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Oscar voters get 'Sweeney,' 'Charlie' & 'Debaters' DVDs last

December 24, 2007 | 10:42 pm

It's bad enough that "Sweeney Todd" has fallen short of box-office projections this weekend (earning $9.35 million compared to expectations ranging from $11 million to $12 million) while those gum-snapping, tattooed, "awesome"-saying, Johnny Depp fans spread the horrible news: "Omigod, he's singing weird Broadway stuff and he's wearing a skunk on his head and no pirate duds!" Oscar voters are busy at home catching up with that tall stack of DVDs next to their TV sets, which, in some cases, does not yet include disks of "Sweeney."

"Sweeney" was the last DVD of the season to be shipped to voters, most of which received them on Christmas Eve. "Charlie Wilson's War" and "The Great Debaters" arrived last week. "There Will Be Blood" and "The Kite Runner" shipped on Dec. 16, "Atonement" in early December. The vast majority of voters receive disks at home, but some academy members like actors have them shipped first to the offices of managers or their reps, then forwarded. Some of those voters are still waiting for various DVDs while many Hollywood offices remain closed for the holidays till Jan. 2.


Don't the film studios realize that Oscar noms ballots ship out on Dec. 26? And aren't they aware that the accountants who tally showbiz awards routinely report that about half of voters fill out their ballots right away? Do they really expect busy Hollywood honchos to drop everything during the holiday crunch and watch the avalanche of late-arriving DVDs?

Presumably, the studios must really believe that academy members attend those theater-set screenings they set up all over town in late November and throughout December. Ha! Some voters do, sure, but academy members — just like members of SAG's nominating committee — feel like a privileged breed. They expect — nay, demand — special treatment: that the movies come to THEM.

SAG Nom Com screenings are usually packed, yes, but not with committee voters. Usually, attendees are just regular guild members, the cheap ones, many of the down-and-out actors who are eager to catch a hot, new Oscar contender for free while networking among peers. SAG voters did not receive DVDs of "Sweeney" and "Debaters" — and they were snubbed completely when guild nominations were unveiled on Dec. 20. So was "Atonement," but at least the DVD got shipped in early December. It seems obvious that it didn't catch up with enough voters in time. Instead, the SAG list was full of pix released much earlier, like "Into the Wild."

Next, will we see the same thing repeated when Oscar, DGA and WGA noms are announced?

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DGA ballots were sent out on Dec. 3. Assuming half of DGA voters filled them out soon afterward, the chances of Paul Thomas Anderson ("Blood"), Tim Burton ("Sweeney") and Denzel Washington ("Debaters") being nominated are cut dramatically. Ditto for the helmers of other December releases like Joe Wright ("Atonement") and Marc Forster ("The Kite Runner"). Remember, DGA members aren't permitted to receive DVD screeners, so they must either catch industry screenings or else see the pix at the local Cineplex. Yes, there were lots of industry screenings, but there are 13,000 DGA members scattered across America (compared to 370 voters in the academy's directors' branch). The vast majority work in the TV industry and voting on film awards isn't their highest priority, which means seeing those movies isn't either. Thus I think it's increasingly likely that we'll see "Into the Wild's" Sean Penn on the DGA list, just like we saw "Into the Wild's" Emile Hirsch on the SAG roster. And maybe neither on the Oscar list, depending on how academy members are doing whittling down that stack of DVDs next to their TV sets. And when the DVDs of "Sweeney," "Blood" and "Debaters" finally reach them and get seen. Undoubtedly, many voters are watching DVDs in the order that they arrived.

Don't be too surprised if the DGA list is heavily weighed by earlier releases like "Eastern Promises" (David Cronenberg), "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" (Sidney Lumet), "American Gangster" (Ridley Scott), "Michael Clayton" (Tony Gilroy) and "3:10 to Yuma" (James Mangold). Surely, Oscar voters won't snub "Sweeney Todd" (Tim Burton), "There Will Be Blood" (Paul Thomas Anderson), "Atonement" (Joe Wright), "The Great Debaters" (Denzel Washington) and "The Kite Runner" (Marc Forster) entirely. They have more time to catch up with those stragglers, but how different will their choices be?

This year we're likely to see the biggest divergence ever between the guilds (SAG, DGA, WGA) and Oscars.

The reason: There was a contagious outbreak of amnesia this year across Hollywood as studio chiefs suddenly forgot the new Oscar calendar that debuted four years ago when the Academy Awards and guild kudos pushed back one month. Nobody noticed the calendar last year because studios released their Oscar ponies so early. Seven of the films that won the top eight Oscar races ("The Departed," "Last King of Scotland," "The Queen" and "Little Miss Sunshine") were all in theaters by October. Only "Dreamgirls" opened late — in December — and earned a bid for eventual winner Jennifer Hudson.

This year Fox Searchlight initially planned to open "Juno" and "The Savages" in mid-December, but realized its mistake late, then yanked up their openings a few weeks. Still, "Savages" got shut out at SAG and "Juno" didn't get its expected bid in the ensemble category.

Last year "Dreamgirls" was able to beat the calendar: it got a best-pic bid from the producers' guild and Bill Condon was nominated by DGA. It didn't make the best-pic cut at the Oscars, of course, but we know that academy members saw it because they nommed it in so many other races (giving it the most nominations of all pix, strangely). However, "Dreamgirls" was one of few late releases, so it was easier to catch up with one than many.

Late-December release "Letters from Iwo Jima" got shut out by all four guilds (producers, directors, actors, writers) in 2006, but got nommed for pic and director at the Oscars, of course. Last year it won best pic from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. This year the group went for "There Will Be Blood." Perhaps that fact suggests a parallel this year — that we'll see Paul Thomas Anderson and his film earning similar slots from the academy?

The comments to this entry are closed.


Usually, attendees are just regular guild members, the cheap ones, many of the down-and-out actors who are eager to catch a hot, new Oscar contender for free while networking among peers.
Wow, Tom, are you always such a vagine? SAG members get invited to practically all screenings and some have learned that it pays to send the entire SAG membership screeners. Crash, anybody?

There is NO WAY that anyone "forgot" about Dgirls last year because it was SHOVED down everyone's throat for at least 6 months as the Oscar favorite. Problem was... it was released and it wasn't so great. No blame or excuses can alter this simple fact. I think in people's minds ST is too dark for little reason, unlike NCFOM, that has purpose in it's evil - anti-machismo, anti-war metaphor.

How do they get them the 26th, if the post office is closed on the 25th? Do they ship on the 26th? So they get them the 27th or 28th. And isn't this good for Sweeney/Carlie/Debaters because they'll get those screeners and ballots at the same time?

Oh Tom, do you REALLY think anybody (especially technilogically savvy teenagers) is going to be criticising "Sweeney Todd" for not being a pirate movie? Honestly, now. Just because they're young, doesn't mean they're THAT stupid.

Maybe the this will give Sweeney an edge with oscar voters, who feel bad for its trouble at the Box office?

Tom, if Oscar nominating ballots ship out tomorrow, there's still time for the Academy members to give "Sweeney Todd" a look before voting, along with the other late entries. You may be right in saying that most Hollywood studios suffered from amnesia and completely forgot about the Oscar schedule. Yet, these same major studios released their big blockbusters earlier this year. Talk about your frontloading! Nevertheless, while we may see a great divergence of choices among the industry guilds, it all points to a lot of quality films in the 2007 marketplace, and that's something worth celebrating!

While there is no doubt that DVD screeners play an important role in the outcome of the eventual nominees, I don't feel it's the sole factor as some indicate. As this years Oscar race shapes up, is it possible we're seeing something similar to the 1995 race? While its hard to overlook the quality of "Sweeney Todd", "There Will Be Blood", "No Country For Old Men" , "Atonement" and "American Gangster" voters may be suffering from an overload of death, deception, revenge and angst. While 1995 wasn't an overly impressive year for film, there were quality alternatives to the projected Best Picture contenders ("Leaving Las Vegas", "Dead Man Walking", "Casino", "The Usual Suspects", Nixon") and the voters found them in "Apollo 13", "Babe", "Braveheart", "Il Postino" and "Sense and Sensibility". While "Into the Wild", "Juno" and "3:10 to Yuma" are far from light entertainment fare they are arguably more positive in tone. While they may not be the traditional,critical choices, they are quality alternatives that are showing up on the majority of the year end "Best of Lists".

It would be a sad thing for Sweeney Todd to be ignored. I hope your article will help bring it to everyone's attention. Sweeney did fine at the box office. National Treasure was well below projections too, but the only one that seems to be mentioned is Sweeney Todd. In fact, the original projection was around 10M but was raised to 12 after friday's numbers which included midnight showings. Midnight showings always mess up projections because the movie get frontloaded. Sweeney's numbers were great.



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