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The State of the Race: Ava DuVernay Makes History …

Ava DuVernay made history today becoming the first black female director nominated for a Golden Globe Award. While it was looking not so great for Selma after the SAG shut out and the dismissive “New Generation” award from the LA Film Critics, the more high profile (and more gender-diverse, to be sure) HFPA went for Selma in a big way.

While the core frontrunners were not shaken, even without director nominations for The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, Selma is giving them some major heat, as is Gone Girl. This came as a shock to me, I must admit. I did not think Gone Girl was their thing, and I was starting to lose hope for Selma. But this is a big get, despite every negative thing I’ve said about the HFPA in the last 24 hours. The fact of the matter is, with any of these awards — no matter what their level of prestige — they offer validity to ambiguity.

A few films and contenders were left off the list — notably, Whiplash is nowhere to be found except for Supporting Actor. Hilary Swank seems to be supplanted by Jennifer Aniston, at least for today. Whether that shift will translate to the Academy is still a big question mark. It might. It might not.

Unbroken’s fate is likewise iffy. The complete shutout of the Angelina Jolie film seems particularly odd, given their love for having someone like Jolie at their show, and it makes me wonder if enough of the Hollywood Foreign Press saw Unbroken.

All in all, there wasn’t a single embarrassing misstep for these Globes. And that is, perhaps, most surprising of all.

I did not predict well over at Gold Derby, I’m afraid. I was counting on the forecasts by my better predicting pals who were steering this ship not in Gone Girl’s favor. As of yesterday, Karger, switched his Unbroken prediction for the win (as so many have this season) finally to Boyhood, as the pundits all begin to realize we have another Artist year on our hands where one film is going to clean sweep the season.

But I think they greatly underestimated Gone Girl’s appeal, although never say never. Remember, the Globes are sometimes the kiss of death or a last gasp before the industry comes along and kills any and all dreams. It’s always fine and dandy until the Producers Guild announces.

I think Whiplash, maybe Unbroken, maybe American Sniper are still going to show up on the PGA’s list. The DGA is going to be tricky, as with the Globes director. One thing in Gone Girl’s favor, however, is that it’s more common for the directing category at the Globes to predict Oscar’s Best Picture than it is even their Best Picture category, that’s because they split picture into two categories but still only have five slots for Director. Five slots makes it more competitive. So that could mean Gone Girl is in, ultimately, for Best Picture but a director nod is still up in the air.

The big news today, however, is Ms. DuVernay kicking ass and taking names. Although some may be inclined to a coarse interpretation of awards voters overall, to say that they “did the black thing” last year with 12 Years a Slave. When Halle Berry and Denzel Washington won in their top categories on the same night in 2001, many skeptic latched onto to the falsehood that the Academy “did the black thing.” From then on, indeed throughout their 87 years of Oscar history, no other black actress has ever won in a lead role.

Still, when I saw Selma I didn’t see a “black thing.” I saw an American thing. I saw a story about black and white people – Martin Luther King, Jr. and LBJ. I saw injustice in the voting rights of American citizens. I saw a community of protesters, black and white, following King. He’s an American civil rights hero. Civil rights are meant for all of us, not just those who were prevented from registering to vote or sitting at lunch counters or drinking from water fountains or swimming in public pools.

It is our shame, our recent shame, in the white community that continues to treat stories like these as “black things” and not American things.

That’s my speech for today. I thought I would wake up despairing. I was pretty sure Selma and Gone Girl would be shut out. Why does it matter so much to me? Because I care about things that seem unfair. I’m a middle child so it comes down to that. Apologies for sounding like a broken record.

1) Selma is a great film. I felt the major critics in the big cities so far have done to it what they did to 12 Years a Slave last year — casually shove it aside. True, they didn’t have the option of giving out more awards than “best.” I’ve seen a lot of movies this year. Some were interesting. Some were fantastic. Some allowed for a deep intellectual dive. Some were entertaining but didn’t go much deeper than that. But when it comes to giving out awards there has to be something bigger involved than just liking something. We like things every day on Facebook – that doesn’t make them award worthy. The Oscars are meant to reflect the “highest achievements in film,” not just reward good movies. The consensus, I think, does reflect those highest achievements, even if they aren’t the favorites of the internet.

2) When a film like Gone Girl, that was adapted by Gillian Flynn because David Fincher insisted that no male screenwriter be hired, makes 163 million at the box office (and counting) as an R rated film with an uncomfortable, ambiguous ending, from a major studio in town, that stars, is produced by and written by women? That is a high achievement in film. What has bothered me all year, and might bother me in the weeks ahead, is the casual dismissal of this film when it is so blatantly earns its spot among the most significant films of the year. No other studio movie was as talked about or ruminated on as this one. We can’t exist in our own little bubble. Movies are still, last time I checked, made for audiences, not critics, not awards bloggers, not even industry voters.

There, that’s my speech for this morning. For now, hope – the thing with feathers – springs eternal. In the end, the Scott Feinbergs and the Dave Kargers et all could prove right. With five slots for Best Picture it’s unlikely enough Academy members will reward Gone Girl with a Best Picture nomination. In the end, inconceivably to many of us, Selma could be shut out for the major categories too – But that’s not today.

This is how I think Best Picture will go:

Boyhood
Birdman
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Selma
Foxcatcher
Gone Girl
Whiplash

Fringe dwellers because who knows:
Mr. Turner
Nightcrawler
Into the Woods