Suddenly it’s The Season: Major films are opening, the machinery of hype is heating up, the screening schedules are intense — even the DVD screeners are piling up.
Well, maybe not. Not unless you’re a critic. Or an influencer. “This is like Vegas without the slots,” observed one awards guru about the abolition of screeners.
The most important question of The Season, of course, is: Will filmgoers buy tickets? Or will inertia set in – the sort of “blah” attitude that has crippled the Oscars?
The Motion Picture Academy, for one, is doggedly fighting the blahs, sending out urgent reminders to its members via emails and phone messages. Albeit mixed messages: Get your butt to a movie theater. Or to the Geffen. Or to the Goldwyn (re-opens in January). Or stay home and check out the Academy’s Digital Screening Room.
The critics’ fraternity, to be sure, lives by different rules. They receive screeners. Also links. And they’re enjoying occasional special screenings and posh receptions.
In short, The Academy receives fees from studios for making their films digitally available. Members, to be sure, don’t get reimbursed for their theater tickets.
The overridinthe experts who tell us what to think about those movies we haven’t seen are also enjoying perks denied Academy voters.g concern, obviously, is that prospective voters won’t be paying attention. The hype has been missing, also missing are the festivals. The stars and star directors aren’t hustling the Q&A sessions that used to support their movies.
Even the critics are sending mixed messages. To the Los Angeles Times, The Power of the Dog is “extraordinary.” To the New York Times the movie represents “a staggering take on the western.” To the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane, the movie is “a chamber piece with chaps and you soon realize that it ain’t going anywhere.”
To some Oscar forecasters, West Side Story is an instant winner. But the New York Times’ critics panel frets about authenticity and diversity: Maybe it’s “the confederate monument of musicals.” Really?
Quotes are important to the well-paid hype-meisters of the awards circuit and so are the responses of guild members and critics groups. The awards season has been slimmed down this year starting mid-December and terminating at the Oscars on March 27. The evaporation of the Golden Globes has also taken away some of the pizzazz — and comedy.
In urging members to utilize its Digital Screening Room, the Academy offers its highly efficient member relations services to help with technical problems. David Rubin, the Academy president, argues that eliminating screeners will reduce piracy and also mitigate environmental damage – all those slabs being torn up, tossed into the trash or donated to gardeners and pool cleaners for holiday entertainment.
On the other hand, some Academy members may miss the screeners for other reasons. Mike Marcus, who runs Echo Lake Entertainment, notes that he enjoys revisiting those past films that he found memorable. Others agree on the value of their screener libraries.
Personally, I have coped comfortably with the Academy’s digital agenda but have had difficulty judging when and how to adjust my viewing time to the studio release schedules, given the scope and ambitions of each film. Should a Jane Campion movie be seen ideally in the broad ambience of the 1,000-seat Geffen theater at the Motion Picture museum? Or at a later release date in the comfort of your home screen? Or digitally?
All of us want to deal respectfully with the visions of our creative colleagues. But some of us also remember the pleasing protocols of pre-pandemic years when sumptuous dinner parties accompanied screenings, or when major stars habitually shook your hand and thanked you for your support. It was even gratifying to hear Academy spokesmen warning you not to enjoy yourself too much during the screening rituals.
Yes, The Season was more fun back then. Perhaps so were the movies.
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