Early this morning Variety‘s awards-handicapper Clayton Davis posted some thoughts about what pretty much everyone wants Amazon to do — i.e., enter Steve McQueen‘s Mangrove as a Best Picture contender and submit the other four as an Emmy award hopefuls. Because at 128 minutes, it happens to be 2020’s best feature-length drama.
Nobody will argue with a straight face that any of the other Small Axe films — Red White and Blue, Lovers Rock, Alex Wheatle and Education — have the horses to compete in the Best Picture race. But Mangrove (which I re-watched a night or two ago with Tatiana) clearly and obviously does. Everyone understands that McQueen is a masterful director working at the top of his game. Given the across-the-board praise for Mangrove, what Oscar strategist would insist that its proper place is with the Emmys?
Davis was responding, of course, to the LAFCA foodies yesterday giving the the entire Small Axe package their award for Best Picture.
As Davis notes, “Since LAFCA was established in 1975, no piece of art like McQueen’s has ever been awarded the top prize.” And no made-for-British-TV miniseries has ever been Oscar-nominated en masse. But this is a weird year, and there’s no clear dividing line between theatrical and streaming. There may be unmovable rulebook obstacles, but what a shame all around if so.
Davis has raised three questions — let’s cut to the chase.
1. Can Amazon make the pivot from Emmys to the Oscars?
Yes, if Amazon decides to. Davis: “Under the current guidelines, it looks as though Amazon would have to submit each of the five [Small Axe] films individually. A feature film only has to be at minimum 40 minutes, but that would mean McQueen would be competing against himself for five separate films. It’s hard enough to get AMPAS voters to choose between two films or performances released in the year by the same artist, and Amazon would have to build a consensus around one.” HE: Yes, they need to build a consensus around Mangrove.
2.. What was Small Axe intended for, and doesn’t that matter most?
No, it doesn’t matter. Small Axe was originally intended for British TV, yes, but things change. The pandemic has completely changed the rulebook. Mangrove began as one thing, and is now something else as a result of critical acclaim. It’s simply a matter of Amazon saying, “Okay, maybe the Mangrove fans have a point. Maybe we need to re-think and adapt rather than hold our ground, Alamo-style”
Davis: In January 2017, Variety reported that directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen worked on their first-ever TV series with Annapurna Television. In August 2017, it was announced that Scruggs would debut on Netflix, and still, it was labeled as a ‘TV series.’ It wasn’t until July 2018, ahead of its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, that it was announced as a film and headed for the awards season. The film had six separate stories, with no narrative thread, with the film being named after the first segment. So is this just a marketing issue?”
3. Can you submit Small Axe as a single movie?
No — bad idea, can’t happen, won’t fly.