This Great Settling is an annual phenomenon. Basically, it is when all the elements – critics, box office, awards, publicity, marketing – coalesce into some kind of consensus.
Only this season, because of rather bizarre choices by The Academy, the whole thing has been rushed. And though prognosticators want to believe that we have settled into a frontrunner and 2nd and 3rd slot… but we really haven’t. We are in an odd space where there are no clear answers and doors that would have seemed shut in years past could be opened.
This has been overly rationalized in the media – even though there is some truth to it – into a field too competitive for a front-runner to truly emerge. It’s more like, “the sex is pretty good, but the guy isn’t patient/focused enough to bring her to climax.”
Someone is going to get into the groove soon. But one never knows “who” it will be.
Now, it could be that traditional notions of what happens after nominations are announced in recent years – pleasure in nominations, but concession to the unconquerable mountain that one or two films have built – are how studios process this season in the next few days. Pencils down! Hands in the air!
But what the history-laden don’t seem to want to understand this year is that The Academy has created a major disruption within its own ranks. The Academy will never admit how many people didn’t vote for nominations this year. Regardless, because of their accelerated schedule, Academy voters, who got back from holiday just a week ago, will have seen most of their January experience of the awards season end 5 days from now with the Golden Globes presentation.
It’s not that The Globes are unusually early… it’s that by the time they are handed out, we will already have had days to digest Oscar nods… and BFCA… and both LA & NY’s critics dinners…
Is it good? Is it bad? I have no idea.
But it is, to my eye, the most significant influencer in the season so far… more so than the marketing or the movies. They started the race before all of the horses were in the gate. That doesn’t mean that one of those unsettled horses won’t win. Magic happens in all races. Where was The Hurt Locker before Avatar became a phenom? But it’s different.
There is really no way to quantify the situation, as the data that would help – still leaving mostly opinion – is private and not available to me or anyone else with a public forum. (In theory, it is not openly available to The Academy itself.)
But what I can surmise is that we are about to go into The Great Settling with extra weeks for things to form. There will be almost nothing Oscar-y worth writing about from next Monday through the Super Bowl. And that void in the news cycle can drive people to distraction. But the media doesn’t get to vote for The Oscar.
What will happen is some breathing room. People who have seen Lincoln may see it again. Those who have not, will see it soon. Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook will have national roll-outs that will either prove impressive commercially or awards-repressive. Universal will find a way (has to find a way) to give another peak for Les Miserables to reach. Argo will just keep rolling along, the Good Son of the season, not clearly exciting enough, but not generating any big negativity either… hoping to split the difference between others (which, of course, is only in position to do because it is a very good movie). And Life of Pi will be trying to find a way to connect this movie to the actors’ branch, another solid underdog amongst sexier players.
Memes will grow stronger. Some will be strangled in the crib. And others could be reversed in the next few weeks, but by no magic of publicists or journalists.
Ultimately, voters (aka, people) will decide for themselves. And if everyone tells them they are crazy, they will either acquiesce or get angry and fight harder for what they care about.
There are many thing Pete Hammond thinks and writes along the way that I think are laughable. However, it is during The Great Settling when he shines with insight because he spends more time directly associating with the Academy members than anyone else in the business. When I get back from Sundance, his opinion will be the one I am most interested in… not today… but in a 3 weeks or so. If there is The Answer, he may well know it by then. He will certainly know what the 2-film race has become.
But as of today… as of the parade of opinions when nominations are announced on Thursday… it’s Goldman Time, baby. No one KNOWS anything. Not yet.
(This won’t keep us all, me included, from spouting off. See you on Thursday with a new column.)