It’s been a rough year for Zero Dark Thirty fans, a rougher year for Lincoln fans.
Starting as far back as October with the systemic and relentless takedown over at Hollywood-Elsewhere.com, Lincoln could not catch a break. The top pundits in the field like Steve Pond and Dave Karger knew in their bones Lincoln was “too boring” to win, that too many people “didn’t like it.” It didn’t pass the “kitten in a cup” test. Their predictions flew all over the map as the result. They knew what couldn’t win but they didn’t know what could. They’d seen Argo and written it off as a fairly bland choice to take Best Picture. It was good but not good enough. When Zero Dark Thirty came out it especially seemed to take away much of Argo’s luster.
But then Zero Dark Thirty was taken out by a continual debate. But then Zero Dark Thirty was taken out by the blow-back of continual debate. If Bigelow and Boal said it wasn’t based on true events they would be branded as reckless torture advocates. If they said it was based on true events they would be accused of perpetuating a right-wing ideology that seemed to justify torture by making it appear effective and claiming it was key to getting Bin Laden. Bigelow was called Leni Reifenstahl and took the kind of hard fall you can only really take now, with the news cycles in fast-motion and a hungry beast that needs continual news, preferably scandal, to keep it going at such high speed. We feed the beast because the beast must be fed and Zero Dark Thirty was the perfect sacrifice: not one, but two women set to take a fall, both the film’s director, headed for her second Best Director nomination in three years, and the film’s star, who was and is the only female lead in the Oscar race that isn’t defined by her male co-star. (You could make a good case for Beasts of the Southern Wild in this regard).