What kind of movies get released in January? In the summer? From November through December?
Exactly. We know the cycle so well that a movie with only half a dozen explosions in June is considered counter-programming while Fall films are actively baiting golden statues and podiums. We know it so well that people predict the following year’s Oscars the day after the Oscars. We know it so well that the ceremony “shaking things up” has become the status quo.
So I wondered what would happen if they truly shook things up by holding the Oscars in July. A kind of mid-year awards ceremony where The Weinstein Company hasn’t even brought out its heaviest hitters yet. This alternative universe isn’t necessarily about what movies are the best — because the Oscars almost never are. It’s about finding the close enough blend of prestige and popularity from the first half of the year, but make no mistake, it would still result in a wildly different list of nominees.
Not to mention winners.
To The Wonder
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Great Gatsby
The Bling Ring
Much Ado About Nothing
And the winner is: The top prize category is packed with entries from previous nominees. Sofia Coppola, Richard Linklater, Baz Luhrmann and Terence Malick are joined by rising talents like Jeff Nichols and Derek Cianfrance. Already a winner, Brian Helgeland is trying for a statue with a different job inscription on it, and 42‘s nomination here certainly buoys his chances for Best Director.
It looked like a tight race that hit all the right notes — historical, biopic, lavish, vulgar auterism and deeply-affecting character work — but the massive critical and nostalgic love of Before Midnight made it triumphant in the end.
Sofia Coppola, The Bling Ring
Brian Helgeland, 42
Richard Linklater, Before Midnight
Baz Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby
Robert Redford, The Company You Keep
And the winner is: The Academy took the opportunity to honor previous winner Robert Redford with a nomination (something no one felt comfortable doing for The Conspirator) although almost no one expected he’d earn another win as Best Director 32 years after his first.
Some considered it an upset (thinking it was Linklater’s to win), and a collective gasp spread throughout Twitter and liveblogs everywhere when Sofia Coppola‘s name was announced. It wasn’t that people didn’t think she’d earned it; people didn’t think the Academy would follow through. They did.
Matthew McConaughey, Mud
Ben Affleck, To The Wonder
Ryan Gosling, The Place Beyond the Pines
Chadwick Boseman, 42
Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
And the winner is: An outcome that will cause tension for years, not only was Michael Shannon’s performance in The Iceman left out, the Academy ultimately chose Ethan Hawke as the winner (after two previous nominations) even though fans were convinced McConaughey would steal it with a movie-owning presence in Mud.
The nod to Affleck is seen mostly as lip service after last year’s triumphs.
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Andrea Riseborough, Shadow Dancer
Rooney Mara, Side Effects
Julianne Moore, What Maisie Knew
Maggie Smith, Quartet
And the winner is: As with any year where Meryl Streep is absent, this category was a massive toss-up. Was Mara’s nomination a nod to Steven Soderbergh’s “other movie” since Behind the Candelabra wasn’t eligible? Was Riseborough’s stunning turn as an IRA member enough to go up against more seasoned talent? Would Moore finally win after 5 nominations? Would Delpy get to join her Before Midnight co-star in lifting statues for too-good-to-be-true press photos?
The final big question was whether the Academy would award Maggie Smith with a third win with so many unrewarded actresses up against her. They did, and she’s now tied with Streep for statues collected.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Nick Nolte, The Company You Keep
Matthew Goode, Stoker
Tobey Macguire, The Great Gatsby
Harrison Ford, 42
Michael Gambon, Quartet
And the winner is: With Ford’s name involved in the proceedings, speculation online (including more Star Wars Episode VII rumor-mongering) was rampant, but no name stuck out as being definitively more deserving than another. With the double impact of a Weinstein campaign and the intrinsic pull to use the category as a twilight celebration of a veteran, few were surprised when Michael Gambon won.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Emma Watson, The Bling Ring
Winona Ryder, The Iceman
Carrie Mulligan, The Great Gatsby
Rin Takanashi, Like Someone in Love
Nicole Kidman, Stoker
And the winner is: People were baffled that the Academy considered Takanashi’s performance to be Supporting, but they were even more stunned when Emma Watson was called to the stage. Some felt Mulligan was a standout because of Gatsby‘s popular appeal while others were betting on Kidman’s turn as an unstable matriach in Park Chan-wook’s English-language debut to be an award magnet.
Almost no one bet on the Academy recognizing Watson’s excellent embodiment of status-obsessed youth culture.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
A Place at the Table
We Steal Secrets: The Wikileaks Story
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
And the winner is: As usual, more than a few festival favorites were left out in the cold, including Lenny Cooke and 20 Feet From Stardom.
Also as usual, in the midst of trenchant work on important (often depressing) socio-political topics, the winner was the feel-good entry Sound City.
BEST ANIMATED PICTURE
Despicable Me 2
And the winner is: Only one human being — that one accountant in your office pool — was surprised when Pixar won. In his defense, the guy LOVED The Croods.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Grandmaster (Hong Kong)
Beyond the Hills (Romania)
Like Someone in Love (Japan)
Hannah Arendt (Germany)
A Hijacking (Denmark)
And the winner is: Since the 2013 Cannes crop — including Palme d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Color — hadn’t been released yet to gain eligibility, the final list of foreign language flicks looked a bit piecemeal. A Hijacking was the popular favorite, with Beyond the Hills ultimately winning.
Who would you give a mid-year Oscar to?