MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

27 Weeks To Oscar: The Shifting Award Show Cycle

The market will out.

One of the little-discussed reactions to the new instant-information era is the downgrading of many of our favorite (for some, least favorite) parts of the movie year, festivals and award shows.

Sundance is a true market festival in the United States and as such has become a consistent launchpad for awards movies that will be re-launched in the fall. There are ups and downs, but as a place where movies are purchased, it allows a distributor a full 7-month run up to an awards launch and commercial campaign.

Cannes has become marginalized in all categories but Foreign Language for a variety of reasons, but a big one is that English-language films that premiere there are threatened by death-by-critic, and get no benefit in the U.S. with a May premiere that is not followed up immediately with a Stateside release.

The Venice-Telluride-Toronto window remains solid. The timing is right. The media benefits are there.

The New York Film Festival, which had a period starting in 2010 of imposing itself on the award season, has reversed itself and gone back to being a wonderful local festival with minimal national implications this year. Was this a choice by the programmers or the circumstances of how distributors wish to roll out their awards hopefuls? I would guess that it is a combination. If NYFF had a big, fat opener offered to them, would they be opening with a documentary (however celebrated the filmmaker and important the issue)? Probably.

To be fair, The Los Angeles Film Festival, which is not in the awards game (early summer) also suffers this problem, having to be “creative” with event programming (opening/closing) after years of having access to higher profile films to draw audiences.

AFI comes along in Los Angeles in early November, offering a last gasp of festival season linking with award season. But last year, the results were not happy. And now, November 10 (this year’s opening night) is looking late. AFI will get some big titles by the time it rolls around. There is a value proposition for some payers. But it’s not a serious driver of anything.

One reason that AFI is looking a bit late at November 10 this year is that Broadcast Film Critics just announced that they are moving the Critics Choice Award Show to December 11.

This would seem to be a dying gasp by BFCA and broadcast partner A&E for a place at the awards table… and relevance in general. Just last year, the Critics Choice Awards added television to the mix, because everyone was waiting for a TV award show in January, right? No. Obviously not. But getting familiar talent on the TV could have led to improved ratings. Also, no one bit on a separate BFCA TV show.

BFCA also added an untelevised documentary show this November, which is ironic, as the BFCA may be the least documentary-aware film writer organization on the planet. So the BFCA award shows – now 3 – are proliferating while the opportunity for them to become TV shows or for anyone outside of the room to care is shrinking like… well, it’s shrinking. A lot.

But BFCA is one of the most healthy groups in this regard. The two major critics groups – NY and LA – still carry real weight, but neither has ever gotten interest as a TV event. The Hollywood Film Awards, an absolute con by Carlos “The Jackass” de Abreu turned legitimized con by Dick Clark Productions is heading into its second year without a TV outlet, which is making the $10 million-plus purchase of the show from Carlos a disaster. I don’t see Dick Clark Productions continuing the show for a third year of no one airing the thing. They are not a live event company. But if they happen this year, they will be in early November.

The other talent-demanding event in the fall is Deadline’s The Contenders, a marketing dog & pony show which breaks every rule of The Academy, has no apparent effect on the award season, and which every studio feels it must participate, lest they be left out in some way.

So… we have the festival launches in September. We have an eruption in early November by way of AFI/The Contenders/HFA. And now, we have Golden Globes nods, NYFCA & LAFCA award announcements, and BFCA handing out awards in the first weeks of December. Then Oscar nominations and Golden Globes in January. And The Oscars in February.

Seems like it’s all been sorted out, no?

Yeah. Funny how that works.

I will say that I think it is embarrassing for a group claiming to be a critics group to be handing out awards in the first half of December. I have always felt that way about every critics group that does it. (The primary excuse for the non-televised groups has been scheduling.) But I see this as a desperate move by BFCA to keep its television show, not to make a statement. If BFCA loses the TV deal, the show will go on and be profitable as a live event… but it’s a lot less profitable.

And I realize I left out National Board of Review. I’m not going to go back to fix that because it isn’t broken. NBR is utterly, completely irrelevant as anything other than a talking point and studios need to stop investing more than screenings in the absurdity of it.

The DGA/PGA/WGA of it all is not irrelevant. But as I have always said, they are the canaries, not the coal mines. As they should be.

What I hear every time I do a column like this is, “Not everything is about Oscar.” And that is true… to a degree. Every honor is an honor. No one knows if there will be a next honor. And many of the organizations mentioned here are legitimate and of inherent value.


It is all about Oscar.

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2 Responses to “27 Weeks To Oscar: The Shifting Award Show Cycle”

  1. Glamourboy's Dad says:


  2. Daniella Isaacs says:

    You can certainly say that a winner from the National Society of Film Critics is in much better company than the winner of an Oscar, at least in the long game of what counts as a classic down the road: Blowup, Persona, Nashville, The Dead, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Pulp Fiction…

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