Variety's annual Oscar contender head count: Only 65 possible winners so far!
Poor Tim Gray. You'd think that Variety's intrepid editor would be chanting the phrase "once bitten, twice shy" after the trade paper's embarrassing Oscar advertising debacle last year. In case you forgot, Variety was sued by an angry film director after one of the trade's ad salesmen pitched him the idea of running Oscar ads for his "Iron Cross" film the same day that Gray mentioned the movie as a possible Oscar contender in his annual Oscar Kudos Scorecard column. Oh, yeah, and then after the director, Joshua Newton, spent $400,000 on awards ads, Variety ran a review panning the movie.
Even though Gray told me earlier this year that he had no idea that one of his ad guys was hustling a movie producer, using his column as bait, Variety got a black eye after it ran the negative review but then pulled it off the website after Newton complained about alleged inaccuracies in the review. (Variety eventually reinstated the review after an internal investigation, but the damage was done, with one website running the headline: "Variety Will Kill a Review of Your 'Mediocre' Movie for Just $400,000.")
So it seems hard to believe, after all the grief he got, that Gray is actually at it again, having penned a new Kudos Scorecard, this one laden with a far-fetched total of 65 possible awards hopefuls (and that's not counting best documentary candidates). If we take Gray at his word that he doesn't actually write the column to build momentum for long-shot Oscar candidates, thus encouraging their filmmakers to nag studios into buying "For Your Consideration" ads, then its hard to imagine the point behind such an exercise, especially one that basically includes every film that's not a dumb studio comedy.
It would be one thing for Gray to actually pick 10 potential best picture candidates, and even throw in another dozen films that could generate best actor or actress nominations. But judging from this piece, he's really just giving a wet kiss to every deluded film producer in the business, even including films that are going nowhere -- he claims that the Russell Crowe-starring "Robin Hood" could be up for tech awards -- as well as films that no academy member will ever bother to watch in a million years, like Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married Too?," which he imagines having a chance at a best song nomination.
You know this is a desperation ploy when it includes three films from Anchor Bay, not a distributor known for its formidable Oscar track record. But I guess once you start lowering the bar for possible Oscar contenders, you might as well toss the bar underwater and see how low it will sink.
Photo: Russell Crowe deep in Sherwood Forest in "Robin Hood." Credit: David Appleby / Universal Pictures