Sunday, March 9, 2008

Front-runner Curse?

Tom O'Neil at Gold Derby is in a huff about the mythical front-runner curse. He writes this piece explaining the true reason that early favourites like Dreamgirls and Brokeback Mountain ultimately tripped up.

3 comments:

Rich Aunt Pennybags said...

I'm sorry although I do visit Gold Derby, and Tom O'Neil seems like a nice enough person, I just cannot take him seriously at all. When he's not plagiarizing from others or promoting that magazine joke, In Touch Weekly, he's probably the worst Oscar pundit ever. Sure I could write off some of his outrageous claims (Clooney has a chance to upset Day-Lewis) as him just trying to stir up controversy, but he's always writing stuff like that, that it's very hard to take him seriously.

Anyhow, I don't necessarily agree with the article that he finds fault with, but I don't agree with O'Neil either. There does sometime seem to be an unstoppable Best Picture winner, but it doesn't mean that the frontrunner curse doesn't exist. To me, before the Oscar season officially started, I didn't really think of No Country for Old Men being the frontrunner. To me Atonement was, and I do believe that it did succumb to the curse because I didn't here about No Country until a little later on in the season. Had it not been anointed the front runner or had come out earlier so people could see what the hype was about for themselves instead of waiting three months or so, I think it would have done better. So unlike O'Neil, I do believe timing is very important unless it's a successful juggernaut that can't be stopped like a Lord of the Rings or Titanic, but those kind of critical blockbusters seem practically nonexistant today.

Further, I think both the original article and O'Neil are wrong about the curse applying to anything except the Best Picture category. I don't believe that it works with the acting nominees at all because usually prognosticators are wrong about the winner because a lot of them pick a winner even before the season officially starts. Inevitably, the winners that are picked are the usual suspects especially on the women's side (Streep, Winslet, Blanchett, etc.), and most of the time, that person fails to even get a nomination. However, I don't think that has anything to do with a curse at all just mostly prognosticators being incredibly biased. For instance, I keep seeing posters at Award Daily think that Kate Winslet is going to be a double nominee next year. I think she could possibly be, but I wouldn't predict it at all since either one or both of her movies could disappoint. Or other nominees pop up, as they inevitably do, that no one or at least not many people had on their radar.

Mostly, I think it only works for Best Picture because usually Best Picture is where people start, at least I do, when trying to figure out the other categories especially the technical ones. If you pick the wrong Best Picture to dominate, then you're screwed. In the acting categories, if a person's movie bombs or fails to connect, it maybe disappointing, but you probably won't have to go back and redo most of the categories again.

The Oscar Nazi said...

You bring up several good points, pennybags. I too believe there's something to be said about films building too much hype for themselves too early in the season, like "Atonement". But I don't necessarily believe that made "Atonement" the true front-runner. Nearly every critic and industry expert who saw "No Country for Old Men" at Cannes in the spring were convinced it would be the film to beat, but they had to keep their reviews under wraps until the official release in the fall. That's why folk like you and me didn't hear anything about it until later on. But between its screening at Cannes and its official release, the critics were able to steep in their own certainty that it was the best of the year, and take the time to prepare the most convincing arguements they could put in print. So even though the hype seemed to explode out of nowhere in November, it was really building steam right from the get-go. The critics would therefore argue that "No Country" was indeed the front-runner throughout the year, but the timing of its release is what made it more successful, proving that while a frint-runner curse may not exist, your film still needs to be released at just the right time in order to win big with the Academy. But that's just my humble, unbiased (yeah right) opinion.

As for Mr. O'Neil, the fact that I can't take him seriously ("Sweeney Todd" the best movie of the year?) is why I read him. It gives me confidence to see that there's at least one person out there stupider than me! lol!

Rich Aunt Pennybags said...

Good point about No Country for Old Men. I guess from a critical standpoint it definitely was the frontrunner, but I guess I took frontrunner label from O'Neil and the article to mean the film or films that the Oscar prognosticators all jump on before or at the start of Oscar season without having view it.

Like with Atonement, I know there had been a few people that did see it early, and they were raving about how great it was. Then it seemed shortly after that was the first movie that many predictors jumped on as the frontrunner from the beginning of Oscar season based on only a few raves. So in that case, it's probably understandable that the hype couldn't last all the way until December when the rest of the world finally got to see it. Perhaps the same thing would have happened with No Country for Old Men had it had as much buzz early on as Atonement did. Although then it may have been one of those movies that was unstoppable like Return of the King which everyone knew was going to win right after the frist LOTR lost.

As for Mr. O'Neil, the fact that I can't take him seriously ("Sweeney Todd" the best movie of the year?) is why I read him. It gives me confidence to see that there's at least one person out there stupider than me! lol!

LOL, yes I do have to give him credit that at least he's never boring, and he's consistent in his wackiness. Plus, he interacts with his fans and other Gold Derby posters (mostly just to get help with his articles, lol), but yes it's nice that he's out there because at least you know that there's one person out there that will do worse on his Oscar predictions than you will. :)