Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oscar Night... in January?

I don't know how much stock to put in Deadline Hollywood's "breaking" rumor -- how is a rumor, "exclusive news"? Discuss -- that AMPAS is debating about moving the Oscars to January. If it is true, or rather, if after discussing it (which is all the "news" states), they actually decide to do it, I can't imagine we'll see that happen until the 2011/2012 race.

Pros: Hollywood might actually release the films in the same calendar year that they're supposedly being honored for. You'd think that last year's Best Picture race, in which summer > December by a 4/2 Best Picture nominee margin (including the actual winner), would have helped convince distributors to spread out the prestige pieces in 2010 but that doesn't seem to be the case. Maybe a January awards ceremony would help? This would also help to stop confusing 'which year are you talking about?' questions that come up in Oscar discussions. When someone says "the 2008 Oscar winner!" do they mean Slumdog Millionaire (released in 2008, winning in 2009) or do they mean No Country For Old Men (released in 2007, winning in 2008)? The Film Experience always go by the year of release y'hear, but the later the Oscars are the more other people don't (including the IMDB) which makes things confusing. A January ceremony could potentially make November the month of choice for adult oriented studio releases which would be a better alternative from a moviegoing perspective than Christmas. November is far less hectic than December. Plus, why wouldn't Hollywood want the holiday money twice over (first by opening limited in November, second by expanding at Christmas time) ? I'll never understand why they ignore Thanksgiving the way they do.

Cons:
It's very possible that the December releasing with platforms stretching until March and April is so ingrained in Hollywood's DNA now that they wouldn't think to start earlier to alleviate concerns about whether or not the movies are actually being seen. And, actually, from a big studio perspective, they might prefer that the films aren't seen. It's much easier to buy votes if people are voting on buzz and "looks good on paper" than on their actual firsthand relationship to the film; Buzz can be bought but personal feelings are difficult to purchase. An earlier awards ceremony could also mean that we see even less discernment in Oscar nominations and winners than we do now, and even less careful consideration of merits from the critics and precursor groups (obviously if Oscar moves earlier everyone else will too which means you'll see critics groups voting in November before they've seen everything). Nobody wants Oscar's choices to get yet more repetitive and blah.

What say ye?
*

26 comments:

par3182 said...

i say yay - they rarely pick the best anyway so get the thing over and done with

The Man Behind The Curtain said...

Why not mid-February or something? I'd hate for voters to ignore even more great works than they already do. I say no to January.

Amir said...

i definitely say no to january.
i'm sure as you said, everybody will vote only on buzz in certain cases. and i'm sure they won't spread the wealth. we'll still have to cram everything in december.

troyhopper said...

In order for such an initiative to work with, at least, the guise of fairness at play, the Academy would be wise to change its consideration time frame from the traditional calendar year (January 1-December 31) to its own adapted one (November to November, maybe?). That is provided that the actual ceremony would be held in January, though I'm not a fan of that idea. It presents the same problem that I have with the Grammys; how can one call a song or album the best of 2009 or 2010 when it was released in 2008? It's not like the Tonys and Emmys, which award for a season as opposed to a year, but I digress.

Considering that there are hundreds of films released in a year -- and no one can control how and when studios choose to release them -- why doesn't the Academy just hold quarterly or trimesterly rounds of voting throughout the year? I'm quite sure this has been suggested and rejected before; however, it might be worth a try. It may even compel studios to release more quality fare all year round, though it could also possibly promote ridiculous campaigning as well.

Volvagia said...

As I and some others in earlier posts have said: Ten Years Later. That way Hollywood won't have to market anything because the classic films and performances will be known and discernment, instead of starbleeping can possibly rule. (The weakest nominations in their history are: Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan and Gene Hackman, The French Connection. I hold the latter as one of their five worst wins. The others: Amazingly DeNiro in Raging Bull, (Scorsese makes great films, not great performances) over John Hurt and Peter O'Toole, Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man over Tom Hanks best work, Hanks in Philadelphia in their weakest, most over sanctified field ever (Bruce Campbell's Ash Williams anyone? Anyone? And if not, there's still the interesting sounding Lawrence Fishburne and the very good, if not as phenomenal as Campbell's performance, Liam Neeson in Schindler's List) and Russell Crowe's non-performance of Maximus Decimus Meridius. 10 would extend to the three obvious suspects (Pacino in Scent of a Woman, Benigini and John Wayne), with additions of Lancaster for Elmer Gantry over Lemmon in The Apartment, ending with a nice shot of Lee Marvin for Cat Ballou over Richard Burton for The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

Andrew R. said...

A strong no. Last year was a once in a lifetime thing. They will vote based on buzz, and that's it.

NATHANIEL R said...

@TROY -- the solutions do seem to come with their own huge problems, yes. I like the eligibility calendar change but for the fact that jan 1st to dec 31st is such a neat annual package.

@EVERYONE the way i'd change it, personally, is that the film has to open in say the top 10 film markets in the states by the close of the eligibility period rather than just in LA. I think this would greatly alleviate the problems we have with the film calendar.

People like to have an opinion. i'll never understand why AMPAS doesn't understand this. All of the other "contests" that the public follows from tv, music to reality show competitions are things that you can follow along with. Movies are a public art form and yet they're routinely not available to the public while they're being feted.

Volvagia said...

How about US and Canada? That would be 8 definites: New York, LA, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, as well as two possibles: Calgary and Denver. (6-4, balance tilted toward US.) And what exactly would be your list? As you can see, I could only come up with 5 definites sticking entirely in the US.

Sam Juliano said...

By the time March and April roll around, the excitement has worn down, I'm afraid. Too many other organizations have already checked in with their awards at that point, lending the Oscars as a rather redundant exercise, despite the high profile.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect is the foreign film category, which often includes films that don't make their USA debut in theatres until the following year. For me the best film of 2010 thus far is Audiard's UN PROPHET, which opened here in February, yet received an Oscar nod last year.

In any cae, as always, the choices of the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Lost Angeles Film Critics Association remain the most important from a true cineastes' point of view, though that's hardly a revelation.

G.ShaQ said...

Hmm. I wonder if it'll be colder in January. I'm extremely concerned about fashion lol
Otherwise I think it's a better idea. I'm hoping there will be less influence from the media

Anonymous said...

I think the end of January is fine.

Robert said...

The question is... why are they considering doing this? How do they think it will help ratings (since that's the tail that wags the Oscar dog)?

Franco Marciano said...

Fascinating conversation. I agree, by the time Feb/March rolls around it's a done deal, save a few surprises (and I do mean FEW). It would be nice if the Oscars would become part of the mix with the rest of the other critic's awards, as opposed to just a coronation of sorts.

As much as it would pain me, an Oscar ceremony every four years, or five, or even ten, could possibly provide more perspective in regards to performances/work.

The quota of ten markets Nathaniel is an interesting one. I wonder however what that would mean to some independent films w/small distributors that could be just as deserving?

Volvagia said...

Actually, keep the auto-judge, but add in two other, more low key shows that feature: Graded Re-stagings of famous scenes. ("I Coulda been a Contenda", "Chilll-dren", "Hail Freedonia", "Today is a holiday invented by greeting card companies. To make people feel like crap"), explaining to people that just turning your head, squinting your eyes, looking fearful and moving around is not performing, it's being little more than a directorial tool. (That's a lot of what The French Connection was. I've already mentioned that was an awful win.)

Volvagia said...

Not that I hate The French Connection as a movie, but only Fernando Ray had a real character to actually play, but even then not a top 5 supporting Actor worthy part. Hackman was just moving through his environment in regular, "thriller style" ways, squinting and turning his head left and right outside of maybe 5-10 minutes. (Michael Caine, Bud Cort, Malcolm McDowell, Murray Head, Peter Finch. Now that's a Lead Actor field I can get behind for 1971. (Eastwood is in 6th place.))

Kevin said...

Please no. Early February. This would have Avatar as our Best Picture winner last year because all the buzz would never have subsided and made way for the common sense of The Hurt Locker winning.

jbaker475 said...

I don't mind keeping it at the end of February as long as they cut down on the number of critics awards released before the ceremony. The one reason the Emmys (despite the chance for repeat winners) always have more suspense is because there aren't 35 critics awards from across the country given out the two months before the ceremony.

/3rtfu11 said...

No matter when the ceremony commences voters aren’t altering their ingrained Oscar voting behavior. Many quality performances and films will go unseen or ignored when the nominations are announced. I like the idea under this circumstance – get rid of the ten best picture slots. I hate it.

Volvagia said...

Not even after my suggested ten years? Surely the snowball that is A LONG TIME would result in cinematic straight shooting and variant honours. (Bruce Campbell a three time Oscar Nominee? The Evil Dead series has three great performances, the tonal shift in each born out of character changes.)

Marsha Mason said...

Do you really think many Oscar voters vote (in the nom stage) for films they haven't even seen. I thought the middlebrow selections reflected their actual taste and the fact they're simply more likely to see those movies. But if they're actually voting based on buzz, that's really depressing. I wonder if by moving up the dates you'd keep some of the whatever voters from even voting and end up with better choices.

Didn't I propose Obama and Congress take on Oscar reform a few months back? Make voters send in a ticket stub for everything they vote for! Or is that a little too Arizona?

Clarence said...

Somewhere, Meryl Streep is enjoying this moment.

The Academy is actually considering her suggestion!

Volvagia said...

Never thought of that! However, it's likely that many members vote for films they haven't seen. See: "Why did you pick these" nominations for The Last Station and The Lovely Bones last year. And yes, they should have to send in some sort of proof of viewing (minimum requirement: 15 films with scores of 90% or above on Rotten Tomatoes. If a member doesn't have that minimum, they can't vote beyond their own technical category.)

ZiZo said...

In the end it will keep it in the 27th of February, but they consider it for 2012.

(Variety)

vg21 said...

I can understand the point of view of those who live in the US, however, here in Europe a lot of nominated films can hardly be seen even before the late Feburary-early March ceremony, so one in January would definitely mean we would have zero chance to see any of them. I know it's no concern of the Academy but still...

On the other hand, it would be really unfair if the members based their votes on buzz, it is bad enough already. So maybe early February - audience still interested with the buzz considerably alleviated.

jbaker, I agree with you 100%. Actually, I'm sure Sandra Bullock's win was due to the recognition of her work by the "smaller" committees, so although last summer saying she would win the Oscar would have sounded like a joke, by the end of February it was just inevitable. I wonder how the Academy Awards would be different if they were the first ones to be given out.

Philip said...

Nooooooooo.
February. Keep it.

Dorian said...

Do it! Get those summer movies in play, or more evenly distribute the Oscar bait films throughout the year. That's what we've always wanted and complained about with the December glut. Now it's time to put our money where our mouths are. Maybe the Academy's finally getting the message. Or they're just sick of all of the precursors getting their glory and media coverage (but wouldn't you be flattered that so many people wanted to copy/predict what you were going to do? I know I would.).

I don't care about people being bored by the same winners throughout the season. Win 30+ awards if you merit it (ala Helen Mirren). If you're so bored, don't follow the season's minutiae so closely. But what I do care about is beefing up the Oscars interest with the public, b/c like it or not, if the public isn't interested/not watching the telecasts, then the Oscars lose their public prestige and significance. That's something all awards shows face now. If people don't watch them, then one of these days, all awards shows will a ballroom dinner party not shown at all, or be some scaled-down event airing on A&E or PBS. Maybe they'll start doing a web simulcast, or winners will be only announced via press release.

If the heat on prestige films is in January, then up the dates. Eligibility dates would have to change, and the hanger-on awards shows will up their dates like you know they will. But you're not getting rid of the Globes or the SAGs anytime soon or ever. A start's a start though, so I think this date change is a good one if it goes through.