As the summer solstice approaches, on June 21, it’s not too soon to start fretting about the earliest-ever Academy Awards ceremony, set for Feb. 9 of next year. Granted, the Oscars were handed out in seemingly earlier November of 1930, 1931 and 1932. But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences qualified films on a fiscal year back then. So the gap between what used to be a July 31 close of eligibility and the late fall ceremony was well over three months, considerably more than the five or six weeks that will separate next year’s ceremony, the 92nd, from the season’s final releases.
The tight schedule has already made things feel a bit, well, accelerated. Almost two weeks ago, just after Memorial Day, the Academy named the recipients of its honorary Oscars—Geena Davis, David Lynch, Wes Studi and Lina Wertmuller—to be presented at a Governors Awards dinner on Oct. 27, four days before Halloween. Maybe a costume party is in order. And the in-box is starting to catch “save-the-date” notes for a film awards events that have to slip through tiny windows like the one between the end of the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 15 and the Emmy Awards on Sept. 22.
Pity the poor publicists. The compressed calendar sets up a mean promotional squeeze.
But there’s more: The early Oscar date also promises to heighten the socio-political tensions that have marked virtually all recent awards shows, including last week’s ultra-low rated Tonys.
By a quirk of fate, next year’s earliest-ever Academy Awards date will align with a heavily front-loaded Presidential primary schedule. Oscar night comes six days behind the Iowa caucuses, on Feb. 3, and just two days before the New Hampshire primary, on Feb. 11. More portentously, Super-Tuesday, with 13 state primaries, is less than a month behind the Oscars, on March 3—and this year, California, with its massive electoral load, will join those early primary states.
Anyone who doesn’t think dozens of sharp Democratic political consultants aren’t scanning the release schedules, festival rosters, contender lists, and compendia of possible star presenters for potential advantage just isn’t thinking. A California-based Oscar show in the middle of a heated primary season is a target too rich to ignore.
With that in mind, those who care about the movies should probably get an eye on the early Democratic Presidential debates, set for June 26 and June 27 in Miami. How the scheduled 20 Presidential contenders behave in Florida will set the stage for what is almost sure to be a great deal of political contention in Hollywood on Feb. 9.