A column chronicling conversations and events on the awards circuit.
And now it all comes down to this. On Sunday at the Dolby Theatre, the long, often bruising movie awards season comes to an end. And not a moment too soon. The predictions will end and the real winners will emerge as the 91st Annual Academy Awards gets underway at 5pm PT. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights of this week, I took a truly unscientific survey of the film savvy audience who each week attend my film series for KCET Cinema Series (on Tuesdays) and UCLA Extension Sneak Preview (on Wednesdays). About 300 attend each and they match the accepted older demo that has long made up the bulk of Oscar voters. Their tastes tend to mirror the movies we see nominated year-in and year-out.
Running down the list of all eight Best Picture nominees, the results were eerily identical. A handful of hands for all the nominees until I got to Green Book, which was overwhelmingly their choice for the win, with Bohemian Rhapsody the only other contender that got a significant number of votes, albeit a distant second. It was the same for both, but like I say this is just a sample. We will see how it matches Sunday night, when I, for one, will be delighted to see this season come finally to its conclusion after six months of chronicling it, if only to clear out my inbox and get rid of all those emails pitching every possible angle of covering Hollywood’s biggest night. It seems everyone comes out the woodwork this time of year.
NOT FEELING WELL? SEE THE OSCAR DOCTOR
Want to know the inner workings of the accountants who count the Oscar votes? Well, no one offered the actual accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers, who just may be a little press shy after the Best Picture envelope debacle a couple of year ago. However, an enterprising publicist wants to know if I would like to talk to Investopedia’s Editor-In-Chief Caleb Silver about the mysteries of counting those votes and what drives those who do. Then there was the offer to interview the official Oscar doctor, Dr. George Gauthier, aka “Doctor to the Stars.” The PR pitch notes, “The Doc has become a trusted and highly valued sight backstage for A-listers like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Vin Diesel, Morgan Freeman and Robert Downey Jr., to name a few. With this years’ guest list including hundreds of celebs, who will be anxiously awaiting the results in 24 award categories, Dr. George is certain to have an eventful night. As a world-recognized authority in natural health care, beauty and peak human performance, he will be poised to assist with everything from stress management to emergency services, should the need arise.” I can think of a few Academy officials who are pretty stressed out right about now after the beating they have been taking this season and probably could use some comforting bedside advice from the kindly Oscar Doc.
BOOKIES OUT TO MAKE MILLIONS ON OSCAR WINNERS
Then there are the numerous requests to interview Oscar bookies, the people who set the odds, and in a new development, can actually take your money legally to bet on the outcome of this year’s competition for the elusive gold man. In New Jersey, at least. Though some oddsmakers have been welcoming PR around the Oscars for years, it was illegal to bet, since at least two of the aforementioned accountants actually know the outcome and could easily have bets placed on their behalf, becoming so rich they wouldn’t ever have to count anything again, except their own money. Now, a New Jersey-based site called Fan Duel is saying you can legally bet on this stuff. “For the first time in Oscars history, people can now legally bet on the Awards show. The sports gaming company FanDuel announced that movie fans can now place a wager on who they believe will win the categories such as Best Picture, Best Director, and more. Currently only legal in New Jersey, this new market of legal betting is taking shape around the entertainment industry, and will begin to grow throughout the country,” said the release concocted by the firm hired to promote the service. And here are the current leaders and betting lines for their chosen categories: Best Picture (Roma -310), Best Actor (Malek -500), Best Actress (Close -480), Best Director (Cuaron -1350), Best Adapted Screenplay (BlacKkKlansman -370),Best Animated Feature (Spider-Man -1200),Best Original Screenplay (The Favourite -210), Best Original Song (Shallow -2000), Best Supporting Actor (Ali -1200), Best Supporting Actress (King -250) etc.
By comparison, you can go another way with a competitor in New Jersey, the Draft Kings Sportsbook, which is also taking wagers, but offering up the most popular bets so far, meaning the contenders the Garden State are backing big time. If they are on to something, then finally it will be a VERY big night for the beleaguered former front runner, A Star Is Born, leading in every single category it is competing in. It pays to be popular, but if Hollywood pundits are right, it won’t pay in New Jersey.
Bet-NJ.com, a US bookies.com network site, says $10 million may be riding on the major categories out of the UK and Europe, and is seeing a late surge for Green Book, even though their odds still favor Roma. They also are taking bets on whether there will be a major envelope mixup (3/1); how many viewers ABC’s telecast will get (under 26.5 million 1/2 and over 26.5 million 6/4); Any mention of Donald naldTrump (1/20 yes vs 8/1 no); and odds of someone falling on the way to the stage (yes 4/5, no evens).
Then there are the endless surveys. According to YouGov, 49% expect the Oscars will be more political than usual, which is going to freak out AMPAS president John Bailey, who told me he plans to have anyone getting on a “soap box,” or getting political, played off by the band. According to this survey, 48% say it is inappropriate for winners to get political in their speeches (hear that, rabble rouser Glenn Close?), with 84% of Republicans, but only 22% of Democrats, falling in line with that. In terms of winners, consumer survey site Suzy says Black Panther has the most supporters for Best Picture with 27%, followed closely by A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody with 24% each. Roma got 8%, Green Book 6%, and dead last was The Favourite, clearly NOT the favorite with just 3%.
PARTYING WITH THE HELP
Of course, there are so many parties going on before, during, and after the Oscars this weekend, but my favorite invite (to cover) came from the NDWA, the National Domestic Workers of America, who will be cheering on Roma with a splashy Watch Party at The Jane Club, hosted by Rashida Jones, Eva Longoria and other starry types, where they will be joined by many domestic workers in designer dresses donated by Rent The Runway. “Domestic workers are the unsung heroines of our families and of our economy, yet they have been written out of our labor laws and overlooked in our culture,” said Ai-jen Poo, NDWA director. “With this awards night event, and thanks to the support of so many brilliant actors, activists and Hollywood luminaries, we will celebrate domestic workers with the humanity and dignity they deserve. And we will celebrate Roma — a film that so prominently centers on the story of an indigenous domestic worker.” Alfonso Cuaron is the honorary chair, but he will be otherwise engaged that evening, I believe.
YALITZA AND MARINA GETTING SENTIMENTAL AT THE END OF THE Q&A CIRCUIT
And speaking of Roma, it was my honor to moderate the Mexican awards juggernaut’s last Q&A of the season Sunday night after the WGA awards, when I travelled over to Hollywood’s famous Egyptian Theatre, where a packed audience was watching it and awaiting the arrival of its Oscar-nominated stars, Best Actress contender Yalitza Aparacio and Supporting Actress nominee Marina de Tavira. Both have been on a kind of fantasy whirlwind for the past six months, including innumerable Q&As. This was to be the last. Both were greeted with wild enthusiasm by the American Cinematheque crowd, and by paparazzi outside that made you think this was Lady Gaga or something, not, in the case of Aparacio, a pre-school teacher from a village in Mexico who had never before acted. For de Tavira, it was quite a moment to have come this far. “Right now, I am very melancholic, since this is our last Q&A. Our L.A. premiere was here also at the Egyptian, this same theater. It’s been quite a journey that we started in Venice, and then Telluride, where we met. It’s been the most amazing time in our lives. It has been so wonderful. We are so grateful,” she told me just before once again joining Aparacio (and Yalitza’s interpreter) in telling the behind-the-scenes story of this once-in-a-lifetime moment in time for both of them. By the way, Aparacio may be the first Best Actress nominee in history who has never had an agent, and still doesn’t. However, she is probably the only resident of Tlaxiaco that has her own stylist. That’s Hollywood. I told them both that just one week from this Q&A, they would be across the street walking the most famous red carpet in the world as Oscar-nominated actresses. They both seemed overwhelmed at the thought. By the way, I was able to catch the last 40 minutes of the screening, which was a gorgeous 70MM film print that Netflix had struck, of course in beautiful black and white. It beats any digital version by a mile, and if you have the chance to see it, this is the way to experience Roma, not streaming on a TV screen.
TARANTINO GETS AN AWARD FOR SHOWING MOVIES, NOT MAKING THEM
And while we are on the subject of film (remember THAT?), Kodak, the brand name for celluloid if ever there was one, and still in the game of promoting it, threw their third annual Kodak Film Awards at the very cool, and huge, Hudson Loft last Friday night in downtown L.A., complete with a giant gold film can cake for guests. It was a blast, so thanks host Steve Bellamy, President of Motion Picture and Entertainment Consumer and Film Division for Eastman Kodak, for the invitation. He noted it was a celebration for an “amazing year” in celluloid, with 32 Oscar nominations representing Kodak, even in this age of digital everything. This, however, was a pure film-loving celebration, with winners including a lifetime achievement award to Adam McKay presented by David O. Russell, Television Series award to The Walking Dead, the auteur award to Drew Goddard and Alex Ross Perry, and for me, the undisputed highlight of the evening: the presentation to Theatre Of The Year to the New Beverly in L.A. That, of course, is the movie house Quentin Tarantino rescued and made a symbol of film projection in an age when almost all theaters are exclusively digital. He and chief programmer Julie McLean have turned it into the most exciting repertory house in the city.
Tarantino and McLean both started together working in Manhattan Beach video store, Video Archives, and it has been a 30-year collaboration to champion film ever since. QT got a rousing reception when they came to the stage to accept. “As long as I’m alive, and as long as I am rich, I will project film at the New Beverly,” he said, to wild applause. I go there often and it is without a doubt a film nerd’s nirvana. Who else does Sal Mineo festivals these days? Where else can you see a double bill with pristine prints of late 50’s teen classics, Gidget and Because They’re Young, if you want to do something other than watch the Oscars Sunday night? Tarantino took over and the first thing he did was throw out the digital projection equipment, basically daring studios and distributors to keep making film prints of classics, and not-so-classics. When he started in this “exhibition” phase of his storied film career he was told the cold reality was they had to go digital, but he wasn’t having it.
“When they said all that, I said to myself, ‘Hmmm, let’s see if that’s true’. I don’t think it is, especially with the combination of different studios that take their archives seriously, my collection, and about four or five other collections around the world that we work with,” he said. “Us film collectors don’t feel like we own anything. So-and-so’s collection is mine, and my collection is theirs, and we all just pass it back and forth and just do it. I think that we have such success that we have shamed them into finding prints. If it’s showing at the New Beverly you know it is on film. I said that I hope that getting a film played at the New Beverly would be a goal for filmmakers, that they would try to get prints of their movies so they could show it at the New Beverly. In the last five years I have talked to a lot of young filmmakers who have shot on digital, and they said ‘look our goal is to someday have enough power to make the distributor strike a 35MM of our movie so we can show at the New Beverly’. We want that to be a goal, we want to be a place for you to get to.” McLean added that the New Beverly projects more film than any one place in the world, with 800 features a year, 400 shorts and cartoons, and 2000 trailers.
Until reopening after a year-long renovation in January, Tarantino has, of course, been busy making his new film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. It opens in July, but I got the hint that the hope is to first debut it in Cannes. Tarantino won the Palme d’Or in 1994 for Pulp Fiction, so it’s natural that the film might be the really big ticket movie for the fest come May, on its way to the 92nd Annual Academy Awards? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, now that the long grueling awards season is almost over, it’s great to be able to get back to the New Bev where you are likely to see, on any given night, Oscar winners, Oscar losers, and movies the Academy is never going to understand.
Oscars are Sunday. Good luck to everyone and thanks for a lot to write about. The Television Academy just began their FYC screening program for the Emmys this week, but those are Notes for another season. No rest for the weary.
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