MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

26 Weeks To Oscar: The Year Of… Patience

The awards season has gotten off to a rousing “uh, okay.”

Yeah, the festival season is upon us and there is a lot of drool dripping over some of these films – including my own happy salivations – but it is easy to mistake strong players using the fests to launch their long, complex, and expensive awards plans and the notion that festival excitement is, in and of itself, an answer. It’s not… at least, not to the positive.

Films will die at VeniTelluRonto™, but even the most robust winners/survivors cannot assume they’re set. Some actors will lock in, probably… but not Picture. Two of last year’s ten nominees premiered at one of these festivals in the year they were released. (The Hurt Locker is the third… which was in Toronto in 2008… and almost failed to sell.) Slumdog was the only one of the five the year before. 2007 saw 4 of 5. But that was the exception that reminds us of the rule. In 2006… 1 of 5.

I’m not saying that these festivals are not a great tool for movie marketers to grab a great deal of attention. (And the Oscar race is a marketing event first and an artistic event second, make no mistake.) And who knows? There are those who feel that TIFF 2010 will have more than half the nominees in its theaters. No reason it can’t be the case. But again… it’s the start of a marathon, not a sprint where the first winners get automatic byes.

There are plenty of players in the game for Oscar 2010, but for the first time in a very long time, there are virtually no “you can lock that in from months away” candidates sitting there. You have Eastwood and you have The Coens and Sony over the moon about Fincher’s The Social Network. After that, even amongst pedigree players, it is hard for anyone to get a realistic temperature out there.

In the immortal words of Nancy Meyers, something’s gotta give. But what?

Danny Boyle has his golden statue and a movie that’s a thriller and a crowd pleaser… but is it Oscar? Mike Leigh is always a threat, but one never knows which film will leap up. Jim Brooks has batted .600 overall, with 3 of his first four films getting BP nods… but it’s been 13 years and a flop since he went to The Carpet.

The next group is pretty muscular, but still, a bit aspirational. Ed Zwick is always around The Money, so maybe a lighter film will get him to gold. Julian Schnabel hasn’t made a movie that didn’t get serious awards interest, but Miral may or may not be “good for The Jews.” Julie Taymor may get Shakespeare back in the game for the first time since Ken Branagh. (You remember Ken… director of Thor… right?) Randall Wallace has been to the dance, but is his horse movie too Disney to be embraced as seriously as it will need to be?

David O. Russell is one of the most storied young directors… but has never been nominated… is The Fighter his The Wrestler? And what of young Aronofsky? Is his thriller too thrilling for The Senior Circuit? Also challenging voters with fresh intensity are Mark Romanek, Anton Corbjin, and Ben Affleck (back, this time starring in his sophomore, somewhat more conventional but still very 70s, directorial effort).

Right in what seems like The Oscar Pocket are Tony Goldwyn with a period overcoming-the-odds flick, Calendar Guy Nigel Cole with a warmer Norma Rae, Tom Hooper segueing from John Adams and the well-liked but unrewarded The Damned United to something more Queen-erific, and Roger Michell doing another turn on classic Jim Brooks.

And the Really Young Set… or at least, young to The Academy: Cholodenko, Boden/Fleck, Cianfrance, and Schneider. All in play for real… but still a bit of a mystery to the voters, who, in reality, are not cineastes, but industry pros, as given to whims as any other large group.

Debra Granik is a remarkable director and undeniably a starmaker, but Roadside Attractions needs to leap into the Oscar game with both feet is her Winter’s Bone is to get out of summer and take a firm position in the awards season. RA also picked up the Bardem-starrer from Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu, making them The New Awards Player in town. They have earned a taste for all this, after winning Oscar last year for Best Doc. They just picked up the new Ondi Timoner doc, hoping for a repeat. Roadside certainly doesn’t want to follow too closely in the footsteps of Sidney Kimmel and Bob Yari, as both men have, ahem, narrowed their film interests since they were seen chasing awards. They don’t have the support of horny vampires, a la Summit. But in the land of 10 Best Picture nominees and extremely strong candidates for Actor & Actress, it may be their time.

And who has the fullest stable of contenders? Harvey Weinstein… natch. But damned if I know whether he has the cash, staff, and will to grab what, from a distance, could easily be 2 BP slots out of 10.

Of course, there are the pictures that have already done their big theatrical releases: Toy Story 3, Inception, and Shutter Island. Plus we’ll see pushes from Alice in Wonderland and How To Train Your Dragon.

Floating out there are a new Peter Weir film (aka, the Scott Rudin movie that has no distribution) and a first from screenwriting Oscar winner William Monahan. But who wants to jump onto a moving train to get them into the race in the next 3 months?

And Tyler Perry’s presence is now official. And if he doesn’t get some love, Academy members could just find themselves Madeaed. Watch out.

Does any of this make you feel more settled about what happens next?

Thing is… it will turn into some solids as we move forward. It always does. And those sure bets are often not as sure as we all like to think. But right now, there is a lot more passionate churning about every category but Best Picture. And I have to say… kinda cool for a change.

44 Responses to “26 Weeks To Oscar: The Year Of… Patience”

  1. The Pope says:

    VeniTelluRonto. Good!

  2. Don Murphy says:

    And David continues to care more about Oscars than any single person involved in the race.

  3. David Poland says:

    Oh, Don. I love it when you are just plain wrong.

  4. Don Murphy says:

    Cool let me know when I am. I’m a member, I vote and I know other voters. You think they read this internet shit and make a decision based on that? “Oh look, Glenn and Jeff says it’s a lock I better vote?” You’re delusional, have been for some time. Look around- comment wasteland. But I’m wrong? LOL.

  5. The Pope says:

    Don, are you really, really, really suggesting that someone who has a shot at an Oscar cares LESS than David does? Come on, they are in with a shot and, woops, the last time I checked, David has never been in the running for any category.

    I doubt that ANY MCN writer thinks for one second that they have ANY influence over Academy voters. I think they write to cover the coverage, and in there they mix their opinions as to what might go forward.

    Go back out on the deck and enjoy the rest of Labor Day.

  6. Don Murphy says:

    Pope- You’re posting and I’m working so don’t tell me what the fuck to do.

    People who win awards do not think the way David and others claim they do. They do not sit there and weigh their chances. They are HAPPY to win or be nominated but they don’t think about it half a year early. 26 weeks? How sad.

  7. SmilingPolitely says:

    Don, I really wish you wouldn’t get so snippy in the comment sections of others. You’re not doing yourself or the movies your associated with any favors.

    This is David’s house, and you’re needlessly pissing in it. You really should confine this stuff to your own site.

    Best of luck on Transformer 3. I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing what Michael Bay can do in 3D.

  8. Don Murphy says:

    Thank you for your wishes. I don’t believe anybody cares.

  9. The Pope says:

    Don, odd as this may sound, I care (a little).

    I confess to never having seen anything of the Transformers phenom. The TV show completely bypassed me as a kid and so I never got the bug when your movies came out. But I endlessly tip my hat to for having had the strength and vision to bring them to the screen.

  10. Don Murphy says:

    I don’t think anyone cares about your WISHES.

  11. mutinyco says:

    Don, do you prefer Dirty Deeds or Highway to Hell?

  12. Rszanto says:

    If it comes out in time, I would imagine that “The Tree of Life” would be a very strong contender in just about every category.

  13. David Poland says:

    Don… as I point out all the time… it’s almost 6000 voters… no one perspective fits them all… even yours.

    Millions of dollars are already being spent to push these movies into place, both to commercial goals and awards goals.

    No insult intended, but I feel much the way you feel about Transformers as you seem to about this. I am interested in seeing the movies when they are made. I hope they will be of some value to my life. But I could not care less about what Bay is blowing up or CGing this week or last month or over the next none months.

    But others do. And they are not assholes for being interested.

    Same as ComicCon. I don’t hate the event of begrudge anyone from using the event to have great fun or sell a movie. When I write about the limitations of the event, all I am saying is that you can’t just go drop half a mil at ComicCon and think you’ve sold many extra tickets. Every studio gets to decide how much money they will spend playing to the base and what they think it makes work for them.

    Do I think caring about a first-look picture from Thor… or Harry Potter… or Twilight is stupid? Yeah… for me. But I don’t think someone else is stupid to care. They’re just into something that I am not.

    And, young Don, besides all the hoopla, I do have news for you. How some of these movies are or are not released does depend on what the yokels have to say about it. Many studios will calculate their entire plan for the release of these films during TIFF, based on audience reaction, primarily, but media reaction as well. These are not films where you can make an absolute piece of shit and get away with it because you made a car turn into a robot. Most of these films will be more publicity driven than ad driven. And that means leaning on media.

    Of course, you must know this.

    But you’d rather snipe.

    Winter’s Bone did nearly $6 million on publicity and word of mouth. Maybe $6m means nothing to you. But some people spend their entire careers making movies for under $10 million and praying for a $6m domestic grosser. It won’t get Debra Granik rich. But apparently, that’s not her primary goal.

  14. Don Murphy says:

    First David ” I can afford to run my site and pay people with only two tiny ads on the main page” Poland condescend to someone else who buys your bullshit after this amount of time, not me. I am at least as old as you so “Young” really is a condescending fucking ignoramous remark.

    You’re the guy who quotes budgets that people pull out of their ass and give to you. You don’t know what a single movie actually cost to make or market so you don’t know whether a film made money or not. What has Comicon got to do with anything? It was a fun place I used to go to see friends now it is some bullshit gathering where idiots convince themselves Scott Pilgrim is a good film. And what has TIFF or Winter’s Bone got to do with the price of your razor at the Art of Fucking Shaving David?

    The point was, is and remains- NOBODY CARES what Poland, Wells, Thompson, Hammond, or Chewbacca writes or thinks about the Oscars. You haven’t been right about a single film nor wrong about a single film- you simply don’t matter. Transformers or not (“hey look he calls it “Trannyformers” isn’t he fucking clever kids?”)isn’t the point. You can rage that Mark Romanek’s new film is a lock just like Phantom of the Fucking Opera was a lock. Wells can write like he did yesterday that you liking a film is a curse. And the joke is NOT ONE VOTE is swayed no matter how much band width you waste.

    So condescend to someone that doesn’t know more than you do, or better yet, team up with Voynar and conquer the local Stone Creamery. If you don’t want comments don’t have them, bitch.

  15. IOv3 says:

    You want to refer to David as a Bitch, then why not go say it to his face. If not, tread lightly.

  16. Don Murphy says:

    I believe I just did. Thanks for your advice.

  17. merkin muffley says:

    Damn Don. For someone who doesn’t care, you getting your panties into quite the bunch over this.

    The lady doth protest too much methinks.

  18. David Poland says:

    Wow, Don.

    Anything else left in your ass to pull out?

    You’re a sad, angry man.

  19. Don R. Lewis says:

    Don-
    As much as I want to agree that no one who votes for the Oscars “cares” what David or Tapley or anyone says, I have to ask you to remember where you live. I love L.A. but lets face it: it’s a city inundated with entertainment BS 24/7. Although I can’t speak to it having never hung there, I’m sure New York is the same way.

    Sites like these DEFINITELY flash a little beacon to films come awards season and I’m not sure it’s right or wrong. On that note, are you actually saying every Academy member sees these films without any kind of pre-screening build up or PR and just votes from their heart?? Christ, no one voting on anything anywhere does that!

    My point is- in an entertainment driven town like L.A. or NY, buzz gets eyes. Gurus of Gold and other sites predicting stuff (which is fun, unless you’re miserable and grump for no apparent reason) is fun and if it can help a little seen film gain some traction, I’m game.

  20. Don Murphy says:

    Old Davey, if you are going to dismiss multiple points right across your bow you are free to do so but at least make your own dismissive shot up, okay bucko. If I say you pulled something out of your ass you don’t say “wow anything else to pull out of your ass Don.” You should have learned better in third grade. You say “Yawn Don, your accuracy is boring me” or something equally trumping.

  21. IOv3 says:

    We all know full well that David lacks the ability to be snippy. Snarky, sure. Down right angry? Not so much.

    Now here’s a response you would get from David Poland, if he had my background; “Shit bitch. The only reason you don’t give a shit about this is because you could live two fucking lifetimes and not one fucking film you produce, would get a significant nomination.

    Now, why don’t you go and try to make a half-way decent film, so maybe one day, DON MURPHY and GOOD MOVIE will be put together in the same god damn sentence. Shit. Sweating my balls over Oscar coverage I have been doing the same way for 5 MOTHERFUCKING YEARS? Fuck you, motherfucker. Fuck you and everything associated with you.”

    DNP.

  22. Anonymous Regular Reader of MCN and HotBlog says:

    As a casual reader of the site, I have to say that the chart is at least interesting. I know that David wants this to sort of be like a trade blog or something, and it may be (wouldn’t have any idea), but I value this sort of thing because I’m interested in it, so what else matters? The Transformer Man needs to realize that as content, this stuff gets passed around, and for better or worse it may let a few bumkins like myself raise our antennae toward an interesting film’s direction.

  23. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I don’t mind Don’s New York style – I have no real problem with people starting shit as long as they’re prepared to back it up and live with the consequences.

    In DP’s defense I’m not sure if he believes that columns like this “matter” in the sense that they influence the outcome… or even provide an accurate insight into the workings of the nomination process. It’s for an observer’s point of view, and as long as everyone’s cool with the fact that it’s somewhere near “fantasy football”, then no harm no foul.

    Fuck, ESPN makes a killing on behind the scenes play analysis when most of the athletes couldn’t even pronounce the words, let alone think about an in-depth strategy in the heat of the action.

  24. SmilingPolitely says:

    After Poland screened Avatar, he said that it was not only lock for a Best Picture nomination, but it would also be one of the top 2 highest-grossing movies of all time. He was damn right about that one. This was a week before the film opened, too.

    And Don, if Poland, Wells, Thompson, Hammond etc. don’t matter, then why do studios feel the need to spend money on “For Your Consideration” ads on their sites every year?

    I don’t understand why you want to spew on an awards blog. I mean, this isn’t really your films’ audience anyway. Why don’t you go to Chud, AICN, or the IMDB boards and get pissy there? That’s your demographic.

  25. The truth is that Don and David do have one thing in common: fun. Don tries his best to make fun movies and David has fun talking about Oscars. Not a damn thing wrong with fun.

  26. Don Murphy says:

    Can’t tell for sure but it looks like you are using as your avatar that ludicrous woman from Scott Pilgrim. If so, this makes you the most laughable loser on planet Earth.

  27. Keil Shults says:

    I don’t always agree with Poland’s reviews or prognostications, but isn’t sort of his job to care about the Oscar race? If he was a neurosurgeon who kept bringing up the dark horse potential of Waking Ned Devine during an operation, I could see giving him crap about it.

  28. Don Murphy says:

    who gave him that job? why? what are his qualifications? who vets his decisions? who holds him accountable? why does his opinion matter more than a tribesman’s in Botswana?

  29. Keil Shults says:

    If I weren’t at work, I’d have to go investigate this Don Murphy guy’s site. Despite being a big reader of film websites, I’ve never heard of the guy, though from what I can tell he’s at least as old as David Poland and really likes the Transformers franchise. Anything else I should know?

  30. Tim DeGroot says:

    Quentin Tarantino punched him once.

  31. The Pope says:

    Come on Don. At the top of this thread when I suggested you you go out on the porch and enjoy Labor Day, you shot back saying you were working while I was posting. And yet you spent the rest of the day “working” on this thread.

    Go work. Go do something else. Go Transform.

  32. Don Murphy says:

    If you’re the Pope shouldn’t you be molesting young boys?

  33. Oscar Levant, eat your heart out.

  34. Jake McClure says:

    Edited. [inappropriate]

  35. yancyskancy says:

    I feel like I’m missing something here. In all the time I’ve been reading Dave’s Oscar prognostication columns, I’ve never gotten the impression that he intends them to have any effect on the voters’ decisions whatsoever. He reads tea leaves and makes predictions. Foamy’s fantasy football analogy seems apt, if not exact. This stuff is for those of us who have an interest in it even though we have no horse in the race (sorry, didn’t mean to switch sports in midstream). Naturally, if you don’t share that interest, you get nothing from 26 weeks of Oscar speculation, the same way I get nothing from trying to guess who’ll be going to the Super Bowl or the World Series before the first games of the season have been played.

  36. Shillfor Alanhorn says:

    I don’t think Dave is nearly as presumptuous as Don claims, but Don is not entirely wrong, either. It’s unfortunate and ridiculous that an entire cottage industry of self-proclaimed expert Oscar prognosticators has sprung up, all clawing for a piece of the ad revenue pie that used to be the exclusive domain of the trades, but Dave is hardly the worst or most self-important offender. Still, to look at the “Gurus of Gold” chart and see (for the most part) professional journalists weighing in with predictions on movies they haven’t even seen (and, in some cases, haven’t even been completed) is a really damning and depressing commentary on the whole racket.

    The bloggers obviously don’t directly impact awards votes. But, as Harvey Weinstein has discovered and exploited for years, stirring up buzz does. Oscar voters don’t read the blogs, but lazy journalists trawling for stories like Patrick Goldstein and Brooks Barnes do, and if Goldstein writes second-hand about blog buzz, it suddenly becomes a “story” in the “legitimate” media (and then the LA Times will pass the story along to the 17,000 other columnists they have on the Oscar beat and they’ll try to wrangle a “special supplement” out of it, in which they can hopefully sell a few more “for your consideration” ads). For the older Oscar voters, in particular, “Oh, I hear good things about that one” is enough to make a movie or performance a sudden short-list contender. The “buzz,” however manufactured, plays a big role in this (this is also why the National Board of Review — the Iowa caucus of Oscar season — has a ridiculously oversized role in the process). The funny thing is how few of these journalists and writers realize how thoroughly they’re being played by publicists and how few of the voters examine just how the “buzz” is so thoroughly manufactured. Look at the sudden groundswell of buzz on “The King’s Speech” after one Telluride screening: is it borne out of genuine love for the film, or from Weinstein expertly spinning a few key players?

    Unfortunately, it is as it ever was…. Ugh.

  37. Hopscotch says:

    Among my friends, we’re all just dying to see True Grit. Everything else is secondary.

  38. Don Murphy says:

    They aren’t advertising to Poland, they are hoping a few members read the site and see the ad. The amount of money they spend here is a nano slice of what Variety used to get.

  39. qwiggles says:

    I just think it’s funny that Don Murphy is lecturing David Poland about the mind of an Oscar contender. I mean, I know you are a voter, Don, because you told us so, but isn’t this kind of like assuming someone who vaguely witnessed a car crash out of the corner of his eye while rocking his iPod knows more about the accident than the rescue workers who stepped in to figure out what happened afterwards? If you don’t give a shit, why are you so intent on proving that you “know other voters”?

    (Also, I really loved the lilting and lulling — if ludicrous — lines of your alliterative lambasting of IOv3.)

  40. transmogrifier says:

    The Oscars are such a bubble of self-congratulatory hype….and not from the actual contenders, but from the nethounds that breathlessly try to manufacture drama in an ultimately pointless “race”.

    David, watch movies and discuss them. You are interesting and worth reading when you do that. Don’t give us 26 more weeks of this crap.

  41. Egyed says:

    Hi, I like your post. I wish everyone would pay such attention to their post as you do. I came acros your blog on yahoo when searching for a compartment. I will come back to your blog. I am sorry for my poor englisch, i am from the netherlands. Best regards from the netherlands!

  42. Dan R says:

    Don Murphy may be the richest internet troll ever. It’s amazing that he got so worked up about something as trivial as this.
    Instead of a good discussion about the films, everyone is letting Don dictate the conversation. Personally I haven’t really fallen in love with any films this year, but The American may be as close to perfect that I’ve seen so far – and it is not without a few issues.
    2010 has not been a banner year.

  43. Joe Me says:

    You say there are no “Locks” for the awards ceremony, but i think there are a lot of “close to locks”, if not sure things out there already. I think the problem with your view of this topic is that you’re looking too closely in the festival circuit, when i believe that this year’s list is going to actually include a lot more “mainstream” movies than “indies”. Whether I’m blind or you are, here’s my list of what i believe to be the seasons best, in order of likelyhood of making the list, not in order of how i personally would pick them, or how I think the academy will pick them to finish:

    1. Inception – Christopher Nolan has been making great films his whole career and i think that with this great mix of action and a character piece that this is the year he gets a good shot to win. A definate sure thing to make the list after Avatar showed last year that with a list of ten that “action” movies can make the cut and get a legitimate shot for the win. I say this movie is runner up.

    2. Shutter Island – Martin Scorcese has been a mainstay on the academy lists over the years, and this year is no different. Though not one of his more realistic movies( this one to me feels more a kin to Aviator than Goodfellas or The Departed) Shutter Island still is a great story that at the end does give you a quick yet real jolt of realism and heartfelt emotion that usually is lacking in Scorsese of late. A definate maker in the list of ten and a rival for the top spot.

    3. Toy Story 3 – I don’t like this movie personally and wouldn’t put it on the list myself, but it’s Pixar, and that means it makes the list.

    4. The Social Network – THis movie is the most guaranteed to make the list in my opinion. Yet with Justin Timberlake in it, i just can’t put it at the top. I think this will win the award, mainly because it is a decent snapshot of our recent times (ala Crash) but also because Fincher is one of the GREAT directors of our time and this might be the year the academy goes for a “body of work” award. THis is Finchers The Departed. Like Scorcese, not his best movie, but the one that gets him the award. A definate lock to the list.

    5. Black Swan – Aranofsky showed with the Wrestler that he can do a REAL movie that people can actually connect to, unlike whatever the Fountain was. He did it before with Requiem, but this one looks both mysterious, real, and almost Kubrickian at times. I think he’s got a decent shot to win it, but there are others more likely ahead of him. A definate for the list, but needs to get a good push when it comes out for a possible win.

    6. Never Let me Go – You need a sentimental movie with great acting on the list, and this one’s it. Plus it has Carey Mulligan and Keira KNightly so it’s almost a sure thing. Not close to being a winner though.

    7. True Grit – The Cohen Brothers are the new Scorcese, they’ll make the list any year they make a non flat out comedy. A sure thing, espescially since they’re staying close to the book instead of making anything close to the stupid John Wayne origional.

    8. Get Low – The list also needs a quirky heartwarmer on it(ala Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, et. . .) So this ones it. I was up in the air whether to put “The kids are alright” or “It’s kind of a funny story” but i think Get Low is more the academy’s taste.

    9. An American – George Clooney. The End.

    10. Winter’s Bone – This was a hard last spot to choose, but i went with Winter’s Bone because of the amazing story and mix of family and crime that make this movie so interesting. The acting isn’t too bad either, Amazing would be my choice of adjectives. This movie also fills the need for an “Indie” film, edging out in my mind Mike Leighs, “Another Year” and Sophia Coppola’s “Somewhere” for the same spot. A great movie, yet no chance at a win. A few acting nominations though.

    So there’s my list, and i think it shows that there is a strong group of movies this year. Yet I will admit it’s not as great a year as some other recent ones. Though last years sucked worse than this one, othan the winner of course.

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