Has there ever been such a sad movie awards season? I mean, other than 2020, when Covid closed theaters, or 2001, after the terrorist attacks.
Personally, I don’t remember.
Abortion clinics promote Call Jane. Jurors in the Weinstein trial are warned not to watch the She says trailer, lest the angry film taint their judgement. armageddon time boasts what has to be the most intimidating title for a coming-of-age movie (it beats The squid and the whale one mile). And the most profitable seasonal prize contender to date, The female kingseems unlikely to crack the Top 1000 ticket sales of all time.
Cinephiles, the lightest in any case, would seek out the exits. But they weren’t really admitted. Of the top ten Best Picture contenders ranked by our sister site Gold Derby on Friday, only four have played outside of the festival and awards circuit. Insiders are always calling the shots, and they’re betting on some pretty austere stuff, unless Top: Gun Maverick returns, or images as light as The Fabelmans (yet to be seen by the public) or The Banshees of Inisherin (getting our way into the $3 million range) can kind of lift our spirits.
October, as expected, was miserable. Total ticket sales, as reported by Box Office Mojo, remained stuck at around $468.6 million; not counting the pandemic year, it was the worst since 2000, worse, even, than 2001, when lower Manhattan was a smoking ruin.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, expected from Marvel this week, is expected to boost the box office. But its story, about loss, threat and struggle, won’t do much to lift pop cultural funk.
In fact, that can’t happen until Tuesday’s election results are ground through the mill of discord, and survivors start watching the movies to cheer themselves up or distract themselves.
Traditionally, early December’s Golden Globe nominations — a goofy affair, criss-crossed with comedies, musicals and inexplicable aberrations — brought relief to early-season mopes. But with the Globes on probation for racial exclusion and bad behavior, that can’t happen this year. The chastised Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominations will surely signal virtue.
Still, something has to give, lest the Oscars on March 12 be caught in a downdraft that has already left the Emmys on September 12 with a record audience. In eight of the last ten years, for what it’s worth, Oscar audiences went up when the previous Emmy show was up, and down when the Emmys were down.
Both shows, one at each end of Hollywood’s fall-winter season, are impacted by prevailing moods. And right now, these bring little joy.