Saturday, January 19, 2013

How We Choose A President of Movies (Updated)

This weekend is an interesting one. While most people are looking forward to the AFC and NFC championships, there are others who feel a bit lost.

For movie buffs who may also be disgruntled Packers and Broncos fans,  it's the weekend in between the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. They may wonder whether they should see Silver Linings Playbook again, or why Amour, a Best Picture nominee and the favorite for Best Foreign Language Film, is shown in only 15 this country! More people should have the chance to know how good this movie may be. Hopefully, that will change after the SAGs.

The point is, the Oscar race is becoming more like a presidential campaign. Washington has PACs, the Oscars have Harvey Weinstein. The election has political parties, Hollywood has studios. Candidates lobby for votes in caucuses and primaries, actors lobby for votes from every critics society from Los Angeles to New York. Until this year, I never knew there were movie awards given out in St. Louis and San Diego.
This point was proven beyond all doubt when people heard about problems with the Oscar online voting system when nominees were chosen. There were complaints about not getting to the site or casting a vote, or not being able to get a paper ballot instead. Some people must have gotten flashbacks to Florida in 2000, and hanging chads. This is the real reason Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow aren't in the Best Director race.

There's also the lobbying from the press. Some reporters complained Zero Dark 30 allegedly argued that torture led to the capture of Osama Bin Laden, although others may argue the movie shows that the real key was a detail most people didn't notice. There were also comments that Lincoln, Argo and ZD 30 weren't historically accurate. That's not too different from political pundits nitpicking on candidates they don't like. Why else did we hear such comments on  Fox News and MSNBC?

So if electing a "president of movies" is just like choosing our president, what does that make the awards fans see on TV every January?
Never mind the People's Choice Awards. That's just a poll with trophies. The Critics Choice Awards would be the Iowa caucuses. The Golden Globes are the New Hampshire primary. The Screen Actors Guild Awards are just like Super Tuesday, since actors make up the biggest voting block within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In recent years, whoever wins in the Golden Globes often pick up the rest of the major awards right up to the Oscars. I can't remember three different people winning for one category, making the Oscar race truly wide open. It's just like what happened in last year's presidential race. We basically know who's going to be the major nominees a year before the election. It's been the same story for the most part in the major movie awards.
Who wouldn't want to be a competitive race right up to the Oscars? I was excited about whether Viola Davis could beat Meryl Streep for Best Actress last year. I would like to see a similar battle between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence. If Lawrence wins in the SAGs, we may get that. However, Chastain may get the edge from voters who will support her as a way of supporting Kathryn Bigelow.
A similar situation could emerge in the Supporting Actor race. While Christoph Waltz earned his Golden Globe, I suspect others may support Philip Seymour Hoffman or Tommy Lee Jones instead because Django Unchained may have been too violent for them. If Hoffman or Jones wins next week, we have a race, and more interest.

While choosing the Best Movie, Actor or even Best Song in the major award shows every year may be just like how we choose a president, there's one fact that seems to prove they're not similar: we never find out how many votes each Oscar nominee received.

That may be true, but a campaign is a campaign. All that's missing is a negative ad campaign against nominees.
Then again, remember when Selma Hayek hosted Saturday Night Live? She seemed to invent negative ads so she could win in Frieda. It was a joke, of course, until it happens for real.

Update: Jennifer Lawrence did win Best Actress at the Screen Actors Guild awards last night. So we have a race come Oscar time, as we had between Viola Davis (who won in the SAGs last year) and eventual Oscar winner Meryl Streep. I still say Chastain wins at the Oscars thanks to the Best Director votes Kathryn Bigelow would have gotten. According to some, Ben Affleck also being snubbed may lead to more Best Picture votes for Argo.  For Supporting Actor, Tommy Lee Jones won, which means he may get the edge at the Oscars because Django may be too violent for some voters. The voting starts in a few days, and we'll find out who wins, and if Seth MacFarland can host a major awards show, in four weeks.

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