By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
23 Weeks To Oscar: It’s Getting Hot In Here, So Take Off All Your Journalistic Ideals
I was asked two questions by a journalist for a story and I am holding this entry until he publishes, so as not to step on his feet… but I thought my answer to him was a pretty good read on how I assess the field of awards analysis right now.
1. Is there a “right” time to begin Oscar prognosticating? Is it ever too early?
2. “It’s only September!” is a phrase I’ve seen many times in recent weeks. But don’t we always start our punditry in September, or even earlier? Did something change this year?
There is never a wrong time to project anything, so long as the prognosticator offers context. The trouble starts when people start throwing out definitive statements when many of the films that may be in contention have not been seen or when every event in the calendar brings forth a fresh round of “this is the big moment.” You can look at the year’s calendar in March and see what films seem to be likely awards contenders… but only about half the list will be publicly available at that time. Cannes may or may not add or subtract from the list. TIFF tends to have at least 10 contenders every season, so that can change the battlefield quite dramatically. NYFF to a lesser degree.
But it’s not really until that first week of December, when the very last movie is shown, that a definitive argument can be made. And at that point, most of the awards groups will announce winners or nominations within 2 weeks.
So there is never really the “right” time for being too sure. But if you show some modesty, anytime is fine.
Yes, the punditry does rev up round TIFF every year… tends to go silent for a couple months after. This year, the noise still coming out is thicker and louder than ever as more and more outlets – especially Old Media outlets – try to claim a big position in the game.
“It’s only September” is naive on some level. The companies pushing out awards movies have been strategizing and making decisions about these films for months by September. The season really starts in April/May. On the other hand, making definitive statements about who or what is going to win this or that in September is a bit idiotic. It is true that some movies, like The King’s Speech, seem, in September, to be set to ride the wining wave for the next 4 or 5 months. But one doesn’t really know until all the horses are in the gates. Another shoe can always drop… and no one knows how or when that might happen. Often, it is the shoe that never drops that surprises. But no one really knows. Publicists claim to know… but they are working and their job is to obfuscate.
The only thing that really changed this year is that more journalists are trying to plant a flag. In order to be unique, you need to find your own space. In order to find your own space in an already overcrowded arena like awards punditry, you almost always need to overreach. And they have. And more will. And even for the veterans covering this, a higher level of insistence is likely, just to be heard over the din.