Earlier than ever this year, some of the biggest critics and major precursors will announce their nominations and winners from the very best of 2016. With a consensus feeling among many, so many of these industry awards are angling to be first on the beat to either name something the best of the year, or take sole credit for bringing something into the conversation.
In the spirit of the film “Thirteen Days,” and in no way comparing the seriousness of the two subjects, the Phase 1 awards season will have its own “Thirteen Days” from Nov. 29 to Dec. 11. At that time, publicists and awards consultants will be glued to their screens and monitors, awaiting the mentions of their most beloved clients. This all could signal either a “crisis” among those individuals, prompting them to rethink their strategies, or show us a presumed “lesser than” contender to emerge on the beat, prompting the awards community to say at the end of the season, “You’ll never believe how close we came.” How close to what now? That remains to be seen.
The Oscar’s “Thirteen Days” begins Nov. 29, when the National Board of Review will announce their winners. The same day, the BFCA nominating ballots for the Critics Choice Awards will be due for the entire membership. Between that time and Dec. 11, when the Critics Choice Awards will take place, New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, and half a dozen others will weigh in on the race. The SAG voting deadline is also the same day as the Critics Choice Awards. The very next day, the Golden Globes will announce their annual nominees.
This all has two possible outcomes for an Oscar voter. Nominations voting for the Academy opens up on Jan. 5 and closes Jan. 13. That’s 8 days for them to either go back and look over the various guilds to get “inspiration” about who they should or shouldn’t vote for, or it leaves them to their own devices to choose whatever they want in any given category. Major guilds like the DGA announce Jan. 12, the day before Oscar ballots are due. PGA will announce their nominees on Jan. 5, the day voting opens for the Academy.
So what does this all mean to the Oscar race? Let’s take a look:
Early buzz rules them all?
- Whichever film or performance is on top of the world during the Thanksgiving holiday will likely have the momentum for those two weeks. Currently, “La La Land” from Damien Chazelle has all the buzz going into October. This is when the publicists are putting their best foot forward, and getting their clients in front of the right people who can get their films seen and appreciated by the right voting bodies. If “La La Land” can sustain, then bet on strong showings just about everywhere.
The daunting question that will linger around key misses: Have they seen it?
- For a few years now, the late entries in an awards race always cloud up the buzz and where we think the Academy might go. Films like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Django Unchained” and “Selma” all struggled with the later guild groups because screeners couldn’t be made in time, and the industry professionals couldn’t get the film in under their tight deadline. This year, “Fences” from Denzel Washington, “Silence” from Martin Scorsese, and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” from Gareth Edwards could end up suffering similar fates. But will they be able to bounce back from it? When it comes to SAG, it matters. Only two Oscar winners have won without a SAG nomination – Marcia Gay Harden (“Pollock”) and Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”). If we’re banking on Washington, co-star Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, or hell, even Felicity Jones to make some Oscar noise, then the studios must make sure their films get in front of the right people in time. Last word on “Fences” was that he’s still in post-production. The last on “Silence” was that Paramount Pictures wanted Scorsese to trim down the film that came in at a reported 195 minute runtime. When it comes to “Rogue One,” like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” last year, Walt Disney Pictures only angles for the Oscar voter. They don’t like to risk leaks, spoilers and various other factors.
Oscar will do what they want to do (honestly, they always have anyway)
- In 2003, Oscar threw curveball after curveball on the morning of Jan. 27. Samantha Morton and Djimon Hounsou in “In America,” Keisha Castle-Hughes in “Whale Rider,” Shohreh Aghdashloo in “House of Sand and Fog” and Fernando Meirelles for “City of God” were performers and directors that shocked the world with their inclusions in their respective categories. Leave Oscar to their own choices, they can typically surprise you (in a good way). Last year, sheer mathematics explained why Tom Hardy found his entry way for his performance in “The Revenant.” The same equation could benefit people like Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”) or Peter Sarsgaard (“Jackie”). Logic showed us why Sylvester Stallone didn’t win the Oscar for “Creed.” Perhaps we shouldn’t assume the safety and comfort of Michelle Williams or Viola Davis or Emma Stone winning either of their categories.
All of this won’t matter until the gold statues start being handed out. When the “close call” contenders miss, they usually miss for the “WTF?” nominee that swoops in. Some examples: Maria Bello (“The Cooler”), Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”) and Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”) missing for Aghdashloo or Tom Hardy (“The Revenant”).
Let’s all be vigilant.
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