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Spielberg and Ang Lee, Losing the Battle, Winning the War

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I dig Richard Rushfield’s rumination on Hollywood’s love/hate with the king of the them all, Steven Spielberg (“Once again, the Best Picture prize slips from his hands. What does Hollywood have against its most successful resident?”)

Two Oscars ain’t half bad for the king of them all so I figure, hey, he can go down in the record books with the greats. Most times, the greats don’t win.  I thought Ang Lee’s prize last night was a glorious moment and a well-deserved win – he is a man who REALLY knows what matters in life and what doesn’t and to Ang Lee the film itself is the reward. He is the zen master and his mere presence seems to always throw the Best Director race in flux. At the same time, the Academy just doesn’t have a strong enough pair to really go all the way with Lee.

Sense and Sensibility was not nominated for Director. The same year Ron Howard won the PGA/DGA/SAG and then lost the Oscar to Mel Gibson for Braveheart.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon nominated for DGA, won. The same year, Steven Soderbergh got Best Director for Traffic and Gladiator won Best Picture.
Brokeback Mountain was nominated for and won DGA.  Lee also won the Oscar but Best Picture went to Crash.
Life of Pi, nominated for DGA, lost to Ben Affleck. Won second directing Oscar, lost Best Picture to Argo.

Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg are anything but losers. They are carving and shaping cinema. Both of them made movies that changed the way I see the world. I can’t say that about any other films in the Best Picture race with the possible exception of Zero Dark Thirty and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Winning the Oscar doesn’t define success, nor does it define greatness. Far from it. It is to the benefit of Academy voters that they get to call Ang Lee and Spielberg among their two time Best Director winners. It doesn’t make them better. It doesn’t improve their body of work.  The Academy improves their own history by picking great films.

John Ford won Best Director twice without winning Best Picture, The Informer (Mutiny on the Bounty won) and The Grapes of Wrath (Rebecca won) until he finally won both for How Green was My Valley.  George Stevens won best Director twice and never won Best Picture for Giant (Around the World in 80 Days won) and a Place in the Sun (An American in Paris won).

Ang Lee is only the third director in history to do that.

Steven Spielberg is now the fifth director in Oscar history to enter the race with a film with 12 nominations not to win Director or Picture. Lincoln is the only film with 12+ nominations to win just 2 Oscars.

88 Comments on this Post

  1. Christophe

    hopefully, lee will win bp for cleopatra. i dunno which year it’s gonna compete but it’s never too soon to start campaigning (cf. Anne Hathaway)x) and they could give affleck bd that same year, so everyone will be happy!

  2. Not to nitpick, but didn’t George Stevens also win two director awards without winning Best Picture? That would make Lee the third (unless you are just making the point that Ang Lee could still get a Best Picture)

  3. Marshall Flores

    Though I’ve always remembered Stevens and Ford, I’ve totally forgotten about Frank Borzage, who won the first ever Best Director Oscar for 7th Heaven and won again 4 years later for Bad Girl – neither won BP. Ang Lee is in excellent company.

  4. Spielberg is a powerful figure in Hollywood, but he’s not exactly the most popular one among fellow directors, producers or actors. In fact, the “anti-Spielberg” backlash has been a constant in many of his movies from old ones like The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun and Amistad to more recent ones like Munich, War Horse and now Lincoln.

    In any case, Spielberg did win two Academy awards for achievement in direction (for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan), so it’s not like the Academy has always been unfair to him. The problem is that because he has been nominated so many times and can’t always win, it appears that he is always losing.

  5. Sacha, I disagreed with almost all the awards. Ang Lee a director I have admired in the passed should not have nominated for the weekest of the 9 best picture nominees. That for me was the worst award of a bad evening.The film won the most oscars while the best picture of the year in my opinion Beasts if the southern won nothing .the academy proved once again they are the worst judges of their own industry but I”ll be back to blog next Oscar season.

  6. Astarisborn

    The academy awarded Lee best director because he is a genius film maker. Life of Pi was one of the best of the year in many eyes.

  7. The J Viewer

    Congratulations to Ang Lee. Life of Pi is HIS film, director’s film. Technically, Lee could have been nomed for Best Actor as well. : )

    “hopefully, lee will win bp for cleopatra.”

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that Lee, while fancying Angelina Jolie as one of the cast, the lead role to be precise, is said to have been in talks with the studio still – it could turn out to be another director’s piece, I mean.

  8. “Life of Pi” is not “one for the ages”, but, in my very humble opinion, it is artistically beautiful and a major achievement in motion picture direction. So, yes, Ang Lee was a deserving winner. The only thing I regret about “Life of Pi” the novel (not the movie) is that Yann Martel plagiarized it from Jewish Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar and neither Martel, nor supposedly “serious” literary reviewers in Europe and the US ever admitted that. But, again, that controversy has nothing to do with the movie itself.

  9. Ang Lee should not have won sorry. Oi was one of the weakest of the nne films nominated for best pic.

  10. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    The academy awarded Lee best director because he is a genius film maker. Life of Pi was one of the best of the year in many eyes.

    They should have given Life of Pi Best Picture.

  11. daveinprogress

    I think we care more about preserving the Academy’s integrity and reputation than they do! Writers like Sasha and Ryan and others do much more to add credence to the respectability of the old institution by waxing lyrical and advocating for truly great filmmaking and achievement in the medium.

    AMPAS is its own worst enemy, in terms of its reputation. It has certainly made some dodgy choices over the years. There have been many a year when a truly sublime performance ends up sitting in the corner, come the end of the night, while the ‘owed’ or the ‘popular’ or the career prize is the recipient, and this year is no exception.

    If it weren’t for bloggers and critics to remind readers of other great works and artists, history would be only seen and heard via those headlining pre-ambles on movie posters, and that irritating male voice over ‘ACADEMY AWARD WINNER….. and ‘ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE’.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing, but when i see and hear Academy Award Winner Reece Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock, i have to think hard as to what their great acheivement was. Oh that’s right they were America’s sweetheart and Miss Congeniality. Occasionally they honour the tour de force – Charlize Theron and Marion Cotillard etc. Jeff Bridges will be best known for an entire body of work – not just Crazy Heart (i’m lucky i recall the title). So too, Robert Duvall, Al Pacino, Paul Newman and many others who were recognised for lesser work. And then there’s O’toole, Kerr, Stanwyk, who had to get special Oscars to be remembered.

    For me, Emmanuelle Riva’s ‘Anne’ will be long remembered for her dexterity and her brooding but restrained determination and heartbreaking descent. Then again, if she gets cast in a frothy French comedy with Audrey Tautou and Jean Dujardin – she could get an Oscar at 88 for playing a quaint old dowager and get a standing O at the Kodak Theatre.

    Great filmakers will always be that, great actors will also always be loved in that way. What a shame, it is often only so regarded in the In Memoriam Segments or with Honorary awards, or worse – ‘Makeup’ career Oscars.

  12. daveinprogress

    At the end of another year, AMPAS has to ask itself did the year’s Best Picture direct itself? And if the best directed film of the year was a 3d odyssey with 3000 technicians and a visionary at the helm – why was it not also the Best Picture? It’s high time AMPAS went into therapy. Better still group therapy. I’d buy tickets to that.

  13. JohnOliver46

    This year marked my 60th Oscar telecast. I started watching in 1953 when Gary Cooper, Shirley Booth and The Greatest Show on Earth took home the Oscars. At that time they did a simulcast between L.A. and New York, and I remeber the presenter saying “And in New York, the winner is Shirley Booth.
    I didn’t get into predicting until the 1955 Oscars when my picks were Susan Hayward for I’ll Cry Tomorrow, Frank Sinatra for Man With the Golden Arm, and Picnic for Best Picture. I lost all three when Anna Magnani, Ernest Borgnine, and Marty walked off with the awards. I was deeply depressed when Susan Hayward lost,the one of many disappointments on Oscar night.Of course, they made it up to her in 1958 for I Want to Live! Sunday wasn’t any different.

  14. Mbruno wrote: “Spielberg is a powerful figure in Hollywood, but he’s not exactly the most popular one among fellow directors, producers or actors.”

    Why do you think that is? If Spielberg were all that powerful, wouldn’t that, in itself, translate into (more) Oscar wins? Or is he just powerful enough to get nominated but not well-liked enough to win?

    The idea that this is all a popularity contest is very depressing. But I do beleive that, ultimately, Argo will be a footnote in the history of moviemaking. When you think about it, there isn’t much there besides authentic 70s haircuts, 70s facial hair, 70s eyeglasses and other reminders of the 70s. (Ultimately, I came out of the movie feeling old, as I remember the Hostage Crisis very well, since I was a 20-year-old college student at the time, and a news junkie.)

    Also, was it just me, or did anyone else feel a little uncomfortable about the easy association depicted in Argo between the CIA and Hollywood? I’d much prefer that they keep far apart, that Hollywood doesn’t just become a propaganda tool for the CIA. I wonder, too, if Argo’s one-dimensional portrayal of the Iranians helped with Argo’s popularity, since Iran has been in the news a lot these last couple of years. If Ben Affleck had decided to make a more ambiguous sort of film that recognized the humanity of the Iranians, it probably wouldn’t have been so well-received by anybody in the West and the Academy would probably have avoided it entirely, even if it had been very well-done and thought-provoking. But that kind of movie was never going to happen, anyway.

  15. Unlikely hood

    Just curious – when Ang Lee won, what did you then think was now more likely to win BP?

    Anyone?

    Sad to say, that was the moment I knew that Argo would win BP and the last hope of a Lincoln win died. Had Spielberg won director, there would still have been a chance. Somehow, this year, a plurality of voters marked Argo for BP first, then looked around at the directors and said hmmmm… Well, life of Pi is getting all my tech votes anyway, and director runs the techies so why not?

    I love love life of Pi but never thought it could win.

    I’m just glad Spielberg, when presenting BP last year, made that little speech about “losers” like Raging Bull, Chinatown, Sunset Blvd, Network, etc. Lincoln joins that pantheon.

  16. Bryce Forestieri

    Since I’m indluging in lists because there’s nothing going on…

    My Top 10 “Anglosphere” Directors Without an Oscar

    Since I realize it’s ever harder for foreigners to win in the category.

    1. Stanley Kubrick
    2. Alfred Hitchcock
    3. Ridley Scott
    4. Robert Altman
    5. Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger
    6. Orson Welles
    7. Sidney Lumet
    8. David Cronenberg
    9. Sam Peckinpah
    10. Howard Hawks

  17. Christophe

    bryce, just to be clear, bc i guess you know that right? Stanley Kubrick was American, born and raised in New York City, but he emigrated to England during the 60’s to escape the pressures of Hollywood.

  18. Christophe

    oops sorry I misread again… by anglosphere you meant foreigners in the sense of not speaking english and not nationality, my bad bryce!

  19. Ang Lee is actually the fourth director to win two Oscars without directing a Best Picture winner. Frank Borzage was the first to accomplish it with SEVENTH HEAVEN (1927/28) and BAD GIRL (1931/32).

    And to add to the above trivia: Not only does John Ford have the most directing Oscars (with four), but he also has the most directing Oscars without winning Best Picture ( that’d be three — THE INFORMER, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, and THE QUIET MAN).

    Ang Lee is the 19th multi-Oscar winning director. In fact, 19 directors have won 42 out of 86 possible directing Oscar (two directing Oscars were given out at the first awards) — so basically, almost half the Oscars in the category have been awarded to 22% of those who’ve won.

    Also, as with 2005 — Lee’s previous winning year — the top six Oscars (Picture, Directing, and the four Acting categories) were given to six different films. That happened in 1956, too, when George Stevens won his second Oscar without picking up Best Picture.

    It’s all connected…

  20. Bryce Forestieri

    @christophe,

    yeah, it’s kinda poorly worded (my bad) but you catch my drift

  21. The J Viewer

    “Just curious – when Ang Lee won, what did you then think was now more likely to win BP?”

    Argo still. : )

    [For the record the phrase ends with the word “still” — without adverbs like “unfortunately” or “sadly”.]

  22. Jerry Grant

    The title of this piece says it all.

    There has been an anti-Spielberg backlash ever since “Jaws”. His movies used to be too “popular” for Academy tastes. But, then he started making more morally complex movies–Saving Private Ryan, Munich, and now Lincoln. And now with these, the Academy still doesn’t know what to do with them. Sure, Saving Private Ryan changed war filmmaking forever. Sure, Munich is the most morally complex American film made about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Sure, Lincoln provides maybe the most complex and in-depth perspective about American politics at one of its most crucial moments in American history. But the Academy thinks, “eh, it’s Spielberg again.”

    He is winning the war indeed. Steven fucking Spielberg.

  23. daveinprogress, I’m in total agreement with you about Emmanuelle Riva’s ‘Anne’, but I’ve come to the sad conclusion that, many voters chose not to watch the film due to its uncomfortable subject matter and just chose to vote as they heard: “Jennifer was the performance to go with”. Interesting, given her performance was the worse of the bunch, but she was the “right” age: Young and pretty and looked good in those tights, more like a raw steak to many of those old dudes doing the voting. Maybe if Emmanuelle had been 50 years younger? Oh well.

    It should be mandatory that in order to vote, you must view all of the nominees. Had that been done, Lawrence would not have won. It’s the reason that she did not win the BAFTA. They took a look and voted for the best performance, period. This is not the first, nor will it be the last time that Oscar has made silly choices: Sometimes, it has nothing to do with age. The year that Katherine Hepburn won her 2nd Oscar for Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, she won it over Dame Edith Evans for The Whisperers, who had recently taken the Golden Globe in Drama, and a slew of the major Critics Awards and may be the greatest film performance ever about an aging woman. Stream it on Netflix if you have not seen it. You will be amazed with that performance and of course, she was never up again and died after.

    You mentioned Deborah Kerr, who was given a “special” Oscar, when it would have been so easy to tell the truth on her last nomination. She was absolutely brilliant in The Sundowners. It was a clinic in absolute realism in a role, without being showy. The only thing that was different was her Australian accent, which she did to perfection. Otherwise, it was a dressed-down Kerr. And Liz Taylor gets it for Butterfield 8? That tops Bullock and Witherspoon. Both were better than Taylor was it that one and Duvall was good in Tender Mercies, but Tom Courtenay blew him off the box in The Dresser that year. And two of the most recent tour-de-force performances: Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven, literally re-creating an acting style that was done before she was born and doing it beautifully, not to mention the rest of the case and the direction and cinematography and it won zip and she lost to Nicole Kidmann for The Hours? Finally, there was Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake and she loses to Hillary Swank for Million Dollar Baby. Why are we even surprised given those bad moves of the past. Why is it that we expect anything any better? The times that the greatness comes through is usually not for genuine reasons. They are usually awarded for something else that has nothing to do with why they should be getting the award anyway.

    As usual, some years from now, people will see these films and wonder how in the world some of the winners won, while their so-called competition lost. I know that I find myself saying that, looking at many of the winners of the past, in all of the major categories.

  24. meant 2 Oscars for BD

  25. Mr-Cinema

    Is there an “anti-Spielberg” backlash? Prior to Streep winning for The Iron Lady, she had only won twice in 16 nominations. And most recently was way back in 1983. She’s widely considered our greatest actress, yet she had a horrible winning %. I don’t think anyone believes there’s an “anti-Streep” crowd out there. Spielberg is 2/7. I don’t see that as some sort of hatred towards him.

  26. Dear Sascha,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed logging into your site for a few years no in the last few months of the movie year however this year I was sorely disappointed by your attitude. I understand that it is your site to do with as you like but your support of Lincoln was really over-the-top. I wonder if you will look back on it with some embarrassment? Please now just accept that Lincoln, although in your opinion well-crafted did not have broad appeal. I have stated on this site before that it completely fails to engage anyone not from America. Can I also point out that your derision over the “pity party” for Ben Affleck is a little odd compared to your obvious attempts to start a pity party for Steven Spielberg? I can’t help feeling that Spielberg has been rewarded, is respected and has made enormous amounts of money. What really did he lose?
    I hope this is the last I will read of Lincoln on this site.
    Bryce Forestieri, I’m with you. There has been enormous amounts written about “Driving Miss Daisy” in the lead-up to this competition but was the most salient factor there not simply that Bruce Beresford was Australian? What about Ridley Scott, whose work has been seminal and never rewarded? Peter Weir? Robert Altman? If you want to talk about “pity votes” and those not properly rewarded by AMPAS… but that is the nature of a competition. Someone has to win…

  27. daveinprogress

    Odee, i share your sentiments too. Re Amour, enough of them saw it to have it in 5 categories – i can’t recall the last foreign language film that fared that well. But you may be right, when it came down to the final 5 perhaps a revisit was too painful. I plan at some point to see AMour again, it has a timeless and insular feel to it, that will allow a revisit, and a re-revisit!

    It is a cliche, but in the case of the sublime Imelda Staunton, and with Julianne in Far from heaven, and countless others “It’s just great to be nominated”

    It is often quipped that the nomination is reward enough. Hmm, not really.
    But if it allows countless folk the chance to appreciate a film, a performer, a writer becuase of its inclusion – then hooray for the nomination. And if it weren’t for bloggers and film writers eloquently singing the praises of the unheralded, it would be a world of celebrity winners and reality stars only.

    Thankfully it is not.

  28. This is Lee’s third time winning an Oscar. He won for Brokeback and Crouching Tiger. I’lll share this sentiment, I think Ang Lee’s film The Life of Pi was glamourous

  29. Nin says: “Please now just accept that Lincoln, although in your opinion well-crafted did not have broad appeal. I have stated on this site before that it completely fails to engage anyone not from America.”

    I don’t understand this at all. Abraham Lincoln, the man, is actually one of the world’s most revered historical figures. This was especially the case in places in Europe and South America that were having their own embryonic democratic struggles. And the working people of different countries – especially the British workers – were especially moved about what they perceived as Lincoln’s support of their own struggles, helped in no small part by supportive messages he sent them. Now it may be that, since now Europe and Latin America have democracy, people in the constituent countries no longer think about how hard it used to be without it, and what it meant to the world that Lincoln kept Earth’s lone democracy together, to prove that democracy could actually work. (This was a huge concern of Lincoln’s. He wanted to keep the Union together, yes, but he also cared very much about the fate of other peoples then struggling for democracy.)

    Also, it would seem to me that any story about an effort to eradicate slavery should resonate everywhere that the institution has historically existed or or where people have suffered under a caste system.

    So I don’t get this idea that this was too American of a film.

  30. Question Mark

    It’s ironic that of Ford’s four BD Oscars, he only won Best Picture with one of them — and that was How Green Was My Valley, one of the most notorious winners ever since it beat Citizen Kane (not to mention Notorious and Maltese Falcon).

  31. The J Viewer

    “This is Lee’s third time winning an Oscar. He won for Brokeback and Crouching Tiger.”

    Lee, unfortunately, didn’t win BD Oscar for CTHD; Steven Soderbergh (sp) won BD that year from Traffic. : )

  32. If it wasn’t going to be Argo, it was always going to be Life of Pi.
    It was never going to be Lincoln.

  33. notenoughtime

    Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda!! Quit the bitchin everyone, it was a fun show, great speaches, pretty people, AND CAPTAIN KIRK!!

    If you’re still upset about the awards, than get another hobbie you can control. Take up finger painting.

  34. rufussondheim

    I think that poster is referring to Foreign Film for Crouching Tiger.

  35. Someone somewhere said that giving an Oscar to Spielberg is a little like giving “Employee of the Year” to the boss.

  36. Liz, I agree with you re: Argo and Iran. In fact, when I first saw the trailer for the first time, I was a little uncomfortable. This little story is this great caper and Iranians look like a bunch of zombies who will kill any Westerner in their sight. The last thing we need with Iran, especially in a time where Kiarostami is an international sensation, This is Not a Film is out, and A Separation just won an Oscar to make gross generalizations about a country that believes its government’s propaganda when that is completely not the case.

    But I disagree with this statement.

    ” If Ben Affleck had decided to make a more ambiguous sort of film that recognized the humanity of the Iranians, it probably wouldn’t have been so well-received by anybody in the West and the Academy would probably have avoided it entirely, even if it had been very well-done and thought-provoking. But that kind of movie was never going to happen, anyway.”

    For the torture BS thrown Zero Dark Thirty there are moments of where I see the detainees and I feel for them. There was in fact a really well-known Iranian actor, Homayoun Ershadi (who has been a lead in some Kiarostami movies) who played an older detainee, who tells Maya basically what her issue and conflict is in the film: That Abu Ammed, the courier, is a ‘needle in a haystack’, ‘one of the disappeared ones’ who even he could never keep track of as an associate. He plays an older man who has cooperated to avoid possible extradition and torture at the hands of the Israeli intelligence service. He looks burned out, spent likely due to the infliction of pain on him, but is still a pretty moving, sharp gentleman. I don’t know who played Ammar but his presence also had dimension too and the actor who played him made an impression. He tries to play Dan’s games by taunting each other but then by his second interrogation you see his tears and realize how useless he is for them to get information on an attack. To me they come off as more human than the CIA at some points, particularly that heavy who works with Maya to abuse other detainees.

    Somehow this movie made money and yeah the whole plot of knowing the ending helps but it was pretty surprising to see the portrayal of those detainees in the film. But that is my read of the film. Some people just read the film as pro-torture propaganda but I saw way too many images and portrayals of those detainees that says otherwise.

    Aside from the maid at the Embassy in Argo, we see really no other Iranian character given dimension beyond being an angry mob who who fiercely anti-American.

  37. ‘Spielberg is 2/7. I don’t see that as some sort of hatred towards him…’
    Mr-Cinema,
    It’s more an elitist attitude and resistance – anyone who has been reading about film for the last 20 years will know that. ANd it’s sort of permeated a younger, hipster generation of movie geeks who just take it as gospel because its been regurgitated over and over…
    ‘Speilberg shmaltz’ etc….
    I hate to always pull the age card but I just get so sick of reading some punk know-it-all diss Spielberg without reference or specifics. There was nothing easy, or boring about Munich, AI or Minority Report.
    Real film commentators aren’t that stupid and shallow, but there are a lot of pseudo experts out there now.
    Just google ‘Spielbergerian’ and see what you get.

  38. ‘I understand that it is your site to do with as you like but your support of Lincoln was really over-the-top….’

    Nin,
    You mean passion? But I thought people just weren’t passionate about Lincoln.
    That’s what passion looks like.

  39. Alexander

    Nin remarks, “I have stated on this site before that it completely fails to engage anyone not from America.”

    And therefore your statement is obviously enormously incorrect, as well as a sweeping generalization, since I have read many accounts from the UK, Australia, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and many other countries around the world that have stated how appreciated the film is by individuals unto themselves and moviegoing crowds alike.

    That point notwithstanding…

    As for Sasha’s point about Spielberg, my chief concern is truly that he really hasn’t received as many nominations as he should have, because at the beginning of the 2000s, he spent some very worthwhile time making a pair of outstanding science-fiction pictures and a wonderful breezy caper comedy-drama, all of which were packed with exceedingly probing and fecund thematic undercurrents and auteurist-driven interests, but because of their genre, they were all left out in the cold by AMPAS while the Akiva Goldsman-Ron Howard concoction A Beautiful Mind is showered with awards because it fits a certain “genre expectation,” as we might call it. Does anyone watch A Beautiful Mind today? I sincerely hope not.

    Laugh if you must, but I’m quite confident Robopocalypse–whenever it finally gets released–will have more to it than most of the latest pedestrian awards bait dross offered up by the Weinsteins when Tarantino isn’t in the mix (by and large).

    But last night’s Oscar ceremony gave out some blueprints last night to fillmmakers with about as much subtlety as a sledgehammer being slammed into a windshield. Make musicals. Make movies that are endearing to Hollywood. Make movies with the hot new thing getting some decent scenes where she’s shouting and being so equally adorable and ostensibly rough-around-the-edges.

    And of course, having George Clooney behind your movie won’t hurt The Monuments Men. Having Nazis as the villains makes it a prohibitive slam dunk. Take note of the subject matter on the two occasions Spielberg finally did win.

    It reminds one of Alfred Hitchcock. Look how Rebecca was pushed because of who was behind it in David O. Selznick, and because of its prestigious literary pedigree, and the starring roles for Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. And of course the film ended up winning Best Picture with Selznick behind it against films like The Grapes of Wrath and The Philadelphia Story among others. Twenty years later, Hitchcock comes out with Psycho and it’s so immediately singularly lauded for its visionary artistic splendor, resulting in a Best Director nomination with no corresponding Best Director nomination.

    To take perhaps a less obvious example, Kathryn Bigelow had to start making films that were at least superficially about contemporary geopolitical issues before she could begin receiving considerable warmth from the AMPAS bunch. Even if her direction of Point Break was vastly superior to Barry Levinson’s work on Bugsy, but the latter carried “weight” and superificial import–though I’d say Point Break had a lot more genuinely fascinating thematic points to make and did so thrillingly, while Bugsy was historical hogwash that added up to very little but glossy patina.

  40. Alexander

    A classic case of reading your words the way you intended them rather than how they are: “…resulting in a Best Director nomination with no corresponding Best [PICTURE] nomination.”

  41. Love this piece. They are definitely the best of the best. E.T. should have won Best Picture. The Color Purple should have won Best Picture. Saving Private Ryan should have won Best Picture. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon should have won Best Picture. Brokeback Mountain should have won Best Picture. Life of Pi should have won Best Picture. It’s like… wth?? Argo??

  42. ‘So I don’t get this idea that this was too American of a film….’

    Liz, you are correct. Nin is just repeating some vague, generalized statement of perception. Firstly, for a film this cerebral and dialogue-heavy to be successful at all is a rarity. For it to be as successful as it has been is unprecedented, and that includes internationally. Comparing it to cartoonish fantasy blood-splatters like a Tarantino or a traditional caper like Argo is moot.
    Its not that kind of film, and yet, it exceeds them all at the box office.
    Secondly,
    Lincoln, the figure, is a world icon. Those who say he isn’t are just reflecting their own laziness regarding history.
    When Fidel Castro first visited the US, he asked to see the Lincoln Memorial. As a revolutionary (then), he revered Lincoln. Khrushchev, same story.

    Khrushchev at the Lincoln Memorial:

    http://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/burt-glinn-khrushchev/

    People, the public, has embraced this film. The industry is another matter.

  43. Yvette – I think Sascha is an American (is that right?). Her passion for the subject is definitely not in question. Many in AMPAS are not.

    Alexander – I think the foreign box office takings speak for themselves

    Liz R – I’m thinking that you are also an american. That’s not a bad thing but calling Lincoln one of the “world’s most revered historical figures” is a little bit like the “world series” only played in the US…

    Democracy was an Athenian development, I’m puzzled as to what Lincoln did for British workers, even if the South had seceded, there would still be successful democracy in the North and I wonder if you feel the same way about King John and the signing of the Magna Carta, a signficant event in the development of the British parliamentary system :)

  44. Elizabeth

    MBruno, I share your sentiments fully! Ang Lee is so brilliant, so happy he was honored last evening. On a different and more unfortunate note, I too read about Yann Martel’s plagiarism from Jewish Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar, and Martel’s very insincere, at best, explanation / comments in regards to it. What most saddens me is a truly brilliant author, Moacyr Scliar, did not ever receive the recognition he so truly deserved. When I read about this in December before the holidays, I felt so terribly I tried to research a website or address for Mr. Scliar to write a letter, to express my admiration for him, and I then learned he had passed away in 2011. A sad reminder it can really be too late to honor truly great, brilliant artists such as Mr. Scliar who sacrificed so much to bring a measure of beauty and truth to the world through his life’s work as a writer.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/nov/08/bookerprize2002.awardsandprizes

    http://flcenterlitarts.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/lets-honor-brazilian-great-moacyr-scliar-by-reading-his-books/

  45. Bryce Forestieri

    Did you guys see how Mark Boal was probably the only person who didn’t give Ang Lee a standing ovation and remained seated. I had read that was an asshole and kind of a dick, but now it’s confirmed. Always has rubbed me the wrong way that guy…

  46. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    So I don’t get this idea that this was too American of a film.

    And yet somehow, The King’s Speech wasn’t too British and Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t too Indian. Funny how that works.

  47. That’s the point, those movies did have broad appeal beyond the obvious parochialism but I don’t think that Lincoln does.

    BTW I was as surprised as you sound about Slumdog Millionaire…

  48. Sorry, I believe Spielberg should have won both best director and best picture. I’m Canadian and Argo is a joke. Ang Lee is a good director, but he shouldnt have won this year. Oh yes, and the academy does not like Spielberg, that is pretty obvious.

  49. Sean Troutman

    Don’t forget that Johnny Belinda, in 1948, was nominated for 12 Oscars and won just one for Jane Wyman as Best Actress. The film had a nominee in all four categories and still lost Best Picture.

    Actor-Director Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet won Picture instead, but it did not win Best Director. That award went to John Huston for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The film was Huston’s only Best Director Oscar and the Academy never went all the way with one of his movies either.

    2012 is eerily similar to that, now that I think about it. Olivier was nominated for Director, unlike Affleck, but the fact that he’s an actor and a director is like the icing on the cake with this one.

    There were only five Best Picture nominees in 1948. One of them was The Red Shoes. A British film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger which was the only nominee shot in color that year. Since the film relies on music, I feel like we can compare this to Les Miserables because it wasn’t up for Director but won multiple Oscars.

    The last movie nominated was The Snake Pit starring Olivia de Havilland in a mental institution. It’s one of the most incredible mental illness-themed movies ever. It was nominated for Best Director for Anatole Litvak. That one is clearly Silver Linings.

    So if there were five Best Picture nominees this year, based on last night I’d say they would have looked like this:

    Argo
    Les Miserables
    Life of Pi
    Lincoln
    Silver Linings Playbook

    Notice that Zero Dark Thirty isn’t there. It won just one Oscar last night and it was a tie for Best Sound Editing. Back in 1948, this movie was Joan of Arc with Ingrid Bergman, who was nominated for Best Actress. It was directed by Victor Fleming, who won Best Picture and Best Director once before for Gone with the Wind. He was never nominated before that or after it. He’s Kathryn Bigelow, but 2009 is 1939. (That’s another discussion)

    If the 5-10 rule had been in effect in 1948, what would have the other nominees have been? Do they somehow match up with anything from 2012?

    Okay, to recap this is how the Best Picture line-ups match up so far:

    1948—————-2012
    Hamlet = Argo
    The Treasure of the Sierra Madre = Life of Pi
    Johnny Belinda = Lincoln
    The Red Shoes = Les Miserables
    The Snake Pit = Silver Linings Playbook
    Joan of Arc = Zero Dark Thirty
    ? = Amour
    ? = Beasts of the Southern Wild
    ? = Django Unchained

    The only Best Director nominee without a corresponding Best Picture nomination was Fred Zinnemann’s The Search. It starred Montgomery Clift trying to help a lost 9-year-old boy find his mother in post-World War II Berlin. Sounds like a movie that was also up for Best Director this year that’s not in the probable Five Best Picture nominee line up and that’s Beasts of the Southern Wild.

    One of the films nominated for Screenplay in 1948 was a Western called Red River. It starred John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. It was directed by the legendary Howard Hawks, a major influence on Quentin Tarantino. I think he made a Western this year too. Or a Southern.

    That leaves Amour. Does it correspond with anything from 1948? Well the best I can do is say that Monsieur Vincent was awarded Best Foreign Language Film that year and it’s in French.

    BONUS
    Key Largo is Skyfall.
    1948 Bogie = 2012 Bond.
    Maybe that “=” should be a >

    Everyone is welcome to figure out the rest, but it gets to be a stretch. Still, what we have is pretty cool anyway:

    1948—————2012
    Hamlet = Argo
    The Treasure of the Sierra Madre = Life of Pi
    Johnny Belinda = Lincoln
    The Red Shoes = Les Miserables
    The Snake Pit = Silver Linings Playbook
    Joan of Arc = Zero Dark Thirty
    The Search = Beasts of the Southern Wild
    Red River = Django Unchained
    Monsieur Vincent = Amour
    Key Largo = Skyfall

  50. rufussondheim

    I don’t see how the Iranians in Argo are any different than the Americans in Zero Dark Thirty. And I don’t know how anyone who watches Argo can have negative thoughts towards the Iranians portrayed in the film. You do realize the Americans were the bad guys in the film, right? And you do realize that our whacked perception of the whole affair causes us Americans to root for the Americans.

    Or maybe you just don’t understand the movie. And maybe that’s why you see it as some trite unsubstantive entertainment.

    And then, I’m guessing, you didn’t grasp that the whole “Hollywoodization” of the story, a story about Hollywood and its alliance with the propogandistic American Government, is kind of the whole point of the film.

    Affleck, a known hard left leaning political activist, is showing us that our perceptions of the American/Iranian relationship is completely out of whack and should be realligned. And that he’s personalizing the efforts of people like Tony Mendez showing that the whole thing is even more complicated than even people like Affleck originally thought.

    I’m serious, I don’t know how some of you miss all of this. It’s all there plain as day.

  51. So today Hollywood Reporter ran a story that some VFX people were annoyed that Ang Lee didn’t thank them in his acceptance speech. They were also annoyed at Claudio Miranda for not thanking them.

    Another person wrote that Lee was classless because he didn’t thank David Magee for his screenplay.

    (I thought it was interesting that Affleck singled out Spielberg and no other director in his acceptance speech.)

    I guess it was just a matter of a few hours to put Ang Lee in his place. Sad.

  52. The difference between a film winning BP without its director and a director winning without his film taking BP is obvious and indelible.

    History is much kinder to the director, the artist who is recognized for achievement despite whatever qualms people may have had over the film.

    The rudderless Best Picture, however, is remembered for being a fun night out, but is quickly relegated to a faded entry in an address book or the bottom of the contact list, depending on your generation. That was great; we should do it again sometime.

  53. Nin,
    If you’re trying say that Lincoln is not ‘one of the world’s most revered figures’
    You’re going to lose the argument. You’re trying to suggest that Americans have this jingoistic love for the man. He was a leader who personified strong, moral leadership and if you don’t see how oppressed people everywhere would relate to that..then frankly, you come across as really young and uninformed. Just as Ghandi is a symbol of peaceful resistance ..Lincoln is a world icon and inspiration. If your history books don’t teach you about his relevance…find out about it on your own. People who know history – whatever their nationality will know that.

  54. Alexander

    Nin, the foreign take for Lincoln isn’t anything to sneeze at:

    $66,200,000 in approximately only one month of release in most of the “foreign” countries, and in many instances, in only a couple of weeks of release. That makes up a rather sizable 27.0% of its entire total take if we throw the foreign take into a pot with the American box office take.

  55. Pierre de Plume

    You do realize the Americans were the bad guys in [Argo], right? And you do realize that our whacked perception of the whole affair causes us Americans to root for the Americans.

    That’s the disconnect of Argo. The first sequence spends time demonstrating why Iranians would be angry at the Americans. Then, suddenly, the film cuts to the heroic efforts of the Americans – with Canadians going along for the ride. Any complexities that Affleck is “showing” the viewer are accidental on his part, I believe, and merely exist in the minds of people who went into the film with a better understanding of history than what is displayed in the film.

  56. Vitamin168

    Just saw a report on how Ang Lee’s comment on the concept of “Best Picture”, he said ”The Best Picture requires so many things. Is it necessarily the best picture artistically, I don’t know. It’s just most people, they feel like it’s the most beloved movie this year by our industry.”. He is absolutely right in this regard. In my opinion, both Lincoln and Life of Pi are definitively more artistic than Argo. They will age better and no doubt be remembered as great achievements from two genius directors by future generation.

  57. Only, Ang Lee won just because Affleck wasn’t nominated. Probably in a deeply split vote with all 5 in the race, with Lee probably getting 5% more votes than the next one. I don’t think that Academy was thinking “gee, if I vote Lee, maybe I should vote for Life of Pi instead of Argo, it’s better”. It was: OK, he’s legit, I don’t like Lincoln.

  58. Just want to say, in response to the poster who said Lincoln has no resonance outside of America, that as a non-American I thought it was superb. Disappointed it didn’t win. Argo on the other hand is a pile of b.s., veering between right-wing, jingoistic p.o.v. and a depressingly conventional filmmaking style. Had Chris Terrio ever even been to Iran? Cos it never felt like he had any sense of the texture of the place, whereas Tony Kushner’s Lincoln script seemed to be completely immersed in its place and time.

  59. A day after the oscars and this comes to news. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/feb/26/senate-zero-dark-thirty-inquiry
    Zero Dark Thirty desrved to win.

  60. Vitamin168

    Probably in US culture, only going for extreme gets followers and enemies. There will be nothing in the middle. No, Lincoln is not boring, it is a serious film to entertain the mind of serious people; just looking at how well it is received in US box office, it is then good to know that even with a complex, sincere, and serious works from a renowned director, there is a large pool of people who really enjoys the film. And, no, Argo is not a pile of b.s., it is a very good story which is beloved by the industry this year and wins BP. I just think there are so many ways to celebrate the achievement from these great films. No need to tear each other up. I appreciate all the them.

  61. SallyinChicago

    Just curious HAD AFFLECK BEEN NOM’D FOR DIRECTOR, do you think the outcome would have been BP Life of PI and BEST Director Ang Lee? I think so.

  62. The ad voters did a much better job than the academy proving Hollywood is the worst judge of their own industry.

  63. Sasha, to call Ang and Steven “losers” is a bit insulting not only to the hundreds of brilliant directors who will never be recognized with an academy award for their work… but to Ang and Steven too. Shall we compare the box office returns of Steven Spielberg and say, David Gordon Green, Terrence Mallick, Julian Schnabel, yada, yada, yada? Spielberg and Lee are wildly successful beyond and have more money than all of your readers combined times ten (at least), and will never ever have to worry about finding their next job.

    If we want to talk about “losers” why don’t we talk about the VFX artists from Life of Pi who are being laid off? Ang Lee (Mr. Loser) not only did not thank them, but wants to make it cheaper to employ their skills. When his VFX artists won on Sunday, he was cut off before he could say anything about the lay offs. They are the “losers” in all of this, not the filthy rich, wildly successful two-time Oscar winners. I get that you are upset that Lincoln and Spielberg didn’t win best picture… get over it.

  64. rufussondheim

    Pierre de Plume, I’ve seen Affleck on many political discussion shows and he’s clearly very educated and intelligent about matters of foreign policy and American involvement in the past and present in other country’s affairs. He clearly studies this stuff. Therefore I don’t think my take on the film is accidental.

    The vast majority of our current foreign policy problems are caused by our government being too pro-business in the past. in the 1950’s through the 1980’s and to some extent even today, our government’s motto has been “Making the world safe for American Capitalism” and that’s caused numerous problems for us. And too often our solutions to those problems cause even bigger problems.

    Argo doesn’t get that deeply into the affairs, but it begins to touch on those issues, and judging from some of Affleck’s comments post-Argo, he plans on exploring them in future films. Personally, I’m very excited.

  65. Pierre de Plume

    rufussondheim, Affleck may very well be educated on the subjects you mention. All I’m saying is that, even though some of that stuff showed up at the beginning of Argo, it jarred me to see that juxtaposed with a “jump cut” to the Americans being the good guys. To me it was something of a cop-out. I enjoyed the film well enough from an entertainment standpoint, the quick change and missing stuff served to glaringly emphasize the irony of the USA’s position in the world without attempting to explain it at all. It was the easy way out.

  66. To go along with what Pierre de Plume just posted:

    I, too, am well aware that Ben Affleck is liberal-left, and I applaud him for that. I have also seen him in TV interviews – including RealTime with Bill Maher – although I didn’t come away thinking his was a particularly serious intellect. And I must say that I didn’t see his liberal-left leanings reflected anywhere in the film. (Okay, maybe at the very beginning, but since I’d forgotten about that until reminded of it here, probably most everyone else has forgotten about that little bit, too.) Anyone who saw Argo as multi-layered or ambiguous was reading into it things that just weren’t there. And if Ben Affleck intended to make the film more ambiguous, or complex, or insightful, he didn’t succeed. To me, it was just a fluffy adventure story. Highly entertaining, but fluffy.

  67. People can say Argo was not as well made as many other films this year but the fact is it’s one of the most important. Affleck’s character, like Lincoln, did something incredibly brave and good without having to pick up a gun. Only two bullets were fired in the whole movie and one was at a glass door. The other was at an Iranian citizen by an authority and it had a purpose, it gave the housemaid fear. The story could have easily been altered to no end for “dramatization” and there would’ve been shootouts and more dead bodies but Affleck was more concerned with words, tension and the possibility that a powder keg can explode around the “film team” at any moment. I was happy Ang Lee won best director as he very much deserves it and Argo wasn’t my favorite film of the year, but throughout the season with all the accolades and some of the hate it got some forgot how important it really is. Good for him.

  68. Haneke and Zeitlin would have been better and brave decisions for the Academy. Ang Lee is the safe harbor especially in this political climate of the oscar ceremony.

  69. I haven’t posted yet here about my overall reaction to the Oscars. I was SO HAPPY Ang Lee won Best Director—by far my favorite moment of the night. I was crying, my family was crying. He is the MAN! And his wife is hilarious! LOL If I ever had the chance to work for a Hollywood director, he would be up there for me. I can’t think of ANYONE as versatile, as passionate, and as humble and accessible.

    Thank the lord Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated! Although I might have traded off one or two of the directing nominees (not being happy with the blatant sexism that precluded Kathryn Bigelow from earning a nomination), I am thrilled with the Director’s Branch’s decision to exclude him. I liked Argo (how can you not?), but as any intelligent filmmaker or cinephile will tell you, his work certainly does not compare to Ang Lee’s role as the driving visionary force behind Life of Pi. His love is there in every frame, from opening credits to that magnificent ending. Affleck’s film had no real voice; yes, it balanced tone very effectively and built tension nicely (though heavily contrived in mechanism and inaccurate…interesting how of all the “true story” films this was kept relatively low), but the overall style was absolutely derivative. It will NOT hold up as a particularly strong Best Picture winner, having beaten Lincoln, Life of Pi, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild (***WHY THE HELL WASN’T BENH ZEITLIN MENTIONED AT ALL AT THE OSCARS??? COME ON, WHAT A STORY: from Sundance to the Academy Awards, and NOT ONCE was he celebrated for his work and nominations. Very disappointed!!), and of course the best film this year Zero Dark Thirty. I was also a little irritated that Ben Affleck only acknowledged Steven Spielberg in his speech as a “genius,” someone who turned in a very good film but hasn’t shown expert direction and directing choices in many many years. To be singled out by Affleck must’ve been hilarious for Spielberg, after being attacked by the Argo campaign for weeks, and the representative from Connecticut business LOL. That was Affleck’s chance to appreciate Lee and he remained bitter. And what about the other amazing directors who weren’t nominated? Bigelow, for instance, who directed the hell out of Zero Dark Thirty. It was amazing to see her so happy that Ang Lee won, extending her hand out to him. Did you catch that?? What a gesture between two great directors at the top of their game. As a true, uncompromising visionary auteur who has authored challenging projects and not once catered herself to the “system” and to box office (as some might argue Spielberg has done for his entire career), she knows who was worthy of the Best Director prize—not Affleck and not Spielberg.

    Ang Lee gave by far the more inspired, more intellectual, and more director-driven work. What an amazing filmmaker, and so tremendously humble too (unlike many many many people in Hollywood)!!! I loved hearing Lee speak in his Oscar press conference about “the many things” a Best Picture winner needs, and how that film doesn’t mean it’s the most artistic or the “best,” but just the most beloved in this fleeting moment. Lee is a true talent, and he doesn’t need a Best Picture winner to back it up. Maybe he’ll get it one day, hopefully…but after the entire slog of the awards season, I’m particularly encouraged that Lee’s work stood out, was honored, and was showcased by an incredibly classy 20th Century Fox Oscar campaign. They didn’t get frazzled when others were doing cheap stunts for attention and were getting more press. There was no need to bring in a president to introduce the movie and remind everyone how “important” it is (Lincoln — and Dreamworks’ terrible terrible positioning of the film) OR run an Affleck pity agenda and a smear campaign against a rival film that in all areas surpassed yours (Argo with regard to Zero Dark Thirty) OR unleash an endless publicity blitz about how “personal” your film is and how Robert DeNiro hasn’t won in 30 years blah blah blah (Silver Linings). Fox showed how an Oscar campaign should work. Ang Lee was one of the most deserving winners, and I can proudly say I strongly believe that it was one of the few categories the Academy got absolutely right on Sunday night.

  70. Why was my post deleted?

    I was merely questioning the pity party for Speilberg when he had won 2 BDs and one BP when plenty of great directors such as PT Anderson, Jane Campion, Darren Aronofsky and Alejandro Gonzalez inarritu have made great film after great film and never won one of either?

  71. poor Mr Spielberg, only 2 Oscars for BD, only one BP

    …. there are plenty of great directors such as PT Anderson, Jane Campion, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Darren Aronofsky, that have made great film after great film and never won either award.

    In any category, every year, great performances and achievements are not recognised. Why all this angst about Spielberg who has received plenty of recognition already?

  72. @KT, what do you want Affleck to do? Bow to Spielberg on stage? Dedicate an entire speech to him and leave out all the hardworking people who helped shape the film that it is? You don’t have to like Argo or Affleck but that was being a bit nitpicky. He acknoledged one of the greatest filmmakers living today by calling him a genius and that’s not enough huh? As always he was heartfelt and humble.

    I liked that Argo won but I, too, wanted ZD30 to win more than anything. I don’t believe it was sexism that kept Bigelow (winner 3 years ago) out of the nominees. 3 years ago they could have given the top awards to the biggest moneymaker of all time, the film that reinvented 3D and the man who made Titanic yet they went with little old Hurt Locker (a fine choice). Like Affleck’s snub, I feel there might’ve been a glitch. How else to explain Tarantino’s and Hooper’s exclusion? I do feel the Academy can be a bit sexist, and I feel they REALLY fucked up not naming Bigelow one of the 5 nominees, but come on. This is cherry picking the wind.

  73. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Why was my post deleted?

    three words that irritate the hell out of us, Andrew

    so those 3 words are gone now and your comment isn’t deleted. email me if you forgot what the words were.

    it’s not a big deal — but it’s not the a phrase we enjoy seeing first thing in the morning

  74. I think you missed my point. My thing with Affleck mentioning Spielberg is that he shouldn’t have singled out just one person when there was an abundance of great work this year. I think I made that clear—and his mention was especially funny, since I’m sure Spielberg knows how much the Argo campaign has done to try to lessen the accomplishment of Lincoln. Rep. Tom Courtenay was the perfect example we all know, with his ties to Affleck. It’s also rather funny that the Senate Inquiry into Zero Dark Thirty was just dropped today, right after the Oscars…. How phony all these people are is just hilarious, acknowledging the people and shaking their hands before they go onstage, after disparaging their work for months. Many believe the Argo campaign was one leading the smears against ZDT, especially when all of the critic’s reviews said it blew Argo out of the water.

    Sexism was definitely part of the Bigelow snub, in addition to the controversy. This was discussed at length back in January. Bigelow simply showed them up, and she’s a threat to the system.

  75. @KT, okay I may not agree with what you’re saying about Affleck’s speech but I think I know where you’re coming from if that makes sense. It’s all a matter of perception. But think about this, Affleck didn’t grow up watching films made by Haneke, O. Russell, Zeitlin or maybe Ang Lee. That’s not to say they’re not talented but he most definitely grew up watching Spielberg’s films. If his one thought, before thanking everyone else involved, was to thank the man he grew up on then I don’t see what’s wrong with singling him out. Hell, if I won an Oscar for director and Paul Thomas Anderson hadn’t made a film in 3 years chances are I’d thank him for shaping the way I’d make and/or perceive films.

    When it comes to Bigelow it was probably more of the controversy or probably not. It’s not like they threw in Hooper or James Cameron. The names were Zeitlin and Haneke, those picks are obviously passion picks. A foreign film and a Sundance darling. Sexism would have Cameron waving Oscars in his ex-wife’s face 3 years ago. Sexism would keep ZD30, a film directed by a great female filmmaker, out of the best picture lineup. That’s like saying Denzel didn’t win best actor so now they’re all racist because of that. False. Some of the Academy could be, and some very well are, sexist and racist but it’s allllllll too easy to say this or that left Bigelow out in the dust. I hope you realize that the Academy isn’t comprised of 3 white men in a room and saying, “MEH no to her, she’s a woman and she makes a good movie so leave her off RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE!” There are many members who vote for who they want to vote for. For all we know Bigelow was #6, does that still make them sexist?

  76. Yes, definitely valid points. I do think sexism played a role, though. There were op-eds written among the pro-torture statements about what Kathryn Bigelow represented, coming back to the Oscar race with a film that surpassed the Hurt Locker and how people might react, saying oh we just gave it to her, she has some nerve coming back so soon. You should check them out—Sasha and Tom O’Neill spent time discussing this in their podcasts. I also think it would be remiss of me not to remind you that James Cameron backlash heavily played into The Hurt Locker year. He is not well liked in Hollywood and his self-absorbed attitude definitely galvanized voters.

    ——

    I want to post one more thing on Ang Lee before I leave the Oscars behind me. I really need to do that, since I’ve spent so much time this year watching the films and writing about them online. I chose Ang Lee for the Thanksgiving “who are you thankful for” post back in November. And after seeing Life of Pi again last week (how can you not see this multiple times? it will never be the same on a small screen) and writing about my feelings, I am very happy to see Ang get a standing ovation and so much love from his peers at the Oscars. I was fearing he would be overlooked, and I’m so glad they got this right. It had been many years since I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon when I decided recently to it down and see it. I was astounded by how emotional it was for me. There’s a shot when Michelle Yeoh rides into Beijing where the camera tilts upward to reveal the vast city, and it reminded me how special the experience would be. And it certainly was. I absolutely love the bamboo forest scene, especially how Mu Bai and Jen pass each other along the bending tree. Lee and his cinematographer capture their faces, and its a magical moment in the film. The sojourn in the desert, the legend of Wudan Mountain, the final scene between the lead characters as they finally give in to emotion…this is a powerful film that could be only told by one person.

    Life of Pi is the same, the product of a singular director. It’s amazing to think one director could have made these two films. Or maybe they are more similar than we think. Both are love stories, both are about moving on and leaving an old life behind, both are personal journeys of realization and self-discovery, both touch on cultural differences, and both are about storytelling. Ang’s love permeates every shot of the film. The gorgeous sunrise scene is one of my favorites, when Pi first begins writing, a moment in which Ang hoped to capture what is “divine.” It always has me completely in awe of his vision, the perfect blending of framing and CGI visual effects, color and Mychael Danna’s choral music. Another part of the film that particularly resonated with me was the shot when Pi descends under the water and is held suspended in front of us—3-D masterfully employed—as the ghostly ship and his life as he knows it fade away in the darkness of the deep. And of course, there is Richard Parker, one of the most spectacularly rendered CGI characters ever created. How about his dramatic entrance down the dark zoo corridor, the close-ups of his expressive and very real face, the tiger struggling to get back in the boat as Pi looks down on him, the dream that begins with Pi’s face and ends with Richard Parker’s?? There’s also the second storm when Richard Parker is thrown around in the lifeboat and ends in Pi’s lap, the closest the two of them ever get to each other physically; I would argue the dream sequence shows a closer, more personal connection between man and beast, that we are all connected as the wuxia warriors practice and live in Crouching Tiger. This glorious use of 3-D is the most accomplished I have ever seen in a film—and where movies like Avatar (which resurrected 3-D) and Hugo use the medium to create worlds—Life of Pi taps into a different dimension. We feel like we are with Pi on the boat alone in the Pacific, and the many layers of meaning Lee parses would not translate with the added quality of 3-D. The ending, where Pi is layered with Richard Parker in the editing before the final shot, is incredibly powerful. Then, we see the tiger enter the jungle as all color drains from the image and Ang uses a Vertigo shot to end Pi’s story.

    I have a love-hate relationship with the Oscars. Sometimes I think back on the years truly great films won, some of my favorites like Silence of the Lambs, The Hurt Locker, and the staggering achievement that is Lord of the Rings. I can’t believe how fortunate those films and their makers were to be recognized, since if you follow this monkey business for many years you see all of the work that is overlooked and passed over. As Steven Spielberg said when he was snubbed for a director nomination for Jaws: “Everybody loves a winner, but nobody loves a WINNER.” During this year’s telecast, the brief clip shown of Life of Pi reminded me of why I loved the film so much; the music playing for every win was magical; and of course the tremendous reception when Ang got onstage. I’ll never forget that gesture Kathryn Bigelow made to him, a sign of great respect between two of my favorite directors, and I’m glad that among the many mistakes and misjudgments made they got something right. Ang Lee is a filmmaker for the world and his humility and passion have earned him the admiration of many people…so happy that he got some love from Oscar after giving us so much himself.

  77. KT I get where you’re coming from with the Zero Dark Thirty nontroversy. But it’s like, a total coincidence that the Senate dropped the inquiry when the Oscars were done! And the Republicans are going to suddenly work with Obama in actually running the country.

    Stop laughing that’s all true!

    And no sexism is not the sole reason for ZDT’s fall, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it’s a long time before another woman gets the Best Director award. And it won’t be for a lack of talented women filmmakers either. Like non white directors they are out there, they just need some recognition.

  78. Astarisborn

    KT, I loved what you’ve post about Ang Lee and Life of Pi. I think all of us who loved the movie connects perfectly with your words of praise.

  79. linda gray

    Lincoln didn’t win best picture but it will live on as the quintessential movie
    about Abraham Lincoln. Bravo, Steven Spielberg and Daniel -Day Lewis!

  80. “Ang Lee (Mr. Loser) not only did not thank them, but wants to make it cheaper to employ their skills.”

    Ang Lee has already expressed in print that he sympathizes with the VFX artists and their situation. When he made the comment about wishing special effects were cheaper he was answering a question about whether he would work in 3-D again. And because he knows he would need a huge budget, which he is not necessarily going to get, he was stating a fact that special effects are expensive. Suddenly he is a bad guy after giving employment to special effects artists and talking about the work over and over in videos etc.

  81. rufussondheim

    If anything Ang Lee might have helped the FX industry, showing us uses for their skills that no one ever has before. I can’t imagine Life of Pi not inspiring other filmmakers.

  82. Pierre de Plume

    The story [of Argo] could have easily been altered to no end for “dramatization”

    Well, Argo came 10% from being altered to no end: According to Jimmy Carter and the Canadian ambassador at the time, 90% of it was made up. But I do appreciate your point, Kane, about the shoot-em-up stuff.

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