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Film Without A Face; Who Gets an Award if Nobody Goes on Stage?

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Hollywood just had its most successful box office weekend since Avengers: Endgame. Multiple box office records were broken by Barbie; the most exciting personally was the biggest opening for a female director. Oppenheimer may be Nolan’s best but it also is this year’s best film. When I saw both movies in theaters (on separate days, unfortunately) the crowds were massive, with the most recent comparison being Spider-Man: No Way Home in late 2021.

Yet it’s weird to say, “Movies are back!” when most of the people responsible for making them are fighting for financial security and not getting their jobs taken by A.I. At the time of posting, it will be nearly two weeks since SAG-AFTRA announced they’d join the WGA to strike against the AMPTP. The same celebrities that played Barbies and historical figures related to the atomic bomb are outside those same profiting studios, fighting for the financial security of their fellow artists.

Ironic capitalism aside, my mind drifts to the future of the film calendar. As much as I enjoyed the existential crisis of Barbie and the White male actor Avengers that was Oppenheimer, they weren’t my most anticipated films of the year. Films like Dune: Part Two, Killers of The Flower Moon, Challengers, and others slated later in the year are the films I’m most excited about. Yet I have no idea how or even if they will be released.

It’s no secret that the awards race is really a machine. The studios need actors, directors, writers, and other key members of the crew to promote the film with industry screenings and events. Luckily Mission Impossible, Barbie, and Oppenheimer got their marketing done by the movie’s release; otherwise we wouldn’t have had these headlines of box office success. Dune: Part Two, a film akin to Barbie and Oppenheimer, will need similar marketing of its all-star ensemble to make an awards push, much less a profit. Killers of The Flower Moon has higher risk than any of these films (low comps, less-known ensemble, higher budget, more awards-driven), and I can’t imagine it being successful without its actors promoting it to its fullest, as much as I’d love Scorsese to do all the marketing by himself.

Half of the reason film festivals exist is for actors, directors, and writers to walk the carpets wearing the latest to promote the movie. Challengers is Luca Guadagnino’s latest film starring Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor in a steamy tennis love triangle. What seemed like an awards contender for this year has now backed out of opening Venice Film Festival and will likely not be released until next year. Priscilla, Sofia Coppola’s latest about Priscilla Presley and her relationship with Elvis, has been announced as NYFF’s centerpiece. Still, it is unclear whether anybody will be on stage for it, given that Coppola is a part of the WGA and its lead cast are SAG.

Looking further, movies currently shooting have ceased production and will likely be pushed back. Big tentpole films like Gladiator 2, Deadpool 3, Beetlejuice 2, Wicked, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning - Part Two, and what will likely be the best film out of any mentioned in this blog post, Paddington in Peru, have stopped shooting.

All in all, I don’t know whether to be elated that audiences are back to the cinema or scared for my life that these strikes could cause another covid-era release calendar shake-up. This year was supposed to be THE YEAR for Hollywood to get back on its feet. With a full release calendar, COVID-19 now in the past, and audiences fresh off of an outstanding awards season early in the year. Other pressing issues aside, if these strikes continue at their current pace (with no movement of the AMPTP to accept the guilds’ terms), the second half of this year will become barren for Hollywood. No marketing, no real festival circuits, no awards race, and maybe even no releases for some of the year’s biggest films mean disaster for studios, audiences, and talent alike. Hopefully, the AMPTP can return to the table rather than starving the writers. If a smaller-sized studio like A24 can agree to SAG’s terms, big studios like Warner Bros. and Universal can also. Until then, we just have to sit and wait.

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