| March 6, 2022
It struck about halfway through the SAG Awards on Sunday night… which followed the PGAs on Saturday… which followed the ACE Awards on Friday… which followed Oscar nominations last Monday… which followed BFCA/CCAs on Sunday… which followed LAFCA on Saturday… which followed NBR on Wednesday… which followed NYFCC on Tuesday… which followed The Globes on Sunday.
People in the business of getting the talent from event to event, of covering the same, and of fighting to get to the gold ring of Oscar are whining relentlessly about the short season, which is one reason why the award show pile-up feels so extreme this season. (I spoke to the short season last week.)
Aside from the argument that a shorter season is, in my view, absolutely necessary for the ongoing power of The Academy Awards, what struck me last night during SAG was this… we have 3 more f-ing weeks to go until they actually hand out the damned Oscars.
And what will happen in those three agonizing weeks? Lots of lovely guild events. One DGA award handed out next Saturday (1/25). And The Grammys. And The Super Bowl.
The system is a mess. There is no arguing against that. But does anyone have the will or the energy to reorganize the whole thing, showing respect and acknowledgement of all the organizations that survive in part by living off of the season?
(But that’s another column.)
What struck me while watching the SAG Awards was that the room was filled with people, still hoping against hope that they would be rewarded for their invariably great work and by the time Brad Pitt was giving yet another low-key charming speech that caused involuntary pleasure in adult women and sent men scrambling to renew their Nutrisystem memberships, 90% of the people in the room knew that it was all over for them and theirs.
Maybe the tipping point for the season wasn’t the SAG Awards, but Scarlett Johansson vomiting her way out of participating in her Santa Barbara “We Created This Award So We Could Look Closely At You” Award event. Maybe it was Adam Driver not being able to make it through — or even — a Terry Gross interview. Or maybe it is watching parents of a baby, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, showing up at every event as media deconstructs which one of them was “snubbed” of that particular award, week after week after week.
Maybe I am just enraged that The Morning Show, the first season of which is an absolute mess in so many way, keeps pushing out its already-stars while I haven’t heard the name Gugu Mbatha-Raw once on these shows (or seen her at the shows) when she gave the great performance of the first season. Jennifer Aniston was terrific in her meltdown all season, even if the story parts often made no sense. Absolutely. But if we are going to discuss the #MeToo of that series, the heroes/survivors are not the characters who freak out from their $20 million apartments on the East River.
I kept looking at the camera sweeping through the audience at SAG and I saw all the actors and directors and even some writers who have been dog-and-ponied for the last few months and I could feel their hope draining away as the sense of this being an open season slipped away. Renee, Joaquin, Brad,and Laura Dern have it on lockdown. Best Picture is, at best, down to 1917, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood and Parasite, two of which have no Oscar acting nominations.
(Even though our good friends at SAG did give Parasite their Best Ensemble Award – which has a bad history of predicting Oscar Best Picture – they didn’t give any of the actors in the film a SAG nomination. What is that all about?)
I am not a subscriber to the “Netflix must win to make the awards effort valuable” theory of the world. The value of Oscar to the network, aside from the joy of ego, is marketing. And they have done very well with their marketing effort this season, as they did last season. However, what must it feel like after getting all those nominations and slotting in your folks into virtually every publicist-driven award or honor this season, and realizing after sitting through BFCA and only getting Dern and Ruth Carter (costumes, Dolemite Is My Name) in Oscar-relevant categories, through The Globes and getting only Dern, through SAG and only getting Dern (on the movie side) and a lifetime award for De Niro that he could have gotten any year, through PGA and only getting Sarandos a deserved honor, through LAFCA for Noah Baumbach’s screenplay and doc (American Factory, which may well win the Oscar as well) and animation?
THREE MORE WEEKS… pretending something else is going to happen.
It truly is an honor to be nominated. When you take away the pressure of thinking you might win something, these are wonderful parties filled with people who share your passions, though unless there are drugs and orgies, sharing your passions this often is a lot of ask of anyone, much less anyone who hasn’t had a proper meal in a month and is feeling those Spanx (male and female) cutting into your hips for the fourth time this week. Having a glam squad is fun when you are doing it for fun… less and less so when you have no choice, are hyper-aware of that zit on your left cheek, and just want to curl up in bed in your jammies to watch some other skilled professional suffer their success.
It’s enough to make you projectile vomit getting out of the elevator at the Miramar.
I was smiling as I wrote that last sentence… but honestly, that is not the emotion that I was considering when I sat down to write this. I am sad for Taika Waititi, who is sitting on top of the world, but whose movie has been hobbled by a bunch of uptight critics, many of whom worked hard against it because they are so focused on Hitler that they can’t see what the movie really is. Searchlight tried to spell it out at SAG last night, but probably too late. They will just have to live with it being a classic film that is discussed in depth in screenwriting classes for decades to come. I guess that is like the moment when you realize that your torrid sexual passions for your partner have been reduced to really good sex by the nature of human beings and you will just have to settle for that. Boo-hoo.
But yeah… boo-hoo. It’s a loss. Not one you will spend your life lingering on (well, not most of us), but a loss nonetheless.
I feel terrible for Todd Phillips, who took a big step in his directing with Joker, but has been under attack for “stealing” Greta Gerwig’s Oscar directing slot. Unfair to him. And I am 100% on the idea that Greta deserved a nomination for this film, even more so than Lady Bird. But Todd didn’t steal anything. And while the Director’s Branch of The Academy may be the most gender-problematic of all the branches, it isn’t Todd’s fault.
On the other hand, he has an Oscar nomination for Directing. Todd Phillips. A huge achievement for a guy who is not an auteur or a hugely talented stylist. There is a block of people who LOVE that movie and his work absolutely created the universe that made Joaquin Phoenix’s work fly. I don’t know anyone who is upset about the below-the-line nominations for the film and that is a reflection of the excellence of Todd’s work.
But he knows he isn’t winning and there has to be some sadness in that as you pull on your tuxedo for the twelfth time in a month.
Essentially, the big game season is over for many of the distributors. Universal, Sony and Neon still have the torch burning at full flame. Netflix has a number of categories — and The Laura Lock — to push home. Warners and Disney/Fox and Searchlight, not so much.
Can I tell you who is going to win the Shorts awards or even Doc? No. Are there still legitimate open races in many categories? Yes. Are those categories ones that will make it onto the pages of USA Today? No.
Academy voters, with nine days until voting begins and 15 days until it ends, are split into a few groups. A few are still trying to see some of the nine nominated Best Pictures. There are those who are already working hard to see everything they can that has been nominated in the doc, international, and shorts groups. They want to vote while fully informed.
The majority of Academy voters, in my opinion, could vote today, same as they will in a couple weeks.
Three More Weeks.
There is still something undeniably exciting about The Oscars. They could be held in mid-April and still have a huge audience and true excitement of winners being embraced by 8,500-ish of their industry peers.
And maybe that is the best argument for sitting around for three weeks with most of the people who should be very happy just to be nominated. This is a chance to forget. Mostly.
The Academy nominees luncheon is often seen as the most pleasant experience, aside from winning, of the season. Next Monday. Will most of the room be postpartum by then… or stuck in the middle, still harboring hope against hope?
It’s enough to make you cry.
Just a little.
| March 6, 2022
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