Well, there is one obvious new Oscar rule: have your accountants do their job and not tweet photos of celebrities during the telecast. Yes, we’ve reached the Friday after an Academy Awards that will go down in awards show history and Hollywood still isn’t over the Best Picture mix up that found “La La Land” mistakenly announced as Best Picture when the true winner was “Moonlight.” Perhaps it’s because it’s a scandal that’s close to home. Perhaps it’s because it’s a scandal they can actually do something about (unlike that Russian one a certain party leadership in Washington wants to ignore). Whatever the case, this town is still reeling and it will likely take some other scandal or perhaps another month of mammoth box office returns to really forget about it (guess which one is about to happen first?).
Yeah, the Oscars are sort of a big deal around here. People don’t like having their big party sullied (and certainly not by an accountant).
Keeping that in mind, here’s my annual list of new rules or, better yet, trends anyone who is involved or a fan of the entire awards season process should pay attention to.
The Academy officially likes to spread the wealth
Because “La La Land” tied the all-time mark for nominations pundits, the consultants and even the Academy believed it would rake in the most wins since “Slumdog Millionaire” won eight in 2009 (“Gravity” earned seven in 2014). Instead the opposite occurred. The Academy didn’t favor Damien Chazelle’s musical in a number of categories it was expected to easily win (Editing, Sound Mixing) and it didn’t take any of the ones it was looking to upset in (Costumes, Original Screenplay). The Lionsgate hit still won six Oscars, the same as “Mad Max: Fury Road” last year, but didn’t land the big prize. This is also the fourth time in the last five years that the Best Director did not direct the Best Picture. And, more intriguingly, only three of the nine nominated films didn’t go home without one Oscar. There had been concern beforehand that up to six films would get shut out (five was more likely). Is it deliberate? Probably not, but it’s a trend that’s worth remembering for studios considering throwing in the awards season towel early next year.
Beware A December Release
“La La Land” was supposed to break the streak. A December release (limited or wide) had not won Best Picture since “Million Dollar Baby” in 2005. Many of those contenders didn’t screen until November so the thought was “La La Land” would have the same advantage of an October or early November release by screening at four major festivals beginning on Aug. 31 with Venice and that a ton of guild and Academy member screenings in the intervening months would help compensate. It didn’t. There is a saying among consultants and publicists who play this game that “you win Best Picture in phase one.” It looks like an October or November release is still a key component to that plan.
Politics Now Matter Except When They Don’t
Did the current political climate help “Hidden Figures” resonate with Academy members? You bet it did. Did the current political climate and actions by the current administration help “The Salesman” win Best Foreign Language Film and “The White Helmets” win Best Documentary Short? You bet it did. Did The Weinstein Company‘s last minute print ads trying to tie “Lion” in with the current Muslim travel ban come across as desperate and likely undercut its chances? You tell me.
If You Don’t Have The Goods, Don’t Play The Game
There were a couple of films that were in the mix this awards season that never really should have been. Or they never really should have been released at the height of the season. The Weinstein Company’s “The Founder” and “Gold” (released by their Dimension Films arm) could have drawn more media attention and perhaps grossed more if released at a different time of year. Focus Features got some guild nods and Michael Shannon landed an Oscar nod for “Nocturnal Animals,” but that movie could have absolutely made more money if released in the Spring or last September instead of a competitive November frame (and Shannon would have still likely gotten a nod). CBS Films thought they had a MLK weekend player with “Patriots Day,” but in hindsight it should have pushed to later in the winter or early spring (and it was a never an awards movie but…Wahlberg). Paramount, on the other hand, was in a no win situation with Martin Scorsese‘s “Silence.” The only way the movie would have had any box office traction was if it earned significant Oscar nominations. Critics were overly kind, but the movie fell spectacularly flat with the Academy and audiences because of the actual movie itself. That’s a rare case where you really have no choice but to throw it up against the wall and hope for the best.
The Golden Globes Can Actually Affect The Oscar Nominations (But There’s A Catch)
If you think Isabelle Huppert and Meryl Streep didn’t secure their Oscar nominations after the Golden Globes, I’ve got a Republican-created replacement for the Affordable Care Act that’s just as good or better than the current system to sell you. For the first time in god knows how many years, the Globes show wasn’t just before ballots were due, but a whole five days before. Huppert’s surprise win over Natalie Portman at the Globes was a huge PR win and Streep’s speech along with Trump’s attack on her the following day only helped their candidacy. In fact, it’s hard to imagine when the HFPA and the Globes have ever been more relevant in their entire history. So, yes, cough, grumble, cough, we’ve learned the Globes can have an impact on an Oscar nomination (argh!), but only if there is significant time before membership has to vote. Our guess is the HFPA and NBC will wait to announce the date of the 2018 Globes telecast until the last possible minute to confirm the Academy’s 2018 voting calendar to come close to last year’s voting scenario. That shouldn’t be a problem with the actual Oscars on March 4, 2018 because of the Winter Olympics in February.