20 Weeks to Oscar

20 Weeks To Oscar: Season of Assumption

There has never been less plain talk in an Oscar season.

The field lacks many frontrunners and has representation on many fronts, which is stirring passion amongst a wider-than-usual range of interested observers.

This is a good thing.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: Year of the Reconstructed Rom-Com

Award seasons have a theme that emerges as the season progresses. With the arrival of Phantom Thread and The Post, this year is loaded with rom-coms that don’t want to be rom-coms.

The form has been torn down in recent years and barely exists now in Hollywood movies, indies, or even TV. But take the idea of a romantic comedy about, say, the black guy being brought home to meet the over-exuberant white suburban parents and give it a twist… and BAM!… Get Out.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: Season of a Different Color

I don’t know if this will be an #OscarSoWhite year. But even if Denzel Washington and Octavia Spencer are nominated, it will be the same way as two seasons ago… and likely, two seasons into the future.

The problem is not how many nominations people of color get from The Academy. The problem is that we have such a small group of “movies of color” for Academy members to consider.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: The Known Unknown

I see no rhyme nor reason to hang onto trying to figure out which of this group will be The Ones. I think I can guess 6 with pretty high assurance. But others would intensely disagree. It gets more complicated because many people will get excited about more than 10 of these titles. And there aren’t enough slots.

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23 Weeks To Oscar: Actors!!!

This is a good year for movies. It may become the most boring Oscar race in living memory. Why? Because even though the answers are not 100% clear in any category yet… the reason that no one has taken “absolutely winning” position is not a lack of great performances, but a distinct lack of “must win” candidates.

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24 Weeks To Oscar: Where We Are After TIFF

Only two movies came out of North American premieres at TIFF (which is essentially over, even though it goes on for five more days) with legitimate Best Picture hopes, Molly’s Game and the Venice premiering Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

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25 Weeks To Oscar: What Happened In Telluride

Twenty-nine new films premiered (or close to it) at Telluride. About half figure in the award season. The two clear winners – at a festival without a competition – were Lady Bird (which gets first billing as the less-expected smash) and Darkest Hour, a movie highly anticipated for the performance of Gary Oldman… and then overdelivered. Expect Best Picture nominations for both. From there, it gets complicated.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: 4 Days Away…

It wasn’t complex. It wasn’t full of surprises. And nothing in its nature has suggested any real change at The Academy or inside The Industry.

The Academy is still old and white. Young people still tend to spark what is new about the industry. But the process of “becoming” for non-actors tends not to be an overnight event.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: Cash & Carrying Gold

Here is a key stat about winning Best Picture: Since the expansion to 5+ Best Picture nominees, no film that has won Best Picture has been better than #3 on the list of domestic box office grossers amongst the nominees.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: The Simple Case For Moonlight

The phenomenon of Moonlight was on full display at the Telluride Film Festival. Audiences were not only screaming and standing on their feet when the movie ended, but many walked the intimate streets of Telliride in a kind of shock, rocked to their core. Men and women. Straight and gay. Some were black… but it is Telluride and well… most were not.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: The Simple Case FOR La La Land

How can anyone claim that a musical that opens with scores of people getting out of their cars to dance and sing on the freeway is “easy” “obvious” or “made for Oscar voters?” If audiences didn’t fall in love with that 5 minutes, the whole picture probably goes down. That is a massive risk.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: Right Before The Noms

This has been, perhaps, the most boring Oscar season in modern history.

But the other truth is, this has been a great award season for movies. Everyone has their personal preferences, but man, what a high quality line-up of product for awards this year. High and low.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: The 4 Kinds Of Best Picture Winners

I believe there are 4 kinds of Best Picture wins.

Big Love.
Big Obligation.
Big Avoidance.
Default.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: The (Shock) Corridor

My problem with The Corridor is that the period has become desperate and grabby. The smartest and the most simplistic players are stuck playing the same game… using fake awards events (high and low) and all forms of screening/dining contraptions and terrible hackneyed advertorial that not even ad buyers expect to be read.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: The Golden Goose & Those Lovely Eggs

The illusion of free will that is foisted on Phase I becomes much more real in Phase II. Because the power of narrowing choices actually shifts to the Academy voters and away from the media and the consultants.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: #GlobesSoWhite

The other three “black” films? Fences was good enough for its two big stars of color to be nominated. Loving was good enough for its two likely Oscar nominees to be nominated. Hidden Figures was good enough for its Oscar-winning star to be nominated along with, uh, Best Score.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: The Host & The Show

Taking a little air out of the balloon is always a pleasure. But when you become self-mocking, the brand is being damaged… at least when the brand is the 800-pound gorilla in the category. And Oscar is that.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: The Beginning Is The End

You know it’s already over, right?

No, I’m not saying we know who is going to win Oscars this year. We don’t. But we know who is realistically in the running, and who is not.

To use a sports metaphor, we are in the playoffs. But teams still have to play the games.

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Quote Unquotesee all »

What do you make of the criticism directed at the film that the biopic genre or format is intrinsically bourgeois? That’s the most crazy criticism. That’s an excuse for not engaging with the content of the movie. Film critics sometimes, you know, can be very lazy.

Come on, formal criticism is valuable too. But I’m amazed when this is the thing they put in front of the discourse. My situation is that I’m dealing with a highly explosive subject, a taboo subject that nobody wants to deal with.

Karl Marx? Yes, this is the first film ever in the Western world about Marx. And I managed to make an almost mainstream film out of it. You want me at the same time to play the artist and do a risky film about the way my camera moves and the way I edit? No, it’s complicated enough! The artistic challenge — and it took me ten years with Pascal to write this story — was the writing. That was the most difficult part. We were making a film about the evolution of an idea, which is impossible. To be able to have political discourse in a scene, and you can follow it, and it’s not simplified, and it’s historically true. This is the accomplishment. So when someone criticizes the formal aspects without seeing that first, for me, it’s laziness or ignorance. There’s an incapacity to deal with what’s on the table. I make political films about today, I’m not making a biopic to make a biopic. I don’t believe in being an artist just to be an artist. And by the way, this film cost $9 million. I dare anyone in the United States to make this film for $9 million.
Raoul Peck on The Young Karl Marx

“The Motion Picture Academy, at considerable expense and with great efficiency, runs all the nominated pictures at its own theater, showing each picture twice, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. A nominated picture is one in connection with which any kind of work is nominated for an award, not necessarily acting, directing, or writing; it may be a purely technical matter such as set-dressing or sound work. This running of pictures has the object of permitting the voters to look at films which they may happen to have missed or to have partly forgotten. It is an attempt to make them realize that pictures released early in the year, and since overlaid with several thicknesses of battered celluloid, are still in the running and that consideration of only those released a short time before the end of the year is not quite just.

“The effort is largely a waste. The people with votes don’t go to these showings. They send their relatives, friends, or servants. They have had enough of looking at pictures, and the voices of destiny are by no means inaudible in the Hollywood air. They have a brassy tone, but they are more than distinct.”All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry’s frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art. I say this with a very small voice. It is an inconsiderable statement and has a hard time not sounding a little ludicrous. Nevertheless it is a fact, not in the least diminished by the further facts that its ethos is so far pretty low and that its techniques are dominated by some pretty awful people.

“If you think most motion pictures are bad, which they are (including the foreign), find out from some initiate how they are made, and you will be astonished that any of them could be good. Making a fine motion picture is like painting “The Laughing Cavalier” in Macy’s basement, with a floorwalker to mix your colors for you. Of course most motion pictures are bad. Why wouldn’t they be?”
~ Raymond Chandler, “Oscar Night In Hollywood,” 1948