The Hot Button
The Hot Button
THB #76: 9 Weeks To Oscar

THB #76: 9 Weeks To Oscar

No, we are not there yet.


I can’t find anyone who really wants to talk about the Oscar movies or the Oscar season and we are still 9 weeks away from the show.

There are 11 Oscar-hopeful movies still at the box office… but the highest grossing last weekend was West Side Story with $715,559. That’s fewer than 100,000 people in attendance. The total for the 11 films is just under $2.5 million. That’s fewer than 250,000 people going to see Oscar movies in theaters last weekend.

Can you feel the excitement?

It’s unfair to compare the Oscar show to NFL football, which exploded with Big Event excitement last weekend. But what would it be like if they pushed the championship games this weekend to late February and then had the Super Bowl in late March? How much excitement from even the rabid football audience would that create?

“What about streaming?,” you ask? Nielsen will give us their best guess in a month or so. Welcome to the new measurements!

At least the Academy voters start voting on Thursday, as opposed to delaying even more weeks. The voters get 6 days to vote… because the technology is apparently as slow as mail delivery. Then, The Academy will announce nominees on Tuesday the 8th so that any excitement from the announcement and any potential box office for the nominated films and performances that next weekend is guaranteed to be wiped out by the Super Bowl, 5 whole days later.

Then - it just keeps getting better - it‘s a quick month and a week (to be fair, 37 days) until that final vote. 6 voting days.

How can anyone think that the world won’t be waiting with hysterical excitement for the announcement of what film that has barely be watched for over a month is given an award? I mean… if Zendaya does it, all the kids will watch…. right? RIGHT?!?!

I’m one of those lunatics who actually cares. I have loved Oscar and the idea of celebrating movie excellence, within a context, for almost 50 years.

But in the last decade or so, every season is like watching someone you love walk into the house with a face tattoo and hoping that it wasn’t done in permanent ink.

I don’t even count last year. It was a product of a singular event. Parent and child survived the birth. The problem is that instead of paying manic attention to helping both to greater health, The Academy has just gone home and sat on the Barcalounger with a big bag of chips, watching the days fly by on the calendar.

I looked at Scott Feinberg’s guesses - since I have pretty much stopped participating in that exercise - from Friday. Then I looked at Scott’s guesses from a month ago. Then I looked at Scott’s guesses from a month before that.

Scott added Nightmare Alley to the Top 10 ahead of Spider-Man: No Way Home last week. Fair enough. Of course, Spidey would probably not have been on that December list had Scott not already been handed the exclusive on Sony’s decision to push the film for Oscar (12/24, 5a), for which he had obviously done the interviews for before his Top 10 ran at 12:19p on December 23.

In other words… except for some media manipulation, nothing really changed.

Looking back at November, Scott took fliers on A Hero, Being The Ricardos, and C’Mon C’Mon… the first of which is now off his charts 100%, the second in the “Possibilities” category, and the third in “Longer Shots.”

Point is… we could have voted in December and gotten pretty much the same result as we will this next week. If Spider-Man swings in, bless their little spider-hearts. (The point is not to poke at Scott, who is average in this regard... everyone is.)

Apple’s CODA and Netflix’s Don’t Look Up and Tick, Tick… Boom! have owned their spots in December and January and might all get in… or miss. They seem to be the most vulnerable, in terms of nominations.

Scott dumped House of Gucci from his top charts back in December. He never bought into The Lost Daughter or The Tragedy of Macbeth. They are probably the outsiders from his guesses that have the best chance of replacing titles he likes better.

I’d love to say that C’Mon C’mon will make it… but probably not. I still think there is a voting group for Spider-Man… but Sony hasn’t really done what was needed. Drive My Car could shock the world… but it would definitely be a shock if it escapes from the loving embrace of the critics of the world. And Being The Ricardos… just don’t see it at this point, but I wouldn’t actually be shocked.

I would say that the Best Picture field is still 15 movies… which is about where it has been for months already.

I don’t see any lanes without (alpha) Beirut, Dog Power, and West 1961st St. Hard to see King Will or Pizza Boy missing the party.

The other 5? Kind of a niche crap shoot. All the other movies are looking for a big enough constituency to make the cut. (Not that those Top 5 are assured to contain the ultimate winner. We have almost 2 months to go. Boredom and publicity tba.) I wouldn’t argue against Dune: Episode One or Spidey: Episode 8, Tick Tick… Leo!!! (that’s 2 movies), The Power of Gaga/Maggie/Guillermo, Black & White & Coen All Over (that’s just 1 movie), The Critics Revenge w/ Beatles Title or Deaf Like Many Awards Voters But Nicer.

Some of the titles have gotten a little stale. But I feel a push coming right around the corner.

Wait a minute! That doesn’t belong here! The paid sponsor of this newsletter won’t be happy…

Ahhh… the balance of power returns to the newsletter!

And take THAT! MGM/UA proudly brings you The Hot…

Hi, Guillermo. Yes, Bradley is hot. Yes, Cate and Rooney too. But you guys are sponsoring video…

Wait a minute! That’s not even an Oscar ad. That’s a Twitter ad. Are the Russians invading my newsletter?!

Ah… The Guccis cleaned it all up. Back to normal… Phase II is starting soon and we’ll be drowning in ads again…

Okay… what was I saying before all these ads interrupted me?

Are you ready for some protests?

King Richard… Black, but a movie star. West Side Story… Brown. The Tragedy of Macbeth… Denzel!

Will these movies be enough to hold the dam, uh, damnation?

It would be funny if there wasn’t so much potential strife involved. This Oscar season is a LOT whiter than last season. Some of these movies that are assured nominations are so white you can see through them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Personally, I have given up on guessing where the zeitgeist will blow. King Richard is the only serious contender directed by a black person this year. You can add Respect if you like. Last year, there were 6 (Da 5 Bloods, The 40 Year Old Version, Judas & The Black Messiah, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, One Night in Miami, The U.S. vs Billie Holiday).

Judas was the only one nominated for Best Picture. No directing nod. There were six acting nominations… Daniel Kaluuya was the only winner.

But somehow, this was considered a good year for inclusion.

A woman will get a Directing nod this year. But the truth is, however you feel about the film, giving a directing nod to Reinaldo Marcus Green for King Richard is a reach. Might happen. Good movie. Sometimes a well-liked title becomes ubiquitous in the nominations. But Campion and Spielberg have 2 slots for sure. Branagh and PTA seem damned likely. So one slot left. Del Toro, Villenueve, Coen, and Gyllenhaal all seem like much more serious candidates than a guy who gave us a very straight-forward, visually uninteresting drama. And that doesn’t even bow to the inevitably underappreciated work by Hamaguchi, Mills, and Sarnoski, much less ye olde master, Sir Ridley.

So all I am saying is that Will Smith better get his. Aunjanue Ellis too. It would help if Denzel got his. Ariana DeBose better get hers… or there could be a riot. Jennifer Hudson has a cheering section, but not close to a lock. Ruth Negga deserves a slot more than most of the likely nominees. That’s 5.

Screenplay nod? One for King Richard, probably.

No Chloé Zhao and Nomadland distracting in the name of women and Asians.

These questions will be answered in a couple of weeks.

And I don’t know that I have ever felt farther from a sense of the couple films with a real chance to win at this time of year. If I had to bet, it would still be The Power of The Dog as The Default Film. All the small infatuations seem to be subsiding. But then again, there is a lot of Dog hate out there. Is it enough to get in the way of a win? And if it is, what film has a real shot? They all have problems. They also all have passionate constituencies… like Dog does.

I feel like we will all be going into the Super Bowl, nominations in hand, looking for the hook for the movie that will be the winner… a must-vote argument. Haven’t heard one yet.

Until tomorrow…

The Hot Button
The Hot Button
An inside perspective on the Film/TV/Streaming Industry from a 30-year veteran seeker of truth.