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Now that the noise has died down, were there any useful takeaways from the Oscars?
If you ask the executives of A24, the distributor that swept six categories, their answer would be the same as six years ago when Moonlight was the surprise winner. “I can’t think of a thing to say” is what they said.
A24 likes to surround their wins with the sounds of silence, as they clearly did the last time I interviewed them (they resist interviews: more below).
But there were, in fact, a few questions to ask after this year’s Oscars. Would the field of suitors hopefully be emboldened next year? Not really, according to early evidence: Witness the odd lack of hype for future Oscar show hits, even during the pre-show.
Disney and its subsidiary ABC used the moment to jostle The little Mermaid and Universal ran a commercial for its nuclear movie Oppenheimerbut otherwise, there seemed to be a strange calm about next year.
Has the arrival of new Oscar voters (mainly foreigners) energized the Academy? Or affected its taste?
Not really, but the ratings boost suggests the show will run until 2028. The ratings have increased slightly by 12% this year to 18.7 million. The historic low was 10.5 million in 2021.
HBO has scheduled the season finale of its zombie drama The last of us against the Oscars, a further reminder that awards shows are no longer a scary competition. Ad prices are higher for the Super Bowl or post-season football.
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A study conducted among 4,400 spectators by the the wall street journal suggested that few viewers had even heard of this year’s Oscar contenders, except for the Avatar/Superior gun/Black Panther “courtroom films”. Suitors like triangle of sadness could score in Cannes but attract no following among Academy voters.
Still, media coverage of the Oscars competition has been surprisingly strong in a year when films like women who talk Or After Sun set empty seat records. In years past, the media buzz has focused on the Oscars campaign – complaints about Harvey Weinstein’s tactical shots or the party’s big spending.
But the campaigns themselves weren’t new this year: Steven Spielberg’s presence seemed shadowy, and of course neither Tom Cruise nor James Cameron made it to the Oscars.
Which brings us back to the mysteries of A24. While other independent conductors are ubiquitous at festivals and premieres – evidenced by the chatty presence of Sony Classics’ Tom Bernard and Michael Barker – the founders of A24 cherish their invisibility.
After MoonlightI proposed a meeting six years ago and was hastily turned down, only to be invited back a few hours later, but with new rules. All three partners were to attend (Daniel Katz, David Frenkel and John Hodges) whose backgrounds were primarily financial (Hodges has since left the firm).
That’s fine with me, but when I arrived at the company’s grungy headquarters in Lower Manhattan, 20 other A24 staff members also crowded into the conference room (no, there wasn’t enough coffee for everyone). Katz clarified in his introduction that I was not there to ask questions but rather to answer them.
A24 was still working out its management strategy, it seemed, and I had to explain the origins of some films – projects that I had been responsible for editing: Be there, Rosemary’s baby, the godfather, Harold and Maude among them.
The questions were smart, but when I started asking about some of A24’s unlikely hits, the curtain fell. movies like spring breakers (Harmony Korin), Ex-Machina (Alex Garland) and lady bird (Greta Gerwig) were off the table for discussion. The same goes for budgets and media strategy (“we prefer guerrilla marketing to ad buys,” muttered Katz).
Leaving, the thanks were abundant and the cordial comments on the future meetings, which never took place. “We would like to talk to you about our TV projects,” enthuses a staff member, then closed.
“It’s not so much a company as a kind of independent mafia,” an A24 executive assured me. “We’re really nice people, but the public attention scares us. Also, no one wants to be successful in the freelance world. The independent world is only a matter of failure. Ask anyone who’s been here.
Tried to ask but am waiting for a return invite, maybe after next year’s successes.