MCN Commentary & Analysis

13 Days To *Oscar

Final voting starts on Thursday (the 15th)… end of Tuesday (the 20th).

And still, outside of the nominees, their companies, their parents, their agents, and the possibility that Steven Soderbergh will do something really interesting… it’s such a “so what?” at this point.

It’s been a pretty nice season. The Holy Complainers basically sat this one out. No talk about category theft, even though two of the 98%-sure acting winners are in the wrong categories. No one really bit on claims about Chloé Zhao being a closet billionaire. The Father and Mank didn’t get electroshocked for being about the pain of wealthy white men as no one really thought they could win.

The Retro Whiners showed up in the persona of Bill Maher on Friday and The Holy Complainers threw shit at the walls, fast and furious. This year’s nominees are too precious and fragile to be called boring and depressing. The horror. The horror.

The Retro Whiners haven’t gone away this season. They just aren’t talking loudly. It feels dangerous. I’m sure Scott Feinberg will get some of them to embarrass themselves in his annual adorable series of columns to shit all over the 9,000-member Academy by talking to six “older” members who fall right into anonymous social media asshole status.

As I have noted before, the biggest surprise of the superseason (“Now with 14 months of qualifying and eight months of campaigning and still, no one cares much!!!”) is that more awards-quality Black dramas than have ever been in contention before met a season with half the normal number of awards-quality films, and only one made the Best Picture cut.

And The Holy Complainers are… wait for it… HAPPY!!!

WTF?

Well… Minari… and Chloé Zhao… and Emerald Fennell… so…

But what about those women?! There were more awards-quality black films than ever… but only the two “women’s” films (films made by, or starring women).

In January, Gurus o’ Gold launched with 23 titles for Best Picture. Of the 17 that had more than one voter in support, seven had female leads or directors (I included Soul with Tina Fey). How many got in? Two.

Two were anointed. And God bless them both. Female directors and female leads who don’t have a male co-lead. Cool. But last I checked, women made up more than 50% of the population. It’s a small victory, though it makes for great “first” headlines. (Unhumble brag… only Award Daily’s Mark Johnson and myself predicted both Zhao and Fennell in Director from the first chart this season.)

There were six more titles with a single voter (“One Vote Wonders’)… out of seven in that category. None of them made it, of course. Our Gurus group has become more male-dominant in recent years, as Penske has attempted to monopolize the conversation. But this was hardly a great year for films with women leading them.

I love The Dependents (truly), but I have always been clear that they are a part of major studios. And the way I see the Best Picture race, it’s Netflix (x2), Warner Bros, Disney, Universal, Sony, Amazon, and the Oscar-aggressive indie, A24. Do you really feel the ground shaking? Have you been faking orgasms since high school?

I mean, who can’t be fooled if we can fool ourselves? Amazon is not a MPA signatory, but they aren’t a classic indie. I had a Twitter wrestle with a colleague about when Oscar started turning to smaller movies (his take, “When did Hollywood start hating itself?”) and not coincidentally, it ramped up when the majors started indie-style divisions. And I will be applauding when Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula and Peter Rice and Tom Rothman get their honorary Oscar for the amazing work that Searchlight has done over decades. But as they were part of Big Fox, they are now part of Big Disney.

When Kelly Reichardt and Eliza Hittman get nominated for Director, call me.

Personally, I would vote for Promising Young Woman in every category for which it is nominated. But I also recognize that Focus spent a lot of money chasing it (however much they screwed up the effort) and that if A24 had that kind of money to spend on First Cow, it might have found its way into at least one Oscar nod. And of course, other films that had that money spent on them didn’t make the cut.

I’m just saying… this is a freakshow year and the nominations are nothing close to revolutionary. Comparing Oscar to the Indie Spirits, at this point, is like comparing a cover band to a tribute band.

Anyway… there is a chance that all four acting categories will be won by a person of color. Great headline. ‘Nuff said.

And what will happen next year, when the 94th Oscar show doubles the TV rating but is still the lowest rating – aside from the asterisk year – in the history of Oscar?

Again… the best thing we can hope for is joyous madness from Soderbergh on *Oscar night.

On some level, you have to say, “Fuck you,” for making a bunch of performers who were not nominated the center of your *Oscar show ad campaign two weeks out. But I am giving Soderbergh the benefit of the doubt and seeing it as the start of his glorious madness.

5 Responses to “13 Days To *Oscar”

  1. Bradley Laing says:

    —A Cinema called “The Arclight” in Los Angeles is closing.

  2. Doug Pratt says:

    “When [did] Oscar started turning to smaller movies (his take, “When did Hollywood start hating itself?”)” 1955. Marty.

  3. YancySkancy says:

    Doug Pratt: There might even be an argument for 1934, It Happened One Night. Low-rent Columbia, with reluctant stars (one of them on loan) in the “non-prestige” genre of romantic comedy.

  4. Doug Pratt says:

    But there was no Hollywood identity crisis in 1934 as there was in the Fifties with the advent of television. If you look at the nominees that It Happened One Night beat out, there were no exceptionally produced films to which it could be considered inferior. Both The Barretts of Wimpole Street and Cleopatra–the two biggest productions of the year, are decent but flawed films, while the brilliance of It Happened One Night as a production is exceptional, and it does have A-list stars. (My vote would have been for The Gay Divorcee, but it was simply lucky to be nominated.)
    On the other hand, the fact that East of Eden wasn’t even nominated the year Marty won is an absolutely tragedy and unjustifiable by any measure, but even Mister Roberts, which was nominated, was a better produced film.

  5. cadavra says:

    Just a small note of correction on “It Happened One Night”–Both stars were on loan as punishment (Colbert from Paramount). And neither wanted to be there until Capra won them over.

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