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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

20 Weeks To Oscar: 6 Weeks To Go – The Great Rush To Judgment… And Subsequent Settling

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…

It’s weird.

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.)

3 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar: 6 Weeks To Go – The Great Rush To Judgment… And Subsequent Settling”

  1. movielocke says:

    imagine if instead of the nominations thursday we got the Oscar Longlists, with ten-fifteen candidates qualifying in all categories and 20-30 qualifying for BP.

  2. Bob Burns says:

    now, if they move the ceremony to late January it will make sense.

    clear out Feb for popcorn. March has become a launch month for big films, why not Feb?

  3. movielocke says:

    hah, called the Affleck snub, the whole thing has felt far too Apollo 13 to me all season long (including identically suspenseful endings for both movies, Affleck is now the favorite to win the DGA ala Howard!), the Bigelow snub is shocking, Hooper a bit less so, I really thought Bigelow would win.

    @ Bob, I think that’s the idea behind the earlier date this year, they want to land the awards in the week in between the end of the NFL playoffs and the Superbowl.

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“To be a critic is to be a workaholic. Workaholism is socially conditioned: viewed favourably by exploiters, it’s generally ruinous to a worker’s mental health. When T.S. Eliot said criticism was as inevitable as breathing, he failed to mention that, respiratory problems notwithstanding, breathing is easy. Criticism is reflexive before reflective: to formalise/industrialise an involuntary instinct requires time, effort and discipline. The reason we seek remuneration, as opposed to the self-hatred of being a scab, is because all labour should be waged…

“Criticism, so the cliché by now goes, is dying. None of the panel discussions on its death agony, however—including those in which I’ve formally participated—come at it from the wider perspective that the problem surely needs. They defend the ways in which criticism functions in relation to the industry and to the public, but they fail to contextualise these relationships as defined by ultimately rotten and self-harming imperatives.

“Criticism was a noble profession so long as only a few could practice it for money; when the field expands, as it has with a so-called ‘democratisation’ of our practice, those few lose their political power. Competition grows and markets are undercut: publications are naturally going to start paying less. Precarity is both cause and effect of a surplus workforce: the reason you’re only as good as your last article is because there are plenty of other folks who can write the next one in your place. The daily grind is: pitch, or perish.

B”ut criticism, so a counter-cliché goes, is not dying. An irony: this is an elite sport that is no longer elite in terms of who is able to practice it, but in economic terms it’s clutching to a perverse and outmoded hierarchical structure. It’s more meritocratic than ever, now: which is to say it isn’t meritocratic at all. That’s a paradox in bad need of a resolution…”

~ Michael Pattison Manifestoes Film Criticism

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~ Matt Zoller Seitz To Sam Esmail

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