If you’re in this business, “business,” long enough you’ll see a lot of nasty shit. I don’t just mean regular old shit you can flush down the toilet, I mean the kind someone leaves slumped in a pile outside, back behind the dumpster where it sits for weeks until the scent mercifully evaporates.  There is nothing you can do it about it, of course, because the press drags it around like a paralyzed mouse, flipping it up in the air just for fun, and ad impressions.

The narratives begin to form and you suddenly realize that the Oscar race has nothing to do with actually awarding high achievement but people voting irrationally – the same way the 75 year-old on his second or third marriage decides to buy a candy-red Ferrari that he doesn’t need, looks ridiculous driving, and will have to sell anyway as his finances take a dive because his new wife can’t stop spending.  That, my friends, is irrationality and it’s the emotional soft spot Oscar campaigning mostly aims to exploit.  It means you don’t think, you feel and that feeling helps to identify you. It means you are operating from a certain pre-packaged delusion that falsely makes you buy something or vote for someone, or worse, not vote for someone.  In sports, it is about winning and losing. In politics you hope the people can see through the bullshit and look at the facts. But the Oscars are about a subjective opinion, which is why voters are so easily manipulated and why the press is always, every year, a willing participant: fool the press, fool the voters.  But hey, don’t worry about it, Jake.

This year there were two strong narratives that I could see emerge.  Argo got hit with one early on, about the Canadians being left out of Argo and the Americans getting to take credit. As I always do, I tried to launch a counter attack to that, to help dispel what would turn into a nasty whisper campaign that ultimately amounted to: Argo is bullshit.  If you’re invisible in the background no one bothers you. But if you’re way out front? You’re a target, and not a moving one.  Lucky for the Argo campaign its opacity soon faded.  For a little while.

While the torture controversy was still boiling, a newly minted whisper campaign was headed Kathryn Bigelow’s way, unearthed from a Hollywood Reporter Kim Masters story that said, in effect, that Mark Boal had so much control over Bigelow he basically “directed” Zero Dark Thirty. Turns out, no one really needed to step on the gas with that one — the campaign was derailed by regular people who had no investment in the Oscar race.  Though anti-torture protesters are still holding up signs outside events someone should tell them that it’s okay, they can go back to their dorms because Bigelow took a hard fall from a high place.  And there was no ensuing pity party for her.

But the worst of it is aimed at the frontrunner, the Goliath, the great whale a certain blogger has made it his mission to harpoon.  But before I get into it, let’s remember that when The Social Network was up for Oscar the whisper campaign was “David Fincher is desperate for an Oscar.” Does anyone remember that ridiculous meme? Does anyone remember how the press totally bought it, neatly sliced and packaged for consumption as it was? A piece of meat they could cook without knowing where it really came from? Yeah. Meanwhile, the other side, the lil’ David, the scrappy underdog that could, looks outwardly desperate for an Oscar — not because they’re power hungry, mind you, but because gosh, they’re just good guys who did good work! They can’t believe their success so they show up everywhere, campaign harder and more they campaign, the more they “want it” the more they win. And they are never called desperate — they’re called lucky.  Funny, isn’t it?

Once these car wrecks start, though, there isn’t any way you can stop-motion — the Titanic is moving towards the iceberg and there ain’t a damned thing you can do about it.  Maybe after the festivities end, the balloons deflate and the erections fade and the hearts stop pumping love-blood will anyone notice the wreckage.

This year, the Lincoln team had a film that went to the White House at the behest of President Obama. Why? Because Lincoln, it’s worth noting, is Obama’s favorite president. The only two books he brought into the White House with him were the Bible and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals.  Not only did Obama watch it but so did the senators. Why? Because it’s worth remembering what it took, how difficult it was, to do something as simple as passing a Constitutional Amendment that guarantees something that should never have been taken away from any American, of African heritage or otherwise, to begin with: freedom.

Even some Republicans saw fit to watch Lincoln.  It was a no-brainer, then, to ask President Bill Clinton, who was already in town for a charity event, to intro Lincoln at the Golden Globes.  Dreamworks wasn’t the only studio in town trying to get Clinton. But no one will go on the record about that.  Many people were trying to get him to appear at the Globes but no one really had a good enough in — except, of course, Spielberg whose support and donations to the Hillary Clinton campaign go way back.  So if Team Argo had done it — you think Ben Affleck doesn’t have as many powerful friends you haven’t been following the news — it would have looked like “scrappy underdog that could upstages almighty Lincoln at Globes with Clinton!” The buzz that followed would have been something like “Clinton must not have liked Lincoln otherwise he would have intro’d Lincoln.”

Either way, I appeared to be the only one excited about that intro. Not because it might mean Lincoln could have won the Globe — are you kidding? But because it was Bill Clinton period.  And because he called Lincoln “extraordinary.”  People who think Spielberg called in a favor are calling Bill Clinton a whore and a liar. But hey, all’s fair when it comes to winning Oscars right? Now who’s desperate?

The morning after the Globes, someone tattled to Deadline who were more than willing to splay out the story to stop any potential bump Lincoln might have gotten from that intro — I can’t believe we’re even having this discussion — and eventually, it evolved into this, the narrative from the Huffington Post:

Hey Chris, yeah, it’s hard to feel bad for Steven Spielberg ever, but I’m starting to have a little sympathy. Somehow, trotting out Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and his weirdly horny parents (did you seethat 60 Minutes interview?) wasn’t enough to persuade Academy voters that “Lincoln” deserves a place among “Grand Hotel,” “Ben-Hur” and his own “Schindler’s List” in the Best Picture pantheon. Our Oscar Predictions Dashboard now gives “Lincoln” a measly 15.8% chance of winning the category, compared with “Argo”‘s gaudy 83.5%, and I think you’re right that we now have to ask if Spielberg can even claim Best Director.

Weirdly horny parents? Grand Hotel and Ben-Hur?  Dude, Spielberg isn’t the one you should feel sorry for. He’s actually out there creating art.  While you and me, we’re just sitting on the sidelines with our thumbs up our asses helping paint a narrative that exposes, really, the worst human beings have to offer. So let’s do the math. Spielberg creating the best things humans have to offer — a movie about a great president, a prolific successful director, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright whose screenplay is so beautifully written if you take the time to actually read it it breaks your heart, an actor who did something I’ve never seen an actor do in a movie — and you and me, awards bloggers spitting in our palms, rubbing it together and pretending anything we think matters. Yeah, and it’s you who feels sorry for Spielberg.

Every year you think you can stay on top of this stuff, and that it will only be about the movie. The funny part of this year was that there is actually a true blue scrappy underdog that could in Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild which was made for $1.8 million.  Has anyone checked to see if any movie ever nominated for Picture and Director was made on such a shoestring budget? But sadly, there is no narrative that can be applied to a filmmaker no one knows.

If you haven’t yet been soured by this year’s Oscar race, you’re lucky. If you still see it as just a fair competition to see which film gets the most votes or the usual sloppy refrain, “maybe they just liked that movie better,” then you haven’t been paying attention. Look around at those who’ve been campaigning the hardest and ask yourself why they never got the “desperate to win” label? Spielberg has already won two Oscars for directing. Does anyone really think he’s “desperate” for a third? If anything, Spielberg is desperate, if it makes you feel more normal to use that word, to win an Oscar for his lifetime producing partner Kathleen Kennedy who holds the record for most nominations and no wins, who took time out to have kids on a ticking down biological clock the same year Spielberg happened to win big for Schindler’s List.  Does Kennedy want an Oscar? Does anyone deserve an Oscar MORE? But her career is fine without one. Trust me, if you’re a woman in this business you’re already used to doing all the work and never taking any of the credit.

Spielberg made Lincoln over the course of 13 years not to win Oscars. How small-minded do you have to be to think, at this stage in his career, he would be desperate for the approval of people who give as much consideration to what should win Best Picture as they do when they open up Facebook and see the hundredth picture of a kitten in a cup?

I used to think there was such a thing as a “deserving” winner.  This year, with so many great films there are many deserving winners.  Amour is deserving. Life of Pi is deserving. Zero Dark Thirty is deserving. Beasts of the Southern Wild is deserving. The reason that I’ve fought for Lincoln is because it was such a tough sell to begin with — a talky film about ideas does not equal kitten in a cup.

So what were they so afraid of? Why the need to smear Bill Clinton’s good name and Spielberg all at once? Afraid of those 12 nominations? Afraid of a period piece because it’s usually Oscar catnip? There’s no visible disability, no stutter, no cathartic climax — just a jarring death of a president gone too soon.  Even when the film wasn’t winning awards it was still the object of scorn. Were they afraid of it or did they just need a Goliath to help drive the narrative that, once again, it’s delicious to watch an underdog beat a frontrunner?

I started my website in 1999 as a single mother, broke, with a new baby to support. We were living in a one room shack behind my sister’s house. I had a Mac G4 and a modem.  I also had the internet.  I’ve been at it for 14 years but the truth is that, for some reason, this year has made me wonder whether I can actually take it anymore. I’ve seen too much and what I’ve seen is not pretty.  I was never under any illusions that the Oscar game was fair. But somehow I never thought, in a million years, it would never amount to people calling Bill Clinton a whore and a liar.

The trick is not minding, my readers remind me.  You just have to not get so personally invested, another friend says. The Oscar race isn’t about you, I tell myself. You shouldn’t care so much how it turns out — after all, you always say how worthless all of it ultimately is. Every other Oscar predictor doesn’t care how it turns out.  If you care that much you shouldn’t be doing this job.  And that last one I agree with.

Thing is, I can take people “just liking another movie more.” What I can’t take is the need to then make it all worse by smearing the good name of admirable people in the name of those awards. No Oscar is worth that.  Sometimes I think that if what it takes to win film awards means playing that dirty? How worthwhile can those awards actually be?  And the answer is…


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  • Bob

    A politician a whore and a liar?! Never! Especially that upstanding Boy Scout, Bill Clinton!

  • I’ve always loved movies and the Oscars have been on my must watch list from about 1955 on. This is the first year that I’ve paid real attention to supporting a particular film and/or actor other than early in 1964 when I was pounding the floor screaming Yes! Yes! Yes! when Sidney Poitier won for Lilies of the Field.

    This has been a good year for films but there were only two that I genuinely felt would last well into the future: Lincoln and Les Miserables simply because they dealt with big issues and universal themes that would still be important and pertinent to future generations in ways that the other candidates would not. That they also happened to have great casts and wonderful examples of the actors’ art was even more icing on the cake.

    Two see both of these films in some way be attacked by the twitterati, blogosphere, crass campaigns, and rampaging trolls has been painful. I’ve decided to just say, “it is what it is and win or lose, they will still be great movies” while humming eight bars of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”.

  • steve50

    Maybe it’s rough, slanderous and unfair, but this is the ugly side of democratic selection. And the bigger the prize, the nastier and more desperate the methods of persuasion. You cannot change how it works without compromising the process, I don’t think.

    One can believe all that they hear or put it in pespective of the contest being fought. This goes for positive as well as negative “whispering”, anything off-topic, which is judging the film solely as a film and the work of the individuals involved as achievement unto themselves, not aimed at the awards that follow.

  • Need an edit button for fools whose brain said “to” and whose fingers typed “two”. Oh, and Chastain and Jackman were fun on Leno last night.

  • Film Fatale

    Sasha, what a great piece about this cancerous season that forces us to take sides and draw battle lines over great movies that are all within a hair’s breadth of each other. I’m guilty of it too — I’m rooting for Chastain but now that sort of means I have to decry Lawrence, whom I like.

    But what you’re talking about is more of a modern, societal take-down thing and not just negative buzz building specific to Hollywood — it’s about quickly tearing down achievements of others to somehow feel worthier and smearing anyone and everything to WIN — it’s the same as any season of American politics. In my view, there is so much jealousy today of anyone who does anything of merit that everyone is ready to pounce (like on Beyonce after the whole lip-gate thing). It’s sickening that these narratives get started and topple the achievements and sweat and artistry of so many (Bigelow and Chastain are likely the most glaring casualties). Brokeback Mountain is the prototype.

    Anyway, I have to say I love when we see “you” in your writing. As for caring too much, it’s impossible not to “mind” about these silly awards outcomes when you live, drink, eat and sleep movies like so many of us.

  • Sasha, when you talk about your humble beginnings with this website and to be where you are right now, and then ponder if you can take it anymore. All I can say is mind your motto ‘The trick is not minding’. In the course of 20 years that I have really been paying attention to the Oscars, I have gotten so emotionally invested into it that it’s no surprise that my blood pressure is higher the first two months of each new year. But several turning points in Oscar history have slapped me in the face, and it took last year’s fuckery to help me finally get over the ‘awe’ of Oscar. The events are:

    – In 1999 when Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan

    – In 2005 when Crash pathetically beat Brokeback Mountain (Munich, alt)

    – In 2012 when Michael Fassbender was egregiously snubbed for Best Actor nomination

    These three events are the three-strikes rule against Oscar/AMPAS for me, and I refuse to get emotionally invested in this shit again. It’s bullshit!

    If in the event Argo loses Best Picture, it’ll be status quo bullshit, but I’ll go to sleep at night without a migraine. I’m done with these bitches, and you should really calm down because it’s not worth it!

  • Christophe

    Do Academy voters even care about all this nonsense? They always sound so aloof and disconnected, I’m wondering if all the controversies fueled by pundits, bloggers and whoever runs the show behind the curtain, might just be a way to keep oscar geeks on their toes and give their own jobs meaning.


    How much money did you receive to support ……………………

  • The J Viewer

    Thanks for a great read, Sasha. Always love your PASSION!

    Re Spielberg, one of my all-time favorites, come to think about it, it’s a bit disheartening to realize at times that the master himself, ever since 1968, despite two BD Oscar wins to his name has garnered so far but one Best Picture Oscar statuette. . . .

  • simone

    Oh, I forgot to mention that due to the 3 strikes against AMPAS, I no longer watch the broadcast.

    I’m walkin’ the fuckin’ talk.

  • phineas

    OMG, what will happen next. Who else to blame if Lincoln loses BP.
    hmmm, maybe AMPAS is under the control of the CIA … 😉

  • Paul

    Sasha, thank you so much for continuing to put things in perspective and for standing by what is one of the best films I’ve seen in the last decade. By the way, I am one of the “fanboy nation” to which you have occasionally referenced, however I didn’t find “Lincoln” to be even remotely boring or overly talky. The reason it continues to mint its own money is because when you pay attention to the complexity of the dialogue and the effortlessness nature of the performances, you realize that it’s exciting, engaging, funny, and profoundly thought-provoking, all the while giving our politically divisive culture a peak into what it takes to actually get things done in our country. Fortunately, Spielberg’s masterpiece will be better remembered in 30 years than most current films, just as his masterpieces from 30 years ago are better remembered than the titles that won Oscars then. Thanks for bringing thought and sanity to Oscar blogging. It’s the reason your site is the one on my “favorites” bar.

  • I’ve been following the Oscar race for about two decades now. I just like the spectacle of it. I’d never even attempt to predict what they’re going to pick. My big day of disappointment is usually nomination morning. I want my favorite actors, favorite films, etc., to make it to the big dance. Once they get there whatever happens is gravy. But a lot of the time, my peeps don’t even make it that far. This year I really struck out.

    However, being a fan of films in general there are enough people I can root for that are in the thick of it. So I’m having fun still. I don’t like it when I look for Quentin Tarantino in the class photo and he’s not there.
    That’s not cool. But I enjoy the talk show blitz that’s happening right now. I love all the precursors and the drive to Oscar night. It’s just like the playoffs leading up to the Superbowl for me.

    When my favorite people don’t make it I hope that maybe they’ll get asked to be presenters or I look ahead in the schedule to see if they’ve got a movie coming out that can be their make up Oscar. By that I don’t mean an Oscar for putting make up on someone’s face. I mean an Oscar to make up for the one they should have received previously. Most of my peeps win make up Oscars. Which generally means that someone else who deserved it that year will have to get a make up Oscar later. It’s a vicious circle.

    But this is how the story goes. My only problem is when the story takes over too much and there’s nowhere to just talk about the quality of the films. I think that this year some movies may have gotten into the Oscar race because of their controversies. Meaning without the brouhaha they might have been left off the ballot. There were so many films this year, we could have had 20 movies nominated for Best Picture. But the noise got too loud from some films and movies that belonged there maybe didn’t make it because they were just good, controversy-less films. And that’s what’s really not fair. Most of the people here had favorite films that never made it. Not even close. But I think a lot of us assumed that the late breaking films would be of such quality that it was a given that they’d be nominated and ours would have to take a backseat. Then when you finally do see them, they’re not that great. (Same thing happened last year.) But they’ve got a place on Oscar night when you’re favorite film doesn’t. To me that’s what’s not fair.

    So I look at who makes that happen and I point the finger at them. It’s usually not the studios or the moviemakers. It’s the dingbats who believe what they’re told. The villain is the Oscar voter who doesn’t vote his heart. It’s the one who lets the nanny fill out her ballot or who votes for his friends. The only people who really decide what happen are those with Oscar ballots. No mogul, no director, no gossip rag, no blogger has the power to force someone to vote for their film. It’s the individual Oscar voter who decides. So whether they get it right or get it wrong, it’s all on them regardless of any influence. That’s the truth of it.

  • steve50

    “hmmm, maybe AMPAS is under the control of the CIA …”

    Better that than the other way around. Now that would liven up the news, wouldn’t it?

  • It’s a fine line we must walk. If we don’t mind, there’s no reason to do it. If we mind too much, any “objectivity” (as if there is such thing) goes down the drain.

    I absolutely agree with you, however, that there seems to be something awry this year. (As there was in the Crash year, actually.)

    Of course Oscar is politics. (Dang, I replying to you, or you talking to your daughter is politics, but I digress.) I do understand campaigning, but there is such a thing as going too far.

    Remember this, if I may: it’s about your love for the movies. Nothing should change that.

  • Ryan

    I read a piece similar to this yesterday.


    What is it about this season that makes everyone so bitter?

  • phineas

    psssst, I have heard Spielberg has refused to help the CIA to fake the moon landing in 69. Thats why the CIA contracted Ben to make Argo to beat Lincoln.

    but, psssssst, its top secret

  • Jerry

    I think the acadmy is very simple. They like what they like and no Internet or whisper campaign can help or hurt a film’s chances with them.

  • steve50

    The Oscars are about money, power, manipulation, and ratings for a three hour telecast. They always have been (well, not the telecast). “Best” has little to do with the results even when they accidentally coincide.

    Because most of us do “mind”, perhaps another, more appropriate handle should be used:
    “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

  • keifer

    “Lincoln” has all the elements of a Best Picture Oscar: historical epic, great performances, admired director; based on a Pulitzer prize-winning book, contains technicians and crew (i.e., composer John Williams, film editor Michael Kahn) respected in the film community.

    AMPAS has shown that it has a mind of its own, and isn’t “beholding” to all those uppity film critics prizes (i.e., “The King’s Speech” besting “The Social Network”). “Lincoln” is going to win Best Picture/Best Director. It just feels like the moment. Can I live with that? Yes. Do I like it? No. I really didn’t like the movie at all. But this is the Oscars. And when push comes to shove, they are still the most fun awards show to watch on television, whether we like their choices or not.

    “The trick is not minding.” Indeed. But might I venture another slogan? How about, “The truth is more often than not annoying.”

  • The J Viewer

    ‘“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”’

    I know it was a movie quote (at the end of that film). But at least in general context, I find it offending, not only to Chinese people but also other (East and Southeast) Asian esprits across the globe.

  • Pierre de Plume

    How much money did you receive to support ……………………

    I think what we’re seeing this year in the Oscar race — not to mention on this site (see above comment) — shows us what has been happening in our society. It’s been going on for 20 years or so; people with ideologies or agendas have increased felt justified to follow “the ends justify the means” model. I think internet technology, which is more impersonal, has made it possible for this lack of civility to flourish. When we see this type of thing unfolding at the national level in our political arena, people follow suit in their everyday lives.

    But let’s not forget — this sort of nastiness has been occurring in Oscarworld right from the beginning. It’s just that technology has enabled the decibel level to increase to a deafening extent.

    I understand that, unlike many sites, yours doesn’t throw comments into moderation or “pending” status, thus allowing a freer, more open exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, the downside of that is the garbage (such as the above comment) that comes with that. Regardless, I really hope, Sasha, that after this year’s race ends and things die down, you continue to provide us with the wonderful opportunities here at AD that have been here for us since you launched the site.

  • Getting toooo involved with Oscar coverage hurts. I can’t tell you how devastated I was when Ann Dowd did not get nominated for Best Supporting Actress. I was TOTALLED.

    And if that’s how I felt, can you imagine how SHE feels now being over $13,000 in debt and just being handed an EXTRA $3,000 to the total it took to send out those screeners.

    I was told Melissa Leo spent MORE. It’s all about MONEY.
    And power. And influence. And hype.

    And that’s all it is Mega-HYPE. Hoopla.

    But being that this is America, the Oscars are what we have as culture.

    But it’s SHOW Biz. It’s just Show BIZ. That’s all it is and all it ever will be.

    It’s not honest. It’s not fair. It’s like life that way. And as you yourself put it, the trick is not minding.

  • PaulH

    I hold true to the belief Avatar was the victim of just such an insidious deed. The Hurt Locker partisans spooked the actors’ branch into believing that performance capture technology would so be the end of their careers. Death panels and all that. Sadly, it worked. When you lose the actors branch, its over.

  • filmboymichael

    Odd to read that about Bigelow, but odd mainly because I had heard that from someone who worked on the film…..I brushed it off as snark from someone who didn’t have the best time…didn’t think it was part of a smear, since that’s the only time I heard this….

  • Scott I.

    I’d like to nominate Film Fatale for best Awards Daily avatar. It looks like a cute little ballot going into a voting box!

  • Perhaps the establishment is as sick of it as you are and that’s behind the huge surge for Argo, though I still can’t see it being the fourth film in Oscar history to win without its director being nominated. This is just another replay of the perpetual battle of the titans: Spielberg vs. Harvey, the king of doing whatever it takes to make his movie win. You have to tune the nonsense out because in the end the Oscars, as with most entertainment awards, get more things wrong than they do right. When I used to run office pools, some co-workers when debating whether to participate would say, “I haven’t seen most of these films.” I’d tell them that was fine because actually seeing the films would only hurt them. It inevitably gives them a rooting interest in what should win and you can’t predict well that way. There always have been whisper campaigns and dirty tricks, but they didn’t become a science until Harvey entered the game.

  • Pierre de Plume

    I’d tell them that was fine because actually seeing the films would only hurt them. It inevitably gives them a rooting interest in what should win and you can’t predict well that way.

    You said it. Edward. I remember once watching a guy fill out his Oscar pool ballot at a bar about 15 minutes before the telecast began. As his arms waved through the air and he casually marked his boxes with a quick flick of the pen, I listenined to his rationale with amused amazement — his reasoning had literally nothing to do with the quality of the films, most of which he hadn’t even seen. He ended up winning the kitty.

  • dp

    I love Clinton- ever since I shook his hands in high school when he came to campaign in my area in ’96. I still have not gotten over Hillary’s defeat. But let’s not fool ourselves here. Bill and Hill and will do what benefits them. One hand washes the other. This is not a knock on them (or Spielberg). I think it’s healthy when we have a realistic expectation from our politicians- as politicians (as long as they are doing their job, Monica be damned). So when he came onstage and introduced Lincoln- I wanted to leap out of my seat like everyone else in that ballroom. But the motivation from both ends also sunk in- I mean, it’s fairly transparent. You have Bill up there wagging his finger telling everyone that they ought to have sexual relations with this movie come voting time. It’s not any different from when they stumped for other democrats who have backed them in the past. So why must we pretend that this was so noble? I think it’s perfectly acceptable so long as we don’t delude ourselves of the politics involved in this. It was a great show and coup. After all, even Lincoln was not above bribery to get what he wanted.

  • Rex S.

    No “cathartic climax,” eh? What about the vote? The cheering — the verbal reading of the amendment. That isn’t catharsis?

  • joe

    I fill out oscar ballots every year. I’ve gotten a lot right in the past.

  • CB

    I think the acadmy is very simple. They like what they like and no Internet or whisper campaign can help or hurt a film’s chances with them.

    Agreed. I don’t think in cases like Brokeback/Crash these things were because of some mass anger vote shift. Most of these people are just voting either passively with a trend or voting for what they like. I think with Crash, a lot of them watched their screeners, liked it, and checked the box. And yes, there was definitely some unconscious homophobia there, but it was on a mostly individual level, is my guess.

    Though the only 2 times I can see there being really a wave of sentiment changing things are Crash and Hurt Locker.

    For Crash, it’ll only be remembered as the film that unjustly beat Brokeback, which in the grand scheme of things only solidifies Brokeback as the masterpiece it is. Who cares if a gold statue went to Crash? Though, I’d also like to say, the silver lining there is that now Paul Haggis is much more important as an ex-Scientologist – so I think giving him his undo Oscars has helped us out ultimately.

    For Hurt Locker, can anyone actually say that that movie is a bigger cinematic achievement than Avatar (or Inglourious Basterds or A Serious Man or Bright Star to name 3 more superior films from 2009)? No way. It’s a fairly typical war movie, that’ll only be remembered because it was the first BP/BD Oscar that went to a woman. By and large, I believe few will remember it as more than that.

  • Sasha I think you’re looking way too hard for a villain here. Yes Oscar campaigns can get dirty, but like you said, voters like what they like, votes get split, etc. LINCOLN losing is not necessarily a knock against LINCOLN or the result of some kind of anti-LINCOLN campaign (no matter how much Wells would like to take credit for it).

    I enjoy your passion, but so often you say these things don’t matter, and ultimately they don’t. I enjoy the Oscar season because I like the race. My favorites rarely win, and I’m OK with that. I rejoice when my favorites triumph, but when they don’t, it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t hurt my perception of my favorite films. I might bitch about it for a while, but that’s just part of the fun. It’s a game, nothing more. LINCOLN will always be a great film, regardless of what happens on Oscar night. History is littered with great films that lost the Oscar (or weren’t even nominated). Remember CITIZEN KANE?

  • Nick


    I think the main source of your frustration over the past few years has actually been the preferential ballot. This voting system, by nature, picks the least-offensive movie. Do you think there is anything that can be done about it? It would be nice, because I miss the daring choices the Academy used to make. I doubt The Departed would have won with a preferential ballot, and maybe not No Country, for that matter. The change in the voting process has awarded movies that are “soft lobs down the middle”. King’s Speech over Social Network (THAT was annoying!), or The Artist over Moneyball/The Descendants (I still don’t get the hoopla over the silent film). Maybe the Academy is trying to draw in a bigger audience by creating a system designed to get the least offensive movie the awards.

    I personally do prefer Argo over Lincoln because I was more entertained by it than by Lincoln. I think Lincoln is a great film, but Hollywood is in the business of entertaining, and as much as I loved both Zero Dark and Lincoln (your two favorite dogs in the fight, no?), I was more ENTERTAINED by Argo. Because of the entertainment factor, I think that’s why Argo is more likely to win.

    This year would be a great addition to the Inside Oscar books you love so much – there are a lot of factors at play. And I think you should try to find the humor in all this mess – you wouldn’t still be doing it if you didn’t love it! And a little laughter never hurt anyone.

  • Edkargir

    Paul H , The hurt locker was the best film of the year .Avatar did not make my top 20 get over it.

  • steve50

    Sorry for any offense, J Viewer. Certainly none intended. The doughnut holes I’ve been gorging on cluded my judgement.

    Scroll down through the “Caption This” thread, towards the end, if you want to get real excited.

  • @Nick I agree with you. Lincoln is a great film, but there’s no question that Argo is more entertaining (as is Django Unchained but maybe that’s just me).

    I don’t understand the plaudits for Beasts of the Southern Wild AT ALL. I’d prefer it if one of the blockbusters had actually been nominated (Avengers, Hunger Games, Dark Knight Rises, don’t really care which one–just an acknowledgement that art and commerce can be combined into a high-quality whole).

    To me the most interesting race is for BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR.

    To me that it is a complete crapshoot, and a corollary of the BEST PICTURE race. If Argo wins BP, does that mean Tommy Lee Jones? Is this a logical implication (If A, Then B). So if early in the broadcast, TLJ does NOT win BP, but Robert DeNiro does, does that mean Lincoln is winning BP?

    Speaking of De Niro, I think its pretty incredible he’s only been nominated FOUR times in his entire career (and has two wins). Is there anyone else who has a better ratio with at least that many nominations?

  • know it was a movie quote (at the end of that film). But at least in general context, I find it offending, not only to Chinese people but also other (East and Southeast) Asian esprits across the globe.

    J Viewer, I’ve seen Chinatown 20 times and that line never struck me as intending to disparage Chinese or Asian people. On the contrary, I think it was clearly meant to be a slam against the LAPD’s lax and arbitrary policing of the neighborhood in that era. It only meant that Chinatown was rife with injustice. But obviously the Mulray family were not Chinese. It was lily white Hollis Mulray Noah Cross who was about to get away with murder and there would be nothing anybody could do about it. That’s in no way a reflection of the Asians portrayed in Chinatown who were among the few honorable and clear-sighted characters in the film.

  • phantom

    Sasha Stone

    “And there was no ensuing pity party for her.”

    Sasha, with all due respect, this pity party/poor Ben argument seems like a rather lazy/ignorant one and I say this with the conviction that if ONE more could have been nominated, it should have been Bigelow whose accomplishment was far more challenging, fearless and unique than Affleck’s excellent, expertly executed but by-the-numbers achievement.

    BUT Argo pulled off the Critics Choice BP/BD on the day of Oscar nominations and then the Golden Globe BP/BD 3 days later, obviously the Oscar-snub had nothing to do with those, there was simply no time in the schedule to influence anything at that point. Then the overwhelming guild-love (PGA-SAG-DGA) could have been the result of this weird vibe of injustice in the air, but then again, Argo HAD BEEN considered potentially THE best of 2012 long before the Oscar-snub : it won 9 BP/BD awards from critics groups (Lincoln, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook won 1 maybe 2 each), Affleck received the usually ironclad DGA-BAFTA-HFPA-BFCA quartet (even Spielberg missed one of those), AND most shockingly, it was THE ONLY CONTENDER that received those 4 BD nominations + Picture/Screenplay/Acting nominations from PGA-SAG-WGA-BAFTA-HFPA-BFCA, not to mention the SAG Ensemble (Lincoln missed the Bafta BD, Zero Dark Thirty/Life of Pi missed the SAG Ensemble, Silver Linings Playbook/Les Misérables missed a bunch of BD mentions). So even though I understand the snub could have helped the Argo-campaign A LOT in the long run, its sweep (Critics Choice, Golden Globe) started virtually BEFORE the shocking exclusion, so (at least the first part of) the sweep can’t be really contributed to a factor voters might not have been aware of at all around the time they cast their ballots (I don’t know when voting for the PGA-DGA-SAG ended, but I assume not long after the Oscar nominations).

    Having said that, I’m still fairly certain that Lincoln WILL sweep the Oscars and all this Argo-love is actually good news for Spielberg and co.. This was the ONLY way that a prestige pic of THIS epic proportions (basically you needed at least a Golden Globe just to change the toilet paper on set) could actually become ‘the scrappy underdog’ of the season. In my opinion, NOW that powerful sense of injustice previously owned by Argo, could easily land in the hands of the Lincoln-people and the most crucial part ? If that happens, the timing will be EXCELLENT, the Oscar-voting starts next week…and since Lincoln has failed to win anything ‘big’ so far, it can actually count on sympathy votes, something it wouldn’t have had, had it become the obvious frontrunner instantly, a status it so richly deserves. I think it will win Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Lead Actor the very least, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Supporting Actor, Original Score, Editing, Cinematography happened, as well.

  • Jorge

    I agree with what you say but take issue with a small but important point – I refuse to view the “The King Speech” and “Argo” types as the “feeling but not thinking types, and the “TSN” and “Lincoln” types the “thinking but not feeling.” (You may not have meant to say that, sorry if I’m putting words in your mouth)

    I loved TSN and Lincoln over those two in part because of how they made me feel. And it was many things. Awed. Impressed. Depressed. And simply astounded at how smart film making can be. So, it’s a combination of stimulating my brain and my emotions with the power of smart thought and thoughtful smartness.

    I think the Argo lovers (of whom I personally thankfully know ZERO!) are not “feelers.” They’re more like: “We want to be entertained and not challenged. We want to feel good about ourselves. Above all, don’t depress us too much. And don’t make it hard. Make it super easy.”

    It’s neither thinking NOR feeling, frankly, it’s laziness, unidimensionality and, heck, even apathy. “Feeling” is voting for Slumdog or The Artist.
    Sitting their lazily is voting for TKS and Argo. Feeling+Thinking++++ is TSN and Lincoln.

    I know which group I want to be in.

  • linc4jess

    “”The narratives begin to form and you suddenly realize that the Oscar race has nothing to do with actually awarding high achievement but people voting irrationally”” –

    I read a book on the OSCARS, a while back, and if I remember correctly the author states that the Academy is not a monolith and just because the voters make the movies and vote on them they don’t really have a superior insight as to what really makes a good film. I know judging art is subjective reasoning but I think the outcome as to who ultimately has won whether its best picture and or other categories over the years is testament to this fact.

  • Christophe

    dear god no! Lincoln has just passed Les Mis at the daily BO and is now going after Django! This thing cannot be stopped, it’s bound to remain in the top 10 for like ever…

  • just because the voters make the movies and vote on them they don’t really have a superior insight as to what really makes a good film

    Indeed they do not!

  • Alec

    Mad Professah,
    DeNiro has been nominated 6 times in his career prior to Silver Linings. He won for Godfather II and Raging Bull. He was nominated for Taxi Driver, Deer Hunter, Awakenings and Cape Fear.

  • Pierre de Plume

    I tend to agree with phantom, for the moment at least. However, I don’t see a big sweep for it or for any other film. I’d guess that Argo will take editing, for example, and that a good share of the awards will be spread out. Some years are sweep years. But this year, above all the others in recent memory, seems like a hodgepodge to me.

  • Corvo


    “We want to be entertained and not challenged. We want to feel good about ourselves. Above all, don’t depress us too much. And don’t make it hard. Make it super easy.”

    You’re talking about the childish SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and the bogus THE ARTIST, not about ARGO. “Feeling” is naive. If you want to figure out how things work you have to start thinking.

  • Film Fatale

    @ Scott I.

    I’m so thrilled to have my avatar nominated in the company of all the other fine posters at Awards Daily. If I play my cards right, this nomination may send me well on my way to “beating Meryl” or having an award to use “as a blunt object against self-doubt.”


    Again, thank you.

    Film Fatale

  • Alex M.

    Sasha, what I find so refreshing about reading your pieces is that you lay out all the reasons why the Academy is flawed and why it shouldn’t matter which films win because at the end of the day an award doesn’t make a film great BUT you still fight for your favorite to win.

    It’s so easy for people to look at the Oscar race and just throw their hands up and say whatever and walk away but you do carry the conviction to at least follow through what you think should win and why it should win. Unfortunately every year a smear campaign takes its toll but I still have full confidence that Lincoln has quietly made it through the award season and will peak just at the right time. Eventually awarding Argo as an act of “rebellion” will get old. But like we’ve all said, who knows.

    After reading yesterday’s comment board I do not envy your position but I do admire the conviction you carry!

  • Dave Klein

    @ Ryan Adams

    You mean Noah Cross, not Hollis Mulray.

  • Pierre de Plume

    This debate about feeling vs. thinking bothers me to the extent that I think both are important and that good films usually have a balance of both. For example, Lincoln certainly is a thinking film but it also left me with great depth of feeling. The Artist, on the other hand, whose success for me rested more on my emotional side. Once I accepted it as less an intellectual exercise but more of a emotional, romantic journey, I came to love it (even though I don’t consider it the best of that year).

    Good actors spend much of their preparation for a role indulging their mental side. For their characters to work, however, this must give way to feeling. And, during the actual performance, feeling is everything and thinking is the enemy.

    The best art, to my way of thinking, stimulates not only our minds but also our feelings.

  • Scott

    Ryan I think you meant to say Noah Cross gets away with murder, right?

  • Jason Travis


    Picture: Lincoln
    Director: Steven Spielberg
    Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
    Actress: Emmannuel Riva
    Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz
    Supporting Actress: Sally Field
    Adapted Screenplay: Lincoln
    Original Screenplay: Django Unchained

  • phineas

    totally agree with Jorge.
    loving Lincoln = Look how clever I am and how stupid the other are


  • haha, Scott! I lost the plot!

    I meant to say the Cross and Mulray families weren’t Chinese, and then I changed that, and then I forgot what I was saying.

    And this is why white people get away with murder. Justice is so confusing!

    Although I do hold Hollis Mulray partially culpable for the 500 people who drowned when the Van der Lip Dam broke.

  • Yvette

    ‘This was the ONLY way that a prestige pic of THIS epic proportions (basically you needed at least a Golden Globe just to change the toilet paper on set) could actually become ‘the scrappy underdog’ of the season.’

    I agree with this and was actually dreading Lincoln ‘sweeping’ awards season. Because that’s when the snark and backlash against a perceived ‘Goliath’ begins.
    Lincoln, despite it’s pedigree, it’s box office, has always been the real underdog. I am that person always rooting for the scrappy underdog film – like Crying Game, Crouching Tiger.. or ballsy performance – William Hurt in Kiss of the Spider Woman, Holly Hunter in Broadcast News – every year.
    And Lincoln is the passion project wearing it’s heart of its sleeve and I knew that was always bound to get trounced upon in the land of snark. The fact that Spielberg can be this successful, accepted, ‘establishment’ figure and yet still have me rooting for him…is a testament to how he continually raises the bar. Argo – nice, well-done and entertaining – has always been the real Goliath…it’s just been disguised as David.
    Lincoln is David.
    And Sasha, this shit does matter. We can tell ourselves ‘who cares? it doesn’t mean anything anyway’
    But it does. It actually hurts when people let you down. When people are more shallow than you want them to be.

  • comedywontwin

    I lost faith in the Oscar since Brokeback Mountain loss…I was like WHAT???did I turn deff? did I hear it clearly or I was possessed???
    Ever since that time, I realize its all bullshit, and lets face it, when they add these new really young actors and actresses to the academy, you know what is coming….no taste for art, all they look for is a flashy corny scheme.

    if Crash is a best picture winner and entered the history of the Academy, then just forget about this whole scam.

  • phineas

    you mention Brokeback Mountain, I dont think you can blame the “young” generation in AMPAS that BM didnt win. You should rather blame these old guys with their great taste.

  • Edward Copeland

    I’ve never understood all the animosity toward Crash. Not that it is a great film, but there are loads of worse best picture winners than that one. I also don’t understand the elevation of Brokeback Mountain, whose reputation keeps getting elevated in direct response to Crash hatred, when it was overrated from the beginning. Was Crash a worse best picture choice than Gladiator? Titanic? Braveheart? That’s not even going way back into the past to the likes of The Greatest Show on Earth. Brokeback gets points for its subject matter which has been done much better in other films. It’s like the Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner of gay movies. It might be important historically, but that doesn’t mean it’s great.

  • Richard

    Sasha, I love your pieces and I love your site. Your commentary always comes from interesting angles and represents valid, previously unconsidered, viewpoints. Your site, and Nathaniel’s Film Experience, are the only Oscar sites I follow. Please don’t be disheartened.

    You’re right, though. This season has been nasty. People feel they have to rip to shreds valid nominees in order to stand up for their favorites. That’s the biggest difference I’ve noticed this year.

    Just delete the horrible, rude, nasty comments and let the haters hate in private. You don’t need to respond to them.

    You’re a massive supporter of quality film work, and that’s why I read what you have to say. x

  • Bob Burns

    yes… a disillusioning year.

  • unlikely hood

    Meh, still better Argo than SLP.


    @pierre de pulme.. do you even understand the meaning of sarcasm..that comment was not even directed to sasha but just mocking these whispering theories.

  • phantom

    unlikely hood

    “Meh, still better Argo than SLP.”

    My thoughts exactly. That’s why I never complained while seeing this good film beating great ones. It could be worse. The Argo-lovefest could end and then SLP could emerge…now THAT would be a problem.

  • “Brokeback gets points for its subject matter which has been done much better in other films. It’s like the Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner of gay movies. It might be important historically, but that doesn’t mean it’s great.”

    Thank Goodness, someone who doesn’t think it is a masterpiece has the balls to speak his mind. I agree completely (though I even own that good film on DVD).

  • daveinprogress

    Gustavo, i too have never hailed BBM as a masterpiece. It is important historically, and I agree with Edward that it doesn’t mean the movie is great. I too was shocked that night that Crash won, but BBM didn’t move me in the way that i expected to. Maybe the hype preceded it for me. I must revisit it (like you i have a copy on dvd, so i guess i must have thought it was one to have in the collection!) Historically significant yes.

  • Pierre de Plume

    @pierre de pulme.. do you even understand the meaning of sarcasm..

    Yes, when it’s done well. But I’m glad you let me know and thank you for the sentiment.

  • danny

    Please don’t leave us Sasha. You’re one of about three websites I read!

    I’d miss you deeply if you decided to quit this. I totally understand your pain, you’re a sensitive and thoughtful writer who allows movies to touch her deeply and who isn’t afraid to write from the heart. And as such you are easy prey for the backstabbing and miserable oscar process.

    I don’t wish to presume, but maybe the best course is to keep the site going, and maintain sufficient content about the oscars to keep the advertising income going, but maybe shift your focus and emotional effort towards things that matter. Like Cannes, or Sundance, or your own top 10. You could still be awards daily, but you could try to snub these ridiculous academy types that every year so successfully snub you.

    But please don’t abandon us. My love of movies would be incomplete without your beautiful writing.

    Good luck with the rest of this horrid season.

  • montgopl

    You get worked up too much about your horse in the race. So others don’t like it. I don’t like it. But it’s not a conspiracy. Many people just don’t like it, respectfully. (BTW I love the book and I usually love Spielberg) Ultimately, this proves nothing because there’s no “merit” or “objective value” in art. It’s just the Oscars. Voted by the fans of The King’s Speech and Crash.

  • steve50

    Reality check.

    Honestly, I don’t get what all the bitching is about. We all complained the past couple of years because of the predictability of the race and the fact that some real duds were included in the nominations. That’s not the case this year.

    Plus, nearly all of the frontrunners are vulnerable to a degree – this is supposed to make this game fun, not frustrating. We all know that Oscar is not the final word on what is truly “best,” so just relax and enjoy the ride.

    It was a great year for mainstream movie making and in that context, there isn’t an undeserving nominee in the BP lot. Any one of them is as good as, if not better than, the films that won last year and the year before and I dare say that there are at least nine more that could have been nominated instead and we’d still be ahead of the games of the past two seasons.

    Would I prefer some edgier stuff – of course, but they don’t win Oscars; I don’t expect them even get nominated and that’s not why I watch the show.

    Trashing the merits of one conventional movie over another is a bit like arguing the substantive value of cake over pie. Most of them have made money at the box office – possibly more were successful in that regard that in previous years.

    The artistic and technical achievement is higher overall than in previous years, but nothing to go to the mat for. How can one get passionate in the debate over Lincoln vs Argo when there are films equal to or arguably more challenging and daring, like Amour, Pi and Zero Dark Thirty, in the mix.

    Only one or two nominees actually approach any kind of cinematic greatness, but time will tell if even they will be remembered as fondly as some of films that weren’t nominated. All of the rest are reasonably well done, but very standard fare.

    2013 Oscar season will be remembered as the year “good movies” returned, but not as a milestone year in film, as I see it, anyway.

  • julian the emperor

    I dont’ see how there is ground to be more pessimistic about this year than any other. I truly don’t see it. Unless it is the accumulation of frustration about spending 14 years trying to reflect on and make a perspective out of a process that isn’t the least idealistic to begin with. If you are looking for some form of higher justice, go look elsewhere.

    The relentless – and more often than not, ugly – campaigning is the least of the problem to me. I care more about the filmmakers and whether they are up to seizing their responsibility in a business where it is so easy – or almost mandatory – to get lost. When one of the “good guys”, David Fincher makes a movie like The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, THAT’S when you know something is wrong. That is pushing in the wrong direction.

    I care about the artists, how they choose to express themselves and if they are up for making brave decisions etc. I don’t care about campaigners doing this or that. That is beyond the realm of the enterprise of making movies, to me. Let them do their dirty work and let’s focus instead on the actual merits of the artists concerned.
    This year is actually quite a banner year for the art form. There is a lot to be thankful about.

  • Odee

    Actually Mad Professah, Di Niro has been nominated 7 times. Twice for Supporting Actor (he won the first time for Godfather II), and 5 times for Best Actor – Taxi Driver (76), Dear Hunter (78), Raging Bull (80) – won, Awakenings (90), and Cape Fear (91).

    Anyway, he will win this year, so that answers the Supporting Actor puzzle. It’s Robert for the win and the only acting win for Silver Linings.

  • Radich

    Apparently someone didn’t like to see Lincoln receiving the amount of applause at the Oscar’s Luncheon and is covering one’s bet with another nail on the coffin…


    This is as far as I can as a ‘conspiracy theorist’. 🙂

  • Terometer

    “I’ve seen too much and what I’ve seen is not pretty.”

    Ae you sure what you’ve done and said to other films is pretty?

  • ScottH

    What a great article. I completely agree with everything you said and that is why I really don’t put much stock in who actually wins the Academy Award since it is all PR campaigns anyway. Although no matter what mud has been slung at Lincoln, it can’t compare to what Zero Dark Thirty has gone through.

    I believe Kathryn Bigelow has gotten the brunt of this type of campaign. She has been propped up as some sort of pro-torture propagandist. Show something as morally complicated as torture and apparently you get no sympathy for being snubbed for Best Director like Affleck is receiving. She shows a half hour of a terrorist we are supposed to hate be tortured, but it is so inhumane I felt terrible for him. The slight information we get out of that conversation (which wasn’t even given while being tortured) doesn’t lead to Bin Laden till 8 years later. Think of all of the people we did that to that yielded absolutely nothing. Yet the pro-torture narrative has taken over and completely negated Zero Dark Thirty being the most critically acclaimed movie this year (95 on Metacritic).

    Critics and film historians will decide what films will live on to be masterpieces and which will be forgotten. Most classic films on the AFI top 100 were not even Best Picture winners. That is why you should keep doing what you are doing Even though I haven’t agreed the last few years with the films you have been championing for Best Picture (I actually really liked Lincoln, but just thought Zero Dark Thirty was the first masterpiece I have seen since Social Network) your opinions will be heard. They just may not translate to an immediate award like Best Picture.

  • keifer

    I, for one, love the fact that this is an unpredictable Oscar year.

    I can’t recall another Oscar year with such suspense, and in such major categories too.

    I even think Day Lewis doesn’t have it sewn up either. AMPAS may just back off rewarding an actor with three Best Actor Oscars – which would make history.

    Joaquin Phoenix, I think, has a real shot this year. His could be the underdog performance of the year.

    The only acting award I think that is a lock is Anne Hathaway in Les Mis. Otherwise, as is pointed out on this site, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor awards are really competitive, as is Best Picture.

    I truly don’t know how it will all come out in the end. But I have found this Oscar race a fascinating thing to watch this year. And can’t wait until the results are revealed.

    The Oscar office pool is going to be a lot less predictable this year.

  • Jason Travis

    @Mad Professah: Robert De Niro has been nominated more then 4 times:

    The Godfather, Part II (1974)
    Taxi Driver (1976)
    The Deer Hunter (1978)
    Raging Bull (1980)
    Awakenings (1990)
    Cape Fear (1991)
    Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

    I might even be missing one. I don’t know where you got that statistic from.

  • Jason Travis

    The only actor that would be deservin to beat Daniel Day-Lewis would be Joaquin Phoenix, and even that would be considered a major upset and frowned upon. Lewis is winning because of his masterful performance, and not poltiics or catch-up points. We should be grateful there is one actor in the bunch that is going to win on performance alone, and not anything else.

    Robert De Niro being Silver Linings Playbook’s ONLY acting win? I think not. The sole person winning for Russell’s dramedy is Jennifer Lawrence. De Niro has won nothing leading up to this, and it’s a performance that isn’t even touted as deserving of a nod (though better than Arkin’s). Upsets happen in the acting categories but usually ONLY if it’s a critically acclaimed slamdunk performance (ala Marcia Gay Harden). De Niro would only be winning to justify SLP and to honor a dried up career that ended once he signed up for phoned in work- he has had a few hidden gems (Casino, Meet the Parents) but nothing to write home about.

    Supporting Actor is between Hoffman, Waltz and Jones- the other two are lucky to be here at all.

  • Pierre de Plume

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