Magazine article Variety

TV Encroaches on Film's Awards Race

Magazine article Variety

TV Encroaches on Film's Awards Race

Article excerpt

From now until Oscar ballots come due, there will be screenings. Oh, will there be screenings.

Screenings in grand theaters with stiff-backed chairs. Screenings in cushy seats and quiet, cozy lairs. Screenings wrapped in the trappings of star-crossed Q&As. Screenings starkly efficient, removing all the glaze.

But as the campaign for film awards surges across Hollywood like a time-lapse sunrise, there's a shadow intruding on that landscape. If you look up, you can see exactly where it's coming from: the mountaintop known as peak TV. With both the SAG Awards and Golden Globe Awards incorporating TV categories into their programming, the focus isn't entirely on just film.

To be an authoritative film awards voter, you have to be committed. And with each passing year, that commitment is tested more and more by the volume of superb - some would say superior - small-screen content.

"You want to (see) everything and don't have time for it all," says one veteran industry awards expert. "If you're a working professional, which I assume most people in the Academy are, you could make the case that the amount of quality television is cutting into the time people have a chance to go to screenings."

For any awards-contending film, nothing is more important than simply being seen. You can't win if you don't play. Inner-circle candidates - determined by an esoteric process of bonafides and buzz - will get their eyeballs, but any film that is an underdog is straining to photo-bomb the big picture.

Dedicated voters, especially those who leave TV for others, will lengthen their slate as much as possible. But how much is possible? You can't see absolutely everything, and a line must be drawn somewhere.

This is especially problematic in this era of peak TV, where by the nature of the series format, the number of hours of quality television can quickly outpace the number of hours of quality cinema. Every movie is in some sense an unknown, while with television, once you've made the down payment of the first hour of a quality series, your investment keeps generating reliable returns.

So when the night rolls in, and you're making a choice between venturing through traffic to a screening, popping in a DVD of a fringe awards contender, or slicing through the ever-accessible pie of elite television, which do you choose?

Maybe you phone a friend, or consult a critic.

"Reviews might be more important than ever," the awards expert says, "because you don't want to waste 90 minutes or two hours on a movie that gets mixed reviews. …

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