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Oscar Season Deviates From the Usual, But Still Feels Familiar

When you tally up the countless rules, assumptions and conventional wisdoms that accompany every year’s Oscar selections, on its surface, 2015 appears to be the poster child for kudos consistency. But looks can be deceiving.

Yes, as has happened 12 times since 1995, Roger Deakins is again nominated as cinematographer, this time for “Sicario.”

And as has occurred seven times previously, a Pixar toon, this season “Inside Out,” is contending for screenplay and animated film.

Also, if anyone can calculate the number of nominations for films that deal with the Holocaust, we welcome the input, but the tradition is so established that it’s become part of the Oscar tapestry. Foreign-language nominee “Son of Saul” ticks a dark, tragic box.

And as the #OscarsSoWhite boycott has powerfully demonstrated, once again, sadly, diversity turns out to be an also-ran and the gold appears to be the privileged domain of the Academy whites.

“Unless someone can point to an example, this season there have been no mudslinging or
dirty-tricks campaigns as have occurred in the past with varying degrees of egregiousness.”

Which all leads to the question: Is there anything new under the Oscar sun? So glad you asked.

This year there is no Carter Burwell snub for score. After bequeathing great films with awards-worthy scores across four decades, it took “Carol” to get him a ticket to the show.

After 16 nominations without a win since his first nom in 1990, sound genius Greg P. Russell does not have to deal with the “Susan Lucci of sound” jokes this year, as he didn’t get a nomination.

And unless someone can point to an example, this season there have been no mudslinging or dirty tricks campaigns as have occurred in the past with varying degrees of egregiousness.

Perhaps completely and totally coincidentally, it’s been widely noted that for the first time since 2007, Oscar magic man Harvey Weinstein does not have a horse in the best picture race.

But if you’re wondering why, with these changes and many others, a vague sense of the familiar still lingers, maybe it’s because some of the hopefuls have been contending for their awards berths for nearly 18 months.

Best picture contender “Brooklyn” bowed in January at Sundance.

Let’s start with the reality of when what we call “Oscar season” actually begins.

Not only do the key festivals around the world, kicking off with Sundance Film Festival in January, produce many of the film awards contenders, they’re also where the awards handicapping and blognosticating begins loudly and in earnest.

Oscar best picture contender “Brooklyn” premiered at Sundance last year, as did feature documentary contender “Cartel Land,” short animation competitor “World of Tomorrow” and song contender “The Hunting Ground.”

Goteborg bowed screenplay/vfx nominee “Ex Machina” on the fest circuit, shortly after the film premiered in the U.K. in January.

Charlotte Rampling’s first Oscar nomination, for lead actress, gained traction last February when “45 Years” premiered in Berlin.

Oscar contenders “Amy,” “Inside Out,” “Youth,” “Sicario,”  “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Mustang,” “Embrace of the Serpent,” “Carol” and “Son of Saul” all bowed in May at Cannes.

But if you really want to measure the campaign year, look at “Theeb” and “The Look of Silence”;  the foreign language and doc nominees bowed in Venice of 2014!

Due to the interminable length of time that the contenders spend bowing, campaigning and handicapping, perhaps it’s no surprise that all the rules-tossing and convention-busting in the world aren’t enough to keep the sparkle on the statuettes fresh.

And without Harvey’s showbiz pizzazz front and center, there’s still a little cloud of deja vu all over again dulling that little golden guy’s shiny dome.

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