If you think Hollywood’s awards season will come to a complete stop just because of a little thing called Super Bowl Weekend, think again! As already covered extensively on Deadline yesterday, the pre-Oscar madness was running full tilt Saturday with the WGA, ASC and Annie awards, the Santa Barbara Film Festival and lots of lingering controversies about nominees and “rescinded” nominees. Whew! You’d think they’d give it a rest to let football take over but NOTHING gets in the way of Hollywood’s own Super Bowl!
I am up at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this weekend where I moderated the two-hour sold-out Performance Of The Year tribute to Oscar frontrunner Cate Blanchett at the 2000-seat dream palace known as the Arlington Theatre. At the end of it, Cate received a standing ovation when future co-star Rooney Mara (they start shooting Todd Haynes’ Carol in March) presented her with the latest trinket in a season in which she has so far run the table in terms of awards. She was a willing and warm subject onstage as we showed clips and I dissected her career, informing her at one point that, with The Aviator in which she played Katharine Hepburn, she became the only person to win an Oscar playing an Oscar winner. Always glad to pass on useless trivia to movie stars.
Over the years I have hosted several of these tributes, which are obviously well-timed as part of the Academy season. Festival executive director Roger Durling picks the honorees months in advance but always seems to have a good hunch who is going to be in the Oscar game. Among those SBIFF plays to are numerous Academy members who live in the area, so it’s always smart exposure on the part of awards consultants — just as is the early-January Palm Springs fest in the pre-nomination period. Durling himself moderated a rollicking free-form session with American Hustle writer-director and Oscar nominee David O. Russell at the same venue Friday night. And earlier Saturday at the Lobero, there was a producers panel mostly populated with Oscar nominees followed by the annual Women’s Panel (moderated in style as usual by Madelyn Hammond — yes, we’re related) which also sported several current contenders. Among those coming up in the next week are Bruce Dern, Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio and several others. Some landed nominations, some didn’t, but they are all showing up regardless. It’s that time of year.
As for the weekend’s numerous awards shows and their impact on the race? The American Society of Cinematographers didn’t surprise anyone in handing their top ASC prize to Emmanuel Lubezki for his groundbreaking work on Gravity. He’s the frontrunner in the category for Oscars and that hasn’t changed. In fact, Gravity is a good bet to sweep most remaining below-the-line guild contests, as well as the Oscars in the technical categories and for its director Alfonso Cuaron, who won the all-important DGA Award last week. The bigger question is can it pull off Best Picture in a clean sweep — or will there be another that could sneak in?
The Writers Guild Awards last night gave us absolutely NO indication of where this race is going by picking two underdogs for their major feature film prizes. Spike Jonze took the Original Screenplay prize for Her — once again beating key rival American Hustle just as he did at the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Sense a trend? I do, and that’s troubling for Hustle’s chances not only in the same category at the Oscars but also for any momentum it can muster in the Best Picture race. It started strong on the guild circuit taking the Ensemble Cast award at SAG, but now has lost at PGA, DGA and WGA.
Still I don’t think these key guild races are telling us much as they are all over the place. Normally what is a great indicator has this year become just plain confusing. Because Adapted Screenplay frontrunner 12 Years A Slave, as well as Philomena, were not eligible at WGA (where I am a member), that left an opening I thought might give the nominated The Wolf Of Wall Street to gain some momentum. But that was stopped in a surprise win for Billy Ray’s work in adapting Captain Phillips (listed as a 100-to-1 shot at Gold Derby in the category). Ray is deserving but it also probably didn’t hurt that he has been a very strong, popular and active elected member in WGA affairs. This is a very proud guild and by awarding Ray, it is also a subtle endorsement of one of their own just as contract negotiations are about to start. Captain Phillips hasn’t gotten much love in any of the finals so far, so it was nice to see it grab something — taking a little of the sting away from its undeserved diss at the Oscar nominations for Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass. So now we have a completely mixed bag of clues from the major guilds. PGA went in a unprecedented tie for both Gravity and 12 Years A Slave. DGA went Gravity. SAG went Hustle. And WGA lifted Her and Phillips. We will have to wait until BAFTA weighs in on February 16, just as Oscar ballots go out, to see if any consensus develops in this wide-open Best Picture race.
But if the Best Picture race is confusing, the contest for Animated Feature is clear. After winning the top honor at the Annies last night, Disney’s Frozen looks unbeatable. Well at least there is one sure thing for your office pool — if anything is sure.
On top of all the usual backslapping and awards this weekend, controversy continues to linger in the Academy’s decision earlier in the week to rescind the Best Song nomination for the faith-based, virtually unknown Alone Yet Not Alone with both sides — the Academy and composer Bruce Broughton — taking their shots. And then Woody Allen was back in the news too, which was enough to encourage a couple of ill-advised entertainment websites to link his well-publicized personal troubles that go back two decades to the current Oscar prospects of Blanchett, the star of his film Blue Jasmine. The timing of all this is suspicious, but suggesting guilt by association for someone who has nothing to do with Allen’s personal life or controversies? Didn’t Hollywood leave that all behind with the 1950s Blacklist? Guess not.
OK, we can start this machine up again Monday. Time for a little football.