While Cherry is due out in late February, Apple failed both the Russo brothers and Tom Holland in the film’s awards campaign this season.
Formal reviews are still under embargo. What this article details is how Apple truly failed this film in terms of campaigning for awards. Put it this way: as critical as I was with Warner Bros.’ rollout of Wonder Woman 1984, I’m more critical when it comes to Apple making it so hard to watch Cherry for voting. Or to put it another way, there was a point in which it was easier to watch Hamilton on Broadway than seeing Hamilton in Chicago.
The first email I received for the film came on December 2, 2020. The subject was a first-look image and the film’s release date. With a release date coming before the end of February, it meant needing to see the film before turning in my ballots for both Critics Choice and Galeca. I thought nothing of it at the time because this email was sent in early December. It isn’t uncommon for a film to lock within a month or few weeks of its release. Principal photography didn’t end until last February. Call it a blessing in disguise but they edited the film while shooting. Apple later acquired the distribution rights in September 2020.
I received an invite on January 7 for the Friday, January 8 virtual premiere of Cherry. Unfortunately, the Friday night timing prevented me from watching the film because of being Shomer Shabbas. What this means is that I do not use electronics on Friday evening at sundown through an hour past sunset on Saturday night. It would have been a joy to watch Robert Downey Jr. moderate the conversation with cast and crew. But unfortunately, no other opportunities would come my way for the film anytime soon. This was, sadly, a one-time deal. It isn’t fair to Anthony and Joe Russo nor stars Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo. Even if I weren’t Shomer Shabbas, the timing was absolutely terrible because my mind was on what just happened at the United States Capitol.
On January 13, I emailed the Apple publicists handling Cherry about watching the film. Unfortunately, no response. I set a self-imposed deadline to watch the January-February films because of Sundance preparation. Taking Sundance itself into account and awards screeners being sent too late are pushed to the side. The insurrection, impeachment, and the inauguration would mean days with nothing but the news. But again, Sundance takes up my attention for the entire latter half of January. Any late-season contenders would be watched after the festival ended. True to my word, those films got watched after Sundance.
On January 18, more emails were sent to publicists handling the film or awards campaign. I only got one response saying they would circle back when screeners were available. Readers, this publicist never circled back. I followed up with them last Monday. This is prior to the Apple FYC box for Cherry arriving but unfortunately, they didn’t respond. How am I supposed to consider a film for awards when it is impossible to watch?!?
January 28 – FYC email arrives to consider Cherry for Best Score. Well, at least one firm is doing their job to campaign during awards season. Unfortunately, they weren’t in charge of sending out screeners so nothing.
January 29 – an email arrives for the Cherry crafts team press day. But because of Sundance and not having been able to watch the film due to the lack of a screener, I could not submit any requests for Friday’s press day.
February 1 – Critics Choice film ballot is sent out to the film branch.
February 2 – an invite to a Conversation with the Artisans of Cherry set for February 4. Guess what? A Screener is not included or mentioned. It is hard to participate in a conversation when you cannot watch a film!
February 3 – the Apple FYC box for Cherry arrives. It’s rather impressive with a dog tag, bank cards, a motion graphic photo, booklet, and screenplay. If a category existed for FYC awards swag, the bank cards alone would place Cherry in the first tier. But such category doesn’t exist and what was lacking is an actual awards screener. Why send a box without the film? At the time of arrival, I was just over 48 hours away from the CCA awards nomination voting deadline. A few emails are sent and I FINALLY get a response saying a screener is on the way.
February 4 – I finally watch Cherry. But because of formal reviews still under embargo until later this month, I won’t say anything about the film. Am I glad I finally saw the film? Yes. Do I wish I saw it earlier because my eyeballs were outright exhausted from Sundance? Of course.
February 5 – Two more films get watched and CCA nomination ballot gets turned in. If not for the remaining films, the ballot would have been sent in on February 1. This was a non-traditional awards year In which groups decided between the traditional year ending on December 31 or the two-month extension ending in February. But even taking in January and February into account, my ballot did not change from what I turned in for those groups ending in December.
Apple has a few other features on their slate for this past awards season. Most notably, Sofia Copola’s On the Rocks starring Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, and Marlon Wayans. If you took a look at all the awards season emails in my inbox, you’d probably think On the Rocks and Wolfwalkers is the only films released by Apple. Even Greyhound, starring Tom Hanks, isn’t getting a strong awards push! This might be different with Academy voters but not so much with Critics Choice voters! I only see two emails in my inbox going back to May–nothing close to all the Warner Bros. and Netflix emails I’ve been getting. The Critics Choice Super Awards aired in January with final round voting taking place in December. This awards show only covered films released through the end of December although some films were not submitted for consideration.
It should not have been this tough to watch Cherry for awards purposes. I’ve attended press screenings of The Post (2017) and had a physical screener in my hands the following week. Hell, I had physical screeners for the Warner Brothers films (sans Tenet but I already owned the 4K UHD Blu-ray) days after getting digital screeners for their movies. It was irresponsible for Apple to send out an FYC box without a Cherry awards screener so that voters to watch for consideration.