Off the Carpet: The Oscar season has never been so stuffed

Posted by · 3:07 pm · November 18th, 2013

I honestly didn’t know my iCal application could hold this many events. The reminder jingle on my phone is going off constantly, jogging my memory of this shindig or that Q&A. The circuit has, in no uncertain terms, become unhinged with phase one glut, and it seems like it’s only getting worse…depending on how you look at it.

I have to check myself in these moments. I’m not a friggin’ coal miner. This isn’t “work.” But it’s definitely a glut and it has bloated the business of campaigning for awards considerably. Films such as “Gravity,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “All is Lost,” “Out of the Furnace,” “Rush,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Lone Survivor” and more have held voter-courting events in recent weeks as “holiday” parties for this and that distributor have provided further excuses to get talent in the room. Add to that junketing for films opening in the near future (“Llewyn Davis,” “Furnace”), the boom of AFI Fest this year (busier than it’s ever been) and the granddaddy campaign stop of them all – the Governors Awards – and it’s fair to say 2013 is easily the densest Oscar season I’ve ever encountered.

And it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

Countless people keep saying to me, “Does it seem like all of this is happening earlier this year?” It certainly seems like the full-court press has settled in earlier. The Academy is partly to blame for that, pulling the Governors Awards ceremony up two weeks earlier than it has been in the past. Who knew that the modestly-attended first annual ceremony five years ago would turn into the blatant campaign schmooze-fest it has become?

I’m not complaining or even disgusted by that, mind you. Studios are using what’s available to them, and why not? But for an organization, the Academy, that has been pretty vocal against campaigning (particularly the current president), it’s interesting that they are responsible for perhaps the biggest phase one opportunity to court Oscar voters this side of a Peggy Siegal party.

That’s not, however, to say the responsibility doesn’t also lie with Bob Iger and ABC, who surely wanted nothing more than to boot those presentations off the annual telecast. But it’s a shame, as my colleague Mark Harris recently opined, that Steve Martin, Angelina Jolie and Angela Lansbury all received Academy Awards on Saturday night and yet those moments are no longer part of the show.

And by the way, all the cards aren’t even on the table yet. We still have “American Hustle” (week of Thanksgiving) and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (first week of December) to reveal. Both David O. Russell and Martin Scorsese are on a roll with Oscar and their presence could significantly impact the season. But for now, a few things are interesting to me.

The CBS Films campaign for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” for instance, is just stellar, and events like that Santa Monica jam session last week are just gobbled up by Academy members this time of year. I’ve also heard “Fruitvale Station” mentioned by a number of Academy members as of late. The Best Actor category has felt solid for a while now, but guys like Oscar Isaac and Michael B. Jordan absolutely have their fans. And don’t forget Forest Whitaker, who is receiving a hugely generous push from The Weinstein Company. That category is just gnarly. It’s a shame there can only be five.

As Judd Apatow put it to me Saturday night, it’s one of those years that’s so great it makes a mockery of the whole process. That there should be any “winner” is foolish in the face of this amount of quality.

And indeed, what…a…year. I can’t say it enough. Someone last year told me I was sniffing the season’s farts a little too much, but if that’s the case, this year I’m inhaling them. Because I love a lot of these movies and I love a lot of the people involved with them. Matthew McConaughey, J.C. Chandor, Oscar Isaac, Scott Cooper, Emma Thompson, Alfonso Cuarón, Tom Hanks, Woody Harrelson, Sandra Bullock, Ron Howard…these are great talents, yes, but they’re also great people, putting out great work. And that’s before you even get to the Cinderella stories of Barkhad Abdi and Lupita Nyong’o, or the comeback kid Bruce Dern (who, yes, really wants it, but have a conversation with him and try to tell yourself he doesn’t deserve it).

So that’s what I’m trying to think about as the season starts to feel like it’s going way overboard. At least it’s all in service of people and work such as this. You can bend yourself into a pretzel looking for that elusive objective point from which to cast judgment on a year’s worth of film product, but that’s the fool’s way amid an embarrassment of riches like this.

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