MCN Commentary & Analysis

THB #76: 9 Weeks To Oscar

No, we’re not there yet.

Oy.

I can’t find anyone who really wants to talk about the Oscar movies or the Oscar season and we are still 9 weeks away from the show.

There are 11 Oscar-hopeful movies still at the box office… but the highest grossing last weekend was West Side Story with $715,559. That’s fewer than 100,000 people in attendance. The total for the 11 films is just under $2.5 million. That’s fewer than 250,000 people going to see Oscar movies in theaters last weekend.

Can you feel the excitement?

It’s unfair to compare the Oscar show to NFL football, which exploded with Big Event excitement last weekend. But what would it be like if they pushed the championship games this weekend to late February and then had the Super Bowl in late March? How much excitement from even the rabid football audience would that create?

“What about streaming?,” you ask? Nielsen will give us their best guess in a month or so. Welcome to the new measurements!

At least the Academy voters start voting on Thursday, as opposed to delaying even more weeks. The voters get 6 days to vote… because the technology is apparently as slow as mail delivery. Then, The Academy will announce nominees on Tuesday the 8th so that any excitement from the announcement and any potential box office for the nominated films and performances that next weekend is guaranteed to be wiped out by the Super Bowl, 5 whole days later.

Then – it just keeps getting better – it‘s a quick month and a week (to be fair, 37 days) until that final vote. 6 voting days.

How can anyone think that the world won’t be waiting with hysterical excitement for the announcement of what film that has barely be watched for over a month is given an award? I mean… if Zendaya does it, all the kids will watch…. right? RIGHT?!?!



I’m one of those lunatics who actually cares. I have loved Oscar and the idea of celebrating movie excellence, within a context, for almost 50 years.

But in the last decade or so, every season is like watching someone you love walk into the house with a face tattoo and hoping that it wasn’t done in permanent ink.

I don’t even count last year. It was a product of a singular event. Parent and child survived the birth. The problem is that instead of paying manic attention to helping both to greater health, The Academy has just gone home and sat on the Barcalounger with a big bag of chips, watching the days fly by on the calendar.

I looked at Scott Feinberg’s guesses – since I have pretty much stopped participating in that exercise – from Friday. Then I looked at Scott’s guesses from a month ago. Then I looked at Scott’s guesses from a month before that.

Scott added Nightmare Alley to the Top 10 ahead of Spider-Man: No Way Home last week. Fair enough. Of course, Spidey would probably not have been on that December list had Scott not already been handed the exclusive on Sony’s decision to push the film for Oscar (12/24, 5a), for which he had obviously done the interviews for before his Top 10 ran at 12:19p on December 23.

In other words… except for some media manipulation, nothing really changed.

Looking back at November, Scott took fliers on A Hero, Being The Ricardos, and C’Mon C’Mon… the first of which is now off his charts 100%, the second in the “Possibilities” category, and the third in “Longer Shots.”

Point is… we could have voted in December and gotten pretty much the same result as we will this next week. If Spider-Man swings in, bless their little spider-hearts. (The point is not to poke at Scott, who is average in this regard… everyone is.)

Apple’s CODA and Netflix’s Don’t Look Up and Tick, Tick… Boom! have owned their spots in December and January and might all get in… or miss. They seem to be the most vulnerable, in terms of nominations.

Scott dumped House of Gucci from his top charts back in December. He never bought into The Lost Daughter or The Tragedy of Macbeth. They are probably the outsiders from his guesses that have the best chance of replacing titles he likes better.

I’d love to say that C’Mon C’mon will make it… but probably not. I still think there is a voting group for Spider-Man… but Sony hasn’t really done what was needed. Drive My Car could shock the world… but it would definitely be a shock if it escapes from the loving embrace of the critics of the world. And Being The Ricardos… just don’t see it at this point, but I wouldn’t actually be shocked.

I would say that the Best Picture field is still 15 movies… which is about where it has been for months already.

I don’t see any lanes without (alpha) Beirut, Dog Power, and West 1961st St. Hard to see King Will or Pizza Boy missing the party.

The other 5? Kind of a niche crap shoot. All the other movies are looking for a big enough constituency to make the cut. (Not that those Top 5 are assured to contain the ultimate winner. We have almost 2 months to go. Boredom and publicity tba.) I wouldn’t argue against Dune: Episode One or Spidey: Episode 8, Tick Tick… Leo!!! (that’s 2 movies), The Power of Gaga/Maggie/Guillermo, Black & White & Coen All Over (that’s just 1 movie), The Critics Revenge w/ Beatles Title or Deaf Like Many Awards Voters But Nicer.

Some of the titles have gotten a little stale. But I feel a push coming right around the corner.

Wait a minute! That doesn’t belong here! The paid sponsor of this newsletter won’t be happy…

Ahhh… the balance of power returns to the newsletter!

And take THAT! MGM/UA proudly brings you The Hot…

Hi, Guillermo. Yes, Bradley is hot. Yes, Cate and Rooney too. But you guys are sponsoring video…

Wait a minute! That’s not even an Oscar ad. That’s a Twitter ad. Are the Russians invading my newsletter?!

Ah… The Guccis cleaned it all up. Back to normal… Phase II is starting soon and we’ll be drowning in ads again…

Okay… what was I saying before all these ads interrupted me?

Are you ready for some protests?

King Richard… Black, but a movie star. West Side Story… Brown. The Tragedy of Macbeth… Denzel!

Will these movies be enough to hold the dam, uh, damnation?

It would be funny if there wasn’t so much potential strife involved. This Oscar season is a LOT whiter than last season. Some of these movies that are assured nominations are so white you can see through them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Personally, I have given up on guessing where the zeitgeist will blow. King Richard is the only serious contender directed by a black person this year. You can add Respect if you like. Last year, there were 6 (Da 5 Bloods, The 40 Year Old Version, Judas & The Black Messiah, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, One Night in Miami, The U.S. vs Billie Holiday).

Judas was the only one nominated for Best Picture. No directing nod. There were six acting nominations… Daniel Kaluuya was the only winner.

But somehow, this was considered a good year for inclusion.

A woman will get a Directing nod this year. But the truth is, however you feel about the film, giving a directing nod to Reinaldo Marcus Green for King Richard is a reach. Might happen. Good movie. Sometimes a well-liked title becomes ubiquitous in the nominations. But Campion and Spielberg have 2 slots for sure. Branagh and PTA seem damned likely. So one slot left. Del Toro, Villenueve, Coen, and Gyllenhaal all seem like much more serious candidates than a guy who gave us a very straight-forward, visually uninteresting drama. And that doesn’t even bow to the inevitably underappreciated work by Hamaguchi, Mills, and Sarnoski, much less ye olde master, Sir Ridley.

So all I am saying is that Will Smith better get his. Aunjanue Ellis too. It would help if Denzel got his. Ariana DeBose better get hers… or there could be a riot. Jennifer Hudson has a cheering section, but not close to a lock. Ruth Negga deserves a slot more than most of the likely nominees. That’s 5.

Screenplay nod? One for King Richard, probably.

No Chloé Zhaoand Nomadland distracting in the name of women and Asians.

These questions will be answered in a couple of weeks.

And I don’t know that I have ever felt farther from a sense of the couple films with a real chance to win at this time of year. If I had to bet, it would still be The Power of The Dog as The Default Film. All the small infatuations seem to be subsiding. But then again, there is a lot of Dog hate out there. Is it enough to get in the way of a win? And if it is, what film has a real shot? They all have problems. They also all have passionate constituencies… like Dog does.

I feel like we will all be going into the Super Bowl, nominations in hand, looking for the hook for the movie that will be the winner… a must-vote argument. Haven’t heard one yet.

Until tomorrow…

19 Responses to “THB #76: 9 Weeks To Oscar”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    “But in the last decade or so, every season is like watching someone you love walk into the house with a face tattoo and hoping that it wasn’t done in permanent ink.” funny.

    Again, all of the Oscar film, your fifteen plus a few, add up to about 1% of last year’s covid-lame box office. Why should the Oscars draw an audience, beyond the kind of people who go to film festivals? This 1% is actually not unusual for the last few years. The number was only 7% even when Black Panther was included. The Oscars are for an elite fans of elegant actor driven dramags. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is silly to think very many people will care to watch.

    And it is silly to say that threats to theatrical are threats to the art of film. Oscar films will find plenty of screens for their tiny audiences.

    And people do not need to see the Oscar ceremony to see their favorite stars. The stars are making themselves readily available on social media. And movie stars stand alongside TV, sports, utube, tick tock, etc stars. There are many more stars than there were since the native American princess took the stage for Brando.

    Nonetheless, the Oscars remain a force for film quality, even if the audience is small, and I am guessing that the are just as important within the industry as they ever were.

    I have long argued that the Oscars should follow their audiences. Embrace the showmanship and vulgarity of Hollywood. Embace all film goers. But the guilds, and the Academy are making a different choice…. the same choice they have been making for years. now. It could be worse. The film’s that have been awarded have been, generally, very good, even if few have seen them.

    The Oscars used to have widespread popular impact. They don’t anymore, and there is little reason to believe they will ever regain their old position. They had a long run. It’s over. Nonetheless the campaigns will be as fiercely fought as ever.

  2. Bob Burns says:

    The total theatrical audience for all of the Oscar films was about 70,000 people.

    Talk about Netflix being overvalued…. what about AMC?

  3. Ray Pride says:

    AMC has that special post-GameStop Reddit bump.

  4. Bradley Laing says:

    Some thoughts about the Best Documentary Feature:

    “Ascension” is about mainland China, and the Olympics will certainly focus more attention on the PRC. But does that mean more viewers (in theaters, or elsewhere) for “Ascension”?

    The “Oddschecker” website still has the best odds for “Summer of Soul, or when the Revolution could not be televised.” And the most bets on “Flee” and “First Wave.” The Academy voters usually gives the Best Documentary Feature to music related documentaries? That is why the odds are so good for “Summer of Soul”?

    The “Oddschecker” website also says that only two of the multiple betting companies list on that website are currently taking bets for “Best Documentary Feature.” The real betting starts only after the February 8 announcement?

  5. Bradley Laing says:

    “Documentary

    “Becoming Cousteau” – Liz Garbus, Dan Cogan
    “Cow” – Andrea Arnold, Kat Mansoor
    “Flee” – Jonas Poher Rasmussen. Monica Hellström
    “The Rescue” – Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, John Battsek, P. J. Van Sandwijk
    “Summer of Soul (or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” – Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, David Dinerstein, Robert Fyvolent, Joseph Patel”

    —At least so far as the “Oddschecker” website is concerned, the BAFTA best documentary features list, above, has only three of the five documentaries that have a better than 20-to-1 chance of winning an Oscar. The “Oddschecker” website changed the odds (when I checked it a few minutes ago) to place “Attica” at 20-to-1. That leaves five, not six films on that website.

    https://variety.com/2022/film/news/bafta-2022-awards-nominations-full-list-1235170992/

  6. Bob Burns says:

    At a time when Republicans are burning books, forbidding books about the holocaust and banning discussion about slavery, will the Academy honor a movie, Summer of Soul, about Hollywood’s passive suppression of black voices?

    None of this censorship would be happening if more people laughed at Bill Maher’s jokes. And, what about Dawn!!!

  7. Bradley Laing says:

    Spoiler: “Simple as Water”

    Best Documentary Feature
    “Summer of Soul”
    “Flee”
    “The Rescue”
    “In the Same Breath”
    “Writing with Fire”

    —So far as the “Oddschecker” website is concerned, the most likely Best Documentary Feature will be “Summer of Soul, or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised.”

  8. Bob Burns says:

    Honest question. What does it mean when people say that Marvel and other superhero tentpoles are ruining the movies? I can understand Emmerich saying this kind of….. the the Marvjel stuff is crowding out big budget original sci-fi. That may be true, but it seems to me that a lot of original is getting made one way or another.

    What I don’t understand is the assertion that spandex films are ruining prestige film, Oscar films. They are not at all the same market. A film like Road to Perdition could make $100 million during the summer. That may never happen again, but I don’t see what that has to do with hunkin’ big franchise films. How do people make that argument? Just curious.

  9. Bradley Laing says:

    From the “Variety” website, below:

    BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
    Ascension
    Attica
    Flee
    Summer of Soul
    Writing With Fire

    —“The Rescue” is not on the list of Best Documentary Feature nominations, nor is “The First Wave.” My original idea, months ago, was about the PRC (mainland China) reaction to the 36 minute long documentary “Do Not Split.” Now we have “Ascension” about the PRC. I wonder how the PRC officials will view this nomination?

  10. Bradley Laing says:

    —Question for the Gurus. I just saw a picture of “Raya and The last Dragon” on an article about animation, and I thought: did the COVID 19 disruption to the industry cause more animated movies to be started than would otherwise have happened?

    —I think that was my idea, back in 2020. Does anyone know if something like that happened, or not? And why?

  11. Bradley Laing says:

    Earlier this afternoon, an NPR station in Ann Arbor, Michigan was interviewing the film makers of the documentary “Writing with Fire.” I just checked the “oddschecker” website, and it now lists four betting websites listing “Best Documentary Feature” betting options, as opposes to two of them before the February 8 announcement. The website has a graphic saying that the most bets are for “Flee” as the winner. The best betting odds are still for “Summer of Soul, (…or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised.)”

  12. Bob Burns says:

    About 60,000 people went to see all the Oscar films in roughly 5,000 theaters yesterday….. about 12 people for each theater, spread over several showings….. on a Friday.

    Maybe this will change, but it does not appear that the studios are willing to advertise these films. My personal opinion is that the awards season should be over by now.

  13. Bob Burns says:

    The point being that, even if these Oscar films were advertised, and made four times as much theatrical as they are doing now, would any of them make enough to pay a team of publicists, much less buy ads?

    At the same time, Universal is advertising a lot, for Peacock, their brand. Why should they be spending their money to promote the careers of a bunch of actors and directors…. who will then turn around and demand big bucks for the next film? or take their name, pumped up by your studio, and use it, their heightened profile, for someone else’s movie?

    Why advertise a film when you can advertise your brand and your service. or, alternatively, you can promote an actor who will be around for years on your miniseries or TV show?

    The old model of theatrical was set up to benefit publicists, who control the game. Maybe the problems of the old model are not as drastic as I describe, but look what happened this year, which was supposed to be the return of theatrical. There was a brand new scary disease. There will always be the possibility of a brand new scary disease. How much is theatrical discounted as a business proposition in order to account for risks of shutdowns and fear?

  14. Bradley Laing says:

    I checked the “Oddschecker” website under “Best Documentary Feature” betting. If you went strictly by best betting odds offered over four different betting companies, “Summer of Soul” and “Flee” are the two documentaries most likely to win. There is a pie chart graphic on the website that says that “Flee” has the most bets, and “Summer of Soul” the second most bets. But, the best odds to win still go to “Summer of Soul.”

    —My original idea, in November of 2021, was that some of 138 possible Best Documentary Features would be about the Hong Kong Democracy Movement. Of the five Best Documentary Feature nominations that could win, none of them are about the Hong Kong Democracy Movement.

  15. Bob Burns says:

    The changes to the show only make sense, if the remaining catregories feature popular films and performers. As it is, there isn’t all that much difference between the Best Picture nominees and the nominees for the three shorts. All of them are esoteric to the public.

  16. Bradley Laing says:

    Hello, I just checked the “Oddschecker” website under “Best Documentary Feature,” and there are now nine different betting companies offering up odds. The two favorites to win are clearly “Flee,” and “Summer of Soul.” I wonder, though, if the flood of refugees from Ukraine is increasing the interest in watching “Flee,” which is about a refugee.

    —The pie chart graphic on the websites says most of the bets are currently for “Flee,” although “Summer of Soul” still has the best odds to win.

  17. Bradley Laing says:

    So, does the war for Ukraine change what happens to the Oscar TV show on March 27 of this year?

  18. Bob Burns says:

    The vaccine was not enough, this was always predictable. Omicron immunity will diminish as well and new varieties of COVID will sweep through. We have about a hundred varieties of flu, and COVID is similar enough that we can anticipate the same.

    But the treatments that were recently announced…. those could be the game changer that will make theatrical safe enough for the audiences especially vulnerable to COVID. People take pills when they get sick. That works.

    So the best case, I think, is that box office returns to pre-COVID levels. Not a growing business. Hasn’t been for years of flat numbers, but enough to maintain a large subculture, that will feel like a world to those inside. Somewhat like Broadway. I don’t think the actor driven theatrical dramas, beloved of the Academy, will ever recapture the worldwide audiences they could enjoy 20 years ago.

  19. Bradley Laing says:

    —is it worth speculating on how the war in Ukraine could impact what was said, or done, at the March 27 Oscar tv show? The Ukrainian refugee population is currently estimated at 1.7 million outside of Ukraine, and internally displaced people within Ukraine could be any number, at all. And if the war goes one way over another, how many more could end up in Poland and Hungary?

    Obviously, a tv show about entertainment does not usually have to worry about overwhelming events. But is the Ukraine situation already an overwhelming event? And could it clearly be one by March 27?

    —to be sure, maybe Ukraine will not have any effect on the show?

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