Magazine article Variety

The Year of Voting Dangerously

Magazine article Variety

The Year of Voting Dangerously

Article excerpt

IT'S BEEN A YEAR OF EXTREMES, with record intensity in politics, war, and even weather. So it's no surprise that Oscar has had a year of extremes as well. Everything building up to Oscar seemed familiar, but a little more intense.

The awards season, which once lasted three months, is now a year-long affair. There were more movies than ever, more companies than ever, more awards-related events, more mud-slinging - including non-stop attacks on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences itself- and the most dramatic reversal of fortune for a contender in Oscar history.

The year-end glut - 44 films opening in November-December, up from 34 last year - will always bring a few must-see titles, such as "Silence" and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." However, many other late-year titles including "The Founder,""Gold,""Live by Night,""Miss Sloane,""Passengers," "Patriots Day" and "Paterson" have to fight for a place on awards voters' must-see lists, which were already too long.

Aside from the majors and longtime awards veterans, the past few years have seen the addition of new players, including A24, Amazon, Bleecker Street, Broad Green, Netflix, the Orchard, and Sundance Selects. And there is renewed vigor in the awards lineups of CBS Films, Lionsgate, Open Road, Sony Pictures Classics, STX, and The Weinstein Co.

All of them are vying for attention in a landscape that now includes a no-longer-sleeping giant: television. For decades, half of the year-end awards have been devoted to TV, such as the Golden Globes and the guilds. But the flood of spectacular TV work ** «« has made them more competitive. Now, film companies find themselves vying with their TV counterparts for screening rooms, party venues, and, most importantly, for voters' time and attention.

The 2016 feelings of frenzy were also reflected at the box office. On Nov. 25, U.S. domestic B.O. hit $10 billion at a record pace. (The previous speed record was set on Dec. 7, 2013). The global B.O. is headed by a quartet from Disney-Buena Vista: "Captain America: Civil War," "Finding Dory,""Zootopia," and "The Jungle Book," which collectively gathered a whopping $4.1 billion. The global top 20 for the year also includes "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," "Suicide Squad," and "X-Men: Apocalypse." These titles confirmed the popularity of family films and franchises. They also point up a widening between box office and awards.

In the past, Oscar's best picture winner has often paralleled public favorites, such as "Gone With the Wind,""Ben-Hur,""The Godfather,""Titanic," and "Gladiator." The last time this happened was 2003, with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." Since then, Oscar faves have tended to be smaller films, something that seems likely to happen again this year.

However, there is one area where box office and awards overlap: the animated feature.

B.O. winners such as Disney's "Zootopia" and "Moana," and Universal-Illumination's "The Secret Life of Pets" are strong contenders. That field is rich with other possibilities, including "Sing,""Trolls," "Kubo and the Two Strings," "The Little Prince," "The Red Turtle," "Sausage Party."

Despite all the year's intensity (or maybe because of it), 2016 has been a good year for movies.

After the #OscarsSoWhite cry for diversity/inclusion, this year's crop shows a significant jump. Even more important, studios and film-finance people - who have been responsible for the imbalance - are listening, and seem to want movies that better reflect the world population. …

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