MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

6 Weeks To Oscar: Parsing, Peak Award Season, and The Alleged Seven

everyone-parses

And so, we wait…

So far, the season looks like this…

Room
Mad Max: Fury Road
Carol
Spotlight
Spotlight
The Martian
The Revenant

That would be TIFF Audience Award, NBR, NYFCA, LAFCA, NSFC, Globe Comedy, and Globe Drama. The Alleged Seven.

Quite the consensus.

It’s almost like a joke. This is probably the year of Peak Award Season Bullshit. Can it really get any crazier than this year? Can there be more lunches (always preceded by a screening of some kind)? Can more awards be made up by more previously earnest organizations in order to bring along more sponsorship and milk just a little bit more from the award season teat? Can studios go along for the ride any more, chasing publicity as though it was a math problem and not an art form?

Who were the happiest people at the Golden Globes? Kate Winslet and Aziz Ansari, both utterly convinced they were not winning anything. (I guess Kate was a little happier than Aziz because she ended up winning by surprise.)

The saddest thing about the Golden Globes for me this year was reading a number of smart, established writers trying to find a rationale to excuse the con of 90 people of dubious significance who suck over $50 million a year out of the industry economy, both with the show and the perks given to them by rote by distributors.

Oh, that’s so funny! That’s so much like The Academy! Ha ha! (No.)

Denzel Washington, who had time to prepare, pretty well explained how the HFPA process works…

“Some of you may know Freddie Fields, he invited me to the first Hollywood Foreign Press luncheon. He said, ‘They’re gonna watch the movie, we’re gonna feed them, they’re gonna come over, you’re gonna take pictures with everybody, you’re gonna hold the magazines, take the pictures, and you’re gonna win the award.’ I won that year.”

Of course, it has gotten a lot more complicated than that in the decades since, as every distributor has lined up to “handle” the HFPA. Now there are 50 actors vying to be the one to do selfies towards the goal of getting a Globe, which is just a precursor in the chase for what they really want, which is an Oscar.

And at meetings at every place with a nominee that lost on Sunday night, there is a discussion on Monday about whether they did everything they could to win that stupid, meaningless award. Because when you lose or win something with a lot of people looking, it means something, even if the award is, rationally, utterly meaningless.

If the answer is, “No… we decided not to try to hard,” enjoy looking for your next job.

So… the effort is expended. And the 90 mostly semi-retired journalists, mostly from outlets no one has ever heard of, becomes the playing field for aggression and ego and big spending because once you get Hollywood fighting amongst itself over anything, the importance is magnified beyond any reason.

Who gave the best party? It matters. Who got their talent to work hardest? It matters. Who bought more covers? It matters.

Every major player in this space tracks what the others are doing and agonizes over comparisons or spins the meaning of the choices for month after month after month.

The Big Short won none of The Alleged Seven. So is it out of the race? Don’t tell that to PGA or ACE.

Six films won The Alleged Seven. Only four of the directors were nominated by DGA. Adam McKay of The Big Short, which has won no Best Picture titles from anyone of note as of yet, took the fifth slot. So are non-DGA nominees Carol and Room just out of the Best Picture picture? Is The Big Short a frontrunner even though it is coming from behind?

Only one of The Alleged Seven winners, Spotlight is nominated for SAG Ensemble, along with… AGAIN… The Big Short. SAG Ensemble is an utterly unreliable Oscar measure that has been hyped into importance. Does this mean that the race is down to Spotlight and The Big Short now? Does this mean The Alleged Seven mean nothing?

Parse, parse, parse. Parse, parse, parse. Parse, parse, parse. Hello boys, had a good night’s rest? I missed you!

Back and forth we go, zooming between breathlessly hoping that something will clarify the season while desperately hungry for surprises involving high quality films that many see as underserved by the awards season’s push to Oscar.

‘PGA, you are my only hope.”

Oh wait… there are Oscar nominations… in just a couple days…

Maybe they will be a fairly simple (overly complex math) offering of what The Academy – you know, the people who vote for the Oscars – likes this season. Maybe it will match up with expectations, including some precursors. Maybe it will not.

But I think the Academy has it all ass-backwards these days. The battle for nominations has taken precedence over what should be the battle for the win. And that is a shame.

Wouldn’t it be better if more of the Q&As, more of the chances to “socialize” with the talent, more of the intense look at a small group of pictures was taking place AFTER the nominations instead of before?

Is the ideal for an Oscar season that the voters nominate based mostly on what they actually like/love/respect and then, we all take a deep breath… and then really think about who the group thinks deserves to win the big award? Feed the hunger to know more after the field is settled, not as the process for settling the field.

Instead, we drunkenly (in many forms) lumber towards the starting gate, mostly expecting the work of the finals to be done before the horses are even locked in place. And indeed, in most seasons, the answers are down to either clear answers or one vs two battles by the time nominations happen. How is this a good thing?

And what do we do in Phase II? We sit around waiting, mostly. We amuse ourselves by giving out far too many awards (20 or so, with another 20 or so “contenders” doing panels) in Santa Barbara and having a few quiet shindigs and having guild events and the nominees luncheon and getting the show ready (which involves less than 10% of the Academy membership), all the while leaving the open question… what should really win?… unanswered. “You shoulda known by Martin Luther King Day, sweetheart!”

Nominations should be the start of a second major discussion… even if The Academy doesn’t want anything going on while they break their backs to build a TV show. With due respect, it’s not really about the damned TV show… it’s supposed to be about the movies!

And we in the media are as much to blame as anyone. We are, as a group, stuffing our pockets as fast as we can and could really not care much less about the quality or sanctity of award season. We don’t have to. The Academy doesn’t care what anyone does in Phase I anymore. So it’s puff, puff, puff it all up, all the time.

I hate to offer Deadline an idea… and it doesn’t have to be Deadline. It should be The Academy sponsoring this… but when is there an actual value to The Contenders? After the contenders are actually set.

Imagine, instead of little slots for hyperactive marking presentations, full half-days (three or four hours) dedicated to each of the Best Picture nominees. Show the movies. Meet the cast. Meet the below-the-line teams. Cross the groups when appropriate. When do we get a chance to hear from all the layers with enough time to get a sense of what happened? And when would it matter before nominations since all the branches vote separately? Have a real discussion of what went into the evolution of the film. Be a community, instead of a bunch of people running from event to event, trying to secure votes by showing fealty to the process.

We have all allowed the award season to become a gaping, hungry maw that leads to… the starting line. Which is insane, when you think about it. If we are at Peak Award Season Bullshit, let’s all get out the GPSes and plan a course for a change. The movies deserve it.

6 Responses to “6 Weeks To Oscar: Parsing, Peak Award Season, and The Alleged Seven”

  1. Daniella Isaacs says:

    “Imagine, instead of little slots for hyperactive marking presentations, full half-days (three or four hours) dedicated to each of the Best Picture nominees. Show the movies. Meet the cast. Meet the below-the-line teams. Cross the groups when appropriate. When do we get a chance to hear from all the layers with enough time to get a sense of what happened? And when would it matter before nominations since all the branches vote separately? Have a real discussion of what went into the evolution of the film. Be a community, instead of a bunch of people running from event to event, trying to secure votes by showing fealty to the process.” Perfect. Yes.

  2. chris says:

    You thought Denzel seemed prepared?

  3. Bob Burns says:

    Love it. great idea. stream the presentations.

    IMO, your DP30’s contribute to a more rigorous and professional awards process.

  4. Glamourboy says:

    Spotlight is so good that it is mentioned twice as one of the 7 on your list?

  5. chris says:

    Read the next sentence after the list, glamourboy.

  6. movielocke says:

    Sad that Star Wars didn’t get it’s much deserved Best Picture nomination, that’s the price of not doing screeners, I suppose. Clearly I was wrong about its awards prospects, this is why I’m not a pundit.

    I think, in spite of Tom Hardy’s much deserved surprise nomination, he is also the frontrunner. When you see the film he’s undeniable, turning in a better performance than Leo’s soon to be oscar winning work, Revenant is also the frontrunner for BP, BD, Cinematography, Editing and a much stronger and better film than Birdman.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“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