With only four days to go before Oscar nomination ballots are due back to PricewaterhouseCooper’s offices in downtown LA — and with many, if not most, already sent in — 20th Century Fox’s December 23 release We Bought A Zoo landed in Academy voters’ mailboxes only yesterday, becoming the final screener of the season to be sent out. Some voters I talked to were quite surprised to see it arrive so late as there would be little time left to actually view it even if one still had a ballot. Fox hasn’t made the Cameron Crowe family film an Oscar campaign priority, instead spending the bulk of those ad dollars on their Andy Serkis supporting bid for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and their animated hopeful Rio. So was this screener entry an odd late-inning strategy to gain Oscar attention for Zoo? NOT! Actually, I am told that for unforseen technical reasons it was delayed. Stuff happens.
Nevertheless, since Deadline informed you who was first with their screeners this year (Summit’s A Better Life got the jump on everyone back on September 7, and so far it has paid off in a surprise SAG nod for star Demian Bichir), it’s only fitting we should tell you what movie you need to complete your 2011 collection. Of course it’s still possible another screener could be coming Academy members’ way if a surprise nominee pops up on January 24 — like Adam Sandler getting a best actor nom for Jack and Jill — but for now this looks to be it.
The perk of getting screeners is the thing a lot of newer Academy members covet most when they are invited to join the club. To that end, one Academy member started an unofficial website a couple of years ago designed to help AMPAS members keep track of their screeners. Called Where’s My Screener, the site is the brainchild of PR branch member Jasmine Madatian, who began keeping lists of DVDs when she first joined the Academy. Friends and fellow members would ask her for her lists, and that eventually grew into the site, where she keeps track by date, distributor and title of all the movies sent to the entire membership. “I have gotten lots of nice feedback from members, thanking me for helping them track down screeners they didn’t even know they were missing,” she says.
In perusing her site (she says traffic is up right now), it is interesting to note that The Weinstein Co’s Oscar frontrunner The Artist was (until Zoo entered the picture) the final screener sent to members very late in the game on December 29 — a specific strategy to get it to the top of the pile. Universal employed a similar strategy holding back Bridesmaids until December 13, when all those year-end accolades suddenly made this May release a must-see. Also of note on the list was the Christmas Eve arrival of Fox Searchlight’s troubled Kenneth Lonergan drama Margaret. It had barely been released by the studio (after being in legal limbo for five years) and has had no discernible campaign, but obviously it was a last-minute screener addition after it began showing up on several top 10 critics lists.
Madatian also offers key dates in the Oscar process at her site and even has a countdown clock ticking off the time until the Academy Awards go live on February 24. At press time it was 47 days, 4 hours, 4 minutes and 57 seconds to go until the big show. You gotta love it.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.