Illustration by Juliana Lagerstedt
After the Academy Awards celebration of the best in cinema on March 12, months of campaigning by studios and nominees vying for the coveted gold statuette will end.
The various industry guilds like the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and Screen Actors Guild Associations have also chimed in with their winning pics. As a member of both the CCA and SAG, I have a front-row seat to the awards campaigning, since I am a targeted voter.
Last fall, I attended a voter’s screening for Netflix’s feature film Blonde, starring Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe.
A representative from the streamer introduced the film, making a point to proudly state that Blonde received a 14-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival earlier that year—as if that were a definitive barometer that determined the quality of the film we were about to watch.
It was the first time I heard a film’s standing ovation length used as a marketing tool for voters in that way. I was intrigued.
Later that evening, I went online to find out if that statement was true. Sure enough, the 14-minute standing ovation was headline news in several esteemed publications that covered the film festival, including CNN, Variety, and Daily Mail, among numerous others.
As I dove further down the internet rabbit hole, I noticed that bragging about the length of a film’s standing ovation in headlines by the media last year was de rigueur.
“Brendan Fraser Sobs During 6-Minute Standing Ovation for ‘The Whale’ during the Venice Premiere,” read a headline from The Wrap. “Triangle of Sadness Shocks Cannes With Uproarious Eight-Minute Standing Ovation,” touted Variety’s headline.
However, these headlines raised more questions than answers. Who or what measures the length of a standing ovation? We’ve all heard of the somewhat questionable applause meter that is supposed to measure the volume of a clapping audience.
Is there something that measures the length of standing ovations, however dubious that is?
Is there an actual person whose job is to measure the length of a standing ovation and proclaim an official time? Is a timer used? If so, does it begin when the first person stands up or when everyone in the theater is up? Does it stop measuring when the entire auditorium is seated again or when the first few folks decide to sit?
Each of these questions begs other questions, like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel. What if people in the audience don’t feel the film is worthy of a standing ovation but are forced to rise because those standing in the rows before them are blocking their view of the screen? Doesn’t that cancel the legitimacy of a standing ovation?
My quick scan of internet headlines shows that not all standing ovations are reported equally. The film with the most significant discrepancy in its standing ovation length last year was The Banshees Of Inshirin, with media headlines putting the standing ovation anywhere from 12-minutes to 15 minutes, with the bulk of the publications putting it at the 13-minute mark. Who do we trust with our standing ovation times?
I emailed the press office of several film festivals to find out if they had a specific system in place to measure the length of standing ovations from start to finish. There was no response from the Cannes and Venice film festivals, but the Toronto International Film Festival did email me back, writing, “Tiff does not track, or have records of tracking, standing ovations at our Festival.”
It feels like pointing out the length of a film’s standing ovation by studio publicists at voter screenings is supposed to convey that the film is special and worthy of the viewer’s attention.
With that in mind, with the Academy Awards fast approaching, New Thinking has decided to hold our inaugural, informal, unscientific Standing Ovation Awards (SOA)—listing the top ten most popular films of 2022 based on their film festival Standing Ovation rankings.
Therefore, in only a somewhat particular order—and despite possible discrepancies in actual ovation length times—here is our (un)definitive Best Picture list.
#1 Blonde (14 minutes)
#2 The Banshees of Inshirin (13 minutes)
#3 Elvis (12 minutes)
#4 Bones And All (10 minutes)
#5 Triangle of Sadness (Eight minutes)
#6 The Whale (Six minutes)
#7 Tár (Six Minutes)
#8 Three Thousand Years of Longing (Six minutes)
#9 Swimmers (Four Minutes)
#10 Final Cut (Four Minutes)
Congratulations to Blonde on its big win of the first-ever Standing Ovation Awards!
We already know that our inaugural SOAs will not be a predictor of who ultimately wins the best picture Oscar this year, since the Academy did not nominate our #1 winning film in their coveted category. However, the film’s de Armas is nominated for a best actress Oscar.
In fact, many of the top 10 SOA films are vying for several Oscars, including best picture (Banshees, Elvis, Triangle, Tár), best actress (de Armas in Blonde, Cate Blanchett in Tár), and best actor (Elvis’ Austin Butler, The Whale’s Brendan Fraser, and Banshee’s Colin Farrell).
While our inaugural 2023 SOA’s won’t likely make a dent in the awards show race, we will closely monitor the lengths of the standing ovations at this year’s upcoming festivals and see how our future Top 10 list stacks up with next year’s Oscar-nominated films.
With the Berlin International Film Festival held last month and the Cannes Film Festival coming up in May, the nominations are now officially open for the Second Annual New Thinking SOA Awards!