A column chronicling events and conversations on the awards circuit.
This week, Oscar’s quest to be cool with fanboys and girls continues with the introduction of a “fan favorite” Twitter initiative for Best Picture, plus bad news for Oscar voters who want to be at the Dolby. There’s also big news for the Critics Choice Awards heading to London, and I have a retro look at Ann-Margret at the Oscars including a famous pre-La La Land envelope scandal involving her 1963 film Bye Bye Birdie.
OSCAR NOT HOLDING LOTTERY FOR MEMBERS DUE TO COVID
Limitations on attendance for the 94th annual Academy Awards, where only 2,500 of the Dolby Theater’s 3,300 seats will be used in order to make it more Covid-friendly, means that for a second year in a row there will be no traditional lottery, whereby AMPAS ‘10,000+ members can vie to buy seats to see the show in person. With just-announced mask, vax, and testing requirements in the mix, something had to give on the theater capacity numbers as well in order to maintain some semblance of social distancing even as the worst of the pandemic seems to be in the rearview mirror, for the moment at least.
The Academy sent the bad news to the membership earlier today: “We’re sorry to announce that we won’t be able to conduct our annual member ticket lottery for the Oscars this year. We have indoor capacity restrictions in the theater due to Covid-related safety measures. We hope to resume our member lottery next year for our 95th Oscars. ” And good news: three lucky Twitter uses might be taking up some of those seats at the 95th Oscars. Oh, you haven’t heard? See below.
CINDERELLA, JOHNNY DEPP, ZACK SNYDER COMING ON STRONG FOR #OSCARSFANFAVORITE
Well, the attempt to create a Popular Movie Oscar category a few years ago went up in flames when the media ridiculed the idea and many members were revolted at the mere thought of giving an actual Oscar outside of crafts to the likes of a comic book movie. But with ratings continuing to plummet in recent years, and what might actually been deserved Best Picture nominations to critically acclaimed box office sensations featuring Spider-Man and James Bond failed to materialize in favor of, among others, a three-hour Japanese movie mixing Chekhov and ruminations on life, well, the Academy realized there was “no way home ”With this artistic lineup (despite a return to a firm of 10 nominees), and that for Oscar’s health this was“ no time to die. ” And so they jumped into bed with Twitter. Why not? Where Donald Trump can’t go, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences can.
And so #OscarsFanFavorite was born, in conjunction with Twitter. It promises fans rewards for tweeting their personal favorite for Best Picture, from any movie released in 2021 that is eligible for an Oscar (meaning, in this case, March 1-December 31, 2021 releases on the official Academy Eligibility List). As part of the promotion, three lucky winners will be flown to LA to “present” on the 2023 Oscar show. Fans were told they could vote up to 20 tweets each day up to March 3. Of course, this could all blow up if truly Twitter-savvy participants with an agenda decide to gang up and game the system.
Judging by the initial tsunami of votes for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the original director’s four-hour recut of the 2017 disaster, which seems to be the case, even though it isn’t even eligible since director reduxes never are. For the first couple of days its only real competition – barely – was indeed Spider-Man, but if the Academy was hoping this was merely a clever way to work the year’s truly most popular film Spider-Man: No Way Home into the show, and get that cast onstage, maybe think again as there are actually people out there keeping track of these votes (don’t they have anything else to do?), and by later this week they had Amazon’s streaming musical Cinderella starring Camila Cabello dominating the site, and growing, an easy No. 1 for the moment.
If this continues I wonder what Sony, which dumped the film and sold it off to Amazon, would think of it overtaking their beloved Spidey on Oscar’s tweet beat. Cabello fans were simply flooding the Academy’s Fan Fave site. So were Johnny Depp’s, whose barely released and hardly seen indie drama Minimata was dropped into a theater finally after long legal delays in order to even qualify, but which received no attention from Oscar voters. That is defiantly not the case for Depp fans, one of whom tweeted “Let’s do it for Johnny.” Wouldn’t that be an Oscar moment for the ages if Minimata pulls it out? Even its director Andrew Levitas was tweeting it is his #OscarsFanFavorite.
Some voters with whom I have spoken have just rolled their eyes at all this. “I’m trying to think of a dumber move the Academy has made. Sure, there are thousands, but quite possibly this could be it, ”one longtime member wrote. But far more ominously, a good friend who has always religiously studied and loved the Oscars like I do, emailed me to ask, “Wait. Did I read this right? Why is the Academy handing out Oscars voted by fans tweets? ” I explained there is NO physical Oscar at the end of this rainbow, but am still waiting to hear just what will be presented, if anything, to the eventual winner. “What’s next? Best Movie Kiss? I’m starting not to care about the Oscars. Sigh, ”he replied.
The good thing about all this is it seems to be generating a lot more interest in the show than the actual nominations did (very few are even mentioned by fans as their “favorite,” though Tick, Tick om Boom! seems to have a following). If ratings are boosted due to this stunt, well you gotta make ABC happy, right? We will keep you up to date as the #OscarsFanFavorite race heats up.
CRITICS CHOICE AWARDS GO GLOBAL
Also this week, the Critics Choice Association said it has finalized plans to do its upcoming awards show March 13 from both Century City at the new Fairmont Hotel and from London at the Savoy, a plan hatched a month ago when the pandemic situation forced CCA to move the show from a planned January 9 date into March – landing on the same date as the BAFTAs and obviously creating a conflict for nominees they both have in common.
Making it easier for some of them to go to both shows, a big British party is being planned for those contenders after the BAFTAs and post parties are over and the West Coast-based CCAs begin, thanks to daylight savings time taking effect that very day, at 4 pm PT and a relatively civilized 11 pm GMT. It gets complicated for some since the very, very important DGA Awards happen to be the night before also in Los Angeles, meaning it would be very difficult for BAFTA nominees like Jane Campion, Kenneth Branagh, Paul Thomas Anderson, etc., to be in both places over that weekend, especially since this year the BAFTA show is actually starting much earlier in the late-afternoon hours.
The solution, CCA President Joey Berlin tells me, is a win-win for everyone, and he says it looks like if the Critics Choice Awards are poised to have their biggest turnout ever between LA and London towns. No word yet on whether BAFTA will take Berlin up on his offer to host a brunch and satellite setup for those BAFTA nominees who are in LA for the DGA and CCA shindigs. AFI has also tied its much-loved luncheon awards to the same weekend by hosting it on Friday, March 11. Busy times ahead.
OSCAR REWIND: ANN-MARGRET SAYS HELLO AGAIN TO ‘BYE BYE BIRDIE’
So I spent Valentine’s Day with my wife and Ann-Margret at a special screening of a pristine copy of the latter’s terrific seminal 1963 musical Bye Bye Birdie (which I have seen about 20 times) followed by an onstage Q&A and meet and greet with the star, now 80 and looking 20 years younger. It was at the Montalban theater in Hollywood and sponsored by Cinelounge, and drew an enthusiastic crowd hoping the effervescent star would be their valentine.
The idea was to also promote her first album in decades, Born to Be Wild, a collection of duets and covers of 1950s and ’60s favorites. “My era,” she smiled. One of the new duets is even with her Birdie co-star Bobby Rydell. Is there a red-blooded boomer boy who didn’t want to “pin” Ann-Margret like he gets to do in this movie, which made his own kind of Oscar history in 1964 when Sammy Davis Jr opened the wrong envelope in the music categories.
The story: John Green was among the nominees for Best Scoring of a Musical Film for Birdie, but Davis was handed the wrong envelope, the one for Best Original Music Score. When he announced the name inside it was John Addison for Tom Jones, but he emphasized John as he read it certainly making Green believe for a nanosecond he had won for Bye Bye Birdie. With the orchestra leader yelling at him that he opened the wrong envelope, and the audience clearly confused, Davis snarked, “Wait until the NAACP hears about this! ” Davis then opened the correct envelope and announced Andre Previn as the winner for Irma La Douce. It would be another 51 years for a similar gaffe like that hit the Oscars, but it was about as big a one as there could ever be when Faye Dunaway had the wrong envelope for Best Picture and blurted out La La Land as the winner. Of course that was corrected during the winners’ speeches when La La producer Jordan Horowitz got the right envelope and announced Moonlight was the actual winner. Ah, sweet Oscar memories.
In another bit of Oscar lore involving Ann-Margret, the then largely unknown young singer-actress got her big break when singing one of the nominated songs, “Bachelor In Paradise” on the 1962 show. She did such a memorably sultry version it was the performance people were talking about the next day – not the one by Andy Williams singing “Moon River,” the eventual winner. She herself would be nominated twice for Oscars for 1971’s Carnal Knowledge as Best Supporting Actress (Cloris Leachman won), and 1975’s Tommy for the Best Actress Oscar that Louise Fletcher would win for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Check out that infamous Sammy Davis Jr envelope gaffe below: