It’s time to get out of holiday mode and get down to business — Oscar business that is, as nominating ballots for the 92nd annual Academy Awards now are live. The roughly 8,730 active voting members have just five days, until Tuesday, to determine the nominees for the best of 2019. The nominations will be announced on Monday, January 13, and the Oscars will be held two weeks earlier than normal this year, on Sunday, February 9.
The earlier Oscar date makes it all the more urgent for members to see as many movies as possible, a herculean task that clearly the Academy recognizes as it has been on a nonstop emailing, texting and phone-calling campaign to make voters realize time is of the essence. In the next five days, AMPAS members can expect the barrage of reminders to heat up and continue until the 5 p.m. PT deadline on January 7; that happens to be the same day the actual nominations for the all-important Producers Guild, Directors Guild and BAFTA awards will be announced, meaning crunch time is upon us as we are a little more than a month away from the big night.
This weekend’s Golden Globes ushers in a flurry of activities, many aimed at grabbing the attention of Oscar voters before they cast those ballots. That includes tonight’s annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala, where 10 major contenders will receive awards and get to make an acceptance speech that just might be seen by enough Oscar voters to have an impact. Of course that also will be an advantage for those Globes winners on Sunday, as last year’s winners almost uniformly went on to Oscar glory as well, and there still will be two days of AMPAS voting post-Globes.
ABC, meanwhile, jumped the gun New Year’s Eve with a new promo for its Academy Awards broadcast that said: “New Year. New Oscars” (watch it above). What that actually means, and just how new this year’s Oscars will be, still is a matter of speculation as the Academy has been mum on actual plans for the telecast being produced by first-timers Stephanie Allain and Lynette Howell Taylor. Sources tell me that although there might not be a traditional host this year (no announcement has been made in that regard) and that, like last year, the show could be “host”-less, we probably can expect some new twists to the format. So that TV ad promising “New Oscars” might have more clues as to the direction of the broadcast than you’d expect on the surface.
Interestingly, the promo also, perhaps inadvertently, gives real clues as to which films and performances ABC, and by extension the Academy, either thinks or hopes (ratings-wise) will figure into the actual nominations, even before the first nominating ballot has been filled out. The promo spot features brief glimpses of such films as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Judy, Dolemite Is My Name, Hustlers and a few others, which is good news for the campaigns of the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Eddie Murphy among others. But you have to wonder what strategists for contenders of other films not included think about this. Traditionally network promos for the Oscars that air prior to nominations steer clear of any suggestion of just which films will be in the mix. That usually is saved for the actual nominees themselves. Considering the Academy’s efforts to keep this process on an even playing field, I was a bit surprised to see this promo, no matter how subliminal these quick clips might be.
Nevertheless, AMPAS members, the time has come to actually vote, and we will soon see how good a prognosticator ABC’s promo department really is.