This Oscar season did not start on the morning that nominations were announced in a dramatic pre-dawn ceremony in Beverly Hills, and it will not end on Feb. 27 when those prized gold statuettes are handed out in an even more dramatic ceremony at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

This Oscar season began at least two years ago, when actors were choosing their roles, and will continue long after next year’s Oscars telecast is forgotten by the public.

For the movie people involved, this Oscar season will go through five distinct stages.

1. OSCAR ROLE SELECTION – Do you think it’s an accident that so many actors win Oscars for portraying boxers, drunks, historical figures, mentally challenged people or someone doomed by a tragic accident, a dreaded disease or an ironic twist of fate? Actors know exactly what kinds of roles win Oscars, and they seek them out with a vengeance.

Of course, there are other factors that contribute to winning an Oscar, such as a well-written script, a talented director and a supporting cast that does not include Steven Seagal.

2. OSCAR BUZZ – Those early magazine covers, the widely circulated quotes from critics that tout “Oscar-worthy performances” and the whispered rumors inside the movie industry are not a series of random accidents. They are part of a cleverly planned and well-timed marketing campaign to create Oscar buzz.

For instance, Jamie Foxx is having one of the most spectacular years anyone in Hollywood could possibly imagine. He turned in a terrific performance in a television movie as a gangbanger trying to straighten out his life, received solid notices in a supporting role as a put-upon cab driver in the Tom Cruise movie “Collateral” and was nothing short of amazing in his dead-on portrayal of the legendary singer Ray Charles in “Ray.”

But how many of you actually saw the TV movie? How many of you were thinking Oscar when you the left the theater after seeing “Collateral”? How many of you assumed that he was a frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in “Ray” even before you saw his performance in “Ray”?

The truth is that you heard all the talk, although you might not have known why.

It’s called Oscar buzz, and it was created by someone.

I’m not saying that Foxx doesn’t deserve the Oscar for “Ray.” He certainly does. But I was encouraged to think that way long before the movie’s October release. I heard the words: “They’re talking about an Oscar for Jamie” at least a dozen times before I saw the movie, and I saw it long before most critics. Who was talking Oscar except for the people hired to create Oscar buzz?

3. OSCAR NOMINATIONS – There is a reason actors don’t sleep the night before the nominations are announced. Oh, they’ll tell you that their publicist woke them out of a sound sleep when their name was announced, but I don’t believe it. I can’t sleep the night before I’m leaving for a weekend in Las Vegas.

Do you think these people are sleeping the night before their life could be changed forever? I don’t think so.

For those who don’t win on Feb. 27, these are their 33 days of glory. They should make the best of this time.

4. OSCAR NIGHT – The people who insist that “it’s an honor just to be nominated” are the people who don’t think they have a chance of winning, and that this could very well be their only moment in the spotlight.

They should enjoy their moment. They should wear a nice designer gown, ride in a limousine and rub elbows with people who are really successful.

5. OSCAR LEGACY – This is what it’s all about. It’s not about wearing tuxedoes and pretty designer gowns on the red carpet. It’s not about thanking your third-grade teacher in front of a billion people. And it’s certainly not about the money. If anything, Oscar winners make less money after they win because they feel obligated to appear in low-budget “quality” films to prove that their win was not a fluke.

No, an Oscar win is about being remembered. It’s about extending your name in print, as in “Among the guests at the gala was Oscar-winning actor (fill in the blank).” That’s how you will be referred to for the rest of your life, and beyond. Nothing excites an actor more than knowing that when he or she dies, their obituary will begin: “Oscar-winning actor (fill in the blank) died Sunday of complications from being so full of himself.”

For someone who has sought recognition all his life, that is a very comforting thought, and enough of a motivation to keep looking for that next Oscar role.

Nothing is sweeter than an obituary that begins: “Two-time Oscar winner …”



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