MCN Commentary & Analysis

It’s The Most Wacky Awards Time Of Year

Sing it!

We are floating in the Mini-Me *Oscar season. Some people are happy. Some less so. But it is undeniable that this is not just a two-month delay in the way things normally are (except at Netflix… and not really even there). We are in a shrunken season, with as many players that are not creating the pool of potential nominees and winners as we are players who are hoping to take advantage of the void.

This will be the awards season in which the fewest people in the history of Oscar see any of the nominees on a theatrical screen. That includes both Oscar voters and civilians.

Many in the media see this as a triumph. I do not. Oscar is teetering on the edge of irrelevance. Moving forward is not a step forward, but a step toward oblivion.

I will step off of my soapbox and get to the movies. Six weeks ago, I opined…

1. Mank – Your likely winner.
News of the World
C’mon C’mon (no date yet)
Hillbilly Elegy
The Trial of The Chicago Seven
The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Possible Slot Replacements
No Time To Die
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
The Outpost

Since then, Dune, Connected, Soul, and No Time To Die have checked out of the *Oscar race. That leaves 10 potential nominees from that list.

Additionally, News of the World has sold off international to Netflix while Universal will run the *Oscar effort here. And we have seen what was the full slate from Netflix… except there is now a “new” title, The Prom, not to mention The Midnight Sky, which is a Clooney thriller/drama that Netflix is slow playing, though word is that it is quite good.

In non-Netflix news, A24 has stepped up with Minari as a focus of serious effort. And Focus decided to push Promising Young Woman into the field as it was originally meant to be. And Paramount is, so far, trying to make a late move with The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

We’ve been through Toronto and New York and AFI and….

Mank is a sure-bet nominee for *Oscar in as many as 12 categories. But it is not longer the frontrunner. That doesn’t mean it won’t win. But as much as it is worthy of all kinds of praise, it is not the film that MUST win.

The King without a sword, the land without a king!

In the inevitable nature of any Oscar as a horse race, the media and consultants will find a horse race. But differentiating a voting constituency between Nomadland and Minari and Ammonite is no easy thing. Each represents a certain taste, but which one is your #1 will be a very personal choice.

How does one delineate the ever-expanding Netflix line-up? If Mank isn’t the movie, what is? Yes, a few of the titles have died off from exposure. But Mank is strong. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is strong. The Trial of the Chicago Seven is strong, especially with Boomers… who are the majority voting block at The Academy. But are any of these three titles the movie that will emerge as The One To Beat (or one of the two in the match race)?

The power of the Netflix machine is a major influencer beyond their pool of 10 potential nominated pictures. For instance, I would argue that the dubious embrace of the nicely made, but still four-guys-in-a-room-talking One Night in Miami, was instantly marginalized by the screenings of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which could be a Netflix frontrunner. Amazon made the biggest mistake of the season by letting their first serious Oscar contender, Steve McQueen’s Mangrove, float off into being a TV-first movie (part of a not-really-series series), perhaps seeing Chicago Seven as too tough, when I imagine McQueen’s emotional genius would narrow the path for Seven significantly. (We’ll never know, I guess.)

But hey! There’s more coming from Netflix. No distributor has ever had the number of films in play that Netflix has this season, including Weinstein at the top of their game. And so… THE PROM! Yes! A happy movie. But… who the hell knows until we see the movie. They have already started selling Meryl Streep like a Thanksgiving turkey… so… that could be a good sign… or a terrible sign.

And Netflix is ramping up Clooney’s The Midnight Sky, which could be the 1917 of this season or more so or less so. Throw it at the wall. See what sticks.

There are a few more titles coming. AppleTV+ may try to shove the Russo Bros’ Cherry into *Oscar season while Netflix sets the Russo Bros-produced Mosul out for consideration. (Wasn’t that move in The Queen’s Gambit?)

Warner Bros. could throw Judas and the Black Messiah and see if it sticks. Maybe not. Sam Levinson has a film at Netflix that could be thrown into the mix. Borat 2 is getting attention. Supernova is being floated, although more of an acting nom movie.

And there will be more because The Academy has opened things up to all kinds of shenanigans.

At this point, there is no answer. Everyone can play, at least in theory. There is no Parasite coming. There is no Moonlight. Hell, there isn’t even a likely If Beale Street Could Talk. Not because there aren’t a bunch of quality movies, but because almost every title is a small-constituency movie.

History (and The Emmys) tells us that in a a situation like this, there will be some surprise nominations and that the winners will ultimately be found among the already expected.

So maybe Mank really still is the front-runner. Maybe the international vote galvanizes around Minari. Maybe West Side Story or Dune pushes back into “2020” with no theatrical and just Academy and Press streams, and tries to muscle out everyone else.

A lot of change can come. But one thing is sure about this Oscar stew. It will (and should) have a big fat asterisk right on it.

7 Responses to “It’s The Most Wacky Awards Time Of Year”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    Mike Saag is among a handfull of the most respected infectious disease scientists in the world….. also an early COVID survivor. This link is from today’s Washington Post.

    apologies, David, for the COVID post. Good column. I

  2. Bob Burns says:

    The first Wonder Woman was awards worthy. Now that it is getting a theatrical plus streaming release, it is possible. A campaign for it would be a great way to promote HBO max, perhaps a better vehicle than Tenet for Warner, which would not gain much from a Tenet campaign.

  3. Glamourboy says:

    Why is Soul out of the running? It will be shown on the Disney Channel in December and should still be eligible…and early word from those who have seen it say that it is perhaps Pixar’s best. I’m sure votes would rather give the Oscar to Pixar than Netflix.

  4. David Poland says:

    Truth is, anything is possible at The Academy.

    Soul was made for theatrical, but no longer intends to be a theatrical. That should disqualify it.

    But again, The Academy is bending like a pretzel and who the hell knows what the standard will be?

  5. Bob Burns says:

    The Academy voter’s obsession with actor driven dramas has been destructive of the popularity of the Oscars. We evaluate all films by the rules of actor-driven dramas. While at the same time audiences have moved toward, fantasy, science fiction and animation. I have long advocated that the Academy should be looking at the quality that can be found in the movies that generate the industry’s income. By those measures, Pixar would be contending most years. We could also hope that the quality of the tentpoles would increase if they were seen as part of the awards conversations.

  6. cadavra says:

    I can only go by the Broadway show, but THE PROM certainly strikes me as a likely four-quadrant movie, with the older stars bringing in the over-40s and the themes of high-school and gay inclusion attracting the kids.

  7. David Poland says:

    I think the audience for The Prom will be very small, made up of theater lovers who are okay looking away. I know there is a lesbian constituency for the film because it’s aof one of a kind… lesbian musical film. But the politics of the film make it seem like it was written in 1987.

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