Superbowl, superhype! The headline in the New York Times read
“Sloppy or Not, Big Game is Smash Hit.” Despite a somewhat
forgettable face-off, television ratings were the highest in a
Will Oscar be so lucky? Many Americans, even this late date, aren’t
familiar with a lot of the nominations. And you can’t sell something
to someone who really isn’t listening.
Even the optimists aren’t so sure about TV ratings as the game clock
counts down to the 78th annual Academy Awards ceremony March 5. This
year, there are no blockbusters among contenders for best picture.
There were no full-force, million-dollar publicity campaigns, with
splashy newspaper ads, magazine cover stories, “sound-bite” epigrams
on the Internet, and plugs by a gaggle of talk show hosts and their
Many nominees were in less costly productions, independent films not
in wide release, which have relied on word of mouth to get a devoted
critical and cult following.
Nor did the awards show merry-go-round do much, with at least
fourteen from Golden Globes to golden statuettes, not counting top
The weekend after nominations, “best film” favorites expanded their
screens to capitalize on what politicians call “bounce” Front runner
"Brokeback Mountain" had the best showing, yet with only mediocre
business, dropping 13% from the previous week. The Johnny Cash
biography Walk the Line did only so-so. Capote ticket sales surged
after quadrupling screens, pushing a bit higher, but no breakout.
With an Academy voting deadline of February 27 it’s an uphill
flight, but flacks know how to play the game. When momentum fades,
highly paid strategists scramble to create it. Whenever and wherever
they find a sympathetic ear, it’s talk the talk, or, if you will,
indulge in good old-fashioned brown nosing. .
As for Oscar night itself, from the “envelop please” to “the winner
is”, the ceremony is normally a mix of humble pie and Miss
Congeniality. And probably this year, there’ll be more emphasis on
issues of social significance.
The Hollywood chosen, firmly gripping gold plated statuettes, will
work their way thru l-o-o-n-g lists of thank yous, to an anxious
audience of artistic egos.
‘Gold rush’ begins on the red carpet, a pre-game love fest with
hosts throwing bouquets, fashionistas on call for last minute
touch-ups. and plastic surgeons taking bows backstage. Every year,
in the months before Oscar, nip-and-tuck business reportedly jumps
20%. And yes, comedienne Joan Rivers plans to see her doctor for
Botox injections. While fans at home, close to HD sets, are watching
for wrinkles and weight-loss candidates.
Then stay tuned for the burning question on “42nd street”: can
rookie Oscar host Jon Stewart go out there as a cable favorite, but
come back a national star?”
And what would Oscar be without a Sam Goldwynism.? Whether
apocryphal or not, the movie mogul once described chances of
blue-ribbon success for his latest film release: “it’s absolutely
impossible, but it has possibilities.”
Finally, getting into the spirit of the gala evening ahead, I’ve
whipped up a press release from the Flack Institute of America and
its patron saint, Our Lady of Hype.
Truly, a banner year of rare gems. Movies made for Oscar. Films that
are making audiences stand up and cheer. Triumphs of shocking
boldness, deep in understanding, comic jewels, a galaxy of star
performances, Oscar written all over them and some of the unique
and daring subjects to make their way to any screen.
So what’ve we got?
We’ve got hype
All you really need is hype
When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win
Spin, spin, spin.
You gotta’ have hype.
Gene Farinet, an award winning veteran newsman, spent much of his long
career at NBC News as a writer and producer working with Frank McGee,
Ed Newman, John Chancellor and Tom Brokaw, covering space, politics
and special projects everywhere in the world.