A column chronicling conversations and events on the awards circuit.
If you want your movie to be eligible for the Oscars or WGA awards, you have only one week to comply. All forms are due in November 15 for both organizations, and they are serious. In fact AMPAS minces no words according to their official release on the deadline:
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“For a feature film to be considered for the 2019 Awards, the film’s distributor or producer must upload via our submission website a scanned, signed copy of the OSF and legal billing (complete on-screen credits) or deliver a signed OSF and the film’s legal billing to the Academy’s 8949 Wilshire Boulevard office. The deadline for submission by either method is 5 p.m. PT on November 15. If a feature film is released in Los Angeles County in 2019 and the completed OSF and billing are not delivered by the deadline, the film will be ineligible for Academy Awards in any year.” Ouch. Get those forms in, contenders.
And speaking of Contenders, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which holds its annual splashy awards gala on the unfriendly holiday-busting date of January 2 this year (so as not to compete with Golden Globes weekend which launches the next day, but also importantly from a strategists POV on the day Oscar nomination balloting begins) announced their first honoree today, and, no surprise it is Renee Zellweger, a clear Best Actress front-runner for her incredible turn as Judy Garland in Judy. She will be receiving the Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actress, and it is a pretty good luck thing to get since the list of past winners of this very same award include last year’s Best Actress Academy Award winner Olivia Colman, Halle Berry, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Marion Cotillard, Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, Saoirse Ronan and Charlize Theron. All except Ronan (who got a nomination) went on to win the same honor at the Oscars (well not exactly the same, eh?).
However, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival already beat PSIFF to the punch by announcing Zellweger would be their recipient of the American Riviera Award at the fest which runs January 15-25, finishing up shortly before actual final Oscar voting begins. These two fests are definitely places serious contenders want to be seen in January, especially in a condensed season like this one.
HOLLYWOOD FILM AWARDS TRIES TO PREDICT OSCAR WINNERS
Another glitzy event on the Oscar precursor circuit is the Hollywood Film Awards, which were held Sunday at the Beverly Hilton and drew a very starry turnout of winners and presenters. To get an HFA, now in its 23rd year, you are selected by a small cabal and have to agree to show up in person to accept at the non-televised ceremony — still not generally a problem this time of year when hopefuls are jockeying for attention. It is an award negotiated with the studios much like the Palm Springs and Santa Barbara fests. Because of that, and the very early November date, the track record in eventually matching Oscar winners is not always spot on, but it hits more than it misses.
Founder Carlos de Abreu, who created the show with wife Janice Pennington, is a key force in the selection process, even though he is not the only voice in the room anymore (Golden Globe producer Dick Clark Productions took on the production a few years back). You have to be impressed at the turnout they get, this year perhaps more than any other you are likely to see most of these honorees (previously announced on Deadline) at the Oscars, and many could be in the winners circle including Hollywood Actress Award winner — wait for it — Renee Zellweger. It is not hard to imagine some of the others including Theron who got a Career Achievement Award, Antonio Banderas, Al Pacino, Laura Dern, James Mangold, Bong Joon Ho, animation winner Toy Story 4, Harriet’s Cynthia Erivo and others heading to the Dolby.
SEAT FILLERS TO THE RESCUE
Pennington told me afterwards Carlos lives and breathes this show for three months straight, never leaving his computer except to go to screenings where the pair are often seen. De Abreu is often thanked in acceptance speeches even and this year, beginning with Dern’s “thank you Carlos and the Hollywood Film Awards team,” I counted six winners throwing “thank you Carlos” mentions his way including Erivo, Mangold, Pacino, Zellweger and Irishman producer of the year Emma Tillinger Koskoff. The presenters are no less impressive including the likes of Martin Scorsese, Robert Downey Jr, Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Nicole Kidman and Francis Ford Coppola, who came to hand the Hollywood Supporting Actor award to his Godfather star Pacino.
I have to say it was a great moment to see the latter two bantering with each other as well as Pacino’s charming acceptance speech. Those guys got deserved standing ovations as well as a few others later on, but for the first part of the show the only ones standing were the seat fillers (those people hired to make sure there are no empty seats visible). I was invited to sit at Pacino’s table which was fun, but for the first half of the show before Pacino arrived, half of our table were seat fillers who sat there politely, not allowed to drink or eat at their place setting. Whenever anyone won they would, in unison, and automatically jump to their feet and wildly applaud. It was like that around the room at other tables where seat fillers were instantly identifiable. I finally asked one of them if they were instructed to stand no matter what. The answer was affirmative. The whole night I sat between two seat fillers and by the last award the ice cream dessert at their appointed place setting, untouched by human hands, was melting down on to the floor. Gotta love this stuff. If Carlos de Abreu didn’t invent the Hollywood Film Awards, you know someone would have to.
Bottom line: it was fun, and there were a lot of really great speeches that can serve as a warm up for all the other shows to come. Thank you Carlos (that’s No. 7 if you are still counting).
OLIVIA’S WILDE RIDE ON DELTA
Among those select Hollywood Film Award winners this week was actress Olivia Wilde, who just made her feature directorial debut with Booksmart and took the Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award. She also made a splash this week revealing a dust-up with Delta Airlines, which censored a key sex scene from her movie, infuriating the LGBTQ community among others and leading Delta to backtrack on that, and by extension a same-sex Rocketman scene which also was discovered to be cut by the airline. Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher told me Wednesday he has Wilde to thank for the whistleblowing. When she sat down in our studio for an upcoming edition of my Behind the Lens video series, Wilde minced no words on the subject.
“Several key scenes were cut. On Delta the film is 87 minutes long. The film is supposed to be 105 minutes long. I couldn’t believe it,” Wilde told me. “I was appalled because it is not only a sex scene. One could expect censorship of sex scenes on airplanes. It seems arbitrary but that is what I thought I was going to see, edited sex scenes. Instead what I saw was this Orwellian censorship of language related to the female body. The word ‘vagina’ is muted in the same scene where the word ‘f*ck’ is not muted. The same conversation, I mean what does that suggest? The same thing happened with the word ‘masturbate’, the word ‘genitals.’ There is an animated sequence with Barbie dolls that are naked that by its very design features them without genitals – that’s the whole point of the scene – and yet that is censored, that’s gone, which is a very confusing edit if you haven’t seen the film. There is a scene in which they listen to porn accidentally in a car with their principal, and that’s gone. It is just so shocking because it is not done in a professional or artful way, not that you could because the film doesn’t work without these moments. But it is so crass, and sloppy, and offensive, not only to the filmmaker but to the audience to suggest that they are not intelligent enough to know or to care when a scene has been ripped from a film.”
Wilde said she understands about shielding content from children, but airline movie watching is now an individual thing, not just one movie being shown to the whole cabin, so there are choices as well as plenty of parental advisories, she says. This actually could be hurtful to an Oscar campaign since so many industry movers and shakers see films in contention for the first time flying coast to coast. It has her concerned.
“Many people are discovering Booksmart on airplanes. I mean, we are a movie that is having this resurgence in large part because of air travel. People are saying ‘Oh I wanted to see Booksmart. I want to check it out,’ so you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who are seeing it on planes. To know that they might have been on one of these flights with the censored film made me really upset,” she said, adding that so far she has only confirmation that the one sex scene that had everyone so upset is now back in the Delta version of the film, but she doesn’t know about the other cuts.
“I am going to have to book so many Delta flights now just to check,” she said, laughing. The weird thing is a filmmaker can’t just say, ‘Show me the Delta cut.’ You can’t just get it. You have to go and see for yourself. I have been telling every director ‘ask for your movie.’ Somehow we need to be able to approve what is on every airline. It is crazy that this is not a part of every contractual agreement with every filmmaker. You movie will be censored on certain airlines by third-party companies without giving you any approval. It is a massive problem, and this is what the DGA loves to protect in a way that is kind of extraordinary. To be a new member of the guild, it is fantastic. They respond immediately to protect their members and I trust they will work to make sure zero censorship takes place from now on. It’s such a shame.”
‘ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD’ AND ‘MARRIAGE STORY’ HIT THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Noah Baumbach’s for Marriage Story, are probably the two most highly acclaimed original scripts so far this year, so it is no surprise both films were highly visible on the circuit this week. Both movies look to be competing against each other in numerous categories, and with good reason. Can Tarantino win his third (!) Oscar for Original Screenplay, tying a record, or can Baumbach win his first? Not to mention both may find themselves in the Best Director and Picture races as well.
Baumbach’s Marriage Story had its Los Angeles premiere on Tuesday night, but before that he was on his second or third visit to Landmark Theatres’ Landmark Annex in West L.A. (full disclosure: Madelyn Hammond came up with the idea of the Annex). which has been showing off numerous contenders this year in an immersive display of costumes, props, sets and other visual wonders, and so it was Marriage Story‘s turn to show how it was all made in an exhibit that is open to the public. It likely will catch the eye of Oscar voters too who happen to be attending the popular Westside multiplex, where many contenders play. On Sunday, Baumbach was there at a reception with his editor and costume-design team, and on Tuesday co-star Alan Alda joined him. The weekend before there was a huge display for Eddie Murphy’s Dolemite Is My Name, and the week before that Laika’s stop-motion-animated The Missing Link shipped up many of its original sets from Oregon.
As for Tarantino’s big day Saturday, he joined Deadline co-editor Mike Fleming Jr. onstage at our annual The Contenders Los Angeles event, and then hightailed it over to his own New Beverly Cinema a few blocks away for a live-streaming nationwide event in which he and stars Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie all appeared on behalf of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The innovative idea saw the film and the live stream with the stars and director shown in locations from Ann Arbor to Vancouver and numerous other cities in between in the alphabet.
Tarantino has been showcasing exclusive Once Upon a Time 35MM film presentations at his theatre (a staple for film nerds like me) since the film opened in July. It generally draws sellout crowds, due to some unique programming additions you can’t get anywhere else. In other words, you can call it, in the age of streamers threatening the health of theaters, a return to pure movie showmanship. For the New Beverly show, Sony invited many AMPAS and guild members, while for the showings and live stream across the country the studio included local members of critics groups who vote on the year’s best films.
Not a bad Oscar season strategy at all, especially when you have this kind of star power to pack ’em in.
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