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Awards Season Begins

Awards Season starts now, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Our Oscar blogger is here to report on outstanding indies, settled summer smashes and future favorites.

Oscar Statuettes


“Awards Season Begins Now!” That was the refrain shouted from the much-hyped cover of the newly relaunched Hollywood Reporter magazine on November 3. I added the exclamation point to their headline because the Oscar race is filled with “Best” this and “Best” that and “Lifetime Achievements” and whatnot; it’s the time and the season of hyperbole. Superlatives and golden hysteria aside, when Awards Season begins is actually a great unknown. It depends on how you define the season. And make no mistake, every studio would like to. Define it, that is.


 The Kids Are All Right


If you ask Focus Features, they’d probably tell you that Awards Season actually began in January, before last year’s Oscars were even held, when the warm and funny The Kids Are All Right opened to thunderous applause at the Sundance Film Festival, prompting immediate buyer interest (with Focus winning the bid). Sundance smash hits can become big Oscar deals (just ask last year’s potent abuse drama Precious, which won two Oscars when the season wrapped). The Kids Are All Right opened in July, and even though it didn’t quite become the crossover hit its fans were expecting, it’s low budget insured profitability and the reviews were kind. What’s more, the Best Actress buzz still hasn’t let up ten months later, which is very good news for Oscar’s perpetual lady-in-waiting, Annette Bening. It’s maybe even good news for Oscar’s other perpetual lady-in-waiting, Julianne Moore. Focus is hoping for a Thelma & Louise double in the Best Actress category.



Sony Pictures Classics is releasing their biggest Oscar threat, Mike Leigh’s twilight years drama Another Year, in December, but the distributor would probably be happy to define Awards Season kickoff as late summer. That’s when they released the period drama Get Low (TFF 2010), about an eccentric hermit throwing his own funeral. They followed that small indie with another summer release, an even tougher sell: the Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom. That hasn’t done as well, but it had no bankable familiar faces, whereas Get Low had three (Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek). Still, Animal Kingdom just might be a strong enough film to sell itself to awards voters, no bankability required. If Academy members watch their screeners—and that’s always the crucial “if” —it’s easy to imagine it winning a slot for Supporting Actress (Jacki Weaver) and maybe Original Screenplay, too.


Inception- Warner Bros.


There’s something to be said for quality summer films as Oscar contenders. If they’re successful, critically or financially (but hopefully both), they have a way of sinking deep down into the conversation. Once films and performances are firmly in the discussion, it can be hard to dislodge them. The savvier Oscar campaigns know this, so they start early. The bulk of Oscar contenders, statistically speaking, arrive between October and December, but in a very real if unquantifiable way the late arrivals are always measured against the films that have already settled. Thus everything that opens now has to complete with the deep familiar love that voters already feel for obvious future Best Picture nominees and summer behemoths, Warner Bros’ Inception and Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3.


Best in Show: Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network


The danger in getting started early—there are dangers with each and every strategy—is that you might “peak” before the big night. But usually Oscar campaigns have more than one peak and more than one valley; it’s about riding the waves and hoping to crest at the right time. Columbia’s The Social Network, for example, owned both the critical and Oscar conversations in October, but lately it’s taken a backseat to two newer films.


127 Hours- Fox Searchlight 


The first is Fox Searchlight’s one-man survival drama 127 Hours, from Oscar winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire). It’s got the director’s customary visual verve and propulsive narrative energy, paired with a career-elevating performance from James Franco. The press coverage thus far—often focusing on people fainting at screenings—is ecstatic, and media saturation is as important to winning Oscars as it is to winning any political battle.


The King's Speech- The Weinsten Co.


The other new gorilla in the room that’s hoping everyone will shut up about The Social Network while they’re doing their social networking, is The Weinstein Company’s The King’s Speech. The latter film is such Oscar bait that to hear descriptions of it is rather like hearing a parody of Oscar Baiting: Royalty + Nazis + Entire Principle Cast of Former Oscar Nominees + A Courageous Man Overcoming Physical or Mental Obstacle (this time stuttering) = Sure Thing? So Weinstein Co is banking on Awards Season beginning on Thanksgiving weekend when The King’s Speech opens.


Best in Show: Olivia Williams


Awards purists usually insist that Awards Season begins when people start handing out prizes, but even that’s hard to define. They give awards at festivals all year round, after all. Outside of festivals, so far we’ve heard nominee lists from Gotham (Roadside Attraction’s summer sleeper hit Winter’s Bone got a boost), The British Independent Film Awards, and The European Film Awards (the latter two gave Summit’s The Ghost Writer a major bear hug), but those awards aren’t big “precursors”… they just help with the buzz. Any honor you can list on your “For Your Consideration” ad is an honor worth listing!


Once we’re in the thick of Awards Season, usually by early December when the National Board of Review inaugurates the feverish dog piling of Top Ten Lists, it hardly matters when it began exactly, only that it’s on.


And for our purposes here in this column, “Awards Season Begins Now.” It’s on.


Nathaniel Rogers blogs on The Film Experience. He is also a bit of an Oscar savant.


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