MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks To Oscar: First Major Event


There are three major events in the Oscar season when it comes down to the actual voters.

Major Event 1: Watching movies over Thanksgiving weekend. This is a big one, as this is when most of the movies are in the hands of the voters and they are going to interact with friends and family for four days straight without the weight of the real world bearing down upon them. Not only will most voters who have not seen the current slate of front runners sit down and watch, but they will also be influenced to watch some stuff they wouldn’t otherwise watch by those around them. And not only might they see the film, but they can be influenced by the awareness of those who are not nearly as powerful as they, aka non-voters.

Been dragging your feet on Nightcrawler? This is the moment. Not so sure you’re ready to seriously consider a musical again? Into The Woods hits that DVD player for everyone in the family who wants to see if Meryl or Chris Pine or Emily Blunt can sing… or who know that Anna Kendrick can sing from Pitch Perfect and must see her sing some more immediately. Is Wild going to happen? Only if a bunch of voters like what they see on the DVDs this weekend. How many people will fall asleep in the first hour of Inherent Vice this weekend, wake up and ask their spouse, “What happened?,” and be told, “Hell if I know… but there is this scene I need to rewind to so you can see it and explain it to me.”

Here’s another view… if a voter’s family makes them watch The Theory of Everything again, even if the voter doesn’t really want to, and the voter sits through it again why the family enjoys it, that can change a vote. (Of course, enter any film here. Theory was just an example.)

And if the women in the household get you to watch The Fault In Our Stars, make sure the lights are down and spend a few hours complaining about allergies, because you will definitely cry and there is a very good chance you will seriously consider Shailene Woodley for Best Actress in a way you never expected.

Major Event 2: There’s an 11-day Christmas/New Year’s window this year. In that period, there will be more viewing – on DVDs and off – more persuading, and a lot of deciding. There is some influence on this event by the many awards either given out or nominated in the three weeks before the December holiday window. But those awards are not the critical event. They can draw interest to actors or films that may have been lower in the big pile of DVDs. (The count here, as of this writing, is 60 awards DVDs… and that doesn’t include the glorious but massive block of DVDs sent by Magnolia/Magnet.)

I, of course, am a movie freak, and have seen all but a dozen or so of the more obscure titles that have been sent. But even frequent moviegoers have probably seen as many or as few as half the films.

Still missing as of this writing, but likely to show up in the next couple weeks, are all the Paramount films – Interstellar, Selma, The Gambler, Top Five, and maybe Noah. Three of the films haven’t been released yet and Paramount did send out free ticket vouchers to see Interstellar in a theater, which is smart.

Likewise, no Weinstein Company movies… at least not on my doorstep. No Imitation Game. No St Vincent. No Tracks. And no Big Eyes.

The reasoning, we have heard over the years, is not sending things out before they open. But we do have Into The Woods and American Sniper, which are not opening until Christmas Day (from different companies than those whose discs aren’t out).

But as noted, those are likely to turn up in a couple of weeks (along with Unbroken), before Christmas Day, in time for the second major viewing window.

People complain about the DVD discussion each year. And I agree that all these movies are better seen on a screen and there are plenty of screenings. But the movies that everyone wants to leave home to see are just fine. It’s those to which there is some resistance that stand to win big over these home viewing windows.

Major Event 3: Post-nominations. Field narrows. Attention is focused.

It often feels like winners have been predetermined even before nominations are announced, but mostly not… and this year, especially not.

The movies still matter a lot, but other stuff matters more than before. For instance, it doesn’t matter if you win the Golden Globe or even if you are nominated for it… but your speech/presentation/demeanor can be an instant gamechanger. Just how you sit at a table can become a meme. And if you can walk away, win or lose, with people rooting for you, things are going your way.

The rest of it is detail work. Guild nominations are rarely outside of the well-established box. It takes a series of those events in coordination to change the game. Critics awards… lovely. But enjoy them for what they are, because they may not match nominations, much less winners.

The business of awards has changed, so that more and more emphasis is put on the “precursors,” but this is – like much of movie marketing – about awareness more than closing the sale. Quick… tell me who won the network-televised Hollywood Film Awards for Best Actor. Benedict Cumberbatch? Eddie Redmayne? Michael Keaton? Steve Carell? All of the above? None of the above?

No one really remembers. But there was a red carpet and TV cameras and so, it matters… kinda.

This weekend is the first big weekend of award season. It will be won by The Hunger Games, which may or may not get a single Oscar nomination. But hearts and minds will be changed… but the work itself… and for all the circus, that is really what matters… and that is what wins Oscars.

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One Response to “20 Weeks To Oscar: First Major Event”

  1. Patryk says:

    Sad that appearance at early awards shows influences some voters. I found McConaughey extremely annoying throughout the awards season and he still won over (arguably) more worthy contenders. So I guess poise and charm and just the right amount of humility can count…sometimes.

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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