Oscar Buzz: Where Does it Start?

In a recent Awards Daily blog entry, Sasha Stone discusses the dangers of believing Oscar buzz from anyone who isn't, well, Roger Ebert. Her reasoning is that in this age of blogger world domination, it's hard to know whom to trust. And taking bad buzz for granted could lead to the demise of a worthy film, and more importantly, damage the careers of those who worked on it.

While I agree with her message that we should all take heed of where we get our information on the internet, and to trust our own judgment when it comes to the films we choose to see, I think she may be overreacting just a tad.

Per her article, Milk and Frost/Nixon are getting bad buzz, possibly unfairly. And if the general public, not to mention the Academy, take this unfounded bad buzz at face value, awards could be lost, and the world could miss out on two potentially excellent cinematic experiences. Oscar-watching has become a death sport, and the films are the victims. She states that "... good films will never survive a round of bloggers and critics who eye them with judgment first, especially when that judgment has anything to do with winning awards." I'd take her argument more seriously if she presented even just one example of a good film that was killed by that sort of preemptive judgment.

Over at EW.com, Dave Karger is telling us that we haven't seen any of the year's eventual Best Picture nominees yet. He predicts they could all be December releases: Frost/Nixon, Doubt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, and Gran Torino. He then goes on to argue, for the sake of "those of us who like to see good movies hit theaters in all months of the year," that Milk, Australia, or Slumdog Millionaire might make the cut. Apparently, when he talks about good movies hitting theaters all months of the year, he really just means movies that aren't coming out until late November and haven't been seen by the general public yet.

Both of these articles will be rendered completely worthless in about six weeks. Movie buzz dies the day that a movie actually hits theaters and the official reviews are released. Buzz is all about the "what if" factor of an upcoming film. Once people begin to have opinions that are based on having actually seen the movie or at least reading credible, legit reviews, there's no more "what if," and therefore no more buzz. Although bloggers and critics often get a kick out of being the first to predict a film to be a winner or a loser, as Stone suggests, they usually come around and give an honest review once the film is released. They'd lose all credibility if they didn't. Films always end up speaking for themselves. And that's why pre-release buzz is worthless.

Next month, the movies Stone and Karger are talking about will actually be in theaters. Critics, bloggers, Academy members and Joe movie fans alike will all have the chance to see them and decide if they are worthy of acclaim or not. But maybe if the studios actually did spread their prestige films throughout the calendar year, critics and bloggers would have more good films to write substantive pieces about, and less time to speculate on what will happen come December.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to judge a movie based on something more substantive than what month it's being released in?