Okay my friends, there is no getting around it. The Oscars feel like a ship that has sunk and all of the contents that went into building it, making it nice, with everything packed away has suddenly risen to the surface and you can’t make sense of it. A shoe here, a dish there. In this fantasy version no one dies – everyone is rescued but all of the debris remains. That’s what it’s like.
Gone is the “wow” factor needed to build an impressive contender. Gone is the big screen experience that often shocks us and awes us for the cinematography. When you see News of the World finally or Mank – you will see gorgeous films that beg to be seen as big and wide as possible. But you will have to be content with your flat screen, your laptop, or even your phone come to that.
Gone are the special screenings where celebrities invite people to watch the movie then go celebrate at the Chateau Marmont. Gone is the opportunity to hobnob with famous people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in the same room with the biggest names. Bong Joon-Ho became the toast of the town last year, going to every last critics awards and party, always with a bemused smile on his face. Everyone fell in love with him in a season, which no doubt contributed to Parasite’s win. THAT IS GONE.
Gone is the box office to show the might of a contender. This will impact the bigger movies like News of the World, which would have been an easy $100 mil at the box office. It would also have helped Hillbilly Elegy because you’d see the people that Hollywood ordinarily shuns with their overtly political films that only depict the left’s view. It isn’t that Hillbilly Elegy doesn’t necessarily depict the right’s view, but it, at the very least, is a movie written by someone who is not part of the left. If the movie made enough money that would or could balance some of the critics’ disdain.
Box office only matters when it matters and with some of the films this year it would matter. Obviously the Netflix model removes the pressure of measuring artistic value with ticket sales, and it looks like other studios are starting to respond to this evolutionary shift, but for all of Oscar history that has been part of deciding what films were worthy for awards.
But here’s the thing – once the critics awards start coming down we will have something that feels like an awards race. It isn’t that critics will necessarily decide it but they will hit the first ball into the field. The real consensus will likely take shape when the Golden Globes winnow down their choices to their top fives. The Globes’ impact on the race is often understated, I think, especially lately.
A few films that have been lifted by the Globes where the critics ignored them include: Bohemian Rhapsody, Hacksaw Ridge, The Post. It isn’t always the case that one of these films makes it in. The Ides of March and Rush are a couple of films that didn’t. Still, the Globes influence is enormous, which is why, up to now, the 88 Globes voters have been specifically wooed by studios.
How is that going to go? Will it be down to the critics and the bloggers to influence the Globe vote? Will there be special Zoom meetings for members with some of the stars and filmmakers? Innovation will be key to getting a leg up.
Whenever I get worried about this year, though, I remember that at some point in the near future there will be names and prizes and the race will start to take shape.
Let’s go over the calendar from here (from AwardsWatch).
December 18, 2020
New York Film Critics Circle
December 20, 2020
Los Angeles Film Critics Circle
January 11, 2021
National Board of Review awards
February 3, 2021
Golden Globe Nominations
February 4, 2021
February 7, 2021
Critics Choice Awards
February 9, 2021
Oscars Short List announced
February 16, 2021
February 17, 2021
DGA voting begins
February 3, 2021
Golden Globe Awards
March 5, 2021
Oscar nomination voting begins
March 8, 2021
March 8, 2021
DGA voting ends
March 9, 2021
DGA nominations, final voting begins
March 10, 2021
Oscar nomination voting ends (after 5 days!)
March 14, 2021
March 15th, 2021
March 21, 2021
March 24, 2021
April 9, 2021
DGA final voting ends
April 10, 2021
April 11, 2021
April 15, 2021
Final Oscar voting begins
April 20, 2021
Final Oscar voting ends (5 days!)
April 25, 2021
As you can see, it’s gonna be a minute. But really, once the critics announce, and then we fold in the Golden Globes, a clearer picture will emerge and we will have a better idea of where this is all going.
My own idea of how this will play out is that I think the critics are likely to put their full force behind Nomadland. I think New York, at the very least, will pick this film for Picture and Director. I also think the film critics overall will be very female filmmaker friendly. FFF. Thus, I expect Regina King’s One Night in Miami to do well, with other films perhaps getting some attention, like Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks, Eliza Hitman’s Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always, and Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman.
I also expect that the Golden Globes will likely nominate Zhao, at the very least, in Best Director. Since the Globes have five films for Drama and five for Musical/Comedy, I imagine we will get a pretty good idea of how the race will shape up in terms of Best Picture anyway; it’s not likely a musical or comedy is going to win Best Picture this year so it kicks over to the drama department.
In general, the Globes more than the critics tend to be slightly more studio friendly. I expect, given that, some of the films from the majors will be considered, like Universal’s News of the World (which I think the Globes will like a lot). Is that the only major studio film in the race at the moment? It might be. Searchlight has Nomadland. But the others are Netflix or Apple or Amazon. At least that is how it’s looking to me right now. Perhaps that will change.
You’d have to be an idiot not to see this as the year streaming becomes the norm for “Oscar movies,” especially since big studios will need to make blockbusters to make up the difference from the losses this year. Either which way, both the critics and the Globes will come from different sensibilities and that is why, at least for now, they are both good ways to balance the race.
As for Netflix, I think the Globes will go for Mank, Chicago 7, and perhaps Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. In musical, they will have The Prom. Our five for Drama might look something like this:
News of the World
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom or One Night in Miami
I figure Director will be:
Something along those lines. What do you think, Oscarwatchers?