Tag Archives: oscars

Oscar’s Road to the Capitol

There has always been an express lane from Hollywood Boulevard to Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact, just today, we have stories that House Minority Leader Pelosi is briefing Hollywood stars on her plans to retake the majority in the house. The Oscar nominations this year epitomize the connection between politics and entertainment.  In an exciting election year, Hollywood played its part – giving audiences five political films nominated for Best Picture. Most years, the Best Picture race includes at least one political film.  But, in and around the Presidential elections, the volume of political content increases.

And, within this year’s Oscar class, and in an election year, we have an opportunity to observe the strong ties between our stars and our leaders.  In 2012, Hollywood celebrities took to the campaign trail.  A handful of stars spoke at each of the major party conventions, including Best Picture nominee Django Unchained’s supporting actress Kerry Washington.  Collectively, the celebrities in Hollywood donated over $4.8 million to various campaigns and public interest groups.  One of the leading voices in politics happens to be one of the leading Oscar nominees – Steven Spielberg.  In 2012, he donated over $1.2 million to various campaigns – but his lifetime political donations are nearly twice as much.  He is joined by Supporting Actress Sally Field and writer Tony Kushner, also staunch political activists.

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Fine, But Will It Play In Peoria?

A studio is a lot like the CIA Situation Room in Zero Dark Thirty. No one can never be 100% certain of Box Office projections. You have Sony’s Michael Lynton at the head of the table asking what his movie will produce next weekend at the Box Office. Amy Pascal says that she thinks the film could do $20 million, with a 60% probability. Jeff Blake says that when he spends $X million in marketing, it should do $20 million…with 65% probability. Kathryn Bigalow and Mark Boal say it’ll do $25 million, with 100% probability…well 95% probability, because they know certainty freaks everyone out. Really, the process of projecting Box Office and the corresponding implications for a film’s Ultimates (the total revenue stream of a film in all of its distribution windows), as well as the impact for a film on a studio’s slate could benefit from the big data and predictive analytics revolution. Over the last decade, the many slate financing failures indicate a less-than-satisfactory projection process.

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PGA and SAG Cause Some Drama

We are marching towards February 24th. And this weekend marked a critical juncture: the Producers Guild of America Awards and the SAG AFTRA Awards were each held this weekend, providing us important new data points for the model.  And, it was some unexpected and exciting news.

On Saturday night, at the Producers Guild of America (“PGA”) Awards, Argo took home the top award. As we have mentioned before, PGA is one of the best indicators of the likely winner of the Oscar for Best Picture. But, as we have mentioned before, it is rare that a film wins Best Picture when the Director is not also nominated for Best Director.  Recall, Argo’s Director (Ben Affleck) was not nominated for Best Director.  Thus, we have a few signals that seem to conflict. This type of situation happens all the time in business planning, so we’re thankful that the PGA is giving us a chance to evaluate the situation.

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Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes is one of the most popular sites that reviews movies. Beyond the Box Office, this platform provides one of the only quantitative measurement tools for how well-received a movie is by both audience and critics. But does the audience, or even the critic, opinion mean anything for the Oscars?

Rotten Tomatoes has two parallel ratings systems: one critic driven and one audience driven. The critics contribute to the Critics Score, called the Tomatometer®; the user-driven score is called, inventively, the Audience Score. Each is a percentage of the reviewers that had a positive rating of the movie. For the Audience Score, a positive review is one with 3.5 stars or greater; for the critics, a positive review is a thumbs up (or equivalent).

There are also other meta-scores that Rotten Tomatoes provides: the Critics Rating and the Audience Rating. These measure the aggregate scores of critics and the unwashed masses alike. The Critics Rating has three levels: Certified Fresh, Fresh, and Rotten. According to the RT website the Certified Fresh rating is “Reserved for the best-reviewed films, the Certified Fresh accolade constitutes a seal of approval, synonymous with quality.” Quantitatively, these films have consistent Critics Scores above 75% or higher. There does appear to be some judgment, however, because many films with a score higher than 75% do not have the Certified Fresh designation. For the Audience Rating there are two levels: Upright and Spilled (these are designated on the Rotten Tomatoes website by an upright or spilled bucket of popcorn).

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With Jodie Foster Out, Is Oscar Hiding In The Closet?

While 2012 may have been a high-mark for gays and lesbians on the political stage, Hollywood didn’t get the memo. In fact, the gay story this Oscar season is that the lack of stories. The Academy did not select a single gay character representation for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress – a rare occurrence in the recent past, occurring in 2008 and 2005.

Historically, playing gay, particularly in a compelling biopic, seems to be a great way to get into the field of nominees. Peter Finch (Sunday Bloody Sunday) was the first actor to be nominated for an Oscar for playing an openly gay character in 1971. It would take 14 years (1985) for a gay character to win an Oscar, when William Hurt won for Kiss of the Spider Woman. Eight years later, Tom Hanks made a memorable acceptance speech, after winning for Philadelphia. And it isn’t just men – Hilary Swank won Best Actress in 1999 for Boys Don’t Cry. Nicole Kidman won in 2002 for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf; One year later Charlize Theron won for Monster.

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Always a Bridesmaid…

The final two nomination categories for our Forecast to analyze in detail are the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. One of those two is shaping up to be a blowout while the other could be the tightest race we’ll forecast.  In both cases, the numbers noted below reflect last week’s model update.  We’ll be updating the model again tomorrow, and after Sunday’s SAG Awards and PGA Awards.  All of this is going to be fluid through then.

Without further adieu – because we attended Cotillion, we know that it is ladies first.

Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway seems to be the only actress in the race this year.  Oh, wait, there are others? Oops.  How embarrassing!  Well, here goes nothing:

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Hathaway has swept the awards shows to date with gracious acceptance speeches at The Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Awards, and The London Film Critics Circle Awards.  A first time nominee, Hathaway nonetheless seems to be belle of the ball, which she deserves considering the exceptionally sad character she played. The betting markets have her at 93% likelihood of winning – and those odds will be tough for any of her competition to overcome. We currently have her at 84.4%.

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Does Oscar® Ski?

Who doesn’t love a good party? And everyone in Hollywood knows (and everyone else that watches Entourage knows) that outside of Oscar Sunday, the best parties are in and around the sleepy little ski town of Park City, Utah.  Call it “Hollywood in the Slopes.” I am fairly convinced that more wine, beer and booze is consumed this single week in Park City than the entire other 51 weeks of the year in all of Utah – combined. I’m fairly certain that much of that is consumed a one particular house in The Colony, a luxe neighborhood in Park City’s Canyons resort – you know who you are! There are an estimated 40,000 people that converge on Robert Redford’s resort community, shuttling between screenings, meetings, drinks, parties, and more drinks.

For those newbies to the film world, Sundance is a film festival, just like Cannes in France, Tribecca in New York, or Toronto International in Tor…you get the drift. Festivals are intended to be a marketplace where filmmakers sell their films to buyers who purchase the right to distribute those films in certain specified territories. Some producers are in town to try and “sell” their movies before they are made – shopping scripts and projects. Those producers spend most of Sundance asleep all day and partying all evening. Some filmmakers are in town to learn and they attend seminars.  They work all day and party all evening. Most filmmakers are showing their films to audiences, hoping one of a handful of independent studios will buy their movie for theatres – both US and foreign. That, and they want to party all evening.

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Which Leading Lady Will Win?

After reading the press yesterday, our vote for Best Actress would have to be for Lennay Kekua who stars in “The Manti Te’o Story”.  Alas she is not in the running – probably because she does not exist.  Instead, we are left with a woman playing slightly unstable and a woman who is a spook with the CIA.  Wait…that sounds a lot like whoever this Lennay Kekua woman actually may be.  The Best Actress race, like the Best Actor race, is largely down to two: Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain.  Both of these young beauties are accomplished actors.  Even beyond these two frontrunners, this category is rich with interesting nominees and stories, including the youngest and oldest nominees in Best Actress category in Oscar history.

Leading Ladies – Nominee Analysis:
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
It was only two years ago that Jennifer Lawrence burst onto the scene in Winter’s Bone.  The role earned her critical acclaim, including an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. She was only 20, and the second youngest nominee in the category in history.  Now at 22, she is the leading contender for the Oscar.  Intrade has Lawrence at 60.6%. She took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Comedy / Musical, and Best Actress in a Comedy at the Critics Choice Awards.  But Lawrence isn’t a type-cast actress. She also received the Critics Choice Award for Best Actress – Action, for her role in the Hunger Games in 2012.  Given her previous nomination, her strength in other awards this season, and her betting market strength, we have Lawrence at 53.5%.

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