Sixteen - 31 Days to Go
Now For Something You'll Really Like
And now, we start
the 2007 Oscar season again for the last time...
Yes, Phase II (post-nom
time, as it is called) 2007 may be the most wide open race in memory.
The last time we were looking at as many of the 5 nominees that could
really win was the year of Gladiator, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Chocolat. Of course, what was very
different that year was that all but one of the movies (Chocolat)
either had or were on their way to crossing the $100 million mark. And
the films all had a significant number of nominations.
This year, as I
wrote a few days ago, the 9 open categories aside from The Top Eight
(Picture, Director, Acting, Writing) have a total of 6 nominations from
this year's five Best Picture nominees. What does this mean? Maybe nothing.
Or maybe it means that Academy members continue to vote their minds
and that none of the Big Five was as well crafted as other pictures,
like 6-time nomineePan's Labyrinth.
also indicates - to me, at least - that the shorter season remains a
very positive influence. Members, especially in their branch votes,
have seen a lot of the films and made independent minded choices. Another
month of marketing seems quite unlikely to lead to a wider group of
choices, but instead, more time for the bigger pictures to push for
The odd circumstance
of the spread voting makes it very, very possible that Dreamgirls
will continue the role of being a top Academy film, sans Best Picture,
and win more or as many Oscars as any other film. Think about it. Hudson,
Murphy, Song, and say, Sound Mixing. There are only a couple of films
with enough total nominations to get four wins. If people assume that
Jennifer Hudson still wins Best Supporting Actress - and do any
of us feel like assuming much of anything this week? - that takes Babel
down to 5 opportunities, Little Miss Sunshine down to 4 and
leaves The Departed and The Queen at 5 and Letters
from Iwo Jima at 4.
Speaking of The
Queen, last year's super-stat was Cynthia Swartz's "no
film ever won Best Picture without an editing nomination."
Stats are made to
be upended. And if any year is not going to comply with stats - however
expected most of what has happened so far remains - this seems to be
the one. But if you take on Ms. Swartz's clever analysis, which leaned
towards Crash and away from Brokeback Mountain last season,
it leaves only The Departed and Babel in the running for
favorite Phase I Oscar start was that 28 times there have been two Supporting
Actress candidates from the same movie. This was prophetic, as Babel
got nominations for both Rinko Kikuchi and Adrianna Barraza.
Beyond getting in, the stat gets fuzzy. This has happened five times
in the last 20 years. Only in the case of Chicago did the film
go on to win Best Picture. In one other case, the film was nominated
for Best Picture (Working Girl). And in the other three cases,
there wasn't even a BP nod (Almost Famous, Bullets Over Broadway,
Enemies, A Love Story).
Other stats working
against the nominees include the fact that only one film has ever won
Best Picture without a directing nod, Driving Miss Daisy. Does
that mean the disqualification of Little Miss Sunshine? Oh yes...
and it's been 29 years since the last comedy, Annie Hall, won
Even after overcoming
the lack of guild support, is it really possible for Letters From
Iwo Jima to move to the winner's circle with no acting nominations
and only one branch nod aside from the directors, the writers, and sound
As for The Departed,
when was the last time a remake won Best Picture? 1956 with Marty,
a remake from a TV version of the same.
Of course, my position
is and has been that Phase II is a different race than Phase I. Once
the field has been narrowed to five, the dynamic shifts. And there are
a whole new set of questions to answer.
Will Warner Bros
spend big on Letters From Iwo Jima now, even though they never
really saw this film as having much commercial potential? A push could
pay off handsomely if the film actually won. But if it doesn't, it is
good money thrown away after already achieving the nomination.
How much deeper
in the hole will Paramount and Paramount Vantage go on Babel
in order to race. Again, the nomination actually puts the film in position
to come within $10 million of breakeven after ancillaries. With an extraordinary
success in DVD, they could break even. But any additional millions in
spending to chase the win would all be lost if they didn't win.
The campaign for
The Departed has been very laid back. Will that change? Will Mark
Wahlberg, now Oscar nominated, finally feel like he is appropriately
valued by the studio? (Recall problematic moments at the junket and
premieres.) The re-release might pay for itself. But is a strategic
will continue to expand and spend. But with Sheen out, leaving the same
central trio on the campaign trail, with Mirren still an apparent lock,
how can they ramp things up any further?
And we all know
that Little Miss Sunshine will continue its "Little Best
Picture" push. But how hard? And can they overshoot the mark?
The media involvement
in all this remains at issue. As the media negativity on Dreamgirls
spread to the New York Times and Variety, did it have
some effect on the missed nominations? Who knows?
My theory on how
the noms went is that there may not have been any first ballot nominees
this year. With six strong candidates - which include Dreamgirls,
and now, obviously, Letters From Iwo Jima - 14% each (6% short
of a nomination) is 84% of the vote, leaving 16% for all the other films
out there. I don't think that many people doubt that any of these six
titles managed 14% of the vote. Then, in the second round, counting
#2 votes, all the nominees could well have gotten in. If ever there
was a year where it feels this way, this is it. And indeed, others could
have been in when #2 votes were counted, but came up short of the Top
Looking at the final
vote, start with that same 14% times 5 and that's 70% of the vote. Where
will the other displaced 30% go? That, my friends, is the rub. And that
is where is might be a fight or it might be already close to settled.
Does Little Miss
Sunshine have a unique advantage as the one non-drama?
Does The Queen
have every one of the 400 British Oscar voters votes that it didn't
get the first time lined up now?
Does the box office
dominance of The Departed make it more attractive?
the Crash of this year... and if so, will the filmmakers blush?
Does the Eastwood
Mystique and a very serious, contemplative, war related story make Letters
From Iwo Jima a potential winner?
The bottom line
is that there is both more and less of a race right now than appears
on the surface to exist. And the media influence is both more and less
significant than it appears to be.
One problem I have
with the daily analysis, both online and in Traditional Media, is that
there tends to be a sporting event mindset. If you lose, the quarterback
sucks. If you win, he's the best ever. The only play that counts in
many minds is the last play. And most of all, there is this ongoing
insane notion that the Academy equals an objective analysis of the best
films of the year. A nomination means that the movie is better than
the other movie... or the lack, that there is worse. But of course,
that is just self-indulgence at its best.
My rule remains
the same... if you want to make that argument, be consistent. If the
Academy left out Dreamgirls because "they just didn't think
it was that good," then it also left out United 93 and Pan's
Labyrinth for the same reason. If the Golden Globes are unimportant
because Dreamgirls didn't get nominated in spite of winning the
most Globes, it was equally irrelevant for Babel, which did get
nom'ed. And if you think all five nominees "deserved" or "didn't
deserve" to be nominated this year... the same will be true next
year and forever.
The only think that
really changes, for a lot of writers, is their personal opinion. When
David Carr finds himself apologizing for believing Dreamgirls
would win Best Picture, does it matter to anyone whether he was 50 votes
off of this nomination or 1000 votes? There is no objective standard
for analysis. And apologizing - or taking any of this personally - is
idiotic. And the Bagger, a very smart guy, will surely learn this lesson
if he chooses to continue on this beat in years to come. This is not
a zero sum game.
Also, for all the
talk about December being out of favor as a launching pad and the murmur
about Crash's May launch, it should be pointed out that Little
Miss Sunshine's July 26 launch was the earliest this year, with
Letters From Iwo Jima's Dec 20 launch the latest. One went out
on the last days of Sept and two went in October. So is late Sept/early
Oct the new Oscar hot zone? Of course not. Oscar is in the details,
not the release date. Some movies would have been better off in December
and others better off in October. Every film needs its own strategy.
Finally, a side
note. The nominations as they connect to the MCN's Top Ten Chart turned
out to be numbers 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8. This is the second straight year
when all the BP noms were in the Top Eight of critical consensus. Interesting.
Another stat to rip up in the years to come. But as I have long written,
the media's primary involvement in the Oscar season is to narrow the
field. And once again, it seems they have.
If you are curious,
last year #7 (and the fourth highest ranked in the group of noms) won.
That correlates to Little Miss Sunshine this year. Shrug.
6:39p - Column Corrections - As sometimes happens,
there are some stats that I got wrong this morning
to some committed, interested readers, here's a chance to correct them.
I thank all of you who sent e-mails.
1. Ordinary People
(1981), Annie Hall (1978), and Grand Hotel (1932) won
in the past without Best Editing nominations.
2. As I researched
it last night, I left Dame duo Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren's
double Supporting Actress noms for Gosford Park off the list
of films that had that phenomenon in the last 20 years.)
Sixteen: And Now For Something You'll Really Like .. Again
Fouteen: Everything Old Is Neew Again
Thirteen: Outside Looking In
Eleven The Great Settling
Ten: The Search For Meaning
Week Nine: Inside Out
Week Eight: The Season That Couldn't Shoot Straight
Week Six: Dreamgirls Wake
Five: Isn't It Romantic?
Four: The Rules - Episode One
Three: Channel #2
Two: Hope Floats
Week One: Ready, Steady ... Gold, Cat, Gold!
August 11 Preview