Fri. Sep 18th, 2020

Frontrunner Friday: The Fallout of Weinstein and Amazon and the State of the Oscar Race

It would be impossible to not start an Oscar race piece without mentioning the explosive accusations against, and fallout of, one of Hollywood’s most ferocious Oscar players – Harvey Weinstein. Long known for his bullying, aggressive behavior and shady awards techniques, not of that compared to the allegations from literally dozens of women, from actresses to journalists, who said that over the last 30 years Weinstein had coerced sexual favors for jobs and even worse, assaulted and raped them. Long one of Hollywood’s ‘open secrets,’ the floodgates opened up thanks to the bravery of some of very brave women. From Rose McGowan to Gwyneth Paltrow to Mira Sorvino, the more women felt safe to speak up, the more did and in doing have begun to topple the patriarchy. But it doesn’t end with Weinstein. The pervasiveness of the ‘boys club’ and ‘boys will be boys’ mentality extends far past Harvey. In the wake of the Harvey news came similar accusations against Amazon studio head Roy Price, by Amazon TV producer Isa Hackett (The Man in the High Castle). Price was immediately put on a ‘leave of absence.’ It was McGowan herself that helped bust that wide open when she tweeted directly to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, accusing him of ‘funding rapists, alleged pedos and sexual harassers.” Amazon has investigated the 2015 case and then sat on it, hoping it would just go away. Amazon found Oscar success this year with Manchester by the Sea, earning two awards: Original Screenplay for Kenneth Lonergan and Best Actor for Casey Affleck, who had his own sordid history of sexual harassment (it was settled out of court in 2010).

How big will this avalanche get? How many more stories are out there? Thousands, more probably. But the door is open and both women and men are coming forward with stories of harassment and assault, finally feeling free of shame and of the need to hold it in. Hollywood, like Weinstein, is a dinosaur of change no matter how much the rest of the country likes to call it liberal. These outspoken and brave people will be the catalyst the town has long, long needed. Looking to the Academy, the influx of diverse new members – diverse in age, race, nationality, sexuality and gender – is one step to create a new paradigm but it’s not the most important by a long shot. It’s a superficial version of the real issue and that is gender parity within the movie making system itself. Women must be given more opportunities and more chances to succeed for fail. That includes those that talk about movies too. The overwhelming majority of movie and Oscar talk is done by men (guilty). It needs more women. More Sasha Stones. More Anne Thompsons. That can only broaden perspectives. I urge you to seek out female voices in film criticism, female voices in film making.

So, with that, what is the state of race today? In some ways, even more up in the air than before. No one was looking to The Weinstein Company’s summer sleeper hit Wind River to make much a dent in Best Picture but Jeremy Renner was starting to build some traction in a largely barren Best Actor category. That’s over. Even worse off is The Current War, which was to be TWC’s main Oscar horse. With its prestige Thanksgiving release date, Oscar-nominated stars and late fall/early winner festival rollout, the film would have been their only hope. With the possibility of a sale of TWC (and definitely a new studio name by Monday) there’s a good chance the film gets pulled from release altogether. The film’s writer has already pulled out of a festival panel to avoid having to talk about the ongoing drama. But similarly, what about Amazon? They have three films to push in multiple categories but will those films and their stars and creators suffer as result of Price’s actions? It’s very likely. Last Flag Flying had already fallen off our chart between last month and now. Wonder Wheel just started landing good but not great reviews from the New York Film Festival (with Winslet being highly praised) and when you add Woody Allen into this mix it’s sort of a recipe for disaster. That leaves The Big Sick. Another summer indie hit, the romantic dramedy based on the story of writer Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with his girlfriend (and then) wife could prove to be the saving grace for the streaming studio.

One of the more interesting things this year is that if you look at the top 10 we have at the moment, a full 50% of them are films led by females. The Shape of Water, The Post, Three Billboards, The Florida Project and Lady Bird are women’s or girl’s stories or stories where women are the focus or push the action forward. Remember how many times The Year of the Woman has been touted with fanfare but little result? This year might actually be one. We even have two women in contention for Best Director, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird and Dee Rees for Mudbound. But with that, as ironic as it will be, it’s Dunkirk that reclaims the sole #1 spot. A film with virtually no female characters whatsoever. But really, in such a crazy year I feel like it’s more of a default than anything. What passion will surround Dunkirk to propel it to a win? None that I can see. Other films, like The Post or Get Out or Call Me By Your Name, will probably be bigger passion picks. The Shape of Water is still a bit of mystery to me. A mystery in the sense of how the Academy will respond to it. It’s so genre-bending and genre-blending but will it be too much for some members? There’s so much about it that seems like it should and could be right up the Academy’s alley this year: issues of male dominance over women, slavery and race relations. All while using film and music as language and fantasy as its analogous storytelling. It could speak to a quite a few members.

This is where things stand as of Friday, October 13, 2017 according to the Gold Rush Gang. Keep up with our predictions up to the minute right here.

1 Dunkirk (Warner Bros – 7/21)
2 The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight – 12/8)
3 The Post (20th Century Fox – 12/22)
4 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight – 11/10)
5 Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics – 11/24)
6 Get Out (Universal – 2/24)
7 Darkest Hour (Focus Features – 11/22)
8 The Florida Project (A24 – 10/6)
9 The Big Sick (Amazon/Lionsgate – 6/23)
10 Lady Bird (A24 – 11/3)
10 Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros – 10/6)
12 Phantom Thread (Focus Features – 12/25)
12 Mudbound (Netflix – 11/17)
14 I, Tonya (Neon – 12/8)
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