Now comes my favorite part of movie awards season, the very beginning, when everybody is a competitor.
It’s like the good old days, when Carnival came to town (also at the end of summer). Come on, everybody’s a winner! Try your luck, win a prize!! You can’t win if you don’t play the game!!!
We all know that’s not entirely true. Some of these movies don’t stand a chance. But I like its inclusiveness. For a few months, say from August 31, the opening date of the Venice Film Festival, until perhaps the end of November, when Oscar voters start to worry about shortlists, anything is possible. You could win the Kewpie doll! Damn, alley of nightmares was picking up prizes on the front-end.
At least he finished the season as an Oscar nominee, which is more than can be said for several hundred rivals.
But I say it with love. The carnival atmosphere is a good thing. For a few months, we screen, broadcast and share the delicious illusion that the very next film we see could very well be The One.
After all, at this point, who’s to say that She says is not next Projector? Certainly not me.
In this early season antics, small images, obscure distributors and, above all, near misses make hay. Filming Venice and Telluride, the Toronto International Film Festival is always packed with films that can be described as fascinating failures.
WE? Demolition? August: Osage County? Well, it was fun to watch them grab the brass ring.
The most impressive ovation I have ever seen received cloud atlas in Toronto, and we know how it happened. The film was lucky enough to get a Golden Globe nomination for the score. You can get a better consolation prize for missing all the bottles and hitting a barker next door in the horse race pit.
But there is much more at stake than just the spectacle of frequent failures and the surprise of occasional success. However briefly, audiences can sample films in a hopeful and receptive environment.
And the media, of course, gets a cut. These first reviews and first features attract readers. Additionally, the hopes and dreams of suitors bring promotional dollars.
When I was a film editor The New York Times, I quietly explained to the sales staff – yes, we talked, down to Arthur Sulzberger Jr. – that a special awards-themed section published after the Oscar nominees were announced could only attract ads nominees. But an awards section published early, when everybody is still a competitor, could collect from everybody.
Not fooled, they accelerated the publication schedule. And it worked. Because, in the cinema, for a few very short months, everyone is a winner.