Where a film is placed during the festive season can sometimes predict how it will land in the Oscar race. I’ve seen people’s predictions saying that a movie that opens New York can’t possibly win Best Picture based on precedent. If this were true, Parasite would never get Best Picture. If they like a film, they will vote for it. The parasite was first seen at Cannes in No Country for Old Men, such as The Artist.
To counter this, people also bring up the unicorn, CODA, from last year to use as a general template for winning a movie – meaning any movie can win no matter what obstacles stand in its way. And that’s true, but in my view, CODA was a default winner, not a strong forerunner or even a dark horse. It was this last-minute consensus that met the requirements for Best Picture to win in today’s environment.
This matters because it cannot be applied to the Oscar race in general. COVID changed the date, but more than that, social justice or the Cultural Revolution took hold in 2020, which completely changed everything about Hollywood. There’s no point in pretending otherwise, even if everyone is really scared to talk about it. It matters. It matters because there was a conscious need to bring women and filmmakers of color into the limelight. It didn’t feel good — and probably still doesn’t feel good — to award an award to a white male for anything. This is not where the pulse of the industry was last year, the year before, and essentially any year since 2018 when the Green Book won.
2019-Parasite – First international feature to win since Green Book. No surprise, as the critics’ scolding of Green Book revolves around Roma not winning. It wasn’t going to win for a number of reasons, the number one reason being that it’s a tough sit and not easily accessible. It would also have been Netflix’s first major Oscar win. The industry was not ready for this. I imagine it will be easily conquered in the post-2020 environment. The Green Book victory was part of the ongoing panic in our culture that, I believe, was a direct result of the shock of Trump’s victory. We are still very much in the moral panic that began in 2016. It’s only getting worse. It is much like the fear of the communists in the 1950s, now it is the fear of any kind of “phobe” or “ist” – that you will be called the one, that you will work with the one.
All of these themes were beautifully explored in the 1950s because even though Hollywood was in the grip of the Black List, there were ways the message was in the Twilight Zone, in the Crucible, and the wonderful Edward R. Muro, who was certainly met with hysteria. Head-on with your newscast. We don’t live in an age when someone is so brave, that’s for sure.
2020-Nomad – We were largely locked in COVID. It was a tough year. The protest of the summer season led to a major revolution that has changed Hollywood. Both Me Too and the social justice revolution of 2020 have dramatically changed Hollywood, and of course, the Oscars are part of it. It’s just something everyone turns around to know, but few people have the courage to address it out loud—lest they’re “next”. But at the same time, many people don’t want to be hurtful or hurtful and instead prefer to just keep quiet. Nomad was quickly marked as the defacto winner, and it never wavered. There was no reason for him to be upset. No one would dare attack it, and it was a satisfying choice in every way for film critics and Academy demos.
2021-KODA — In an ordinary year, Belfast would have just shed the season. It was set against The Power of the Dog, which set up the two movies as your typical Oscar match-up, like Lincoln vs. Argo. The Social Network vs The King’s Speech. Emotionally accessible versus cerebral film is our general template that emanates from the festive season, with critics on one side and industry on the other. But there was no way in 2022 to celebrate and reward a white man and his childhood memories. It just wasn’t going to happen. The Power of the Dog looked like it would be at the forefront, but it was too mind-boggling and didn’t end on a happy note, which meant that the only thing people wanted to reward about it was Best director, which he actually did.
Best Picture is built around a consensus. Consensus is usually formed around the places where people gather in a room. Which movie makes them all feel the same at the same time? He must have been Belfast. But there was a hindrance as it did not promote social justice anywhere. So that pure love can be stopped. When CODA won the SAG ensemble nomination, that was all it took to build consensus. Moving on to the final Oscar vote, which will likely only be unanimous. CODA only has two nominations, which haven’t happened since 1930?
As we move away from it and look at our recent history, it is easy to see how we got here. But it would be a mistake to apply anything that happened recently to Best Picture’s long-term trends.
The festival has been so influential ever since the Academy changed its date, moving it back to the end of February, as the public was taken aback by the process. Being a film on streaming with only two nominations on CODA shows you the power of needing consensus to promote both emotional resonance and a baked-in purpose or social justice.
Remember, the Golden Globes were essentially taken out of it in 2020 and 2021. This changed things dramatically. They announced their winners last year but they didn’t have any big shows. This was an early way to test consensus. La La Land won a record 14 Golden Globes, which tested the consensus. Did people like it? Well, as it turned out, no.
So, have to keep all these concepts in your mind at once to explore this year. What are the themes that will resonate? Are White People Still “Blacklisted” for Winning Big? What will be the driving forces behind the consensus building up in the season? We live in extremely polarized times, almost two different countries already. Midterm elections are in early November, which is the center of Oscar season. Either the Democrats will do fine and stay on the Senate while the House loses. Or they could do better than expected, or they could do worse than expected. There isn’t much separation between what happens to the Democrats and what happens to Hollywood and the Oscars because they are the same, at least for now.
The problem the Democrats have with the wider country is the same problem with the Oscars. They all kind of exist, I think, in a bubble. The Oscar race will be seen directly from events in November. The mood will be either cheerful or happy – good people doing good things and winning. Or it would be desperate and frightened – they lost everything but the kitchen sink.
Venice appears to be a strong Oscar launchpad due to its awards, particularly the Best Director award. The Shape of Water, Roma and Nomadland all won Best Director. Last year, Audrey Dewan won for Happening, which will be in the running for the Oscars this year. Has a good track record for Best Actress nominations, at least. Penelope Cruz won last year before she was nominated for an Oscar. Other winners include Vanessa Kirby for Peace of a Woman, Olivia Colman, who won an Oscar for The Favourite, and Emma Stone, who also won an Oscar for La La Land.
Festival season is the beating heart of the Academy demographic, particularly the Telluride Film Festival. It has been so influential because it is distinctive and populated by the exact kinds of people who voted at the Oscars. Patrons skewer the old – retirees and boomers. This leads to a mostly white demo – certainly matching 80% of the academy white. and rich. Let’s not forget it. I think you’re looking at the 98% Democrat-leaning crowd – the Ken Burns and Alice Waters set. The films here will often do well with the Academy, give or take.
Lately, though, Telluride has taken over with people like me. Oscar season is top-heavy so far. COVID left behind the economics of Hollywood, along with an enormous amount of movies to choose from. The Oscars have shrunk somewhat since the ratings downgrade and have to exist in this highly polarized environment. Yet more people cover races than ever before – and they are trigger-happy. They want to announce a winner, which can often kill the talk out of the gate. Very few movies are labeled to outdo Telluride.
Believe it or not, when 12 Years a Slave became the forefront, critics actively tried to push it out of its place. The movies that have won over after I played Telluride seem to have all started a while back. And those movies were out of the gate:
Moonlight was not a Best Picture winner Telluride favorite since 2016.
2017-The Shape of Water (Venice)
2018–Green Book (Toronto)
But just because it is, doesn’t mean it will always be like that. The lesson from both Parasite and CODA is that if the film meets the needs of the moment and can unite consensus around a common cause, it can win, no matter what.
Sometimes Telluride can be disturbing because of the intimacy of the experience. This tends to enlarge the reception of a film because it is such a small festival. I think of the films that we were all so excited about that never left any stone unturned and that is a light-hearted thing. Hope always rises high in the beautiful mountains. Movies like First Man, Prisoners, Battle of the Sexes etc. It’s a great experience, but things start to change over the next few months. The same is true of any festival. You never know if the experience will hit the road.
Toronto is a hot mess, with critics all watching the movies at different times and welcoming them on Twitter. Till the time the Audience Award is announced, there is a lot of noise. The one who wins that award usually wins an Oscar of some sort.
traveler, director, actress
Jojo Rabbit – Screenplay
Green Book – Pictures, Screenplay, Supporting Actor
Three Billboards – Actress, Supporting Actor
La La Land – Actress, Best Director, etc.
room – actress
Fake Games – Screenplay
12 Saal Ek Ghulam – Pictures, Screenplay, Supporting Actress
This is what to see in Toronto.
For instance, New York is hit-and-miss in influencing the Oscar race. But now in this environment, any film that runs there, which is in the sweet spot for film critics, will do well regardless of precedent. The demographics are a lot more Spirit Awards and Gotham than the Oscars. But it is still a friendly welcome for those filmmakers who are well-liked.
Following the announcement that White Noise will debut at the New York Film Festival and screen at the Venice Film Festival, it looks like we have a strong Oscar contender from Netflix in the running. It looks like Empire of Light and Bardo, at least for now, get Telluride, with Fabelmans hitting out at Toronto.
Note that so far I’ve mentioned three movies about white people being about white people, at least I think they are. So obviously, we’re going to run into the same roadblocks we’re running into. I don’t think we’re still out by storm in assessing films on merit. The one who wins always unites the consensus around a common cause. Voters need to feel good about themselves and about their vote. We’re years away from the time it meant choosing “the best.”
To take a jump on this, Marshall Flores has created a chart that shows what’s going on and how he thinks sTeluride will fit into it.
And Michael Patterson has somewhat narrowed down his estimates, but will come up with an approximate list tomorrow. This is what he has as of August 1:
Maybe going to Telluride:
Bones and All/Guadagnino
Kingdom of Light / Mendes
good night op/white
One Fine Morning/Hansen-Love
The Wonder / Lelio
Major titles that definitely don’t seem to be in Telluride:
the good nurse
triangle of sorrow
Major titles still up in the air for Telluride:
pale blue eye
There appears to be little difference between the two predicates predicted by Telluride. But then again, we won’t be able to find out what will be there until a day before the festival.