MCN Commentary & Analysis

30 Weeks To Oscar, Maybe: Getting Out Of The Gate

And here we go… pretending that everything is normal as we take the small handful of movies that would be considered the lower tier of Oscar candidates, and even then, only a small part of that tier, and handing out Oscars like Sour Patch Kids (the here’s-a-sweet-for-your-oddball-screening candy of choice) because what the hell, we need to get some ad revenue now that the reduced-revenue Emmy season is over, so let’s push really hard on what we know is good, but not likely.

You know the titles… Foxless-Searchlight’s (comment on the corporate status, not the staff… ha ha… am I in trouble?) Nomadland and Those-Who-Made-Parasite-Happen Neon’s Ammonite were the only serious contenders going into Venice and Toronto… and the only ones that are really coming out of the festivals, though only one is really equipped to survive the next six-plus months until Oscar will supposedly happen. That would be Nomadland… but only as a “bottom half” nominee with a likely Frances McDormand nod that she won’t win. Ammonite has two great actresses performing sex, but Neon released a better version on this theme last year, in French, with American-unknown actresses.

The other titles that have become hot buzz titles out of the fests are stage-play-turned-stage-movie One Night in Miami, the tragedy porn of Penguin Bloom, and the wildly overrated, although well-acted Pieces of a Woman, which is fake Cassavetes but with only one true Cassavetes performance. from Shia LeBeouf.

There is also The Father, an Anthony Hopkins vehicle with the always-great Olivia Colman. A Best Actor player, first and last.

And there are holdover dreams from before September, like First Cow and Da Five Bloods and Tenet than make me laugh really hard. Not because the films are not worthy of consideration, but because they are just plain not happening.

Netflix, after passing on the festivals, started things up this month anyway, They bought Pieces of a Woman and will try to shove Vanessa Kirby into Best Actress. They tried to launch Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but were thwarted by the passing of Chadwick Boseman. And they launched The Trial of The Chicago Seven this week with a streamingrelease date of October 16 just ahead. (They will also put the film in theaters as a four-wall outside of New York and LA, in a strategic move best described as virtue signaling.

The line-up at Netflix is: Mank, Hillbilly Elegy, The Trial of the Chicago Seven, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (in that order), plus guest stars Da 5 Bloods, Pieces of a Woman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, The 40-Year-Old Version and White Tiger.

It will be interesting to see whether Fincher, Sorkin, Denzel, and Gary Oldman are all on Season 3 of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman next month.

And A24 will release the new Sofia Coppola, On The Rocks, via AppleTV+ on October 23, with an adorable theatrical starting October 2.

This leaves us where we usually are before the start of the fall festivals… with a dozen or fewer films that have been seen, of which one or two, at the outside, have a realistic shot at being in the game at the end.

Fall festivals deliver another five-to-eight likely titles. And we wait to see what fills in with October and November screenings and some December lock.

But this is not your normal year.

We don’t know if there will be an October or November for movies and certainly for movie theaters. And we certainly don’t know whether there will be a December, January or February, as the dead of winter blows cold through America.

And if we stop where we are, I understand why Oscar guessers are giving Netflix half the Best Picture slots. Because this is not even half an Oscar season yet.

So what else is coming?

This is where the chicken and the egg get confusing.

Disney holds the most large-budget studio films that could be Oscar contenders, which are sitting in dry dock with almost guaranteed financial losses coming if had been released – on any format – in time to be Oscar contenders. This changed as I was writing, as the studio pushed West Side Story to 2021, as they already had The Last Duel. So WB’s Dune is the only relevant title.

No Disney. No Paramount. No Sony. No Warner Bros. Maybe no Universal (News of the World is still scheduled for late December.) No theatrical.

No Oscar.

There are maybe a half-dozen warm arty titles that could be loaded into the Oscar Gatling gun pretty quickly. C’mon C’mon, The French Dispatch, Next Goal Wins, Promising Young Woman, Stillwater. But if they have commercial potential, it would be a waste if there is no Oscar competition based exclusively on 2020 and Jan/Feb 2021.

Things are not looking good for there to be a 2020 Oscar. Sorry. Just the way it is.

But the 2020/2021 Oscars should be a blast!!!

14 Responses to “30 Weeks To Oscar, Maybe: Getting Out Of The Gate”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    no FYC ads says that the publicists don’t see Oscars ahead. Is this right?

  2. Tom says:

    Are we seriously going to consider movies that “might” have been released in 2020?
    That makes no sense.
    The solution is to combine the two years – 2020-2021, and have an Oscars in Feb. 2022.
    There’s no rule that the awards have to be YTD – and if there is, it can be over-ruled.
    And, either way the pendulum swings, let me encourage you to seek out and watch INFIDEL, which was the #1 movie in America this past weekend. (Didn’t take much per screen to get there, but still, an accomplishment.) I’m no fan of D’Souza Media, but I’m glad to see his money going to something dramatic and smart.

  3. Dr Wally Rises says:

    I’m not sure that I agree with that Tom. The artists and artisans that have worked on whatever movies have managed to slip out in 2020 deserve to have their moment in the sun, however diminished or compromised the circumstances. To bump the whole process a year would effectively scrub the contribution of a number of very talented individuals from history, like their work somehow doesn’t count because of factors beyond their control. That doesn’t sit right with me. And if it means something nuts like Sonic The Hedgehog getting nominated for Best Picture (it won’t, but you see the point) then so be it.

  4. Serg says:

    So everyone is trying to drum up the return to theaters and reopening but Netflix doing limited theatrical is “virtue signaling” now?? Will anything the N-word does ever please this town? Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    Like if Searchlight has Detroit to open in this political climate a few weeks before an election, you wouldn’t be calling it a zeitgeist movie and excellent event opportunity? Give me a break.

  5. YancySkancy says:

    Dr. Wally Rises – I don’t think anyone is suggesting that 2020 films be “scrapped.” They would simply be combined with 2021 releases for the 2022 ceremony (which would probably be dubbed the 2020-21 awards, which is how all the Oscars were configured until 1934).

  6. Dr Wally Rises says:

    Yancy, in which case no-one will remember or acknowledge the movies of 2020. Could you really see, for example, Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man, a movie released in February 2020, being acknowledged for that work in March 2022? Nah. 2020 deserves its own moment without being the support act, however curtailed the selection may be.

  7. YancySkancy says:

    Dr Wally – Totally depends on the extent to which things are back to ‘normal’ in 2021. The number of eligible films across those two years may not total up to more than is usual for only one year, in which case the notable 2020 films should still be in play come nomination time. But yes, as usual, the earlier the release, the less a film’s chances will be.

  8. Dr Wally Rises says:

    Fair enough, Yancy. But it’s reasonable to assume that after the famine will come the feast. The 2021 Oscar. competition will be intense like never before. Which is all the more reason to ensure that the movies of 2020 are rewarded as a singular entity, however curtailed the roster or however the ceremony is ultimately handled.

    The Emmys found a way. The soccer season in the European leagues completed all their games without fans in the stadium. They found a way. The Acadeamy must too.

  9. Bob Burns says:

    We are six months out. The Academy has financial reasons to put on a show, but I doubt they know what that might be, and the publicists seem to be holding on to their cash, or satisfying themselves with free media. The kind of show the Emmy’s staged might be worse than no show.

  10. YancySkancy says:

    Yeah, the Emmys show was kind of clever at first, but got a bit depressing as it went on. The bigness of these events is a big part of their appeal, even subconsciously it appears. I found myself missing the sweeping shots and dual-presenter walk-ons. We know in our hearts that awards mean nothing in the grand scheme, but there’s a kick out of seeing the industry take them seriously, even if the grandiose speeches and statements of purpose are mostly risible. It’s cognitive dissonance or something. But I’m not sure I want to see 20-odd Oscars accepted in living rooms by people in casual wear (or God forbid shirtless, like Jeff Garlin apparently was while awaiting the announcement of his Emmy category! Anyone else notice that?).

  11. Bob Burns says:

    Now we know for a fact that Trump was not possible without NBC. It is time to stop giving media power to assholes. This has been true always, but now we see plainly how dangerous it is for entertainment dollars and PR support to be given to racist, sexist jerks. Judge more than the ratings or the film/show itself. Who is in a better position to do this than awards voters?

  12. Jim Besh says:

    The Oscar show is always fun. The audience and presenters. If it is done Zoom-style, as is likely, I won’t be watching.

    As to who wins, I don’t care, and forget almost immediately.

    2020 is a lost year. Cancel the Oscars and hope for Spring 2022.

  13. Dr Wally Rises says:

    “2020 is a lost year. Cancel the Oscars and hope for Spring 2022”

    We’re going round in circles here Jim. If you did great work in or on a movie that appeared (however diminished the state) in 2020, then it’s not a lost year. If you achieved something in whatever your field iis n 2020, then it’s not a lost year. This work is a lived experience for many artists and artisans. To them, it’s already happened it’s not lost And that work deserves the validation of their peers., rather than either being null and voided from history like it never happened, or being an afterthought in another year’s time.

    Let’s say, for instance, that you’re a sound engineer on, say, Tenet. Let’s call you Pete. Well, Pete the sound engineer would be able to have on his resume for his whole career ‘Pete the Academy Award nominee for Tenet’. Which sounds a lot better than ‘Pete the sound engineer for Tenet who might have been an Academy Award nominee had it not been for circumstances completely out of his control’. For Pete’s sake (no pun intended), the Oscars for 2020 should find a way. If professional sport can do it by quarantining hundreds of athletes in a bubble, I’m pretty sure that the Academy can do it with a stage and an internet connection.

  14. YancySkancy says:

    If Pete was a sound engineer on Tenet, that means he was hired my Christopher Nolan, and he’ll likely have a fine career in his field with or without an Oscar nomination.

    But I’m trying to remember how they did it for the first six ceremonies, in which the eligibility period straddled two years. I believe they went from August of one year to July of the next, except for 1933-34, which covered 17 months in anticipation of switching to a calendar year period from 1935 on. Must have been a pain in the butt to coordinate those.

MCN Commentary & Analysis See All

THB #93: The Batman (no spoilers)

David Poland | March 6, 2022

THB #76: 9 Weeks To Oscar

David Poland | January 26, 2022

THB #73: Netflix Is Chilled

David Poland | January 24, 2022

The News Curated by Ray Pride See All


May 1, 2022

The New York Times

"Netflix, the great disrupter whose algorithms and direct-to-consumer platform have forced powerful media incumbents to rethink their economic models, now seems to need a big strategy change itself. It got me thinking about the simple idea that my film and TV production company Blumhouse is built on: If you give artists a lot of creative freedom and a little money upfront but a big stake in the movie’s or TV show’s commercial success, more often than not the result will be both commercial (the filmmakers are incentivized to make films that will resonate with audiences) and artistically interesting (creative freedom!). This approach has yielded movies as varied as Get Out (made for $4.5 million, with worldwide box office receipts of more than $250 million), Whiplash (made for $3.3 million, winner of three Academy Awards), The Invisible Man (made for $7 million, earned more than $140 million) and Paranormal Activity (made for $15,000, grossed more than $190 million).From the beginning, the most important strategy I used to persuade artists to work with me was to make radically transparent deals: We usually paid the artists (“participants” in Hollywood lingo) the absolute minimum allowable by union contracts upfront, with the promise of healthy bonuses based on actual box office results—instead of the opaque 'percentage points' that artists are usually offered. Anyone can see box office results immediately, so creators don’t quarrel with the payouts. In fact, when it comes time for an artist to collect a bonus based on box office receipts, I email a video clip of myself dropping the check off at FedEx to the recipient."
Jason Blum Sees Room For "Scrappier" Netflix

The New York Times | April 30, 2022

"As a critic Gavin was entertaining, wry, questioning, sensitive, perceptive"
Critic-Filmmaker Gavin Millar Was 84; Films Include Cream In My Coffee, Dreamchild

April 29, 2022

The New York Times

Disney Executive Geoff Morrell Out After Less Than Four Months

The New York Times | April 29, 2022

The Video Section See All

Mike Mills, C’mon C’mon

David Poland | January 24, 2022

The Podcast Section See All