitutes the entire performance."
Looks like 007 is in the clear again, unless there is a secret voice dubbing conspiracy.
The only special rules for best film appear to be about who gets to pick up the trophy, so that’s no barrier to Bond.
Looks like this is just a popularity contest, folks, or a vote based measure of “goodness,” which brings us to the question of why no one has, or will, vote Bond into that august company of golden statuette holders.
I, sadly, cannot read the minds of the members of the Academy but I presume they want to honour films and performances that opened their minds to new possibilities for film, brought truly moving performances, told a good story really, really well and did this with at least a wave at originality. I am terribly grieved to say this, but that disqualifys Bond. Look, Bond is a serial, a franchise. Even The Dark Knight didn’t get nominated for the Best Film award (Heath Ledger did get Best Supporting Actor, though, so maybe there’s hope for Bond villains).
Basically, Bond is doomed by its history. The same thing that makes Bond films a non-trivial part of movie history makes it terribly difficult to make them serious contenders for Best Film or Best Actor.
That might seem like a joke given how many movies are nominated without using truly original material (adapting from books seems to be a good route to success), but when you make a Bond film you are building on the foundation of many, many Bond films. It’s almost like getting work done for you. Yes, you need to think of a new spin for the material and do it justice in production, but meanwhile Beasts of the Southern Wild was building a concept from scratch. It’s like entering a pie in a store bought crust to a pie baking competition; it’s like the trade paperback of Spider-Man going up against someone’s heartfelt original graphic novel; it’s like a Ruth Rendell murder mystery in the running for the Man Booker Prize. No one is saying that isn’t great, but it isn’t quite the same. If it helps, think of Elizabeth Warren telling Daniel Craig that he didn’t build Bond: “So you’re a debonair world trotting spy with a license to kill? You didn’t build that!”