THB #275: 14 Weeks To Oscar - To Do List
The game is now afoot… and more than ever this season, it feels like everything is up for grabs.
Usually, by this time of year, I am comfortable about where each of the players sit. Then it is up to holiday viewing and how the narratives are pushed by each film. As Bill Condon coined it, The Great Settling, that occurs in the next few weeks.
But this season, my sense that The Fabelmans was the default movie since TIFF, meaning the movie that is likely to win Best Picture if nothing else steps up and takes its position, has faded. I don’t know that I see the default title at this point. Maybe Everything Everywhere All at Once… but the feeling that the movie is a cult more than a mainstream lingers. (Don’t get pissed at me… I pre-bought the 4K as soon as it became available and own a set of Hot Dog Fingers. I am part of the cult. But I don’t have blinders on.)
The Banshees of Inisherin is gathering the air of inevitability. But to win? That certainly does not seem locked in at this point.
The Fabelmans is still getting nominated… and could be the most nominated film. But it could also be that film that gets the most nominations and comes away without a win.
Glass Onion has somehow slipped from being a mortal lock to, “Yeah… that was fun.” I still haven’t found more than a couple people who dislike the film, which is a great achievement. But I think the one-week theatrical got so much attention that it became the story instead of the movie being the story. Could it end up missing the list? Hard to imagine… but this season…
Did Women Talking get so much early support that the critics decided it wasn’t necessary to push that agenda? (Not to mention the 90something 80somethings + 6 new black people.)
Babylon feels to me like it could shock the world, in and of itself and awards-wise… but Paramount seems a little shy about digging through the elephant shit to find the pony.
Avatar: The Way of Water is going to be huge and well-loved, perhaps eliminating the false notion that it is not culturally significant… but winning Best Picture? Magic 8-Ball is “unclear.”
So here are some suggestions about how to manage the narratives on 6 of the titles in heavy play for Oscar and a Best Picture slot. Some will say that 1 of the titles really isn’t in play… but that is, not coincidentally, the challenge for that film.
Babylon - Embrace the obscenities. Stop trying to make it a triptych. Diego Calva is lovely and may have it in him to be a movie star via some other film(s), but this film is about Margot and Brad. Mr. Calva is the Mary Richards of the movie, not an equal third. He is the reactor and even though he gets space to be more late in the film, it’s not his film.
A brilliant friend put it succinctly… make it about Brad and Margot and, “You will be shocked by Babylon… you’ve never seen anything like it!” And you haven’t. The pounding musical pulse of the film sticks in my head like nothing has from a movie in years. It’s the bacchanal, the work of making movies, and the aftermath. Don’t be afraid of the elephant shit… or the golden showers… or the cocaine… or the filmmaking… or the desperation of the second half of the film. To make this movie fly for awards, you need to shove it in people’s faces… you need to explain it… you need to let everyone get over the shock and move onto the power the is on the other side of the shock moments.
On the other hand, Paramount may have already killed any chance the movie had to win Best Picture by shoving it into the Comedy category with the Hoary Fakers Paid to Adjudicate. Remember The Martian? That was a movie that could have won Best Picture… until it won Best Comedy at The Gloms. Deadly. (Green Book and The Artist are the only 2 winners to win Best Picture at the real awards in the last 20 years.)
The Fablemans - So your theatrical release marketing didn’t work. Sorry. (I’ve seen it 4 times.) Time to pick yourselves up and take another shot at this one. Steven assures that you will get the nominations. Pick up your empty shells and reload.
I can’t say that I know the winning formula… but I know that it’s got to be about making movies and not so much about Steven’s mom. Michelle isn’t going to win Best Actress. Sorry again. She should have 2 or 3 on the mantle already. But Cate Blanchett is the only lock of this season so far.
In reality, the movie is really split between the 2 stories… but if you want to get this thing back into the fast lane, you need to lean into the filmmaking. It’s more interesting to people. The film has little Stevie changing realities for people by how he makes movies that tell their stories through his perspective. He (SPOILER) catches his mother’s possible infidelity. He makes a beautiful boy enraged by raising the stakes on who he really is. (I still think he is in the closet… but that’s another conversation.) He remakes a sequence from an Oscar-winning movie.
And this movie has at least 3 speeches that are instant classics about the movie industry. Why aren’t you selling that? That passion of those moments are deeply captivating. Put quotes on billboards. Flood Tik Tok with those brief explosions of “why you love movies” moments. Romanticize running away to join The Circus.
Women Talking - I love the movie. I love the cast. I love Sarah Polley. But it is not an entertainment as such. As a result, I’m sensing a sluggishness… not just from awards groups. The constituency should be everyone… but at the very least, it should be just over half of the planet.
Sometimes, being the most serious film in the room is a drag. Somehow, even though I don’t think it has a big impact on Oscar nomination morning, there are more people who seem to be embracing She Said than Women Talking at this point. The instant recognition of #MeToo and Harvey and the New York Times is easier to connect with than an unnamed religiously-based socially disconnected segment of rural society.
This movie is the best version of The Chicago Seven/Ten story that has ever been made… and they got 6 nominations for the Sorkin version last year. This should get Director and at least 2 acting nominations. Sarah Polley’s ability to keep the audience connected while not showing off is a profoundly undervalued achievement. She should be compared to Lumet and 12 Angry Men daily. The work is that special.
But you can’t hide your light under a bushel of humility.
I should be sick of hearing, “Why does love - the absence of love, the end of love, the need for love - result in so much violence?” by now.
“We have been prayed upon like animals. Maybe we should respond like animals.”
“We know that we’ve not imagined these attacks. We know that we are bruised, and infected, and pregnant, and terrified!”
Bring that fight to voters. That passion. Yes, it is women talking. But they are saying things as important as any film out there this year. Don’t allow it to be minimized.
Avatar: The Way of Water - Just needs to open.
The film will be what voters want it to be. It is too big and to unique to manipulate. Just let it be.
A Man Called Otto - There are 2 levels of challenge here. First, you have to overcome the negative presumptions connected with the late release/industry showing date. Almost everyone I talk to assumes the film is not even good, much less a potential Oscar contender.
Second, you have to sell this modern day Frank Capra movie. It’s not showy. It’s not really political. (A little… subtly.) It is, simply, the journey of a man who has hidden his heart for years and finds it being thawed in unexpected ways.
Ew… that doesn’t sound that great, does it? Rewrite!
It’s about a man who is ready to die until he is reminded what it is to be alive.
It’s the tale of a man who is reminded that life is for the living… and that includes him.
It’s a modern version of A Christmas Carol without the ghosts, who have been replaced by a tiny Mexican woman.
So much for my career as a copywriter!
Mr. Hanks has made some bad movies in the last decade. His Elvis turn really splits audiences. Get people to watch this movie. That is everything. Gotta get them over the hump. Because the movie will sell voters on its own… that and plenty of SAG Nom Com screenings with Hanks and Mariana Treviño.
Otto is a film that no one realized they needed… but if they get into that theater and watch it, they are sure to laugh, to cry, and to feel. Nothing more Oscar than that (aside from heavty make-up).
Glass Onion - I’m not 100% sure what to suggest here… aside from going back in time and rethinking the release plan. Too late fot that.
Like with the first movie, it’s about the ensemble. I would be trying to get as much media out there of all of these actors together as possible. Not photos. Not pairs. Videos of the group interacting as informally as possible.
I saw some footage on Tik Tok of the cast of The White Lotus having a silly dinner together on location. That would be gold (and real, apparently) for Glass Onion. Footage from the gatherings that talent has been talking about in interviews. There seems to be a real warmth around Daniel Craig and his sense of humor. Let’s get some of that.
The personalities in this group - more than the first film - feel very unique and individual. But they talk about how well they got along. Show us. Somehow. Have them interview one another. Have them do shows together. I want to feel why Kathryn Hahn loves Daniel Craig and how Janelle Monáe got charmed by Edward Norton.
The challenge here is, unusually, that the film will be seen by most voters. Everyone else is trying to get more voters to watch. The challenge here is to make watching special somehow… make this more than a likable movie.
It’s very likable. But sometimes, that isn’t enough.
How does one sell subscriptions to an audience that enjoys a newsletter for free?