The State of the Race: Darkness and Light

[normally this column appears on Tuesdays, except for this week]

When this year began with The Artist, and after I saw it at Cannes, my immediate thoughts about 2011 Oscar year to come was that we were done with the films that dwelled on the darker aspects of humanity, and that now we were ready for some light to flood back in.  This was pronounced last year when The King’s Speech, a feelgood movie about overcoming a disability, triumphed over The Social Network, a film about success and its cost.

The notion of hero will take many forms this year.  A general manager of a baseball team, a silent movie star threatened with extinction, a father whose wife is in a coma.  The strange thing about these heroes is that, in the same year, the actors who play them dip into the dark side too.  When we have to choose between those two opposing representations of an actor, what do we choose?  This occurred to me last night while watching George Clooney play one of the darkest characters of his career in the film he also directed, The Ides of March.

With the light in half shadow over his by now familiar face, a face we all know so well we could trace his features with our eyes closed.  But here, his charm has utterly vanished. This is the hard, cold game of cutthroat politics and his ass is on the line.  You can smell the fear.  Clooney  has delivered a performance that leaves no trace of doubt as to his moral center: it doesn’t exist.  He has been changed by the very game he is trying to win.  This performance is contrasted dramatically by his work in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, Clooney’s character who must endure the loss of his wife while trying to make a life with his emotionally scattered daughters.

But in that scene in Ides of March, he’s standing opposite Ryan Gosling, who is playing a character who has no choice but to abandon his ideals in order to succeed in the treacherous waters of American politics.  Gosling plays a hero in Drive, albeit a violent one.  He has said his character is a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but those of us watching are not conflicted at all about how we feel about a guy who will stop at nothing to save the girl he loves.  Gosling again offers us yet another side to his growing body of work in Crazy Stupid Love, where he plays a charming womanizer.  In all three films, Gosling is presenting, front and center, his unending charm.  But he is dipping in and out of being thought of a hero and becoming more accepted as an actor who can also go dark.

And then there is Brad Pitt, playing an apparition, the inception of fear in a young man’s life as his looming, dominating, haunting father in Tree of Life.  Pitt has never been hard to watch, like Clooney in Ides, there is no ambivalence here.  Because he is a representation of a memory, it is an extreme view.  He has his “nice” moments, but for Pitt as an actor, he’s taking a page from his performance in Fight Club but somehow drawing up something even more sinister.  Pitt’s representation of fatherhood in Tree of Life is one of the things about that movie that clings to you long after you’ve seen the film.  Flip it over and there is Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball, a kind, sensitive hero who changes the  game of baseball and turns his team around while being a nice guy.

Our roots go down here in America.  Baseball and politics – could there be any two stories more about the roots and shoots that made this country what it is?  Two different games entirely but games nonetheless.  When there have to be winners and losers people are bound to get hurt, discarded, used up.  The difference is that baseball on film is the stuff of dreams and mysticism, our better half, the way we want to be seen.  Politics is dirty business.  In film it is almost always portrayed as the worst people have to offer the world and yet this is where we stake our leadership.

What is so brilliantly subversive about The Ides of March is where the dirt is coming from and this time it’s coming from the left.  2011 might end up thus being defined, even if accidentally, by The Ides of March because it represents, I think, a shift in consciousness, one that is unfortunately playing out as we speak as prominent liberals like Michael Moore and Jim Brooks turn away from the propped up god they once believed in.  You can’t watch The Ides of March if you’re paying attention to politics now and not see the correlation. This is not because the focus here is on sleazy politicians who “fuck interns.” But because it’s about an equal amount of dirty.  Even the most idealistic among us will lose if they don’t get into the ring and start flinging dirt.  It is an indictment of not just the politicians who sell the impossible dream of someone who can spin miracles; it is also on those of us who need to believe.

The shift from the play, Farragut North, to the film The Ides of March is an important one.  Clooney is bringing forth a notion that the public can accept all manner of borderline criminal activity from our elected officials: begin wars where thousands of soldiers and innocent civilians are killed – did you know that the number of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is almost double those killed during 9/11?  Well, it’s sanctioned war so we accept those losses.  The Wall Street bailout, acceptable behavior. But fuck an intern, knock up someone out of wedlock and your career as a politician is finished.  The irony there shouts loudly from Ides — and it is an appreciated message from Clooney, though who knows whether anyone will listen, god forbid, if the film fails to make the cut in the Oscar race it will be written off.

On the flipside, though, Clooney’s character in The Descendants is fortifying what really matters in this country: family and preserving our landscape.  While this might sound trivial as I describe it in simplest terms, it really isn’t.  If all of the rest of it is politics as usual, what do we really have?  Clooney the actor and Clooney the filmmaker are giving us two diverging views of the American experience.   What I love about Clooney the filmmaker is that he is not afraid to delve into the darkness.  Suddenly I’m excited where to see where he goes next and what he wants to say.  I don’t know if this means he’ll continue to be subversive but it is an intriguing path to be taking. It started with Good Night, Good Luck and it continues, wonderfully and disturbingly, with The Ides of March, one of the best films of 2011.

Meanwhile, working on the other side of things is Brad Pitt, who has seemed, throughout his career, to have always dwelled in darker worlds.  Yet when he’s put on the producer’s hat what has come out is downright Capra-esque, both in his portrayal of the Jimmy Stewart-like Billy Beane, and his acceptance of the bigger picture.  Moneyball, another of 2011’s very best, is an American story if there ever was one. Not only is it about the romance of baseball; it’s about a flawed character who literally can’t win for losing but nonetheless keeps trying, doggedly, even now, to bring the Oakland A’s to victory. He is Sysypus, pushing that stone endlessly up the hill only to see it roll back down again.  I suspect many Americans are going to relate to Billy Beane.  Thematically, Moneyball hits the sweet spot of 2011 so far.  It isn’t diving down into our darker aspects, as the Ides of March does so well, but it represents the uplift.  And that might make all of the difference this year.

We still don’t know how the new method of choosing Best Picture is going to work, or how many films will be represented or what those films will ultimately be.  But it isn’t a stretch, I don’t think, to imagine that a number one film is going to be a strong pronouncement of who that person is.  How do you go about deciding what your favorite movie of the year is? And is your favorite going to necessarily be a film you’d vote for as Best Picture?

I once asked an Academy member how he went about choosing Best Picture and he said, “it’s easy. We just pick the best picture.”  It sounds simple but once you eliminate all of the overthinking you yourself know what film you think is the best.  Voters don’t have to explain their choice and they don’t have to account for it. They (or their kid, grandkid, nanny, driver, gardener or mistress) merely have to be honest in that moment.  If they didn’t see enough films their choice will be all the more easy.  Darkness or light, which way will they go?

By this time last year, all of our ten Best Picture nominees has ready been seen and weighed.  Our list was almost 100% complete.  It was the easiest year to predict Best Picture ever.  But the studios knew that favorites would be chosen differently this year – they have to capture their hearts and do it before they have time to change their minds.  That’s why they’re holding, I think, the Big Oscar Movies.  Partly to prevent the chatter from taking them down too early but also because they know that when a voters falls for a film they fall hard.  They fall quick. And the feeling rarely lasts.  To that end, what films might change the game – and will they be uplifting or will they be mired in darkness, and what world will voters wish to dwell?

The Game Changers

Still to emerge out of the darkness this year:
J Edgar – Clint Eastwood is at his best when delving into the darker aspects of our world.  No matter what people say about him and his films of late, or of DiCaprio’s makeup or whatever, one thing I know for sure about Eastwood – age has brought with it wisdom.  To that end, his is the movie I’m most curious about.  Pairing that movie with the Ides of March and I think we’ll be seeing some scathing looks at American politics.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – David Fincher is the best director working in Hollywood.  One of the few true visionaries, along with Martin Scorsese, to turn the screen into a painter’s canvas.  No one can go dark like Fincher — but as long as he dwells in this world he will probably never have the warm fuzzies needed to win an Oscar until he, like Scorsese, finally has done such good work throughout his career that he can no longer be denied.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Like Dragon Tattoo, this is a murky world of spies and paranoia.  Extremely well made, well acted, beautiful to look at,  but should earn enough love from those who don’t like everything handed to them but prefer to use their brains when watching a film.  There are sure to be a fair amount of those.

Still emerge from the light:

War Horse – a film that promises to take your heart straight out of your chest and stomp on it hard.  I already know I will be a soggy-faced wreck emerging from this one.  Expect all of the usual stuff to apply here – beautifully told by Spielberg it doesn’t seem like it can lose – the only thing it has working against it is our ridiculously high expectations.

Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close – I haven’t cried so hard while reading a script, ever.  I don’t know if this will translate to the big screen or not;  I only know what Eric Roth put on the page.  But this, if it works, will be as timely as any film put out in the year.  And it too will bespeak our better natures and it too will be about family and forgiveness.  Thinking back on the story now, even now, brings a tear to my eyes.

We Bought a Zoo – if there is one director who consistently can be compared to Frank Capra it’s Cameron Crowe.  There probably isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about some aspect of Almost Famous.  Although We Bought a Zoo isn’t pure Crowe because it’s co-adapted by Aline Brosh McKenna based on a book by Benjamin Mee.  That could mean yes for the Academy and it could mean no.  We have no way of knowing for sure.

And then there’s The Artist.  The Weinstein gem is the snake in the grass, as they say, driven home by a conversation I had with David Poland last night.  If it does win, Poland called it.  Some are wondering if it will even get nominated — it’s time to put those thoughts to bed.  The film that has been carried through strongly from Cannes, Telluride and Toronto is The Artist and it will  be a very strong force to be reckoned with.  The Artist has it all – it is a movie about movies. It is a movie that is the kind of movie audiences turned to during the Depression to feel better about their own lives.  “The trick,” said Poland, “is whether the movie can make any money.”  Unlike the 1920s, getting audiences to pay for a silent, black and white movie seems like a daunting task.  But then I think, can I recommend this movie to anyone?  And yeah, my mother, my daughter, my yoga teacher – they will all love The Artist.

The Oscar race is not unlike the game of politics.  Publicists know this better than anyone.  They might watch the Ides of March and feel it hits a little too close to home.  Clooney himself has stated how much he hates Oscar season because the selling of the “product” feels so far removed from what these artists are doing. In the same way the very things that attract people to politics in the first place seem to be the first things they have to abandon when they become major players in the game.

The nature of film awards is to choose winners.  There aren’t many losers in this game because, in the end, we’re talking about great films regardless of whether a majority can agree upon that greatness or not.

One thing I know for sure this year is that it feels like the major players in the game are also formidable heroes in real life.  George Clooney and Brad Pitt are humanitarians.  Clooney’s work for Darfur.  Pitt rebuilding New Orleans.  Leonardo DiCaprio has long championed the environment.  Ryan Gosling was filmed breaking up a fight on the streets of New York.  I was at a party the other night and a friend of mine, who lives in the same neighborhood as Gosling, said that one night her friend’s beautiful but timid dog went missing in a rainstorm down near Gosling’s house.  Barefoot and bra-less she went running in the rain to Gosling’s house, banging on the door, afraid her dog had gotten tangled in Gosling’s fence somewhere.  He answered the door, took one look at her and said “come inside.  I’ll handle this.”

Moments later, Gosling emerged from the darkness and the rain, dripping wet, holding the shaking, frightened dog.

If how much voters like the films driven by these men will be influenced by how much they like them as people, it’s hard to imagine The Ides of March failing to make the cut, despite its tepid response out of Venice.  Until I hear otherwise, I’m going to count it among the Best Picture contenders.  So my list right now is looking like this:

Dr. Feelgood:
Moneyball
War Horse
The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris

The darkness on the edge of town:
The Girl with the Dragon Tatto
J. Edgar
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy

That gives us ten Best Picture contenders, but these ten I have a feeling will be among those getting the most number 1 votes.  We still have to wait and see how the game changers change the game.  But as the Ides of March and Moneyball say so well, like politics and baseball the Oscars are a game played to win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 Comments on this Post

  1. Young Adult. All I’m saying.

  2. Young Adult. All I’m saying.

  3. Kevin Klawitter

    I’m really wondering what people thought about “The Ides of March” in comparison to the original play. I haven’t seen “Farragut North”, but from what I understand Clooney made some major departures in his adaptation, including creating the Mike Morris character for himself.

  4. Kevin Klawitter

    I’m really wondering what people thought about “The Ides of March” in comparison to the original play. I haven’t seen “Farragut North”, but from what I understand Clooney made some major departures in his adaptation, including creating the Mike Morris character for himself.

  5. Ricky Schweitzer

    Just a quick heads up because I haven’t seen anything from anyone who has posted on the website yet…

    Saw My Week With Marilyn last night. It was a work print, blah blah blah.

    Things to Consider:
    1. Feels too small and perhaps irrelevant for Best Picture consideration. I can’t see this taking #1 votes from people who would normally be voting for The Artist, Drive, or any other “Cinema-lover”
    2. Michelle Williams is, of course, phenomenal. Expect a nomination there. In another universe, they could push her supporting… but I don’t see that happening. She goes beyond nailing Monroe’s mannerisms. She loses Michelle Williams in the part. I find that to be the greater triumph.
    3. Kenneth Branagh is a revelation. It would be a crime to see him get snubbed. Though Olivier isn’t as recognizable as a personality as Monroe, Branagh still nails it and delivers a performance that is as funny as it is dramatic.
    4. I wouldn’t underestimate Judi Dench. Her part is absolutely tiny but she steals all of her scenes, as few as they are. Let’s keep in mind her screen time in the film she DID win an Oscar for. If the race is wide open in supporting, she could potentially sneak in.
    5. The remaining cast is filled with standouts. Dominic Cooper as Milton Greene is great, Toby Jones plays against type and is also great. Dougray Scott is powerful in a small performance as Arthur Miller.
    6. I think this should be a breakout role for Eddie Redmayne. He won’t receive a Best Actor nomination for the role, but he is quite good in it. Reminds me of the type of performance James McAvoy gave in The Last King Of Scotland. Truly the lead, great performance, just overshadowed and not well known enough.
    7. Lastly, I think the film could easily receive a nomination for Costumes and potentially, though not likely Art Direction. The Cinematography, Editing, and Direction are standard and the Screenplay is arguably the weakest part of the picture.

    Any other questions, let me know

  6. Ricky Schweitzer

    Just a quick heads up because I haven’t seen anything from anyone who has posted on the website yet…

    Saw My Week With Marilyn last night. It was a work print, blah blah blah.

    Things to Consider:
    1. Feels too small and perhaps irrelevant for Best Picture consideration. I can’t see this taking #1 votes from people who would normally be voting for The Artist, Drive, or any other “Cinema-lover”
    2. Michelle Williams is, of course, phenomenal. Expect a nomination there. In another universe, they could push her supporting… but I don’t see that happening. She goes beyond nailing Monroe’s mannerisms. She loses Michelle Williams in the part. I find that to be the greater triumph.
    3. Kenneth Branagh is a revelation. It would be a crime to see him get snubbed. Though Olivier isn’t as recognizable as a personality as Monroe, Branagh still nails it and delivers a performance that is as funny as it is dramatic.
    4. I wouldn’t underestimate Judi Dench. Her part is absolutely tiny but she steals all of her scenes, as few as they are. Let’s keep in mind her screen time in the film she DID win an Oscar for. If the race is wide open in supporting, she could potentially sneak in.
    5. The remaining cast is filled with standouts. Dominic Cooper as Milton Greene is great, Toby Jones plays against type and is also great. Dougray Scott is powerful in a small performance as Arthur Miller.
    6. I think this should be a breakout role for Eddie Redmayne. He won’t receive a Best Actor nomination for the role, but he is quite good in it. Reminds me of the type of performance James McAvoy gave in The Last King Of Scotland. Truly the lead, great performance, just overshadowed and not well known enough.
    7. Lastly, I think the film could easily receive a nomination for Costumes and potentially, though not likely Art Direction. The Cinematography, Editing, and Direction are standard and the Screenplay is arguably the weakest part of the picture.

    Any other questions, let me know

  7. Ricky Schweitzer

    Typo: Cinema-lover should read Cinema-lover’s film*

  8. Ricky Schweitzer

    Typo: Cinema-lover should read Cinema-lover’s film*

  9. Sasha, having read the ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ script, where would you place Bullock and Hanks (as far as Lead VS Supporting)? Thanks!

  10. Sasha, having read the ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ script, where would you place Bullock and Hanks (as far as Lead VS Supporting)? Thanks!

  11. Thanks for the heads up on Michelle Williams and Marilyn! That’s so exciting. Happy to see Kenneth Branagh back as an actor – he really is a talented actor.

    Ty, I am thinking/hearing that it’s Max Von Sydow in “Loud” who should be paid attention to – Hanks’ part will be too small. Bullock’s is small but if she really nails it her star power COULD carry her through. But I’m thinking either the kid or Sydow or both. Great script. I bow down to Eric Roth for all eternity for having written it. Will it translate on screen? I don’t know.

  12. Thanks for the heads up on Michelle Williams and Marilyn! That’s so exciting. Happy to see Kenneth Branagh back as an actor – he really is a talented actor.

    Ty, I am thinking/hearing that it’s Max Von Sydow in “Loud” who should be paid attention to – Hanks’ part will be too small. Bullock’s is small but if she really nails it her star power COULD carry her through. But I’m thinking either the kid or Sydow or both. Great script. I bow down to Eric Roth for all eternity for having written it. Will it translate on screen? I don’t know.

  13. @Ricky- How was Emma Watson? How big was her part? I’ve been curious about how her post-Potter career might turn out. I think she has the most potential of the ‘Potter’ kids.

  14. @Ricky- How was Emma Watson? How big was her part? I’ve been curious about how her post-Potter career might turn out. I think she has the most potential of the ‘Potter’ kids.

  15. Thanks Sasha! I look forward to it! :D

  16. Thanks Sasha! I look forward to it! :D

  17. Sasha, could you put up a spoiler alert? I don’t think all the plot detail’s you’ve mentioned about The Ides of March are public knowledge. I sure didn’t know…

    I don’t see Ides making it. The critical response has simply been too lukewarm. Maybe its box office will redeem it, but I’m sceptical about even that.

  18. Sasha, could you put up a spoiler alert? I don’t think all the plot detail’s you’ve mentioned about The Ides of March are public knowledge. I sure didn’t know…

    I don’t see Ides making it. The critical response has simply been too lukewarm. Maybe its box office will redeem it, but I’m sceptical about even that.

  19. Fs I put an apostrophe in ‘details’. I may never forgive myself…

  20. Fs I put an apostrophe in ‘details’. I may never forgive myself…

  21. @Sasha- I’ve been hearing the same things about Sydow. What part will he be playing? I’m not trying to get spoilers out of you, trust me, I’m just curious as to what kind of role I can expect from him. Thanks again.

  22. @Sasha- I’ve been hearing the same things about Sydow. What part will he be playing? I’m not trying to get spoilers out of you, trust me, I’m just curious as to what kind of role I can expect from him. Thanks again.

  23. Paddy, I’m of the belief that with Ides the spoiler (I don’t really give away much more than is in the trailer) actually is essential to enjoying the film. Most people say the “twist” which I don’t really spoil here doesn’t work or whatever. I don’t know. Do I spoil it?

  24. Paddy, I’m of the belief that with Ides the spoiler (I don’t really give away much more than is in the trailer) actually is essential to enjoying the film. Most people say the “twist” which I don’t really spoil here doesn’t work or whatever. I don’t know. Do I spoil it?

  25. Tye – How do I tell this without totally giving it away. Well there is a book and the book has been published and read so anyone who wants to know the details can. I’ll just say that it’s an incredibly pivotal part. The three men in this, the kid, Hanks and the old guy are pivotal. It could be an Oscar win for Von Sydow (as I think Kris Tapley is writing about on his site today).

  26. Tye – How do I tell this without totally giving it away. Well there is a book and the book has been published and read so anyone who wants to know the details can. I’ll just say that it’s an incredibly pivotal part. The three men in this, the kid, Hanks and the old guy are pivotal. It could be an Oscar win for Von Sydow (as I think Kris Tapley is writing about on his site today).

  27. Benjamin Forestieri

    Max von Sydow has deserved an Oscar since 1957…overfuckingdue

  28. Benjamin Forestieri

    Max von Sydow has deserved an Oscar since 1957…overfuckingdue

  29. Why is everyone ignoring Young Adult??? Reitman’s last two films garnered picture, directing, writing, and acting nomination. I expect at least Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. If it goes over really well, supporting performances and directing too.

  30. Why is everyone ignoring Young Adult??? Reitman’s last two films garnered picture, directing, writing, and acting nomination. I expect at least Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. If it goes over really well, supporting performances and directing too.

  31. Sasha, for me, yes, this was the first that I heard of the twist, although living in the UK, most films tend to come out long after I’ve already found out every last detail of their plots, so don’t worry too much! I expect most people visiting AwardsDaily are much the same.

  32. Sasha, for me, yes, this was the first that I heard of the twist, although living in the UK, most films tend to come out long after I’ve already found out every last detail of their plots, so don’t worry too much! I expect most people visiting AwardsDaily are much the same.

  33. I’m just now reading “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”. I’m insanely jealous that you got to read the script. I think that if meets expectations, this is our front-runner along with “The Artist”.

  34. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does not have spies in it.

    I would also add Jane Eyre, Young Adult, and Win Win to the list.

  35. I’m just now reading “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”. I’m insanely jealous that you got to read the script. I think that if meets expectations, this is our front-runner along with “The Artist”.

  36. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does not have spies in it.

    I would also add Jane Eyre, Young Adult, and Win Win to the list.

  37. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does not have spies in it.

    Tinker Tailor does. Did I say Dragon Tattoo did??

  38. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does not have spies in it.

    Tinker Tailor does. Did I say Dragon Tattoo did??

  39. From what was seen, I echo Sasha’s comments on the EL&IC actors, and would just add that Viola Davis stands out in a tiny role. Bullock nails it, but it’s a modest role except for one searing scene with the kid, who is quite good. Sydow is the best chance for an actor nom. Roth’s script is beautifully translated, without sentimentality in the tragedy and without being cloying in the quirkyness. The book was ineffably sad and weird. The film captures that in a clear eyed, humanistic fashion. It is like its lead character, smart and odd and sad and complicated and difficult and full of weird digressions that only over time reveal their full meaning. No idea how mainstream audiences or the academy will ultimately react. But I’d venture it’s possibly Daldry’s best work. Certainly ambitious.

  40. From what was seen, I echo Sasha’s comments on the EL&IC actors, and would just add that Viola Davis stands out in a tiny role. Bullock nails it, but it’s a modest role except for one searing scene with the kid, who is quite good. Sydow is the best chance for an actor nom. Roth’s script is beautifully translated, without sentimentality in the tragedy and without being cloying in the quirkyness. The book was ineffably sad and weird. The film captures that in a clear eyed, humanistic fashion. It is like its lead character, smart and odd and sad and complicated and difficult and full of weird digressions that only over time reveal their full meaning. No idea how mainstream audiences or the academy will ultimately react. But I’d venture it’s possibly Daldry’s best work. Certainly ambitious.

  41. In one of your sentences, it says, “Like Dragon Tattoo, this is a murky world of spies and paranoia.”

  42. In one of your sentences, it says, “Like Dragon Tattoo, this is a murky world of spies and paranoia.”

  43. Okay thanks M1.

  44. Okay thanks M1.

  45. Thanks Ricky for the Marilyn part.

    would be great to see

    BEST ACTRESS:
    Glenn Close/Albert Nobbs*
    Elizabeth Olsen/Martha Marcy May Marlene
    Meryl Streep/The Iron Lady
    Tilda Swinton/We Need to Talk About Kevin
    Kristen Wiig/Bridesmaids

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
    Viola Davis/The Help*
    Vanessa Redgrave/Coriolanus
    Octavia Spencer/The Help
    Michelle Williams/My Week with Marilyn
    Shailene Woodley/The Descendants

  46. Thanks Ricky for the Marilyn part.

    would be great to see

    BEST ACTRESS:
    Glenn Close/Albert Nobbs*
    Elizabeth Olsen/Martha Marcy May Marlene
    Meryl Streep/The Iron Lady
    Tilda Swinton/We Need to Talk About Kevin
    Kristen Wiig/Bridesmaids

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
    Viola Davis/The Help*
    Vanessa Redgrave/Coriolanus
    Octavia Spencer/The Help
    Michelle Williams/My Week with Marilyn
    Shailene Woodley/The Descendants

  47. Another great article sasha… couldn’t agree with you on the ridiculously high expectations for war horse. at this point it is almost impossible for the movie to meet. still i just hope it is a good film. about ryan gosling i agree too… he will definitely win an oscar, not this year, but soon. Although a lot of people thought that of tom cruise in the early 90’s and look what happened?… now he’s not even close.

  48. Another great article sasha… couldn’t agree with you on the ridiculously high expectations for war horse. at this point it is almost impossible for the movie to meet. still i just hope it is a good film. about ryan gosling i agree too… he will definitely win an oscar, not this year, but soon. Although a lot of people thought that of tom cruise in the early 90’s and look what happened?… now he’s not even close.

  49. @Sasha- I see. Thank you for the info and managing to keep it spoiler free!

  50. @Sasha- I see. Thank you for the info and managing to keep it spoiler free!

  51. Okay so as for Emma Watson. I hate to say that she is the weakest part of the film. This is of no fault of her own. She does a fine job and is totally believable, but the part is small, underwritten, and mostly unnecessary. As for the idea of putting Michelle in supporting, it’s just never going to happen. Can’t wait to see what more people think. Michelle Williams will get her due, im just hoping that branagh does as well!

  52. Okay so as for Emma Watson. I hate to say that she is the weakest part of the film. This is of no fault of her own. She does a fine job and is totally believable, but the part is small, underwritten, and mostly unnecessary. As for the idea of putting Michelle in supporting, it’s just never going to happen. Can’t wait to see what more people think. Michelle Williams will get her due, im just hoping that branagh does as well!

  53. “couldn’t agree with you on the ridiculously high expectations for war horse. at this point it is almost impossible for the movie to meet”

    I think Spielberg is one of the few who can match expectations when he tries. His style/spectacle is so over the top, he makes sure the audience mind is blown. I know War of the World/Indiana Jones 4 sucked but those were lame from the start.

  54. “couldn’t agree with you on the ridiculously high expectations for war horse. at this point it is almost impossible for the movie to meet”

    I think Spielberg is one of the few who can match expectations when he tries. His style/spectacle is so over the top, he makes sure the audience mind is blown. I know War of the World/Indiana Jones 4 sucked but those were lame from the start.

  55. This should go down as one of the best SS posts ever. Makes me really excited to see all these films from such rich, detailed thoughts. Then after seeing return and compare.

    And thanks to Ricky. I’ve been such a MWilliams fan for some time. This one made everyone nervous, glad to hear she is so good in it.

    I want to place bets on War Horse: will it have 3, 4, 5 or 9 endings??? (I kid! I’m stopping with my anti-SS posts now)

  56. This should go down as one of the best SS posts ever. Makes me really excited to see all these films from such rich, detailed thoughts. Then after seeing return and compare.

    And thanks to Ricky. I’ve been such a MWilliams fan for some time. This one made everyone nervous, glad to hear she is so good in it.

    I want to place bets on War Horse: will it have 3, 4, 5 or 9 endings??? (I kid! I’m stopping with my anti-SS posts now)

  57. And that Gosling dog story is fantastic. My mother is even crushing on him now!

  58. And that Gosling dog story is fantastic. My mother is even crushing on him now!

  59. I also saw My Week With Marilyn and while I’m consistently mystified by what gets Oscar attention, I’m a little surprised how much this other person loved Michelle Williams. I thought she was fine, but just fine. Overall I was not even a little impressed with the movie; it played like a cheesy TV thing.

  60. I also saw My Week With Marilyn and while I’m consistently mystified by what gets Oscar attention, I’m a little surprised how much this other person loved Michelle Williams. I thought she was fine, but just fine. Overall I was not even a little impressed with the movie; it played like a cheesy TV thing.

  61. Great article, Sasha, I’m starting to think that with the Weinsteins in their corner, The Artist could pull off a sweep. It would be the perfect win-win(-win) : the audience wins, because it is a crowdpleaser; the distributor wins, because it is a unique, edgy, critically acclaimed crowdpleaser, one they can campaign the hell out of; AND the Academy wins because they award a crowdpleaser that also makes them look edgy (bp to a silent film), so they can please the critics/bloggers AND the audience.

    Ricky, what about Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh ? She plays such an icon, that I thought it could be a relevation even with limited screentime…thoughts ?

    dfa, thanks for the early word, if it is really that good, I can see this become Daldry’s year. The film could be easily a big BO-hit and it stars two of the most beloved Oscar-winning movie stars of the industry. So if critics won’t hate it, there will be PLENTY support.

  62. Great article, Sasha, I’m starting to think that with the Weinsteins in their corner, The Artist could pull off a sweep. It would be the perfect win-win(-win) : the audience wins, because it is a crowdpleaser; the distributor wins, because it is a unique, edgy, critically acclaimed crowdpleaser, one they can campaign the hell out of; AND the Academy wins because they award a crowdpleaser that also makes them look edgy (bp to a silent film), so they can please the critics/bloggers AND the audience.

    Ricky, what about Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh ? She plays such an icon, that I thought it could be a relevation even with limited screentime…thoughts ?

    dfa, thanks for the early word, if it is really that good, I can see this become Daldry’s year. The film could be easily a big BO-hit and it stars two of the most beloved Oscar-winning movie stars of the industry. So if critics won’t hate it, there will be PLENTY support.

  63. Really beautiful piece, Sasha. Lots to think on here. Well done.

  64. Really beautiful piece, Sasha. Lots to think on here. Well done.

  65. And by the way, I’d love to see Clooney, Pitt and Gosling all nominated, not just because of your wonderful words here, but because they deserve it. I realize Gosling has an uphill climb at a nod, but I’ll be rooting for him nonetheless.

  66. And by the way, I’d love to see Clooney, Pitt and Gosling all nominated, not just because of your wonderful words here, but because they deserve it. I realize Gosling has an uphill climb at a nod, but I’ll be rooting for him nonetheless.

  67. Just saw the trailer for, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I am so in.

  68. Just saw the trailer for, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I am so in.

  69. Great trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close!
    I so wanna see the movie now.
    It looks like a loveable movie.

  70. Great trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close!
    I so wanna see the movie now.
    It looks like a loveable movie.

  71. Max von Sydow has deserved an Oscar since 1957…overfuckingdue

    Agreed. I’d throw everyone else under the bus for him. I didn’t even know there was an opportunity.

    If I were the other guys with multiple movies in the mix who you mentioned I would make my push with the role that goes against my public persona. I always thought Robin Williams won for Good Will Hunting because that very somber and still character was nothing like the frenzied funny man we all know him to be. Just sayin’.

  72. Max von Sydow has deserved an Oscar since 1957…overfuckingdue

    Agreed. I’d throw everyone else under the bus for him. I didn’t even know there was an opportunity.

    If I were the other guys with multiple movies in the mix who you mentioned I would make my push with the role that goes against my public persona. I always thought Robin Williams won for Good Will Hunting because that very somber and still character was nothing like the frenzied funny man we all know him to be. Just sayin’.

  73. Great read.

    I thought it was particularly interesting that you pondered the irony of people caring more about a politician’s sordid personal and family life than the often devastating political decisions they make. Then the next paragraph spoke about how The Descendants is about what America cares about most – family. I think you might have answered your own conundrum without realising it.

  74. Great read.

    I thought it was particularly interesting that you pondered the irony of people caring more about a politician’s sordid personal and family life than the often devastating political decisions they make. Then the next paragraph spoke about how The Descendants is about what America cares about most – family. I think you might have answered your own conundrum without realising it.

  75. I thought it was particularly interesting that you pondered the irony of people caring more about a politician’s sordid personal and family life than the often devastating political decisions they make. Then the next paragraph spoke about how The Descendants is about what America cares about most – family. I think you might have answered your own conundrum without realising it.

    You know, good point. Shit.

  76. I thought it was particularly interesting that you pondered the irony of people caring more about a politician’s sordid personal and family life than the often devastating political decisions they make. Then the next paragraph spoke about how The Descendants is about what America cares about most – family. I think you might have answered your own conundrum without realising it.

    You know, good point. Shit.

  77. Great read, Sasha. As we get closer to the crunch, I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be is a silent movie with no star performers took BP. Although I haven’t seen the Artist, yet, I would be ecstatic if it won, on principle, alone. Kudos to the Weinstein group for backing it and making this a very strong possiblity.

    I’ve been building up a good collection of silents over that past few years and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to go back to them once in a while to see how images in the hands of a true craftsman can really tell a story. Not recommended for most of the ADD crowd as some run for 3 – 4 hours, or longer, but worth it.

  78. Great read, Sasha. As we get closer to the crunch, I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be is a silent movie with no star performers took BP. Although I haven’t seen the Artist, yet, I would be ecstatic if it won, on principle, alone. Kudos to the Weinstein group for backing it and making this a very strong possiblity.

    I’ve been building up a good collection of silents over that past few years and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to go back to them once in a while to see how images in the hands of a true craftsman can really tell a story. Not recommended for most of the ADD crowd as some run for 3 – 4 hours, or longer, but worth it.

  79. Wow a silent film I am so excited! I am a big fan of silents, especially anything starring Ms. Garbo. I am getting really excited about awards season, I have seen Drive, Contagion, The Help, and Moneyball so far. Can’t wait for Ides of March!!!

  80. Wow a silent film I am so excited! I am a big fan of silents, especially anything starring Ms. Garbo. I am getting really excited about awards season, I have seen Drive, Contagion, The Help, and Moneyball so far. Can’t wait for Ides of March!!!

  81. I would be surprised if a silent film got any audience acceptance, remember how few people saw 127 Hours because it was about an arm getting cut off? Audiences can be petty

  82. I would be surprised if a silent film got any audience acceptance, remember how few people saw 127 Hours because it was about an arm getting cut off? Audiences can be petty

  83. Is it just me or does anyone else feel kind of “meh” toward the big movies coming out at the end of the year like “Extremely Loud” and “War Horse” and “Edgar”? They all just sound like good solid movies but nothing really special. The only one left that I really look forward to is The Artist since it looks unique and interesting. Maybe also “Dragon Tattoo” but I thought the book wasn’t all that good.

  84. Is it just me or does anyone else feel kind of “meh” toward the big movies coming out at the end of the year like “Extremely Loud” and “War Horse” and “Edgar”? They all just sound like good solid movies but nothing really special. The only one left that I really look forward to is The Artist since it looks unique and interesting. Maybe also “Dragon Tattoo” but I thought the book wasn’t all that good.

  85. This is one of your strongest pieces, Sasha. Would you agree that the films that really hit the sweet spot with the Academy are those that straddle the line between darkness and light? The Artist, for example, is uplifting in the final event — but only after it deals with some very unhappy territory, tapping directly into any artist’s insecurities about losing their touch and their audience, their fear of a world that evolves faster than their art can. It’s that aspect that I think will really register with Academy members.

    By the way, I wouldn’t be so quick to say that Poland alone “called” a win for The Artist — Dave Karger and I both have the film at #1 in the Gold Derby chart, and I’m sure we’re not the first either.

  86. This is one of your strongest pieces, Sasha. Would you agree that the films that really hit the sweet spot with the Academy are those that straddle the line between darkness and light? The Artist, for example, is uplifting in the final event — but only after it deals with some very unhappy territory, tapping directly into any artist’s insecurities about losing their touch and their audience, their fear of a world that evolves faster than their art can. It’s that aspect that I think will really register with Academy members.

    By the way, I wouldn’t be so quick to say that Poland alone “called” a win for The Artist — Dave Karger and I both have the film at #1 in the Gold Derby chart, and I’m sure we’re not the first either.

  87. Beth Stevens

    BFCA scores so far for the main contenders:

    The Ides of March – 95
    (this might or might not be meaningful – they always love Clooney)

    Drive – 91
    Moneyball – 91
    The Descendants – 90
    The Help – 89
    Midnight in Paris – 85

    Tree of Life – 78
    (it’s rare for a film to land a BP nod without making the cutoff score of 85, but this could be an exception)

  88. Beth Stevens

    BFCA scores so far for the main contenders:

    The Ides of March – 95
    (this might or might not be meaningful – they always love Clooney)

    Drive – 91
    Moneyball – 91
    The Descendants – 90
    The Help – 89
    Midnight in Paris – 85

    Tree of Life – 78
    (it’s rare for a film to land a BP nod without making the cutoff score of 85, but this could be an exception)

  89. tony rock

    Won’t be rooting for The Artist. If it’s nominated and wins it’ll simply be a continuation of Oscar’s obsession with the past (The King’s Speech) versus looking forward to the future. A silent black and white film about Hollywood is not “edgy” in the slightest.

  90. tony rock

    Won’t be rooting for The Artist. If it’s nominated and wins it’ll simply be a continuation of Oscar’s obsession with the past (The King’s Speech) versus looking forward to the future. A silent black and white film about Hollywood is not “edgy” in the slightest.

  91. Thanks, Beth. Helpful I think. Do they really love Clooney? I thought Ides was pretty damn good myself.

  92. Thanks, Beth. Helpful I think. Do they really love Clooney? I thought Ides was pretty damn good myself.

  93. Ricky Schweitzer

    @AJ- Really? I don’t know if it is just my love of Williams as an actress, but I really did think that she was phenomenal. Monroe is such a tough sell, so to do a 100% imitation would have been phony. I think she brought real life to the character and helped to make one understand why she was loved and loathed in the industry in equal measure.

    As for Julia Ormond, she does a lovely job as Vivian Leigh, but the part is absolutely tiny. She’s in two, maybe three scenes. No shot for a nomination there. With that in mind, if they ever decide to do a film about Leigh in the later stages of her life, I would like to see Ormond in the part.

    Finally, AJ, you said it felt like a cheesy TV thing? You know what else did? The King’s Speech. The King’s Speech is a better film, no doubt, but they’re similar in tone I’d say. I expect a BFCA score in the low to mid 80s on this one.

    On a different note, I’m loving the excitement for Von Sydow. He really has been undervalued for too long. Imagine a Plummer vs. Von Sydow race for supporting? They’re both so overdue

  94. Ricky Schweitzer

    @AJ- Really? I don’t know if it is just my love of Williams as an actress, but I really did think that she was phenomenal. Monroe is such a tough sell, so to do a 100% imitation would have been phony. I think she brought real life to the character and helped to make one understand why she was loved and loathed in the industry in equal measure.

    As for Julia Ormond, she does a lovely job as Vivian Leigh, but the part is absolutely tiny. She’s in two, maybe three scenes. No shot for a nomination there. With that in mind, if they ever decide to do a film about Leigh in the later stages of her life, I would like to see Ormond in the part.

    Finally, AJ, you said it felt like a cheesy TV thing? You know what else did? The King’s Speech. The King’s Speech is a better film, no doubt, but they’re similar in tone I’d say. I expect a BFCA score in the low to mid 80s on this one.

    On a different note, I’m loving the excitement for Von Sydow. He really has been undervalued for too long. Imagine a Plummer vs. Von Sydow race for supporting? They’re both so overdue

  95. Beth Stevens

    Sasha – Yeah, the Broadcast Critics do seem to love Clooney, though I suppose it’s partly the people he works with (Coens, Malick, Jonze, Kaufman, Reitman, et al.). His films boast nearly 30 BFCA noms among them – and he personally, as actor, director and writer, has received 6 noms. In 2005 they presented him with their Freedom Award for Good Night, And Good Luck. He hasn’t yet won a competitive award from BFCA, so this might be his year.

    Six of Clooney’s films were nominated for BFCA’s Best Picture award: Out of Sight, Three Kings, The Thin Red Line (with only a so-so score of 80), GNAGL, Michael Clayton, and Up in the Air.

    Up in the Air – 97
    GNAGL – 95
    The Ides of March – 95
    Fantastic Mr. Fox – 91 (Animated and Screenplay noms)
    The Descendants – 90
    Ocean’s Eleven – 88
    Confessions of a Dangerous Mind – 87 (Screenplay win for Kaufman, along with Adaptation)
    Michael Clayton – 87
    Three Kings – 85
    The Perfect Storm – 84
    O Brother, Where Art Thou? – 82
    Syriana – 82
    The Good German – 81
    The Thin Red Line – 80
    Burn After Reading – 79 (Comedy nom)
    Leatherheads – 79
    Intolerable Cruelty – 78
    Ocean’s Twelve – 75 (Ensemble nom)

    They weren’t crazy about Men Who Stare at Goats, The American or Solaris – and Out of Sight, despite its BP nom, is too old to have a rating.

  96. Beth Stevens

    Sasha – Yeah, the Broadcast Critics do seem to love Clooney, though I suppose it’s partly the people he works with (Coens, Malick, Jonze, Kaufman, Reitman, et al.). His films boast nearly 30 BFCA noms among them – and he personally, as actor, director and writer, has received 6 noms. In 2005 they presented him with their Freedom Award for Good Night, And Good Luck. He hasn’t yet won a competitive award from BFCA, so this might be his year.

    Six of Clooney’s films were nominated for BFCA’s Best Picture award: Out of Sight, Three Kings, The Thin Red Line (with only a so-so score of 80), GNAGL, Michael Clayton, and Up in the Air.

    Up in the Air – 97
    GNAGL – 95
    The Ides of March – 95
    Fantastic Mr. Fox – 91 (Animated and Screenplay noms)
    The Descendants – 90
    Ocean’s Eleven – 88
    Confessions of a Dangerous Mind – 87 (Screenplay win for Kaufman, along with Adaptation)
    Michael Clayton – 87
    Three Kings – 85
    The Perfect Storm – 84
    O Brother, Where Art Thou? – 82
    Syriana – 82
    The Good German – 81
    The Thin Red Line – 80
    Burn After Reading – 79 (Comedy nom)
    Leatherheads – 79
    Intolerable Cruelty – 78
    Ocean’s Twelve – 75 (Ensemble nom)

    They weren’t crazy about Men Who Stare at Goats, The American or Solaris – and Out of Sight, despite its BP nom, is too old to have a rating.

  97. That cracks me up. I loved Clooney in Men Who Stare At Goats.

  98. That cracks me up. I loved Clooney in Men Who Stare At Goats.

  99. you say Ides is in your list of ten, but I don’t see it in your list
    also – spoiler alert?

  100. you say Ides is in your list of ten, but I don’t see it in your list
    also – spoiler alert?

  101. As long as Oldman, Pitt and Gosling find a way into the Best Actor race, I’m good.

  102. As long as Oldman, Pitt and Gosling find a way into the Best Actor race, I’m good.

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