The so-called “shortlists” of qualified contenders in nine Oscar categories — including the feature documentary and international film races — landed on schedule Monday, one calendar day ahead of last year’s December 17 announcement of the 2019 lists. But when it comes to movie awards, the calendar is a tricky beast. In real terms, counting backward from Oscar Night on February 9, the shortlists arrived 12 days later than last year, 55 days from the awards rather than 67, and eight days or about 22 percent closer to the Jan.uary 13 nominations announcement than were the 2019 candidates.
Counting backward, on fingers, with a calculator close by, makes my head spin. But it’s one way to appreciate the task facing both Oscar voters and producers Stephanie Allain and Lynette Howell Taylor as they prepare for an awards ceremony that will arrive more than two weeks earlier than the 2019 event, and fully 3 1/2 weeks in advance of the March 4 broadcast in 2018.
So much viewing, so little time. And pity the talent bookers and gag writers who will have to make some lucky guesses about the likely nominees or work some serious overtime in that 27-day window between the nominations and the show.
How tight is it? This tight:
For starters, if Allain and Howard, whose appointment came with a late-ish announcement on November 15, don’t disclose plans for a host or a no-host show by Christmas Day, they will be running behind last year’s panic schedule, when a scramble to replace Kevin Hart as host ended with confirmation of a host-less format on January 9. That’s what we might call “O minus-46,” as it would be 46 days from Oscar day (sometimes called “day of” in the flurry of missives and instructions that accompany the annual show).
Today, if my fingers count correctly, we’re at O minus-54, less than two months out.
That might not sound bad, but there’s a lot to be done — and much of it would have been done by now in years past, when the producers and hosts were lined up early. In 2017, the host, Jimmy Kimmel, was announced at O minus-81. In 2016, Chris Rock was declared at O minus-128. Kimmel’s reprise, in 2018, was disclosed on May 16, 2017, or O minus-291.
The long leads left a lot of time for planning, adjusting, promoting — whatever Oscar stagers do.
But in this cycle, extreme compression has set in. Mostly, it squeezes the window between nominations and the awards — the period during which Oscar consultants work most of their, ahem!, magic. That window was 33 days long last year, 40 in 2018, 33 again in 2017 and 45 in 2016. This time, it is 27, 18 days, or 40 percent, shorter than during the recent high.
What it means is that things are about to get intense. Campaigns suddenly will heat up. Show prep, not much of an issue until now, will eke past impeachment and make some news. Some stuff will go wrong. Some will go right.
But enjoy the show! It’s coming sooner than you think.
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