MCN Commentary & Analysis

7 Weeks To *Oscar: Hoping For The Best

The best we can hope for from this event is…

People will watch more of the nominees. Not Academy viewers, 80% of whom will be 80% of the way to completion (aside from docs, international, and shorts) when the nominations are announced, but real life people.

That’s really it.

If real people are paying attention to the movies that get nominated, they might watch the show wreck to come, which is important to The Academy, which will, for what it’s worth, run an Oscar show for a 10-month year in 2022.

Of course, as illogical as that is (as was expanding the window through February this year for what turned out to be zero reasons), the natural progression of Oscar tends to block out any movie that opens before March anyway. So… maybe no harm, no foul there. (And if you are feeling your defense of the handful of movies that qualified late this year… they would have pushed back to a December window if the rules hadn’t been changed, so please release your pearls.)

I would be truly thrilled by some serious surprise nominees in this year’s batch a week from Monday. And surely, there will be a handful. Will Judas & The Black Messiah or Tenet or Sound of Metal or The News of The World or The United States vs Billie Holiday or Borat Subsequent Movie Film be 4 nomination-plus titles?

But even if they are, would any of them have a chance of winning big awards in the end?

Team Studio – Searchlight has Nomadland, which is clearly the default candidate to win Best Picture. A24 has Minari. Focus has Promising Young Woman. Sony Pictures Classics has The Father. And Universal has News of the World, the only potential *Oscar BP nominee to be in the box office Top 10 in the 14 qualifying months with a domestic gross of $12.2 million.

Team Netflix – Looks like 3 Best Picture nominees and a parade of nominations behind each: The Trial of the Chicago 7, Mank, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Getting in Da 5 Bloods would be a bonus round.

Team Amazon – One Night In Miami and Sound of Metal are in the race. One could make it. Both could make it. And yes, both could miss the party. Hopes for Borat Subsequent Movie Film grabbing a Best Picture slot are fading, but would be a kick in the ass of the whole event,

Team Other Streamers – Judas & The Black Messiah is a Warner Bros movie that premiered on HBO Max. The United States vs Billie Holiday is a Paramount film that got bought at the last second for a Hulu premiere. Soul is a Pixar/Disney movie that Disney pushed to Disney+.

For what it’s worth, News of the World is the highest theatrical grosser in play (WB abandoned Tenet when Nolan went on the attack) and the only other movies in competition with more than $1m at the domestic box office is Promising Young Woman with $5.4 million and Nomadland with $1.2 million.

This means only 3 movies with a shot at nomination have been seen on a big screen by as many as 125,000 Americans.

Here’s another issue… The *Oscars will be the only show relying exclusively on “movies” to draw an audience. The Emmys, Globes, and Critics Choice have all leaned heavily (or exclusively) on TV and the larger audience for “TV” shows. Even the streamers have much bigger audiences for the content that isn’t chasing awards as movies than these potential nominees.

Let’s be plain about it. Three Netflix movies and Nomadland are in. And after that, it’s completely a crap shoot.

Of the 5 “black movies” (not including Ma), will at least 2 get in? In not, there will be a lot of screaming for a month. Do I think the exclusion or inclusion of any of these films be based on the race of the central characters and story? No. But what I think does not matter.

Will there be a lean to studio releases that at least tip a hat to theatrical? Probably not… in great part because The Film has not been there. Nomadland is where it has been for many months, really. No one has dislodged it. Minari is one of those low-budget indies that have a passionate Academy audience. If News of the World gets in, it will because it has some size to it… a period western in a year loaded with 1960s (and earlier) films that (aside from Da 5 Bloods) have a narrow visual scope. But I don’t see many voters choosing to lean into legacy studios.

It’s like playing Yahtzee. Take 6 10-sided dice and you could really just throw them onto the table and be as likely to come up with the mixture of 6 titles that get Best Picture noms (after the locked 4) as any “expert” or really, anyone on earth.

But it can get more interesting – even though so far, it has not – in the full month between nominations being announced and the final voting beginning. Nomadland is the favorite unless someone can make a super-strong case for their movie. (Some will also try to shoot Nomadland down.)

But getting back to the opening of this piece… what is the best we can hope for? 1. The Academy won’t humiliate itself with a messed up show that trips over its ambitions to be something more than is really on the table right now. 2. That real human beings are drawn to watch all and any of these films once they are nominated.

Anything above that… golden gravy.

11 Responses to “7 Weeks To *Oscar: Hoping For The Best”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    and…. are any of these short stories as good as The Crown? People will disagree, but I think a sustained ten hour story is inherently more powerful than one that is two hours.

    The wall between home viewing, and theatical dissappeared this year, so these different forms, the two hour short story, and the multi-epeisode novel, has broken down. This year, at least, we see everything on a level playing field, without the multi-billion dollar PR blast we get from theatrical releases.

    People are making their choices, night after night, day after day. The streaming services are keeping track. Amazon has been selling everything, every movie and TV show, for years. Netflix has comparable wells of knowledge. Now, Disney and other giant entertainment conglomerates are also integrating their strategies with streaming.

    For the time being, I don’t see a threat to theatrical. It pays for itself, makes a bit of profit, and pays for big buckets of PR. Clearly the studios prefer creating what we call franchises, but the differences between franchise films and The Crown, or Game of Thrones, or even Bridgerton are breaking down. Amazon’s LotR could be a game changer, or not, but the project will tell us much, one way or the other.

    The Academy may continue to restrict itself to short form, actor driven dramas, but if it does, why shouldn’t the various streamers mount their own awards shows, as long as the Academy continues to focus on films that draw relatively small audiences? Would the Oscars continue to be the biggest game in town?

  2. Bob Burns says:

    It has been clear for months, almost a year, that April would not be any more likely than February to stage the Oscars, so the delay was silly. I agree with David.

    As we watch the number of people vaccinated, with hopes of going back to theaters, I would remind folk of something Faici said months ago. We will need to get the number of new cases down below 10,000 a day. With the more infectious virus varients, my guess is that we will have to get that number of new cases down a lot lower than 10,000.

    These numbers are based on our public health system’s capacity to contact test, case find and quarntine people who might be infected. Theis is the blocking and tackling of controlling infectious diseases, finding the disease, the virus, surrounding it and starving it out. The CDC conducts these disease eradication campaigns routinely and often, generally many such efforts at a time, and few people even notice. The last administration pushed people into isolation, but did not conduct the aggressive public health campaign that could have been effective when the number of cases was very low, a year ago. Congress has appropriated funds to do the necessary testing, etc., but we will have to see if our public health systems can carry out thedious, but necessary work.

    Because of the mutations, and the anti-vax jerks, COVID will be around for the rest of our lives, imo, just less common and less deadly, hopefully.

  3. Glamourboy says:

    I’m not clear on what new information is presented here–just seems a rehash of other articles on Oscar hopefuls

  4. Bradley Laing says:

    —I am not saying they should cancel the Oscars, but maybe they could do it as a fund raiser for Brazil’s hospitals?

    —There was the “fake perfume ad” for breast cancer awareness on the Oscars telecast once.

    —Or commercials asking people to contribute to charities buying COVID 19 vaccines for other places?

    Brazil plunges into crisis as a second wave and deadly new variant overwhelm hospitals

    —–Maybe there is a better approach?

  5. Bob Burns says:

    from the outside looking in, it appears that the crafts, cinematography, sound, editing are lagging far behind the actors, All we have to do is look at the music industry to understand this is bs….. tribalism more tham racism, probably.

    The NY Times published a story about a McKinsey report on the money Hollywood is leaving on the table with its racial stupidity, they estimate 10 billion a year…. a big number that could easily be lowball. The corporate powers-that-be will pay attention to this, even if the small fish who make up the Academy membership do not.

  6. Bradley Laing says:

    —I thought that, in the past, if there were less than 20 animated movies shown in theaters, the number of “Best Animated Feature” nominations dropped from 5, to three. I also saw one product tie-in commercial for “Soul,” with McDonalds. And heard about one “Soul” joke on the Golden Globes.

    Did they change the rules for “best animated feature” in some form, so that five nominees will be chose, this year? Or is it three?

    —And, is the two things I can reference about “Soul” important to the Academy Awards, in some way, or not?

  7. Bradley Laing says:

    —One website I found lists 9 animated features for 2020.

  8. Bradley Laing says:

    —there were five nominations for Best Animated Feature, not three.

  9. Bradley Laing says:

    A writer at the conservative website Townhall.com wrote a pro-Minari article. My thought was, if a website like that can like an Oscar-Nominated film, maybe that means the public will watch the movies before the April 25 show.

  10. Bradley Laing says:

    “Chinese officials ordered local media to downplay Oscars coverage over Do Not Split, an Oscar-nominated documentary focused on Hong Kong protests.”

    https://www.msnbc.com/mtp-daily/watch/china-orders-media-to-downplay-oscars-coverage-over-hong-kong-documentary-109033541530

    —Does the fact that this news story came to MSNBC mean something?

  11. Bradley Laing says:

    —I just read an editorial hoping that the Academy would not award an Oscar to 2020’s Mulan.
    —It was on a right wing website. A few weeks ago, when the Golden Globes had very bad ratings, the right wing commentators were saying that the public was rejecting awards shows.
    Now, the government of China, and a right wing website are acting like Oscar nominations mean something, even as the low ratings for the Oscar television show are guaranteed in advance.

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