“Matrix” Has Double Oscar Woes

Although the 2004 Oscar ceremony will not take place for another six months, Warner Bros. Pictures, which bowed The Matrix Reloaded May 15 and is set to release The Matrix Revolutions November 5, has a bit of a twofold issue on its hands.

The problem stems from what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences calls an unprecedented circumstance: Warners’ two Matrix installments could potentially win two nominations in a single category and, amid stiff competition in the Oscar’s technical categories, end up competing directly against each other.

Warners suggested several ways of dealing with the binary issue, including having the two sequels considered one unit, since directors Larry and Andy Wachowski shot Reloaded and Revolutions back-to-back over a 250-day production schedule using the same filmmaking team.

Nice try, but Academy executive administrator Ric Robertson told Variety the films are essentially two distinct entities with separate release dates and marketing campaigns and must therefore be considered two different movies.

The studio is now seriously considering qualifying only one film for Oscar consideration, even though both movies satisfy the basic requirement for Academy consideration. According to Variety, there is nothing in the Academy rulebook that prevents the studio from submitting one film and not the other. Warners is therefore contemplating submitting only Revolutions for Oscar consideration.

But that raises another issue. In the past, Academy voters have resisted repeatedly honoring the same group of filmmakers. This was the case with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which bowed with The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, continued in 2002 with The Two Towers and will wrap with The Return of the King later this year. The Academy granted The Fellowship of the Ring 13 nominations and four Oscars but then later wrestled with how to treat the second installment, The Two Towers. The Academy music branch, for example, ruled that composer Howard Shore, who won an Oscar for his score in the first film, should not merit a nod for the sequel.

The original Matrix film, which was released in 1999, won a bevy of Oscars in he competitive technical categories, including editing sound, sound effects editing and visual effects. Could Warners face the same quandary as The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the 2003 Oscar race?

For now the studio’s best bet may be to discount the merits of Reloaded and submit only Revolutions. At least this way Warners would lessen the likelihood of the two Matrix sequels canceling each other out. Two heads, it seems, are not always better than one.