The rundown - Well, here we go again. Another year of movies is just about in the books as we turn our attention to one of my favorite days of the year, Oscar Sunday. That’s right, just 23 days stand between us finding out who was truly the best of 2013 according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). And for only the third time in the past 10 years, we will see those envelopes opened in March. Crazy thing is, I almost prefer it to be held this late, as it gives you more time to take in all the nominees. And the truth is, this ceremony, for at least half of its 85-year existence, has been held in the third month of the year. Yeah, I know, it will only be March 2nd when the Oscars are handed out, but it’s still March and the right month to have this ceremony. Meaning, I still have nearly a month to dissect and debate all the nominations so that you are better informed prior to that famed Sunday. So, it may only be the second month of 2014, but 2013 in regards to film, is far from over as my upcoming Oscar preview will support.
The buzz – For those that have never taken this journey with me into everything Oscars, feel privileged, as this isn’t your ordinary Academy Awards preview. Yeah, I will give my thoughts and opinions on this year’s crop of nominees, but that only scratches the surface. Because believe it or not, there are people that simply have no clue how big this award show is to Hollywood. I know, crazy, right? But, its true and really all the award shows before this one don’t matter as much, at least to those in Hollywood being honest. Because as cool as it is to be called a SAG or Golden Globe winner, it doesn’t have the same ring as Oscar winner. Achieving that will follow you the rest of your life in a way like no other. So, even though I love to watch all these “other” award shows like the aforementioned Golden Globe’s and SAG Awards, none of them compare to The Academy Awards.
A couple years ago, I wrote about how the change from the traditional five Best Picture nominees to more than five wouldn’t have too much of an effect on the other categories. Only in the sense that those same movies, whether nominated for Best Picture or not, would most likely still be nominated in those “other” categories. I just wish all the films nominated for Best Picture, actually had a chance to win. A casual viewer might ask, why wouldn’t they? But, for anyone that has followed this ceremony, they know why and the reasons four to five of those nominees have no realistic shot. And as we seem to find out each New Year, the race for Best Picture is usually only between one or two films leading me to wonder which five films would be nominated under the old format? Would those five come out of the nine currently nominated or would a couple that are not on the ballot be in the mix instead?
Given what I saw throughout the year and what was actually nominated, if we were under the old format, the five films that I could have seen on the ballot are “Philomena,” “Nebraska,” “12 Years a Slave” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Rush.” So, while only one of those four films was snubbed from this category, it gives you a different picture of what this category might have looked like if it were five years ago prior to the change.
The rules – For those that don’t know or forgot, in order for a film to qualify, it must open in the previous calendar year, from midnight of January 1st to midnight on New Year’s Eve or December 31st. This according to rules 2 and 3 of the official Academy Awards Rules created by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which also states film’s must be a feature-length of at least 40 minutes long with a native resolution of at least 1280x720. Producers must submit their Official Screen Credits online from before the deadline or it will be deemed ineligible. That form, which includes production credits for all related categories will eventually be checked and put into a ‘Reminder List of Eligible Releases,’ this giving the pool of movies for the 6000-plus active and life Academy members to choose from. For most of the categories, members from each of the branches will determine the nominees, meaning only actors will vote for actor, writers for writers, directors for directors, etc. The only exception is for Best Picture, where all voting members are eligible to select nominees for that category. The winning nominees are finally determined by a second round of voting in which all Academy members are allowed to vote in most categories, including Best Picture.
Interesting thing here is I heard an interview with Mark Wahlberg regarding “Lone Survivor” and it missing the qualification by a few days. But, when the nominations were released, I saw it was on the ballot for ‘Achievement in Sound Editing’ and ‘Achievement in Sound Mixing.’ That instantly made me question what Wahlberg said and if I somehow misunderstood. But, it apparently did beat the clock to become eligible prior to the New Year, which is good. I just wish it was nominated for more than just those two categories. Because while this might not have been a true Best Picture nominee, I could have easily seen it nominated for directing, cinematography, editing or even adapted screenplay. But, somewhere between it not being widely screened and the politics that inherently follow a film of its kind, it was left out in the cold.
The trivia - For those new to this column, each year I pick one aspect of the Oscars that tends to get left out from all the hype that you see on TV and online. And this year, I figured I would let you into some of the more interesting trivia/milestones for this year’s crop of nominees originally compiled by our friends at goldderby.com. So, whether you know it or not, it’s still a lot of fun to see it in writing.
And I will start with none other than the great composer John Williams, who is now a 49-time Oscar nominee after this year’s nod for “The Book Thief” as Best Original Score. Williams has won 5 times, the last coming in 1993 for “Schindler’s List,” which was over 20 years ago. Then there’s fellow composer Thomas Newman, who with this 12th nomination for “Saving Mr. Banks,” hopes to walk home a winner for once. Same could be said for cinematographer Roger Deakins, who for his work with “Prisoners,” just earned his 11th nomination with no prior wins.
Jennifer Lawrence could become the youngest to ever take home two Oscars for acting. As it was just last year she took home the gold for “Silver Linings Playbook” and now is nominated for Best Supporting Actress in “American Hustle,” another David O. Russell picture. If she wins, it will only be the sixth time a person has won in back to back years. And speaking of Russell, this is two years in a row where his film has nominations in all four acting four categories. That’s only the 15th time in the history of this ceremony, which is quite impressive given how few people knew of him this time last year.
My favorite director Martin Scorsese just picked up his eighth nomination for directing with “The Wolf of Wall Street.” That ties Billy Wilder for second all-time, which is only four behind William Wyler, the guy behind such epic films like “Ben-Hur,” “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “Roman Holiday” and “Mrs Miniver.” Fellow nominees Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) could become the first Mexican to win for directing while Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) would become the first black to win for directing.
The past six straight Golden Globe winners for Best Supporting Actor have gone on to win Oscars, while the past five straight Golden Globe winners for Best Supporting Actress have also gone on to win the Oscar. So, it will be interesting to see if Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle”) are able to keep that trend going this year. Leto seems like a lock, but Lawrence has potentially fierce competition from June Squibb (“Nebraska”), who would become the oldest winner at 84, if she is able to pull off the upset.
Finally Meryl Streep has officially broken her own record with her 18th acting nomination. That’s impressive; especially when you figure 15 of those nods are for Best Actress. The next closest competitor is the late Katherine Hepburn who owned 12 nominations with four wins, one more than Streep which I doubt will change this year. That said, Hepburn and Streep are only two of six people to win at least three Oscars for acting.
What next? Well, now that you have been enlightened on some of the unknown history and unique moments of this ceremony, let me educate you on what will come over the next few weeks. Since virtually all the major categories feature most, if not all nine films nominated for Best Picture, I will go over all my favorite categories as I review each Best Picture nominee. Fact of the matter is, without these nine films, I doubt anyone would really watch the ceremony, as seeing who takes home the Oscar for Best Costume or Best Foreign Film is not all that exciting to most people. But, that’s not all, as I will once again get into the music, fame, and all the things that make the Academy Awards special. So, get ready for what will ultimately be the best place to get your Oscar fix leading up to the ceremony on March 2nd.
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