Tag Archives: Jennifer Lawrence

Oscars: One of the Better ‘Best Pic’ Fields in Years

The Academy did a pretty damn good job this year. The only nominee that doesn’t align with my personal Top 10 was Bridge of Spies and even that still has Spielberg+Coen Bros+Hanks+Cold War+USA! USA! aka deserves its nom.

My projections were off a little bit. I had a total of 6 “LIKELY” nominations based on historical trends regarding guild accolades. All 6 were nominated. My next three (Compton, Carol, and Sicario) missed in favor of Room and Brooklyn, two films that were right on the cusp. I would guess that Sicario landed in place 3-5 on many tech-heavy ballots for a near-miss with something like 4.7% of the vote (when you need 5%). Similar story with CarolCompton took a nice guild ride but really wasn’t good enough all-around to have a place here (lowest Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics % score and point rating of my 13 real players).

The Good News

Despite favorable opinion of the picture itself, I had doubts about A24 being able to keep Room in the game against the deeper pockets of the major studios. This is a HUGE victory for independent film.

Brooklyn is equally wonderful. Boasting the highest Top Critic RT score of the year (the ultra-rare perfect 100 from 38 critics) Brooklyn lacked the resources its parent studio paid to campaign the larger Martian and Revenant. Further evidence of secondary attention? It’s the only Best Pic nominee without its own Twitter handle. #BrooklynMovie. Worthy of note: Brooklyn director John Crowley was originally attached to helm Carol. He dropped out because of scheduling conflicts between the two projects. How relieved is that guy today? Fox outbid Weinstein Co (Carol‘s distributor) for Brooklyn‘s rights at last year’s Sundance. It’s a huge day for the studio since they now hold 37.5% of the Best Pic field.

Mad Max actually made it! How awesome is that?

Snubs?

Aaron Sorkin was the heavy favorite to win Adapted Screenplay and didn’t even get nominated. That field’s now wide open. If Sorkin still manages to pull down the WGA win I’ll be extremely confused. Also worth mentioning is the exclusion of Ridley Scott in favor of Room‘s Lenny Abrahamson. This is less a case of Ridley being snubbed  and more that Abrahamson deserved the acknowledgement. Tom Hardy was probably the last man in for The RevenantInside Out deserves to be part of the overall convo but I wouldn’t really call it a “snub” as it never really had a chance to actually win the field.

Problems?

Diversity. #OscarSoWhite will repeat as a hot convo this year. Again, this is a systemic problem and the Oscars are merely internal trade awards that reflect the current industry. A nom for Elba could have quelled this a bit but the Supporting Actor race is a feeding frenzy and any combo of 10 dudes could have made it. Netflix is also new to the game which put Elba at an immediate disadvantage. Will Smith was bested by 5 stronger performances. Compton’s not an all-around GREAT film. Creed‘s Michael B. Jordan remains too young to spar with the likes of Leo and Damon (in the eyes of the Academy).

Perhaps a further convo for a later date, but I think the Academy needs to combine the Actor and Actress categories as one. Why are actors the only branch that  segregates awards on the basis of gender? Aren’t we beyond that?

My Pre-Announcement Predictions: 2016 Best Pic Nominations:
Spotlight Spotlight
The Big Short The Big Short
The Revenant The Revenant
Bridge of Spies Bridge of Spies
The Martian The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road Mad Max: Fury Road
Carol Brooklyn
Straight Outta Compton Room
Sicario

Do the NBR’s Best Pics Translate Into Oscar Nominations?

On Monday the National Board of Review teed-off the Oscar season’s playoffs by announcing their 10 Best Pictures of the Year. With more populist pics than in recent years, just how influential/accurate are the NBR’s selections?

While their choices certainly serve as easy marketing decor (“One of the National Board of Review’s Best Pictures of the Year!”), the snowball effect is rather difficult to measure. Do AMPAS members actually look to the NBR list before penning 5 favs for nomination?

While their influence as tastemakers may be questionable, the idea that studios throw resources their way for the occasional screenings/discussion acknowledges that the NBR are at-least the first ones out of the gate.

So where do we draw the line between primary influence vs. simply choosing logical choices? Let’s do some math!

The Oscars expanded the Best Pic field for movies released in 2009 from exactly 5 noms to between 5 and 10 (varying due to the preferential balloting process). Since the expansion, the titles on NBR’s short-list have served as predictors for 34 of the 55 films (or 62%) that would eventually receive top Oscar nominations. And while the NBR’s top pic last year (A Most Violent Year) didn’t even get nominated for an Oscar, the eventual Oscar winner has also made their list 87% of the time over the last 75 years.

But NBR’s overall nomination prediction rate has slipped with the increase in the number of AMPAS nominations. From 2000-2008, the NBR’s list truly missed predicting a nomination only twice (Erin Brokovich and The Queen). The other ten missed picks were likely due to December releases they weren’t given the privilege (read into that however you want) of seeing. This gave them an effective net forecast rate of 94%. Since then, they’ve had 15 blatant misses for a rate of 69%.

So how does affect the field going forward? What’s still to-be-released that the NBR hasn’t seen? The Revenant and Joy are likely sure-things. The Big Short features a heavy ensemble cast, relevant topic, and solid early buzz. And while unorthodox, Charlie Kaufman’s  Anomalisa could squeak in if Paramount plays their screener/screening game TO THE MAX (12/30 release means public buzz won’t exist in-time).

What might have already been released that the NBR’s blatantly left out?  Steve Jobs, while a commercial miss, was expertly crafted on all fronts making it very attractive to the guilds. Carol and Brooklyn have big performances, great reviews, and slow buzz-building distribution models synonymous with the successful arthouse Oscar push. They may be competing with each other for votes though.

Who falls away in these situations? Straight Outta Compton won’t make it. If I have to choose between Mad Max and Hateful Eight (may also compete w/each other for votes), I’d say Eight sits out in the cold but it’s very unlikely that either will represent at least 5% of the Academy’s ballot first-choices. Sicario would make my personal list, but it has too much working against it to stay in the convo. Disney’s Oscar track record is notoriously non-existent and a likely push for Inside Out should also leave Bridge of Spies behind. Creed truly is the darkhorse that may continue to play well enough to stay in the convo.

The NBR’s never missed more than four of the nominations in a single year. Yet if AMPAS nominates 10 Best Pics this year, it may be the first year with 5 misses. But hey, this is a GREAT problem to have for the industry to have. It only means there’s been a larger quota for quality in 2015.

2015: NBR’s Top 10 vs My Predicted Oscar Noms
(For the now. There will undoubtedly be momentum shifts )

National Board of Review Top 10 AMPAS (Oscar) Best Pics Noms
1 Spotlight 1 The Revenant
2 Room 2 Spotlight
3 The Martian 3 Room
4 Inside Out 4 Steve Jobs
5 Creed 5 Carol or Brooklyn
6 Mad Max: Fury Road 6 The Martian
7 Sicario 7 Joy
8 The Hateful Eight *8 Inside Out
9 Bridge of Spies *9 The Big Short
10 Straight Outta Compton *10 Creed

*=Would make list if 10 nominees make it.
-(Yes, I get that I’m cheating with Carol/Brooklyn and I’m still anxious to see both as I’ve heard nothing but amazing things.)

Jennifer Lawrence & a Misguided Pay Gap Issue

By now you’ve probably seen Jennifer Lawrence’s 658 word essay regarding the American Hustle pay gap courtesy of last year’s Sony e-mail shitshow. She’s sick of trying “to find the ‘adorable’ way to state [her] opinion and still be likable” with everything she wants to say. And we should be glad she’s speaking up because she’s at the very best possible place in her career to tell us about it. J-Law is THE figurehead star of female American millennials. She’s every studio’s #1 choice for a pile of amazing roles tailor-made for a talented, beautiful white woman with 20s-age looks. Every chapter of The Hunger Games has domestically out-grossed (ignoring inflation) the 18 installments of LOTR, Hobbit, Twilight, and all-but-one Harry Potter. She’ll likely get a 4th Oscar nom this year. Think about that. FOUR NOMINATIONS BEFORE TURNING 26!

But I’m not about to tell you that Jennifer Lawrence was unfairly paid for American Hustle.

She actually had the best deal of the five key players when you consider the number of back-end percentage points she received vs the amount of time she appeared in the film (screentime). So she can’t be mad at herself for “giving up” early in negotiation because that’s simply her agency’s job. And her agency, CAA, negotiated themselves a helluva through their represented talent in American Hustle (including 9% points for Director David O’Russell).

Bale Adams Cooper Renner Lawrence
Back-End % Points: 9 7 9 9 7
Screentime (Min): 60 46 41 28-38 20
% Pts/Min: 0.15 0.15 0.22 0.24-0.32 0.35
Agency: WME WME CAA CAA CAA

(Note: I couldn’t find Jeremy Renner’s total screentime anywhere so I just tossed an estimation on that table. American Hustle was also very forgettable so I’m not inclined to go back through again to count it myself)

WAIT WAIT WAIT. But how in the hell did get Renner such an amazing deal? Heavy screentime? No. Performance difficulty? Nah. Star power? Negligible. “But he’s an Avenger.” LOL. “I’m going to see that new Jeremy Renner movie.”- said nobody ever. So yes, when it comes to Renner’s “hustle” here, J-Law may have a damn good reason to gripe since she undoubtedly draws a larger audience. But what happens when J-Law no longer represents that 20-something gal that women want to be and men want to be with?

Well that brings us to the real issue: where the hell is any mention of Amy Adams? Why does she have the worst deal of the whole crew? She clearly had the acting chops befitting of a lead actress (leading to an Oscar nom) and drew more screentime than all but Bale. Her stardom may not shine like Bale/Cooper but it’s certainly brighter than Renner’s! Everyone knew she’d look amazing on a billboard which means she’s visually marketable, right? So why did she work more than twice as hard as J-Law for the same amount of money? What’s the difference between those two women?

The real pay gap in this American Hustle situation resides in the 16 year age difference between Adams and J-Law. Should not the more-qualified, more-experienced worker receive the better compensation deal? In any other situation, you’d certainly think so. But our culture doesn’t value women the same way once they’ve moved-past the 20s-something pre-marital, American Sweetheart stage. Beyond then, high-gravity roles for women start to wear thin as they migrate towards what Amy Schumer calls the “no longer believably fuckable” age. As such, the competition for these roles is pretty heavy. If Adams’ crew fought too hard for a better deal, the producer/studio (Megan Ellison in this case) could easily say, “not a problem, there are plenty of Jennifer Aniston/Reese Witherspoon/Kate Hudsons out there that would love the opportunity to be abused by David O’Russell for an Oscar nomination.”

So even though she missed out on dealing a solid to Amy Adams, you gotta give Jennifer Lawrence credit for having the willingness to speak her mind. But you have to give her publicity team even more props for waiting until she had another movie on the one-month-horizon to bring this 10-month-old story back up! It’s very likely there were other factors that went into the American Hustle deal (up-front fees, shooting schedules, etc) that we aren’t privy to. But Lawrence & team chose to point at the gender pay gap and a tiny data sample when the real story should have been about Adams who, as far as we know, was clearly under-represented. As this subject sees more light, the solution may yet right itself through the creation of additional roles for the 40yo+ actress pool. Hopefully, 15 years from now, J-Law’s essay will have given her a better seat at the negotiating table than her predecessors had.