fincher mara

It’s been a funny year for Oscar movies. The trial separation between critics and the industry has widened to a full blown divorce. The Artist and Moneyball are heading down the track to Oscar’s Best Picture with the most outstanding response from critics. Decent reviews have befallen most of the other top films, but only those two received near universal acclaim. It isn’t that the critics didn’t love any movies, it’s that the movies they seemed to love can’t get arrested in this year’s Oscar race. Signs and wonders. And so it was with this that the biggest surprise in the race so far was delivered yesterday by the Directors Guild, which giveth to David Fincher and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and taketh away from Steven Spielberg and War Horse.

It must be said that War Horse probably wasn’t conceived to be an Oscar juggernaut. It was made as and marketed as a family film. The studio’s concern is to make money, which it is doing. All of the Oscar bluster around it was self-generated inside the bubble movie writers inhabit. As the presumed defacto frontrunner there was simply no way it could win — the hype destroys even the best of films. All you have to do is place a film in the frontrunner’s spot and it is ripe for overtaking. Why, because we define ourselves by how we vote. And if we vote for what everyone else is voting for what does that say about us? People who vote just to be contrary or separate themselves from the herd annoy me to no end every year: pick the movies you love and be done with it.

Then again there are movies like Slumdog Millionaire that take the frontrunner’s spot and never lose momentum, partly because voting for the film is a way to express gratitude for having moved us, or to make things happen in the political world of Oscar, or to reward someone who has long since been overlooked. Either way, many will start offering up explanations as to why most people had Fincher and Dragon Tattoo way down on their lists. We still don’t know, incidentally, if Oscar voters will embrace the movie or if it will be a Christopher Nolan/Dark Knight situation where the director gets a DGA nod but the film is overlooked (or vice versa), ultimately, when Oscar voters lay it down, which, by the way, they are doing as we speak. The ballot deadline is fast approaching. Just three more days until that shakes down. Most likely many of them have already turned in their ballots and we really have no way of knowing whether that last slot will still be Fincher, or if it will be Spielberg or Malick or Bennett Miller. I suspect we are in for a few surprises.

The directors branch might want to scrape off some of the shame from last year’s fumble — really, but how can they ever? It wasn’t just Fincher they overlooked for the most middling, albeit most moving film of the bunch. Still, I don’t think penance alone would have been enough for the directors to hoist Dragon Tattoo into the race. What people who cover the Oscars seem to overlook here is how goddamned great that movie is, how entertaining it is, how much it stands apart from the other films in this year’s offering.

What we learned from yesterday’s announcement was two things: Dragon Tattoo is a lot stronger than most people were expecting, and War Horse is a lot weaker than many were predicting. Part of the problem is the echo-chamber of online chatter being dominated, as it were, by a specific demographic – and that demographic snowballs and picks up everything else in its path and thus, the thinking becomes monolithic. Narratives begin to form based only on those discussions and pretty soon you’re starting to believe the swill. Sometimes it’s right on the money. Sometimes it isn’t. While it looks very good that Dragon Tattoo will be among the Best Picture nominees this year, along with The Artist, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, The Help, Moneyball, and The Descendants, it is far from a done deal.

We also don’t yet know how many Best Picture nominees there will be. That suspense alone makes this a crazy year. In fact, War Horse could still make the Best Picture cut, as could Tree of Life, come to that. We don’t know if the nominees will swell upwards of nine or if they will pucker closer in towards five. It is an unknown situation. Therefore, let’s look at it two ways.

The first way, Best Picture if there were only five.

We have only one option here and that’s to follow the DGA five. That War Horse missed the ADG, the WGA and the DGA selects it out. The DGA loves them some Spielberg even more than the Academy. More women voters in the DGA mean they would be harder on War Horse. More male voters, more war fans and vets in the Academy means maybe they’ll go for War Horse more. I still don’t think it’s a total impossibility that it would get in. But if I were doing this year as a fiver instead of a ten or a random number, I’d go with the DGA five. I’d say that Best Picture would go something like this:

The locks:
The Artist – hit all of the guilds except the WGA, for which it was not eligible. Won the NYFCC. Has Weinstein Co. behind it. Celebrates old Hollywood beautifully – is a movie about movies.
The Descendants – the only one of the five so far to hit ALL of the guilds officially. An American story directed by a beloved writer/director who has yet to win an Oscar for Directing or Picture.
Hugo – another movie not just about movies but about the history of movies. Scorsese finally put his love for film preservation and film itself on the big screen — his most autobiographical film to date – it hit all guilds but the SAG ensemble (who expected that, though). We know actors rule the day but Hugo is giving The Artist the most heat right now, as is The Descendants.
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen’s most profitable film to date. A no-brainer when it comes to falling in love. Like Hugo and The Artist it is a look at nostalgia itself. It also nabbed the crucial SAG ensemble nomination.

And then:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vs. The Help — if this were a five picture year, you’d have to rule out War Horse and put in The Help because of what it’s achieved thus far. But Dragon Tattoo is neck and neck with it. It reminds me of the Being John Malkovich vs. The Cider House Rules year, where Spike Jonze got the DGA but Cider House Rules got the Best Picture nomination. Under today’s rules, both films would get in. But if it were fiver I would say the safe choice would be The Help over Dragon Tattoo but given how much I personally love the film and David Fincher, I’d probably take a risk and predict Dragon Tattoo because, among other things, it’s some hot sauce with an otherwise sweet meal.

That would take out Moneyball, which would end up with a Best Actor and Screenplay nomination only as many of my colleagues foretold about that film. It still might not make the cut.

If it were a ten picture year, things open up considerably. You no longer have to worry about any of the films getting in. It would be very easy to call the ten:

The Artist
The Descendants
Midnight in Paris
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
War Horse
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

The last three of course are negotiable. We still don’t know if War Horse would get in. We don’t know if Bridesmaids would (although it looks like it would, given its WGA+SAG+PGA showing). I am not even sure about Tree of Life either, actually. Where it was expected to turn up it hasn’t. I don’t know if I would, in the end, predict it to even make the ten. I’d probably make a stronger case for a film like J. Edgar or Harry Potter to sneak in there. I’m also not sure about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, where that film would land. Right now it looks like voters, critics and guilds are staying away from it in every respect.

With ten open slots I also might make a stronger case for We Need to Talk About Kevin as being one film directed by a woman to get in there. With ten, the possibilities are a lot more open — there would be more diversity, more of a willingness to embrace films that weren’t so director-centric perhaps. With only five open slots you are always up against the same wall of five white guys and the films they directed. With ten, you can see a lot more color and gender and genre inclusion.

But the Oscar machine isn’t about diversity and it isn’t about affirmative action – it’s mostly about money and power in Hollywood. Blogging about the Oscars I am always reminded that it’s a lot like a political election. The outcome matters to the future of Hollywood, the shifts and balances of power. That is why it’s important to always note who and what controls it every year and who and what threatens the status quo every year.

Now we find ourselves settling in somewhere between 5 and 10, but probably closer to 5. And it’s still looking like this:

The Artist
The Descendants
Midnight in Paris
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
War Horse
*Bridesmaids is the wild card. It might supplant War Horse, come to that.

But it is more than a little thrilling to see a film like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo shake things up a bit. It’s thrilling because it is a film people actually like to watch. It is thrilling because it features such an unusual heroine, a male protagonist in need of a fierce protector — for once, a girl who’s smarter than the guy. I don’t know if it’s faithful to the books or not. I know it is different from the Swedish adaptation. I know that Fincher and Zallian made it their own. I know that without Rooney Mara it wouldn’t have been nearly as good; in sticking with Mara despite the studio’s protestations Fincher knew what he had: someone who would commit fully, as fully as Jesse Eisenberg did in last year’s Social Network. How did he know that? He knows because the scene he filmed with her ended up using over 90 takes. He knew, even from that one scene, what Mara was capable of. He found the plug and he unleashed her power. I remain stunned that the DGA noticed.

When I listen to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ exceptional score to the film I remember how meticulously Fincher laid this thing out, how carefully he paid attention to the mood, the music, the sensibility of the thing. This is something most directors this year don’t bother with. Only Martin Scorsese and Michel Hazanavicius were as careful with every frame as Fincher was. And if people didn’t notice it the first time, they should watch the movie again. And if they still don’t notice it well, there is nothing I can say — you look and you see and that is all.

I also am well aware of what kind of blowback this will instill — the snotty tweets, the defensive rants against the DGA, etc. Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman wrote me a while back about the critics and Dragon Tattoo, pointing out how many of them are male and how ultimately threatening Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth Salander is. While Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth had equal amounts of vulnerability and toughness, Mara’s Lisbeth is unlike any creature we’ve ever seen. Men don’t quite know what to do with her. Do they want to fuck her? Are they disgusted by her? All of this trumped up nonsense by male bloggers that she’s not empowered, that she’s a fanboy fantasy and all of that just echoes Gleiberman’s notion that somewhere deep down this Lisbeth Salander touched a raw nerve.

In the end we are left wondering what film and what director are going to win this year.  We don’t yet know how it will play out. Sure, you can say The Artist has always been in the lead and it will ride this baby home. And that would be a perfectly respectable opinion.  It is the general consensus, the status quo and what we’ve always known the Oscar race to be.  But to me it is not static. It is fluid, movable and ever-changing.  So we can’t even talk about winners until we see the nominees.

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  • Gabriel D.

    Midnight in Paris got a SAG nod for best ensemble…

  • Joseph

    Um, if it took 90 takes to get the performance Fincher wanted, wouldn’t that indicate the opposite: that maybe a more capable, professional actress coulda nailed it on the first take?

  • himynameiscole

    i still think given the way the voting works this year that it would not be surprising if drive and tree of life get a best picture nomination, given the strength of love it receives, even if by a minority of the voters.

  • John

    I know that ‘The Help’ missed with the DGA, but it’s made every other guild so far, incuding the important SAG Ensemble and 3 SAG noms.

    Dragon Tattoo did not get anything with SAG, and we know that the actor’s branch on the Academy is the largest.

    I think that ‘The Help’ is a solid 4th or 5th in the race because it’s a film that is loved by many. So on that basis, I think Tattoo may be sitting in 6th or 7th. But it certainly looks to be IN for a BP nom right now.

  • Massimo

    ok so Sasha is a fincherfangirl or are women still considered fanboys? whatever IDK. You loved the movie, you want others to love the movie and see what you saw in the movie you think fincher is in and you really liked Mara’s performance and thought it was unique.

  • Sofia P

    I find it hard to believe that Bridesmaids will get a Best Pic nom. You need 250 1st place votes right? Are there really 250 Academy members that think Bridesmaids is the BEST film of the year. I would think its getting by on 3rd or 4th place votes.

  • @Joseph: No, it showed that she was capable of going to different places and remaining committed to the scene. Fincher’s a perfectionist and probably demands plenty of takes even when a scene goes well. Warren Beatty was the same way. Lesser actors would bitch and moan or get sloppy/lazy. If Mara proved she was grounded, it must have given Fincher the impression that she would transform herself into a very difficult and demanding character to play.

  • Byron Gray

    My God. I’m so sick of hearing how great Fincher is. The crucible of my movie-love was the 1970s and, frankly, Fincher is not in the same league as a Scorsese, a Lumet an Altman or an Ingmar Bergman.

  • Alex

    But Midnight in Paris WAS nominated for the SAG.

  • You need 250 1st place votes right?

    not sure that’s right. Didn’t we conclude that the new rules say a movie needs 1% of the ballots placing it at #1 or else it can’t proceed to the next round?

    1% is 55 or 60 voters.

  • Matt

    I too think Midnight in Paris is a huge wild card.

    This was supposed to be the “actors’ actors” movie. But apparantly the writers, producers, directors (and critics) love it as well.

    The best thing for MiP (or the Descendants) would be for either one not to make it into the BP slot. If there is one year where a rom/com or dramedy can win a BP Oscar, it is this one.

  • Thanks Alex.

  • bd74

    I don’t mean to be rude, but this whole entry sounds like nothing more than a glorified FYC ad for TGWTDT.

    But anyway, I do believe it will go on to be nominated for Best Picture. Also, I think there’s a possibility that Harry Potter will actually be among the BP nominees, as strange and unlikely as it might seem at the moment. In fact, I think Harry Potter stands an even better chance of getting a BP nomination than The Tree of Life does. And I think that The Help will definitely get a BP nomination also.

  • Bobby C

    Not enamored by Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo– too polished (and I laughed when I saw the cheesy James Bond-like opening credits) –and I much preferred the grittiness of the Swedish film. Plus Noomi Rapace will always be the Lisbeth Salander to me.

  • You loved the movie, you want others to love the movie and see what you saw in the movie you think fincher is in

    If including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the discussion among the top contenders makes us fanboys or fangirls — then tthe American Film Institute, the National Board of Review, ADG, PGA, WGA and DGA are fanboys/fangirls too.

  • Mark

    People are under estimating the Ides of March. The Academy lovvves political dramas. And a big year for Clooney and Gosling only helps things. I think it is definitely competitive for spot 7 or 8.

    re: bd74. I’m an HP nut but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that a BP nom is not going to happen. I will very satisfied if it picked up a slate of tech noms, which is certainly possible.

  • I don’t mean to be rude, but this whole entry sounds like nothing more than a glorified FYC ad for TGWTDT.

    heh-heh. You’re doing a lousy job of not meaning to be rude. No backspace key on your laptop? Never learned how to delete?

    If I worry a remark might sound rude, I don’t post it. When I don’t care if something sounds rude, then that’s how I write it. (Like now.)

    No big deal, but please don’t pretend your attitude is beyond your control.

  • Tomris Laffly

    Joseph, that is a part of Fincher’s directing style- doing that many takes. It isn’t that the actor doesn’t get it the first few times. It is that Fincher wants to further the tempo, immediacy and sharpness of the performance with each take. I heard him explain this last year in a talk he gave as part of NYFF. And this style is obviously apparent in TGWTDT, too.

  • Question Mark

    “My God. I’m so sick of hearing how great Fincher is. The crucible of my movie-love was the 1970s and, frankly, Fincher is not in the same league as a Scorsese, a Lumet an Altman or an Ingmar Bergman.”

    Wait a minute, these are four of the greatest directors of all time, with at least two of them having a claim as THE best director ever. This is like judging baseball players by saying, “Well, he’s not Willie Mays, so I’m sick of him!”

  • Houstonrufus

    Woah. I’m not even going to touch the discussion on Lisbeth as presented here. I’m male, and I know that excludes me from being able to critique that character anyway. Whatever you say on that. Fine.

    My biggest issue with GWTDT is the weak mystery at the story’s center. I haven’t read the books–don’t care to. And now based on this movie, I don’t really care to see the Swedish version. Lisbeth is compelling, certainly a fresh presence for the screen. She definitely deserves a great movie. But a great movie needs a great story and this ain’t it. I hope I like the movies that follow. But I found msyelf giving this movie a solid B. Is it well crafted? Yes. Well directed even? Yes. You can trumpet the character of Lisbeth all you want but MUCH of the movie if not most of the movie is spent on a thin mystery and investigation that leads to a revelation that is unsatisfying to say the least. I found myself geuninely surpised so many people found this story so suspenseful and thrilling. CSI, Law and Order, you name it are more suspenseful and clever on a weekly basis than the mystery that drives this movie, Christopher Plummer excluded because he makes everythign better.

    I consider Fincher to be one of our great contemporary directors, a master. But I don’t believe he should be getting recognized for THIS. Again, many things to recommend the movie, but overall, well directed or not, it’s a middling suspense movie at best. Slick as all get out. But ultimately middling because the story is weak. That’s my opinion and it is wholly distinct from any sort of gender politics, which you keep harping on. Lisbeth I liked very much and had no problem with, despite my having a penis. But the story she is given is a total dud.

  • People are under estimating the Ides of March.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Idea of March or Margin Call has enough support to eke in. I’d be happy to see that.

  • AJ

    Spielberg won’t get into anything on his laurels; he has to surpass them. It’s not going to happen with War Horse, which nobody feels passionate about.

    It’s The Artist which is now suffering from presumed frontrunner status. It’s a lovely little film but the expectations are way too high. It could be a compromise winner in a divided field, but Slumdog it ain’t.

    Does Dragon Tattoo have enough passion to hit 5%? I’m not yet convinced. The DGA was a big get but it smacks of make-up for last year’s shame, and also of general respect for Fincher (which there’s more of in the younger/hipper guild than in the older/conservative Academy).

    More than any other year since they instituted the 10 BP nominees, this is the one with the biggest chance that a Directing nominee might not also be a Best Picture nominee. (Malick, Fincher, Alfredson, possibly even Asghar Farhadi).

  • Dominik

    Oh well, oh well, really looking forward to see “Dragon Tattoo” next Sunday! If you live in Europe you usually have to wait a couple of weeks, sometimes even months before you go to see each candidate, but during February the dust settles… 😉
    And if you´re having fun in predicting this whole stuff, damn it´s so much easier when you have actually SEEN the candidates. At least I´ve seen “The Artist”, and I loved it.

  • a thin mystery and investigation that leads to a revelation that is unsatisfying to say the least.

    Can’t we say the same thing about Rear Window? Or is that heresy? None of Hitchcock’s “mysteries” was much of a brain twister.

  • As far as directors go, I think it fairly resembles 2001.
    Where David Lynch, Robert Altman and Ridley Scott got in. Big names sneak in over Baz Luhrmann and Todd Field.

    Hazanavicius and Payne are Howard and Jackson- the locks. Leaves room for 3. Scorsese and Allen are there. Like Altman and Scott (except BHD was not a BP nominee, if there were 10 that year I’m sure it would be). Terrence Malick could take, the obscure director, David Lynch spot.

    But this is only IF the Academy does grow a pair and end up nominating Malick. They could easily go for Fincher too and I would be happy with that. I would also not rule out a Spielberg nom just yet, despite the guild omissions. I love this year, it’s still open and anything could happen!

  • Maybe I’m bias, but I think The Tree of Life has a fighting chance. I mean, don’t you think that 255 people will still give it a 1st place vote?

  • Question Mark

    It really is fascinating to see an Oscar year when one movie doesn’t jump up and grab the race by the throat. It’s an odd comparison to make, but it seems to be like the Republican presidential primary — lots of films/candidates are having their moment in the sun, but their buzz dies away and leaves the winner as the one we all thought it would be months ago, Artist/Mitt Romney. The only difference is that I think everyone would be satisfied with Artist as BP, whereas a lot of Republican voters will have to hold their nose to vote for Romney.

    Adding to the confusion is the uncertainty over how many BP nominees we’ll actually see, under these new rules. I think Sasha is on point with her four “locks” (Artist, Descendants, Midnight In Paris, Hugo) and I would say that Moneyball and The Help are also virtual locks as well.

    I’d say that Dragon Tattoo and Tree Of Life are the likeliest candidates to appear on a BP list because while I’m not sure they have widespread support, they have enough to notch 250 first-place votes. In Tree Of Life’s case, its supporters are VERY passionate, though its detractors are passionate enough to keep it from winning the actual prize.

    I think a real dark horse in the race is A Separation, which seems to be drawing raves from everyone who sees it. Could it sneak into the field?

  • rAr

    Is there anyone else out there that was totally underwhelmed by “The Artist”? A cute bon-bon, but its extended one joke and easy nostalgia got tiresome fast. It felt like an overlong old Carol Burnett skit, albeit with handsome b&w trappings. It’s hard to understand its overpraise, yet alone all the awards. And its use of Herrmann’s “Vertigo” theme seemed both inappropriate and insulting.

  • DJ

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the best movie of the year, period.

  • Houstonrufus

    Ryan, for me, the difference is in tone. Hitchcock didn’t hit it out of the park everytime either, so I don’t know why we should expect Fincher would. Rear Window’s tone is entirely different. Many of Hitch’s movies, mysteries, have a light, comic touch. As such, the viewer doesn’t expect necessarily to enter some dark, twisty mystery. But GWTDT, movie and I’m assuming book, take themselves very seriously. There is no humor here and no light tough. All that is purposeful, which is fine. But then the viewer (meaning me) expects the mytery that unfolds to deliver a truly satisfying revelation. Psycho is an example by Hitch that does that. One could call it a gimmick I guess, but it WORKS. Silence of the Lambs is a great recent example of a suspense movie that takes itself seriously and delivers on that promise. For me, GWTDT does not. And Fincher himself has provided suspense movies in Seven, Zodiac, even Fight Club in its way, that were far more interesting and satisfying, and all the pieces of those movies worked, not just one piece.

  • Rich

    When does the ASC nominations come out btw?

  • Houstonrufus, I can appreciate your point of view, but I don’t share it.

    I’m a mystery-fiction junkie. I can tell you all about the personalities of a dozen fascinating detectives and sleuths. I doubt if I could explain or even recall the details of a single “mystery” any of them solved.

    The disappearances, murders, betrayals — all interchangeable plot frameworks for me. I don’t read 20 of these books every year because I care about who stabbed who. I read them because I enjoy getting to know the characters.

  • iggy

    I don’t know if it’s faithful to the books or not. I know it is different from the Swedish remake.

    Damn, those Swedes not only they’re gorgeous, now they remake their own movies.

  • oops, assistant copy editor slacking off and missed that. I’ll go kick my own ass and get that fixed. Thanks, iggy.

    should read: “Swedish adaptation

  • filmboymichael

    I don’t really believe that War Horse was never conceived as an oscar film – its source material coupled with the involvement of Spielberg would make people think oscar during pre production…My guess is that Hugo was never conceived as an oscar picture – and the fact that it’s becoming a bit of an awards magnet probably takes the sting away from the fact that it’s a huge financial stinker.

    I also don’t think that The Artist has lost any steam – I think the tides have turned and the inevitable whispers of online folk are starting to be heard….i think that that’s nothing but smoke being blown….

  • Brad

    Rooney Mara got Lisbeth very right, but unfortunately the rest of the movie collapsed around her. If “Girl” was helmed by an unknown Director, it would be somewhat impressive. Not so for Fincher. He’s a victim of his own success here – when you direct masterpieces like “The Social Network”, “Fight Club”, and “Seven” (far and away his best film), “Girl” comes up quite short. It’s not totally Fincher’s fault – it may just be the source material. The Vanger Family mystery always seemed very weak – even in the book and the Swedish Film.

  • The Descendants hasn’t hit all of the guilds. It missed the VES. Not that it was ever going to get in there, but all the same, the VES is one of the guilds, and The Descendants didn’t show up there.

    I’d say the top ten is:

    The Artist
    The Descendants
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    The Help
    Midnight in Paris
    The Tree of Life
    War Horse
    AAAND one of the following: Bridesmaids, Drive and The Ides of March

  • Mel

    a thin mystery and investigation that leads to a revelation that is unsatisfying to say the least.

    Can’t we say the same thing about Rear Window? Or is that heresy? None of Hitchcock’s “mysteries” was much of a brain twister.

    Exactly. My favorite Hitch movies are Rear Window and Notorious. Neither of them have a strong mystery you give a single crap about. It’s about the characters and discovering them while they discover the mystery. The mystery isn’t for us…it’s just a mechanism to expose them to us. If yer worried about the mystery in TGWTDT, yer missing the point of the movie. Which is fine I guess. Some people prefer action and mystery to something that is character driven. It doesn’t mean this movie misses the mark. It hits every mark it intended to hit.

  • menyc

    I rarely disagree with what Sasha writes but I have to say that I feel like War Horse was entirely created for Oscars. Of course I shouldn’t ever speak about WH as I’ll never see it. It’s the anti-Michael.

    What I appreciated about what Fincher did with DragTat was make the focus on Lisbeth and make her sympathetic in the end. I imagine he didn’t love the mediocre crime story (but couldn’t have truncated it any more to keep faithful to the book), but he loved that character and gave the movie to the character. So I give him credit for this. In no way do I think it’s the best film of the year.

  • Adam Lewis

    Still not sure what Sasha saw in Hugo. Apart from the Kingsley stuff I found it a chore to sit through. Much preferred Girl with dragon Tattoo. The only faults I have with that film are probably faults in the source material.

    I think this has been a very uninspiring year overall. More evidence that the quality in Hollywood is going down hill. Was just reading over the nominations from the 1970s. Oh to be a cinemagoer in that decade must have been glorious!

  • Houstonrufus

    Well, I guess that might explain our differences of opinion. I definitely see what you’re saying in terms of considering how the movie succeeds within its generic context. I certainly don’t consider myself to be an afficionado of mysteries. But I guess I would expect that a mystery/suspense being touted as “best” would distiguish itself more within its own genre.

    But I certainly respect your opinion that it does that.

  • Dan Conley

    Like others above, I think MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is the wildcard in this year’s race. It made more money than THE DESCENDANTS, which I think places it in the top three. Compared against THE ARTIST and HUGO, it doesn’t seem so slight anymore. That PBS documentary on Woody Allen was a brilliant piece of Oscar campaigning, more effective than any critics award or Guild nomination.

  • Houstonrufus

    Mel, I prefer both, a great mystery and character. Why can’t it do both? Other films have? I am far more a fan of character driven movies and books than plot driven books. I just feel like GWTDT should offer both of these to be regarded so highly. But that is just my opinion.

  • murtaza

    hahahaha i predicted fincher for DGA but also Spielberg, the latter because i hate to see woody allen and midnight in paris get nominated, all it deserves is a screenplay nomination.
    GWTDT seems like dark knight, scoring in guilds only but not in GG and BFCA and presumably in BAFTA, and thus not being nominated at the oscars as well. it might get in for best picture because now we have more slots which we didn’t have in 2008, but for other categories i mean. moreover, if GWTDT is so loved by the guilds why not nominate mara in SAG? that’s serious i mean.

  • …it’s just a mechanism to expose them to us.

    I quite liked the visual expression of the mechanism too. Fincher is a maestro at giving laptop screens sexy electric appeal.

    Want a dense intricate mystery, then Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sure delivers the goods. But it’s no less impenetrable and the answers are — ultimately — meaningless.

    There’s a key line in Tinker Tailor:

    SMILEY: I can’t tell what’s genuine.
    CONTROL: Nothing is genuine anymore.

    None of the evidence matters in either of these stories. Everything is layers of lies. The Story in both films, for me, is How Do We Interpret Information? How do we navigate a maze of conflicting facts? How to sift through the bullshit of life to find something we can trust?

    When I see movies or read novels like these, I’m not a mouse in search of the cheese. The maze is the game. The maze itself is the message, and the fun is watching the characters find their way out.

    Some of my favorite mystery thrillers make hardly any sense at all. Lady from Shanghai, A Touch of Evil, The Big Sleep — what the hell was that all about? Who cares. It’s the characters and atmosphere that grab me.

  • Rashad

    There’s PLENTY of humor in Dragon Tattoo.

  • Mel

    Some of my favorite mystery thrillers make hardly any sense at all. Lady from Shanghai, A Touch of Evil, The Big Sleep — what the hell was that all about? Who cares. It’s the characters and atmosphere that grab me.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to go to Sweden and see all of it for myself after this, either. Most definitely it was also about the atmosphere as well. For those let down by the “mystery reveal” were you ever bored though? Watching these characters go through old files and stare at laptops was somehow all very exciting. I never thought to myself, “I wonder how much of this is left?” like I often do during a film. In fact when it faded to black, I was certain it could not be over yet! Or at least that so much time had actually passed. Last week Kevin Smith watched the movie and tweeted the whole time, near the end he was cringing b/c he knew there were only 10 more minutes left and he wanted more time.

    All of that is a credit to Fincher and what he does. It’s magic. Not a thing slips by him. Everything you see has been carefully placed, nothing is without a reason. It makes for a very rich and fulfilling experience that never bores(me) or lets(me) down.

  • Yashar R

    Great works as always though I strongly disagree with this line: “It must be said that War Horse probably wasn’t conceived to be an Oscar juggernaut”

    War Horse WAS created for Oscars. Everything about it shows how much Spielberg and the studio wanted an Oscar. A story about finding “a signs of humanity” in heart of war darkness where an animal steals the heart of many people during grim times combined with great cinematography and moving score is the very “definition” of Oscar Juggernaut.
    This is a movie where Spielberg practically screams “I want my third Oscar AMPAs. Look! It’s a touching story of humanity about War. War you see, is where I get my oscar nods and wins. Plus sweeping Oscar worthy shots and John Williams.”

    A bit off topic but a short read I really enjoyed. A comic but accurate review of everything that’s wrong with this film:

  • Jerry

    “While Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth had equal amounts of vulnerability and toughness, Mara’s Lisbeth is unlike any creature we’ve ever seen.” Sasha, I think you are confusing the two versions. It’s Rooney Mara’s version of Salander that has the mixture of vulnerability and toughness. She comes across as a bit more human, more sympathetic when she is victimized-every critic has pointed this out as to why they prefer Mara’s performance to Noomi Rapace. Rapace’s Lisbeth was just 100% badass without the vulnerability, a ball of rage with no softness. Rapace’s Lisbeth would never ask permission from a man to kill a murderer. But that makes her version of Lisbeth not as relatable to American audiences. So to be fair it’s Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth that male critics would be fearful and intimidated by, Rooney Mara’ they would more easily embrace because there is that little girl vulnerability coming right through her eyes. You should watch the two versions again and then you will see the difference. Anyway I hope you are right about War Horse not making it to the final. Speilberg went too far this time into cheesy sugary territory. I respect the guy but can’t respect War Horse.

  • Dannielle

    I had a goal of seeing 100 films by 100 directors this year and I cannot fathom why some of these make people’s Top 10

    Midnight in Paris was engaging and fanciful and delicious but the theme was so incredibly weak and the film so self-indulgent as a result, I cannot imagine it to be one the ten best films of the year. His last film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger had that potential, not this one.

    I think the award for top director belongs to Tomas Alfredson for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy- the way to story is told visually is beyond compare- brilliant.

    War Horse is crap- trite, stock shots of anthropomorphized geese, herds of scene establishing sheep running across the lower frame of the film, stereotypical French characters, a ridiculous Gone with the Wind sunset- bah, I am so sick of Spielberg. TinTin was well-executed but he gave no weight to the story- it was a cartoon Indiana Jones without the ominous gravity- a lost opportunity.

    A film called, Last Night starring Kiera Knightley and Eva Mendes was worthy of discussion. The Descendants was fresh. So was Crazy, Stupid Love.

    The Help was civil rights light told ONCE AGAIN through the condescending eyes of a white character and deserves to be ignored.

    i have yet to see The Artist so cannot comment-
    Moneyball has a claim to the Top Ten.

    Hugo was good but not in the category of films that have won before- it fails to deliver a substantive theme.

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a good film, extremely well-done, but I agree, the stories are mere pulp. Well-written pulp. Loved the actress- but the plot was thready.

    Margin Call should get more attention- it’s not American Beauty but Kevin Spacey chose well.

    There is a French-Canadian film called Starbuck that I have to plug, brilliant comedy.

    i am still looking for this year’s Barney’s Version or Black Swan

  • Dannielle

    my apologies for the typos, need new contacts

  • Joseph

    I didn’t mean it as a critque of Fincher’s style or approach to directing, but that the way it was stated in the original post is ripe for criticism.

    That said, I think the above poster is correct: this DOES read like a glorified FYC ad for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And, hey, I liked the film, flaws and all! But let’s have some perspective!

  • Jerry

    that little girl vulnerability coming right through her eyes that men tend to be drawn to in women.

  • Mel

    I also disagree that Rapace was equal parts vulnerable and tough. She was mostly all a tough act and it felt like an act. She showed anger all the time. Lisbeth rarely showed her emotions, they were always very restrained and why she is so peculiar and unique. She is unreadable, unpredictable. Rapace played her the way most people would. Mara became her. I never sensed any little girl vulnerability come out of her eyes. I did sense the flashes of her humanity. If showing humanity makes one a vulnerable little girl just b/c she is a woman, well fuck. That’s not the character’s problem. It’s something in the viewer.

  • Glenn UK

    Oh my is this a bad year or what? There are no really breathtaking films in the race. And should this site not be re-named FincherWatch ?? Personally, this year being so poor ……. give Fincher best director, give Meryl her THIRD Oscar so that next season we can have all this shit out of the way and refocus. And for good measure lets throw in some wins for the minorities ….. a woman here, a gay there and whatever else comes to mind. Let’s just get it ALL out of the way! I love awards season but ……….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Artimus

    Can we just address the opening?

    “The Artist and Moneyball are the only two well-reviewed films to be heading down the track to Oscar’s Best Picture.”

    This is BLATANTLY wrong. Your own sidebar makes this obviously false. Midnight in Paris? 81 on Metacritic. Descendants? 84. Hugo? 84. All have won major critics awards in various categories.

    It’s nice you have a narrative to peddle (keep the reader’s interest!), but this one is blatantly false.

  • Rashad

    Yashar, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Just read why he made the movie, and you’ll see why that’s the case. He doesn’t even view it as a “war movie” either.

    bah, these blogs are hell around this time.

  • rufussondheim

    I strongly disagree that the critics and the industry are divided. Sure, films 1 through five from the critics won’t be the five Best Pic nominees, but that’s hardly ever the case (except last year where 1 through 9 plus 11 all made the cut.)

    But the films that are considerd locks are #3, #4, #5 and #7. Top contenders for the final spots include Tree of Life (#1), Moneyball (#8), and Bridesmaids (#11) – Then the “wild’ cards that will look poorly if chosen Dragon Tattoo (#19), War Horse (#25), and The Help (#26).

    Sasha says that only The Artist and Moneyball were well-reviewed. Moneyball is #9. Three films that she considers locks were better received that Moneyball: The Descendants, Hugo and Midnight in Paris.

    Also, a major note, the Academy at Large votes for Best DIrector, not the Director’s Branch. They went for A King’s Speech which was #7. Not as high as they’ve been in recent years, but not nearly as bad as about ten years ago when they went for A Beautiful Mind at #18.

    Now, here is the part I take exception with, will Sasha be willing to condemn the Academy if they pick Fincher to win BD when his film is at #19?

    Now of course, Sasha is using the Metacritic averages, which I think is an extremely skewed number. I think it’s better to look at top 10 lists. Metacritic scores are arbitrary. Top 10 lists are better tools to find out what the critics liked this year, after all the top 10 lists pit the films together in competition, metacritic scores do not.

  • iggy

    OT. Not that anyone outside Spain should care, but The Skin I Live in leads the Goya nominations with 16, followed by another genre movie , No habrá paz para los malvados with 14. Then, Blackthorn a western with Sam Shepard as Butch Cassidy has 11 nominations and it’s followed closely by the Spanish Civil War Goya token movie*, La voz dormida with 9. (More than) Honorable mention for Eva,a science fiction movie which has managed to score 12 nominations without BP and Best Director nods (they make themselves, right?)

    For list and awards lovers only, the full list here ;P :

    *just kidding.

  • Artimus, please relax.

    89 The Artist
    87 Moneyball
    85 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
    85 Tree of Life
    85 Take Shelter
    84 The Descendants
    84 Hugo
    81 Midnight in Paris

    The Artist and Moneyball are the two best-reviewed Oscar contenders of the year. Would it make you happy if we changed the wording? I doubt it, so we’ll leave the wording as it is. Because nobody else is mad about it.

    [yeesh, I was wrong about how many people are mad about it. We’ll change it.]

  • Thanks for the scolding and the tip, iggy.

    [slinks off to post the Goya nominations now, guilt-ridden.]

  • Bob Burns

    Fine with me that WH does not contend. I loved it, but every film we love does not have to be an awards film. It was nearly too brutal for the thirteen year old I took to see it. He had read the book, but the live action images were very disturbing to him. But in order for it to rise to the stories full power it needed to be R rated.

  • Mikey

    So you seem to think that The Artist and Moneyball are the only two well recieved films in the Oscar race this year? Hugo & The Descendants have had outstanding reviews and we both seem to agree they are locks for best picture nominations.

  • roberto

    great post, sasha.

  • iggy

    Guilt-ridden? Why? It was just funny.

  • Jesse Crall

    A director can only take their source material so far. Commenters can certainly differ over the value of the novel “Dragon Tattoo” was based on, but I think the style, pacing, and performances, notably Mara’s, are outstanding. Fun her built this movie, and any script reservations have nothing to do with his achievement as a director on this film.

  • Daveylow

    Puzzled by this sentence: “The Artist and Moneyball are the only two well-reviewed films to be heading down the track to Oscar’s Best Picture.”

    The Descendants and Hugo were two other well-reviewed films that are pretty certain for the nomination for Best Picture, more even than Moneyball.

  • Guilt-ridden? Why? It was just funny.

    oh, you can tease, but I can’t.
    doubly guilt-ridden now.

  • Casey Fiore

    No Ryan, I don’t think it would please Artimus to have the wording changed because you’d need to completely change the sentiment of that statement for it to make any sense. Sasha was trying to point out that the critics and the Academy have separated in opinion in a significant way, and she did so by noting that there were only two well-reviewed films that are in competition for Oscar. It wasn’t an innocuous acknowledgement of the best reviewed films, it was a pointed statement that only two films in contention were well reviewed.

    This, as Artimus said, is blatantly false. Moneyball, while having a greater metacritic score, actually hasn’t performed as well with critics’ awards as The Descendents or Hugo; not to mention that those films, as well as Midnight in Paris, were, exactly as she implied they were not, ‘well-reviewed’ all year/season.

    The critics and the Academy have rarely agreed so much as they have over the past five or so years, and that is more or less the case this year as well. If The Tree of Life gets a Best Picture nomination, I would say it’s indisputable that the critics and Academy see eye to eye very consistently these days.

    In response to your final point, I too am mad about this. Because Sasha is skewing facts and making up a narrative for the season to base a piece of writing on. It’s sloppy work, and you shouldn’t expel so much energy covering for her and looking the other way when she fabricates facts.

  • KarenA

    I was curious to see what kind of coverage “Best Picture” was getting from this site this year and yes, just click on the tag and I think it’s clear:

    I thought “Hugo” would be more represented, especially since I believe it was #2 on one of the Top 10 lists from this site. And no, it being mentioned within the context of an article/essay is different than being the focus. I see two FYC panels, but that’s it.

    This article doesn’t surprise me and as I said, clicking on the tag for “Best Picture” and scrolling down, the coverage for 2012 (and I guess the one to root for) is very, very clear. As clear as last year.

  • diane

    I said it on another forum and I`ll say it again. GWTDT`s SAG snub in Ensamble doesn`t mean anything because it isn`t an ensamble movie. It`s Mara show through and through. Other actors in the movie don`t register which is pretty much how Swedish movie was too. Salander upstages everyone, casts a huge shadow because everyone else is ordinary and blah and been there before. Actors and characters alike. They are not bad, they are just unmemorable unlike Mara who does cause her role is written in a way to make her stand out.

    Moreover, although I agree with observation that Sasha is totally on fangirl side in this (and I curse the day when Bigelow&boytoy release that Bin Laden flick for Sasha`s cheerleading will be insufferable), GWTDT&Fincher`s surge with Guilds of late should not be dismissed as a temporary fluke. The movie is obviously very much liked among people who, unlike GGs,BAFTA and CC, vote for the Oscars.

    Finally, why not have the winner that didn`t do well with all those other awards organization that I mentioned above? It really should matter what people in the industry think, not the outsiders. They have their awards but Oscars should be what industry likes. And if they like GWTDT and Fincher, than The Artist or other “frontrunner” of the week shouldn`t matter. Besides, it isn`t like Fincher is one hit wonder. He was snubbed too many times so, yeah, his win wouldn`t be undeserved.

    I`m calling GWDT/Fincher win.

  • Daveylow

    Adam wrote: Still not sure what Sasha saw in Hugo. Apart from the Kingsley stuff I found it a chore to sit through. Much preferred Girl with dragon Tattoo. The only faults I have with that film are probably faults in the source material.

    For me, Hugo was one of the few studio films I saw this year that I felt would become a classic. I was enchanted from first minute to last.

  • Yashar R

    Rashad, I have read a couple of interviews and know that he said but that doesn’t mean I believe it. To be completely honest, I mostly made up my mind about the film the moment I saw the first trailer but nothing and I mean NOTHING could have prepared me to the nightmare that was the final film. It had a clear message and nothing the filmmaker or others say can hide it. It was a cry for more Oscars and attention, combining everything that’s wrong with perceived taste of Academy and the way people like Spielberg tend to manipulate it.

  • Jerry

    @Mel: Rooney Mara was successful in showing us Lisbeth’s vulnerability and toughness. We could see inside her Lisbeth, her emotions were more visible in her eyes. Look at her face when she is with her new guardian in his office as he is about to take advantage of her, look at the hurt in her eyes when she sees Blomkvist and Berger at the end. There are several places in the movie where you see INTO the character’s thoughts. That’s why Mara is getting more credit for her version than Rapace. Rapace was very tough but Stoic, she shut down the viewer from seeing inside to the vulnerability in Lisbeth. Read ANY critic’s review of this movie and you will see they say the same. Pull out 5 random reviews right now and you will see them say the same thing. Mara’s version is BETTER for the American audience because you CAN see her emotions. You can’t have the blank face Lisbeth from the books on the screen, the audience wouldn’t be able to understand the reason for her behavior without voice-overs (that’s why Rapace’s version is not as accessible and more intimidating). Watch the two movies back to back this weekend. That’s not just MY opinion, it’s just what’s presented. The two women showed us THEIR version of Lisbeth and the vast majority prefer Mara’s because of her vulnerability. I think male critics HAVE been very positive about Rooney Mara’s version because they too can relate more to vulnerability in women -that was just my point. Even if they might not be super hot about the movie every male critic has given Rooney Mara her due.

  • iggy

    doubly guilt-ridden now.

    You’re messing with a gay guy raised as a Catholic. Guilty is my facebook status. I only needed one comment to feel guilty about making you feel guilty. 🙁 And now you’ve made two.

    (sorry for hijacking this otherwise interesting thread)

  • Sasha Stone

    The Descendants and Hugo were two other well-reviewed films that are pretty certain for the nomination for Best Picture, more even than Moneyball.

    Decently reviewed, sure, but what you’d want them to be – not in the high 80s or low 90s for Metacritic.

  • Samuel

    I find it weird that one can make the assertion that Dragon Tattoo is so revolutionary in its portrayal of women and threatening to men when it is a film written by a man, directed by a man, based on a novel by a man. It raises a whole bunch of troubling questions. But, you know, if that’s what you want to think, have at it.

  • Sasha Stone

    Sasha, I think you are confusing the two versions.

    Uh….let me check. Nope. Not confusing them.

  • Tony

    Heh, 90 takes. Meryl Streep would have bitchslapped DF before they even got up to 9 takes.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Just recently (last year?) they were talking about this at Actor’s roundtable. When Robert Duvall heard that Fincher shoots 50 takes in everything, he said he could never do that. So, we know at least one actor who will not work with him.

  • Meredith

    I’m sorry but that picture of Fincher and Mara just ignites the weird rumors about their relationship. I just find it to be really creepy the way Fincher acts towards her. I don’t get it, but hey even Daniel Craig said quote “It’s f*cking weird”, so I guess I’m not totally off bat.

  • Ben Z.

    Ummm, it looks to me like he’s just adjusting her wireless mic.

    What exactly do you see in the photo that indicates there’s something going on between them?

  • rufussondheim

    I think using Metacritic as a basis for what critics think is in error. Here’s three quick reasons.

    1) The reviewers don’t assign the numbers. Some employee at Metacritic reviews the review and then assigns a numerical value. Some are easy because the reviewer gives it a score or a grade, but the most influential of critics, like the New York Times, often don’t give easily translatable scores.

    Similarly, some critics used different scales for different films. Everyone can recall Ebert give Speed 2 three stars. He justified that by saying that he grades each film for how well he thinks it will satisfy the people who will be its audience. In other words, Ebert’s scores for two different movies might be the same, but his lasting impressions of the two might be completely different.

    2) A film’s review is usually written fairly quickly after it was seen. First impressions are the base of most film reviews. I think most of us will agree that while first impressions are important, the highest quality films don’t reveal themselves until they viewed a second, third or even fourth time. (It took me three viewings and six years to come to completely reverse my opinion of Schindler’s List.)

    Metacritic uses these first scores. It doesn’t make an attempt to alter the scores after the reviewer has had time to reflect and perhaps see the films a second time.

    Academy members, who probably take film as seriously as anyone (it is their livelihood), have time to reflect on the films. Even if they are getting to films late (like they probably did with Dragon Tattoo and War Horse) they’ve had time to comtemplate over most of the films they’ve seen over the course of the year. So the immediate score that Metacritc gives isn’t really applicable in most cases.

    3) Metacritic uses an average, it doesn’t measure the passion level. Perhaps if Metacritic chopped off the lowest ten percent of the reviews from their average the number might be more valuable.

    The case against using averages is very simple, any truly groundbreaking or risky film is going to have detractors, and probably passionate detractors. Those scores will bring down the whole score.

    The academy doesn’t allow “negative” votes. You can’t on a ballot say “I wish to erase one vote from such and such a film.” So, in terms of voting, a voter will be forced to treat a B+ movie the same way they treat a D- movie, they will simply leave it off the ballot. Metacritic doesn’t operate this way.

  • rufussondheim

    Also, I must add that the using of just one measurement and then generalizing an entire thesis is not the best strategy.

    It rains about 40 inches in Philadelphia a year. It also rains about 40 inches a year in Portland, Oregon a year. Therefore their two climates must be exactly the same.

    Bad science, bad writing strategy.

  • Nick

    I think, even if there were 10 nominees, Bridesmaids wouldn’t get in. The Hangover 1 wasn’t in that top 10 at the Oscars back in 2010. Wasn’t that considered much better then Bridesmaids?

  • brendon

    “It’s thrilling because it is a film people actually like to watch.”

    God, I hate this sort of boosterism horseshit. The movie has had a tepid reception at the box office at best. You really want me to believe that people ‘like to watch’ Fincher’s rape-play fantasy with its 90s gothy hacker fetishism?

  • Marc

    Psychology of the frame

    The office rape sequence contains an unusual high angle shot where a character appears upside down vertically. This shot that happens only one other time in the film but within the same visual passage and forms a visual melody.

    Fincher had a choice to plant the camera anywhere in that room — behind either of the characters, on the side, in the corner, etc. The choice brings a deeper psychology to the character in the event creating the effect that they are lying down and the act is happening willingly from a perspective of the perpetrator.
    Another high angle shot soon follows with first reveal of the dragon tattoo — one of the characters own self scars perpetrated on herself.

    There is no one doing what Fincher is doing in Hollywood right now. No one.
    And with all the media sabotaging this film has gotten (is Hugo being spun as a bomb?) keeping punching, Sasha.


  • steve50


    I second that.

  • You really want me to believe that people ‘like to watch’ Fincher’s rape-play fantasy with its 90s gothy hacker fetishism?

    $77mil in 3 weeks. That’s the same pace as The Departed.

    That’s not a tepid reception. It’s the #1 R-rated movie of the year that’s not a naughty comedy.

    People like you who can’t see anything except the “rape-play” sort of scare me. Please stay away from the theater when I’m there. I don’t want you near me in the dark.

  • Marc,

    I love that sort of analysis. I loiter around David Bordwell’s site to get my fix. Please come around more often.

  • Andrew

    Sasha, you should justify war horse’s lack of award success on the basis that it wasnt conceived as such. That is a spurious argument. It has plenty of Oscar bait. Its not a more serious contender IMO because it aint that good.

  • Andrew

    shouldnt justify

  • Fielding

    Those who think Midnight in Paris is the wildcard are entirely correct. It’s in 3rd place at the moment and probably about to move into 2nd.

  • Jay

    So Dragon Tattoo scores a DGA nomination and now it’s a frontrunner. There is no way that DT would make it in the top five, The Help or Moneyball would take that spot.

  • jjkgfja

    Fincher didn’t take Spielberg’s spot, Woody Allen did. Fincher took the dark horse artsy spot

  • jjkgfja

    “Sasha, you should justify war horse’s lack of award success on the basis that it wasnt conceived as such. That is a spurious argument. It has plenty of Oscar bait. Its not a more serious contender IMO because it aint that good.”

    It’s not that it’s not good. It’s that people think it’s cool to hate on Spielberg right now.

  • “Marc,

    I love that sort of analysis. I loiter around David Bordwell’s site to get my fix. Please come around more often.”

    Seriously. I’m an English major so I have to pick up on that stuff in literature all the time. But I miss a lot of it in film and your comment gave me a deeper understanding of a movie I already loved. Thanks for that.

  • Sasha Stone

    It’s not that it’s not good. It’s that people think it’s cool to hate on Spielberg right now.

    No, it’s a glossed over family film that blows so hard by the last act it’s hard to believe Steven Spielberg even directed it. If you want me to start being honest about it. Bob Burns is right that it needed to be an R rated film to be any good – all of that is true but it isn’t what fails about the movie. The movie falls apart because if the unnecessary sentimentalism thrust into it in such a faux classic cliche way. Any hack could have directed that film but it took Spielberg to truly screw it up by having to overdue what was already a moving story. He didn’t need to make it MORE sentimental. Give that film to Ridley Scott, Jane Campion, Clint Eastwood even and you have a movie 100 times improved. Spielberg is good at some things, lousy at others. But in his defense, being nice here, I don’t think War Horse had any intention of being an “Oscar movie” because, you know, adult people vote on those awards.

  • Sasha Stone

    So Dragon Tattoo scores a DGA nomination and now it’s a frontrunner.

    Frontrunner? Frontrunner? Did you not read the whole piece?

  • Morgan

    Based on all the precursor love you would have to assume that

    The Help
    The Descendants
    The Artist
    Midnight in Paris
    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

    are all locks.

    After that, Moneyball looks fairly certain to get a nom – but wouldn’t be one of the five if there were only five nominees.

    War Horse contends for the 8th spot on Speilberg prestige
    Bridesmaids contends for the 8th spot on PGA, WGA, SAG love
    Tree of Life contends for the 8th spot on critical love
    The Ides of March could surprise. If this were a 10 picture year we’d defintely still be talking about it, I only skim-read the article but considering all the talk about “If this were a 10-nominee year” – I find it surprising The Ides of March wasn’t mentioned more.

    Tinker Tailor doesn’t look like its gaining any traction in America. Drive gets critical love, but not really going after oscar. And doesn’t need it.

    I wish A Separation were in the race.

  • Goodness Gracious

    While even I (a rabid TSN supporter last year) grew somewhat exasperated by how long the mourning period lasted around here, I’m struck by how rude and dismissive commenters are being to Sasha.

    There’s nothing wrong with being an advocate for films. If Sasha were exalting Tree of Life would you all be so dismissive? Call her a fan boy? Dragon Tattoo wasn’t my favorite film of the year, but I loved it and I can understand why it would be at the top of someone’s list. I doubt if Fincher hadn’t just gotten a huge fist bump from the DGA that she’d be treating him like front page news, but just because he is front page news people act like Sasha’s being bribed by TGWTDT’s marketing department.

    Personally, I’d rather read Sasha’s impassioned take on Fincher’s work than a lot of dry pretentious humblebragging critics.

  • steve50

    “All of this trumped up nonsense by male bloggers that she’s not empowered, that she’s a fanboy fantasy and all of that just echoes Gleiberman’s notion that somewhere deep down this Lisbeth Salander touched a raw nerve.”

    As far as female leading characters are concerned, it’s almost as though Joan of Arc just rode into town. In her own world, moving to her own beat, smarter and more contemplative than those conspiring around her, and capable of kicking some ass when necessary. This should be cause for relief, not fear.

  • Nate

    @rufussondheim, love that

  • PaulinJapan

    I think Dragon Tattoo has a great shot for a BP nomination, though practically no shot of winning. What I am more interested in is the chance of Mara to win Best Actress. Currently it seems she is battling for 4th/5th slot with Close and Swinton. I think she’ll sneak in, but what are her chances of winning the thing?

    Well, assuming she gets the nomination, she’ll probably be only one of the two lead actress contenders in a BP nominated movie, with Davis being the other, and be starring in a movie that is best reviewed compared to her rivals pics. Davis has a good shot of winning but The Help is more of an ensemble piece, whereas Mara is the star of the show.

    Frontrunners Streep and Davis split the veteran vote, allowing Mara to win by getting the all-important Academy geezer vote, (though hottie Williams may siphon off some of those).

    Not a very confident prediction, I’ll admit, but one lives in hope!

  • Jake G.!

    The doubts about War Horse are hilarious! Did you not watch the same movie I was watching, a Spielberg masterpiece that was nominated for Golden Globe Best Drama which means it is one of the top five to get a Best Pic nod at the oscars!

  • Sasha Stone

    a Spielberg masterpiece that was nominated for Golden Globe Best Drama which means it is one of the top five to get a Best Pic nod at the oscars!

    If you think that is a masterpiece well, I have a couple of other Spielberg movies to show you.

  • Nate

    This would be the perfect year for a total scattershot Oscars. A total Picture/Screenplay/Director/Acting split. Wouldn’t that be fantastic. Something like The Artist/Midnight in Paris Moneyball/Payne/Fassbender/Mara or something totally disjointed. Although I doubt The Artist could win BP without Director unless maybe they give it to Fincher, but wouldn’t a BP/Director split that resulted in a Director for Fincher feel a little like a make-up? The detractors would say it all next year. I’m also not sure the Descendants could win without Payne. I do feel like Hazanavicius (did I do it right? that’s my first try without looking!) has director locked up. I do think Woody might win Original Screenplay. I think Zaillian has a really good chance of getting two Adapted noms. At this stage I can’t imagine a discrepancy between AMPAS directing noms and the DGA noms, it almost always happens but I’m not sure who to knock off. Fincher seems on the rise.

    I’d also add that I’d love to hear more from marc!

  • Tero Heikkinen

    I liked War Horse very much. More than Tintin. So, I don’t understand the hate for that film at all. Spielberg had a good year, IMO.

    I still do not wish it to be among some Top 5 nominated, Top 8 sure.

    Something like Moneyball is praised here a lot, and I think it was worse than War Horse. That switch I’d like to see in top contenders, but I know Moneyball is loved in America. War Horse will be loved around the world (once people get to see it).

  • Nate

    Didn’t the globes nominate 6 dramas this year?

    also was there talk of matching the number of Directing Nominations with the BP nominations? Maybe not this year, but I remember someone saying that

  • @Jake G.! Catch Me if You Can didn’t get a Golden Globe nod beyond DiCaprio and I thought it was an “A” well above War Horse… The Globes are a really dicey way to measure Oscar chances and even worse when it comes to judging a film’s overall value.

  • Craig Z

    “nominated for Golden Globe Best Drama which means it is one of the top five to get a Best Pic nod at the oscars!”

    Uh no it doesn’t…. First the Golden Globes and the Oscars are two different organizations so one does not equal another and Second… The Academy nominates comedies so add The Artist and Midnight and Paris and maybe even Bridesmaids.

  • robert k

    Sasha, I’ve agreed with you on almost everything in the last 10 years (Team The Aviator!) but I disagree about Dragon Tattoo’s chances (except Mara–locked in). I’m going with these five based on the most passion/#1 pick criteria and the Academy’s composition:

    The Descendants
    The Artist
    Midnight In Paris
    Tree Of Life

    then maybe: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Help and then TGWTDT

    But I’m a huge LeCarre fan, TTSS is the best interpretation of his work yet and the British seem to like it and their votes count (right Atonement?).

    And I agree with the above posters on Hitchcock: the actual mystery never mattered in any of his movies. Hitch said it was never about the MacGuffin, it was always about the suspense–putting the hero in a tight spot psychologically and then watching them sweat.

  • Bob Burns

    Again I loved the movie, flaws and all, but, stricturally, compare WH to A Very Long Engagement. The two reunions at the end of WH are flat incmparison to the payoff at the end of the earlier film.

  • Nate

    rufussondheim, I just quoted one of your entire posts in another thread, I gave you full credit, but if you mind maybe someone will take it down. If not, head to:

    to see what people say about it over there.


  • brandz

    If Bridesmaids gets a Best Pix nom, this country is in worse shape than I thought.

  • caleb roth

    War Horse is the new Far From Heaven, but Spielberg is not as cool as Todd Haynes. Too bad for him, but it’s a great picture, and I’ve seen every Spielberg movie since Duel.

  • Wow. You really hate WAR HORSE.

    I gotta kick in some defense here. Spielberg made the movie Spielberg wanted to make and it was a sentimental one. Giving the film to someone else does what? it’s makes it a completely different film. This sounds like one of those ‘this is the movie I would have made and since it’s not, that it’s garbage’ arguments but the fact is you didn’t make it. No one did but Spielberg. He didn’t make a rated R movie. Why does anyone think he should have? Did they want Saving Private Ryan but with horses? Well load SPR into your computer and add in some horses yourself. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But if you go into a film deciding what you want to see before you see the first frame, then it’s almost like giving the filmmakers a test. You’ve got all the right answers and all they can do is get it wrong. That’s the worst way to view a film. All you can be is disappointed unless you somehow have a psychic link with the writer/director. It’s not his fault he didn’t make the movie you wanted to see. But the movie you saw did not “blow hard” and there is no way in hell that “any hack could have directed that film”. No way. There isn’t a Spielberg film in existence that any hack could have directed. I can’t believe you threw the H-word out there. We’re talking about Spielberg here.

  • Nate

    I don’t think she’s saying that any hack could have directed it and had it come out the same. Speilberg has a particular sensibility and a distinctive style that any could imitate (and many have) but none could duplicate.
    As for it needing to be R-Rated to be good, I can’t say because I’m not familiar with the source material. I think the Point Sasha is trying to make is that the story of War Horse is already sentimental and that to make it something other than a better than average family film it needed an edge. I can see that. darker doesn’t always mean better, but sometimes it does. Sugar coating a sugar cube almost never makes it better, though.

  • Nick F.

    So apparently Drive and the Ides of March have no shot according to Sasha, but J. Edgar and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy do…right…

  • G

    I gave war horse a b so I am glad it might be out of the running, it did make me cry but I think everyone was crying as I passed out Kleenex to all my neighbors. it’s just one of those cry movies like an affair to remember, the best years of our lives, etc.

    I am thrilled to see my top 4 films in the Best picture lock group! Go artist, Hugo, descendants, and midnight in Paris! Yippee

  • Boy who new the Academy, BFCA, and critics would snub a billion dollar film that has alot of universal critic acclaim out of the Best Picture race and maybe the Oscars.

  • Nate

    yeah I’m pretty bummed about Jurassic Park also, but it’s time to let go and realize that even though Shindler’s List somehow won, it doesn’t decrease our personal affection for the film.

  • that to make it something other than a better than average family film it needed an edge.

    Okay. When I saw WAR HORSE, I saw something we’ve seen quite a bit this year. A throwback to the good ol’ days of the cinema. I think the movie I saw was meant to be like the war movies my mother saw as a child when WWII was actually happening. The ones they ran news reels in front of. The ones with David Niven or Ronald Colman. In fact Tom Hiddleston reminded me of Leslie Howard when I saw him in MiP, so I thought he was perfect casting here. Just as HUGO and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS are nostalgic so is WAR HORSE. It’s not meant to be current. Sure I guess we could have had a scene where the French girl got raped and murdered or maybe Peter, the German soldier, could have raped Joey. That would have been edgy. But once again, Spielberg made a family film. It started out with a family. A family with a farm that had a cranky goose. You knew pretty early on what kind of film it was. Did the play have a goose? Maybe he changed that. I haven’t seen the play. But the craftsmanship was there. There wasn’t a sour note in the direction. If you don’t like the story, then you don’t like what was on the page. Since this is an adapted work, I wonder how much any hack could have done to make it less of a family film while remaining true to the source material. Has anyone seen the play? Was it meant for families?

  • @Antoinette: In Sasha’s initial War Horse review, she was largely critical of Joey’s behavior and I think the moods created by Spielberg, not so much the story…

    There was one editing sequence in War Horse that I thought was brilliant, and it was the one time that I felt the film was helmed by a master: The shot of the German machine gunner, then the frightened British soldier riding Joey, then the machine gun itself, then Joey running through the forest without a rider. Those four shots told a monumental story within the war experience with an incredible simplicity that was largely lost on the rest of the film (though I still generally enjoyed it.)

  • Nate

    I can’t really respond to any of that because I haven’t seen either, other than that I think that the execution of the play had a lot to do with it’s success: an giant war epic on a stage, very hard to pull off, much less pull off extremely well, which it apparently did. Giant war epic on the silver screen, not so hard. Not to say that what Speilberg did was easy, but there are hundreds of giant war epics.
    Also, and this is really besides the point, but “Family Films” about war are lies. The war movies your mother saw were propaganda films. There are probably ways of de-glorifying war in a movie without an R rating, but probably not without darkness. I’m suddenly angry that there’s a movie that says “As $#!tty as people say war is, your horse (spoiler?) made it back ok so it can’t be that bad” somebody tell me War Horse isn’t like that, please.

  • Unlikelyhood

    I agree with Sasha re war horse.

    I’m late to this party, but we don’t really love Hitchcock films for the mystery OR the characters, not exactly. We love them for their proper take on our modern world, with all the guilt and pain that we barely suppress every day. We love them because though the lead isn’t guilty of what he’s accused of, he’s still guilty of something, and that works for us. We love them because Hitchcock lets us feel style as an artifice, as a luxury, but in his hands we feel both stylish and sometimes naked. And other reasons…

    Uh, dragon tattoo was a lot of fun. Was fincher nominated for 3 of the last 4 DGAs? Has anyone else ever done that?

  • Nate

    I just remembered that Joey is the name of the horse. So, in that case, I would not suggest that Speilberg have anyone rape Joey.

  • Lenny

    Like Sasha I am pleasantly surprised by Dragon Tattoo’s terrific showing with the guilds so far. Not only is it a meticulously crafted piece of filmmaking where every frame and every detail has meaning, but it’s also extremely faithful to its source material. Those who’ve read the book should agree that if there’s any flaws with the film itself, it’s due more so to the fact that the book itself has structural problems and flaws of its own and not anything that Fincher has chosen to do. Everything about Dragon Tattoo is essentially perfect in my opinion. The cinematography, the editing, the music, the use of sound, all are executed brilliantly to create this haunting atmosphere that resonates throughout the entire film. And you also have two great lead performances from Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, the former of which is so subtle and understated that one could easily miss how great it is. As for Mara, she owns every frame she’s in and commands the film from start to finish. She is what Stieg Larrson envisioned Lisbeth Salander to be; less of the vengeful warrior woman we got from Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version and more of the vulnerable, emotionally complex “girl” that Sasha was alluding to in her review of the film. Dragon Tattoo is an extremely well-made film that, while flawed, is tremendously deserving of all the awards recognition coming its way.

  • Lenny

    As for War Horse, I don’t think it’s completely dead yet. Remember, this is Steven Fucking Spielberg we’re talking about, Hollywood’s Golden Boy, the world’s most famous director, everything he touches turns to gold, etc. etc. His power in the industry could easily push War Horse through for multiple Oscar nominations even though the film has been getting snubbed by the guilds so far and Spielberg himself was snubbed by the DGA. Let’s not forget what happened with True Grit last year. The Coens were left off the DGA’s list of 5 and the film still managed to collect 10 nominations from the Academy. Trust me, War Horse is definitely not dead yet especially if its box-office numbers continue to rise. Personally, I think the film is much better than some people across the internet are giving it credit for. And I think the sentimentality that some would say Spielberg exploits to no end with this film will ultimately be enough to carry it to a Best Picture nomination.

  • “Remember, this is Steven Fucking Spielberg we’re talking about, Hollywood’s Golden Boy, the world’s most famous director, everything he touches turns to gold, etc. etc.”

    I think we have a tendency to overestimate how much name recognition matters with the Academy. I mean, look at Scorsese; commenters keep talking about his getting nominated because the Academy adores him, but Shutter Island may as well have been called Shutout Island (I know, that was awful). Casino was robbed outside of Sharon Stone, Gangs of New York didn’t win a single award, Bringing Out the Dead went nowhere. Only The Departed, a critically acclaimed, hugely successful film, won Scorsese gold. Spielberg’s really in the same boat. He’ll always be watched by voters because of his past successes, but Catch Me if You Can, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, The Terminal, obviously the latest Indiana Jones…all received minimal nominations. War Horse is a sweeping epic that may get squeezed in because it made some voters teary-eyes and sentimental. But don’t think they’ll vote the film in by virtue of its director’s name. There just isn’t enough of a precedent to back that up.

  • In my opinion, DGA committed two great crimes last year : awarding Hooper over far more superior directing achievements (and I don’t mean only Fincher) AND nominating David O. Russell instead of Danny Boyle.

    This year, although I am thrilled they included Fincher once again (3rd bd-nod in 4 years ?), I would have replaced Woody Allen (whose film I consider well-directed, just not spectacular…his script is the heart of the movie, not his directing) with Terrence Malick, whose directing achievement should have been definitely recognized by the Directors.

  • unlikelyhood

    “Then again there are movies like Slumdog Millionaire that take the frontrunner’s spot and never lose momentum”

    Let’s make it clear that on January 10th of Slumdog’s year, the film and Boyle were not even close to a done deal. Go ahead and link us back to awardsdaily posts of the time. Benjamin Button was just as likely. The day after nomination day, I don’t remember a lot of “Button will get Bugsy’d (or Color Purple’d) – 11 noms, no real wins”

    I have a similar beef with Michael Cieply in today’s New York Times. Today he wrote, “by this time last year, The King’s Speech had all but been crowned Best Picture.” Uh, no, it hadn’t, as anyone here should remember.

    Can’t believe that I’m the one who has to remind people about Fincher films ON THIS POST. But there it is. Fincher is becoming an Academy spectral presence, a ghost, like Scorsese from 2003-2006. Jon Stewart will make a joke like “That’s one Oscar for Three 6 Mafia, zero for Fincher.” Fincher is now Scorsese! Weird.

    I bet money that Dragon Tattoo doesn’t get a BP nod, and Mara doesn’t get an Actress nod.

  • @Nate

    So you’re arguing Sasha’s point having not seen WAR HORSE? Okay. But whether propaganda films were true or not has little to do with if they were good films or not. You don’t have to like them. You can stick to factual accounts and docs if you want. But you can’t blame a movie that’s about a special, to the point of almost being magical, horse for not being a more realistic story. And you can’t ask a propaganda film to be footage from a helmet cam. WH is not a pro-war film at all. The horse suffers. Everyone suffers. People die. People lose loved ones. Go see the movie. If you don’t like it, fine. But judge the movie that’s in front of you. If you want a gritty war film don’t expect that from a family film about a horse.

    (Midnight in Paris spoilers)

    And why do Oscar movies have to be realistic? Is it because it’s rooted in history? MIDNIGHT IN PARIS isn’t that far flung from BACK TO THE FUTURE but it included historical figures. Is it okay to say that Picasso and Hemingway may have interacted with a time traveler from the present day? But it’s not okay to have a miraculous horse in the war because miracles are happy and war is sad?

  • Mel

    If Bridesmaids gets a Best Pix nom, this country is in worse shape than I thought.

    This just cracked me up.

  • Julia

    He knows because the scene he filmed with her ended up using over 90 takes.

    How is that a good thing, especially for a scene that used three angles and needed close-ups for only two people?

    If there ever was a mark of a performance being made in the editing room, doing a metric ton of takes and then going to town is certainly enough for people to wonder if Mara’s one-scene wonder was less a credit to her and more to Baxter and Wall. That Dragon Tattoo owes its overblown budget to anothet metric ton takes is certainly an interesting aside here although the thing no one mentions these days is that Mara apparently blew her first Lisbeth audition. Really, it’s not The Big Bad and Dumb Executives vs. the resident genius. Even if Fincher would like it to be.

  • KarenA

    Seriously, given this site’s coverage and what I suspect will continue to be through the Oscars, I first read the title of this post to be: “The State of the Race: DGA Fallout – And Yay, David Fincher”

  • REICHDOME returns!

    “War Horse WAS created for Oscars. Everything about it shows how much Spielberg and the studio wanted an Oscar.”

    I be more prudent on the misrepresentation of your remarks, @yasi if you truly genuinely understood what Spielberg was about- you know he is the director LEAST LIKELY of all the major powerhouse filmmakers to make films purely for money and for oscar glory.

    If you were to say that in his incredibly moving, accurate and unpretentious portrayal of the Holocaust in ‘Schindler’s List’ or his salute in groundbreaking ways of the portayal of the fallen in WWII in a way that forever changed the realism in movies beyond its own genre,

    you learn two true things about Spielberg

    a) he is one of the few directors that gets engrossed in a films concept or story
    b) he is drawn to stories that can please the public for the public unlike oscar itself, Spielberg represents the desires of the sole purpose of movies existence – to entertain the public and break new ground as a motion picture art form.

    No offence but i sure i wouldn’t be alone in suggesting those- minority who make such baseless remarks are not in tune with the cinema history of the last 25 years- and make no mistake i for one am no saying ‘war horse’ is his best.

    And here in leads to my review.

    Sasha, you dismiss it as a ‘surprise’ result frankly you or anyone else that so believed this was the year of Spielberg and oscar aligning each other, you have to be kidding- in a way the real reason Spielberg did not get nominated is cos he has fallen for better in long haul i believe but clearly for the worse in the very short term -bnamely this years oscar race, victim of his prior tremendous heights of success.

    Naturally ‘Spielberg’ by name is a very household name in the public realm but dominance not just with box office or critics but in advancing the very artform he loves in so many different ways and more so than most other mainstream prolific film makers esp in Hollywood, and breaking new ground in so many inventive ways- ie JAws, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and in defiance of those who judge films by the politics i will add the severely underrated ‘Munich’ and ‘Minority Report’- suffice to say in my opinion this last mention here and, as only Spielberg knows best has accurately read what was foreseeing the future and certainly it cannot be denied esp the way advertising in real terms is evolving and technology is bent more for purposes of attracting the consumer, the product, even architecture slowly but surely starts to resemble that which ‘Minority Report’ envisions i make clear in certain elements to some notable degree today we see some of what Spileberg portrayed in the real world. It was the one time for me at least and in contrast to the people that clearly undervalued his work that year that Spielberg honed a new exclusive skill that again only a minority of directors if any have achieved in terms of extent of a form of accuracy in predicting the future he played ‘fortune teller’ in a movie about anticipating pple’s fortune and indeed, such is his genius that he predicted aspects of what have come to fruition post ‘minority report’

    Spielberg is incorrectly percieved as one of ‘Hollywoods favourite sons’- but the reality is he is revered across at least 2 generations of film goers in the 1/4 of a century or since then for making stories that are relevant and engaging , inspiring and emorional, gripping and thrilling that encapsulate the social ways of our or our forefather’s time.

    It a concept that is above Hollywood, above oscar, that is why despite my bitterness long since ‘Saving Private Ryan’s snub, I concede i at least commend oscar for bestowing what it did well it better than nothing,.

    But to ‘War horse’, following this post:

  • REICHDOME returns!

    To be quite Blunt, All bar one just ONE or make that two but NOT MORE THAN 2 of Spielberg’s films appeal in even a semi popular capacity but no less than this in the public realm in my view, in 25 years of mainstream filmmaking approx in Spielbergs groundbreaking, eventful career were a miss with me everything else at least ‘BIG HIT’

    Spielberg films for me a classified as this and i proudly list in ranking from his most memorable to his most forettable:

    5. ET
    7. JAWS
    8. THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN (believe it or not!)

    middle range films

    15.WAR HORSE (Surprised? you shouldn’t be!)

    THE ordinary RANK films
    16. AMISTAD
    17. AI

    Take note this is rated as most memorable not entertaining few pple would consider in its entirety anyway, ‘schindler’s list’ as entertaining though for a film of it nature no doubt it was refreshing for measured humour where it was strictly appropriate.

    With ‘War Horse’ put it this way you seen my list and of the 17 i covered, it rates closer to the bottom than many of you would have thought i would again dont be surprised judge me at your own peril lol!

    I need to clear up rankings 1 is timeless, memorable masterpiece, rankings 2- 5 are memorable masterpieces, rankings 6-9 are masterpiece, rankings 10-11 are outstanding achievements- that means in actual fact ‘war horse’ rates below brilliant 12- 14 and right between ‘brilliance’ and ordinary/ disappointing in fact, fittingly, ‘war horse’ rates excellent. no more, no LESS

    I honestly didn’t know what to expect but i did caution as i sure a minority of others here have that it was no sure thing- Sasha you thought otherwise i suppose i can’t blame you after all, dga historically does love spielberg but the real reason for the snub is that clearly dga may have unintentionally:P rated ‘war horse’ in contrast to his streaks ahead successes- works of sheer genius- dga know this and hence they know their history well- they know they crowned Spileberg rightfully deservedly the dga for both ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ in a near back to back victory at the dga and for best director- as far as 2 nominations for 2 wins back to back- how many directors today can boast that? that is superior to eastwood’s achievement even! no surprise there.

    For Spielberg’s achievements and impressions his films make on me indeed the public have a vast range of brilliance more often than not hence only the last third really in my ‘power rankings’ so hence, war horse is excellent but below brilliance.

    Why? because a slow start- rare for a Spielberg film for the first 20 mins- and the fact aside from probably set to become the highest grossing ‘horse centric’ film a small feat in itself- can’t be easy to direct a horse in the central fray.

    But in that instance you need strongly written characters unfortuntaely, this is where ‘war horse’ fails to reach brilliance which in my mind for a Spielberg film DOES constitute bragging rites to be an oscar contender that it rates below this suggests that dga were thinking as i was there ALWAYS WAS A RISK WAR HORSE WOULD MISS OUT IT JUST PALES IN CONTRAST FOR THE GROUNDBREAKING MEMORABLE AND TIMELESS MASTERPIECES THAT OSCAR AND DGA HAVE EMBRACED HIM WIH

    the reality and it disappointing you did not cover this real reason Sashs is entirely to do with being ‘victim to his own and perceptions by the awards sector of hollywood, like the dga, that he has won for much better films. far superior infact to ‘war horse’

    I would have liked for ‘war horse’ to build more depth even go a bit longer and cut the overtly sentimental intro for first 20 mins taking away from that ‘drag time’ and substituing 15 mins from that opening sequence- really forgettable in contrast to arguably spielberg’s 2 equally dramatic starts to a film that recent film history has ever witnessed- is it really a exaggeration to suggest the intro for both saving private ryan and minority report gave us a huge jolt in our seats and took our hearts in our throats, in VERY different ways but a similar level of groundvbreaking cinematic achievement, and grabbing the audience in?

    see brilliant spielberg films let alone great once they take hold of you they grab you in deeper and deeper. War horse sought to compensate for a lack luster first 1/4 of the film by getting the action in the overdrive.

    In a way entertaining and excellent it was the horse was the real only stand out performance and i really was disappointed to learn in seeing it the lack of prevailing memorable value that the supporting characters had not the actors they were great in fact i believe one or 2 should get oscar noms in supporting roles! however they wont as storng acting is based on a superb written and hence clearly defined characters in writing and hence, on screen!

    War horse lacked that but that it compensated in some way meant it was excelllent as spielberg has consistently been since he taught fimgoers and indeed himself how to generate realism and excitement for audiences out of brutal sequences the technical execution of war horse saves it from falling to an average film battle scenes, and the journey when the other characters were not not trying to impose themselves meant the horses carried the weight of this picture and i salute spielberg for this.

    At the end of the day i was prepared to bet on a dga snub for Spielberg but consider this:

    he gpot snubbed for ‘catch me if you can’ ‘minority report’ (where it must be said the bfca amongs many others gave it a rating in the low- mid 90’s to be one of the best reviewed films that year- prob undervalued than it deserved to be in box office terms and i believe ‘munich’

    Sasha, you need to remember as we all do, i do, that dga like oscar have to date oen thing in common ‘i owe you’s’ mystic river, far superuior to Eastwood’s follow up ‘MDB’ was snubbed and hence eastwood took all before him for losing the extremely rightfully losable vote the yr before NOTHING should have beaten ‘return of the king’ and thankfully it took all before it! even then that also suggests a ‘i owe you’ as i admit awarding rotk everything was acknowledging the definitive film trilogy of ours and generations past well when it wasa book prior that is.

    then you have scorcese he was handed a huge i owe you for his superb masterpiece in ‘aviator’ which i felt and i sure a few others felt was better – not by much though than his winning film ‘departed’

    no for Spielberg he has to at LEAST deliver something 3/4 of the brilliance of saving private ryan at LEAST expetations are high for hollywood’s most revered filmmaker and stalwart.

    He was snubbed so he would have 4 big high profile snubs which would then breather further justification for Spielberg’s film event that make no mistake he will be firing on all i guess you should say ‘canons’ WHEN IT COMES OUT tyhe film oscar, hollywood and the public anticipate the most of his since possibly ‘schindler’s list’ LINCOLN THE FIRST FILM to tell a story of america’s favourite son as close to truth and objectively as possible in cinema history- and one that will have as much thematical relevance to its time then as in a different but broadly similar way to what it does now- the right for freedom, the right to equality, the fight for all our survival as a united nation in tough and challenging times in a sense.

    make no mistake and i will even put money on it when the time comes closer LINCOLN AT LEAST will deliver Spielberg his third and historic third best director oscar.

    I love to know when that film is happening. I really would we being teased abit america, indeed the western world waits with baited breath.

    IF Spielbger does it right and no reason to believe he would not given his incredible form overall in period, or historically set films, LINCOLN could well be the ‘gone with the wind of our time’ and i know and accept it a huge call but not impossible it will be a very rare foray intro a certain part of america’s civil war setting and if anything centering around a public and institutional character that has far greater relevance to real life history than the characters as characters depicted in gone with the wind. that certainly to take nothing awat from that achievment/

    But ‘Schindler’s List’ aside Spielberg is yet to do a film that truly taps into your country’s psyche and none more so thabn LINCOLN.


    in fact, ‘tin tin’ was far superior to ‘war horse’ by a mile!

    so much so it certainly is a masterpiece to me! everyobne was impressed it been doing great business the critics love it and it really groundbreaking in taking animatyion to a new level of realism, a new sense of adventure, new life into what was becoming redundant pixar better reinvent themselves they being surpassed here by miles!

    in fact i predict war horse if it makes best picture will not get writing, acting or direcitng noms but it sheer deserved weight of technical achievments should push it over the libne in last spot for best pic

    it is a wide open race my eyes are on ‘hugo’ the preview looked amazing can scorcese pull off a 2 for 2 to join spielberg in tghe echelons of oscar history as a dual best director back to back win? watch this space.

    I dont care to comment on the others till i scene it i give my verdict for this race but make no mkistake come ‘LINCOLN’ the air of anticipation with this years oscar race will be filled with tremendous anticipation!

  • Nate

    @Antoinette I was trying to interpret what I thought Sasha meant just from her post, I don’t think I said much that I should have seen the film before saying.
    Movies don’t have to be realistic. But, personal opinion, I think war movies should be, in at least a sense I I think when they are it makes them better movies.

  • James

    Ides of March, where? It’s number 8 based on my observation, or 7 or 9, actually triple tie for 7th: War Horse, Ides of March, Moneyball (that’s quite crucial, the 7th to 9th spots, we don’t know where the count stops).

    The Artist
    The Descendants
    Midnight in Paris
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    The Help
    War Horse
    Ides of March
    Bridesmaids (gasp!)

    Outside the top 10:
    The Tree of Life (sadly, but fingers firmly crossed)
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
    J. Edgar

    I don’t see any indication of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy creeping in.

  • Mel

    Rooney Mara was just on CBS Morning Show for a long interview. This is just 2-3 weeks after she was already everywhere doing press for the release of the film. I think it’s safe to say they have now realized she’s a strong horse in this race and they got her campaigning now. I really couldn’t be happier. Someone has woken up and realized this film and Mara are something to be considered……I guess it only took every guild singling it out!

  • Dannielle

    I still say Tinker Tailor deserves Best Director

  • Keifer

    The Academy loves Woody Allen. And they ESPECIALLY love him when he has a hit.

    I remember a few years back when “Bullets Over Broadway” garnered a surprising six nominations – and that was only a “mild” success at the time.

    “Midnight in Paris” will be elevated to “Annie Hall” or “Hannah and Her Sisters” status. Definitely a best picture contender. And a most deserving one at that. It’s an utterly charming film.

    One thing I can’t understand is why there hasn’t been more hoopla over the performance of Rachel McAdams in “Midnight in Paris”. She created one of the most sublime, unlikeable bitch characters in years. The audience was so grateful (SPOILER) when Owen Wilson dumps her.

  • Bailey

    Sasha and Ryan, I just want to let you know that I am a reader of this blog who doesn’t read your posts and immediately jump to conclusions, misunderstand your words, or look for reasons to get defensive. It saddens me to realize that I may be in the minority, but take heart because there are still some of us out there! Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re appreciated.

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