MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

20 Weeks To Oscar: The Big Quiet

Can you hear it?

Listen carefully.

Silence.

We are still a month from The Oscars.

We are still weeks from voting.

And in what has felt like a pretty open season is not accelerating into a passionate discussion of the top movies of 2017. The discussion is about the Solo trailer and Black Panther.

I will make my now-annual argument that The Academy has the season upside down. Now is when they should be stoking – and encouraging the distributors with films in play – the excitement. But instead, they restrict activities and leave the entire push to an enclave with a few hundred Oscar voters in what has devolved into a series of trade magazine promotions. (Perhaps they should start calling Santa Barbara “The Contended.”)

The four month slog from September to December remains a bit of a cluster fuck, though to be fair, the major studios have withdrawn nearly all but their Dependents and talent is participating less and less. Was there a single event this entire awards season that anyone can remember with passion?

All of the studios have put on lovely garden parties and lunches. But… yawn. Everyone does it by rote.

Do we remember anything about The Golden Globes that involved celebrating movies?

The (Fake) Hollywood Film Awards continues, without a TV platform or the slightest pretense of influence.

The Contenders has become a better liked event… but means nothing in the long run. I dare anyone to claim a single nomination over all these years of the event – which should be illegal by Academy rules – that was pushed along at all by appearing at The Contenders. No one will. Everyone does it because of fear of not doing it.

The most interesting events of a few years ago, musical events, have been eliminated by The Academy. (Jane managed to do it beautifully and unforgettably at The Hollywood Bowl… probably breaking a host of Academy rules in the process, which hasn’t become a talking point because the film was “just a doc” and now, it turns out, didn’t make it into the 5.)

I thought the “fashion show” evening for Phantom Thread was exceptional. Elegant. Beautiful. But the lack of a big presence by Paul Thomas Anderson and/or Daniel Day Lewis neutered its significance as an awards event.

Quick… right off the top of your head… can you remember what film won either NY or LA film critics? Best Actor? Best Supporting?

Look… no one can complain about lunch with celebrities at nice restaurants with good food and free valet parking.

There have been beautiful books and wonderful art and many charming people nicely dressed.

But the clutter… the repetition… the odd push by The Academy to kill showmanship while encouraging advertising spending ahead of publicity…

Have the great minds who manage the awards season forgotten how to put on a show that will have a lasting impact on voters (and the media, for that matter)?

The Nominees Luncheon is happening as I finish writing this piece. It is one of the great events of the whole season. Many call it their favorite event. But as a press event, it is crap… and it should be crap! It should be for the nominees. Putting press at tables inside is just stupid. It constrains a joyous event just a little, which is a little too much. Likewise, allowing the Governor’s Award to turn into an epic glad-handing media shitshow that generates more stories about potential nominees saying clever things than it does about the worthy winners of (essentially) lifetime achievement awards.

So… where does that leave us?

As of today, I see nothing – aside from the movies themselves – that is going to change anyone’s vote. The season is wide open for some movie to take a strong position and to win Best Picture against expectations. But… crickets. Ads. Managing the flow of information.

The conversations have been had. The movies have been seen. Might as well start voting this week. But we won’t.

This is the kind of season where The Default Movie wins. The question remains, what is the default movie?

Is it Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri or The Shape of Water?

Could the big grossers, Dunkirk or Get Out, leap into the power position?

Does Lady Bird have a strong enough following with men to be the default? For that matter, is Shape of Water too genre for the older half of The Academy? And will the chatter about Three Billboards being “racist” shape its potential?

As everyone has written, every film has its limitations this season.

So again what is The Default? And we’re back to the two Searchlight movies, which have split most of the awards so far.

And that is how it will probably go.

Maybe not. We still have a near 3 week window in which a clear case for any one of the nine nominees can emerge.

But it’s not looking like anyone wants it that bad.

Sigh.

5 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar: The Big Quiet”

  1. Monco says:

    The season is too long. The attention span of the media is too short. The Academy Awards should occur on the date the Globes do to be relevant by today’s social media standard. 2017 movies are so two months ago. We need to talk about the new shitty Star Wars movie.

  2. Bob Burns says:

    Most can agree on “Tone-deaf” for 3B. Why give Best Picture to a film nearly everyone already agrees is tone-deaf?

    I wonder if The Artist would have been nommed this year. It’s an embarrassment right there in front of everyone’s eyes. Honestly, can anyone say they won’t find 3B creepy in a few years?

  3. Hepwa says:

    Timothee Chalamet won Best Actor at LAFCA and NYFCC. I remember everything.

  4. shuddles says:

    @Monco, not sure if you’re aware, but that new Star Wars movie came out in 2017 as well.

  5. Stephen Barrow says:

    I agree that the awards season is far too long. I don’t understand why the Oscars get pushed back by an extra week every 4 years because of the Winter Olympics. How does one effect the other? If BAFTA happened 2 weeks after the Globes and Oscar 2 weeks after that we’d have had them already! However, we still haven’t had Lady Bird, Shape of Water or I, Tonya in Britain yet which is infuriating.

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch