MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks To Oscar: First Major Event


There are three major events in the Oscar season when it comes down to the actual voters.

Major Event 1: Watching movies over Thanksgiving weekend. This is a big one, as this is when most of the movies are in the hands of the voters and they are going to interact with friends and family for four days straight without the weight of the real world bearing down upon them. Not only will most voters who have not seen the current slate of front runners sit down and watch, but they will also be influenced to watch some stuff they wouldn’t otherwise watch by those around them. And not only might they see the film, but they can be influenced by the awareness of those who are not nearly as powerful as they, aka non-voters.

Been dragging your feet on Nightcrawler? This is the moment. Not so sure you’re ready to seriously consider a musical again? Into The Woods hits that DVD player for everyone in the family who wants to see if Meryl or Chris Pine or Emily Blunt can sing… or who know that Anna Kendrick can sing from Pitch Perfect and must see her sing some more immediately. Is Wild going to happen? Only if a bunch of voters like what they see on the DVDs this weekend. How many people will fall asleep in the first hour of Inherent Vice this weekend, wake up and ask their spouse, “What happened?,” and be told, “Hell if I know… but there is this scene I need to rewind to so you can see it and explain it to me.”

Here’s another view… if a voter’s family makes them watch The Theory of Everything again, even if the voter doesn’t really want to, and the voter sits through it again why the family enjoys it, that can change a vote. (Of course, enter any film here. Theory was just an example.)

And if the women in the household get you to watch The Fault In Our Stars, make sure the lights are down and spend a few hours complaining about allergies, because you will definitely cry and there is a very good chance you will seriously consider Shailene Woodley for Best Actress in a way you never expected.

Major Event 2: There’s an 11-day Christmas/New Year’s window this year. In that period, there will be more viewing – on DVDs and off – more persuading, and a lot of deciding. There is some influence on this event by the many awards either given out or nominated in the three weeks before the December holiday window. But those awards are not the critical event. They can draw interest to actors or films that may have been lower in the big pile of DVDs. (The count here, as of this writing, is 60 awards DVDs… and that doesn’t include the glorious but massive block of DVDs sent by Magnolia/Magnet.)

I, of course, am a movie freak, and have seen all but a dozen or so of the more obscure titles that have been sent. But even frequent moviegoers have probably seen as many or as few as half the films.

Still missing as of this writing, but likely to show up in the next couple weeks, are all the Paramount films – Interstellar, Selma, The Gambler, Top Five, and maybe Noah. Three of the films haven’t been released yet and Paramount did send out free ticket vouchers to see Interstellar in a theater, which is smart.

Likewise, no Weinstein Company movies… at least not on my doorstep. No Imitation Game. No St Vincent. No Tracks. And no Big Eyes.

The reasoning, we have heard over the years, is not sending things out before they open. But we do have Into The Woods and American Sniper, which are not opening until Christmas Day (from different companies than those whose discs aren’t out).

But as noted, those are likely to turn up in a couple of weeks (along with Unbroken), before Christmas Day, in time for the second major viewing window.

People complain about the DVD discussion each year. And I agree that all these movies are better seen on a screen and there are plenty of screenings. But the movies that everyone wants to leave home to see are just fine. It’s those to which there is some resistance that stand to win big over these home viewing windows.

Major Event 3: Post-nominations. Field narrows. Attention is focused.

It often feels like winners have been predetermined even before nominations are announced, but mostly not… and this year, especially not.

The movies still matter a lot, but other stuff matters more than before. For instance, it doesn’t matter if you win the Golden Globe or even if you are nominated for it… but your speech/presentation/demeanor can be an instant gamechanger. Just how you sit at a table can become a meme. And if you can walk away, win or lose, with people rooting for you, things are going your way.

The rest of it is detail work. Guild nominations are rarely outside of the well-established box. It takes a series of those events in coordination to change the game. Critics awards… lovely. But enjoy them for what they are, because they may not match nominations, much less winners.

The business of awards has changed, so that more and more emphasis is put on the “precursors,” but this is – like much of movie marketing – about awareness more than closing the sale. Quick… tell me who won the network-televised Hollywood Film Awards for Best Actor. Benedict Cumberbatch? Eddie Redmayne? Michael Keaton? Steve Carell? All of the above? None of the above?

No one really remembers. But there was a red carpet and TV cameras and so, it matters… kinda.

This weekend is the first big weekend of award season. It will be won by The Hunger Games, which may or may not get a single Oscar nomination. But hearts and minds will be changed… but the work itself… and for all the circus, that is really what matters… and that is what wins Oscars.

One Response to “20 Weeks To Oscar: First Major Event”

  1. Patryk says:

    Sad that appearance at early awards shows influences some voters. I found McConaughey extremely annoying throughout the awards season and he still won over (arguably) more worthy contenders. So I guess poise and charm and just the right amount of humility can count…sometimes.

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“Dude, I don’t like the way you talk, bro. How can you tell me that it’s going to be hard? Do you see a lot of people like you writing stories? Give me a break, bro. That’s your strength, that you’re not like us. Go out there and tell your stories. Don’t go out there and try to be like Quentin or me or anybody else. We need you. Tell me what makes you angry, why you’re arrogant, or fearful, whatever it is. Don’t hide anything. Be honest. What is that thing that bothers you and makes you distinct? Everyone’s looking for you. A Mexican point-of-view to tell a story right now? I’m telling you, everybody wants that right now. I desperately need you to tell your story in your way. You are essential.”
~ M. Night Shyamalan

“My films are always brought to life from an idea, a coincidence, or a dreamlike magic. An ephemeral moment that settles in my mind and starts to bloom. The plot slowly appears before my eyes, and there’s nothing left but to write it. I actually do use a mood board. And location scouting is essential to the realization of the film. I’m inspired by architecture — the beauty of certain neighborhoods, the mystery in odd buildings, or streets that suggest psychoanalytic theories. I only choose my actors after I write the script.”
~ Dario Argento