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David Poland

By David Poland

Notes On Award Season… Backseat Driver’s Edition

1. Michelle Robertson, whose awards campaign strategy has a long history of success, believes in the quiet sell. After bringing this style to Focus and almost upsetting Chicago with The Pianist – no director available for interviews & all the controversy you could ask for – and helping to guide the awards success of Lost In Translation and then Brokeback Mountain, she moved on to WB three seasons ago, where they ended up winning in her first year for The Departed. I’m not saying – nor would Michelle – that she deserves all the credit or that it is all about her strategy, but her influence of low-key campaigning has been very successful… including on The Blind Side, which no one thought would be nominated for Oscar, much less win. If you know anything about Eastwood, he and his closest allies does call all the shots, including screening plans, materials, etc. And WB does what he tells them to. As for Blind Side, it wasn’t WB’s movie, they weren’t going to run an Oscar campaign and eat their entire distribution fee. And when the film became such a commercial success, Alcon and WB made a deal on a campaign… got a BP nomination and Bullock won. There was nothing surprising about it.

2. If you’ve been nominated, it is not too late to win. Period. Just as Team Hurt Locker.

Is Rabbit Hole too late? Is True Grit too late?

3. Every studio but Sony Classics has been slow out of the gate this season. The only one that doesn’t appear to have done so was Sony and Social Network, but that’s only because of the October release. Their awards campaign is starting as late as anyone’s. The King’s Speech has been a frontrunner since September and just got its final creative materials out a couple of weeks ago.

By the way… the late season strategy that they are following is not only cheaper, but again, worked last year. Next year, they will emulate whoever wins this year. Welcome to the world of Oscar strategy.

4. Slumdog Millionaire was not made for Warner Bros, It was made for Warner Independent Pictures, which was unceremoniously shuttered months before they sold distribution rights to Fox Searchlight. The odds of the parent of a shuttered art house arm going ahead with distribution of a small film set in a foreign country with a lot of subtitles are virtually non-existent. WB could not have done with Slumdog what Searchlight did. They just aren’t built for it. Either was WIP, for that matter. I don’t think WB deserves a pat on the back for letting it go… but they do deserve credit for making it into a profit center that would have likely been a loss any other way. Compared to Paramount giving up Twilight, it was a great studio win.

5. Every film with Best Picture potential also has to deal with the full hand it is dealt. How do you push Inception hard without Leo and with only infrequent opportunity to exploit Chris Nolan? Answer: You don’t. You go the other way and hope it comes to you. Similar problem for Paramount with Shutter Island… they had an event a couple of weeks ago and both Scorsese and DiCaprio were satellited in… cool, but not the stuff of strong pushes. If Focus really wanted to push The American, how would they do it with virtually no Clooney availability? Christian Bale will not do Oscar interviews of any kind for The Fighter. Annette Bening is doing very little for The Kids Are All Right… so Focus is working everyone else’s ass off.

No one is casting aspersions on the talent. It’s just hard to push hard when your talent is not front and center, especially when you have 10 films and most of them are delivering talent left and right.

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant about these things… unless you are telling people that you know something… more than a studio chief even. Oy. It is to laugh.

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11 Responses to “Notes On Award Season… Backseat Driver’s Edition”

  1. djk813 says:

    As far as stars not doing Oscar PR, maybe they’re just following Mo’Nique’s lead.

  2. Celluloid Kid says:

    “If Focus really wanted to push The American, how would they do it with virtually no Clooney availability? Christian Bale will not do Oscar interviews of any kind for The Fighter. Annette Bening is doing very little for The Kids Are All Right… so Focus is working everyone else’s ass off. ”

    That’s interesting. I always thought that only the most difficult of talent would say no to support their own movies.

  3. IOv3 says:

    Christian Bale basically did his Oscar interview in Esquire. Poor guy needs a lot more hugs then he ever received. Seriously, we need to start a “HUG BALE” campaign.

  4. Nicol D says:

    I just watched what has become my favourite film of the year…Winter’s Bone.

    I suspect its Oscar chances are low but I have never felt this level of organic tension in such a natural feeling film in quite some time. Nothing in this film felt fake, cliche or stereotyped.

    Coincidentally, I just watched it after Antichrist. What irony that the scene in the boat in Winter’s Bone, which is not graphic except for in suggestion, has the tension pushed to an unbelieveable level, where Trier’s graphic film has all of the tension of a Road Runner cartoon. Beautiful photography and good performances but ultimately silly.

    In a perfect world Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes would be locks for at least nominations for the Oscars. That they are not is a travesty.

    An unbelievably wonderfully crafted film…and a helluva thriller!

  5. JenR says:

    In the NY Times interview Bale just did, he said he would campaign for the film but he would not campaign for himself. The guys hasn’t done a single late night talk show in almost a decade-I couldn’t see him out openly promoting himself like that.

  6. anghus says:

    it seems like people aren’t getting all worked up over the award season this year.

    Can i get an ‘amen’?

    maybe this will start a trend. because to me, the discussion of award season is far more interesting than the bloated campaigns.

    and david, the blind side getting nominated in a category of 10 for best picture… not exactly a fucking miracle considering how well it was received. it was exactly the kind of mainstream hit that the category was expanded to include.

  7. Krillian says:

    Bale should do Craig Ferguson.

  8. Triple Option says:

    Does the Academy give out awards for perfect attendance or something? Cuz, otherwise for the life of me, I CANNOT figure out what award could Annette Bening possibly be considered for in The Kids Are Alright??? Which really should be called The Kids Are Alright But Not Like, Pssss, Great.

  9. leahnz says:

    this cringe-worthy ‘campaigning’ for oscar has turned the academy awards into a complete farce. all of it should be banned immediately to restore what degree of credibility and dignity the awards ever had to begin with.

    if you have to actively campaign as if it were a political race rather than an a supposed appreciation of excellence in art/technological achievement in order to be nominated or win an award for artistic endeavour, YOU DON’T DESERVE IT.

    but that will never happen, because there’s an entire bogus industry built around awards campaigning, the most smoke-n-mirrors hocus-pocus dog-n-pony show bullshit ever invented, which exists not for the benefit of the awards in any way, shape or form but because a bunch of people line their pockets with $ on the back of what is essentially a political campaign, corrupting a fairly straight forward voting process and turning it into a fucking circus. these eggs essentially ‘decide’ which films and perfs should be nominated/win and then do their damnedest to make it happen. it’s a TRAVESTY.

    (good on bale and benning for not ‘campaigning’ for themselves, it’s nothing short of embarrassing and pathetic)

    also, being a member of ‘the academy’ is supposed to be a ‘privilege’, so with power comes responsibility:

    – every single member should have to get off their bums and go to the cinema to see films over the course of the year, keep their own list of ‘the best’ they’ve seen and nominate accordingly for excellence in their specific field/branch at the end of the year, without outside influences – campaign adds in their faces, palm greasing and smear campaigns behind the scenes. this would also help to eliminate the ‘october-december nominees only’ syndrome and disperse some of the homogenisation within the branch award categories, so that every big award does not comes from the same exact pool of 5 or so films, which everybody knows is bogus.

    – no more dvd screeners sent out to people to watch on their boob tubes to people who can’t be bothered seeing movies how they’re meant to be seen (i mean if you’re infirm on a breather in a wheelchair, ok an exception, but if you can walk, do it in and out of the cinema). and if an academy member hasn’t seen ALL the nominated films/performances at the cinema, every single one, you’re not allowed to vote. simple as that. no more dvd viewings where aunt alice calls in the middle of the movie to chat or you go off to make a snack in the middle because you’re peckish or watch the film over a 3 day period, bullshit — that would clean up and somewhat purify the whole stinky mess, and eliminate the ‘i didn’t see such and such movie but i voted for sandy because she was in my acting class back in the 1950’s!’ nonsense.

    (that may be one of the fastest rants i’ve ever written, with one of my shift keys bung to boot)

  10. matt says:

    that’s what makes Mo’Nique’s win for Precious all the more impressive

  11. Jason S. says:

    Triple Option is right on. In a year with so many allegedly great performances I can’t wait to see, the idea that the Academy will declare Bening’s performance as the best of the best, THE crowning achievement among actresses this year, is nuts.

    In fact, I don’t get why this movie is even in the discussion. A Perfect 3 star movie, but no more.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon