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Deep Background… Picture and Director – Split or Sweep?

The Gurus have shifted position after Ben Affleck won Best Director and Best Picture from both the BFCAs and the Globes.  The folks over at Gold Derby are similarly split up — with most choosing either Argo or Lincoln. Here is how they think it will go at Movie City News:

gurusjanuary13

 

We’re at that time of year again when pundits are predicting a director but not the best picture or the best picture but not the director.  The last time this happened was the last time Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg were both up for director. In fact, it’s funny to think of it like this but Ang Lee has been involved in most of the odd occurrences that have happened over the past few decades in the director category.  If it happens again this year it will be the 4th time:

1995-Sense and Sensibility – Ron Howard won for Apollo 13 at the DGA but lost Pic and Director to Mel Gibson for Braveheart (Gibson had won the Globe for director and was nominated for both DGA and Oscar).
2000-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Ang Lee won the DGA, but Gladiator won Best Picture and Steven Soderbergh won Best Director at the Oscars.
2005-Brokeback Mountain – Ang Lee won the DGA and the Oscar but Best Picture, famously, went to Crash.

We were asked for these right after the Golden Globes but they didn’t get posted until now. Had I sent them in recently I would have done what Scott Feinberg, Anne Thompson and David Poland have done here – put Silver Linings at number 2.

Here is Best Director:

gurusdirector13

 

Most are predicting Steven Spielberg for Picture and Director.  Pete Hammond and Anne Thompson think Ang Lee will get his second Best Director statue.  It is certainly not outside the realm of possibility, given Lee’s history. But I would think he would win the DGA first and then the Oscar.  If we’re looking at a Gladiator year, some other person entirely would win Director, like Haneke. For some reason, the Academy really didn’t want to give their Best Director Oscar to Ridley Scott for Gladiator but since it had the most nominations heading into the race it seemed like their surefire, Chicago-like winner.

Remember, though, all of these splits we’re talking about here occurred in the days of the weighted, not the preferential, ballot for Best Picture. Since Oscar switched to ten and then to the situation they have now, we’ve not yet had a split. Maybe we’re due for one, maybe we aren’t – it will depend on how much broad support Lincoln has.  Both David O. Russell (no DGA nom) and Ben Affleck (no Oscar nom) face a handicap.  A few directors have won the DGA without being nominated for the Oscar, like Ron Howard for the Apollo 13 and Steven Spielberg for The Color Purple. In that instance, a whole other film won, taking its director with it; there has never been a situation like that where the eventual winner at the DGA wasn’t nominated for Best Director but their film still won BP.

That means, Argo has to overcome history in 3 different ways to win this year:

1. it is the 4th or 5th in line for most nominations. The only film to ever do this was Chariots of Fire.
2. it would have to be like Driving Miss Daisy (or Wings or Grand Hotel if you want to go back that far) to win without a director nomination.
3. No director has ever won the DGA, not gotten nominated for an Oscar, and then had their film win BP.

David O. Russell has to overcome history in two ways to win this year:

1. No film lacking a Best Director nomination from the Globes or DGA has ever won BP from the musical/comedy category except Driving Miss Daisy.
2. Only one film from the musical/comedy category in all of the Globes history has ever won Oscar’s BP without winning the Globes first: Annie Hall

Ang Lee only has one hurdle: no acting nominations.  That doesn’t seem like a very big hurdle at all compared to the others. Films that won BP without any acting nominations (or SAG nods for acting) Braveheart, The Last Emperor,  An American in Paris, The Greatest Show on Earth, Around the World in 80 Days, Gigi, Wings, All Quiet On the Western Front, and Grand Hotel. Life of Pi could be considered a Last Emperor for sure.

Steven Spielberg has only one very minor hurdle and that’s no BAFTA nod for director. BUT the BAFTA changed their voting this year to allow individual branches to select director.  We have maybe two past years where they showed how the individual branches voted on their longlist to go off of.  There really isn’t any precedent for the BAFTA this year but you’d probably take it as a sign that the Brits weren’t as fond of Lincoln as they were of Argo – whether they continue to hold sway in the Academy is a question.

In order to really look at the potential for a split, you have to go back to the pre-DGA days – which means, how can we even compare? But so far, we’ve yet to see a split with the preferential ballot.

I did, however, do the research a ways back – it really does no good to look at splits in years with a weighted ballot .  What I found out is this – when there has been a split during these years where a preferential ballot was used, the film with the most nominations won Best Picture.  That would have supported an Avatar win in 2009.

1943

  • SONG OF BERNADETTE - 12 nominations – wins 4: Actress, Art Direction, Cinematography and Score, nominated for editing
  • FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS - 9 nominations, including editing, but no director, no screenplay, 1 win for supporting.
  • CASABLANCA-8 nominations. 3 wins for Picture, Director, Screenplay, 2 acting nominations, editing
  • MADAME CURIE – 7 nominations, including acting, but no director, writer or editing.
  • THE MORE THE MERRIER – 6 nominations, including writing, acting and directing, won Supporting Actor, no editing.
  • THE HUMAN COMEDY - 5 nominations, 1 win (for writing, William Saroyan), including director, no editing
  • HEAVEN CAN WAIT – 3 nominations, including director, no editing, no screenplay
  • WATCH ON THE RHINE – 4 nominations, including writing (Dashiell Hammett) and acting, 1 win, acting. NY Film critics pick for Best Pic.
  • IN WHICH WE SERVE – 2 nominations (one honorary win for Noel Coward), screenplay nom, no editing.
  • THE OX BOW INCIDENT – 1 nomination

1942

  • MRS. MINIVER - nominated for 12 Oscars – 6 wins for Picture, Director (Wyler), Screenplay, Actress & Supporting Actress, & Cinematography
  • THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES - 11 nominations – 1 solitary Oscar win for Best Editing
  • YANKEE DOODLE DANDY – 8 nominations, including Director (Curtiz) – 3 wins, including Best Actor (Cagney)
  • RANDOM HARVEST - 7 Oscar nominations, including Best Director – 0 wins
  • THE TALK OF THE TOWN – 7 nominations, 0 wins
  • THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS - 4 nominations, including Cinematography & Supporting Actress (Agnes Morehead)
  • WAKE ISLAND - 4 nominations, including Director
  • THE PIED PIPER - nominated for 3 Oscars, including Best Actor
  • THE 49th PARALLEL – 3 nominations – won Best Writing, Original Story (but lost Best Writing, Screenplay).
  • KINGS ROW - 3 nominations, including Best Director

1941 (a.k.a. “the year that will live in infamy”)

  • SERGEANT YORK – 11 nominations – 2 wins, Editing & Actor (Cooper)
  • HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY - 10 nominations – 5 wins, for Best Picture, Director (Ford), Cinematography, Art Direction, Best Supp Actor (Crisp)
  • CITIZEN KANE – 10 nominations – 1 win for Screenplay (Welles & Mankiewicz) – NY Film critics pick for Best Picture
  • THE LITTLE FOXES – 9 nominations – 0 wins
  • HERE COMES MR. JORDAN – 7 nominations – 2 wins, for Best Story, Best Screenplay
  • HOLD BACK THE DAWN – 6 nominations
  • BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST – 4 nominations – 1 win
  • THE MALTESE FALCON – 3 nominations
  • ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN – and living up to its title: 1 nomination
  • SUSPICION- 3 nominations – 1 win, Actress (Joan Fontaine)

1940 -SPLIT

  • REBECCA - 11 nominations, including Hitchcock’s 1st Oscar nom, Editing & Screenplay – only 2 wins, for Best Picture and Cinematography
  • THE GRAPES OF WRATH – 7 nominations, including Screenplay & Editing – 2 wins, including Best Director (Ford)
  • THE LETTER - 7 nominations – 0 wins
  • FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT – 6 nominations -0 wins
  • THE LONG VOYAGE HOME – 6 nominations – 0 wins
  • OUR TOWN – 6 nominations – 0 wins
  • THE PHILADELPHIA STORY – 6 nominations – 2 wins, including Screenplay
  • THE GREAT DICTATOR - 5 nominations – 0 wins
  • KITTY FOYLE – 5 nominatins – 1 win, Actress (Ginger Rogers)
  • ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO – 3 nominations – 0 wins

* (Best Editing in 1940 went to North West Mounted Police — so AMPAS was all over the map)

1939

  • GONE WITH THE WIND - 13 nominations – 8 wins, for Best Director, Screenplay, Editing, Actress, Supporting Actress, Art Direction, Cinematography
  • MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON – 11 noms – 1 win, Original Story
  • WUTHERING HEIGHTS – 8 noms – 1 win, for b&w Cinematography (Toland)
  • GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS - 7 noms – 1 win, Best Actor (Donat)
  • STAGECOACH - 7 noms – 2 wins, incl. Supporting Actor
  • THE WIZARD OF OZ – 6 noms – for Score & Song
  • LOVE AFFAIR – 6 noms – 0 wins
  • NINOTCHKA - 4 noms – 0 wins
  • OF MICE AND MEN - 4 noms – 0 wins
  • DARK VICTORY – 3 noms – 0 wins

1938

  • YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU - 7 nominations - 2 wins, including Best Director (Capra)
  • ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND - 6 noms – 1 win
  • BOYS TOWN - 5 noms – 2 wins, Best Supp Actor & Screenplay
  • JEZEBEL – 5 noms – 2 wins, incl. Best Actress (Davis)
  • FOUR DAUGHTERS – 5 noms – 0 wins
  • PYGMALION 4 noms – 1 win, Screenplay
  • THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD - 4 nominations – 3 wins, incl. Best Editing
  • THE CITADEL – 4 noms
  • TEST PILOT - 3 noms – 0 wins
  • GRAND ILLUSION – 1 nomination

1937 – SPLIT

  • THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA – 10 nominations, including Director & Actor - 3 wins, including Best Screenplay
  • LOST HORIZON – 7 noms – 2 wins, incl. Best Editing
  • A STAR IS BORN – 8 noms – 2 wins
  • IN OLD CHICAGO - 6 noms – 2 wins
  • THE GOOD EARTH – 5 noms – 2 wins, Actress (Rainer) & Cinematography (Freund)
  • ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL – 5 noms – 1 win
  • THE AWFUL TRUTH - 5 nominations, incl Screenplay & Editing – 1 win, Best Director (McCarey)
  • CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS – 4 noms – 1 win, Actor (Tracy)
  • DEAD END – 4 noms – 0 wins
  • STAGE DOOR – 4 noms

1936 – SPLIT

  • THE GREAT ZIEGFELD - 7 nominations - 3 wins, incl. “Best Dance Direction” (hmm)
    ANTHONY ADVERSE - 7 noms – 4 wins, incl. Best Editing
  • DODSWORTH – 7 noms – 1 win
  • SAN FRANCISCO – 6 noms – 1 win
  • MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN – 5 noms, incl. Screenplay – 1 win, Best Director (Capra)
  • ROMEO AND JULIET – 4 noms – 0 wins
  • THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR – 4 noms – 3 wins, incl. Best Story & Best Screenplay
  • THREE SMART GIRLS – 3 noms – 0 wins
  • A TALE OF TWO CITIES – 2 wins – 0 wins
  • LIBELED LADY – 1 nom – 0 wins

1935 – SPLIT

  • MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY – 8 nominations, – 1 win, Best Picture
  • NAUGHTY MARIETTA – 8 noms – 2 wins
  • THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER – 8 noms – 2 wins
  • THE INFORMER – 6 noms, incl Editing – 4 wins, including Director (Ford) & Screenplay
  • CAPTAIN BLOOD – 5 noms – 0 wins
  • LES MIS√âRABLES – 4 noms – 0 wins
  • A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – 4 noms – 2 wins, incl. Editing
  • TOP HAT - 4 noms – 0 wins
  • BROADWAY MELODY OF 1936 – 3 noms – 1 win
  • DAVID COPPERFIELD – 3 noms – 0 wins
  • ALICE ADAMS – 2 noms – 0 wins
  • RUGGLES OF RED GAP – 1 nom – o wins

1934

  • ONE NIGHT OF LOVE - 6 noms – 2 wins
  • IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT – nominated for 5 Oscars – won all 5, incl Director (Capra)
  • CLEOPATRA – 5 noms – 1 win, Cinematography
  • THE GAY DIVORCE – 5 noms – 1 win
  • THE THIN MAN - 4 noms – 0 wins
  • VIVA VILLA! - 4 noms – 1 win
  • IMITATION OF LIFE – 3 noms – 0 wins
  • FLIRTATION WALK – 2 noms – 0 wins
  • THE WHITE PARADE – 2 noms – 0 wins
  • THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET – 2 noms – 0 wins
  • HERE COMES THE NAVY – 1 nom – 0 wins
  • THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD – 1 nom

*(the 1934 Oscar for Best Editing went to Eskimo)

1932-33

  • CAVALCADE – 4 nominations – 3 wins, incl. Best Director
  • A FAREWELL TO ARMS – 2 noms – 0 wins
  • 42ND STREET - 4 noms – 0 wins
  • I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG - 3 noms – 0 wins
  • LADY FOR A DAY – 4 noms – 0 wins
  • LITTLE WOMEN - 3 noms – 1 win
  • THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII – 2 noms – 1 win, Actor (Laughton)
  • SHE DONE HIM WRONG – 1 nom – 0 wins
  • SMILIN’ THROUGH – 1 nom – 0 wins
  • STATE FAIR - 1 nom – 0 wins

The conclusion: none of us knows how it’s going to go. But at this point, knowing what I know, there is really no reason why the DGA and Oscar won’t pick Lincoln and Spielberg.  No matter what anyone says there is no getting around it having the following things in its favor:

1) it has the most nominations
2) it has made about $164 million and counting
3) it has the strongest leading actor performance, along with two other acting nominations
4) it has the richest and best written screenplay
5) it has every nomination needed to win
6) Kathleen Kennedy has never won an Oscar and holds the current record for most nominations.
7) Steven Spielberg has been directing successful films for Hollywood for over 40 years. They will really have to hate this movie not to give the man his due.

Can another movie win? Absolutely. But it’s going to have to be Life of Pi or Silver Linings Playbook.  Argo might win but it would be one for the record books. Just know that Argo is anything but a safe choice.

A bit of Spielberg/Kennedy trivia – did you know that Kathleen Kennedy holds the record for most nominations for a producer with no wins? Here is the list from The Film Site – isn’t that interesting? Of all of these record-making producers, the number one is Kennedy, a woman.  On the public stage, a WOMAN!

  • Kathleen Kennedy (7 nominations with 0 wins):
  • Steven Spielberg (7 nominations with 1 win):  Schindler’s List (1993)
  • Stanley Kramer (6 nominations with 0 wins):
  • Francis Ford Coppola (5 nominations with 1 win):  The Godfather, Part II (1974)
  • Scott Rudin (5 nominations and 1 win): No Country For Old Men (2007)
  • Frank Marshall (5 nominations with 0 wins):
  • Sam Spiegel (4 nominations with 3 wins):  On The Waterfront (1954) The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Lawrence of Arabia (1962) (3 awards within 8 years!)
  • Clint Eastwood (4 nominations with 2 wins): Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004)
  • James L. Brooks (4 nominations with 1 win): Terms of Endearment (1983)
  • Ethan Coen (4 nominations with 1 win): No Country For Old Men (2007)
  • Peter Jackson (4 nominations with 1 win): The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  • Sydney Pollack (4 nominations with 1 win): Out of Africa (1985)
  • David Puttnam (4 nominations with 1 win): Chariots of Fire (1981)
  • Irwin Winkler (4 nominations with 1 win): Rocky (1976)
  • Warren Beatty (4 nominations with 0 wins):
  • David Brown (4 nominations with 0 wins):
  • Norman Jewison (4 nominations with 0 wins):
  • George Stevens (4 nominations with 0 wins):
  • Saul Zaentz (3 nominations with 3 wins):  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) (co-produced with Michael Douglas), Amadeus (1984), The English Patient (1996)
  • Robert Wise (3 nominations with 2 wins):  West Side Story (1961)The Sound of Music (1965)
  • Arthur Freed (2 nominations with 2 wins):  An American in Paris (1951)Gigi (1958)
  • Branko Lustig (2 nominations with 2 wins):  Schindler’s List (1993)Gladiator (2000)
  • Albert S. Ruddy (2 nominations with 2 wins):  The Godfather (1972)Million Dollar Baby (2004)

132 Comments on this Post

  1. S&S was 1995 right and 1996 Oscars? Doesn’t feel as long ago as 1980!!

  2. @ Sasha,

    all due respect but what exactly does the Academy owe Spielberg? He has three Oscars – two for directing and one for producing. That’s more than enough. Of course he wants a third badly, but unlike Streep last year and probably Day-Lewis this year, is he really that much deserving to get into that elite club?? If he wins, he’ll tie William Wyler and Frank Capra. Spielberg doesn’t belong there. He’s a good entertainer. He’s a master craftsman. But to me he needs more to get into that club. And I would prefer to see Scorsese get there, but not Spielberg. And if he wins the DGA Award, then okay, maybe he’ll take the Oscar. But there is the possibility of the DGA going for Ben Affleck. In the year when the Academy did screw them, they could screw the Oscars back. Affleck seems to have a lot of good will. And there is the precedent. Even twice.

    And then – if Spielberg loses the DGA (which probably won’t happen) – what are his precursors to back an Oscar win? NOTHING. He lost everywhere. Has he won some minor critics’ group? Maybe he has. But while Bigelow has nearly 20 precursors, Haneke has the NSFC etc, Spielberg has nothing. And I agree with that because to me he didn’t live up to what he was given. An opinion but just as valid as yours and everybody else’s.

    The thing is – they would give him a third Oscar without any precursors’ love?

  3. Another fact: Apollo 13 and The Color Purple didn’t win the Globe, which Argo did.
    Actually, Apollo 13 didn’t win a single Globe.
    The Color Purple won for Goldberg.

    And while I agree with you on that, stating that it has the richest and best written screenplay isn’t a fact. It having the strongest performance isn’t a fact. The LAFCA voted for ARGO in screenplay.

  4. Why he doesn’t belong there, Zooey?

    I think all the hate Spielberg gets this year is bacause it would be his 3rd. And as we know many don’t want it.

  5. WHO DIRECTED THE PICTURE? THE SHARK?!

  6. No splits this year. DGA will = best director oscar will = BP (however they decide to go)

  7. Gentle Benj

    The PGA is a more important indicator than ever this year. Here’s how I think we can use tomorrow’s results to get a handle on these two categories:

    1. If ARGO wins, Best Picture is sealed up, and obviously we need to look elsewhere for the Directing winner. I suppose the DGA could help there, but I can’t see ARGO losing that having won the BFCA, GG and PGA, so we’d still be groping in the dark. If this does happen, I think we need to open our minds to the possibility of Haneke or Zeitlin winning it. Both their films overperformed expectations at the nomination stage by a LOT, so there’s clearly love there.

    2. If LINCOLN wins, it goes on to take the DGA and both BP and BD at the Oscars. The simplest scenario

    3. If SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK wins, it becomes a very likely Best Picture winner, and Russell becomes a serious contender for BD as well. But without a DGA win to confirm that for us, a split remains possible. SLP for BP, and Spielberg (or one of the aforementioned dark horses) for BD?

    Actually, this is gonna be simpler if I break it down in a table, this way:

    PGA WINNER: Predicted Best Picture Winner/Predicted Best Directing Winner

    ARGO: Argo/Haneke
    BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD: Beasts/Zeitlin
    DJANGO UNCHAINED: Django/Spielberg
    LES MISERABLES: Les Mis/Haneke
    LIFE OF PI: Life of Pi/Lee
    LINCOLN: Lincoln/Spielberg
    SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK: SLP/Russell
    ZERO DARK THIRTY: ZDT/Haneke
    MOONRISE KINGDOM or SKYFALL: ZOMG what is happen

  8. I don’t think he deserves to be there because his films never surprise me.And no, it’s not because of the third. Not in my case. I wouldn’t have rooted for him in 1998. I don’t understand the Saving Private Ryan raves. Ambitious – yes, but flawed storytelling. To me Mallick deserved to win. Anyway, it’s an opinion.

  9. Zooey, Bigelow may have had 20 precusor wins as you say, but all those precursor wins didn’t lead to a Best Director nomination. So in effect, that implicitly answers your question on whether Oscar votes based on precursor results – often they match up, but correlation isn’t necessarily causation.

    And I wouldn’t really bring up the LAFCA results this year as recognizing the very best: many members were openly proclaiming (on Twitter) before and during voting that they were going to be contrarian on purpose, and not follow the NYFCC’s and NBR’s results. This year’s LAFCA had a bit more to do about politics and ego than the films themselves.

  10. representDLV

    Spielberg is an interesting case. There are few directors that have directed as many films as he has. The guy does a big movie every year, sometimes 2. And for as many movies as he has done, there are actually very few crappy movies on his resume. He is about as consistent as they come. My problem with Spielberg is that while he doesn’t really make crappy movies, he doesn’t really make great movies either. He always sits right in in the good to pretty good range. I would put Lincoln in the pretty good category. So it’s hard for me to feel like he deserves best director, because I don’t think he was the best director. But that is the problem with Spielberg. He never is the the best. He is always just good or pretty good.

  11. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    My problem with Spielberg is that while he doesn’t really make crappy movies, he doesn’t really make great movies either.

    You should really see someone about your “problem” – Jaws is a great film. Schindler’s List is a great film. Lincoln is a great film.

  12. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    WHO DIRECTED THE PICTURE? THE SHARK?!

    !!

  13. danemychal

    RE: Ang Lee’s hurdle of no acting noms. Your list of BP winners excludes one very recent winner of BP that had no acting noms: Slumdog Millionaire. Also populated with an Indian cast.

  14. @bill

    Everybody loves a winner, but nobody loves a WINNER!!!

  15. danemychal

    Don’t stop there, Sasha. ET, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan all better than good movies. They are GREAT movies. Tom Hooper, David O. Russell — these guys look at Spielberg’s resume and drool.

  16. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    all due respect but what exactly does the Academy owe Spielberg?

    They don’t “owe” him. In Academy history, if he wins another Oscar and Best Picture, he will join an elite group of directors who have done solid, successful, great work over many decades, like John Ford for instance. With Lincoln, Spielberg has done what no one thought he could ever do: not make an overly sentimental movie about Lincoln, a film he’s been trying to make for 13 years. For that film to then make $164 million? Practically unheard for a film with the “fanboy lament” of it being boring.

    Now, I know Lincoln is somewhat polarizing, at least with critics, lazy fanboys, New York Times employees and some friends of mine. SO that might mean it can’t win on a preferential ballot. I just don’t know on that score. Alls I know is history, stats and my own impression of the film.

    As to the majority of critics who didn’t award Lincoln their top prize? Who gives a rat’s ass? Critics aren’t even really critics anymore.

  17. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    And then – if Spielberg loses the DGA (which probably won’t happen) – what are his precursors to back an Oscar win? NOTHING.

    Wrong. Both Sydney Pollack for Out of Africa and Mel Gibson for Braveheart won the Oscar after a DGA loss.

  18. I agree 100 percent with Zooey.

  19. Dane, Slumdog (and while we’re at it, Return of the King) won BP w/o acting nods, but both did win the SAG ensemble – Sasha meant to highlight the BP winners w/o garnering any Oscar and SAG nods in acting.

    I’d throw in Minority Report, Munich, and the totally under-appreciated Duel (!!) in the list of Spielberg greats.

  20. I didn’t write a DGA loss.
    If Spielberg loses, he’ll have no precursors at all.

    Gibson had GG, BFCA.
    I believe Pollack didn’t have anything. So that’s just once. But his film had the GG . Spielberg’s Lincoln doesn’t even have this.

  21. The Japanese Viewer

    “Can another movie win? Absolutely. But it’s going to have to be Life of Pi or Silver Linings Playbook. Argo might win but it would be one for the record books. Just know that Argo is anything but a safe choice.”

    Thank you for having faith [not really in that sense, I know] in Life of Pi. Anyway, I’d thought you’d write, “it’s going to be Argo (2nd or 3rd) or Silver Linings Playbook (2nd or 3rd)…”, for some reason — given a close follow-up with this site since last December. Just some un-useless, trifling observation though. So, it was a pleasant surprise re Pi.

    Those seven “things” in favor of Spielberg and his film Lincoln are well put and on paper makes perfect sense, Sasha. They were sort of running free in my head but to see them all organized and well put on paper is sure far better still.

    (PGA Prediction for BP: Lincoln)

    PS: I enjoyed SLP and apparently was one of a few, here, to jump on Lawrence bandwagon as far as her tabloids-like articles go, BUT even so, to see O. Russell at no.3 over Haneke at no.4 is quite disheartening at this point. I guess it’s because I believe in spreading wealth among (in my book) key players: Lincoln, Life of Pi, Argo, Amour, SLP,….

    Thanks for a great read, Sasha.

  22. “And then – if Spielberg loses the DGA (which probably won’t happen) – what are his precursors to back an Oscar win? NOTHING.”

    Carol Reed won an Oscar for Oliver! without winning any other precursors that year, including the DGA. It’s rare, but not unprecedented.

  23. ET, Munich, Amistad, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report and The Color Purple are also all great films from Spielberg. The mediocre movies of Spielberg were A.I., Hook, Always, War Of the Worlds, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Lost World. Tintin was superb but I wouldn’t call it great.

    The problem with Argo winning the best picture Oscar is that it could also win screenplay and to see Tony Kushner lose would be sad. There is no comparison in the screenplays of those two movies. Lincoln towers over the competition. Argo’s win would be worse than The Kings Speech.

  24. LA critics honored AMOUR, Riva, Phoenix, Beasts, Holy Motors. I don’t care about the reasons. The list was great. And NYFCC voters usually vote against other NYFCC voters’ favorites! And what?

    And yes, I’m one of these who don’t think the films you mentioned are great! To me they are not.

  25. Ang Li being involved in all those split years is a very compelling stat!

  26. The Japanese Viewer

    “But that is the problem with Spielberg. He never is the the best. He is always just good or pretty good.”

    representDLV, what about Schindler’s List?

  27. Yeah, Spielberg could sure lose the DGA and then win the Oscar. If no other film assumes frontrunner status, Lincoln could win out, being perhaps the safest bet of all the contenders.

    Yeah, Slumdog Millionaire is missing from the list of Best Picture winners with no acting nominations. As is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

    Steven Spielberg has only one very minor hurdle and that’s no BAFTA nod for director. BUT the BAFTA changed their voting this year to allow individual branches to select director.

    This is of little / no importance. Few people know of their voting change, and fewer still care. Furthermore, the change actually brings them in line with the Academy, who vote the same way. It probably barely matters at the moment, but, as I’ve mentioned before, BAFTA will be the last major award to announce before Oscar and, with no Director nomination for Spielberg, it’s unlikely they’ll pick Lincoln. Another film (likely Argo) will likely receive a late-game boost from BAFTA.

  28. danemychal

    Ashwin, I agree. If there’s ANY SINGLE PERSON in the entire Oscar season that deserves an Oscar more than anyone else, it’s Tony Kushner. I would like to see the original 500-page draft of his script too, btw!

  29. Yeah, no idea why I keep writing ‘yeah’.

    Yeah

  30. Yes, but in the case of Reed it was a vote for a legendary filmmaker with no wins.
    And in the case of Spielberg we have a winner of 2 Oscars!

    And while I’d love to see Haneke win, it won’t happen. Maybe Lee? If we talk about snubs, we should mention him.

    1995 – NYFCC winner / GG, DGA nominee – SNUBBED!
    2000 – GG, DGA, BAFTA winner – LOSES OSCAR!
    2005 – his film wins nearly everything and LOSES OSCAR!

  31. Marshall Flores

    “Yes, but in the case of Reed it was a vote for a legendary filmmaker with no wins.” Well, I don’t care about the reasons. :P

  32. Robin Write

    This is all making me actually dizzy now…

  33. The Japanese Viewer

    Side note: Pleasant surprise you’ve used the (accurate) Chinese spelling, LI, for (Ang) Lee’s surname, Mr. Holt. (Usually, people just went by the more conventional one – Lee.) :)

  34. unlikely hood

    If Sasha was right in prior years to say that the Director is the Star of the Oscar Race, then this year is the Cloud Atlas of Oscar races, with eight or so talented people switching roles so fast that it’s hard to keep track of.

  35. Spielberg’s filmography is nearly unmatched in my opinion. His diversity and range is surely unparalleled.

  36. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    “And then – if Spielberg loses the DGA (which probably won’t happen) – what are his precursors to back an Oscar win? NOTHING.”

    Carol Reed won an Oscar for Oliver! without winning any other precursors that year, including the DGA. It’s rare, but not unprecedented.

    It’s true that if he loses the DGA Lincoln probably won’t win BP. As Marshall says, could happen but it would be as rare as Argo winning. Lincoln ideally needs PGA + DGA — it can do without SAG.

  37. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    I didn’t write a DGA loss.
    If Spielberg loses, he’ll have no precursors at all.

    I don’t think anyone is envisioning a scenario where Spielberg won’t win the DGA for Lincoln winning BP. Pollack had a Globe win for BP. Lincoln itself has plenty of precursors already – screenplay, actor and supporting actress, like The King’s Speech, heading into the PGA and DGA. But yeah, it needs those big guilds to have a shot at the Oscar.

  38. Bob Burns

    If this bears out and Spielberg/Lincoln win, you, Sasha, will take the title from Karger with your steadfast support of them for BD/BP – and the best director and film will have won…. and the moon and the stars will finally come back to their proper positions in the firmament.

    we’ve disagreed about much this year (sadly for my part), but not this. Spielberg/Lincoln should and probably will win.

    On to the guild awards….

  39. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    I don’t think he deserves to be there because his films never surprise me.

    If Lincoln didn’t surprise you, not the acting of Day-Lewis, not the screenplay, not the power of the 13th amendment, not the difficulty in which that amendment passed – I don’t know what to say except that you and I live on completely different planets and the Oscar race probably isn’t the planet on which you should dwell.

  40. Come on, people, the moment they announced the BD lineup, it was obvious there will be no split this year. IF Ben Affleck and/or Kathryn Bigelow had made the cut, then there might have been, but without them it will be Lincoln all the way, mark my word !

    The distant runners-up are distant for a reason : Life of Pi simply cannot win without the most dominant Academy branch (Actors) and Silver Linings Playbook simply cannot win without a DGA nomination. If somehow either still pulled off BP, then it will be the biggest surprise of recent Oscar history…even Crash won three important guilds (SAG Ensemble, WGA Original, ACE) and even Roman Polanski (most surprising BD winner in recent years) was nominated for DGA, BAFTA, BFCA, not to mention his film won the most prestigious festival award that year (Palme d’Or).

    David O. Russell didn’t only lose the DGA nomination, he wasn’t nominated for a Golden Globe OR a Bafta (not in BD at least), AND his film failed to win the Best Picture Golden Globe, and I don’t think many Comedy/Musical Oscar BP-winners could afford that. Long story short :

    BEST PICTURE – Steven Spielberg & Kathleen Kennedy (Lincoln)
    BEST DIRECTOR – Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
    BEST ACTOR – Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
    BEST ACTRESS – Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
    BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Michael Haneke (Amour)
    BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
    BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – Amour
    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Mychael Danna (Life of Pi)
    BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Adele & Paul Epworth (Skyfall)
    BEST EDITING – Michael Kahn (Lincoln)
    BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi)
    BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina)
    BEST ART DIRECTION – Rick Carter & Jim Erickson (Lincoln)
    BEST SOUND MIXING – Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill & Drew Kunin (Life of Pi)
    BEST SOUND EDITING – Eugene Gearty & Philip Stockton (Life of Pi)
    BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – B. Westenhofer, G. Rocheron, E. De Boer, D. Elliott (Life of Pi)
    BEST MAKEUP – Lisa Westcott & Julie Dartnell (Les Misérables)
    BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – Tim Burton (Frankenweenie)

    That would mean 7 for Lincoln, 5 for Life of Pi, 3 for Amour and none for Silver Linings Playbook, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty which I admit, IS a stretch. Clearly a few of my surprising picks could be completely wrong and Jennifer Lawrence/Jessica Chastain, Robert De Niro/Christoph Waltz, Quentin Tarantino/Mark Boal could just win the whole thing and double nominee William Goldenberg is obviously a huge threat in Best Editing since he could be the very deserving sole winner of either of his films (Argo, Zero Dark Thirty).

    Then again, I might be even underestimating Lincoln and it could take Cinematography and Score from Pi, and maybe even Supporting Actress from Les Misérables, especially if Sally Field wins SAG. We’ll see !

  41. @ Sasha,

    first of all – thanks for the compliment!

    Day-Lewis was solid and I loved the script of the film. It surprised me. But Spielberg’s approach didn’t. He just didn’t know what to do with the script. This is my opinion. All due respect but you have no right to tell me that since we disagree, you’re right and I should probably think about leaving planet Oscar. As you really can’t tell anybody (as you did) that he should go see a doctor. It’s insulting. And last time I checked I foresaw Meryl Streep’s win, Cotillard’s win and Swinton’s win. You didn’t. So in your words maybe you should. I don’t want to be mean, but since it’s your tone, I can follow.

  42. DGA – Affleck

    SAG
    Argo
    Day-Lewis
    Lawrence
    Lee Jones
    Hathaway

    PGA
    Argo

  43. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Thanks Bob! My only real worry about Lincoln and Spielberg is that, despite its great reviews and box office, it is somehow polarizing. I don’t know if Spielberg himself polarizing (i.e. Jeff Wells) or if it’s true that a film that good could have that many haters. So, though I can’t realistically predict anything else right now — the numbers back Lincoln 100% — I do feel the same doubt that Steve Pond, etc. seems to be feeling, like maybe it isn’t that strong after all. I don’t think you can responsibly predict anything else now if you are an Oscar pundit. But if I’m wrong, big payoff for people NOT predicting Lincoln. Then I get to be wrong again and no one will ever believe anything I say, no matter how many times I’ve qualified it.

  44. @ phantom,

    I can’t see the Oscars snubbing SLP. Which is sad, because I want Riva to win so badly!

    LINCOLN for editing won’t happen. LINCOLN for production design is probably a longshot as well. LES MISERABLES is flashy and they love that.

  45. Ang Lee is a good luck charm for keeping the Oscar race interesting. Thanks for pointing out what was in plain sight, Sasha!

    It’ll be interesting to see how these major precursors play out. I hope there is justice and ZD30 takes most of its categories. If the AMPAS smarten up, there’s still a chance (outside BP of course). Wish I liked hurt locker. Guess I need to add it to list of films I need to rewatch.

  46. phantom – Your list makes perfect sense to me – not a stretch at all when you consider category by category. I don’t think it would be a shocker if it turned out thay way (zip for SLP, ZDT, Argo, Django). Maybe the guilds will back it up.

  47. The idea of an 85 year old french woman who most people have never heard of before winning seems ludicrous. But, I’m all for strange things happening!

    What if Harvey takes home zero oscars?

  48. Vince Smetana

    Zero Dark Thirty winning all 5 of its categories would be probably the coolest thing the Academy has ever done…and with the exception of BP, it might just happen in the end.

  49. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Zero Dark Thirty winning all 5 of its categories would be probably the coolest thing the Academy has ever done…and with the exception of BP, it might just happen in the end.

    It would be hella daring. If it even wins original screenplay it will be daring. One thing the Academy has never been: daring.

  50. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Ang Lee is a good luck charm for keeping the Oscar race interesting. Thanks for pointing out what was in plain sight, Sasha!

    Really surprised none of us noticed that before. So funny isn’t it? You could even count the weird Affleck/Bigelow shutout as a weird director happening.

  51. This year should be AD’s previous slogan, “nobody knows anything.” (That was a former slogan, or am I imaging it?).

  52. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    It surprised me.

    Glory glory hallelujah! Glory glory hallelujah.

    But Spielberg’s approach didn’t.

    The only reason the screenplay surprised you WAS because of Spielberg’s direction. Get this, and it’s the last time I am going to talk about it with you — Spielberg started working on this 13 years ago with Kathleen Kennedy. Kushner’s script began six years ago. At one time it was 300 pages long. As co-producer with Kathleen Kennedy, Spielberg was hands-on in developing the screenplay of the movie he would eventually make. Moreover, he and Daniel Day-Lewis further honed the story over a whole year before they ever even got to set. So if you don’t get that Spielberg’s influence is all over that screenplay, honey, you’ve missed everything. You didn’t like the movie, fine. But don’t blame Spielberg.

  53. The sad thing is that after The Artist won BP last year and I was bitter (I could appreciate that film for what it was – a well-acted, adequately (=mediocre) written charming little nostalgiafest – but not for what it became, a BP/BD winner), I wrote a comment about the Weinstein Co., and how they won’t get under my skin this time because they will probably secure big wins for mostly overlooked visionaries, Paul Thomas Anderson OR Quentin Tarantino. A year ago I knew Harvey will have a top contender and I REALLY hoped it will be Anderson…OR Tarantino…but David O. Russell and not even at his best ? Argh…and I didn’t even like Django, though I LOVED The Master.

  54. And with the exception of pi, there was almost a pattern of every five years. Hopefully, he’ll continue to put out films consistently for decades. This year had been especially unpredictable in several categories with more than two horses in each race. Or it seems that way.

    Interesting also that out of all mainstream directors ang lee is undoubtedly the one with the most diverse résumé.

  55. Yes, Sasha, that’s the problem with the Oscar-game, we always hope for ‘daring’ and never want to face the fact that that will probably NEVER happen.

  56. Yes, Sasha. It was Spielberg who chose the last 70 pages of 500 paged screenplay by Kushner. And I think it was great choice.

  57. Bob Burns

    re ZD30 they got it backwards. Bigelow should have been nominated before Boal, whose bad/embedded reporting got an excellent director into hot water.

  58. comedywontwin

    I will stick with my prediction with confidence:
    SAG Ensemble: means nothing for Oscar BP, don’t care.
    DGA: Ben Affleck

    PGA: Argo
    Oscar Best Pic: Argo
    Oscar best director: Spielberg (simply he has no competitin, no Affleck, no Bigelow) he just got lucky.

    Oscar Best Actor: could be a suprise here
    Oscer Best Actress: Chastain
    Supporting Actor: the guy from Lincoln
    supporting Actress: Hathaway by default.

  59. @Zooey, if anyone deserves an extra pity Oscar or five, it’s Steven Spielberg. The irony being that he deserves it this year anyway.

    Thought on Ang Lee: all the films Sasha compares Pi to, like The Last Emperor, also won Best Picture and a handful of other Oscars. I expect Pi to be like Inception and Hugo and win 3-6 tech Oscars. But it would be very unique for a film like Pi, without any nominated actors or a SAG nomination, to win Director without winning Picture, not to mention Picture AND Director. Usually when there’s a split, Best Director goes to a widely respected auteur for an “Important” if less accessible film. Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan, Polanski for The Pianist, Soderbergh for Traffic, Stone for Born on the Fourth of July. But they all had acting nominees.

    For a film to win Picture let alone Director without any acting nominations is always considered a huge feat.

    So when’s the last time a film won Director but not Picture without any acting nominations?

  60. unlikely hood

    Interesting also that out of all mainstream directors ang lee is undoubtedly the one with the most diverse résumé.

    You mean in this race or in general? In general I’d say Steven Soderbergh.

    When Bigelow said in that Time interview that she’s very anti-war but very pro-people who fight our wars, it got me to thinking about how many of the directors in this race are very, very generous to the people they portray. That is, they give them a lot of great lines and a lot of great things to do and make us feel a lot of sympathy for different kinds of people. Ang Lee, Steven Spielberg, Michael Haneke, even David O. Russell and Tom Hooper are like that. You might think every director is like that. But the Coens are often described as misanthropes. Arguably Terry Malick uses his characters more as props/scenery. Arguably all of Tarantino’s characters are just him. In last year’s The Help, you weren’t ever really asked to like Bryce Dallas Howard’s character. There aren’t a lot of characters like her in the big films of this year’s Oscar race. I think that’s why I, for one, will be sad to see this race end, and sad to see these films recede into the jungle without saying goodbye, just like a certain once-crouching tiger.

  61. Robin Write

    @ comedywontwin

    You’re living up to your name. :-D

    SAG Ensemble means nothing for Oscar Best Picture?
    All this Argo love?
    Spielberg got lucky?
    Best Actor surprise?
    Best Supporting Actor, the guy from Lincoln?

    Brilliant…

  62. To be honest I’m also against Spielberg. He’s not Capra or Wyler and probably never will be and there is agreement that he doesn’t deserve Oscar for “Lincoln” – he hasn’t won ANYTHING so far. And I have to agree with Zooey that he didn’t deserve Oscar for “Saving Private Ryan” too (Malick should have won).
    I’d prefer Ang Lee (especially him) or Haneke. Maybe Russell if “SLP” is really awesome (I haven’t seen it yet). But NO Spielberg. At least this is my opinion. :)
    Streep or Day-Lewis are another story – Streep was the best last year, Day-Lewis is this year (though Phoenix might have won too if I could vote). And they are surely the level of Ingrid Bergman, Jack Nicholson or Walter Brennan – so nothing against them. :)

  63. All of this preferential ballot analysis makes you wonder whether THE GREAT ZIEGFELD, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, and REBECCA would have won under a popular vote.

    How Green Was My Valley was The King Speech to Citizen Kane’s Social Network. With The Maltese Falcon as Inception. That was actually a good year. But I imagine both TKS and HGWMV would have won the popular vote as well.

  64. Unlikely > Ang lee had genre hopped like no other. English Period mannered romance, American “western” romance, martial arts action fantasy, CGI-driven pensive drama set in the middle of the ocean, comic book adaptation, wedding comedy, family drama, etc.

    Soderbergh often

  65. And this is really pathetic (EVERY YEAR) that you want something or someone to win because of the political reasons. Last year it was Davies because she is Afroamerican and now it’s “Lincoln” because Kathleen Kennedy is a woman. Come on! We talk about awards for art! Art shouldn’t be judged this way.

  66. Whoops!

    Also lee: war time espionage thriller.

    Speaking of which, soderbergh has also done. But his films often exist in the crime genre, be it drama or pulpy comedy. He has stepped out of that realm and tried different worlds, even going back to small independents. I just don’t find his final products to be as successful outside of his favored subject matter, as well as visual style.

  67. But I do applaud soderbergh stepping outside of his comfort zone. And he has been more successful as he has moves toward “retirement.”

    Maybe he just doesn’t do it for me.

  68. What is most evident about Lincoln, at first, is Kushner’s script, b/c the film’s force is such a ballet of words. Spielberg’s direction almost seems like there’s no hand in it. And THAT’S his brilliance. Like a magic trick, you don’t notice his direction. And this from a man who’s made some of the most populist films ever.

    The brilliance of Ang Lee, on the other hand, is evident in every frame of Pi. His film is equally masterful. I think DGA and Oscar got it right with these two being the only overlap. I just think that Lincoln will win BP and BD b/c it runs deeper in theme.

  69. comedywontwin

    Robin, I actually don’t like Argo that much, I thought it was a good movie, but not best picture material, it has some cartoonish scenes I didn’t like….but there is love for Affleck after his snub by voters, also I can see that he will best picture in every competition since he was snubbed for best director, also they found a good replacement for ZD30 in Argo after the backlash….In fact I’m ZD30 fan, and it was my fav. movie of the year. As for Lee Jones, he deserves to win best supporting Actor for Lincoln….SAG ensemble this year won’t have an impact on oscar best picture, could be Les Miserables, or SLP and we know neither will win the oscar….Oscar race is between Argo and Lincoln at this point. period.

  70. Robin Write

    If Argo wins Best Picture I would be fine with it. Just a shame that it will be out of guilt rather than merit. If Affleck had got the Best Director nomination then that film would likely be the favourite now.

  71. “And this is really pathetic (EVERY YEAR) that you want something or someone to win because of the political reasons. Last year it was Davies because she is Afroamerican and now it’s “Lincoln” because Kathleen Kennedy is a woman. Come on! We talk about awards for art! Art shouldn’t be judged this way.”

    And why pray tell is there always trolling on these pages each and every year?

  72. Phantom,

    I totally agree with you. I was thinking at least Weinstein would be behind too ballsy filmmakers this year in the form of PTA and Tarantino. Nope. Russell is a great filmmaker and one who has a singular and unique voice until this year. He adapted a book that was below him, but had certain qualities of other pictures(chaotic dysfunctional families) and admittedly maybe none of his films are within a world of reality, but SLP felt like the work of a hack. It doesn’t feel true to him.

    I loved both The Master(we are gonna be talking about this for years) and Django Unchained(not perfect mind you), but I guess they were too controversial.

  73. Gentle Benj

    “One thing the Academy has never been: daring.”

    Nonsense. Look at 2002.

    Best Directing: A fugitive in exile
    Best Original Screenplay: Pedro Freakin’ Almodovar
    Best Original Song: Eminem!

    They make daring choices pretty frequently. Just not always in the categories we would like, or at the times we want.

  74. Sasha, I agree Schindler’s List is a great film. ET is a freaking masterpiece. And Munich is pretty good. I’m not a big Jaws fan. But Lincoln isn’t even in the same ballpark as Schindler’s.

  75. @CB, Yeah, but what this year is?

  76. By the way, I think the Academy is surprisingly brave. My guess is that this scenario could happen: everyone who doesn’t want Lincoln to win puts Argo/SLP/Life of Pi/ZD30 as their top choice. For every non-SLP top choice, SLP gets 2nd. Why? Because if you’re not inclined to like Lincoln, chances are you’re not gonna put Life of Pi as your second choice – both are from already decorated directors and both are dull as hell. Therefore, SLP has a huge 2nd ballot. In fact anyone who puts Django, Amour, or Beasts as their #1 will probably put SLP as a 2 or 3, meaning it will survive many rounds. I also think at least 1/4 of the Academy will be as romanced by SLP as people like me, who absolutely love it. Unless Lincoln has more than 1/3 of ballots and a lot of #2s (which I don’t think it will) I can see it losing Picture.

  77. Gregoire

    This is sadly growing more and more obvious

    Best Picture: Silver Linings Playbook
    Best Director: David O Russell

    We can keep coming up with more creative excuses, but if you really think its not going to be Lincoln, then isn’t this most likely outcome? The voters clearly love this film and have showered it with nominations. Lincoln only has more nominations because its a historical piece and checks off the technical categories.

  78. Saha makes a good case for Lincoln, but I have the same “gut feeling” other people do that Argo is going to do well. We’ll see how the PGA goes.

  79. I completely agree, Gregoire — DO NOT RULE OUT David O. Russell!! My friends at the Weinstein Co keep saying that there’s no real incentive for Academy members to vote for Lincoln, that the passion isn’t there. Now that hasn’t been confirmed or denied yet, and they’re obviously pushing for Silver Linings, but I don’t think Lincoln can win with the preferential ballot, since it is divisive. Divisive films don’t win, especially in the current voting set-up. But nobody knows anything yet…well, until tomorrow night.

    I do have to agree with Zoey. I’m not sure I want to see Spielberg join the 3-time winners club for directing. While I absolutely love Jaws, ET, Close Encounters, Raiders, I’m not sure he needs another win, or deserves another directing Oscar. I think members of the Academy might feel the same way. Ford is one of the godfathers of American cinema, hugely respected. No one will ever match or surpass four wins. Capra won his three in the first decade of the Academy Awards, before certain standards were set and people were less likely to repeatedly honor the same individuals. And Wyler has an astounding 12 nominations for Best Director, winning for three vastly different films including Ben-Hur and the fantastic Best Years of Our Lives. Should Steven Spielberg join the club? I’m not so sure, especially in the contemporary awarding of the Oscars when people like Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Terence Malick, Paul Thomas Anderson, Robert Altman, etc. etc.–all singular directors–have zero. Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Ang Lee have one a piece. And fellow acclaimed nominees David O. Russell and Michael Haneke have never been recognized. I really do not want to see Spielberg win for another historical drama, which some may argue are among his least precise films where he often struggles with deciding on and executing his vision (i.e. Saving Private Ryan).

    Those who have watched the Oscars know the Academy LOVES to award people who have NEVER won before, AND usually DO NOT like to award filmmakers for the same types of films. Everyone who is saying that it’s a done deal–that is NOT true. Yes, Spielberg may win, but David O. Russell has HUGE respect among actors…he very well might win the acting branch vote for director. 7 acting nominees in his last two movies!!! This cannot be overemphasized. Michael Haneke would be an inspired choice and could win. Zeitlin would be the surprise of the century, though not likely. And Ang Lee’s film is completely director-driven—in fact, there is no argument that he is the most versatile director working today. This is definitely not over and done with yet.

    P.S. Yes, the Academy has been daring, albeit inconsistent. Another example: Silence of the Lambs for Best Picture…HELLO?!?!

  80. Munich was the best movie in that “crash” year. It is also Spielberg’s best I think.

  81. if you’re not inclined to like Lincoln, chances are you’re not gonna put Life of Pi as your second choice – both are from already decorated directors and both are dull as hell

    I hate it when people use their opinions on the quality of a film as reasoning for predicting its chances. Oscar voters on the whole don’t seem to think either Lincoln or Life of Pi are dull.

  82. How could anyone say Life of Pi was dull? I mean, he was out on that boat struggling for his life with a deadly tiger. If you consider that dull, you have no hope. Raise a legitimate criticism; don’t call it dull.

  83. Okay so how does everyone feel about a SLP for BP/Spielberg for Director split? I’m fine with it. So if we all agree, we can just let the Academy know and that will solve the whole thing.

    There. I fixed it. :)

  84. A brief overview of LIFE OF PI*.

    OPEN – White dude comes to Indian dude’s house in San Francisco or something like it. There is no memorable music. They speak in monotones. Indian guy is named Pi, and we get a three-minute montage explaining why, a type of montage that will not be used for the rest of the movie. The only interesting thing about Pi as a character is his name. Oh, and Pi tells White Guy that his story will make you believe in God, because he’s like some kind of plexus of all world religions, or at least every religion as understood with the reductive mentality of Oprah Winfrey.

    PI’S CHILDHOOD – After a cursory overview of Indian culture, we meet a Tiger, who ALSO has an unexpectedly whimsical name.

    OCEAN – After the boat goes down in a sequence that looks for some reason like it’s shot on that film they use for Benny Hill, Pi ends up on a life raft. Various OBSTACLES occur, and lots of floating. This is what I call the 2-hour screensaver act.

    FLYING FISH – The one interesting moment, and the one moment that may have been shot in 3D rather than post-converted in the rest of the movie’s ‘Clash of the Titans’ quality.

    (Note: no lines or moments in this entire sequence will be particularly memorable.)

    ISLAND – Pi ends up on Blatant Metaphor Island.

    MEXICO – Pi ends up being landing in North America.

    CLOSE – Pi’s family comes home and they hug. Audience believes in God.

    *Note: Film is not really ‘Life’ of Pi, but rather ‘Memoir of When Pi Was Floating Around’.

  85. Jack Traven II

    You should really see someone about your “problem” – Jaws is a great film. Schindler’s List is a great film. Lincoln is a great film.

    I don’t know what to say except that you and I live on completely different planets and the Oscar race probably isn’t the planet on which you should dwell.

    Why so serious, Sasha? Your articles are always so articulate, but comments like these are far from that. It’s like dealing with two different Sashas here. The closer it gets to the Oscars the more the dark side seems to seize hold of you. Pretty frightening.

    I think Good Ol’ Abe would be turning in his grave.

    ;-)

  86. The Dude

    Zooey: Spielberg is probably a better filmmaker than Capra and CERTAINLY a better filmmaker than Wyler.

    That said, I don’t think the Academy owes him anything.

  87. A brief overview of LIFE OF PI*.

    OPEN – White dude comes to Indian dude’s house in San Francisco or something like it.

    This is where the whole thing goes wrong for me. I mean we already have one Ryan Reynolds. Did we need a cheaper version? I did not like that guy at all. And his character was supposed to represent the audience, listening to this story. Blech. If they had a white guy in the book I guess they kinda had to have one, but it would have probably been greatly improved if he was just telling the story to a grandchild or something. Stupid white guy. :P

  88. I’ll bet Haneke pulls a Polanski and wins in Director. Argo for Best Pic, and Riva pulls a Jessica Tandy and wins Lead Actress.

  89. Wait – Antoinette – I’m not kidding here: I didn’t know the white guy was supposed to be the audience! I legitimately didn’t know that was his structural purpose.

    Is this because we supposedly couldn’t relate to a story with a foreign (though English-speaking and with very Western values) protagonist? Or because it’s the only way to cram in the ‘believe in God’ ‘theme’. That’s the thing I guess – I’m sick of these movies blatantly telling me their THEMES (Christopher Nolan!!!!) as if that is in itself an exploration of a theme. Or even a theme at all.

  90. daveinprogress

    ^Is there that much pulling in the Academy?

  91. Interesting summary, CB, and, although it’s very tempting, I’m not taking the bait. A couple of inconsistencies and missing plot points convinces me that this comes from viewing trailers and reading the IMDB plot synopsis, not from sitting through the movie, but no matter.

  92. Steve, I saw the movie the weekend it came out. Sorry there are a couple inconsistencies (also some grammar issues when I re-read it, to be honest). Why would I be so passionately contemptuous of a movie I haven’t seen??

  93. My apologies, then, CB. It wasn’t valid accusation, not seeing the film, but there have been some posters here who do that. – and not to worry about grammar as this is just conversation.

    I’m just sorry that it had such a negative impact on you.

  94. No worries, Steve. Nah, I don’t want to be seen as a troll. I go to the movies to have fun and learn and I got none of that from Pi, but I’m glad others did.

    It’s not that I really hated it, I just found it shockingly vapid. I like long, beautifully shot and poetic movies – but Life of Pi felt way too crisp and exact, surprisingly unartistic. And that believe in God shit – that really pissed me off. A movie that turned me from an atheist to agnostic: Tree of Life. No joke. That movie totally changed me.

  95. AHH! Tree of Life – there is tremendous hope for you, after all.

    Wait a couple of years, CB, re-watch Life of Pi with the promise that you’ll not tie religion, as such, to the “believe in God” bit, and I’ll bet you change your mind. Don’t forget, Pi started out as “collector” of religions, which didn’t do him much good in the end. After his ordeal, he would have appreciated Tree of Life, as well, I imagine.

  96. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I didn’t know the white guy was supposed to be the audience! I legitimately didn’t know that was his structural purpose. Is this because we supposedly couldn’t relate to a story with a foreign protagonist?

    No. It’s not because of that. It’s because Pi had a story to tell. A story told to another storyteller. A story told by Ang Lee of a story in a novel about a writer of stories who’s being told a story.

    I’m sick of these movies blatantly telling me their THEMES

    Well then, you’re in luck. Because a primary theme of Life of Pi is Storytelling itself, and it flew right over your head.

    If you fell for the “Listen up and we’ll make you believe in God” bit, then you swallowed the bait.

  97. Other than a bookend and the is-it-true-or-is-it-a-metaphor bit at the end, Life of Pi is NOT really about storytelling. A movie about storytelling, and the power of the storyteller: Funny Games.

  98. Astarisborn

    Life of Pi is a film that quietly invites the viewer into their own right to believe in anything you want. Be it God, religion, spirituality, hope, faith, power of self redemption, nature as one , and the the overwhelming need to live.

  99. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Life of Pi is NOT really about storytelling.

    Yes it is. Every religion has its sacred books that are nothing but allegories, stories invented by men to help other men understand various interpretations of spirituality. If you missed that, if you thought storytelling was nothing more than a superficial bookend, then you absolutely missed a crucial point about why the author chose have Pi tell his story this way in the first place.

    “And so it goes with God.”

    Shame you need to reduce everything to least transcendent terms possible. But that’s your fault; not the fault of the film.

  100. rufussondheim

    I like what KT said a few days ago in another thread, this is already an outlier year, so expecting it to follow normal rules is probably misguided.

    I still have hope for ZDT. I think this slow and steady media blitz with Kathryn Bigelow might be working. I still think the whole thing is overinflated hooey. It’s the best movie, it deserves the win. And even if it loses everything up until the Oscars I’m going to have faith in it because as the days pass the controversy becomes more distant. Ballots haven’t even gone out yet, so there’s plenty of time for people to come to their senses.

  101. rufussondheim

    I also haven’t given up on Les Miz winning. If it can get a SAG Ensemble and then a BAFTA win, it’s got a shot. A small shot, but a shot nonetheless.

  102. daveinprogress

    ^ I have to ask the question, why did Tom Hooper not get nominated for BAFTA’s Director or AMPAS’s Director prizes? The movie is up for Best Picture/Film at both – but why not him?

  103. rufussondheim

    I don’t know, but I don’t need to know. Spielberg didn’t get a nom for BAFTA and Bigelow didn’t get a nom for AMPAS. Stupidity, perhaps.

    Or maybe the AMPAS vote total was like this.

    Spielberg – 45
    Lee – 45
    O Russell – 44
    Haneke – 43
    Zeitlin – 43
    Begelow – 42
    Afflect – 42
    Hooper – 41
    Tarantino – 41

    There’s a lot of competition this year. 4 were getting left off no matter what.

    That’s something that no one ever considers, the vote just might have been extraordinarily close and the actual differential in totals might be statistically insignificant.

    But it’s always 5 out of the same nine. And the only person to make all the major directors lists was Ang Lee. To me it suggests there is a lot of support for all nine, not just the five who made the final cut on any given list.

    Like I said, it’s an outlier year, expect outlier results.

  104. “Steven Spielberg has been directing successful films for Hollywood for over 40 years. They will really have to hate this movie not to give the man his due.”

    What his 3rd oscar for director? Really, thats what he’s due? I’m sorry but the fangirl in you has taken over (as it usually does around this time).
    How is Life of Pi even comparable to The Last Emperor? I get that you love Lincoln, it’s a great film, but stop tearing down others to make your favorite seem better. It’s petty and worse than anything the academy has ever, or will ever, do.

  105. Yes, I feel this being an outlier year makes comparison to past results less convincing for me.

    I wish I could still have hope for Zero Dark Thirty. Unfortunately for the best reviewed movie of the year, and the one I’m sure that will be the highest regarded when looking back on 2012, I think it’s too late. Kathryn Bigelow proved that her 2010 win was not a fluke and that she is the real deal, one of the top directors working today. But I don’t think Sony was equipped/prepared to run a fierce awards campaign as some of the other distributors are. Reminds me of what happened to The Social Network two years ago. Had Harvey Weinstein been behind ZDT as he offered (and was ultimately not chosen by Kathryn Bigelow to be a producer–she probably feared for her final cut privilege), we may have had a completely different Oscar race. At this point, the film may go home with nothing.

    Also–Kris Tapley and Anne Thompson’s Oscar Talk today had a GREAT debate on whether Argo or Lincoln would take the PGA, for those who seem to be steadfast in one camp. This is going to be close. Kris states that Argo is not as divisive as Lincoln, not seen as Oscar bait, makes some good points, seems to be going for Affleck for DGA as well. Anne defends industry support for Lincoln, having more gravitas and more nominations. Check it out!

  106. rufussondheim

    I’m not in the Lincoln is boring camp. But compared to ZDT and Argo, Lincoln was boring. At no time during Lincoln was I thrown for a loop, every revelation was so telegraphed I was never surprised. And I’m not saying this because it’s not an action film. Oslo, August 31st was not an action film but there is so much suprise and unexpected wonderment in that film.

    Lincoln is grand, smart, and engaging. There are times it’s even spellbinding as some scenes are so smartly done. I will give Lincoln credit in that it’s driven me to do more post-film research than any film in recent memory, but I give you guys more credit for that than I do Spielberg.

    I think Lincoln will get a lot of #1 votes, but I think it will get even more #5 votes. It’s a respectable film. It’s hard to hate it. The question that remains is will those #5 votes matter? I think they will. I still think Lincoln will win simply because it’s a perfectly fine film.

    And that makes me sad.

  107. The Dude

    I’m an atheist and I’ve enjoyed Life of Pi a lot, and I don’t find it preachy at all; heck, depending on your interpretation, you can even make a case for the movie saying that all religions are bullshit, although I don’t think it was neither Lee’s nor the author’s idea.

  108. Ang Lee is the only one who gets all important awards (OSCAR/GG/BAFTA/DGA/BFCA) best director nominations this year.

  109. Great article, Marcus! Thanks for the link.

  110. “Life of Pi is a film that quietly invites the viewer into their own right to believe in anything you want. Be it God, religion, spirituality, hope, faith, power of self redemption, nature as one , and the the overwhelming need to live.”

    Astarisborn – nailed it.

  111. The only thing that bothered me about Life of Pi was the annoying framing device. Other than that, the movie was visually stunning. And the twist towards the end had be crying like a b!tch.

  112. Vince, I’ve thought about that, too, but I don’t know of another way Lee could have presented the bigger questions in the film or the subtext of the survival story. Could there have been a way to inject some of that without interrupting the flow of Pi’s story? I don’t think so.

    Hey – Maybe there could be two versions when the disc comes out – one for first timers (with the framing device) and one for those who already know it (without most of it).

  113. daveinprogress

    Yep, i’m with Vince on that. Pi is near enough to a perfect cinematic experience for me, but i did find the set up a bit clunky and laboured, but i see why it was needed; it just weakened the overall impression of greatness.

  114. rufussondheim

    I like the framing device. It’s good to see him so accepting of what happened, to see him at peace. I don’t think that should be undervalued. Plus, when his family emerges, it’s a very touching moment.

  115. daveinprogress

    I don’t necessarily feel an acceptance; there is so much life experience in between the time frames, and the trauma of what he experienced; that the very book end nature of that device, leaves so much to ponder and wonder.

  116. Well, this is very true, Steve50. Without the framing device, how could the story have been told?

    Visually, poetically there might have been a way to work it into the story. But, I don’t know if it would have played well. And, Rufus, you are right. Seeing him at peace and with his family did bring everything back full circle, considering that he lost his original family.

    But, the guy who played the writer … yikes … sorry … I wanted to punch him. Maybe it was just me.

  117. marlonbrando020

    In other news….

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon-sequel-begins-production-in-may

    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel begins production in May, directed by Ronny Yu

  118. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    “Telling stories is highly recommended.”

    That advice in Pi’s survival manual has been my twitter profile quote for 10 weeks.

    It’s essential to the structure of the story that Pi relate his tale to us as a first-person narrative. First person narrative is easy to handle and frequently seen in novels. It’s a natural thing to read a book as if the author is telling us his story. First-person narrative is much trickier onscreen because the character cannot directly address the audience in the same with way without blundering through the fourth wall.

    The camera eye naturally and normally imposes a third-person omniscient narrative on a film audience. That won’t work for this story, not if screenwriter David Magee and Ang Lee wanted to honor the novel’s intentions. In order to have characters directly address the camera there’s no better way than than to introduce an intermediary whose own eyes and ears become ours. Think Thompson in Citizen Kane. How can all the people in Kane’s life talk to the audience unless there is a reporter/writer on a quest to seek answers who acts as audience surrogate? The writer in Pi serves the same function.

    This is an elegant and familiar device that has been employed in films for 100 years, and in Life of Pi it beautifully mirrors the clever story-within-a-story-within-a-story device of the novel’s preface intro pages. It’s not a lazy haphazard technique. It’s an integral part of how the story is meant to be told and heard. Without it, we lose the entire sense and purpose of the reason for Pi to have created his story in the first place.

    “Telling stories is highly recommended.”

    That’s not a random line, guys. Telling stories to himself is how Pi maintained his sanity for 227 days adrift at sea. Telling stories is how humans give shape and structure to the world we see and try to describe to each other.

    That entire layer of meaning would be lost without someone to whom Pi can once again tell his story.

  119. daveinprogress

    Nice analysis Ryan, thanks. The art of storytelling was in the finest hands with Ang Lee. If the top and tail of the movie had been a little more fleshed out, and not quite so self conscious, it would have sat more comfortably within the rest of the experience for me. The movie didn’t feel overly long, these scenes just too cursory and sinewy, where the rest of the movie had such a lovely languid rhythm. Perhaps some further dialogue between the two men, or some other establishing scenes may have made that feel less clunky to me. But like I said, near to a perfect film for me. Like ‘Hugo’ a second viewing in 3d is essential.

  120. By the way: nomination for “Lincoln” is Kennedy’s 8th one: http://oscar.go.com/nominees/best-picture/lincoln
    Still: this is not Academy’s fault that she didn’t produce “Schindler’s List”. :P

  121. Best Movie: Argo
    Best Director: Ang Lee

    Close the comments section. Thank you.

  122. I do not think a movie without a best director nomination will have a chance for winning the BP. A split BP/BD is possible this year considering the earlier voting.

  123. Well said, Ryan. I do see the point made by daveinprogress and I wouldn’t have minded extending the framing to make it less curt (I could have sat there for hours, if needed).

    Of course, doing it the way he did, Lee was also able to contrast the abruptness of reality with the poetry of memory.

    But, you’re right, there is no way to answer questions that haven’t been asked.

  124. Vitamin168

    Sometimes, I just could not understand Sasha’s logic behind keep quoting that Lincoln has grossed a total 164 million USD domestically without even put a global 500 million box office from Life of Pi in the context. I truly believe both are great films but Life of Pi, an art house film in nature, is the one which defies almost every critic’s expectation and becomes such a global box office winner. I cannot thank enough for Twenty Century Fox to take a leap of faith on Ang Lee’s moviemaking and to bring this project to more appreciated international territories outside of US and would not care whether it wins any Oscar at all.

  125. Bryce Forestieri

    what time’s the PGA anyone??

  126. I am at peace with any winner in the BP category except two, Argo and SLP. Throw in Russell for the only director I’d cringe at. I can take anything else. I might not understand, but I could accept in time. Argo and SLP weigh so terribly on my mind just a few months after seeing them. I can’t imagine how I would feel about them in a few years. Not quite Crash bad, but certainly in the next tier up from that.

  127. And yes to whoever said they thought Munich was the best BP film that year of Crash. I actually don’t mind Spielberg not winning his 3rd Oscar, but I selfishly would like Lincoln to win BP because I still can’t quite grasp Shakespeare in Love winning over Ryan. Well, that and I do think it is my personal favorite of the 9 BP nominees, and the best of the 3-4 main contenders (I am still mulling Beasts of a Southern Wild, otherwise I’d say Lincoln was the best of the 9).

  128. And Lincoln’s total in America is more impressive than Life of Pi’s total worldwide. Both will finish in the top 15 box office-wise in the respective markets. Life of Pi is a 3d visual extravaganza. Lincoln is a talky historical in the same vein as Amistad. One has known paths to box office rewards, the other less so. The world at large is starved for 3d visual films. America has never clamored for a film like Lincoln, something usually pawned off on niche cable markets. Life of Pi’s ww total is very good, but Lincoln’s domestic total, all things considered, is more impressive.

    And of course the obvious, Oscar is American to it’s core, so domestic grosses speak loudest.

  129. Sasha, I’m not sure why you ruin your otherwise excellent historical pieces with your embarrassing cheerleading. You do it every year.

    Your Lincoln screenplay comments are merely you’re opinion and shouldn’t form part of the so called facts in lincolns favor

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