Reacting to the Oscars in January

Posted by · 11:34 am · June 23rd, 2010

Nikki Finke’s report last night that AMPAS execs discussed moving the Oscar telecast to January spurred plenty of debate from the readership.  I thought I’d poke around and see what the rest of the blogging community has to say on the matter.

For starters, David Poland is seeing things the way I do [The Hot Blog]:

An earlier vote – nominations on, say, January 11, show on January 30, the week between the NFL Conference Finals and The Super Bowl – would put enormous pressure on the TV show producers… but I have to say… the show has been dubious… and lacking spontaneity. This could help bring it back. It would also keep the parade of award shows from boring the world to tears before the one award show that matters lands.

Tom O’Neil, on the other hand, would rather see a shift in the other direction [Gold Derby]:

…back when the Oscars were doled out in late March/early April, TV Nielsens were fine and the Academy Awards had more suspense. Voters often got bored with the early winners of Golden Globes and critics’ and guild awards and ditched…The longer the Oscar derby continues the more we will all be engaged in a worthwhile discussion of great filmmaking. That’s a good thing.

Nathaniel Rogers sees both sides with a “pro” and “con” perspective [The Film Experience]:

A January ceremony could potentially make November the month of choice for adult oriented studio releases which would be a better alternative from a moviegoing perspective than Christmas. November is far less hectic than December…[but] an earlier awards ceremony could also mean that we see even less discernment in Oscar nominations and winners than we do now, and even less careful consideration of merits from the critics and precursor groups (obviously if Oscar moves earlier everyone else will too which means you’ll see critics groups voting in November before they’ve seen everything).

Scott Feinberg has a modest proposal [Hollywood News]:

How about having TWO voting periods? At the end of June, have voters select the 5 best films released between January and June; and at the end of December, have voters select the 5 best films released between July and December. Then, after tallying the votes by mid-January, mail voters an alphabetized list of all 10 best picture nominees, and ask them to rank them from best to worst, just as you did last year, to determine your best picture winner. (You could still have the Oscars show at the end of January or beginning of February.)

Ryan Adams, who has been quite vocal with his views in our own thread, would rather jump out a window [Awards Daily]:

Why not move the whole slippery ceremony to an undisclosed location like the Honorary Oscars? Is New Year’s Eve convenient for everybody? This scheme is so unwieldy it’s hard to think of any way to respond except to wince at the absurdity.

And, of course, in her initial report, Finke saw the whole thing as an awful idea [Deadline]:

With so many films coming out those last days of December, it leaves even less time for AMPAS members to see the movies they’ll nominate. It also means the studios will have to get DVD screeners into voters’ hands that much sooner, which would only make the piracy risks that much greater. Most of the AMPAS members I know watch the potential nominees over the December 25-January 1 holiday. That won’t be possible.

I’m sure the debate will continue.

→ 28 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

28 responses so far

  • 1 6-23-2010 at 11:44 am

    Christian said...

    I think it’s a fantastic idea. Seriously, the Oscars is the only reason any of us even follow awards’ season, so why not let it come first? Sure, it will cause a lot of trouble for the first few years having it earlier, but after a few years the studios will get accustomed to the new system as will all the voters and will make all those complaining even forget what they were complaining about in the first place.

  • 2 6-23-2010 at 11:48 am

    Ben said...

    One of the people you mention has had an extremely negative attitude towards you and the site since last summer, so let’s ignore him here. Though the opinion isn’t invalid per se. I kinda miss the longer season where people could get bored and last minute momentum could produce upsets.

    But I think there is awards fatigue and maybe they should look at it. But my question is: why now? We’ve had 2 straight years of higher ratings.

    At the end of the day: whatever works for AMPAS works for me.

  • 3 6-23-2010 at 11:48 am

    aspect ratio said...

    Some of the negative comments are kind of baffling. Like O’Neil about the ratings when the Oscar was on later in the year, which ignores the fact that there’s been an explosion of other awards shows (and awards being given in general) since 2003. That paired with how the internet has evolved in those years (2003 = no YouTube, no Facebook, no Hulu and so on). The Oscars compete with so much more these days than it did just seven years ago.

    Finke’s comment is even dumber. If the Academy shifted to a January date, and assuming they wouldn’t announce this two weeks in advance of the show, everyone would adjust accordingly. It’s only the major tentpole films that set their release dates in stone this far in advance. All the films that would be contenders could easily slide into earlier release dates during October, November and December.

  • 4 6-23-2010 at 11:50 am

    Scott said...

    Ben, I think Kris and I have moved beyond that, but thank you for your concern…

  • 5 6-23-2010 at 11:51 am

    Ben said...

    I wasn’t talking about you!

  • 6 6-23-2010 at 11:55 am

    aspect ratio said...

    As for my own opinion, I would only assume that if the Oscars moved to late January, all the other shows would shift to earlier dates as well, cramping much of everything into January. The Golden Globes and BFCA would certainly not consider airing after the Oscars since their whole thing is to beat the Oscars to the punch.

    There could certainly be positives to this, there’s definitely a lull now all through February after the Golden Globes have aired and the Oscar nominations are out. If not in late January, I’d definitely be all for the Oscars happening within the first two weeks of February. A whole month between nominations and show is too long when not much else is going on in-between.

  • 7 6-23-2010 at 11:57 am

    Scott said...

    Kris, I agree with much of what you’re saying, but don’t you think that the other awards shows would simply move up their dates to the same extent as the Oscars, knowing that they would matter a lot less to TV viewers if they went after them? I understand that doing so would mean that they’d happen before the close of the Academy’s eligibility period at the end of December, but I imagine that studios would simply move up their releases accordingly, since they all want as many award-laurels on their DVD/Blu-Ray cases as possible. I don’t know–my head’s gonna explode.

  • 8 6-23-2010 at 12:23 pm

    Hans said...

    That idea by Scott would be an interesting one but would backfire heavily in years like this. What the hell would 2010’s Jan-Jun slate look like?

    How to Train Your Dragon
    Shutter Island
    Toy Story 3
    Get Him to the Greek?
    Winter’s Bone?


    I’ve been mulling around the idea today, though, of what would happen if AMPAS went back to the old calendar cycle used in the early years, where eligibility would be from September 1 to August 31, with fall being “awards season”. I know it’s a lot more clunkier to say “2010/2011 Best Picture winner Inception”, but that’s never been a problem for the Emmys (it could very well just be 2011 BP Winner Inception). That way the studios and AMPAS wouldn’t be tied down to the demarcations of the actual calendar year. Just imagine the all the prestige pics that would begin to fill up the summer! No one could say they wouldn’t have time to catch them then.

  • 9 6-23-2010 at 12:26 pm

    Hans said...

    My bad, eligibility in the early days was August 1 to July 31. I think September 1 would be better, though, since that would encompass the entire summer season.

  • 10 6-23-2010 at 12:30 pm

    coffeefortwo said...

    I agree with aspect ratio. The comments that rail most vehemently about the notion of the shift do so as if it would happen (and indeed as if the previous shift happened) within a void. If the Oscars are in January, it changes the dynamics of release schedules, which may in the end be beneficial to the smaller releases if they have the chance to capitalize on Oscar nominations with wider expansions closer to the flurry of initial, presumably positive reviews.

    Speculating that it will too difficult for Academy voters to catch up on all necessary releases in the condensed time frame relies on a couple of faulty premises. One is that voters are seeing things at the theater or at Academy screenings instead of having copies of everything delivered right to their door. The other is that they feel compelled to watch everything anyway, instead of simply deciding that, say, Jeff Bridges is due for an Oscar win or say Sandra Bullock seems like a nice person.

    The main entities hurt by this will be the trade publications, especially if the earlier date also means a condensed schedule (it may not, it may just mean a shifted schedule). They’re already hurting and they may wind up losing a major revenue stream if there a fewer weeks they can pack their publications full of pricey “For Your Consideration” ads.

  • 11 6-23-2010 at 12:51 pm

    Suzanne said...

    Coffeefortwo, that is exactly what I thought of. Magazines are already doing so badly; this certainly won’t help.

  • 12 6-23-2010 at 12:59 pm

    James D. said...

    Of the various ideas, Feinberg’s is the most idiotic. Having five picked from the first six months would be nice in theory, but they are not going to pick things like A Prophet (if it was eligible) or Fish Tank, they are going to pick unworthy things. Toy Story 3 would be deserving, but what after that? Shutter Island, How to Train Your Dragon, Robin Hood, Iron Man 2?

  • 13 6-23-2010 at 1:22 pm

    Ziyad Abul Hawa said...

    In the end it will keep it in the 27th of February, but they consider it for 2012.


  • 14 6-23-2010 at 2:05 pm

    What's the rush? said...

    As it is, there is already not enough time between the awards shows. It’s really quite exhuasting for nominees who have to attend all of them while also juggling work, including doing press and Q&A panels.

    People are literally giving a speech at one awards show (WGA) and then hoping on a midnight flight to London, showing up without sleeping and having to do another awards show that day at BAFTA. Some nominees are forced to miss some awards shows and/or events for this reason. The Academy should move the show back to March, so that the nominees can catch their breath.

  • 15 6-23-2010 at 2:35 pm

    Fitz said...

    Feinberg has the right idea. Voting seems like the big issue here so let’s send out two ballots at separate portions of the season.

    By the time March rolls around most people do not care about the contest because of all the other award shows.

  • 16 6-23-2010 at 2:57 pm

    Ryan Adams said...

    Ben @2

    You’re wrong to think I have a negative attitude about Kris or this essential site.

    When Kris and I engage in volleys, I see it as a form of performance art.

    Seriously, off camera we’re nearly as close as James Carville and Mary Matalin. Negativity? How about Kris repeatedly declining invitations for us to become FWB. Hurtful.

    Nope, you want palpable sexual tension, look no further than Kris and Nikki.

  • 17 6-23-2010 at 2:58 pm

    Scott said...

    James D., my idea would certainly have been “the most idiotic” if I meant for the rule to take effect this year… forgive me for not explicitly stating THE OBVIOUS: we’re already AT the end of June, so no, my proposal would not work for this year… but if it was adopted to go into effect for next year, then studios would simply adjust their release dates accordingly. Do you think most of the good movies are coming out at the end of the year because studios prefer the weather or something? No, it’s because studios think they will then be fresher in voters’ minds. Well, if their films can be just as fresh in voters’ minds/have just as good a shot at getting nominated at the end of May as at the end of November, then I believe studios will release a comparable amount then, too.

  • 18 6-23-2010 at 3:28 pm

    Aaron said...

    I don’t really like moving it up. In fact, I really am disturbed by all these changes happening to the Academy in the past couple of years. Please, just keep it the way it was. And PLEASE cut the best picture nominees from 10 to 5.

    …personally I think the best alternative would be to move the ceremony to late March, like it used to be. Look at the last ceremony that had this–it was one of the most unpredictable Academy Awards ever (who would’ve expected The Pianist to take Best Actor, Director, Screenplay???)

  • 19 6-23-2010 at 3:32 pm

    James D. said...

    Scott: Even then, you are creating an artificial division between the halves of the year. What stops the Oscar releases in a theoretical first-half setup from being bombs? What if, in this theoretical year, things like Nine and Invictus dominated one half of a year while something like A Serious Man gets crowded out in another half? The idea of honoring a year in film is problematic as it is, but cutting it down the middle is going to inevitably lead to worthy contenders getting shorted in a stronger half.

  • 20 6-23-2010 at 4:07 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Tom O’Neil is clearly out of it. This is a different time now. Back when the Oscars were in late March or early April we didn’t have all these Oscar blogs and prognosticators.

    The internet has changed the game a little. More and more people have access to more information and who will be the likely winners. I think late January early February is a fine spot for the Oscars. Either the week before or the week after the Super Bowl.

  • 21 6-23-2010 at 4:24 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Scott: I don’t see where there would be to run. HFPA voting is already in December, and some films are barely able to make that cut as it is. We’re a bit closer to the announcement date with BFCA voting.

  • 22 6-23-2010 at 7:24 pm

    Sean said...

    The idea of an oscar presentation without the Golden Globes/SAGS/BAFTAS spoiling it would be thrilling. The last time it wasn’t a foregone conclusion or two horse race was 2007’s supporting actress. I hate that performances need to build buzz, it should be in January before any of these assinine imitation shows.

  • 23 6-23-2010 at 8:47 pm

    head_wizard said...

    They can have it whenever they want just go back to the five best picture films!

  • 24 6-23-2010 at 11:28 pm

    Ross said...

    Scott Feinberg’s idea is ridiculous. It’s like saying: let’s have two rounds of voting — you have 2.5 slots for actresses of color and you have 2.5 slots for Caucasian actresses. It’s ridiculous. It’s called Best Picture of the Year and it could happen that this year we have six films from the first part of the year and four from the latter.

  • 25 6-24-2010 at 3:11 pm

    HC said...

    Seriously, Scott? It’s an awful idea.

  • 26 6-25-2010 at 9:22 pm

    sam said...

    I truly can’t stand this idea that it pains me to even think about it — the oscars should really be moved in the other direction — back to it’s original march date. It needs to distance itself from other awards shows — instead they have created this logjam, where because they have moved to February, every awards show now has moved earlier — where there is an awards show every week — causing awards fatigue. I’m sorry but isn’t the oscars supposed to be about art and honor — something that they would be completely be throwing out — think about it — do academy voters get to see the films that are nominated if you are supposed to nominate or vote for awards during the holiday season? Academy members would end up just asking others — what movie should I nominate, or this movie made a lot of money that’s what i should nominate because it must be good. Given that the academy likes to nominate smaller films — when are academy members or even audience members supposed to see these films???? Voters need to reflect on what they truly believe is the best, not be rushed into it. Remember the last minute surge of voters who turned their ballots in at the last minute because of the 10 nominees — and they want to now rush the process. The oscars don’t need to be rushed, other awards shows will just move to december or stay put and leaving the supposed granddaddy of all awards shows just an after thought.

  • 27 6-25-2010 at 9:23 pm

    sam said...

    They got great ratings in 5 years for airing in March — what more do they want?

  • 28 6-27-2010 at 8:50 pm

    Renard said...

    @Ross, HC

    Guys, feinberg’s proposal would come into effect right away. We cannot say whether one half of the year will yield shorty films while the other yields awesome ones. And, as the argument has been spread, distributors will adjust to fit the
    proposal. The analogy of the ‘color voting’ is inaccurate and exaggerated. Feinberg’s idea is suggest to bring diversity, NOT DIVIDE GOOD AND BAD FILMS.