Good morning! Wake up!! As time is reckoned in Hollywood, this is “O-minus 38”—that is, 38 days to the Oscar ceremony. The nominations balloting begins today.
Also beginning is what might be the roughest, toughest, most tangled, and fastest five-and-a-half weeks in the living memory of the American mass media. In the opening moments of 2020, entertainment, sports, politics, and everything else have converged. It’s one, big, rolling crisis. In Washington, New York, and certainly around here, there’s something to worry about every day – at least through Feb. 9, when the film awards race, if nothing else, will be settled.
All dates are subject to change, because that’s how it’s going to be in 2020. But here’s approximately what to expect in those next 38 days:
Jan. 3: Start with a political skirmish. At 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on C-span, you can follow oral arguments as the Trump Administration and the House of Representatives slug it out in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. In narrow terms, the question is whether former White House counsel Don McGahn can be forced to testify about the Mueller investigation; more broadly, it’s an impeachment play, as House investigators look for evidence to back up articles that are already passed, but not in the hands of the Senate. Or you can just fret about the movies: Nominations close in the bellwether Producers Guild film race, and the American Society of Cinematographers nominees are announced.
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Jan. 4: This could be ‘Dirty Tricks Day’ in the shortened Oscar race: With the ballots out for just six days, someone is likely to throw an illegal, anonymous spitball at a competitor, and will likely get away with it. If watching for an Oscar take-down isn’t your thing, the National Football League play-offs begin with a wild card round.
Jan. 5: The Golden Globes, with host Ricky Gervais slinging comic barbs, and likely taking more than a few hits from the cancel culture on social media. For those who can’t take the crackle, there’s another NFL wild card round.
Jan. 6: Normally, the Globes post-mortem would be enough to make this a busy Monday. But Harvey Weinstein’s rape and sexual assault trial begins in New York, assuming the date holds.
Jan. 7: Congress reconvenes, heaven help us. It may take a day or so to work up a full head of partisan animosity, but there’s plenty to keep the media in a spin. The Oscar nominations round closes. The Directors Guild of America, PGA, and BAFTA nominations are announced. Best of all, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a Board of Governors meeting. We’re guessing the governors will be briefed on a museum opening date, progress of an expected bond offering, and maybe even plans for an Oscar show that has so far been kept under wraps.
Jan. 8: Speaking of the semi-secret Oscar ceremony – Is there a host? No host? What gives? – this is O-minus 32. Some sort of press release from the Academy and its show producers would seem to be due.
Jan. 9: Another guess, but it feels as if the Senate will decide what to do about those still unsubmitted articles of presidential impeachment just about now.
Jan. 10: For political junkies, another skirmish: Rosemary M. Collyer, presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, has set today as a deadline by which the Federal Bureau of Investigation must tell how it plans to clean up the sort of errors and abuses described in the recently released Inspector General’s report.
Jan. 11: What would we do if it weren’t for the NFL? Play-offs today.
Jan. 12: More play-offs, and the Critics Choice awards, which used to predict the Oscars, but lately have just been a lot of fun.
Jan. 13: Monday starts with the dawn announcement of Oscar nominations, and winds up with a hotly contested college football championship game in New Orleans, LSU v. Clemson. Pity the poor media.
Jan. 14: Lately, the Oscar-nomination postmortems have made this a kind of film awards Festivus: Excluded groups get to air their grievances. Compound that with a political moment – there’s another Democratic presidential debate, this time at Drake University in Des Moines. Maybe some film-savvy candidate will propose new, inclusive Oscar categories. The governors would surely be all ears.
Jan. 15: Tax estimates. For the freelance media, nothing else matters.
Jan. 16: Another guess, but impeachment could wrap if the Senate opts for a short-form trial. Otherwise, it’s on to a long, hard slog, with witnesses, fresh charges, and arguments that could stretch toward Comic-Con.
Jan. 17: Martin Luther King weekend arrives – normally a good time for the movies. But this time around, expect some debate about the release of Dolittle, in which Robert Downey Jr. succeeds Eddie Murphy as the animal-speaker Dr. John Dolittle. In other movie news, the weekend will tell whether Will Smith and Martin Lawrence – back in Bad Boys for Life – still have it.
Jan. 18: Saturday night brings the PGA awards. The evening will tell who stands where in the Best Picture Oscar race, and whether political tension is about to consume the season.
Jan. 19: More signals from the SAG awards, and the NFL conference championship games.
Jan. 20: The SAG postmortems, and judgment rendered on the aforementioned MLK weekend box-office questions.
Jan. 21: Relatively quiet, if impeachment isn’t raging in Congress. But WGA and ASC voting closes, and Oscar handicappers start working up their Final Frenzy.
Jan. 22: Ground transportation at LAX nears collapse, as newly restricted pick-up patterns, lane closures, and uncertainties over Uber and Lyft in the face of a new California contractors law greet Sundance travelers.
Jan. 23: The Sundance Film Festival opens in Utah, getting reporters, editors, publicists and filmmakers out of their respective time zones just in time for the busiest days of the season.
Jan. 24: In all likelihood, Rep. Jerry Nadler, of impeachment fame, shows up at a Grammy awards party; last year, he threw his own.
Jan. 25: Chinese New Year begins with a round of columns and a blast of social media posts contemplating the Year of the Rat. (It’s irresistible.) Meanwhile, the DGA awards arrive, along with the ASC awards and the Annies.
Jan. 26: The 62nd annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
Jan. 27: The Grammy postmortems, with a nervous eye on ratings, which ticked up slightly last year but remained far below the record highs.
Jan. 28: The much-delayed sentencing of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, if his date in the Washington courtroom of Judge Emmet G. Sullivan finally sticks.
Jan. 29: The Sundance sag sets in. Cold, sniffly, slightly hung-over media types report that the festival and independent film aren’t what they used to be.
Jan. 30: Final round Oscar voting opens. Last call for Dirty Tricks.
Jan. 31: Brexit Day! (As nearly as we can tell from here.)
Feb. 1: The WGA awards converge with Day One of Black History Month, bringing another chance to contemplate what might be missing in the seasonal awards.
Feb. 2: One very big Sunday. Sundance closes. Super Bowl LIV arrives. So do the first post-Brexit BAFTA awards, which could bring an interesting twist: Will the publicists and contenders who landed in a branch of the European Union now be departing from Merry Olde England?
Feb. 3: More politics: The Iowa Caucuses officially start a campaign season that already feels a bit worn.
Feb. 4: In Washington, the State of the Union address. But, given the impeachment mess, who will deliver it? Donald Trump? Mike Pence? Nancy Pelosi? Meanwhile, freelance contractors who have filed once daily to the same publisher since Jan. 1 will hit their 35-submission limit, forcing them off the rolls or into employment under that earlier mentioned California law.
Feb. 5: Estimated date for The New York Times fourth-quarter and year-end earnings report. The numbers should tell whether impeachment has helped the media.
Feb. 6: Just a guess, but it feels as if Rep. Adam Schiff, a would-be screenwriter, will make a splash at an Oscar-week party about now.
Feb. 7: Politics trumps awards yet again, with another Democratic debate, now at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Feb. 8: The Independent Spirit Awards, once again making up for all those Oscar oversights.
Feb. 9: Finally, the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony, on ABC. But I’m already exhausted.
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