Over the past few years, Telluride has become the launching pad for Oscar contenders and winners. You’d probably had to have been watching the race evolve over the past 15 years to understand why. Back before they changed the date for Oscar, roughly 2003, the Oscars were held in March. That meant, awards madness really didn’t start until January or so. Funnily enough, I remember the days when December wasn’t the most heated time. As the years wore on, everything was pushed back so that now, September and October are the key months for herding the contenders into the pen.

When the Oscars were held in March we had a situation we don’t have now: the ability to reflect on the films of the year. I can’t say that the films chosen now are better than the ones that came before it. I can’t even say that the Academy’s recent decision to expand the Best Picture nominees from five to ten, then from ten to a random number based on favorites, makes for a better Best Picture lineup. What I do know about then and now is that the Oscars are no longer decided after the public gets a crack at it. They are now decided by the much more insular industry group, with some prodding from the critics and bloggers. Once the PGA announces their winner, it feels like it’s all over but the shouting. That might change — so far, it doesn’t look likely. We now have a monolith club who decide what ought to be Best Picture of the Year.

That’s why the sooner your contender runs the gauntlet the better. Late comers haven’t really won Best Picture since … I can’t even think of the last time. Million Dollar Baby strikes me as one of those because it came in after the two favorites — The Aviator and Sideways — and cleaned their clocks. Of course, history was made to be broken and that is never more true than in the Oscar race.

The festivals give critics and muggles alike an opportunity to see the films. It was clear two years ago that everyone loved The Artist. It was all anybody could talk about. If you keep your ears open you will hear what people who aren’t critics, just festival goers who love movies, think. All I heard that year was The Artist, The Artist, The Artist. It didn’t matter what movies grew around it, that was going to be the one to beat. The next year, there was no denying Argo’s popularity. It was admired by nearly everyone in audiences that saw it early. Few Oscar bloggers and critics, thought it was strong enough to be the winner. A solid contender for sure, but it didn’t seem big or serious enough. Turns out, that worked in its favor as it went up against emotionally wrenching films like Life of Pi, dark and complicated films like Zero Dark Thirty, and intellectually challenging films like Lincoln.

This year, I have been keeping my ears open listening to festival goers. Here is what I’ve heard so far.

At the Herzog someone asked an older man what his favorites were so far. His answer? Nebraska and Labor Day.

On the way to a bar I heard a woman talking enthusiastically about a movie she just saw. I asked her what it was: All Is Lost, she said.

A woman at the Telluride thrift store recommended the best movie she’d seen so far to another woman. That movie: Prisoners.

The one I keep hearing about from critics, bloggers and festival goers as powerful and solid thumbs up: 12 Years a Slave.

The festival, I’d say, has gone mostly as expected except that 12 Years a Slave really got the “Argo slot.” It was the one that swooped in when no one was looking and slam dunked its arrival. It helped that Brad Pitt was here.

I haven’t heard anyone but bloggers and critics speak enthusiastically about two films I think are seriously Oscar-bound, not yet anyway, and those are Inside Llewyn Davis and Gravity. Both films really have Best Picture buzz. Gravity is emotionally challenging. Llewyn Davis is intellectually challenging. For your winner, remember, you’re usually looking for the one that isn’t challenging at all.

I still have a sneaking suspicion Nebraska might be one of those, even though Payne tends to make challenging movies. So let’s look at the slate and divide them up into challenging and not challenging. This will sound condescending, but I am always watching the Oscar race bring the horse to the water but being unable to make it drink. The unchallenging tends to trump the challenging.


Inside Llewyn Davis – You really have to be thinking about it while you’re watching it. It helps to know about the era, and the Coens, and T-Bone, and Bob Dylan, and if you know about Dave Van Ronk, you’re almost home.

All Is Lost – This is a metaphysical films as well as a survival film. Apparently there are debates about whether Redford lives or not. To me, it’s plainly obvious. To some, there is an open question. And I would bet dollars to donuts it will depend on whether you are an atheist or a person with the God gene.

Blue is the Warmest Color – Will make some women uncomfortable, though the Academy is ruled by men.

Hovering on the middle ground between challenging and not challenging:

Labor Day – It requires suspension of belief and the ability to juggle a metaphor. But once you accept it and go with it, you might be overtaken by emotion.

12 Years a Slave – Yhere are likely two reactions to this one. You are moved deeply by it or you are put off by the graphic violence. There is no question as to whether it’s a good movie. Most will respond to it in the intended fashion.

Prisoners – While it’s a fairly typical crime story like Law and Order SVU or Criminal Minds, it is also very very violent and hard to take at times. That means many older voters will cover their eyes and wince.

Not Particularly Challenging

Gravity – This movie takes over for you. It doesn’t need you to think about it at all while you’re watching it. It is loud, however.

Nebraska – The only challenging thing about this story is that it’s filmed in black and white. Otherwise it’s a movie you could sit anyone down in front of and they would get it if not love it.

For Telluride, I think that about sums it up. If I had to choose the winner right now I’d say it was down to:

Nebraska, The Butler, 12 Years a Slave or Gravity.

But I have no idea currently how it will play out once Toronto hits. There is also Captain Phillips which screens in Los Angeles ahead of the New York Film Fest, and Saving Mr. Banks which should start screening sooner rather than later.

Still to come: August: Osage County, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Fifth Estate, etc.

Top Five Best Picture rankings for me right this moment of films I’ve seen (from what I think has the best chance right now):

1. Nebraska
2. The Butler
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Gravity
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
And in the hunt for nominees:
6. Fruitvale Station
7. Labor Day
8. Blue is the Warmest Color
9. Before Midnight
10. Prisoners

I’m one of the few Labor Day supporters so I really hope that makes the cut. I am also hoping Fruitvale Station makes the cut.

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  • m1

    I got back from Blue Jasmine a couple of hours ago. While I certainly think Blanchett could win Best Actress, I don’t know about it’s Best Picture chances. It’s a good film but it’s hindered by some slightly unbelievable character decisions in the last act. Some of the movies yet to be seen will have to underwhelm me for me to be convinced that it will get Best Picture and Screenplay nods.

    As for the other movies that have been seen, I think Inside Llewyn Davis, Gravity, Fruitvale Station, and Before Midnight have the best shots. 12 Years a Slave sounds like it could be divisive, Prisoners sounds too mainstream (although Mystic River had no problem with this), and The Way Way Back, The Spectacular Now, Mud, and Frances Ha will lose steam by December (if they haven’t already).

    It’s a very interesting year, to say the least.

  • JP

    I think The Butler’s chances are lower than a number 2. It’s number 5 for me. I think it’s like this among the ones that have already been seen:

    1. 12 Years a Slave
    2. Gravity
    3. Nebraska
    4. Inside Llewyn Davis
    5. The Butler

    Forrest Whitaker is not getting nominated. Mark my words. The competition there is beyond strong and he’s already behind at least 3: Bruce Dern, Robert Redford and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The Butler is Oprah, Make-Up and maybe Picture. Nothing else. And it will depend on the failure of August: Osage County. We all know The Weinstein Company always chooses only one film to rule them all. Sometimes it rules, sometimes it doesn’t. Last year it was SLP. Django was the accidental tourist. If many great films continue to pop up and Osage is great, their 1st choice most definitely will be Osage and The Butler is the kind of film that needs hard campaign having been released so early.

    Fruitvale Station, Before Midnight and Blue Jasmine are all out. They will fight for script or acting nominations only. Labor Day is looking like a divisive film in the end and best actress/picture are crowded already.

  • Forrest Whitaker is not getting nominated. Mark my words.

    I still think the combination of THE BUTLER and BLACK NATIVITY might get him in somewhere. We’ll see.

    It’s a good film but it’s hindered by some slightly unbelievable character decisions in the last act.

    I thought BLUE JASMINE was very believable. I don’t want you to spoil it so just tell me which actor’s character you mean so I can figure it out.

    About the Telluride movies, 12 YEARS A SLAVE just looks too serious. And NEBRASKA I’m not sure about. It seems like it’s close to THE STRAIGHT STORY. Is it? ANd in a year full of umph and movie stars, will it stand out?

  • “I thought BLUE JASMINE was very believable.”

    One of the most believable emotional transformations I’ve seen in any American movie all year is the spectrum of expressions that clouded the face of Peter Sarsgaard in the scene outside the jewelry store. His performance in those 5 minutes is virtually wordless but it solidified that role as one of my favorite supporting turns in any Woody Allen movie ever.

  • Bballer

    Other critics and bloggers are calling Prisoners an Oscar heavy weight. I wish the Academy members would grow a pair and award an intense and thrilling piece of work, like they did in 91. The Butler was good, but it really doesnt deserve Best Picture. And did you guys see The Invisible Woman?

  • m1

    For me, the decisions of Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, and Peter Sarsgaard were a little unrealistic.

  • Thalia

    The Immigrant is a great movie

  • Ted

    After seeing every awards contender at Telluride, I’m thinking PRISONERS won’t make the cut. It was terrific, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’ll be forgotten quicker than most would guess.

    My thoughts :

    – 12 YEARS A SLAVE, GRAVITY, and NEBRASKA seem as close to locks as anything. There’s a possible winner there, for sure.
    – Lapita Nyong’o (12 YEARS…), in my opinion, could give some heat to the other supporting actress contenders for the win. Haven’t seen THE BUTLER, but Nyong’o’s soul is on the damn line in that movie. Same goes for Michael Fassbender.
    – GRAVITY is going to be a smash hit. It’s reviews and box office will surely propel it to several nominations. Definitely my favorite of the fest. And Sandra Bullock? Definitely her best perf. yet.
    – Bruce Dern (NEBRASKA) NEEDS to be campaigned for leading actor. If it were up to me it’d be down to him and Ejiofor for the win, Robert Redford was incredibly underwhelming to me, and ALL IS LOST was a bore (talked to many other fest-goers that had the same thought).
    – ALL IS LOST won’t pop up anywhere come this awards season. I hate to be so pessimistic, but I feel strongly that this won’t take off the way some people believe that it will.

  • Aragorn

    While the Butler was good and might be a contender for the Best Picture, I dont understand “Oprah for the win” sentiment. To me (maybe because i had high expectations because of all the hoopla) it was Oprah trying to act! Nothing special…It was mostly the same scene again and again…I am afraid if she gets nominated (and even win) it will be because she is Oprah…And I am sorry but the make up in general was awful, so much so that i couldnt take it seriously, especially Oprah’s old age make up. Forest Whitaker was much better in my opinion but it seems that Best Actor race is already very crowded…For me still Octavia Spencer’s performance in Frutivale Station was much much better than Oprah’s performance…Octavia’s character and her pain really broke my heart…what a great performance..

    And I agree Blue Jasmine may not be a serious contender for Best Picture. But maybe for Best Screenplay and definitely for Best Actress. Great Kate B. was just amazing with all those mood swings:)

  • John

    My current best actor thoughts:

    Whitaker is well-liked in the Academy, got great reviews, and stars in what will ne a $100,000,000+ baby. I believe hell be in.

    Robert Redfords arc sounds too strong to dismiss.

    Leonardo DiCaprio/Matthew McConaughey … Wait and sees.

    Oscar Isaac, im hopeful, but also nervous. It doesnt seem like a surefire Academy friendly movie; Coens notwithnstanding. And do enough people know Isaac?

    Ejiofor looks mighty strong right now. And hes been around for quite a while. Hes got a little of a “he’s due” factor going on.

    Idris Elba, the reviews will have to be fantasitc. But Mandela being very ill lately can only help his cause. That sounds awful, I know. But probably true.

    Bruce Dern. Will Redford steal his thunder, or can both make it in?

    Michael Jordan. Fruitvale already left the station, so to speak. Critics will need to revive him. But im not feeling it right now.

    Tom Hanks. His best shot looks to be Supporting for Saving Mr. Banks.

    So …
    Thinking Whitaker, Redford, and Ejiofor are strongest right now.

  • Future_Filmmaker

    The 5 right now are: Bruce Dern, Hugh Jackman, Oscar Isaac, Chiwetel Ejiofer, and Whitaker. Upcoming threats: Ralph Fiennes, Joaquin Phoenix, Leonardo Dicaprio, Matthew McConaughey, and Christian Bale(Either Out of the Furnace or American Hustle).
    The Winner:Bruce Dern for Nebraska, like Art Carney’s win for Harry and Tonto.

  • (spoilerinis)

    I figured you meant Sarsgaard even though I thought his reaction once he found out was spot on. I maybe didn’t understand why he didn’t do a little background checking before then. Hawkins I thought was with who would be with her so she actually didn’t make any decisions. I can see wondering about Cannavale’s motivations. But I’m willing to bet if a less attractive actor played that part it wouldn’t be so weird. But even still I thought it was believable because real people don’t make a lot of sense. They let their passions and psychoses rule and that’s what I think Woody knows well and used perfectly in the film.

  • William Chase

    Top Five Best Picture rankings for me right this moment (from what I think has the best chance right now):

    1. Saving Mr. Banks
    2. Gravity
    3. 12 Years A Slave
    4. The Butler
    5. American Hustle

    6. Inside Llewyn Davis
    7. Blue Jasmine
    8. Monuments Men
    9. Her
    10. Nebraska

    As of now, sight unseen, I can’t imagine Saving Mr. Banks not being the one to beat. If it’s even just a little bit good how could the Academy resist? Especially the way they have been voting the past few years….

  • K. Bowen

    I know. I’m the one-man chorus for The Conjuring. But if we’re not going to nominate genre films, indies, foreign, etc., then what’s the point of 10-ish films?

  • K. Bowen

    I don’t generally hang around with “movie people.” So if I keep hearing a film’s name, that’s a likely contender. Last year it was Argo. It was The King’s Speech. etc. This year I hear Blue Jasmine.

  • K. Bowen

    I’m looking forward to 12 Years a Slave. But how is Ejiofor due, exactly?

    Cate Blanchett is due.

    Brad Pitt is due.

    Ejiofor could ride a bus in Denver and no one would notice him.

  • Saving Mr. Banks has the best chance to me as of now, based on what I’ve seen. I haven’t seen Labor Day, Llewyn Davis or 12 Years A Slave. I have seen Nebraska, Gravity and The Butler. Nobody has seen American Hustle, Wolf Of Wall Street, Walter Mitty and Captain Phillips. The screenings of Osage County had reactions that made me think it wasn’t our winner. Mr. Banks is the one movie out of all of these that I KNOW will play well in a room of Academy members. Most will cry and cheer and be reminded that Hollywood is a magical place. That’s basically THE winning formula right there. I anticipate Walter Mitty being a bombshell, but it could fizzle out in a Benjamin Button sort of way. American Hustle makes sense as a viable frontrunner because Russell has been so strongly on Oscar’s radar the past few years, it feels like he’s primed to take it all. If Nebraska won I would be absolutely shocked.

  • Christophe

    I approve this message though I wish The Great Gatsby could find its place in there. Despite all its ridiculousness, it was quite a gorgeous ride.

  • John

    Blanchett has an Oscar.
    Pitt is a multi-Oscar nominated superstar.

    When I say due, I mean due in general. The guy HAS been around for over 12 yrs. giving strong performances (i.e., Dirty Pretty Things, Kinky Boots, just to name 2).

    It would be nice to see him get some substantial recognition. Thats all 🙂

  • Christophe

    I approve this message. Banks has it all and might turn out to be my personal favorite. Nevertheless it would be quite a bummer if the Academy ends up awarding BP to the same kind of feel-good nostalgic and self-congratulating movie abt Hollywood history every year. Film awards/festivals are supposed to encourage quality, creativity and diversity, not create a restrictive oscar-bait formula.

  • Already dreading 2025 when “Praising Mr Hanks: The Making of Saving Mr Banks” wins Best Picture.

  • Bob Burns

    “feel-good nostalgic and self-congratulating movie abt Hollywood history”


    TKS was Brit version of same …

    12-Slave, like Gosford Park, is about the future.

  • OMFG now I’m dyyyyyying to see it!!!

  • Denver.

  • Christophe

    You should pitch it to Ellen! It’s much better than what


    To be honest, I dig that kind of movies (TKS, SMB) and I’d probably vote for them if I were a voter. But I also realize that it’s important for the academy to reward different kinds of films from one year to another, so in that perspective I might also cheer for Gravity to become the first ever Scifi film to win BP!

  • Christophe

    …much better than what MacFarlane came up with last time!

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Have to see it first! But Gosh, I’m loving everything I’m hearing about LABOR DAY so I might be there with Sasha until the end. First Jason Reitman movie I might actually love since THANK YOU FOR SMOKING.

    Chirs Price keeps scaring the shit out of me with his confidence on SAVINIG MR. BANKS :/

  • Bryce Forestieri


  • Bryce Forestieri

    It all comes down to FRUITVALE STATION being a better film in all aspects. Not that THE BUTLER is bad. They strike me as pieces that are too different to accept comparisons to begin with. They’re based on real people but that’s pretty much where similarities end –for me.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Maybe I’m dead wrong about this, but Woody Allen films are not even close to the kind of movies I feel compelled to evaluate through realism/logic tests or parameters.

  • david

    Hey Ryan or sasha (short term 12) doesn’t have a chance to sneak in there for a best picture nom?

  • Jon

    Gonna be close with 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska but I still will go with the wildcard and say that Foxcatcher pulls a Million Dollar Baby and comes out of nowhere in December and blows everyone away and gets a win. Subject matter may be too dark but if it is as good as we hope it could really surprise.

  • Manuel

    Thank You For Smoking was such a great movie. Up in the Air not so much

    12 YAS, Gravity sounds solid and impressive with two very respected and creative directors.
    The Butler sounds like a snooze fiesta and the same with Saving Mr Banks

    What about Philomenia?

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Wow. How disappointing senile Alain Delon. He should go back and watch his movies, you know the good ones from many decades ago.

  • Shaun

    In actress Naomi Watts must be in with her amazing performance as Diana

  • steve50

    He just turned off the majority of his fan base.

    (I know who will be changing his Twitter photo soon)

  • Robert A.

    Alain Delon. So gorgeous. So stupid.

  • Christophe

    Unfortunately, this is pretty soft compared to what the average French person would have to say abt this issue. We hear abt Russians being homophobes, but obvs homophobia is still rampant in our western countries, though at least here it’s no longer sanctioned by the state.

  • I really should stress that Mr. Banks is a really good movie actually. Yes, it would be sad if it won just because it will continue to reinforce that the same kinds of movies always win, but I really enjoyed it a great deal in large part thanks to the absolutely fantastic, probably career-best performance by Emma Thompson. I was extremely wary of the movie going into the screening because I really hated The Blind Side, but the movie slowly crept under my skin, daring me to love it. And I did. Its one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Probably bottom half of my top 10 right now (behind Gravity, The Act Of Killing, Blue Jasmine, Before Midnight, Fruitvale Station and The World’s End), but still that’s nothing to sniff at. It’s really good.

  • Foxcatcher is indeed a wild card in this race, as is The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. Either of those has a real shot if they come out and impress. This is a very interesting race, with some notable films bypassing the festival circuit. A lot of unseen factors.

  • umm…

    In 1969 Delon and his wife Rosalie found themselves at the center of a massive scandal when their bodyguard was found shot to death, his body left in a garbage dump. The subsequent investigation into his killing threatened to implicate many of France’s most prominent celebrities and politicians in a sordid web of murder, drugs, and sex. Many predicted the demise of Delon’s career, but he spun the tabloid headlines to his favor. In the eyes of many filmgoers, his myriad portrayals of gangsters, killers, and sexual deviants suddenly took on new reality in light of the similar exploits he experienced in his offscreen life, and a notorious television interview in which he admitted to past homosexual liaisons — as well as many other seamy adventures — tantalized audiences even more.


    I used to pal around with an adorable bargirl in Bangkok whose catch phrase was, “Who’s lying!?”

  • david

    Anybody think (“short term 12”) have a shot at a best picture nomination? Because I also think brie Larson will get a best actress nomination

  • Honestly can’t think of any precedent for a movie that’s shot with such unadorned naturalistic simplicity ever being considered grand enough for a Best Picture nomination. There have been superlowbudget BP nominees before, to be sure — but they’ve all had more overtly bold directorial signatures to “distinguish” them in the eyes of the AMPAS.

    But the unlikelihood of a BP nomination won’t interfere with Brie Larson’s prospects.

  • david

    Thanks Ryan I appreciate your response but there a first time for everything I mean the reviews are awesome for this movie 98% critics like it on rotten tomatoes

  • Keep hope alive. The fastest way to end a movie’s path to nomination is to give up on it. We won’t do that.

  • Claudiu-Cristian Dobre

    “The Butler was good, but it really doesn’t deserve Best Picture.”

    Well, then it’s settled… It’s gonna win for sure! 🙂

    Seriously, though – actually, I wasn’t 100% joking above either -, after reading Sasha’s analysis, The Butler seems like the least controversial and most likely to please the (whole) Academy and, mark my words, I think it’ll sweep the guilds and then the Oscars, like everything else that wins Best Picture these days.
    Maaaybe 12 Years a Slave could put up a fight, but I don’t really think so… Nebraska’s not winning. Another B&W picture so soon? I don’t see the Academy doing that. Gravity is a genre film, so that’s out more or less by default.

  • rufussondheim

    Having seen absolutely no Oscar favorites as of yet (unless you think Man Of Steel is a contender) I’m throwing my not-very-objective fedora into the ring.

    I think 12 Years a Slave (like Schindler’s List) will become too big to ignore, too important, too vital.

  • Hannahlily

    Totally agree with you about Labor Day. You have to go with it, but if you do, it’s very moving. I loved it. Nebraska too. The movie I definitely heard talked about the most at Telluride though was 12 Years a Slave. EVERYONE was recommending it to me.

  • Unlikely hood

    Joke was on Harvey when Django won more oscars than SLP. But you’re still right.

  • Unlikely hood

    For this joke I give thanks

  • Unlikely hood

    Not sure if this is common wisdom already, but the Academy did 12YAS a huge favor by snubbing Lincoln. The abolition struggle of the mid-19th century wasn’t gonna win 2 best pictures in a row. Not calling McQueen a shoo in, just saying its nice for him that Lincoln crashed and burned with Oscar

  • Unlikely hood

    What were the bold directorial signatures in In the Bedroom? Juno? Secrets and Lies? Winter’s Bone?

  • Winston F

    Best Picture

    Before Midnight
    Blue is the Warmest Color
    Captain Philips
    Inside Llweyn Davis
    Lee Daniels’ The Butler
    The Wolf of Wall Street
    12 Years a Slave


    Lee Daniels, The Butler
    Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
    Paul Greengrass, Captain Philips
    Ron Howard, Rush
    Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

    Actress in a Leading Role

    Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
    Sandra Bullock, Gravity
    Adele Excarchopolous, Blue is the Warmest Color
    Brie Larsen, Short Term 12
    Kate Winslet, Labor Day

    Actor in a Leading Role

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street
    Chiwetel Ejiwofor, 12 Years of Slave
    Tom Hanks, Captain Philiips
    Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
    Robert Redford, All is Lost

    Actress in a Supporting Role

    Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
    Lupita Lu’yongo, 12 Years of Slave
    Lea Seydoux, Blue is the Warmest Color
    Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station
    Oprah Winfrey, The Butler

    Actor in a Supporting Role

    Josh Brolin, Labor Day
    Daniel Bruhl, Rush
    Steve Carrell, Foxcatcher
    Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
    Matthew McConaughey, The Wolf of Wall Street

    Original Screenplay

    Blue Jasmine
    Frances Ha
    Fruitvale Station

    Adapted Screenplay

    12 Years a Slave
    Before Midnight
    Captain Philips
    The Wolf of Wall Street

  • julian the emperor

    That’s a good point.

    No matter how emotional and visually stimulating an experience Gravity is, 12YAS has a clear advantage when it comes to the larger context of history. And since Lincoln couldn’t wrench a victory out of its depiction of a vital time in the history of the USA, that puts McQueen’s film in an even better position to win.

    Still, I can’t help but think that even though Fruitvale Station, The Butler and 12YAS are clearly wildly divergent as films, the thematic core of racism and the African-American struggle for equality (past and present) could potentially cancel each other out in the minds of the voters.
    ….Which could create a potential win for pure fluff like Saving Mr. Banks…(in a worst case scenario)

  • Haslyn Roberts

    The Butler and 42 are films that I put in the same category. Both films are important movies that lack the necessary edge to make them great films. Both films might have been executed better with the help of stronger scripts and better directors at the helm. I am hoping that The Butler does not get an Oscar nomination for best film because that would be a travesty.

  • rufussondheim

    Not to dredge up last year’s arguments, but I wish I could fast forward 25 years and see how film historians (and maybe even actual historians) will eventually view Lincoln, 12 Years and Django. One might recall the problems I had with Lincoln last year (and much of that is how Lincoln is given the lion’s share of credit for freeing the slaves when he was actually the last in a long line of people who I believe deserve more credit because they actually made Lincoln’s “courage” possible.) Much of that belief comes from the text of 12 Years a Slave, and it’s gratifying that many will now be introduced to slavery in a real, concrete way, rather than the artificial Django Unchained.

    Seven, Eight, Nine generations have passed since the writing of Solomon Northup’s autobiography and the end of slavery and I have no idea how the after-effects of slavery inform the current state of race relations, but I have hope that this film is an eye-opening experience for many (in the same way Roots was back in the late 1970’s.) I believe that slavery was so terrible that its effects are still with us, not necessarily in the behavior of anyone, but in the attitudes many whites and blacks have towards each other. This film will affect us in ways Lincoln and Django clearly could not.

    I have no idea if this will reach mainstream audiences or be relegated to the art house crowd. I certainly hope its the former and that the film finds a place in the pedagogical canon of high school history classes. I think it’s that important. To truly understand slavery, one needs a visceral experience and I think this film will provide that to the viewer much in the same way portions Schindler’s List provides a visceral experience of the Holocaust.

    Come January, three months will have passed since the release of this film and I think the Academy will have had the time to reflect and process the importance of this film and how it will likely be perceived in the coming years, it’s dark, it’s real and it’s troubling. And they won’t be able to deny it. After all, it’s all right up there on the screen for everyone to see.

  • Lincoln is given the lion’s share of credit for freeing the slaves when he was actually the last in a long line of people who I believe deserve more credit because they actually made Lincoln’s “courage” possible.

    That’s another movie and sounds like a brilliant one. But Spielberg chose to make a movie about a very specific aspect of a vast story that could easily be spun in 20 different directions and 20 other fantastic films. Lincoln was a movie about The Thirteenth Amendment. What the hell is wrong with that.

    I think it’s very weird that anyone would want a movie about a constitutional amendment to include details of “a long line of people” who did all kinds of other things hundreds of miles away from Washington D.C. in every direction.

    I agree that we need to be given, for example, a Frederick Douglass movie. And how much screen time should Lincoln have in a movie called “Douglass”? Maybe no screen time at all, right? Because it would be a movie about what Frederick Douglass achieved, and I don’t need to see Lincoln popping up in a Douglass movie for a token cameo.

    I believe the events involving the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment are monumental enough to warrant a self-contained movie all their own. Only an idiot would think that’s the whole story. Not that there aren’t millions of idiots all around us, but a filmmaker isn’t responsible for educating every idiot on earth.

    Sorry you’re still mad about Lincoln being the main character in a movie about what Lincoln did actually do, but “The Thirteenth Amendment” would’ve sucked as movie title.

  • keifer

    I just saw Blue Jasmine last weekend.

    I thought it was terrific. Very funny. Very well written.

    What hasn’t been said about Blanchett? She’s the actress to beat for the BA Oscar. I’m routing for her already. She can seamlessly transfigure herself from a fantastical state to a fanatic one in a matter of seconds. It’s one of the best performances by an actress in any given number of years. Yes. She’s THAT good.

    I thought Bobby Cannavale was amazing in his role. He was riveting. A Best Supporting Actor nomination from me definitely. I also was impressed with Peter Sarsgaard. Very subtle, affecting performance from him (given his minimal screen time).

    The actress who might be in danger of not being nominated is Sally Hawkins for BSA. Her character was kind of a doormat, I felt, where she was either being manipulated by her relatives or her boyfriends. I wish Allen would have created her with a stronger backbone.

  • Look, rufussondheim, think about it this way. I would’ve freakin loved it if THE QUEEN had covered all disgusting history of the Royal Family that explained in far greater detail how the heck one lucky chick ended up being the most entitled billionaire on the planet.

    But for some reason Peter Morgan decided to focus specifically about the time The Queen’s daughter-in-law was hounded to her death as a result of getting entangled in the very same repulsive entitlement. Morgan wanted us to see, like, I dunno, Oh look, The Queen has bad days too, boo-hoo, or some shit.

    It’s called Unity of Time, Unity of Place. Blame Aristotle. He made the rules.

    I didn’t get the movie about The Goddamn Queen that I wanted to see, but look how hard I’m trying to get over it.

  • rufussondheim

    Yes, I agree, a movie about Lincoln that has Lincoln as a bit character would be odd, but I believe your take is myopic. No, films shouldn’t be forced to teach American history to us, that is not their purpose. But it’s always “Lincoln freed the slaves.” He is the one that gets the credit. That Spielberg chose to do a film on Lincoln, the white man as hero is his fault, and that has a bearing on how some of us view the film.

    I think, too often, the people in the trenches get overlooked, the people who did the real work. It’s people like Solomon Northup that created the atmosphere that allowed Lincoln to be the hero. There are hundreds and thousands of people who are lost to history who helped free the slaves. In a modern parallel it’s like gay men and women coming out and being true to themselves that’s allowed the recent advances in same-sex marriage. Anthony Kennedy might get the credit for writing a beautiful SCOTUS decision, but really, it’s you and me who deserve the real credit.

    12 Years a Slave, to me, is giving credit where credit is due. Something Lincoln, the film, and Spielberg chose not to do.

  • “Lincoln freed the slaves.”

    I don’t remember that scene in the movie. Who said that line? Probably Mary, right? That crazy loon.

    “12 Years a Slave, to me, is giving credit where credit is due.”

    As deeply in awe as I am of Solomon Northup’s incredibly horrify story, I don’t know that he gets credit for this:

    “Solomon Northup freed the slaves”? False.

    12 Years a Slave is going to be brilliant in all kinds of ways, but it’s not a movie about the abolition of slavery.

  • In a modern parallel it’s like gay men and women coming out and being true to themselves that’s allowed the recent advances in same-sex marriage.

    You must’ve really hated MILK. All about just one guy having a rocky relationship and then getting himself assassinated. Same as that do-nothing Lincoln.

  • Anthony Kennedy might get the credit for writing a beautiful SCOTUS decision, but really, it’s you and me who deserve the real credit.

    I don’t what you did to get gay marriage legalized but I swear to you that I didn’t do a damn thing.

    Looking forward to your memoir now though. Seriously.

  • rufussondheim, look, you’re a friend. But I can’t figure out why you’re still mad about Lincoln.

    Lincoln didn’t tell a story you care about. Fine.

    How lucky for you (and for all of us) that you only had to wait a year to get the story you prefer.

    I guess the difference here between you and me is that I’m fascinated by both stories and you seem to feel that your preferred story is the only one of the two worth telling.

    Wish there was some way you could get those two hours back that you wasted last year. I’d recommend as friend that you stop letting Lincoln suck more of your life away.

    What a relief it must have been for you when the Oscar went to the movie about Hollywood rescuing Americans from Iran.

  • steve50

    I think the draw of 12 Years a Slave will not be its weight or importance, but the fact that it dares to approach the subject from within. People will connect with the issue once they have experienced it, but what will initially pull audiences into the theatre will be the same visceral attraction that makes us want to float in space, see dinosaurs walk or watch a man fly.

    The connection between Lincoln and the audience was primarily on an intellectual level and watching the process of political maneuvering. Its focus was the legislative battle to do something about something else.

    12 Years is going to hit audiences dead center at the core of their humanity because it is about experiencing that something first hand. The subject matter may be related, but the perspectives could not be more different.

    The challenge will be for those poor unfortunates who have not been initiated to McQueen’s style. For example, already comparisons are being made between Fassbender’s character and two other unredeemable baddies, Fiennes in Schindler and Bardem in NCFOM. McQueen is not Spielberg or the Coens – I haven’t seen the film and Sasha may be the best one to verify, but you are unlikely to get a warm moment or a giggle for relief, especially when Fassbender’s character is onscreen. I cannot remember laughing – ever – during a McQueen film.

    I think the mainstream will connect with this film. One hopes that they will enter the theatre expecting one thing, and exit thinking of something else entirely.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    THE QUEEN is such a good movie

    That Spielberg chose to do a film on Lincoln, the white man as hero is his fault, and that has a bearing on how some of us view the film.

    This is nuts^

  • rufussondheim

    I’m not mad about Lincoln, just disappointed that an often-told tale is retold, even if done in great detail. I enjoyed Lincoln, don’t forget that, I just didn’t understand the adoration.

    And, yes, it’s true I am glad Argo won over Lincoln (but I preferred Zero Dark Thirty) What Argo and Zero Dark Thirty share is that they are about the actual people who were in the trenches, not the people who stood on high and eventually get the credit.

    Lincoln is a great man and a great President, and I have great respect for what he accomplished, with his role in the passing of the 13th Amendment near the top of his accomplishments. But I look at his “team of rivals,” one of whom was Salmon Chase.

    Not sure if the role of Salmon Chase in Solomon Northup’s story is covered in the film, but he represented Northup in the trial of his kidnappers. This, in 1853, 7 years before he made a bid for the Republican nomination against a less-favored Lincoln. Chase’s work as an abolitionist worked against him because many would not vote for him because of his direct work with the Negroes. Lincoln had no such history, and was eventually able to win the nomination because he rode the fine line between abolitionism and keeping slavery intact. He was a nice compromise both sides could live with, he was seen as someone who could beat the Democrat.

    How nice for Lincoln, keeping his hands clean. It’s a shame Salmon Chase failed to learn that lesson.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Fassbender’s idiot boss made me chuckle one or twice in SHAME 😛

  • rufussondheim

    Couldn’t agree more Steve50.

  • Is the trial covered at the close of Solomon’s memoirs? (I haven’t got to the end yet).

  • “How nice for Lincoln, keeping his hands clean.”

    Hand clean, sure. Shame about the messy bullet in the brain.

    yeah, Lincoln got super lucky. I remember that much from American History 101, for sure.

    That’s the takeaway I wish more people understood about Lincoln — what a easy breezy ride he had.


    Solomon Chase must’ve really envied Lincoln’s fate.

  • rufussondheim


  • rufussondheim

    I’m talking about pre-1861 activities. Yes, Lincoln was assassinated, I get that, but that’s not relevant to the discussion here.

    Lincoln spent the entire 1850’s in a quest for political power while others were fighting the good fight. People always seem to forget that.

  • rufussondheim

    Is Monuments Men delayed or getting bad test screenings? To me, that’s the film that was the early frontrunner and now no one seems to be talking about it.

  • “Yes, Lincoln was assassinated, I get that, but that’s not relevant to the discussion here.”

    You don’t get to decide what’s relevant to the way history regards Lincoln’s sacrifice. You only get to decide that for yourself.

  • “Not sure if the role of Salmon Chase in Solomon Northup’s story is covered in the film, but he represented Northup in the trial of his kidnappers. This, in 1853, 7 years before he made a bid for the Republican nomination against a less-favored Lincoln.”

    I hesitate to aggravate you any further, but looks like John Ridley and Steve McQueen decided Salmon Chase wasn’t important at all to the story they wanted us to see.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Hey rufuss, did you read Gone Girl? What do you think of Rosamund Pike? Did you ever get to At Swim, Two Boys? How about Call Me by Your Name? Who should play the leads? Always interested in your take…About Serena, I know you were excited about it, but let me tell ya, if there’s anyone who’s gonna pull that one off, it’s not Susanne Bier (IN A BETTER WORLD)

  • rufussondheim

    I didn’t expect it to make the movie, it’s more like an epilogue than an integral part of the story. But, for me, it’s one of the most fascinating parts of the book from a historical perspective. Even though Solomon Northup was considered a free man in the north, as a black man he still basically had no rights the court would recognize.

    And, no I’m not aggravated!

  • rufussondheim

    I have read Gone Girl, and I’m of the firm belief that it won’t make a good film unless there are drastic changes, but then I didn’t think it was that great of a book. Sure, there are some nice twists and the ending is unexpected, but the big twist at 50% is utterly predictable and the ending comes off as absurdly forced.

    I have basically stopped reading and seeing movies over the past few months as real life interfered in bothersome ways. I’m hoping I can get back on track so I can be a real part of the discussion this Awards Season.

  • unlikely hood

    For me, what rufus calls an “often-told tale” wasn’t that at all. Lincoln was first and foremost a film about making sausages – legislative maneuvering. When has that movie ever been made? If there was ever to be a film about inter-Congressional battles, the law in question wasn’t gonna be about jaywalking. Granted Lincoln is a film for wonks; I sense in Rufus’s frustration a certain bias against the Big Authors (say, David McCullough, Tom Brokaw) and the New York Times editorial page and the like. Ok, yes, they miss things. But I would still say that in this case, they were right to love Lincoln as a story that thus far HAD been missed, or at least elided.

    I agree with Ryan: we’re all better off that your film is here. Of course, it always looks better before you actually see it. [/me ducks]

  • Patrick

    (trying to avoid spoilers)

    The performances were fine, especially Blanchett, Sarsgaard, and Cannavale.

    My problem with Blue Jasmine is that the entire final sequence is kicked off by an encounter that felt such a “God in the Machine” shortcut in the script. A character who is largely unseen for the last half of the film just happens to be outside that store? The appearance of that character, from that financial background, in that section of town was so discordent it took me right out of the story. Oh and the same character who’s been working in Alaska (and still managing to watch after some kids from time to time) just happened to also meet another little seen character across the Bay? Pul-leeze.

    It’s as if you could see Woody asking himself how he was going to wrap this up.

  • Patrick

    Also went to Telluride and came away with almost the exact same impression.

  • Patrick

    Well, Gravity is a bit of a genre film, as was the Lord of the Rings (which didn’t need the expansion to win). Last year Amour was a foreign film while Winter’s Bone was an indie film. There is room for nominations for those kinds of films. Maybe it’s just that the others are better than The Conjuring?

  • Grant

    I love Oscar podcast. I listen it to religiously – I wish I had come up with the Gold snatch award :). I was at Telluride too and I was anxiously waiting to hear your reactions to the films there. I was hoping that in the next episode of Oscar podcast if you could weigh in further on the Best Actor race even further. In my opinion this is the most heavily contested category this year. I don’t think you talked about Captain Phillips your last episode and I know you have since seen it. I have as well and I have a feeling that as great as Hanks is in the film, he is going to be wedged out by someone like Bruce Dern. I’d love to hear your thoughts and prognosticating on this topic in the next episode.

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