Comment from an Unlikely Source

Over at Hollywood-Elsewhere, Jeff Wells is working hard to convince the world that Lincoln is both an unworthy film and an unworthy Oscar contender.  The truth is, what Lincoln is transcends the Oscar race, as most great films do. It is a trap to start thinking that the votes of a general consensus equates with greatness and that not getting those votes somehow equates with failure.  This could not be farther from the truth. Were it so, Vertigo would not be considered the greatest film of all time, nor would Citizen Kane.  Every so often there is agreement, with The Godfather movies for instance but more often than not it doesn’t.  This comment by goodvibe61 appeared over at Hollywood-Elsewhere and I think it is dead on:

Greatness doesn’t translate into an Oscar win.

Lincoln has it all. It’s a brilliant film. The highest rated movie by the premiere critics on RT (95% with top critics), with a highly literate screenplay and razor sharp direction. And performances of the highest caliber.

People watched that film and walked away from it pulverized. When it first came out the word of mouth was gigantic.

But winning the Oscar is not about being the best film. And yet, everyone that works in this ridiculous Oscar prediction business gets it wrong, trying to equate greatness with Oscar wins. It clearly doesn’t work that way.

That’s the great dichotomy of the Oscars. People have an innate desire to see great films win. They seldom do. It leaves people exasperated and angry. It’s what the Oscars do. It largely sucks.

If you simply took Argo and Lincoln and switched the directors, that really would tell you something about how the Oscar system works. Because if Ben Affleck had directed Lincoln, film critics would be hailing Ben Affleck as the second coming of Orson Welles. And if Mr. Spielberg had directed Argo, I believe most critics would have labeled it to be “minor” Spielberg, something on the level of Catch Me If You Can (A wonderful film IMO), and it probably wouldn’t have been nominated for best picture at all.

And that’s the kind of thing facing Mr. Spielberg when it comes to Oscar.

84 Comments on this Post

  1. Christophe

    hmm I’ve never quite understood the hype around The Godfather… imo Sleuth by J.L. Mankiewicz was the best film that year, but we all have our own idea of greatness so it’s all relative.

  2. if Mr. Spielberg had directed Argo, I believe most critics would have labeled it to be “minor” Spielberg, something on the level of Catch Me If You Can

    HOLLA!

  3. I should have posted the whole quote.

    The other part: if Ben Affleck had directed Lincoln, film critics would be hailing Ben Affleck as the second coming of Orson Welles.

    Holla indeed.

  4. Pierre de Plume

    Mr. Wells is doing his part to make Lincoln become the underdog in this race. The problem from the beginning is that it was anything but the underdog — seemingly too much of a foregone conclusion, in fact, which is not the way to win an Oscar, especially if you’re a critically lauded and financially successful director/producer. So maybe Wells’ attempted takedown will come back to haunt himself.

  5. Love the first part of goodvibe61’s post. But with all due respect, I believe the following is nonsense:

    “If you simply took Argo and Lincoln and switched the directors, that really would tell you something about how the Oscar system works. Because if Ben Affleck had directed Lincoln, film critics would be hailing Ben Affleck as the second coming of Orson Welles. And if Mr. Spielberg had directed Argo, I believe most critics would have labeled it to be “minor” Spielberg, something on the level of Catch Me If You Can (A wonderful film IMO), and it probably wouldn’t have been nominated for best picture at all. And that’s the kind of thing facing Mr. Spielberg when it comes to Oscar.”

    First, Argo and Lincoln have the same metacritic scores, and Argo frankly has far more critics prizes than Lincoln for Picture and Director. And other major precursors as well, prior to the Oscar nominations. Most critics don’t care who directed a film, they try to look at the quality (as opposed to the Academy). Argo is very well received, very highly regarded in the film community, and if it were the same film with the Spielberg name, nothing would have changed regarding the critics prizes. Its those critics prizes that put Argo in a position to be a Best Picture nominee, not just top 9, but top 5.

    Second, I am tired of all this Spielberg martyrdom. What is everyone talking about??? He has 7 nominations for director, one of the highest totals in history. He has 8 nominations for picture, the second highest total in history. You all think he should have done so much better? I strongly disagree.

    First, the Jaws snub. Fine. That’s fair. But it was hardly personal, he was a newbie, and not yet the most successful box office director he became. I was watching the Oscars in 1975 (for the 2nd time, as a kid), and saw that he didn’t get nominated, but it was one of the strongest years ever. Stanley Kubrick for Barry Lyndon, Robert Altman for Nashville and Milos Forman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are all more revered. Federico Fellini for Amarcord and Sidney Lumet for Dog Day Afternoon are equally revered. Somebody wasn’t gonna make it in. Higher standard for Spielberg? No way. Its the Academy that traditionally didn’t (and, despite a few exceptions still doesn’t) honor horror and fantasy and sci fi films. That was Jaws. It wasn’t their type of film, not about Spielberg. An Academy flaw, to be sure, just like Hitchcock got only 5 nominations (for mostly the wrong films) and never won, but they almost never honored suspense films either (and when they did give the great Rebecca Best Picture in 1940, they goofed big time, snubbing masterpiece Grapes of Wrath, while not even nominating His Girl Friday or Fantasia, etc.).

    Raiders? No. Great bubble gum film, and most agree that Reds was the year’s finest English language film (or Atlantic City).

    So should E.T. have won? Well, over Gandhi, definitely. But Gandhi was an Oscar movie, epic, on an important subject, and well honored by the precursors at the time. Gandhi was just as, or more honored than E.T., and was favored to win. But I ask again, should E.T. have won? Maybe. It certainly ranks highest at the AFI polls. But at world cinema polls, like Sight & Sound, its Blade Runner that ranks highest, by far, in the top 100 ever. There’s your snub.

    The Color Purple director snub was entirely justified. He took incredible source material with an incredible cast and cartoonized it. Its no wonder he has never directed anyone to an acting Oscar (though he is deservedly about to with DDL and maybe TLJ), he made Oprah look ridiculous in half her scenes, clomping around thru the fields. Akira Kurosawa for Ran was a much finer nominee (and he should have won).

    Ditto re: Empire of the Sun. Overwrought, with a blasting score used to manipulate. Spielberg treated Purple and Empire like Raiders and Jaws, it didn’t work for those genres. The director’s branch got it right.

    Then, he got his Best Director prizes for Schindler and Saving Private Ryan. Yes, Shakespeare was an awful winner, but that was thanks to the heinous (heinous) Harvey machine, not anti-Spielberg sentiment, for the most part. And remember, as shocking and undeserving as that snub was, Saving Private Ryan was relatively weak in the screenplay department, no prizes there, while Shakespeare (and Truman Show and Out of Sight and Gods & Monsters) were winning everything in that regard. Say what you will, but writing is pretty darn important, and with a very well-liked cast, the door was ajar for Harvey to pull his hijinks.

    Forget about Amistad and Catch Me If You Can and Minority report. They just weren’t top 5 in their years, few thought they were, and people only thought Amistad would get nominated precisely because it WAS the revered Spielberg.

    Then jump to Munich. Because of the subject matter, and because it was Spielberg, at the outset everyone thought he’d win. Then came Brokeback dominating, but not just that, Munich was trounced, films like History of Violence and Walk the Line did better at the precursors. Munich was not expected to be nominated by the time it was! Good for the Academy for getting it right, the film deserved it, but the Academy looked past the precursor groups and nominated Spielberg, even though they easily could have gotten away with not if they truly hated him, since the Academy follows the herd.

    Then, they nominated the atrocious War Horse, likely because of the Dreamworks campainging, and again, reverence for the Spielberg name. He was back to his old Purple/Sun tricks, he ruined amazing source material. Please don’t tell me that AFI and others gave War Horse awards, justifying the Academy. Sure some did, but Drive and Melancholia and A Separation all did better at the precursors, where were their nominations? So no poor Spielberg there most of all, that is his least deserving film nominated by far (though interestingly, not even the worst nominee of 2011, that dubious honor belonged to the even worse Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).

    I can go on, I’ll stop, except to say that Spielberg didn’t win when the Academy didn’t honor his type of movies (Raiders, E.T.), or when he made very flawed ones (Purple, Sun). He is hardly the only one, from Hitchcock to Kubrick to Altman to many others. Stop thinking the Academy is about merit, its not. Then, when he made Academy friendly films like Schindler, he swept, and he got his second director’s statute for Ryan. Then, they gave him his due for Munich when most others didn’t, and they nominated the very undeserving War Horse which, in the end, was NOT one of the 9 most acclaimed films of 2011.

    Lincoln is a very fine film. Fine direction, nice restraint, riveting and intelligent results. But an unfortunate too-long ending (go ahead, SCREAM those who say they’ll scream), a few cutesy touches thru Spader’s character, but overall, again, a very very fine work of art. But so is Argo. And as for that “masterpiece” word I keep hearing about on this site, time will tell. I doubt it, but maybe, of course!

  6. “Christophe / February 4, 2013
    hmm I’ve never quite understood the hype around The Godfather… imo Sleuth by J.L. Mankiewicz was the best film that year, but we all have our own idea of greatness so it’s all relative.”

    I LOVE reading that, Christophe. Me neither. I’ve watched the Godfathers several times. They are excellent films, but greatest of all time?? I just don’t get it. But revered they are indeed, at AFI, at Sight & Sound, everywhere! One must concede the Academy got it “right” in 1972 with The Godfather based on critical and historic consensus (and popular opinion as well, which alligns with the foregoing less often). To me, it was Cabaret, though also loved Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and Aguirre, the Wrath of God and the underrated What’s Up, Doc?. Sleuth too, don’t know how The Emigrants got nominated over it, especially since nominating foreign-language films is so rare (and Emigrants was kind of boring).

    As for 1974, Chinatown and The Godfather II are essentially in a dead heat as to what is considered greatest that year. Give me Chinatown any day. Or Ali, Fear Eats the Soul by Fassbinder, an amazing movie. And A Women Under the Influence. The Academy nominated The Towering Inferno for Best Picture instead of Woman (among many many other superb films that year). Why does anyone watch the Oscars????

  7. I doubt anyone will ever convince me that goodvibe61 is wrong. Had the directors been switched, the responses would have been drastically different. Not even you, Bette, although you always write with such intelligence.

    Munich was snubbed by most of the precursors because they hadn’t seen it.

  8. Now if only people take Mr. Wells’ comments to heart, they can relax and realize that with or without a piece of gold plated metal shaped into the form of a faceless human male, Lincon is still a fine film!

    The Oscars is a popularity contest and every year, someone or some film is screwed over royally. That’s why I don’t watch the show any more… I just read the play by play comments here. It’s much more fun! :)

    The truly best film hardly wins, the truly best performance rarely wins, if even nominated. The Oscars is the purest form of PR bullshit and the sooner the lot of you realize this, the happier you’ll be.

  9. The Academy nominated The Towering Inferno for Best Picture instead of Woman (among many many other superb films that year). Why does anyone watch the Oscars????

    LMAO!

  10. Well if we’re going there, Spielberg did make ARGO just a hell of a lot better. It was called MUNICH and it lost to what? Oh yeah, motherfuckin’ CRASH.

    *sigh* I need some chamomile tea.

  11. If “Lincoln” is such a masterpiece, the critics groups largely missed it. The people who know the most about film couldn’t bother to vote it the best film of the year, so why would you expect the Academy to do so?

    BTW, I think Lincoln is a very good film. But I’d vote for Argo on my ballot because, to me, it’s the best film of the year.

    I don’t like this nonsense about how everyone “knows” Lincoln is a masterpiece, but refuses to vote for it. Not true.

  12. Isn’t Argo basically on the level of Munich? More fun but less challenging?

    The worst Best Picture nominee I’ve ever seen is Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing. And some would say it’s a great movie!

    And all this talk of Lincoln coming in as such a behemoth. I always knew DDL would win and TLJ and Sally Field would get nominations, but given the Academy’s track record, it was never a sure thing that a dialogue-heavy film would win. (How many of them have? A Man for All Seasons (over Virginia Woolf?) and what else? Streetcar, The Lion in Winter, Network, Becket — all the best scripts — lost.)

    That’s why so many of us anticipated that Les Mis was the one to beat. I never thought it was Argo. I walked out of Argo liking it, thinking about it for a while, but it was beatable. Lincoln won’t go down as one of my absolute favorite films, but I walked out thinking I had seen the Best Picture. For the record, I felt that way after Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, ROTK, Slumdog, and–don’t hate me–Crash (it was a weak year). I loved Inglourious Basterds, Up in the Air, Inception, Black Swan, Toy Story 3, and Hugo, but knowing how the Academy works, I had seen the writing on the wall before I ever saw those films.

  13. “It is a trap to start thinking that the votes of a general consensus equates with greatness and that not getting those votes somehow equates with failure.”

    Sasha, then how is 95% RT relevant? “Top” critics on RT is still a “general” form of consensus only a more specific one than other “general” consensuses. ZD30 is the film that took the early critic prizes, so this renders this point even more irrelevant.

  14. Daveylow

    @Bette–Most critics don’t care about who directs a film? What are you talking about? The director is usually always given credit for the quality of the film–or the lack thereof. And some critics love certain directors so much that a film as excruciating as The Master is given a pass.

  15. OMG, Christophe, Bette, and Zach just blew my wig back. lol Not understanding the GODFATHER hype and the CRASH year was a weak year. Holy smokes!

  16. Though nicely put, that comment is anticipated sourgraping or even an anticipated eulogy. The Oscar winners are the films, directors and actors of the moment. The winners did something meritorious, we should acknowledge that. There are those who would agree and there are those who wouldn’t. And like how we still debate upon the wins of How Green was My Valley, The Greatest Show on Earth, Chariots of Fire, Braveheart, Crash and Sandra Bullock, whether in affirmation or negation, this year’s winners will be the subject of discourse in years to come.

  17. knee play

    “And if Mr. Spielberg had directed Argo, I believe most critics would have labeled it to be “minor” Spielberg, something on the level of Catch Me If You Can (A wonderful film IMO), and it probably wouldn’t have been nominated for best picture at all.”

    Munich and War Horse were “minor Spielberg” but were still nominated.

  18. Antoinette

    You guys know the Luncheon blog is going right? http://oscar.go.com/blogs/oscar-news/nominee-luncheon-live-blog

  19. 2005 was a good year? Even if you go Brokeback on my ass, there wasn’t much else that year, and so began the decline of the 2000s. I really liked Capote and Corpse Bride, but they never had a shot.

  20. The people who know the most about film couldn’t bother to vote it the best film of the year, so why would you expect the Academy to do so?

    Right. So why did the critics groups largely miss Argo? (the BFCA don’t count. radio ‘critics’ who do 2-minute spoken ‘reviews’ don’t count).

    Argo won that coveted and oh-so-essential ‘best film of the year’ honor from the Florida and San Diego critics. Period.

  21. “the BFCA don’t count. radio ‘critics’ who do 2-minute spoken ‘reviews’ don’t count”

    Agree, totally. Next year expect 10 more redundant ultimately worthless categories in their awards lineup.

  22. “Over at Hollywood-Elsewhere, Jeff Wells is working hard to convince the world that Lincoln is both an unworthy film and an unworthy Oscar contender.”

    I don’t think Lincoln is an unworthy film and and unworthy Oscar contender.

    I strongly disagree.

    However, my opinion Is that ZD30 and Life of Pi are better flicks than Lincoln.

  23. Christophe

    Is it just me or did Ben put on some weight this season? Too many cocktail parties and luncheons, not enought time at the gym… but maybe it’s for the best, the academy allegedly doesn’t like hunks.

  24. terri woods

    I will be so glad when this Oscars race is over. The continuing bitterness from suppoorters of Lincoln, which is a fine film but no masterpiece imo, has soured things for me. Argo is a fine film and has just as high RT score and more importantly far more Critics awards. If Spielberg wins Best Director then I will be perfectly happy as I will be if Argo wins Best Film. I dont feel the need to criticise one in order to promote the other.

  25. Ryan, would you still be saying the BFCA doesnt count if they had chosen Lincoln instead?

  26. Antoinette

    OT – luncheon- Well Naomi’s up now if anyone cares. lol

  27. Christophe

    Jessica and Naomi both look 10 yrs younger, it’s really good to be a Hollywood star!

  28. Christophe

    lol! jLaw just came out of the shower and kept her towel on!

    http://instagram.com/p/VUobB2SUPf/

  29. And if ‘Lincoln’ had been directed by Michael Mann, or Robert Zemeckis, or even Clint Eastwood, it too would’ve been ignored.

    Am I the only one who thinks War Horse is the best Spielberg movie of the last ten years? That was a Spielberg epic done right.

  30. The mistake, of course, is to forget that greatness is not at all objective. It is a matter of taste, not the result of a mathematical formula.
    Also, one needs to remember that there is something akin to the law of large numbers in action here. The more people you have opining, the more likely the result is to converge to the center.
    There is nothing wrong with that, but one needs to recognize the pattern and flow with it.

  31. Up to now, I really just find Lincoln a boring movie. But reading all those fanatics who tried to convince you that Lincoln is the best movie ever, makes me really hate this movie. And no, I am not a Spielberg hater, I liked SPR and loved schindlers list. I also do not hate Lincoln (the person, not the movie) and I DO NOT hate america. I just find Lincoln is a lame movie.

  32. Ryan, would you still be saying the BFCA doesnt count if they had chosen Lincoln instead?

    Yes. They’re too erratic to stand as any authority. Wrong 50% of the time. My cat has more reliable taste chasing sponge balls with movie titles written on them.

  33. Paul Gibbs

    In another year, I would gladly choose “Argo” as Best Picture, and I am glad to see Affleck being recognized as the great filmmaker he is.

    But Spielberg is the greatest filmmaker alive, and “Lincoln” is the best film of the past 10 years.

  34. Sasha Stone

    Lincoln “lame”? Um. Yeah. Of all of the things Lincoln is, lame isn’t one of them. Everyone telling you how great Lincoln is might instead inspire you to go back to the movie again and see what it was you were missing. That’s what a curious person would do. Don’t shut down your mind.

  35. Agree. Jst switch the directors names and see how Lincoln sweeps all precursors.

  36. switch the name and Lincoln wouldnt have been nominated for BP and director.

  37. I hate to stir the Lincoln pot for fear of being made the designated asshole, but I think there’s a great deal of hyperbole going on here.

    Spielberg is one of the great directors, no one disputes that. The greatest currently-living director? Over Dave Fincher, the Coen Bros., Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Terrence Malick, and Quentin Tarantino? No, especially I think Spielberg has yet to make another “great” film since 2002.

    And I’ve already made my case about Lincoln; IMO, it’s no where near the best film of the past 10 years. If it were up to me, that title would go to The Social Network.

  38. ok Phineas.

  39. SallyinChicago

    Never saw it, just ordered it — Munich. That’s what I like about this blog….I get to read about movies that I missed to know what the heck everybody is talking about!

  40. Whether it is fair to call Argo “Oscar-lite” and Lincoln “absolute Oscar bait” is a fair discussion. Just think–they awarded films like “The Last Emperor”–“Gandhi”–“Titanic”as BP. You would think Lincoln would fit nicely like the last piece in a jigzaw puzzle following that list. But I’m sure Argo would be the last piece in a different BP jigzaw puzzle that includes but is not limited to “Crash”…maybe “Terms of Endearment”? “Rain Man” could go in that puzzle? ….yeah, I think no matter who is deserving…it goes back to Ben as David and Spielberg as Goliath no matter what their films are. This thought about switching Affleck and Spielberg with the title of their respective films….is not so much a reflection of the films but of the David Vs. Goliath concept that Sasha was brilliant to note.

  41. Robert A.

    “Argo won that coveted and oh-so-essential ‘best film of the year’ honor from the Florida and San Diego critics. Period.”

    Is this accurate? I don’t have my trusty notebook with me, but I could have sworn that Argo won several smaller-scale critic BP prizes. At one point, the guys over at In Contention were keeping score, and I seem to remember that Argo was about tied with ZD30 for the number of BP wins from critics (although ZD30’s wins were from more high profile critics).

    I remember that Lincoln won BP from Dallas-Forth Worth. Anything else?

    Where’s Phantom when you need him?

  42. Bryce Forestieri

    Someone jerks off to film reviews and we all know who they are

  43. rufussondheim

    Lincoln won …

    Dallas/Forth Worth

    North Texas

    Iowa

    I believe Argo has won more, but I can’t recall which. I’m not that much of a nerd.

  44. Robert A.

    I used Paddy’s website to check on BP wins from critics, just because I was curious. Probably not a complete list, but here’s what I found:

    ARGO won BP from: Denver, Houston, Oklahoma, Nevada, Florida, Phoenix, SE Film Critics, St. Louis, San Diego, Online Film Critics, Internet Film Critics, Gay and Lesbian Film Critics, and BFCA.

    LINCOLN won BP from: Dallas-Fort Worth, North Texas, and Iowa.

    Thanks, Paddy!

  45. Pfft you don’t need Phantom, you’ve got me!

    Argo and Zero Dark Thirty are currently tied with 13 critics group Best Picture wins thus far. The only remaining group of which I am aware that has not yet announced their winners is the International Cinephile Society (they’ll announce in a week). Argo is not nominated for Best Picture there but Zero Dark Thirty is. Also, Zero Dark Thirty has fared slightly better overall than Argo in terms of nominations / placings with groups where it did not win.

    You’re right, Robert A., Lincoln won at Dallas Fort-Worth. It also won at Iowa and at North Texas. It could also win at the ICS.

    Amour, The Master and Silver Linings Playbook all have three Best Picture critics group wins apiece. Life of Pi and Moonrise Kingdom have one each, as do Safety Not Guaranteed (from oddballs Indiana) and The Artist, due to a different release date in Dublin.

  46. Robert A.

    “I believe Argo has won more, but I can’t recall which. I’m not that much of a nerd.”

    Guilty!

  47. Robert A.! You used me before I even knew it!

    That might count as sleep rape, if I hadn’t enjoyed it…

  48. I don’t get the Argo and Crash comparisons. Crash was drivel, but at least it was emotional drivel. People walked out of that movie moved. Who is moved by Argo? It’s a fun, funny, and suspenseful movie, one that is extremely well made (if marred by the black hole performance at the center of it – ahem, Ben the actor).

    But Best Picture material? What the hell does it say about my life, or the world at large?

    I’m not trying to be snarky. I’m really curious.

  49. For me Chinatown is superior to Godfather II and just another Oscar example of a year the true masterpiece did not win. Chinatown is as close to perfect as any film I have ever seen. It’s endlessly watchable from the cast to the screenplay and direction with a special nod to the music. The main theme transports me immediately back to Jake and Evelyn and LA noir 1930’s style. I love that soundtrack.

    Sasha, just continue to remind yourself that Lincoln remains the brilliant film it is regardless of what happens Oscar night. It’s already won.

  50. Jerry Grant

    WOW that quote is SPOT ON

    If Lincoln had been directed by Affleck or Clooney, it would have gotten ALL the attention
    If Argo had been directed by Spielberg, it would have been treated like all those other excellent movies Spielberg has made in the last 15 years–Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, Munich, War Horse

    Couldn’t agree more

  51. Sasha Stone

    I don’t get the Argo and Crash comparisons.

    Well I was writing about the Oscars at the time and though the critics have warmly embraced Argo and they were mixed on Crash I remember how many people loved Crash. I saw it at a theater and cried at the end and the audience was caught up in it. It was the talk of the town, the only movie voters were interested in. This was reported by the Carpetbagger at the time. It wasn’t until it lost to Brokeback that it became so hated and called trash. I watched that evolution of opinion over the past seven years. And this is probably the fate that awaits Argo. The worm always turns. Hopefully Affleck with start immediately with another project and that one will be as good a Argo and perhaps he won’t fall prey to the backlash.

  52. marlonbrando020l

    To anyone and everyone bemoaning the Lincoln take down by folks other than maybe Jeff Wells

    So if the critics vote for your favorite film, they know what they’re doing aka they’re in the right…but if they vote for another film, they’re in the wrong?

    How so?

  53. “It is a trap to start thinking that the votes of a general consensus equates with greatness…”

    It’s also a trap to think the box office of a “general consensus” equates with greatness, too, which comes up in every blog.

    “The highest rated movie by the premiere critics on RT (95% with top critics)”

    Argo has 95% with top critics, too.

    “And if Mr. Spielberg had directed Argo…”

    Argo was Affleck’s *third* film. Spielberg’s third film was Jaws and he was snubbed, too.

    But you see, when Affeck directs his 28th film at 65, I can almost bet it will be just as great as Lincoln.

    He has that kind of talent. That’s why I am a real, real fan. :)

  54. marlonbrando020

    ” I can almost bet it will be just as great as Lincoln.”

    That’s not saying much. Affleck could possibly be better because of all the time he spent on movie sets as a non-director/actor. Just look at Clint Eastwood. At Robert Redford (when he was on his game)…

  55. rufussondheim

    Danny, I am one who was moved by Argo.

    For Tony not to be able to talk to his son about why he doesn’t get to see him often enough is pretty damn emotional. When he visits his son, all full of love, all he sees is a son who thinks his father doesn’t love him because he’s gone for so long and has no rational explanation.

    How awful it must be to do such important work and not be able to share it with the people you love most. There must be a horrible ache inside. And this was very capably illustrated in Argo.

    It’s a very powerful emotional experience, in my opinion, and when I hear others not seeing what I see, all I can do is slap my head in bewilderment. I guess Argo is a film that gives you back what you put into it. I put a heckuva lot into and I got it all back plus more. It’s a wonderful film.

  56. Affleck could possibly be better because of all the time he spent on movie sets as a non-director/actor. Just look at Clint Eastwood

    By all means let’s start saying Affleck is the next Eastwood. Because we all know spending lots of time on a set is all it takes. One look at Larry Crowne and we can all see the advantage it gave director Tom Hanks.

  57. “Ryan, would you still be saying the BFCA doesnt count if they had chosen Lincoln instead?”

    “Yes. They’re too erratic to stand as any authority. Wrong 50% of the time. My cat has more reliable taste…”

    Funny, I learned about the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s uncanny Oscar taste at your site: http://www.awardsdaily.com/blog/2012/12/08/critics-choice-preview-announcing-monday/

    Sasha herself in fact wrote: “The truth about that is that they are really really good at picking what will eventually be the Best Picture nominees, particularly since Oscar expanded to ten…”

    And what about Lincoln’s “Record-Setting 13 Nominations”? Was that erratic taste?

    “Argo won that coveted and oh-so-essential ‘best film of the year’ honor from the Florida and San Diego critics. Period.”

    Sour grapes.

  58. Dead. On.

  59. “The truth about that is that they are really really good at picking what will eventually be the Best Picture nominees, particularly since Oscar expanded to ten…

    Let’s break that down.

    particularly since Oscar expanded to ten…*

    so, like, 3 years.

    really really good at picking what will eventually be the Best Picture nominees

    they were right two out three times. I can do that flipping a coin three times. Any casual Oscar watcher can guess best Picture 66% of the time.

    The BFCA are no better at guessing what the Oscars will do than 50 of our smartest readers here at AD, and I enjoy listening to those 50 readers better that any 50 names of anybody you want to list from the BFCA. So what good is the BFCA to me?

    * Over their entire history, the BFCA has been right about Best Picture 63% of the time. Now that the BP slate has expanded to 10, they’re right 66% of the time. So that’s how much better they got.

  60. ‘Because if Ben Affleck had directed Lincoln, film critics would be hailing Ben Affleck as the second coming of Orson Welles. And if Mr. Spielberg had directed Argo, I believe most critics would have labeled it to be “minor” Spielberg, something on the level of Catch Me If You Can (A wonderful film IMO), and it probably wouldn’t have been nominated for best picture at all.’

    That may be THE statement of awards season.
    And something to remember and keep perspective when Lincoln eventually loses Oscar.

  61. Bette,
    With all due respect, you are spinning wheels here.
    The rating percentages on RT are relative.
    Firstly, RT includes some bozo whose name I forget who was a Southern apologist and others who’se writing skills betrayed their credibility. Among the top, respected critics, Lincoln was about even with Argo. And yet, it’s still relative. If Truman Capote turns in an essay on the European romantics to his 10-grade teacher, he might have recieved an A. If Sally Nelson turns in her well-done, followed-the-rules essay on Betsy Ross to the same teacher in the same class, she most definately recieved an A, maybe even an A+. But the two are not created equal.
    Argo is flawlessly directed, but it doesn’t make it art.

  62. Antoinette:’Well if we’re going there, Spielberg did make ARGO just a hell of a lot better. It was called MUNICH and it lost to what? Oh yeah, motherfuckin’ CRASH.

    *sigh* I need some chamomile tea.’

    Excellent point.

    The expectations are higher for Spielberg as well as Scorsese etc….
    So what constitutes ‘great films’ for others, are considered minor efforts for lesser talents.

  63. A few things…

    Switching directors is one of the most useless hypotheticals. We don’t know how either film would have been received if the roles were reversed, so to make hyperbolic conjectures as to the reception these films would have received is meaningless.

    On a personal level, I don’t think Lincoln is that excellent. It’s a fine film, but still has some clear flaws (*cough* *cough* the ending *cough*). Argo is also a great piece of filmmaking, but is also lacking, though is preferable. It doesn’t matter if different names were on the same product, and to suggest that it does is presumptuous and reductionistic. The fact of the matter is that Argo is Argo and Lincoln is Lincoln. Argo is being judged on Affleck’s merits, and Lincoln is being judged on Spielberg’s merits. Argo is ahead because people see it as a very good film. Saying that any film is Best Picture is always useless, since art is relative. Some people think that Lincoln is better, others feel more for Argo. At the end of the day, all that matters is that people appreciate the movies they appreciate. Simple as that.

  64. Holden,
    you’re missing the point of the hypothetical –
    it is about how expectations for Spielberg are greater and that his work is often taken for granted or have baggage attatched because of his status. Those things can work against someone like Spielberg. I don’t know how old you are, and I hate to always bring up age, but it does reflect points of view and perceptions of certain things.

  65. rufussondheim

    If I had gotten done Argo and then someone told me Spielberg had directed it I wouldn’t believe it for a minute knowing that Spielberg has never created a wonderfully nuanced character such as Tony Mendez. I would also not believed that Lincoln was directed by Affleck as it was way too polished and not nearly gritty enough.

    So it has nothing to do with expectations. I can’t spot a Spielberg film a mile away, he uses the same bag of tricks over and over.

    This is nothing but a silly little exercise designed to give you unabashed Lincoln-lovers some much-needed comfort.

  66. rufussondheim

    Ooops, silly me, I CAN spot a Spielberg film a mile away. It’s the one being carried by cherubs playing harps with a spotlight from heaven on it, or so Yvette would have us believe.

  67. Rufus,

    I can spot a Woody Allen, Scorsese, Coppola, Kubrick film miles away. Rufus dear, It’s called having a style, a voice. And again, that’s a non-argument – a lazy pretext to disdain what you consider mainstream acceptance in film. Oh, you’re so edgy. You don’t even realize how gullible and pretentious you come across with the anti-Spielberg shit. I’m not a Spielberg fanboy or even a fangirl…I simply appreciate artists who follow their muse.
    All your arguments against Lincoln have been repeated over and over in paragraph after paragraph – and none of it resembles the film on the screen. Or it’s completely out of context of the film is meant to be.
    Mediocrity has such a deceptive, dangerous pull away from deeper challenges that have to be discovered and seen with an inner eye.
    What was Stevens/TLJ’s line in the film?
    ‘Nothing surprises you therefore you are never surprising.’

  68. rufussondheim – I guess all I can say is that that relationship between Affleck and his son character, while I guess I can understand why it’s sad, it’s such a SPECIFIC and UNUSUAL relationship (dad can’t explain to his son why he’s absentee because he’s really a top secret spy) – that it doesn’t really resonate with most people. I don’t see how that relationship could be a metaphor for anything larger.

  69. julian the emperor

    To argue that Lincoln is a superior film to Argo by turning to critical reception is not exactly a sound strategy, so why bother?

    Argo has won the lions’ share of critics awards since ZD30 lost its early momentum (mid-December). Argo has won 13 best film honors in total from critics which ties it with ZD30. Is that bad? Come on.

    There is a distinct lack of passion for Lincoln, which was curious to me until I actually got to see the movie. The stately pace, the polish…it’s all so very Spielberg. When you consider the playfulness and fun of Argo, you have to be not a film lover but a lover of history with a penchant for the didactic and reverential to appreciate Lincoln more, in my opinion.

    I am not saying Argo is the right bp winner per se (Amour is the sole masterpiece of the nine nominees, even though Beasts of the Southern Wild and Zero Dark Thirty are great achievements as well), but it is the right winner when you consider the four frontrunners (Life of Pi runs it a close second in that regard).

    I would rank Lincoln sixth out of the nine (Les Mis, SLP and Django are less good). Django surely is the most uneven out of the bunch. If Tarantino takes original screenplay…wow! That would be a travesty akin to Renee Zellweger winning for Cold Mountain!

  70. the comment about the switch is so true and insightful. If Bigelow had directed Avatar, and Cameron Hurt Locker, there is NO way she woulnd’t have won all the same awards, and Cameron’s movie would be considered a nice small effort. (I actually think she might have won MORE awards it she had directed avatar.) Glad people realize that its about the moment, the story, that for some people, its just their time. The movie is often the secondary thing.

  71. Theoretically, the position is valid, and is truthful. Just look at the year the Social Network dominated all of the critics awards, but was defeated by The King’s Speech. However, this is not the case this year. Individually discussing the greatness of a film is meaningless since everyone has an unique opinion on greatness, so I will copy the method of the original topic, and utilize metrics provided by critic websites. The method originally discussed is the “Top Critics” freshmeter on rotten tomatoes. The comment states that Lincoln earns the highest percentage. This factually incorrect. In fact Amour has a 97%. Further, Argo earns the same top critic rating as Lincoln, and earns a rating that is 6 points higher among all critics.
    Another metric to utilize is the Metacritic rating. Using this metric, ZDT is the best film with a 95, followed by Amour with a 93 (scores as of the nomination). Then there is a three way tie between Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Lincoln with an 86.
    The point of all this is not to say that Lincoln is not a great movie, but rather to point out that the theory that it is a given that it is the greatest movie of this year is ludicrous.

  72. rufussondheim

    Yvette, I can remember the exact moment that I fell out of love with Steven Spielberg. After all, I was enraptured with him most of my life with the high point being in 1993. I was in the opening day crowds for Jurassic Park and I went down to Philly to see Schindler when it was only playing in one theater in the metro area. I recall talking to Holocause survivors while waiting for the film to start. I could hear them crying throughout the film, it will always remain one of the most disturbing and fulfilling moments in my life, cinematic or otherwise.

    But then came Saving Private Ryan, and I, again, was there on opening day. And when we got to the part where we could see the puddles ripple in the mud announcing approaching tanks and I had to throw up my hands since Spielberg did that exact same thing in Jurassic Park. And then when the American Planes swooped in and killed the velociraptors, oops, I mean Germans, at the end, I knew I had just seen Jurassic Park made into a war movie. I was offended by SPR, I felt I had my intelligence assaulted and I wouldn’t have any of it.

    Over the years, I got more demanding when I watched a movie (I was always a bit of a snob) and I always preferred something new over a retread. And I thought Spielberg was just a retread. His movies are so similar. Even ones I loved became terrible as I saw him use the same techniques over and over. It’s not like he was using them in new or interesting ways (like a Robert Altman) he was aiming for the same effect and result.

    Now you can call me pretentious and gullible all you want. But I didn’t get my dislike of Spielberg from a book or from an article (I’ve never quoted a critic ever in my entire life about any film, or any book, or any music, or any TV show.) I’ve never read Kael or any other theorist, I’ve never taken a film class, never even met someone who’s been a film major. I hang out with people who go see The Transformers 4 and The Expendables 2 at midnight showings. I’ve never even spoken to someone in the flesh who dislikes Schindler’s List as much as I do.

    I swear, my dislike of Spielberg is completely independant of anythign I’ve ever done or experienced. It is based solely on my paying to see his movies in the theater. So call me pretentious or gullible all you want. But you’d be wrong.

    —–

    Danny, it’s that specificity and uniquity (is that a word?) that makes it so affecting. I didn’t see it coming. So when it happened it overwhelmed me. And it’s stayed with me for two reasons.

    1) It’s a great honor to have people such as Mendez sacrifice so much for people such as myself. But it also angers me that we need people such as Mendez. Do recall the entire situation was created because of American meddling in a sovereign country’s affairs. As an American it offends me that we need such people as Mendez. So it’s these contradictory emotions I have that make this film so interesting to me. (I do think ZDT does this better and if I had seen Argo second, I might like Argo less)

    2) The movie inspires me to be more honest and open in my relationships with my family and others. We take for granted these relationships and don’t give them everything we can. The film made me realize that others are not as fortunate, and that any time I hold back and am not openly honest it’s a betrayal. People such as Mendez would love to have that ability, yet I do and I don’t avail myself of it as often as I should.

  73. Frank Capra used the same tricks over and over. Preston Sturgis used the same tricks over and over. John Ford used the same tricks over and over. Even David Lean used the same tricks over and over. Hell even Hitchock used the same tricks over and over. It’s called “their style”. Monet used the same brush strokes and color palatte to create his canvases, it’s called “his style”. Some pieces are much more exceptional than others. Spielberg or any other director is just like a painter only using film as a canvas. He has a style, he has a bag of tricks, he has skill and talent. Some pieces will succeed where others fail some will live up to their expectations and other will exceed them. Lincoln exceeds them. I was very dissappointed in War Horse. Liked Munich but didn’t jump for joy over it. Saving Private Ryan was good but something happened and the screenplay falls apart for me in Ryan. None of that happens in Lincoln. Hell even Affleck has now developed a certain style. All three of his films have basically the same type of cinematography. They are filmed in a rather colorless gray sort way that is supposed to enchance the tension. That works for him. Affleck is good and I’ve liked all his work thus far as a director. But he has his own bag of tricks also.

  74. Spielberg, like the other greats Altman, Chaplin, Lean, Hitchcock, and Malick, has a very distinct style. You either appreciate it or you don’t, but you can spot it within the first few minutes of his films. If you like this signature subjective style it can add to your appreciation but if you don’t, it can annoy the hell out of you.

    Other directors strive to adapt their styles to more objectively frame the material – Scorsese, Ang Lee, Peter Weir, and Fincher seem to be able to push their abilities into new territories, points of view and perspectives to find the most effective way of conveying their stories .

    In both cases, sometimes it works better than others. Neither approach is “better”. Affleck could go one way or the other, but, like other “new” directors (McQueen, Zeitlin, etc), he barely has a trick – or a bag to put it in.

  75. rufussondheim

    Overall, and this is for Yvette more than anyone else, I find Spielberg’s characterizations to be extraordinarily weak. It’s almost like he treats his characters as nothing but plot devices.

    But then I’ve said this all before. I don’t even know why I bother. Yvette doesn’t seem to grasp that others seek different things than she does when seeing a film. And she appears to prefer a simplified world where everyone can be categorized very simply into two groups, people that agree with her and people that are stupid. She doesn’t seem to realize that there are smart people who don’t agree with her.

    And I understand the difference between “style” and “bag of tricks.” I think Spielberg operates with a “bag of tricks.”

  76. ‘You can call me gullible and pretentious all you want…’
    Thanks for the heads up Rufus.
    You can call me Al.

  77. rufussondheim

    I’ll call you Al if I can also use your first name, Delusion, when I do.

  78. @Sasha

    “The truth is, what Lincoln is transcends the Oscar race, as most great films do. It is a trap to start thinking that the votes of a general consensus equates with greatness and that not getting those votes somehow equates with failure”

    I believe this might be overstating your case. History will definitely see Argo fade into obscurity, as many Best Picture winners. But there’s nothing that suggests Lincoln is any greater. It’s not like we’re arguing Shakespeare In Love vs. Saving Private Ryan. Lincoln has its strengths.

  79. Yvette, I understand the hypothetical perfectly. I get that it has to do with expectations. My point is that it doesn’t change anything. Entertaining these kinds of things is inherently stupid because it distracts from the reality at hand.

  80. Late last year, when all the great films were rolling out one by one, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is a great year of great movies!’
    Lincoln is the seminal experience of the year for me, but when I saw Life of Pi, Beasts, I thought, ‘Man, Lincoln has real competition.’
    Then ZD30 came along and I thought ‘Ok, Spielberg, It’s on!’ Because I thought that the Oscar race was going to be between these two films – both brilliant, challenging…..and I was excited about the prospect of two great films full of resonance and ballsiness were going to rule awards season.
    Oh, and somewhere along the way, I saw Argo and enjoyed it. It was like one of those Sidney Lumet movies from the 70s that I love, but not quite.
    I never, never, NEVER dreamed Argo would end up overshadowing Pi, Beasts and then Speilberg and Bigelow.
    Those of you making this all about Lincoln/Spielberg fanboys/girls are missing the point and delusional. Take Lincoln out of the equation for one second, and think of Lee and Bigelow at the top of their game.
    Seriously, tell me Argo is a better, more complex work.
    Or this for old school Music fans:
    It’s like this is 1965 – and in a year of great albums by Dylan, The Beatles, Stones…. they’re all being eclipsed by ….Herman’s Hermits. It’s nice, but it’s not MAJOR.
    It’s not just about Lincoln not winning for me – it’s the sense that Argo is riding a popularity wave that does not equate with greatness.

  81. rufussondheim

    Sure, I prefer ZDT to win over Argo. But it’s not about that. It’s about the race that most people think it’s going to boil down to, Lincoln and Argo.

    While Lincoln is easily the best effort from Spielberg in awhile and the first Spielberg film I’ve enjoyed since 1993, I still think Argo is the better film, and I don’t think it’s close.

    So don’t take my cheering for Argo that it’s the best film of the year. But I wouldn’t mind it if someone did think it was the best film of the year. Same with Lincoln (the only film that I think is foolish to make that disctinction would be Silver Linings, but even then the heart likes what it likes).

    But so many Lincoln supporters are saying “Argo is not the best film of the year.” And I certainly agree. But it’s not about that, it’s about what film is the better of the two.

    For those that care, here are my current top 20 (haven’t seen Amour or Holy Motors and several other non-English language films of note)

    Zero Dark Thirty
    Oslo, August 31st.
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    Les Miserables.
    Liberal Arts
    Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
    Keep the Lights On
    How to Survive a Plague
    Safety Not Guaranteed
    Take This Waltz
    Argo
    The Kid With a Bike
    Killer Joe
    Life of Pi
    Sound of My Voice
    Skyfall
    Looper
    Gayby
    Lincoln
    Flight

    So you can see I don’t hate Lincoln.

  82. @ rufussondheim –

    Go see Amour. I’m hoping for an (unrealistic) upset with Amour claiming victory after Lincoln, ZD30, and Argo all devour each other…. unlikely, but if Amour took Best Picture and No took Best Foreign film… it’d be the Best Oscars in nearly a decade – if not longer.

  83. Goodvibe61

    Hi Sasha.

    Thanks for posting the comment I made over on H/E. I think the main thing I’ll be taking with me from this year’s Oscars is the amount of poison that’s been delivered to the fans, poison designed to shut down films for reasons other than the films themselves. It’s as though the art created is an afterthought compared to the personalities that created the work. It’s a real shame.

    It seems that ANYTHING can and will be used to the detriment of certain films and certain artists. Over the past 20 years or so, perhaps the greatest and most influential artists working (the absolute taste makers, like Spielberg, Scorsese, Tarantino, PTA, and Fincher spring immediately to mind) have had campaigns constructed to PREVENT them from winning. The attacks come from all sides, and they’re unrelenting.

    Marty finally got his, and it sure took a long time for him to get it. I honestly believe that PTA would have won had it not been for No Country, the most recent year I can think of in which two masterpieces could both lay a claim to the top awards. But since the 2008 Oscars the smear tactics have taken center stage, and we’re all paying the price for it.

    As for artists like Mr. Spielberg or Mr. Tarantino, despite earlier victories it’s clear that they’ve deserved even more, and the ridiculous diatribes against them are a mockery of the great art they’re creating. Spielberg has been through this garbage many times now (Ryan vs. Shakespeare springs to mind), and for Mr. Tarantino, it seems that creating the single most influential film of his generation is reason enough for idiots to dream up lousy things to say about him and his work.

    This mindless vitriol has become a much larger part of the Oscar season, and all we can do is shake our heads and bear it. We’ve seen a new low point for this type of behavior, and it looks like there’s no end in sight.

    Thanks for fighting the good fight Sasha. Having an opinion about a film is a good thing; all this other stuff is a bunch of junk. Having you here to remind me of that keeps me sane.

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