“For Your Consideration” – Did Netflix overreach with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom?

Award season is getting close with the 78th annual Golden Globe awards less than two weeks away on February 28th. Who do you think will win for Best Picture? Have you seen all the films nominated? Not to worry because who we think should win has little or no impact on who wins anyway. 

The Golden Globe awards are decided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Who are they? To be a member you have to meet several requirements including being a resident of Southern California, be a current member and attend at least four of the monthly meetings each year, and you must publish a minimum of four articles or photographs per year outside of the U.S. It is safe to say not many reading this blog meet any, let alone all of these requirements. In fact, who would meet the requirements? Sounds like a place where Hollywood movie stars or studios preside. Consequently, most people have nothing to do with who wins. 

You may not realize many Hollywood studios have what is known as a “For Your Consideration” campaign. Right now, if you were to visit Southern California you would likely see billboards as part of these campaigns to get the attention of voters and persuade them to nominate their studio’s movie/s for certain awards. Along with billboards, thousands of screeners go out to voters. What’s a screener? A screener is typically a copy of the movie sent by the studios to Foreign Press Association members allowing them to watch the movie/s before voting.  There are lots more FYC strategies, but you get the idea.

This year, we wonder if Netflix may have made an error with their campaign for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Not because the movie failed to receive a nomination for best picture, but because they aimed too high with their expectations for the film and its actors.  If you haven’t seen the film yet it’s based on a true story and play of the same name where during a recording session tensions arise between a young horn player Levee (Chadwick Boseman) and Ma Rainey (Viola Davisover the direction of how to play the blues. 

It isn’t that Netflix made a mistake trying to get people to nominate the movie (the movie is great), but as previously mentioned they likely aimed a bit high with the film and the actors. Instead of trying to get a Best Picture nomination (which it didn’t), it likely would have been nominated for Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, a category not offered by the Academy Awards. 

Also consider their Actor/Actress campaigns. Both Chadwick Boseman (posthumously) and Viola Davis were both excellent in their respective roles and eligible for multiple categories. Best Actor/Actress in a Drama. Best Supporting Actor in a Drama. And for Viola Davis, Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. It’s uncertain if Boseman would be eligible since he likely didn’t play the horn and it would be shocking if anyone else could beat Lin-Manuel Miranda for Hamilton.

Netflix should have been more strategic with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The movie is barely 90 minutes long. There are no rules about amount of on-screen time an actor or actress has, and it may shock you to know Sir Anthony Hopkins was on screen for under 17 minutes in Silence of the lambs or that Dame Judi Dench clocked in at just eight minutes in Shakespeare in Love. Both surprising, but also rare. 

Viola Davis will have to face off against Frances McDormand in Nomadland (ironically, she won her first Oscar for Fargo with just 26 minutes of screen time), but she may have done better in the supporting category? Not to say she will lose, but strategically Supporting Actor may have been a stronger choice.

Same can be said for Chadwick Boseman who was much more a Supporting Actor within a field of other great actors. Perhaps Netflix is counting on an emotional vote from members because of Boseman’s tragic death from cancer? If not for his untimely passing, it’s almost certain he would have been nominated many more times.

So, what do you think?  Did Netflix overreach? Or is Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom going to sweep the top two acting awards? Should movie studios be allowed to campaign for nominations and awards?  Perhaps you think Glynn Turnan or Coleman Domingo should have been nominated for their performances?  Drop us a line at https://ohbpodcast.com and let us know what you think.

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