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David Poland

By David Poland

On Bill Mechanic’s Break with the Academy

38 Responses to “On Bill Mechanic’s Break with the Academy”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    If all these micro-rants have a relationship to one another, or a point, no actual writer has come along to make it.

  2. spassky says:

    which micro rants are you talking about? those specifically of david, or the industry as a whole?

    I have to say, this along with your “abridged novel” comment on the other thread, doesn’t really strike me as laconic wit as much as obstinate and failing to create connections of your own (or making the incorrect ones half-heartedly)… not trying to pester or pile on you, i just think you’d do better explaining your points than acting like Diogenes under your rock

  3. palmtree says:

    DP, I appreciate letting us in on your Twitter thread. Hope this becomes a regular thing.

  4. lockedcut says:

    Drop the three short film categories (hand them out at the November ceremony) and combine the sound and sound effects category and add a stunts category. That shortens the show by getting rid of what 99.9999% of the audiences cares about the least but doesn’t axe any below the line group and eleiminates an anomalous redundancy that 99.99999999% of the audience (and at least 98% of the academy membership) cannot parse.

    Require studios to support extensive outreach to the entire film community of their top five grossing films (through November 30) or any films not in their top ten or from subsidiary branches and partnerships are disqualified from the Oscars.

    Require studio campaigns to devote equal time until November 30 to a studios top five grossers already released and films not yet released. Any publicity group that doesn’t provide equal campaign resources to top grossing films and yet to be released films is banned from working on future campaigns.

    All journalists that do not include equal coverage of each of the studios’ top five grossers (through nov 30) in their coverage of awards lose all of their academy press credentials, and studios are required to ban them from pre release screenings.

    Basically that last one is because almost every awards voters use google to find out the list of the years big awards movies, so when derby or gurus or whatever don’t track or cover force awakens but include every teensy movie with a sub one percent chance that creates a behavior reinforced by the voters of also ignoring the big movies. That is a problem because it forces the awards to not reflect the overall industry, but solely special interests. And when the awards are all to minuscule films that are all forgotten within a week of the Oscars, people stop watching the Oscars because it has nothing to do with any films that anyone has actually seen.

    Lists like gurus and derby’s and the publicists manipulating those lists with preferential support to microscopic films months in advance is as much if not more to blame for declining ratings than anything else affecting the Oscars.

  5. YancySkancy says:

    lockedcut: Who cares about the “top five grossers” unless they’re actually awards-worthy? It would be ridiculous to mount serious awards campaigns for Transformers: The Last Knight or Justice League. Big-grossing films that are critically respected get awards campaigns. That should be enough. Seems like every year it has to be explained that the Oscars are meant to reflect the taste of filmmaking professionals, not multiplex audiences. If it hurts the ratings, so be it. The day the Academy decides the show ratings are more important than the films is the day they’re done.

  6. Hcat says:

    Wow, don’t agree with any of that above.

    Certainly not turning the academy into a soviet like entity that dictates what a publication can print in exchange for access (goodbye indie wire).

    Certainly not the idea that only the top five films of a distributer should be promoted at the expense of smaller films. Sorry mother! but you didn’t outgross Transformers and the Turtles so we have to promote them for academy consideration since IT WOULD BE MORE REFLECTIVE OF THE INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE FOR THE TURTLES TO COMPETE FOR OSCAR GLORY.

    The Oscars are a PR exercise, they were created to show that there was art being produced along with the three stooges shorts and serials and b westerns. Studios use the Oscar attention to promote their films, its a symbiotic relationship. Forcing Universal to promote Furious 7 at the expense of Phantom Thread would be a giant waste of time and resources. Where academy viewers unaware that Furious had come out? Had a majority of them not seen it? Would a few ads have vaulted Tyrese into the Best Supporting Actor category and increased television viewership?

    I can imagine an earlier version of lockedcut complaining about all the attention Laurence of Arabia was getting at the expense of Hatari! “who is going to see a movie it takes a day and a half to watch? The Duke is what people want!”

    ETA: and typed too long and beaten to the punch. But it makes me laugh that we all hate Transformers.

  7. lockedcut says:

    It’s he logical extension of mechanics argument that he problem is no popular film has won in ten years. In today’s academy, fellowship or rotk wouldn’t even be nominated, which is farcical.

    Considering the current era is a golden age of high quality blockbusters (in many ways influenced by the quality of fellowship et al), this is a problem. But the problem is sourced in voters no longer believing movies like fellowship are award worthy in 2018. That problem has it’s roots in studio access and promotion which caters the films they service to the whims of the media who listens to the buzz the studio publicists are hawking who push what product the studio says the pundits want to see. it’s all an incestuous feedback loop that negatively reinforces microfilms to the top of the heap.

  8. Monco says:

    I think a large part of the problem is simply that the ceremony takes place too late. The Globes are popular because it is in the exact spot an awards show should be in to celebrate the films of the year. Right after the Holidays and in the weekend spot before the Super Bowl. Golden. People are just coming off of seeing a lot of movies over the Holidays and so they are fresh in everyones mind. Cut out the slow role out of the prestige films. Open more films wide earlier in the year. Kick the Globes out and plant the Academy flag in their spot and watch the ratings rebound.

  9. palmtree says:

    I think Monco has a point. The lateness of the show feels anticlimactic. We know who the winners will end up being, and even the occasional upset isn’t enough to draw viewers to what are mostly foregone conclusions.

    I think what lockedcut sort of gets right is that if a movie is awards-worthy and also happens to be a blockbuster, most studios won’t throw their weight behind it in favor instead of some traditionally high brow small film. Studios need to back the movies that deserve attention, rather than the ones they believe will cater to the tastes of Academy voters. Because given a campaign, it’s possible Black Panther could find itself with a Best Picture nod. But the fear of Academy voters scoffing at it will probably scare Disney/Marvel from pursuing that. I only say probably because who knows, things sometimes do change.

  10. Stella's Boy says:

    Totally agree Monco. movieman and I (and possibly others) talked about this here right after the ceremony. It felt incredibly late and anti-climactic. It seemed like we were talking about summer movies/the summer movie season more than anything else by that time.

  11. Hcat says:

    Earlier would be good for the Oscars not as good for the Studios, Look at something like Darkest Hour or Three Billboards which had six month theatrical runs, were able to grow an audience over time, make a ton of money and hit video to capitalize on any wins. Yes I would like it earlier to cut out the awards fatigue but does the general audience, the however many million they are trying to get to watch the broadcast, feel the same fatigue or is it just us crazy people who log onto movie blogs multiple times a day to see how our predictions match up to the ‘professional’ Oscar handicappers?

    Are we really in a Golden Age of high quality blockbusters? The films that would support that argument, Dunkirk, Hidden Figures, Revenent, Get Out, American Sniper, Martian all got nominated for Best Picture. The academy is not shooting themselves in the foot by not nominating Star Wars or Avengers (not that they could mandate that anyway).

  12. Stella's Boy says:

    Fair points hcat. A lot of people probably don’t care when the Oscars are and aren’t likely to watch regardless of the date. I’m not even sure I care all that much. I just know that when Oscar night rolled around I thought to myself wow I saw all of these movies several months or even a year ago and the ceremony felt really anticlimactic and late.

  13. Hcat says:

    I have to say after seeing Coco recently, I think Disney is actually hurt by having a best animated feature category (though I am sure they lobbied the academy for the award). Knowing that films like Frozen, Coco, and even Moana would have easy wins in the smaller category are members of the academy reluctant to throw their weight behind them in the larger category? If we are talking well made blockbusters that are not loved as much by the academy as they were audiences I would think these three would easily qualify.

  14. Doug R says:

    How about a category for digitally altered performance so Andy Serkis and Zoe Saldana and Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey could qualify?

  15. LBB says:

    The ceremony was a big draw when it was a one-night stop to see movie stars and maybe catch some clips of things. We’re inundated by celebrity now and don’t need a big event to deliver them. So it becomes incredibly important whom the host is and how funny they’ll be and we’re now inundated with comedy hosts so that’s not that critical. MTV nominates every popular movies, but are their rating that much more amazing?

    It was an industry self-love event that became a TV event back when there wasn’t much to choose from. Daily life is now a barrage of trailers, commentary, news, and gossip. The show has lost its allure. Some added or altered categories would make it more interesting (and despite all of this, I watch it religiously) but doubt it will reverse the trend in losing viewers.

  16. Hcat says:

    LBB makes a very good point, plus it is not just the Oscars that are down year to year, but almost all awards shows and events are playing to a more limited audience each year. The content of the actual shows and the recipients of the awards likely play less of a part than the behavior of the fractured television audience and competition from the web. Back in the headier days no one would have sat through four hours of Crystal making the same Jack Palance joke over and over again if they knew they could catch all the highlights on youtube condensed to 10 minutes.

  17. JSPartisan says:

    I’ve written thousands of words about this. I’ll keep it brief.

    1) MC KEYS! The show needs an MC and a great band not a host.The 2000 ceremony, was short and powerful. Why they have not looked at that 18 year old tape is beyond me, but it would fix the show.

    2) Why do I not give a crap about the Oscars? Why should I care about a group of people who think fish fucking and a silent movie are worthy awarda caliber films, and TDK, the Avengers, and Wonder Woman aren’t?

    This point. Always gets bogged down here, because YOU do not like those films. Guess what? You’re out numbered. Ignoring moments generated by big films is the defining failure of the Academy this century. Watch the hell that is unleashed. If the academy ignores Black Panther.

    3) Condense the Award season. It should be finished by the time they announce the nominees. Wrap it up by the third week in February. Going into March is just dumb.

  18. Arisp says:

    the Avengers, and Wonder Woman aren’t good films. They’re Big Macs. Next.

  19. Doug R says:

    The Avengers, Wonder Woman and Black Panther are great films that made some artistic choices that made more money but turned off Academy voters.

  20. Stella's Boy says:

    At what point does it become the People’s Choice Awards if we’re going to use box office success to determine what gets Oscar nominations? Should Beauty and the Beast have been nominated for Best Picture?

  21. Hcat says:

    Hate to wade into this debate again but of course can’t help myself.

    Avengers and Wonder Woman are not Big Macs. Wonder Woman hits a lot of the regular beats of a comic book movie but is done with a craft above that of the Russo brothers and Whedon. WW counts as a full well crafted meal made with pride and love, I would not have been surprised or offended if it had made the best picture list. Now Avengers would have been an offense, but Big Mac? It was at least an Olive Garden meal, but certainly not an Oscar worthy movie (Destroy All Monsters was before my time but I doubt there was a hope it would get the academy’s attention since this was the first time all the iconic figures shared a screen). It had nowhere near the heft of WW, Panther, or TDK.

    As for Water and the Artist, and I would throw Birdman in there as well. The industry loves to naval gaze and films about films and acting have a leg up. If you thought Water was about fish fucking and not a love letter to old Hollywood…well.

  22. JSPartisan says:

    One more time: it’s not about any of you. Seriously. It has nothing to do with me, but guess what? They nominated Avatar, and Avatar can’t really hold a candle to those films, in the popularity and love of the moviegoing audience.

    And you want metaphors? Most arthouse films are about as filling, as a cheap eclair. Seriously. The Academy and you all, can keep on acting superior to these films, but that just shows how out of sync you maybe with everyone else.

  23. Stella's Boy says:

    JS I agree with much of what you say. I don’t like Avatar at all and many arthouse films are unsatisfying. Popular, big budget films should not just be written off or casually dismissed. I don’t think a film isn’t worthy of Oscars just because it’s a superhero movie. I also don’t think I’m superior to those films. I mean come on I love horror. I just wonder how much box office should influence what gets nominations and if it means something like Beauty and the Beast should be nominated for BP.

  24. JSPartisan says:

    I love that Beauty and the Beast remake, and it’s not always box office. It’s the moments generated from large films not all large films. Again, it’s not how any of us feel about Wonder Woman. It’s how the audience feels, and the audience felt something. What did the Academy do? Gave Gal a presenter spot, and it was really skievy.

    There’s just one easy fix to the Academy…. Respect all films, and honor all films. Broaden the spectrum, listen to the audience, and don’t treat films released at the end of the year as the end all be all. Also, Black Panther better get a shit ton of noms, or the academy better enjoy its future as a streaming ceremony.

  25. Hcat says:

    The Academy is giant and does not move uniformly, there is nothing the Academy can do (nor should they) to dictate what the membership nominates. All they can do is make sure the membership makeup reflects the industry (or even better the country as a whole). Mechanic’s points at inclusion where much more important than his points about smaller films winning.

    And yes, lots of arthouse films are eclairs, but you might notice that no one has suggested that Book of Henry be nominated just because it was a tiny movie with a pedigree cast. These smaller films that get nominated and eventually win had to bite and claw a lot more than the blockbusters, and the countryside is littered with Lobsters and Sacred Deer that lose a chunk of their relevance and potential audience when they fall short of a nomination, so tears are not shed when Civil War makes a billion dollars, guarantees itself a place on cable every weekend for the next decade, but fails to grab a nom.

  26. JSPartisan says:

    Lobster and the Sacred Deer are by the same guy. He will be fine.

    And they have Academy gatherings all the time. They can also email or text them, to stop being so damn limited. Again, you are making it about you, and your taste. When it’s about the Academy, and their taste. A wider swarth of films should get the love, like all the great Indies released in the Summer as well.

  27. palmtree says:

    A Big Mac may be bad. But there are also high-end restaurants that are over-rated, over-priced, over-marketed, and just plain bad. There was that VICE guy who literally created a fake London restaurant on Trip Advisor and got it all the way to #1 rated and then proceeded to serve people microwavable food in his backyard. The response was they loved it and would come back.

    So it isn’t so much that a Big Mac is bad. It’s more that a Big Mac has the cultural signifiers that indicate it’s something you don’t have to take seriously. What JS and others are saying is that via awards we can adjust our perspective and recontextualize those films as having value.

  28. JSPartisan says:

    Exactly, palm. Again, it’s not about winning, but recognizing the wide spectrum of films. How many of you loved Wind River? It was released out of the award windows, and received bupkis. It’s ridiculous that this award show has gotten to this point, and getting to this point? They decided, as a group somehow, that mainstream cinema doesn’t really matter, and films outside that window do not matter. It’s a strategy, that doesn’t sell cinema to the world. It sells a small sample size to the world, and that’s not a great way to sell film.

  29. Stella's Boy says:

    So existing voters should set aside their own true preferences and consider what audiences seem to have responded to most? Or new voters who prefer those audience favorites should be recruited?

  30. Joshua K. says:

    @Hcat: I doubt that animated films would get nominated for Best Picture more often if there were no Best Animated Feature category.

    During the first 73 years of the Oscars, there was no Best Animated Feature category, and only 1 animated film was nominated for Best Picture.

    In the last 17 years of the Oscars, there was a Best Animated Feature category, and 2 animated films have been nominated for Best Picture.

    Obviously, those numbers aren’t the whole story — for the first 9 years of the Oscars, there were no animated features eligible to be nominated at all; there are a lot more eligible animated features now than there were, say, 30 years ago; and the number of Best Picture nominees has fluctuated too.

    But, nonetheless, I don’t think that Moana or Coco would have been strong contenders for Best Picture nominations if there were no Best Animated Feature category.

  31. Joe Leydon says:

    JSP: To be fair, Wind River — undeniably one of the best movies of 2017 — had something other than a release date working against it: The Weinstein brand.

  32. JSPartisan says:

    Yeah. I forgot who put it out, Joe.

    SB, here’s thing: they nominated Avatar. There’s just something weird happening in the academy with popular films. It’s just hinky..

  33. lockedcut says:

    @SB – the studios minimally support blockbusters to the industry. Not one screener of black panther will be produced and sent to voters, there will be two maybe three total screenings of black panther in November-December. The studio publicists that will spend the summer trying to convince the buzzmakers that their Indy drama of the week is this years ladybird will never acknowledge that pictures like black panther even exist. All the film writers online and in print when they wrote all their awards previews and make ballots on the awards films for this years gurus of gold will all pretend films like black panther don’t exist.

    So that means to the voters, they won’t be able to remember if black panther came out in this year or last year, and since they get no support for the film advocating for it, it might as well have been released last year

    Basically, the industry, from those making the films to those selling the film to those critiquing the film have all agreed to segregate all commercial film out of as many awards races as possible. That’s a shame. Especially as commercial film—which actually have long life spans and are the future classics because of that—is far more important than the movie of the week that has dominated awards.

    Sure 18 years ago the bitching was that non commercial films like requiem for a dream couldn’t get any awards traction, but the pendulum has now swung far in the other direction .

    And really with the benefit of hindsight, I was wrong then, Julia Roberts was better

  34. Stella's Boy says:

    Voters won’t know what year Black Panther was released? I don’t buy that. No way. And commercial success doesn’t automatically mean a film is more important just as winning BP doesn’t automatically mean a film will be an enduring classic.

    JS I always said if The Avengers only had more blue people and more overt messages about protecting our natural resources, it would have been nominated for BP.

  35. Hcat says:

    Or if Avengers debated the proper use of power like Panther, or the Question of whether humanity was worth saving like Wonder Woman or whether violence only begats violence like TDK. Or if it had attempted to have any sort of theme at all deeper than its meet figh meet fight meet fight fight fight fight fight plot.

    Avengers was fine, it was fun, but it was just a big budget version of the Kung fu theater matinees I would watch on channel 32 as a kid. Again fun yes, Oscars no.

    And I don’t know if you have seen the nominees this year locked, but there is NO WAY you would put any of those films in the same nihilistic genre as Requim. The noms fall closer to the Howard’s End side of spectrum than Requims.

  36. Ray Pride says:

    Marvel sends out screeners of all its releases with names/jobs of as many potential nominees as will fit on the back of a DVD sleeve.

  37. Hcat says:

    And they moved up the ceremony by a couple weeks.

  38. Triple Option says:

    What is the function, purpose and mission of the Academy? I feel like the Academy needs to better define or publicize what it is and work on that. The awards should be a byproduct of what it seeks to create. Then maybe it’ll have a showcase (show) to highlight its triumphs and accomplishments.

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“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
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