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Dunkirk Launches Awards Campaign with Academy Screening

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Many think the road to the Oscars begins in Toronto, and officially they’re right. However, when a studio presents an exclusive screening of their latest film to Academy members it sends a pretty clear message. Dunkirk has been praised magnanimously by critics, but it was in London earlier this week where it’s campaign really started.

Warner Bros. have invested a lot of resource into Christopher Nolan’s latest project – a drama retelling the historic Battle of Dunkirk where 300,000 soldiers were rescued from French shores during World War II. They have succeeded in building tremendous hype, which is translating well at the box office, but revenue is not proportionate to awards. In fact, such an early release suggested Warner were not planning a BP run this year.

Maybe this is still the case and if you’re yet to see Dunkirk you may assume it to be a natural contender to sweep the technical awards, much like Nolan’s Inception did with a bonus BP nod on the side. Those who have seen the film will know this is not a completely conventional Christopher Nolan film; the visuals are striking but not explosive, the narrative is considered but not overtly dramatic nor action-packed. If any of his films were likely to crack the major awards and actually potentially win Best Picture, it’s Dunkirk. Though nominations across the technical and design categories are likely, it’s greatest chance of success comes in the majors.

It is of course far too early in the year to make any concrete predictions, but herein lies Warner Bros.’ biggest dilemma, which poses the questions:

  1. Can it sustain hype through to next March, and
  2. Does an academy screening in July really make any difference?

Typically any film that stands a solid chance of winning Best Picture from the Academy is released in the last quarter of the year. It creates a natural platform on which to promote the movie precisely around the same time the ballots are cast. The formula has been tried and tested for many years, and though critics are quick to point out Silence of the Lambs it is anomalous.

That’s not to say a film released earlier in the year cannot win Best Picture if it’s good enough. In fact a nomination would not be out of the question, particularly considering the rise in critical acclaim for blockbusters – typical summer and holiday releases. With Dunkirk Nolan has straddled the fine line between the universal appeal of ‘event cinema’ with the delicacy of a critically acclaimed drama. However, in order to sustain momentum for the next 8 months it needs to immediately propel itself into the festival and awards circuit with some big results.

READ OUR REVIEW OF DUNKIRK

The biggest launch pads of the year to gauge potential awards prospects are Cannes and Toronto. The former is perfect for smaller, independent and foreign language contenders, while the latter is the Iowa equivalent of the film award circuit – a great showing here puts you front and center in the Oscar race.

Unfortunately for Dunkirk it features in neither festival, so regardless of the hype and the box office success it celebrates now, Warner Bros. appear to have shown little confidence in the movie’s major Oscar chances. But ultimately if the few thousands voters adore a film, it makes no difference what the millions of fans and critics think.

Maybe then, this week’s Academy screening is a tactical move. It seems strange for such an early showing of a film that should be lobbying hard towards the end of the year, but it gets people talking early when there’s little else to consider.

The event at Leicester Square on Tuesday evening was wrought with anticipation. There was a palpable buzz around the venue, which itself had a distinctly classic old-theatre feel and an unfortunate lack of air-con. These kind of screenings will naturally have the audience on the studio’s side – for some no doubt it was the work of their friends, family or colleagues. The downside it it takes something truly diabolical to illicit any boos from such a fraternal crowd, but the upside is a more emotional, more disarmed reaction.

Applause was an expected, almost conditional reaction as the closing credits rolled, punctuated by a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. No clearly audible cheering as one would expect from a crowd determined to collectively demonstrate Dunkirk‘s ballot-worthiness. In fact the reaction was one not of awe but satisfaction.

This was not the reaction to be expected, or required, from a July release that has any hope of sustaining popularity throughout the year, against the buzz of the big winter contenders.

It must be acknowledged that Warner Bros know what they’re doing. They managed to campaign Suicide Squad all the way to an Oscar – an achievement not to be sniffed at. This initial screening lacked star presence and any discernible sense of lobbying, but the very act of screening to Academy members was itself a declaration of intent. Despite such a seemingly unorthodox start to its campaign, and a surprisingly stoic response at the screening, Christopher Nolan will still be seen by many as a top contender this season.

Oscar and film awards expert. American Beauty, Grease and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre are prominent DVDs on my shelf.

Oscars 2018

THE BURDEN OF OSCAR: POLITICS AND FILM.

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2017 was not overly kind to Hollywood. A drop in cinema audiences. Dismal summer box office. Increasing competition from the rise of Netflix and compelling television shows. Decreasing ratings for movie awards shows. Justice League.
And please, nobody even mention Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey.

In short it all went a bit Pete Tong for La La Land last year.
In fact the La La Land /Moonlight mix up at the Oscars in February now seems a rare bright spot in the 2017 tinsel town calendar. Reading out the wrong best picture winner? Light relief! Oh, how we can laugh now at a ‘wrong envelope mishap’ in the wake of #metoo and #sheknew

So, where and when did the rot start?
I’d suggest November 2016. On 8th November to be precise. Hollywood was tux and gown ready to celebrate the presidential victory of the woman whose campaign many A listers had funded to the tune of millions. However, 60 million Americans had a different plan. Enter the Donald!
The rest is outrage history.

Hollywood has since used Twitter, late night chat shows the press and most of all, awards shows to bash Trump……….and by association the 60 million who voted for him. 60 million potential movie fans.

Some love the political content of awards shows. Some are infuriated by it. But for many the politics has just got old really quickly. All they want from their movie and tv stars is entertainment. Yet the one industry that has the power to bring polarised communities together isn’t managing it. Nor does the entertainment media help.

The dumbest question on the movie red carpet in 2017 was one that was repeated the most, earnestly each time as if it was something unbelievably profound: what do you think will Trump voters make of your film?
Alexander Payne when asked it at the Venice film festival was one of the few who refused to be baited. He said he hoped that he made films for everybody. Unfortunately for him, his film Downsizing didn’t exactly please everybody but at least he recognised that his role is as a filmmaker not political campaigner. Similarly, while other stars have lost fans due to their relentless political tirades, Frances McDormand has been gaining them by being funny, entertaining and making it clear that her politics are her private business. But Payne and McDormand are rare. Too many stars and filmmakers take the media bait or can’t resist lecturing the world on the cause du jour when it isn’t the time and place to do so.

That is the issue. There is a time and place to make earnest speeches, to berate, to demand change, to highlight injustice. The Oscars podium isn’t it.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Oscars. It was a terrific experience. It was everything I’d imagined the Oscars to be; glamorous, fun, starry and an escape from the norm. The dresses were colourful and gorgeous. The jokes were funny. Everyone was out to party!
Was it frivolous, unreal and superficial. Yep. And it was all the more wonderful for that because I’d come to the event from conducting a 15 day case in the High court about a paedophile ring. So I know about the real world, thank you. And so do the millions who watch the Oscars on television around the world. The Oscars is their escape from the real world, as it was mine.

Yes, the Oscars has always been political to a degree; Marlon Brando sending a Native American woman to collect his Oscar for The Godfather, Michael Moore leading the charge against President Bush and the Iraq war, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon highlighting Haiti and many more issues. But those were moments in a lengthy ceremony. The rest of the show remained light and fun. The atmosphere overall wasn’t somber, even funereal. In the last 3-4 years the politics has completely overshadowed the films and the film stars.

The Oscars now seems to be first about race, sexuality, political affiliation, hashtag movements with the actual work second.

The #oscarssowhite in 2016 campaign was the first year that I can remember when a cause dominated the coverage, pushing the films and actors in contention for the awards out of the limelight. But it has continued. Last year the subject was President Trump. This year it’s #metoo and #TimesUp.
Around Oscar time I get asked 3 main questions: which of the nominated films do I recommend? Who do I think will win? Who had the best dress?

The first suggests that being nominated/winning really does help a film’s box office. And since the Oscars is essentially an industry event at which the film business shows off its wares, that’s a good thing. The second shows that humans are a competitive lot at heart. It’s why we love sport. No one truly likes ‘participation prizes’. We want there to be a ‘best’ so we can endlessly argue about it for evermore afterwards.
And yes, the third question is every bit as legitimate as the first two. Hollywood is the epitome of glamour. Fashion is big business that employs many people. The Oscars brings the two together on a world stage. And yes, women get asked about their dresses because it’s what many people tune in to see. The men’s tuxedos are the same each year. They aren’t the draw.
Funnily, the questions that don’t crop up are ‘what does Chris Hemsworth think about Brexit’ or ‘ What are Rebel Wilson’s views on the fiscal crisis’.
Maybe, just maybe, people don’t really care.

As I write this, some media outlets are reporting that Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster will present the best actress award this year instead of Casey Affleck. He withdrew recently from the tradition of the previous best actor winner presenting the new best actress winner with her gong, most likely, because he didn’t want or need the media coverage that would have dogged him in respect of allegations of sexual misconduct which were subject to an agreement between him and two women. None of the trio are legally allowed to speak publicly about the agreement. No one outside their respective close circles and legal advisers knows what the terms of the agreement were. Affleck could have agreed terms because he’s guilty as hell and didn’t want a court trial to prove it. The women could have been lying through their teeth and didn’t want a court trial to prove it.

Or, you know, the truth could lie somewhere in the middle. As it often does. Point is, we will never know.

That, of course didn’t stop hysterical speculation last year on social media of what Casey Affleck was ‘definitely, absolutely, 100% guilty of” – because – wait for it- he always plays creepy guys on screen! And it wouldn’t have stopped it this year, specially in the wake of #metoo. So Affleck stepped aside.

If it’s true that Lawrence and Foster will replace him, has the Academy really thought it through? What’s the message here:

That it takes two women to replace one man?

That there are no men left in Hollywood who can even safely present a woman with an award?

That only women can present an award to a woman because gender segregation is where we’re at in 2018??!!

See, this is what happens when you add politics to the mix. You may think you’re doing something right but it can come out all wrong.

On Oscar night on Sunday, armed police and security guards will protect stars who will go on stage and speak passionately against guns. Actresses who cheered and gave standing ovations to convicted child rapist Roman Polanski will now speak passionately against sexual predators. The list is endless of hypocrisies Hollywood can be called out for, so the wise thing to do might be to leave politics outside the door and, you know, entertain on the biggest night of the glamour industry.

However, I’m not betting on it.

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Awards

#Oscars90 2018 Academy Award Winners

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Best Picture: THE SHAPE OF WATER

Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Best Actor: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Best Actress: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney (I,Tonya)

Best Original Screenplay: Get Out 

Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name

Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049

Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread

Best Hair and Make-Up: Darkest Hour

Best Documentary: Icarus

Best Original Score: The Shape Of Water

Best Original Song: Remember Me from Coco

Best Editing: Dunkirk

Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

Best Animated Film: Coco

Best Live Action Short: The Silent Child

Best Animated Short: Dear Basketball

Best Documentary Short: Heaven is a Traffic Jam

Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk

Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk

Best Production Design: The Shape Of Water

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Oscar Night 2018

2018 Academy Awards – Our Predictions

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Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darryl’s Prediction: GET OUT

Luke’s Prediction: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

Darryl’s Prediction: GUILLERMO DEL TORO (The Shape Of Water)

Luke’s Prediction: GUILLERMO DEL TORO (The Shape Of Water)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Meryl Streep – The Post

Darryl’s Prediction: FRANCES MCDORMAND (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Luke’s Prediction: FRANCES MCDORMAND (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq

Darryl’s Prediction: TIMOTHEE CHALAMET (Call Me By Your Name)

Luke’s Prediction: GARY OLDMAN (Darkest Hour)

Best Original Screenplay

The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darryl’s Prediction: GET OUT

Luke’s Prediction: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly’s Game
Mudbound

Darryl’s Prediction: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Luke’s Prediction: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Best Original Song

Remember Me (from Coco)
Mystery of Love (from Call Me By Your Name)
This Is Me (from The Greatest Showman)
Mighty River (from Mudbound)
Stand Up For Something (from Marshall)

Darryl’s Prediction: THIS IS ME (The Greatest Showman)

Luke’s Prediction: REMEMBER ME (Coco)

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Leslie Manville – Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Darryl’s Prediction: ALLISON JANNEY (I, Tonya)

Luke’s Prediction: ALLISON JANNEY (I, Tonya)

Best Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darryl’s Prediction: SAM ROCKWELL (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Luke’s Prediction: SAM ROCKWELL (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Foreign Language Film

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Insult  (Lebanon)
Loveless  (Russia)
The Square (Sweden)

Darryl’s Prediction: A FANTASTIC WOMAN (Chile)

Luke’s Prediction: The Square (Sweden)

Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water

Darryl’s Prediction: BLADE RUNNER 2049

Luke’s Prediction: BLADE RUNNER 2049

Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Darryl’s Prediction: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Luke’s Prediction: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Best Animated Feature

Loving Vincent
Coco
Ferdinand
The Breadwinner
The Boss Baby

Darryl’s Prediction: COCO

Luke’s Prediction: COCO

Best Animated Short Film

Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Lou
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

Darryl’s Prediction: DEAR BASKETBALL

Luke’s Prediction: Garden Party

Film Editing

Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darryl’s Prediction: DUNKIRK

Luke’s Prediction: DUNKIRK

Makeup and Hairstyling

Darkest Hour
Victoria and Abdul
Wonder

Darryl’s Prediction: DARKEST HOUR

Luke’s Prediction: DARKEST HOUR

Best Production Design

Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water

Darryl’s Prediction: THE SHAPE OF WATER

Luke’s Prediction: THE SHAPE OF WATER

Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria and Abdul

Darryl’s Prediction: PHANTOM THREAD

Darryl’s Prediction: THE SHAPE OF WATER

Original Score

Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darryl’s Prediction: THE SHAPE OF WATER

Luke’s Prediction: DUNKIRK

Sound Mixing

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Darryl’s Prediction: BABY DRIVER

Luke’s Prediction: BABY DRIVER

Sound Editing

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Darryl’s Prediction: DUNKIRK

Luke’s Prediction: DUNKIRK

Best Live-Action Short

Dekalb Elementary
The 11 O’Clock
My Nephew Emmett
The Silent Child
All Of Us

Darryl’s Prediction: THE SILENT CHILD

Luke’s Prediction: THE SILENT CHILD

Best Documentary Short

Edith & Eddie
Heaven is a Traffic Jam
Heroin(e)
Knifeskills
Traffic Stop

Darryl’s Prediction: EDITH AND EDDIE

Darryl’s Prediction: HEROIN(e)

Best Documentary Feature

Faces Places
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

Darryl’s Prediction: LAST MEN IN ALEPPO

Luke’s Prediction: LAST MEN IN ALEPPO

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