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Oscar Watching: Rule Changes and New Members; Are MAGIC MIKE and TED Contenders?

For the last several weeks, we’ve been chatting about various movies and their possibilities for Oscar glory, but two very important things happened within the Academy last week. This week, we’ll discuss two movies that might be in the hunt for Oscar and later talk about the official Academy changes that took place.

Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut Ted and Steven Soderbergh’s male-stripper dramedy Magic Mike respectively took the top two spots at the box office this past weekend. While neither film seems like an Oscar contender, both have already performed well beyond expectations and boast relatively strong reviews. So, what about Oscar?

To discuss the awards potential of Ted, we need to look at MacFarlane, who’s most famous for creating the animated comedy series Family Guy. Over the years, the show has won five Emmy Awards; it also recently became the first animated series since The Flintstones to earn an Emmy nomination for Comedy Series. To say that the television industry respects MacFarlane more than most individuals in animation would be an understatement, and love in the entertainment business can go a long way.

What does that have to do with Ted, though? Around this time last year, Melissa McCarthy’s broad performance in Bridesmaids seemed like a dark-horse possibility for Oscar attention. However, when she took home an Emmy for Mike and Molly, many attributed it to her crossover love for her Bridesmaids performance. She won major awards for the film, including the Boston Society of Film Critics’ Supporting Actress prize, and went on to receive an Academy Award nomination.

The Emmy voters might show more love for Family Guy this year than they ever have before. If that happens, look for its scribes MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild to score an Original Screenplay nomination. Even if Ted doesn’t become an Oscar contender, the Norah Jones song “Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” which plays during a montage sequence at the beginning of the film, feels like a major threat for Original Song. Check out the tune below.

Now there’s Magic Mike. If the Director race thins out by the end of the year, Soderbergh might pick up his first Oscar bid since winning for Traffic; the film might even contend for Picture. At the moment, though, Magic Mike’s best bet for a nomination seems to be for Reid Carolin’s original screenplay. Critics have praised the film, quite often for its script and how it handles the untimely recession. The film might also boast a Supporting Actor contender in Matthew McConaughey, who’s earned raves for his work as the strip club owner Dallas. Given the numerous sight-unseen contenders in that race, the Dazed and Confused actor might seem like a long shot for now, but as I mentioned earlier, the same could have been said for McCarthy in Bridesmaids at this point in time last year.

I know that I’ve referenced Bridesmaids twice, but both films feel like the Kristen Wiig-led comedy to a certain degree. Many – including me – have thought that the film’s two major nominations simply marked a one-in-a-million moment, but perhaps they were actually a sign of things to come. Neither the film about the hard-partying teddy bear nor the film about male strippers is at the “too big to ignore” stage, but the Academy’s embrace of Bridesmaids certainly gives hope to each film’s cause.

Also new to theaters this week was People Like Us, the directorial debut of Alex Kurtzman; he also co-wrote the film with Roberto Orci – with whom he wrote Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Cowboys and Aliens – and newcomer Jody Lambert. The drama, which focuses on a man and his dysfunctional family, definitely sounds ready for an Oscar campaign – at least more so than comedies like Ted and Magic Mike. However, the wide-release film debuted to poor reviews and failed to connect with audiences, being only the eleventh highest-grossing film at the U.S. box office this weekend. Elizabeth Banks and Michelle Pfeiffer give terrific supporting performances, but it’s highly unlikely that the movie will contend for Oscars.

Now that we’ve discussed this weekend’s offerings, let’s talk about the Academy’s official changes. The Academy invited 176 individuals to join its ranks last week; The Los Angeles Times has the names of each invitee.

The Academy also met to discuss rule changes last week, with four categories being heavily altered. The category formerly known as Makeup will now be called Makeup and Hairstyling. Now, up to four individuals might be nominated for one work in Original Song “in rare and extraordinary circumstances.” Previously, two songwriters per song was the norm, but if a third writer’s contribution was considered essential, he or she could be nominated for the work as well. Also, Visual Effects will be shortlisted to exactly ten films – it was between seven and ten – before being whittled down to the actual nominations list. Lastly, films vying for Foreign Language Film “must be submitted to the Academy in 35mm or DCP but are no longer required to be exhibited in those formats in their countries of origin.”

Here’s part of the press release from AMPAS:

“In the Music (Original Song) category, the Executive Committee may recommend that a fourth songwriter for an individual song be considered in rare and extraordinary circumstances. This amends the rule that has been in effect since 2005, whereby up to two songwriters could be eligible per song, although a third songwriter could be added if he or she were found to be an essentially equal contributor.

In the Foreign Language Film category, films must be submitted to the Academy in 35mm or DCP, but are no longer required to be exhibited in those formats in their countries of origin.

The award given in the Makeup category will now be known as the Makeup and Hairstyling Award. Additionally, during the nominations process, all branch members who have seen the seven shortlisted titles will receive ballots to list their top three choices.

In the Visual Effects category, nominees will be selected from a pool of ten films chosen by the Branch Executive Committee by secret ballot. Previously, the committee could put forward as many as ten productions or as few as seven.”

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Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.