Monday, December 27, 2010

The Ballots Are Coming. The Ballots Are Coming.

The day has arrived. Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences mails out those mythical Oscar nomination ballots to their members. Each member gets to nominate for their branch category(or categories) and for Best Picture. The ballots are due back on Friday January 14th at the latest but supposedly the majority of voters are quick about mailing them back. On the morning of Tuesday, January 25th we'll hear the results of the voting. Which actors did the other actors rally behind, which sound design thrilled the sound mixers, and which newbie will the exclusive music branch fraternity punch in Original Score category? And so on.

So freeze the Oscar buzz this week. It's decision time. If you believe that out of sight equals out of mind -- and you'd be wise to do so given the borg-mind of precursors -- you'll understand why so many of the Oscar hopefuls have just hit theaters. For example, how many earlier worthier nominees will True Grit muscle out? We shall see.

Here's the events that will occur during voting.
  • Dec 27 Box Office media coverage (as far as Oscar goes, True Grit's strong opening and Black Swan and The King's Speech expansions will be the stories.)
  • Dec 27 Online Film Critics Nominees (the usual suspects with key LAFCA's suggestions placing.)
  • Dec 29 Blue Valentine finally opens in a handful of theaters. Jesus, they took long enough.
  • Dec 31 New Year's Eve Shenanigans. Who fills out their ballots while plastered? Oh come on, you know someone does. (I mean, besides HFPA and NBR members.)
  • Jan. 3 Online Film Critics Society winners announced
  • Jan. 4 Producers Guild of America nominations
  • Jan. 4 Writers Guild of America nominations
  • Jan. 7 Blue Valentine expands
  • Jan. 10 Directors Guild of America nominations announced
And finally, a Film Experience reminder to any Academy voters reading, particularly actors: Don't let precursor groups control you!

FACT: You are not a "Supporting" actor, when you're in every scene
and the entire story is about you.

Here's how it's supposed to work: You look at your lead ballots and you pick the five best in that category and rank them in order. If someone is not one of your five best, sorry no can do. It's totally sad for #6 & #7  *sniffle* but it's called a "shortlist" for a reason. It's supposed to be a major honor. If you're sad for your #6, don't demote them to another category. That's so unkind to the hard working character actors who deserve to be judged on a level playing field with other actors who have to sell entire characters in a limited number of scenes and gird up the starring player(s) when acting opposite them; different achievement, but you know it's equally worthy of honor. You've acted in films so you get the difficulties of either carrying a whole picture handily or adding a specific color or mood or a contrasting personality to the ensemble and thereby elevating the film. Vote accordingly.

A dramatization: Ewan McGregor contemplates his ballot.
Above all else, don't let anyone else tell you what to do. Including me (sigh) though if you'll allow me two suggestions, and I'll keep it simple, it's this:
  1. Watch some acclaimed or popular films released before September before you vote. Films like The Ghost Writer, I Am Love, Mother, Animal Kingdom, The Kids Are All Right, Shutter Island, How to Train Your Dragon all had their ardent fans. Are you one of them? You don't want to keep perpetuating the myth that AMPAS voters can't remember what they had for breakfast, let alone what opened last month.
  2. If you're not truly moved by some movie everyone is talking about... let's say you didn't like The Social Network or True Grit, ignore it in your best picture field. Just because everyone is talking about it right now, does not mean it's "best". What is "best" is totally up to you. If you wanna vote for Rabbit Hole or Another Year or whatever -- it's your ballot.
Happy voting!


Andrew K. said...

No I'm not an Oscar voter, but I'm still going to throw it out there because you brought it up. We all know how Oscars are about timing, and some parts of a movie can be ignored while another is lauded but I still can't quite wrap my head around the weird reception for Rabbit Hole, obviously they've seen it and are recognising Nicole's brilliance, but how can anyone see that and not notice any of the other good things about it? Screenplay, Wiest, Cinematography...I'm really hoping voters remember it in some other categories.

Robert Hamer said...

If AMPAS was dumb/dishonest enough to nominate Ethan Hawke, Tatum O'Neal, Jamie Foxx, Jake Gyllenhaal, William H. Macy, Casey Affleck, Haley Joel Osment, and Al Pacino (his first nomination) as a "supporting performance," I have little hope that they'll start having integrity about category placement now. Kate Winslet's nomination for The Reader and Keisha Castle-Hughes were inspiring recent exceptions, but I'm still bracing myself for someone like Jacki Weaver to get screwed over.

Jonathon said...

If Hailee Steinfeld gets nominated at all, in any category, I will send my own shit to each and every voter. EACH. AND. EVERY. VOTER.

Also, Andrew...Eckhart before Wiest, imo. Dianne gave a ho-hum performance, at best. Aaron needs to be nominated. If not for Rabbit Hole, then for something. And soon.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm in the minority here but I don't see why Melissa Leo's performance in The Fighter is considered better than Amy Adams's. I thought Adams did much more with her character in regards to nuance. Leo's perf felt monotonous save for a few moments (the car scene, her disdain at finding Dickie in the dumpster).

Of course, none of this really matters since the BEST supporting actress of 2010 isn't going to win anyway. Sorry, Jacki. :-(

Anonymous said...

I just don't get the love for the "Ghost Writer." It's pretty cliche and the ending is obvious, making the seemingly bright writer seem terribly naive or clueless.

I also don't see the point in rewarding a rapist with any kind of accolades. His escaping justice and whining about being the victim of unfair treatment disqualify him from any further high accolades. Simply put, Roman Polanski has never shown any remorse for his actions.

Unknown said...

By all means AMPAS voters, if you do nothing else, PLEASE take to heart Nate's number two suggestion. PLEASE.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous -- Here's where I stand on Polanski: I think you can be the biggest prick on the planet and that doesn't diminish the work you put out. AT. ALL.

I've read incredibly racist remarks from John Wayne, heard that Howard Hawks and Jean-Luc Godard were/are anti-Semites, and even read once that Jimmy Stewart was a racist but... does that mean they weren't immensely talented individuals? No. And that's why I feel their work should be judged on its own merits. If we went by your logic we probably wouldn't have any art that wasn't tainted. People are people and so on...


robert hamer -- i've been trying to brace myself for it but i'm failing. I will be *so* sad. But if it happens, and I guess it's likely that it will, I'm going to blame the media/critics and their youth fixation multipied by December fetish (it's funny but the same people who bitch about the academy's bad memory are the ones giving all the awards to the movies that just came out) .

it's RIDONCULOUS to claim Hailee Steinfeld or Mila Kunis were better than Jacki Weaver. I mean... I can't even take that seriously. And I hate not being able to take other critics seriously. I like to grapple with differing opinions but in this case it just pisses me off to no end.

Andrew -- the writers branch in the Academy used to vote in really interesting ways. i'm hoping we'll see some surprises there. But this year's been kind of weird with screenplay honors. Like, BLACK SWAN is a perfect example. I love the movie but does anyone think the screenplay is why it's great? No knock against the screenplay but some elements are more crucial than others in every film. So when you nominate Black Swan's screenplay and you ignore intricate awesome screenplays like Animal Kingdom or Rabbit Hole (movies that are TOTALLY reliant on having an excellent screenplay)... I just don't get the thinking.

It all comes down to what it always comes down to (as we see with the Mila/Hailee thing): people vote for the movies they love in every category rather than voting specifically about the work in each category.

OtherRobert said...

Dear Music Branch Members,

Scores with sung vocals are still scores. They are no less worthy of recognition than purely orchestral scores. Feel free to number 1 The Illusionist on your Original Score ballot.

Happy voting,


JayJ said...

Jonothan, I'm hoping you saw Haliee's performance and thought it was lack luster, and not one of those people who thinks no one under 16 should ever be nominated for an Oscar.

Unknown said...

On a purely unrelated note, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY reports that Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied are engaged and expecting. I wonder if this will at all affect the voting.

Brian Darr said...

The average non-movie-buff doesn't really know what a "supporting" actor or actress is, and might guess that these Oscars are like "runner-up" prizes; silver medals to the best actor and best actress Oscars' gold ones.

It's shameful when publicists, critics, and award voters, who all should know better if they stop for a moment and think about it, play to this misperception during Oscar season.

Anonymous said...

@troyhopper - I dunno. Does Oscar ever turn down a pregnant chick lol? This definitely brings to mind Rachel Weisz and Catherine Zeta-Jones. And I'm not sure why but I still think of Natalie Portman as a kid herself (even though I know she's about to turn 30) and now that she's gonna have one... weird.

/3rtfu11 said...

A nice surprise on nomination morning would be Tilda Swinton sneaking into the Best Actress race for I AM Love. I know they like her or else they wouldn’t have seized the opportunity to award her on her first nomination -- albeit in the lesser category.
I wager some old man nomination will make it into the Best Actor race. I’m hoping for Bridges instead of Duvall -- unless of course that Duvall is Shelley Duvall.


badmofo -- i believe annette bening was hugely pregnant when she lost for american beauty.

aclp said...

Wasn't Amy Adams very pregnant as well when she lost for Doubt?

But I can only think of Catherine Zeta Jones being the most pregnant any woman has ever been when accepting her Oscar. It looked like she was going to go into labor right there.

rosengje said...

I'm putting all of my Oscar willpower toward nominations for Javier Bardem and John Hawkes.

It could happen! Best Actor has thrown out a few random surprises in recent years. In my mind, Javier Bardem is just like Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah.

Unknown said...

ANDREW: I saw Rabbit Hole last night, and I still can't get the images, the story, the acting out of my head. I keep playing scenes from the movie on my head, and Im analyzing each and one of these great scenes, because - jus like you- I am crazy confused about the reception for Rabbit Hole. If I had a ballot, it would definitely be on my top 10..

and for Best Actress..I am torn

saw Black Swan, Kids are Alright, and Winter's Bone. (still waiting on Blue Valentine and Another Year)- But if I was to vote on performance alone (lets imagine that none of these actresses have ever even been nominated for an Oscar) - I would vote for either Kidman or Portman. Benning was great, n I love her- but I still see that movie as a complete ensemble (still thought she was robbed in Being Julia). Lawrence was also terrific in an understated performance. But Im still torn between Kidman n Portman. Thought Portman was FANTASTIC, her anti hero would be a topic of film schools for years to come. But Kidman touched my heart. She deliverd a career best performance in a career already full of wonderful performances. I couldn't get her character out of mind. I felt what Kidman and Eckhart were feeling.

But since this is the Oscars, people will vote for either the one thats due (Benning) or the one who's time has come (Portman). If Kidman hadn't won that Oscar for The Hours (the one that really belongs to Julianne Moore for Far From Heaven)- then this would be more of a 3 way race.


miguel -- totally agreed. my feeling on RABBIT HOLE is that it just waited too long. Quiet films need more time and they have trouble in the December rush when more ballsy stuff (Blue Valentine, Black Swan) or more action-tinged manly stuff (True Grit) gets the media attention that's not going to one of the many films vying for box office dollars that don't have Oscars on their mind (Tron, etcetera)

Evan said...

In chatting with others on another message board, I got to thinking that *if* Michelle Williams gets nominated, the Weinstein machine could campaign her like crazy.

What are the chances that it ends up being Portman v. Williams, not Portman v. Bening?

jessica said...

Is Ewan McGregor a member of the AMPAS? I didn't think he was.


jessica -- i dunno. they only started announcing their invitations a few years ago.

but i thought it made a fun visual.

Bryan said...

Wasn't there a report that in December/January of 2009, AMPAS sent out a letter encouraging voters to place actors in categories that truly reflected their prominence in the film, and Kate Winslet was likely bumped into Lead because of it?

Whether true or not, I doubt AMPAS will truly reconsider its penchant for putting girls into the Supporting category. It's worth noting that if the actor in question was named Harry Steinfeld, a nomination wouldn't even be in the discussion.