The film honorees are: “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Carol,” “Inside Out,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “Room,” “Spotlight” and “Straight Outta Compton,” as well as “Star Wars.”
On the TV side, the AFI panel saluted a mix of new TV works and continuing series: “The Americans,” “Better Call Saul,” “Black-ish,” “Empire,” “Fargo,” “Game of Thrones,” “Homeland,” “Master of None,” “Mr. Robot” and “Unreal.” The jury also voted a special award to “Mad Men,” which concluded this year and which had chalked up more AFI honors in its nine-year run than any other series.
The awards are usually unveiled in the first week of December, but the American Film Institute had announced that voting would be delayed a week, to accommodate the tightly-under-wraps “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which had its world premiere Dec. 14. But the judges bypassed other late-year entries, including “The Revenant,” “Joy” and “Hateful Eight.”
Also among the no-shows were “Black Mass,” “Creed” and “Steve Jobs.” The films not mentioned shouldn’t give up hope: In the past two years, Fox Searchlight’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and Focus Features’ “Dallas Buyers Club” were not on AFI’s list, but both ended up with best-pic nominations and several Oscar wins.
Last year, six of AFI’s best pic honorees also scored best-picture Oscar nominations; in the previous year, it was seven of the top 10.
However, the American Film Institute downplays its role as a harbinger of Oscar attention. Execs at the organization, including president-CEO Bob Gazzale, have always stressed that their list recognizes a community of artists, and is not competitive. AFI does not rank choices, only listing them alphabetically.
“Since AFI’s founding in the White House Rose Garden 50 years ago, its mandate has been to celebrate our nation’s storytellers,” said Gazelle in a statement. “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.”
This year’s juries — one for film and one for television — were chaired by producers and AFI board of trustees vice chairs Tom Pollock for film and Richard Frank for television. The juries featured Neal Baer (AFI Class of 1983), Marshall Herskovitz (AFI Class of 1975), Michelle MacLaren, Bennett Miller, John Ridley, Renee Tajima-Peña, Emma Thomas and Matt Williams; authors and scholars, including Dr. Henry Gates Jr., Molly Haskell and Leonard Maltin; plus the AFI board of trustees; and film and television critics from media outlets such as Variety, the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone and TV Guide.
The awards honor works that are “deemed culturally and artistically representative of the year’s most significant achievements in the art of the moving image” and works that “advance the art of the moving image, enhance the rich cultural heritage of America’s art form, inspire audiences and artists alike, and/or make a mark on American society,” according to AFI.
Recipients will be saluted at an invitation-only luncheon Jan. 8, the Friday before the Golden Globes.
At the luncheon, AFI will reveal the jury rationales for each film and TV work chosen, providing artistic and cultural context for the selection.
AFI Movies of the Year
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Straight Outta Compton
AFI TV Programs of the Year
Better Call Saul
Game of Thrones
Master of None
AFI Special Award