10 Reasons Why The Academy Moving To January Makes Perfect Sense

It’s simple. A shorter award season will cost me money. A lot of money.

I should be rooting against it.

But I have been saying for years that this is the only way to save the dominance of the show and the kind of contract that The Academy has had with ABC for all these years.

It is not going to turn The Oscars into a bigger event than the Super Bowl. But in 2010, waiting 10 weeks to celebrate what happened months earlier is not what draws a crowd. The Oscars don’t have to become a Twitter event… keep your acceptance speeches to 140 characters or leas… but people have their year-end holidays, they get back to work, they hear about nominations and feel compelled to check out some movies… and then, they want to know The Answers.

And I’ll just have to figure out a way to make some more money some other way.

The “People Can’t See The Movies” Argument Is Bunk
This was an issue, literally, 15 years ago, before screeners had proliferated. Since then, consultants have maintained this fallacy, in part because it is, indeed, difficult to get a lower profile movie watched. But also because a shorter season means fewer weeks of pay at super Oscar pricing.

Marketing to 6000 people can be as challenging as marketing to 60 million. Some of our very best and very brightest are focused on awards season. They do great work. They make a lot of their annual nut. Now the work will be a little harder. Great. Raise prices a little, even as you lose a month of work. If they are smart enough to do this work, they are smart enough to make this work.

With Fewer Than 5 Exceptions A Year, The December Movies Are Screening Before Thanksgiving

2010 may be the most extreme case for “can’t get it seen” not being real. Only two films – literally, two – have any real chance of screening for the first time in the first week of December, getting in just under the wire for critics awards and the Globes. Those are True Grit and Jim Brooks’ How Do You Know (as in, “How do we know this will even still be the title of this film come December?”) There certainly may be years in which more films are not ready to be seen in late November. But it’s been rarer and rarer.

You Can’t Expect The Academy To Nominate The Biggest Hits To Get Ratings
It’s the great irony of this conversation. People want to argue that The Academy is not small minded enough to vote based on potential ratings. And the the same time, they want to argue that The Academy needs to save itself by finding a way to nominate bigger movies.

Last year was the year that makes the whole conversation moot. Of the movies that many see as “second five” choices in the first modern era 10 Best Picture race, one could argue that two commercial successes made it into the group – The Blind Side and District 9 – but one would have to admit that at least two of the other three were from among the three films that had grossed under $13 million before being nominated (The Hurt Locker, An Education, A Serious Man). No Hangover or Trek.

The 10 film field created opportunity and Academy members expressed themselves. Not only didn’t they turn into the PGA, the PGA acted a lot more like the Academy than a group interested in revenues might have been expected to act.

The Culture Of Over-Familiarity Is The Oscars Biggest Foe
People talk about why the Oscar viewing is less passionate than it once was. It’s not about the nominees. It’s not about the show… since no one knows whether the show will be any good until they watch it.

It’s the culture. Oscar is king. But you now get week after week of dressed up celebrities/nominees, award after award, months of time passed since most of the nominees were relevant to viewers, and a year-end award given months after the year is over. Oscar remains special to a lot of people. And to the people who have stopped caring, it’s just another damned show.

Admit it, if only to yourself… seeing the dress that Sandra Bullock was wearing on the big night just isn’t as interesting as it used to be. It’s still a princess moment, but unless the Globes and others are going to start asking talent to show up in jeans and t-shirts, it’s the fifth princess moment of the month.

Oscar is Inside Baseball. Deal with it.
Carey Mulligan’s career was changed dramatically by last year’s awards season. Great. She still can’t open a movie, whether Never Let Me Go or Wall Street 2. And that’s fine. She’s brilliant and deserves another nomination (at least) for NLMG. But it’s not a coronation like it once was perceived as being. Hillary Swank has two statues on the shelf and also can’t open a movie.

There is Hollywood royalty that transcends Oscar night. And there are great actors who get to be a part of Oscar night. And like a movie being good vs a movie being well marketed, they are separate issues. And I don’t think that’s bad, unless you need to keep the imaginary idea going.

Rather Than Positioning It As Desperate, Digital Delivery Of “Screeners” Is The Best Thing Ever, For Everyone

It’s going to happen. It’s already happening, really.

I had to see a movie for an interview a few weeks ago. There were no scheduled screenings. Setting one up for me would have cost more than $1000. So I was sent onto the distributor’s internet digital delivery system, given a password or three, and watched the movie on my 27″ computer screen. My name was right in the middle of the screen, which was unfortunate. But I saw and enjoyed the film.

Less than two weeks ago, a set top box that would privately stream to people’s television set with some intense security was announced, at $200 a box, cheaper than Cinea. Huzzah.

This is a great moment for The Academy. For the first time, they could have a system that avoids all the crap around DVD distribution. Studios could put their films into the system whenever they so chose and wouldn’t have to spend so much on DVD production and distribution. Nor would they ever have to wait around for overly busy DVD reproduction houses to get their discs ready. Plus, they could offer HD without incurring greater expenses.

But even better, it could FINALLY revolutionize the doc and foreign film categories. For years, The Academy has refused to allow voters to see films on DVD in these categories, claiming that DVD distribution with unfairly penalize the smaller, lower budgeted projects. If this system – or a competing one – works, that is over and every Academy voter could be given access to all the nominated films and be allowed to vote the same way they do for all the other categories. Hallelujah!

Piracy is not a central issue anymore. Every year, screeners end up on the web. And last year, more than half the screeners showed up on the doorstep without a need for signature. Stop hiding behind piracy and embrace this much of the future. Every film should be seen on a screen. But those aren’t the rules. So what could be better than a high quality digital library that sits by the TV for 3 months or so, with EVERYTHING you could want to see. Shorts, Docs, Foreign Language… a grand home theater of the best of the year and hell, everything else that studios want to offer up as well.

Nirvana. (At least for those of us who can score boxes.)

Sweeps Months Have Become Less And Less Relevant
One of the least noted reasons for the date of Oscar has been that February was a “sweeps month” for the networks. It was always a rather silly notion that advertisers paid for ads in non-sweeps periods at prices set by sweeps stunts, like The Oscars. Welcome to the new millennium of television.

Oscar can still be “The Super Bowl for Women” before the Super Bowl as well as it could after. People advertise on American Idol every single week.

Oscar Is Not About Being A Marketing Slingshot
Harvey Weinstein and his team brilliantly used late January Oscar nominations to slingshot marketing for their movies. This method has already dissipated. The only movie to add as much as 20% to their gross post-nomination last year was An Education. Slumdog did most of its business post-nomination the year before, but that was after Searchlight intentionally slowed the film down to wait for the nods. The Reader was a classic late entry by The Weinsteins.

But it’s not The Academy’s job to market your late season movie… even if great minds have figured out how to use the slingshot. You know what? They’ll figure out another angle when presented with an earlier show.

The Show Might Be Better If There Is Less Time To Obsess On Details
Pretty basic. Producers have argued that the show is too complex to put together over a couple of weeks post-nominations. But it’s Glengarry territory…

“The great fucks that you may have had. What do you remember about them?… It’s probably not the orgasm. Some broads, forearms on your neck, something her eyes did. There was a sound she made…or, me, lying, in the, I’ll tell you: me lying in bed; the next day she brought me café au lait. She gives me a cigarette, my balls feel like concrete. Eh?”

People remember the moments that are not the big planned moments. The reason they mock the musical numbers is that they feel false. They are planned, canned moments on an evening of unveiled mysteries. “The Envelope, please.”

The more it’s a show in the barn, the more people will enjoy the human drama.

The Academy Awards Have Become The DVD Release Of A Big Hit Movie
It’s really simple. We rev the engines for week after week after week, starting with the commercial releases of all of these movies. And then, we hear about Globes noms, Critics groups, Top Tens, BFCA, The Guilds, The Globes, The Guild Events, SAG, The Super Bowl, and finally… we need to get excited all over again for Oscar. Oy.

There is a reason why the NFL has made the Pro Bowl part of the Super Bowl processional. After the big game, it was just like spring training… and the Super Bowl players didn’t show up anyway.

The reason I don’t think saving on marketing should mean day-n-date Home Entertainment for movies is that narrowing the window certainly will include a lot of cannibalization of a market the industry needs, theatrical distribution. But for Oscar, the only benefit of the delay is accrued to other organizations. If all of the money for theatrical distribution went to the theaters or the actors or somewhere other than paying for the cost of making and marketing the movie -aside from the 45% paid to theaters – there would be no theatrical, period. The industry would focus only on home distribution without any concern about how this affected the overall potential gross of a film in all markets. And indeed, total gross would be irrelevant to the industry’s bottom line under those circumstances.

The fact that The Oscars have retained as much audience as it has is a tribute to its power and history. But in the new media world, letting everyone else ride their wake, draining the perceived value of their award, is not good business.

Time to move into the modern world. And even if the ratings increase is marginal, know that without the move, there would be a steady, unstoppable decrease. The Oscars would never be lower rated than The Golden Globes. But year after year, being last into the field will eat away at the separation. And if 6000 industry voters is ever close to being seen as equal to 88 little qualified individuals who are the fatted calves of the award season just because Dick Clark produces an entertaining award show, it will be a true embarrassment.


Gurus o’ Gold – A Pre-Toronto Look At The 2010/11 Field

Welcome to the first Gurus gathering of this upcoming season.

It always seems a little silly to offer strong opinions before the Toronto International Film Festival has even begun. So we don’t. Consider these a gentle guide to what the buzz is, very early in the season.

We asked The Gurus to offer their 15 favorites to end up nominated for Best Picture come January. No ranking, No “sure things.” Just instinct and as much insight as is possible at this moment.

Last year, we did the same and the result was that The Gurus hit seven of the final ten in their Top Ten from this long distance. Two more were picked in the Top Sixteen. And the only film to get nominated that was nowhere to be found on this early list? The Blind Side. (Perhaps that explains the shock from the media when it got nominated… even after becoming a well-reviewed massive box office hit.) So maybe this early poll isn’t really all that silly .

Is there a stone unturned this year? Well, not Stone, which got a vote from Pete Howell. And not Tree of Life, which got 4 votes last year at this time… and just 3 votes this time around (2 of them from the same Gurus as last year).

This is not the look for the future of Gurus moving forward. But our team is designing a databased system that will launch when Gurus goes full-out in November. So, until then…

UPDATE, 9/7/10 – The last three Gurus have now chimed in.

The Participating Gurus
Anthony Breznican – USA Today
Greg Ellwood – Hitfix
Pete Hammond – Deadline Hollywood
Eugene Hernandez – indieWIRE
Pete Howell – Toronto Star
Dave Karger – Entertainment Weekly
Mark Olsen – LA Times
David Poland – Movie City News
Steve Pond – The Wrap
Sean Smith – Entertainment Weekly
Sasha Stone – Awards Daily
Kris Tapley – In Contention
Anne Thompson -indieWIRE
Susan Wloszczyna – USA Today


26 Weeks To Oscar: The Year Of… Patience

The awards season has gotten off to a rousing “uh, okay.”

Yeah, the festival season is upon us and there is a lot of drool dripping over some of these films – including my own happy salivations – but it is easy to mistake strong players using the fests to launch their long, complex, and expensive awards plans and the notion that festival excitement is, in and of itself, an answer. It’s not… at least, not to the positive.

Films will die at VeniTelluRonto™, but even the most robust winners/survivors cannot assume they’re set. Some actors will lock in, probably… but not Picture. Two of last year’s ten nominees premiered at one of these festivals in the year they were released. (The Hurt Locker is the third… which was in Toronto in 2008… and almost failed to sell.) Slumdog was the only one of the five the year before. 2007 saw 4 of 5. But that was the exception that reminds us of the rule. In 2006… 1 of 5.

I’m not saying that these festivals are not a great tool for movie marketers to grab a great deal of attention. (And the Oscar race is a marketing event first and an artistic event second, make no mistake.) And who knows? There are those who feel that TIFF 2010 will have more than half the nominees in its theaters. No reason it can’t be the case. But again… it’s the start of a marathon, not a sprint where the first winners get automatic byes.

There are plenty of players in the game for Oscar 2010, but for the first time in a very long time, there are virtually no “you can lock that in from months away” candidates sitting there. You have Eastwood and you have The Coens and Sony over the moon about Fincher’s The Social Network. After that, even amongst pedigree players, it is hard for anyone to get a realistic temperature out there.

In the immortal words of Nancy Meyers, something’s gotta give. But what?

Danny Boyle has his golden statue and a movie that’s a thriller and a crowd pleaser… but is it Oscar? Mike Leigh is always a threat, but one never knows which film will leap up. Jim Brooks has batted .600 overall, with 3 of his first four films getting BP nods… but it’s been 13 years and a flop since he went to The Carpet.

The next group is pretty muscular, but still, a bit aspirational. Ed Zwick is always around The Money, so maybe a lighter film will get him to gold. Julian Schnabel hasn’t made a movie that didn’t get serious awards interest, but Miral may or may not be “good for The Jews.” Julie Taymor may get Shakespeare back in the game for the first time since Ken Branagh. (You remember Ken… director of Thor… right?) Randall Wallace has been to the dance, but is his horse movie too Disney to be embraced as seriously as it will need to be?

David O. Russell is one of the most storied young directors… but has never been nominated… is The Fighter his The Wrestler? And what of young Aronofsky? Is his thriller too thrilling for The Senior Circuit? Also challenging voters with fresh intensity are Mark Romanek, Anton Corbjin, and Ben Affleck (back, this time starring in his sophomore, somewhat more conventional but still very 70s, directorial effort).

Right in what seems like The Oscar Pocket are Tony Goldwyn with a period overcoming-the-odds flick, Calendar Guy Nigel Cole with a warmer Norma Rae, Tom Hooper segueing from John Adams and the well-liked but unrewarded The Damned United to something more Queen-erific, and Roger Michell doing another turn on classic Jim Brooks.

And the Really Young Set… or at least, young to The Academy: Cholodenko, Boden/Fleck, Cianfrance, and Schneider. All in play for real… but still a bit of a mystery to the voters, who, in reality, are not cineastes, but industry pros, as given to whims as any other large group.

Debra Granik is a remarkable director and undeniably a starmaker, but Roadside Attractions needs to leap into the Oscar game with both feet is her Winter’s Bone is to get out of summer and take a firm position in the awards season. RA also picked up the Bardem-starrer from Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu, making them The New Awards Player in town. They have earned a taste for all this, after winning Oscar last year for Best Doc. They just picked up the new Ondi Timoner doc, hoping for a repeat. Roadside certainly doesn’t want to follow too closely in the footsteps of Sidney Kimmel and Bob Yari, as both men have, ahem, narrowed their film interests since they were seen chasing awards. They don’t have the support of horny vampires, a la Summit. But in the land of 10 Best Picture nominees and extremely strong candidates for Actor & Actress, it may be their time.

And who has the fullest stable of contenders? Harvey Weinstein… natch. But damned if I know whether he has the cash, staff, and will to grab what, from a distance, could easily be 2 BP slots out of 10.

Of course, there are the pictures that have already done their big theatrical releases: Toy Story 3, Inception, and Shutter Island. Plus we’ll see pushes from Alice in Wonderland and How To Train Your Dragon.

Floating out there are a new Peter Weir film (aka, the Scott Rudin movie that has no distribution) and a first from screenwriting Oscar winner William Monahan. But who wants to jump onto a moving train to get them into the race in the next 3 months?

And Tyler Perry’s presence is now official. And if he doesn’t get some love, Academy members could just find themselves Madeaed. Watch out.

Does any of this make you feel more settled about what happens next?

Thing is… it will turn into some solids as we move forward. It always does. And those sure bets are often not as sure as we all like to think. But right now, there is a lot more passionate churning about every category but Best Picture. And I have to say… kinda cool for a change.



Best Film: The Hurt Locker
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education
Best Actor: Colin Firth, A Single Man
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Foreign Language Film: A Prophet
Best Animated Film: Up
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Rising Star Award: Kristen Stewart
Best Production Design: Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg and Kim Sinclair, Avatar
Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Best British Film: Fish Tank
Best Supporting Actress: Mo


WGA Goes Hurt Locker, Up In the Air and Cove

Anyone surprised?



PRESS RELEASE – The Hurt Locker, Up, The Cove Ace The ACEs



47-year old industryite writes: “At Monkey Bar for Sandy Bullock party– bringing median age down about 30 years.”
Add, Tues, 11:50a – Translation – A Sandy Bullock party at the Monkey Bar means Oscar gladhanding. Oscar gladhanding, even more in NY than LA, means older people.


All Not Together Now

When I saw this foursome on the SAG Awards (oddly without the present Ms Loren), I was struck by how this group of four women looked as though they had barely ever met. And the movie feels just like that, even though each individual got a wonderful chance to stretch and play.


PGA Offers An Actual Surprise In Award Season

The Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures
Kathryn Bigelow
Mark Boal
Nicolas Chartier
Greg Shapiro
The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures
Jonas Rivera
The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures
Fisher Stevens
Paula DuPr


SAG Awards

No surprises at all.
Winners after the jump… for the sake of avoiding spoilers for late West Coast viewers…

Read the full article »


Globes Catch-Up

My take on The Golden Globes this year was a little unexpected.
I thought Ricky Gervais did a solid job that was perfect for The Globes and will never be appropriate for The Oscars. Good call on both teams.
There were a few goofy choices… and that’s fine. The only award of any significance was Sandra Bullock in a category that has some great work in it, but is by no means an intensely competitive group of “must votes.” The Bullock win (and the co-win at BFCA) will get Academy members who hadn’t put the DVD in the player to do just that. The urge to offer a loving hand to a well-liked and high-grossing member of the community may do the rest.
The most significant element of The Globes is always the impression that winners make at these shows with their speeches, Was Mo’Nique’s speech genius or a melodramatic bore? Did Jim Cameron come off as a good-natured winner or will Academy members really want to see Kathryn Bigelow speak and make history? That kind of thing.
I went to the parties afterward and was reminded that, indeed, we are all part of a big high school. I am not a studio exec or an actor or director… but I am some kind of member of the family and as such, an evening out at the penultimate high school reunion creates its own perspective. There are so many levels of communication going on at once… so many people whose lives touch, but work on so many different layers of intimacy (or lack thereof).
A night of thousands of indifferent people becomes a lovely thing with a few moments with people you are genuinely happy to see. This is a note to myself for when I get angry about the absurdity of it all. I will always get sucked into rage over hypocrisy. But there is never a real question about why I still work in this world. I love it. And I am lucky to have my passion indulged.


Golden Globes BYOB

Have at it if you like… not much for live blogging…


PRESS RELEASE – LAFCA's Top 13 Of The Decade

LOS ANGELES, January 12, 2009


PRESS RELEASE – ACE Awards For Editing

(embargoed until tomorrow… embargo broken by Variety… embargo no withdrawn)
Stephen Rivkin, A.C.E., John Refua, A.C.E. &
James Cameron, A.C.E.
District 9
Julian Clarke
The Hurt Locker
Bob Murawski & Chris Innis
Star Trek
Maryann Brandon, A.C.E. & Mary Jo Markey, A.C.E.
Up in the Air
Dana Glauberman, A.C.E.
500 Days of Summer
Alan Edward Bell
The Hangover
Debra Neil-Fisher, A.C.E.
Julie & Julia
Richard Marks, A.C.E.
A Serious Man
Roderick Jaynes


ASC Noms

Barry Ackroyd, BSC for


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