An Editorial Announcement Re: “Awards Season”

The 72nd Venice International Film Festival kicked off yesterday in Venice, Italy, just a few days ahead of the 42nd Telluride Film Festival in Telluride, Colorado (September 4-7), followed in short order by the 40th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario (September 10-20). These gatherings constitute a “one-two-three punch” to “introduce the majority of the films that will end up competing for the Academy Awards and other film honors,” according to a piece at The Wrap today, somewhat ominously titled, “Watch Out, Oscar: Awards Season Gets Jump Start With Fall Festivals.” And many other entertainment sites are taking this trifecta as the opening bell for said “awards season,” weighing and considering each new, high-profile offering not on its own merits, not as a film, but as a potential recipient of a goddamn trophy nearly half a year from now. It’s a stupid, shallow, reductive way to look at and think about movies, and it’s entirely out of this site’s control. But the one thing we can control is how and when we write about awards season. So we’re going to.

Let’s be clear: You’ll see plenty of Oscar talk on Flavorwire. We’ll cover the year-end critics awards, and analyze how they’ll influence Academy voters; we’ll puzzle over the baffling (and you know they’ll be baffling) nominees; we’ll make some predictions, and we’ll cover the ceremony and its aftermath. And in the run-up to it, we’ll do our usual historical roundups of people we can’t believe never got one, and movies we can’t believe got one, and so on. We’ll write those things because a lot of you will read them, but also because a lot of you want to read them, and we want to write them, because the Oscars may be silly and overblown and nearly always wrong about the best films and performances of any given year, but they’re also fun, a common cultural experience, a Super Bowl for movies (with all the unfortunate art-as-competition connotations that implies).

But because a lot of you will read about the Oscars, plenty of film and general-interest entertainment sites start writing about the Oscars well beyond what is, by any sensible standard, a reasonable discussion window. The 88th Academy Awards ceremony will be held on February 28, 2016. Today is September 3, 2015. THE OSCARS ARE NEARLY SIX MONTHS AWAY. And yet otherwise indispensible film sites are posting multi-page 2016 Oscar predictions, which, while shining a welcome spotlight on smaller titles, also include movies — like Joy, Bridge of Spies, and The Hateful Eight — that have screened for no one.

Tom Hanks in "Bridge of Spies"

Such darts-at-a-dartboard-that-isn’t-there prognostication is par for the course among the “Oscar blogger” set. Such scribes don’t just pick this up as a sideline around Oscar time — their entire beat, and often their entire website, is tracking buzz and momentum and backlash and all the other political jargon that’s infected film discourse. (It should also be noted that many of them are very nice people, and good writers! Many also are not.) So obviously, it’s in their best interest to get this rat out of its cage as soon as possible; they’re itching from six months of relative inactivity, or of having to write about movies simply as freestanding works unrelated to gold statues.

But that doesn’t mean everyone who writes about film has to bend to the will of the Awards Industrial Complex. Around this time last year, I begged those lucky enough to attend the fall festivals to resist the urge to view every motion picture through the prism of “potential Oscar contender”; that’s clearly not gonna happen. But the year before (as you can see, this is an annual irritation), I humbly proposed that maybe, just maybe, we could put off the endless parade of awards consideration and blind guesswork until a more reasonable date — Thanksgiving, I suggested, as that would allow three-plus months of Oscar chatter, while still including the year-end critics awards (which begin a full month from the end of the year, but that’s another conversation) and the SAGs and the Globes and the Spirits and all the rest of it.

So if you’re also tired of this approach to fall festival reporting and film reviewing, I’ve got good news for you: this year, the Thanksgiving embargo isn’t just a suggestion, but Flavorwire editorial policy. That’s not how we’re going to cover these events or these movies, because (incoming #hottake) that’s not what’s important about them. With that in mind, until the turkey and stuffing are tucked away in their Ziploc containers, we’re going to try out the radical notion of letting movies be movies, and see how it goes.