Saying Goodbye to Oscars 2012 and Thanks

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My Oscar year started on the French riviera. It was cold and raining. Without the sunshine glimmering off the pavement we were instead teased by all of that sunlight in Rust and Bone, one of the more memorable films from Cannes. When you leave the cloistered confines of Los Angeles, you are no longer obligated to follow the rules we all live by unquestionably. Movie stars are pretty here, and young. Female stars are mostly disposable. What they’re wearing, how thin they are, whether they look old yet, who they’re fucking.

Leaving Hollywood every year around May is a psyche cleanser like no other. In other countries that bring films to Cannes there are fully fleshed out roles for women. Sure, not a lot of female filmmakers yet but stories about women share equal time with men. They don’t really play the same game of alpha male hero that we do here. In Cannes I saw Rust and Bone, Amour, Beyond the Hills, and Beasts of the Southern Wild, just for starters.

I’ll never forget the moment Beasts of the Southern Wild ended. I’d heard buzz about it from Sundance but was expecting the usual hipster rumination on the childman who can’t grow up. Or the manic pixie dreamgirl drug addiction story of redemption. Or the stylish thriller that has no plot. I didn’t expect such artistic daring. So when the beasts bow down to Hushpuppy at the end, I found I couldn’t breathe. No film had ever done that to me before – gone was my breath: breathtaking. The audience burst into spontaneous applause. They applauded again after the credits rolled. It wasn’t even a gala screening – it was for the stragglers. That was the moment I knew 2012 was going to be different.

That is what going to a festival now can offer you – the chance to see movies before they are over-analyzed, ripped apart then destroyed the re-assembled as whatever the marketing team thinks they can get away with. Amour was another film that overtook Cannes. Brilliant, powerful, undeniable – but polarizing. How could it not be. Love and death are beyond our control. Death means you are alone. Love means you aren’t. The big themes in Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild would only be the start of the deeper, emotional films that would dominate the year’s best. That was, until politics came into the picture.

One undeniable thing about 2012 was that we’d just re-elected our first black president. Obama had brought two books into the White House with him – Team of Rivals and the Bible. After 13 years of fighting and research to get Lincoln made, six years for Kushner to write the script, which at one time was 300 pages long. Daniel Day-Lewis’ careful research, Spielberg’s handling of the Mary Lincoln role in the capable hands of Sally Field — wow. It seemed to be the movie for the year, at least in America. Its themes about equality resonate every single day in our country. But the film was a hard sit. Long passages of beautifully written dialogue that you have to be paying close attention to. How much it moves you depends, I guess, on how much the subject interests you. But Lincoln isn’t really entertaining in the same way Argo was. The two together are like Chicago and The Pianist.

The truth is, I don’t care about the Oscars as an event — I hope that they can change the world. So when people say, relax, it’s only the Oscars and that’s true. Can the Oscars change the world? Probably not, especially when they themselves refuse to change. I always think if they CAN change themselves they can change the industry and eventually the world; we are too comfortable looking to Hollywood to define ourselves. For 85 years we’ve been doing this and for 85 years not a lot has changed. What keeps me at the wheel of this car wreck year after year is the tiny ray of hope that something might shift, even a little bit, in a different direction.

Of all of the people whose story would shape the Oscars in 2012 I didn’t think it would be Affleck’s. Now, we see the result of that and woe be unto the Academy if they should ever step out of line again. The consensus no-likey. The consensus will make them pay. The narrative took hold like wildfire – so much so that people who didn’t particularly notice Argo from the screener pile now had their favorite movie of the year. Where was that enthusiasm when the season began? But it’s the winner because it won the game of Oscar. As to how that sits over time, we’ll just have to wait and see. I think it gets better when you watch it thinking the director was snubbed than it would have otherwise. Rooting factor, they call it. It’s a really good movie, though. Not better than the others but damned good.

It is irritating to me that people keep bringing back my positive rave of Argo from back in September where I called it a perfect film and a “great fucking movie.” Those things were and are true. It’s just that three other movies came along that blew Argo away.

The painful part of this year was twofold. The first was how social networking turned the Oscar race into a reality-show style political election where films were picked apart limb by limb until voters had no option but to pick the safest, least offensive choice. The other hard part was seeing the “snubbed Ben Affleck” narrative take hold. I wish he’d gotten a Best Director nomination so that we would all know for sure whether that film would have been the consensus pick or not — it could have gone either way.

But the Affleck narrative bloomed into a culture that is more celebrity-obsessed than ever. It really hit the actors hard, too, because one of their own was rejected by the Academy for doing good work. That was probably an easy decision to override. It didn’t seem to matter that the directors the Academy did choose were artistically inclined, daring filmmakers like Haneke and Zeitlin. It is the kind of unpredictable twist in an Oscar year you can’t really explain to people in the years to come. “You see, there was this actor named Ben Affleck…”

We have to always try to remember that the Oscars don’t belong to us. This is the canon of films the industry has decided to designate as best. The ones we love we have to keep for ourself, protected in memory like everything else that too easily dissolves over time.

I have said goodbye to Richard Parker and thanked him. I know there will always be two ways of looking at this year. One is the better story. The other is not worth the time it takes to tell it again. They’ll always be two ways of looking at the Oscars. Remember the game and you can’t be heartbroken. Or as Bob Dylan would say:

Heart of mine so malicious and so full of guile
Give you an inch and you’ll take a mile
Don’t let yourself fall
Don’t let yourself stumble
If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime
Heart of mine.

The Oscar ceremony will unfold as it will. But a thank you to the readers of this site who have made a mostly painful year a lot more tolerable. And especially to my good friend Ryan Adams, without whom I am nothing but a useless ball of hysteria. Our podcasting partner and friend Craig Kennedy and to Marshall Flores for endless support and mathturbation, Erik Anderson for the laughs and podcasting, Tom O’Neil for keeping things exciting every minute of the day, David Poland who helped reign in the insanity, writers Brian Whisenant, Jackson Truax and Rob who helped out with the simulated ballot.  And all of the great new pals we’ve met this year.

Outside here in Los Angeles the sun is shining. Summer hints it’s almost here. Before long I’ll be on a plane to the French Riviera and it will all start over again. I hope you all have a great night and have had as interesting a year as I have. I hope I can still love watching movies when the circus shuts down for the night. I hope we can still remember how it all went down when we zip up our pants and go home. I hope that movies will always be as good as they were this year. I hope that I can remember not to take it all too seriously. I hope that I can remember not to be fooled by my own mirages.

I hope.

51 Comments on this Post

  1. daveinprogress

    Brava Sasha! Eloquent and Elegant and Erudite.
    May your hope and wishes come true. Tonight, Tomorrow and Beyond.

  2. Kevin Klawitter

    Wonderful rumination on a fantastic and exciting year for film and the Oscars.

    Even with the pain and disappointment, it’s always more exciting when we aren’t sure by October who’s going to win.

    I like to watch old Siskel & Ebert episodes on the internet, and the one I’ve probably watched the most is their 1995 “If We Picked the Winners” Oscar special. I’m reminded just how fantastic a year for film that was. Heck, even the BAD movies of 1995 had a sense of grandeur to them: Showgirls, Waterworld, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: the Movie, etc.

    What makes 2012 so different and, in a way, so hopeful and cool was that studio pictures dominated the season. I always love to support indies, but when money-obsessed Hollywood as well as maverick producers such as Megan Ellison are able to make riskier, artist-driven films like “Argo”, “Lincoln”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “The Master”, “Django Unchained”, etc. happen, it’s always cause for celebration. How long has it been since the top contenders were all well-recieved studio projects?

    Now, on to 2013. What are you guys rooting for? I’m really anticipating “The Counselor” above all else.

  3. Christine

    Thank you Sasha, Ryan, and Craig. It was a great year in film, and I hope we’ll have an even greater one this year.

  4. Very well-said.

  5. SallyinChicago

    Great farewell, Sasha. Now onto 2013!

  6. What a delight to read! Your best writing all season!

    Thanks to you and Ryan.

  7. Astarisborn

    Thank you Sasha for ignighting me to love movies even more if that’s possible in an amazing year.

  8. daveinprogress

    Dear Sasha and Ryan

    My thanks to you both for not only the dedicated and hard working determination to keep your site strong and healthy, but for allowing such freedom for readers, and this reader to have his say and share the passion and affection for movies. It does make a difference, and it does in ways you cannot measure: shift perspectives, nudge mindsets, and broaden the vision to not only seek out great filmmaking, but then view it with open eyes and mind to ellicit greater meaning and understanding of the art of storytelling.

  9. Great piece, Sasha….

  10. This is my third year following this whole process through this site’s point of view. This year has been a great ride. Lots of great films, intense Twitter arguments and interesting award surprises.

    I hope to see you all next year.

    For now, enjoy tonight’s performance and go watch great fucking films once it’s over.

  11. Thanks Sasha and Ryan for inviting me along with your nutty Podcast games. Doing those helped keep the season bearable.

  12. Great job as always, Sasha! I’m not a frequent commenter but always enjoy your funny and straight-talking Oscar coverage.

  13. popeiieipioepo

    SOME LINK TO WATCH THE OSCARS ONLINE, PLEASE???????

  14. Oops. Disregard my “comment.”

    Anyway, thanks, Sasha and Ryan! I couldn’t have stood all this without you!

  15. Marshall Flores

    I have to thank Sasha publicly for managing to find me in the abyss of Oscar retirement, and convincing me to come back and giving this another try. “O Captain My Captain” and all of that. :-)

  16. Thank you Sasha, Ryan and Craig for all your reporting on one of the most exciting Oscars in years.

    I had a ball reading all of your articles this year.

    Time to break open the champagne, cook my “Oscar chicken” dish, and go to my friend’s Oscar party.

    So glad they do this on a Sunday now. Makes it like a holiday.

    Thanks again, Sasha. This is my favorite website.

  17. Bryce Forestieri

    Thank God it’s over. It’s been the worst season of the 4 that I’ve paid attention to so far. A lot of shame to share.

  18. Comment

  19. filmboymichael

    Sasha, Ryan and Craig – thank you, thank you, thank you….You’ve made my 14th year following this site just as exciting, frustrating and fun as ever.

    I look forward to more insights shared, debates had and arguments won and lost.

    Have fun tonight – all of you!

  20. jesushola

    AwardsDaily is my favorite website. Lincoln for the win!

  21. I hope too, Sasha.

    Thank you and Ryan for the fun. Here to another year…

    *raises her glass*

    :)

  22. Bryce Forestieri

    Oh yeah and thanks! :p

  23. Thanks Sasha and Ryan. It’s so much fun to come over here beginning with Cannes and ending with the Oscar reading your input. Can’t wait for a new Cannes and for another year of great movies. And I hope you get a couple of months of nice rest too. :)

  24. Jerry Grant

    Sasha, thanks to you and to Ryan for your excellent website. I love the stretch from November to February, especially in such a great year as this one. I have come to associate Oscar season with your website (which has been my favorite out there since it was oscarwatch.com), and have come to know the opinions and controversies primarily through these forums. It’s a pure thrill. The pieces are fabulously written and thought out, and I appreciate the advocacy–especially when I agree with the opinions (Lincoln, Life of Pi). Of course, there are times when I wish there were similarly articulate and intelligent advocacies of others that get hit hard here, but which I stand behind, but that’s all a part of the season, isn’t it.

    This has been the most exciting year in about a decade for me–the high quality has been stunning. And it has been a truly bizarre year for the awards. For both of these things, we should be very grateful. But I’m additionally grateful that there is a forum where I can project my energy and enthusiasm, and where I can get swept up in others’.

    Please keep AD going strong!

  25. The truth is, I don’t care about the Oscars as an event — I hope that they can change the world.

    The Oscars don’t change the world but the movies do. How many people have gotten legally gay married since Brokeback Mountain? :D

  26. Tero Heikkinen

    Thanks a lot, Sasha. The only website I visit more often than this is Facebook.

  27. Sasha — you’re a hero. love the site, love your writing, love your passion for film, love your opinions (even if I don’t always agree) — keep writing!
    And even if you’re disappointed tonight, I plan to try the chili oil!

  28. Terry Meehan

    What I will remember about this Oscar season is that a European master and a gutsy independent writer-director actually made it onto the Academy’s radar. Don’t forget that Haneke, Zeitlin and Alibar can now be members of the Academy and can vote in future years. Little by little . . .

  29. It’s a privilege, thank you!

    (Now whose acceptance speech was that?)

  30. filmboymichael

    Joe Pesci.

  31. I meant to say, too easy.

    And the most common comment on AD is: Comment

  32. 2nd luckiest day of my life, Oscar nomination morning, January 2007, I was googling around trying to find a friendly movie site where I could share my excitement about the The Departed receiving 5 Oscar nominations. I needed to find some solid reassurance that it might actually have a shot to win a couple.

    I found that reassurance at Sasha Stone’s OscarWatch.com — and I also found the greatest gang of smart funny movielovers I’d ever known on any movie discussion pages anywhere. I met some amazing new friends that week. Craig Kennedy, Pierre de Plume, jennybee, sartre, and a dozen other longtime OscarWatch readers took me under their wing, made me feel welcome, and taught me how to behave.

    I had no idea that Sasha ever even read any of my comments until about a month after The Departed won four Oscars.

    #1 luckiest day of my life, I got an email from Sasha. First direct contact ever. Thought to myself, “uh-uh, am I in trouble?” (I might have easily been due for a scolding over any number of things).

    Nope, it wasn’t a ban warning. Sasha was only writing to say that she would be heading to Italy for a few weeks vacation and needed someone to look after the site — somebody to water the plants, feed the fish, sweep up after hours, hold the rudder steady. She asked if I knew how to blog, wondered if I knew anything about WordPress.

    Best to be honest. I replied, “No, afraid not.”

    Sasha wrote back: “You’ll figure it out.” Gave me an admin password and that was that.

    That’s the real-life Cinderella story of how I was blessed to be invited on-board to help Sasha Stone manage some of the minor details around here, to make it a little easier for her to maintain AwardsDaily as the most passionate and exciting awards site I’ve ever seen.

    Changed the course of my life. Sasha has become my best friend on Earth, and I count several dozen other Awards Daily readers among the coolest people I’ve ever known.

    Blogging, WordPress? I’m still figuring all that out.

  33. Christina

    It’s been 10 years since I’ve been following the Oscars, and when I found this wonderful site on 2010, that made me be more passion than ever about the Oscars. This year has been so fun and excited, that I can qualify as the best ever since I’ve been following the Oscars. I have my favorites for tonight’s show, but no matter which film or actors will win, I stay with the wonderful film feeling that it has been a remarkable year for movies, that is so important for everyone who follows and read this site. Besides this year will be so especial for me because my country (Chile) made history. NO is the first Chilean film that is nominated for an Oscar. I don’t think that it will win, but still have hope.

    Finally I can’t say enough thanks to Sacha, Ryan and the whole team of Awards Daily for your passion and pacient for write every article to inform us about this long season. Sacha your site is so amazing that people besides of USA, come here to read and enjoy your words.

  34. Thanks for another great year Sasha. I mean it, I know a lot of people say that but I really believe this site makes movies and the oscars a lot better. I gotta say a lot of times I disagree with other people’s opinion on movies but I love every minute of it. I love to see (and understand) points of views on movies I never saw before and stand by the ones I really believe in. I gotta thank you too Ryan. You don’t only strike me like a movie encyclopedia type of guy but a smart guy all around. You are doing a great job helping Sasha with this site, which is without a doubt, the best film site out there. And I have been to most of them, believe me.

    Whatever happens, wether we agree with the academy or not, we love this shit. We just got to say it out loud and accept it. Once upon a time in 1998 I sweared I was never going to watch the oscars again after the SIL vs. SPR debacle. One year later I was watching American Beauty win BP.
    This year I hope Spielberg is the one doing the surprise. I doubt it though. But wether Lincoln wins BP in a few hours or not, for me, it will always be the best film of 2012 and one of the best I have ever seen.

    Thanks and good luck everyone.

  35. GRACIAS! SASHA!..TIL OUR NEXT MEETING..AFTER TONIGHT, ANOTHER CHAPTER WILL BE PUT INTO HISTORY.ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO READ AND SHARE YOUR POSTS AND BE PART OF THIS COMMUNITY OF CINEMA LOVERS.

  36. Bob Burns

    lovely piece. Thanks Sasha.

    here’s hoping something wonderful happens tonight.

  37. Looking forward for the best of 2013 and I’ll stay checking AD to check what’s coming. I have first heard of most of my favorite films from this site!

  38. The J Viewer

    Thank you for making my Oscar-watching experience special this year, Sasha & AD, as well as some readers here.

    It’s been another great movie year to me.

  39. Jack Traven II

    Sasha and Ryan, thanks for everything.

    And as far as hope is concerned, count me in. Because hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

  40. Damn fine piece.

  41. Thank you Sasha and Ryan. I appreciate your passion for film and it’s the reason Awards Daily is my number one website. You brighten and enlighten my day. Cheers.

  42. Sasha, I disagree with you a lot. But it’s your passion that keeps bringing me back.
    Many thanks!

  43. Sasha, thanks for a wonderful year again. I say wonderful because of your insight and your well written analysis.

    I look forward to next year’s simulated ballot.

    Rob

  44. Sasha Stone: “…people keep bringing back my positive rave of Argo from back in September where I called it a perfect film and a “great fucking movie.”

    Wow.

  45. Sasha and Ryan, you make it all worthwhile. Thanks for everything..

  46. I would like to thank Sasha, Ryan and all the other people involved for this beautiful site.

  47. I’ve been watching the Oscars ever since Braveheart took BP and since then I set aside the day to focus on watching this grand annual event. No, these movies will not save the world but they will inspire the rest of us to live our lives better with more meaning and imagination. I have seen about half of the BP nominees and a dozen of other OScar nominated films and never before have I been so affected so much by a bunch of seriously wonderful movies. It is all thanks to this site and its insightful articles that allow me to consider watching these great films. Because of this site, I’ve seen Naomi Watts struggle with life and death in The Impossible and seen Emmanuelle Riva suffer through affliction in Amour. Because of Awards Daily I see more quality in my movie experience then ever before. Never before would I have considered seeing The Beasts of the Southern Wilds, Lincoln, The Master or Anna Karenina. Thank you Awards Daily for being there for people who love the Oscars and love great movies in general. I can hardly wait for next year!

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