MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

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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“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster