Vancouver Sun


Oscar will most likely go to a movie fans have seen, Christophe­r Palmeri writes.

- Bloomberg With assistance from Bloomberg’s Anousha Sakoui.

This year’s Oscar race is one of the most wide open in recent memory, giving some big-studio blockbuste­rs a shot at the bestpictur­e crown after years of victories by indie darlings.

Gold Derby, which tracks the Academy Awards race, lists six films at 10-1 or better, based on picks by critics. A Star Is Born, the drama starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, is favoured by 21 of 30 at the website. But they lack conviction, putting the odds at 13-2, a hair above Roma, director Alfonso Cuarón’s tribute to his childhood in Mexico, at 15-2.

This may also be a year that the winner is a film a lot of people have seen. A Star Is Born has taken in more than $388 million in ticket sales worldwide. Roma, which is playing in a handful of theatres to ensure it can compete for an Oscar, is being promoted heavily on Netflix, which has more than 137 million subscriber­s worldwide. The nomination­s will be announced Jan. 22, with the Oscar ceremony scheduled for Feb. 24.

Other widely seen films with a strong chance at a nomination include the superhero blockbuste­r Black Panther, with

$1.35 billion in worldwide ticket sales, and the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, at $702.5 million. Last year’s winner, The Shape of Water, took in $195.2 million globally — much of it after capturing the Oscar nomination.

“To see a movie like Black Panther in the conversati­on is very reassuring,” said Phil Contrino, director of research for the National Associatio­n of Theatre Owners. “It shows that the Oscars are more in tune with what the paying public is responding to.”

Two potential contenders opened in late December: Vice, a satirical biopic about Dick Cheney, and On the Basis of Sex, about the early years of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. From a business standpoint, smaller films like these benefit most from high-profile nomination­s, with many movie fans often hearing about them for the first time.

The race begins Jan. 6 when the Hollywood Foreign Press Associatio­n hands out the Golden Globe Awards on NBC. But cinephiles will get more clarity on the favourites later in the month when Hollywood trade groups begin bestowing their honours. In particular, fans should track the Screen Actors Guild, which represents the largest voting bloc in the academy and announces its winners on Jan. 27.

A Star Is Born has a lot going for it, including a directing and starring role for Cooper, one of the industry’s most popular leading men, as well as a hit soundtrack. It’s about the entertainm­ent business, a subject that always seems to appeal to the Oscars voters, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. It’s also a major studio production — from Warner Bros. The last major-studio film to be crowned best picture was also from Warner Bros.: Argo, in 2012.

Roma, by contrast, has appeared in just a few theatres, the preferred venue for movie lovers. Although artfully shot in black and white by a director who won the Oscar for 2013’s Gravity, the film would need to overcome Hollywood’s uneasy relationsh­ip with Netflix and the streaming service’s unwillingn­ess to distribute its movies widely in theatres.

Black Panther has its own momentum. The academy has been recruiting more minorities in response to criticism such as the #OscarsSoWh­ite socialmedi­a campaign.

Black Panther is in line to become the first superhero film to get nominated for best picture. It stars a largely black cast and features a superhero who rises to prevent the exploitati­on of natural resources in a fictional African nation.

Walt Disney Co., which released the film as part of its Marvel universe, is campaignin­g heavily for an award, including hosting more than 100 academy members at an event in West Hollywood. Chief executive officer Bob Iger even asked Oprah Winfrey, who had nothing to do with the picture, to come show her support.

Having Black Panther in the mix would burnish Disney’s image with filmmakers and also likely help the TV ratings for the Oscar ceremony. It’s carried on the company’s ABC network and has suffered a loss of viewers in recent years.

“If they were to recognize a film with that kind of political and cultural impact, that would be tremendous,” said Barton Crockett, an analyst with B. Riley FBR Inc. “It would be very good for the industry.”

 ?? WARNER BROS. ?? Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga star in the 2018 hit movie A Star Is Born, a film many insiders feel could lead the Oscar race.
WARNER BROS. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga star in the 2018 hit movie A Star Is Born, a film many insiders feel could lead the Oscar race.

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