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Oscar Bits and Bites

Tom O’Neil over at Gold Derby has compiled a list of screeners that have been going out to Academy members. Getting them there early is essential for films that don’t have purty young girls naked in them or big stars or rave reviews. He’ll be keeping track along the way. [GD]

At Vulture, Kyle Buchanan is doing Oscar Futures, tracking the ups and downs of various contenders. Up this week, Silver Linings Playbook. [Vulture]

And EW’s Anthony Breznican is writing up the Oscars this year. This week’s column, Keep Your Eye on tracks the current frontrunners: Argo, Lincoln, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook. Have a look! It will be vital to follow Breznican’s column throughout the season. [EW]

Jeff Wells continues his “take down” campaign of Lincoln while heavily advocating for Silver Linings Playbook. This time he imagines what people walking out of the theater might be thinking. Later, he points to the Sweet Spot video at the NY Times and sums the whole thing up as “everybody hated Lincoln” when in fact, two people did, and they disagreed with Scott’s review.  While it’s true, it isn’t going to send people out of the theater with happy tears streaming down their faces as they beam positivity to that fantasy scenario that just played out , and fanboys won’t erupt in spontaneous applause at various sections of the branded action flick, and perhaps it does require more than just showing up – to Jeff that means everyone hates it – his idea of a great movie is a “popular” one. By that definition, The Avengers is the best film of 2012. It’s a bizarre fixation, this. But all part of the delightful season known as Oscar. The best comment comes from Kris Tapley, who writes to Jeff’s headline of “beating a dead horse,” this: “Actually I think you’re skull-fucking the horse’s ocular cavities at this point.”

I see Jeff’s one-sided depiction of audiences reacting to Lincoln and raise him this comment by my Michael Fox on Facebook:

I went to the first ever showing of this film in Bozeman, Montana. It was a 3:00PM show. The theater was packed and it was a completely older audience. I would say the average age was about 60. No cel phones went off, the crowd was really into the film and at the end everyone applauded. Then a surprising number of people started talking to each other. People who did not know each other but had just watched the film together. They were talking about the characters in the movie-Stanton and Stevens and the three vote getters. I was impressed. We just went though a pretty contentious election here and I thought that this was a perfect film for folks in my town to see. Politics ain’t pretty and this film really demonstrated that.

So maybe they don’t skip out of the theater clutching their bosoms with joy and uplift about life but they are talking about this movie probably more than they are talking about any other. Second to Lincoln would be Life of Pi, Argo and The Master. [HE]

Meanwhile, David Denby at the New Yorker writes up “SIX FOOTNOTES TO THE GREATNESS OF LINCOLN. Worth a read:

Steven Spielberg began by hiring the best playwright in the country. According to the press notes for the film, Tony Kushner, immersing himself in the politics and language of the period, delivered a five-hundred page script, which was unfilmable except as a TV mini-series. At some point, when Kushner was in his car, Spielberg called, and said something like, “The best part of your script is the eighty pages devoted to passing the Thirteenth Amendment. Let’s make the whole movie about that.” [New Yorker]

33 Comments on this Post

  1. Wo cares Jeff. I read his posts and laugh at his childish attmpts to show that Lincoln is boring. Meanwhile, he said it is great film.

  2. Terometer

    Never tried to take down films or actors against your personal favorite before? Is Jeff Wells the only one that needs to be condemned for his bias?

  3. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Usually you wait until there is an actual Oscar race. There really is no point to doing it now before the nominations are even out. Not condemning him anyway just pointing out what he’s doing and refuting his claims.

  4. Lincoln is the frontrunner right now and will be for the rest of the Oscar season. America’s most iconic leader as depicted by America’s most iconic film director and brought to life by the world’s greatest actor, according to Time that is. Forget zeitgeist, forget boring, forget feel good, forget edgy, and most definitely don’t mind Jeff Wells, Lincoln is the movie of the year!

  5. I agree, Lincoln is the frontrunner by a landslide, now that it has the Box Office, too, it literally has EVERYTHING. Unless an unseen breaks out in a huge way, it will win picture, director, adapted screenplay, actor, supporting actor, set design, costume design, cinematography, editing, score, makeup…and by ‘unseen’, I mean Les Miserables. Even if Django and ZD30 turn out to be masterpieces, I don’t think the Academy would opt for either when they could go for Lincoln, too. To me, the race will be done next weekend when ‘Les Miserables’ starts screening : if the early word is stellar, we have a race…if it isn’t, Lincoln will take it, no question about it.

    Sure, Argo and Silver Linings Playbook are already competition, but former might not appeal to the crucial Actors’ Branch, and latter is a contemporary dramedy, and those rarely win. Not to mention, that though it could easily pick up business in the next few months, the limited opening weekend of Silver Linings Playbook has been a disapppointment so far : its PTA on opening day was $7,500, and that could translate to a 30K PTA OW at best, which though decent, nowhere near the recent comparable specialty opening weekends.

    I’m sure it is the kind of film that will become a hit thanks to word of mouth and there is no doubt it will be in theaters for at least another 3 months that includes the lucrative Holiday Season, BUT taking into consideration that this is a contemporary romantic dramedy that went into this weekend with huge awards buzz, great reviews, Weinstein-marketing and franchise all-star leads (not to mention a living legend), these early numbers simply don’t meet the high expectations. No biggie (for now), but its unblemished track record is gone until it picks up some serious business.

  6. The Great Dane

    Sasha, you should write an article about the first screener sent out the last couple of years and what that means.
    No one seems to be looking into the fact that every year, the first screener sent out gets an acting nomination for someone who seems too farfetched to get into the race. “Junebug” was the first screener sent out that year. An unlikely, overlooked candidate – and Amy Adams (largely unknown) got nominated in the end. “Animal Kingdom” was the first out, and Jackie Weaver (largely unknown) got nominated. “A Better Life” was the first out last year, and Damien Bichir got nominated. All these films and performances seemed to come from films that were too small to get any traction, but they all got an acting nomination for people who aren’t famous.
    I don’t know why the studios themselves don’t realise this – they should be fighting to get the first screeners out for small films, because the statistics really show by now that even the most unlikely films and performances can get in that way.
    I don’t know what the first screener this year was, or what the first screeners between “Junebug” and “Animal Kingdom” were, but that the before-mentioned three films actually got acting nominations is unbelievable. :)

  7. Jack Traven II

    The more good things I hear about Lincoln the more I’m pissed that I won’t see the film until the end of January. Not being able to praise or criticize particular films while the Oscar race is under way is pretty depressing. And Les Misérables even comes out over here just three days prior to the Oscar show. Whether it already bombed by then and therefore didn’t make me wanna see it or not, but how fucked up is that.

  8. Besides the great reviews and the good IMDB-rating, “Lincoln” now even got an “A” CinemaScore so I don´t see how Jeff Wells could convince anyone of his opinion. I rather expected a “B+” or something like that, but most people really seem to love Spielbergs film …

  9. Jack Traven II

    In fact, I’d rather see Sasha commenting on the absurd impact the BO still seems to have, since despite its apparently everlasting delivery of records the real attendance figures get smaller and smaller. … Wait, I just realized that it’s pretty much like the Oscar race itself. In the end the one film wins (most of the time at least) that deals less with real life and real problems.

  10. I saw Lincoln yesterday with some apprehension. I’ve been waiting to see this film since it was announced over a year ago. I remembered however how much I had anticipated War Horse and how disappointed I was after seeing that film. I was apprehensive about the length of Lincoln. Two and half hours is a long time. I had called a friend to go with me to see Lincoln, the same friend that had gone with me to see The Dark Knight Rises and he declined stating that he didn’t want to go see another movie where he was going to end up being bored.

    I don’t understand what critics want anymore. I read one review where the critic lamented that there was no sequence where Lincoln walked the streets of Richmond after it’s fall too underscore the scope of the Civil War and his personal regret yet there was the scene where Lincoln moves through a very somber aftermath of a battle. Critics complained there weren’t enough battle scenes. There were at least three scenes that spoke loudly of the battles fought without my even remembering a gunshot and one scene in particular that was rather jarring without there even being the scene of a battle. There was a complaint by another critic or rather a compliment to Sally Field and how she could fret. I don’t think that critic and I saw the same movie.

    There were two things when I decided to see Lincoln where I wondered how they would impact the overall film, the length and the score. John Williams score is simply perfect it accomplished what any good movie score should accomplish which is serving the film and not competing with the film. I actually checked my watch just to gage how the time was moving and was shocked to see how quickly this film moved considering the length and the story.

    Spielberg should now retire and live on the laurels of this film. It’s his masterpiece. He has succeeded in combining the artistry of David Lean, the ability to deal with actors like Billy Wilder, and the epic quality of Cecil B De Mille. Yes epic. Even though this film is limited in the design and decoration it’s epic. The sets are perfect. The cinematography enhances each scene. I never believed he could top Schindler’s List. He did and then some. It isn’t as laborious as Amistad or as violent as Ryan or as terrorizing as Schindler and there were moments in Lincoln where you could reference all three of those prior films.

    Daniel Day Lewis is mesmerizing as Lincoln. It was the strangest feeling having Lewis blur the lines between himself and Lincoln. You knew it was Lewis but his performance is seamless and effortless. It’s DDL’s best performance ever. I like DDL a lot but I’ve never seen him at the top of his game as he is here. I was struck by the way he walked from the White House when he thought he was late to meet Mary too go to the theater. It was strange and yet both DDL and Spielberg managed to pay that much attention to the way a tall man who was tired and worn would walk. The voice needs no further commentary it simply embodies the performance.

    Tommy Lee Jones is scrappy and funny and loud and abrasive and determined. He has added to his resume another fine performance. The surprise is Sally Field. I stated when she was announced that she was perfect for this role and I believed she was based on her ability to portray hysteria. I remember distinctly Field at the funeral scene in Steel Magnolia’s and although it’s a moving scene it’s quite over the top. Somehow Spielberg manages to get from Field that same hysteria without the overblow soap opera performance. I can’t recall ever seeing a bitchy Sally Field and boy she brought that to the table. She has a moment of hysteria and yet it’s not the hysteria we all expect it’s so controlled that you have to applaud the woman. There isn’t a single performance off key in this film. I remember one critic saying that famous faces walked through this movie and yes they did but damn there wasn’t a single performance that missed a beat.

    What was fascinating however was this, for two and a half hours you could hear a pin drop in this theater. I went to an 11;25 am showing with a very mixed audience, young, old and diverse; and the theater was half full, the only time you heard anything was when we all laughed at appropriate places designed for us to laugh. Otherwise you didn’t even hear anyone cough. And then the applause afterwards.

    It’s brilliant. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that was as intelligent and as moving at times as this was. It’s strange there are moments even though slavery is not really dissected you can feel yourself being drawn into the emotional abyss that many slaves must have felt during that time. One also has too applaud Spielberg’s high lighting the plight of veterans in a very subtle manner it’s not obvious but it’s there.

  11. WOW, Nic V! Great review.
    You are right about some critics. I believe if this final product was another doirector’s (critics ignore Spielberg and I accept this as Spielberg’s greatness) we couldn’t find a single negative review (maybe some politicaly charged reviews).

  12. Charlotte

    Regarding Silver Linings Playbook, I agree with Dave Poland over at MCN….you can’t read too much into the numbers other than that it was a good idea to switch to a platform release. The word of mouth has been fantastic. It’s sure to be one of the leggier films of the year.

  13. And just a side note if the critics had gotten the film they claim they should have gotten regarding Lincoln it would have had to be at least six hours long.

  14. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Really great review, Nic. I agree with you completely, especially about Sally Field. That is the kind of performance you used to see a lot in movies but one that has all but disappeared. With your permission, can I post that to the main page?

  15. evelyn garver

    My husband and I saw LINCOLN yesterday here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. All shows were sold out at our Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester. Not only did no one walk out, they applauded at the end. Most people were crying. This film is magnificent. I remain baffled at Well’s behavior and ridiculous anecdotes. It is possible to have more than one great movie each Oscar season.

  16. I, too, saw Lincoln last night,and it was sold out! The movie was brilliant easily of one Spielberg’s best film ever. I am not so sure though if that’s Daniel Day- Lewis as Lincoln or Lincoln as Daniel Day-Lewis. He was born to play Abraham Lincoln. Its the performance of his career. Everything about this movie is beautiful. The cinematography, the not so over the top but rather subtle score, the production design I felt like I was in that time period, costumes design just everything! Oh boy Iove this movie so much. The supporting casts were all brilliant. Tommy Lee Jones is the scene stealer of this movie. The way he debates with the opponents just awesomeness. Then, there is Sally field; if they were to nominate her, I think the scene that will get the academy to vote for her was her scene with Lincoln when they were arguing about Robert planning to enlist himself into the army. EPICNESS! This is a talky film,but I love that kind of movie like The Social Network. When the movie was over, people applauded. You don’t see that often in the movies anymore. We are now in the time when people see movies as an entertainment not as an art. 4 stars out of 4 I agree with anybody else, Spielberg could have ended the movie when Lincoln was walking away from the camera. I’m going to see it again today. ^_^

  17. Yeah…Sasha, it will be great to post his review on the main page. I think his review is what you think about film.

  18. Certainly Sasha.

  19. I don’t know if I’m ever going to see this. It didn’t play here this weekend. And you might think “Well, maybe next week.” But I thought that with J. EDGAR and it never ended up playing here. For both films, I expected to be in crowded theaters on opening day. I don’t know what kind of statistics they have when they release films, but the choices of what to play here amaze me. SKYFALL was on 3 out of 16 screens at the mall last week and I was probably one of 20 people in there. A Spielberg film about LINCOLN would have had a hell of a lot more people than that. And I usually go during matinees with the rest of the oldies.

    What I also don’t get is how THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER played here for a month. We get than and not LINCOLN? smh

    FTR, when I went to see CLOUD ATLAS it was just me and my Old Ma.

  20. Antoinette, you might see Lincoln next weekend,for it is gonna expand.

  21. I saw Lincoln Friday afternoon at a theater in Minneapolis and my theater was sold out and so were the rest of the times that day. I was shocked by that. Was worried how box office would be but with $22 million on opening weekend, that blew predictions of $13 million or so out of the water.

    The movie is amazing. That’s all I can really say. And I do think this is a clear frontrunner over any other movie right now for the win.

  22. Tero Heikkinen

    “John Williams score is simply perfect it accomplished what any good movie score should accomplish which is serving the film and not competing with the film.”

    This is something I am very much interested in. The score does sound fabulous – I think the whole soundtrack is on YouTube (here’s track #1): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL13A16IhjI

    48th nomination coming up, but will he win #6?

  23. Great New Yorker article on Lincoln. “Legislative thriller” reminds me of a relatively underestimated movie by a relatively underestimated American storyteller, 1962’s Advise & Consent by Otto Preminger.

  24. Man, forget about Jeff Wells. A bunch of us at GoldDerby actually heeded some of his warnings that one of the Oscar ponies coming out in the fall was going to be a “train wreck” and it all amounted to nothing. “Argo”, “Lincoln”, “Silver Linings Playbook”, “Flight” and “The Sessions” have all done well, and even some of the lesser ones like “Anna Karenina” and “Cloud Atlas” haven’t done that poorly.

  25. “Then a surprising number of people started talking to each other. People who did not know each other but had just watched the film together.”

    Saw Lincoln yesterday…and the same thing happened to me! It really took me by surprise since that hasn’t ever happened before, but it was nice to bond with the people around me and discuss the film a bit. No one really rushed out.

  26. After this weekend’s box office of $21 Million playing in 1775 theaters we can call Lincoln the Frontrunner now. It has the critical acclaim, gravitas, public interest and everyone loves Lincoln, Democrats and Republicans. As I have been saying all along Argo is this year’s Up in the Air, peaked too soon. Though still think Ben Affleck will get best director over Speilberg.

  27. Sally Field is an amazing actress who can truly connect with her characters and I’m happy she was given this part to allow everyone to see and understand why Oscar likes her and maybe “right now” he will again.

  28. CelluLloyd

    Saw Lincoln here in Toronto this weekend. Good movie, not great. (After reading Doris’ book, was hoping for more of Lincoln’s story, rather than solely focusing on one aspect of his time in office). DDL really did his homework. I also hope Sally Field gets her due for this film. She gives the film a emotional pulse that is too often lacking.

  29. Just listened to Jeff Wells comments about audiences not being into Lincoln. The Cinemascore for Lincoln was an A. Remember Jeff Wells is the same guy who predicted audiences wouldn’t connect with The Hunger Games. He could feel the negative energy from those watching it with him before it was released. LMAO. Jeff knows shit about what general audiences like. His Oscar predictions are always wrong too. He is a big man-child.

  30. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Jerry, Jeff is creating his own reality as he accused me of doing of Lincoln. The truth is that there will be a lot of people who think Lincoln is boring. I don’t doubt that. Half the fanboy faction thinks that and probably most of Jeff’s readers. But whether the Oscar voters notice or not really is beside the point: Lincoln is a great film, one of Spielberg’s very best. Oscar can have Silver Linings Playbook for their historical win and it won’t change the fact that Lincoln is a great film. Jeff can beat his fists and scream and yell it doesn’t change the fact that Lincoln’s a great film. Period. I don’t know what the Oscar voters do but I won’t be surprised if they go with the movie that moved them more emotionally and that might be Silver Linings. It also might be Lincoln for the evolved voters in the group. Nothing they do surprises me anymore.

  31. “his idea of a great movie is a “popular” one. By that definition, The Avengers is the best film of 2012.”

    You say that as if it were a bad thing. It’s the third-biggest momeymaking movie in history. It’s close to 90% approval on Rotten Tomatoes. The two boxes ticked off that make up my ideal best picture; a movie that appeals to critics and fans alike. Relegate it to the Oscar ghetto that all sci-fi genre films wind up being gulag-ed to (VFX, art direction, production design, sound) at your own peril, AMPAS.

    BTW from the trailer, Lincoln looks like an extended episode of The West Wing, circa 1865.

  32. I hope Mary Elizabeth Winstead isn’t forgotten. I just watched Smashed and her performance was SO real and SO lived in, from the sober moments to the wasted ones. I’m really impressed. And the director did a great job capturing a slice of hipster LA life – really cool choices in locations and all totally believable in terms of illustrating the narrative. I hope SPC makes a big push for this movie and its leading lady. It’s this year’s Half Nelson.

  33. Oh, where is Damien Bona when we need him?

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