Granger on Film: Oscars season has begun
For the past several weeks, the 8,469 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences have been going to the movies or watching DVD/digital screeners of last year’s films.
By mail or online, their nominating ballots were due by Jan. 7 and, on Jan. 13, nominees will be announced, building anticipation for the 92nd annual Academy Awards on Feb. 9.
So how does the nominating process work?
All members can nominate the Best Picture, ranking up to five films on ballots which are then tabulated by a complicated accounting system. Ballots are sorted by the first choice and only those listed at the top of at least one ballot remain in play. For nomination, a film has to be one of the top choices of at least 5%, or receive 770 votes.
While the up-to-10 nominees for Best Picture are determined by this preferential system, nominees in other categories are calculated by popular vote.
With the nomination of “Roma” last year, the Academy’s Board of Governors had to cope with the question of Netflix releases. Despite the animosity of esteemed members like Steven Spielberg, the board decided in favor of the streaming giant.
That means Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which no other studio would finance, is one of the frontrunners, along with Noah Baumbach’s “The Marriage Story” and Fernando Meirelles’ “The Two Popes.”
Only the 1,324 members of the actors branch can nominate candidates for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. To snag a nomination, an actor’s name must be on 221 ballots.
What’s not generally understood is that when Spike Lee slammed Hollywood for its lack of diversity since no person of color appeared in these four acting categories in 2015, it reflected the actors branch’s choices, not the Academy in general. Nevertheless, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag was born.
For Best Director, nominations emanate from 526 members of the directors branch, meaning a particular director’s name must top 221 ballots.
Other branches operate the same way: Writers, cinematography, editing, music, documentary, production design, costume design and sound.
For animation, voting is restricted to Academy members from any branch who volunteer for a screening committee that watches the 32 submissions. Members then rank their top five choices, which are tabulated to determine the final five nominees.
Similarly, for Best International Feature/Foreign Language Film, members from any branch can evaluate more than a dozen of the 91 submissions over a two-month period. Then, the entire Academy membership will get DVD/digital screeners of the five nominated films in order to vote for the winner.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2016, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs promised “dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership.” That included doubling the number of female and nonwhite members by 2020, adding three new members to the Board of Governors and a requirement that members remain active in the industry or lose their Oscar voting privileges.
One film that will definitely not garner a Best Picture nomination is Tom Hooper’s creepy, big-screen, live-action adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular musical “Cats.” Loss estimates now range from $71 to $100 million.
Populated by CGI humanoid felines, the fanciful concept is based on T.S. Eliot’s 1939 poetry collection titled “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.”
After Eliot’s widow Valerie gave Webber permission to use the material, she found an unpublished poem about Grizabella and a gathering of “Jellicle Cats” that culminated with a balloon trip to the Heaviside Layer.
The script by Hooper and Lee Hall involves a framing story in which a naive kitten, Victoria (British ballerina Francesca Hayward), is abandoned in London’s West End Theater district alley and is eventually accepted into the Jellicle clan.
There’s gluttonous Bustopher Jones (James Corden), Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) dancing with cockroaches, magical Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson), and Gus the aging theater cat (Ian McKellen). Clad in skintight outfits covered with digital fur with a CG tail and twitching CG ears, it’s bizarre as each sings a song about himself/herself.
The villain is predatory Macavity (Idris Elba), the monster of depravity, arising the ire of regal Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench), who bears an alarming resemblance to Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Tonight is a magical night where I choose the cat that deserves a new life,” she says, explaining the upcoming Jellicle Ball. “I judge a cat by its soul.”
Predictably, the musical highlight is “Memory,” sung by bedraggled, formerly glamorous prosti-kitty Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), now considered a social pariah.
The musical numbers are not prerecorded. Instead, they’re sung “au naturel” as each scene was being filmed. Unfortunately, these crooning actors — with the obvious exception of Hudson, Taylor Swift as Bombalurina and Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger — are not trained singers, and it shows.
The new song “Beautiful Ghosts,” co-written by Webber and Swift, is performed by Swift over the end credits.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Cats” claws in with an inscrutable, ignominious 1 — a cat-astrophe!
Susan Granger has been an on-air television and radio commentator and entertainment critic for more than 25 years. Raised in Hollywood, Granger appeared as a child actress in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Lassie. She currently resides in Westport.