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The State of the Race: Searching for Soderbergh — Baby Let Me Follow You Down

crouching tiger

“There are a lot of people to thank. Rather than thank some of them publicly, I think I’ll thank all of them privately. What I want to say is — I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don’t care if it’s a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music… Anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. I think this world would be unliveable without art, and I thank you. That includes the Academy. That includes my fellow nominees here tonight. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for this.” — Soderbergh’s Oscar speech

As we clatter three-wheeled but determined towards the bitter end, it’s a good time to remember how little these silly contests really mean. A twitterer said yesterday “awards experts saying the awards don’t mean anything.” It got retweeted. And those who have removed themselves from the clusterfuck get to do that. They blame us for turning it into a circus. And after this year we can probably safely say they’re right.

When I first started this 14-year odyssey there were mostly no other Oscar sites. There was Gold Derby but it was primarily just a gathering of a few critics who would predict the Oscars. No one really monitored the Oscar race year round. I was the first to do that back in 1999. There were Oscar sites that came to life when FYC season heated up, and every newspaper and magazine had their own Oscar coverage. But what I did was unique: I looked at the race from the beginning of the year to the end in hopes of cracking the Oscar code of why certain films won and why others didn’t.

My objective at first was to just watch it happen and report on it. Oh, the things I’ve seen in the years since. Sites bloomed around me and pretty soon it seemed everyone was watching the Oscar race. It turned into its own industry, where low budget films could find an opening to break through, where advocacy led to more inclusion and less exclusion. Or at least it seemed it would go that way. Advocacy is an arrogant approach to the Oscars but a common one that’s been around as long as the Oscars have existed.

I always figured if I could point to Oscar history, point out the rave reviews and perhaps the box office, if I could guide voters towards the movies that “deserved” to win they would naturally vote that way. As if. It seems silly to have ever believed that. I am not sure I ever believed it but that didn’t stop me then, and it doesn’t stop me now, from doing it anyway. It goes down on record regardless. Because to fall for the trick that winners get their deserved riches with a film award is to buy into a system that also continually rejects deserving films as ‘losers.’ You can’t believe that one means something and not the other. But it’s a trap, isn’t it?

In many ways I am right back where I started, even with Ang Lee in the race again. That first year Gladiator faced off Traffic, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Erin Brockovich. It has all come full circle because once again a film is winning without a director attached and once again it’s a popular choice and once again we have no idea whose name will be read when they open the Best Director envelope. And once again there is an inexplicable Weinstein Co. entry, and that year it was Chocolat — which, compared to the way women are depicted in films today, seems practically like a revelation in retrospect.

That year, Chocolat took the place of Almost Famous. But I bet under the new system, which allows more than five, Almost Famous would have gotten in. We would never have known whether Cameron Crowe being left off was a “snub” or not. Would we have assumed it? Would it have mattered?

That year I predicted Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to win. Ang Lee had won the DGA that year for his breathtaking wire-fu masterpiece. Silly me, I actually thought a film with subtitles had a chance. Gladiator had won the PGA and Traffic had won the SAG ensemble. The WGA went for Traffic and You Can Count on Me. But Almost Famous would win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a lot of that, I think, did have to do with the outcry that it had been left out of the top two categories. After all, it is the only movie to date that Roger Ebert said he wanted to hug himself after seeing.

I remember that year like it was yesterday, and maybe that’s because Ang Lee is back again with yet another masterpiece. It joins the other masterpiece of this year, Lincoln — the breathtaking, masterful accomplishment by Spielberg. Both of them are the masterclass and I hope they have many more films in them. Winning the Oscar won’t transform them into greater masters. It doesn’t mean they’re better because they get a consensus vote; it simply means the consensus has good taste. You would never want Paul Thomas Anderson or Quentin Tarantino to make the kinds of movies that get a consensus vote. They would lose everything about them that we love.

Gladiator, of course, like Lincoln, had 12 nominations, and topped the box office — two major selling points back then. This year is maybe only the second or third time in 85 years that a film with 12 nominations might go home with only one Oscar. No film with 12+ has ever gone home with no Oscars. I did not think Gladiator was a good movie, certainly not as good as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Traffic. But it was the popular, unstoppable choice and the public’s favorite. More importantly, it hit solidly with the straight, white male demographic and they control the awards race now more than ever.

What 2012 has in common with 2000 is that there are not just two films competing for the big prize, there are several. If you deep-sixed Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook you could have a two-way contest between Argo and Lincoln. With a preferential ballot, or a weighted ballot, Argo has come out the presumed winner. Whether that’s to do with people “just liking” that movie or better, or the “Affleck snub” or his being a stunningly good-looking and likable person in the race, or a combo of all three, similar perfect storms have resulted in a majority vote time and time again.

I went to the wayback machine to see what I could find out about that year. Because I didn’t use blog software then it is easily archived. Once I switched over to the blog format years of material stopped being archived. But in March, before the Oscars, this is how the contender tracker looked:

Screen-Shot-2013-02-11-at-7.58

Screen-Shot-2013-02-11-at-7.59

The Oscars resulted in surprise wins in actor (Russell Crowe), supporting actress (Marcia Gay Harden) and director (Steven Soderbergh). But that was because there was a lot of time to contemplate the buzz and the hype. People started to ruminate on what and who should really win. Since Soderbergh had been nominated for two films, and he kept splitting them up, voters decided to contact each other and align behind one. They picked Traffic, and that movie collected Director, Screenplay, Editing and Supporting Actor. But Ang Lee went home empty handed. He would win again for Brokeback Mountain in 2005, but Picture would go elsewhere. Ang Lee has yet to win for both Picture AND Director.

All of these years later, I look at the explosion of the race around me, all of the sites, all of the pundits and all of the guilds and I feel like Soderbergh must feel: it has all changed so much I don’t even recognize it anymore. The only thing that really seems to matter at all is that these films are being made and people are buying tickets to see them. What happens inside the sticky walls of Hollywood is really just a game. Yes, here’s a so-called “awards expert” saying that the awards don’t matter.

But this year, I was especially alarmed to discover that now, the giant guilds really do dictate how the Academy votes. Since 2009, when they upped the count from five to ten, the PGA and DGA have created uniformity in awards voting, so much so that, as you can see from this year, there is no wiggle room for anything else or any other choice. It’s really a strange thing to see and it won’t serve the Academy very well, I don’t think. Oh, maybe the studios, the publicists and the bloggers who scrambled around eventually like flies until they found their sticky paper in Argo. Perhaps we are all served well by the money we make off of all of it. But what does it really mean in the end? One team played the game better than the other? Uniformity of choice defines greatness?

Every year around this time most people who are following the awards race become disgusted by it. They then turn on the awards bloggers, people like myself, for turning it into a mud wrestle. There is nothing great or noble about what I do. I can’t say after 14 years I’ve made any difference at all. If a concerted effort is in force from the beginning of the year to bring down something as well intentioned, elegant and moving as Lincoln, if making that movie was a bad thing, if a movie that good doesn’t get rewarded for its efforts what is the point of handing out awards at all?

At the end of the day, all of the films in the lineup are good, even some of them great. No matter what wins it won’t be a bad choice. There is something to be said for that, I suppose.

And I have to say that when I think about walking away from this endless dog chasing its own tail that is the awards race I think about you readers. I think about how much you love coming here. I think about a letter I once got the night Brokeback Mountain lost and how a young man was considering suicide because he felt that when the Academy rejected Brokeback Mountain it somehow rejected him as a valid member of our community. But Crash was the “popular” choice too and voters then, like voters now, never want to be told what they “should” vote for. Just like on Facebook people hate it when you tell them to “like” your status. I couldn’t make them vote for Brokeback Mountain, tried though I did. But I could make a reader better complaining about it.

With every meaningless awards year that passes, there have been letters and comments and shared experiences with you readers from all over the world. I just want you all to know that I think the awards race is meaningless when the best film doesn’t win — but the one part of it that isn’t meaningless is our shared experience. Our relationship to each other, and to those who are close to us in life, is all that really matters. I promise.

If the Oscars aren’t going to be treated like the Pulitzer or the Nobel prize where many things are taken into consideration beyond checking off the “like” box on Facebook then we have no choice but to treat them like a horse race, whether that “bothers” film critics or not. Let’s never forget that a consensus vote is a popularity contest. It means nothing more or less than that. So yes, Vertigo never won an Oscar. Citizen Kane didn’t win Best Picture and Bob Dylan is still the greatest songwriter who ever lived whether he’s won Grammys for them or not (he’s won 11). At the end of the day, the films make the voters look good, not the other way around.

And you readers make me look good. Not the other way around. I wanted to take time out to thank you for the kind and inspiring comments over the past month. It means more to me than you know that you still care about “this,” because you make me care enough to want to keep writing every day. That’s not nothing.

The pundits this year have been flopping around like spawning salmon trying to find their “anything but Lincoln” choice all year. It was Argo, then it was Silver Linings Playbook, then it was Les Mis, then it was Zero Dark Thirty, then it was maybe Lincoln? Nope, not Lincoln, back to Argo. But the numbers still back the Picture/Director union so I have no choice but to follow the numbers, not the buzz, not the pundits. I will, as I always do, offer a companion predictions list of “Awards Daily’s Most Likely” and for that I would predict Argo.

Remember, Ang Lee won the DGA for Crouching Tiger yet people were still predicting Gladitor, the PGA winner, to take it.

My own predictions

Best Picture
Lincoln
alt. Argo

Best Director
Steven Spielberg
alt. Ang Lee or Benh Zeitlin

Best Actress
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
alt. Jennifer Lawrence

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Alt. Joaquin Phoenix

Supporting Actor
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
alt. Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln (if Lincoln doesn’t win BP)

Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
alt. Sally Field, Lincoln

Best Original Screenplay
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Alt. Michale Haneke, Amour

Best Adapted Screenplay
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
alt. Chris Terrio, Argo

Best Editing
Argo
alt. Zero Dark Thirty

Best Cinematography
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
alt. Roger Deakins, Skyfall

Foreign Language
Amour

Art Direction
Lincoln
alt. Life of Pi

Score
Life of Pi
alt. Argo

Sound
Les Miserables
alt. Skyfall

Sound Editing
Argo
alt. Skyfall

Visual Effects
Life of Pi
alt. Avengers

Costumes
Anna Karenina
alt. Lincoln

Makeup
Les Miserables

Animated Feature
Brave
alt. Wreck-it Ralph

Documentary
Searching for Sugarman
alt. The Invisible War

Doc Short
Incocente
alt. Mondays at Racine

Live Action Short
Buzhazi Boys
Alt. Curfew

Animated Short
Paperman
Alt. Adam and Dog

Song
Skyfall

Shocked, Shocked that Negative Campaigning is Going on Here!

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Special Edition 85th Oscar Posters

73 Comments

  1. kasper
    February 11, 2013

    I can’t believe it’s been 14 years since I first found Oscarwatch. Thank you thank you thank you thank you!

  2. Aaron B
    February 11, 2013

    Man, would that be amazing to see Ben Z win director. I would love that.
    Also, I hadn’t been watching the Oscars yet when Soderbergh won (Traffic is now one of my favorites, though) but that’s a fantastic speech.

  3. February 11, 2013

    I would be very happy if The Oscars resulted in surprise wins in actor (Hoffman or Arkin), supporting actress (Hunt) and director (Lee).
    By the way, at this point, Lee wound’t be a surprise anymore…

  4. Fabinho Flapp
    February 11, 2013

    And Phoenix, The Great, in Leading Actor, sure…

  5. rufussondheim
    February 11, 2013

    To call Bob Dylan the best songwriter ever is kind of sacrilege. We all know the best songwriter ever is clearly Stephen Sondheim.

  6. Fabinho Flapp
    February 11, 2013

    Dylan and Soundheim are great.
    But I preffer Porter and McCartney. :)

  7. Johnoliver46
    February 11, 2013

    It’s been a great year for film, and that’s why I think people are all over the place with predictions and choices.
    I think this is going to be the most suspenseful Oscar ceremony we’ve had in years, because the way I see it, in the top 8 categories there are only 2 locks-Daniel Day Lewis and Anne Hathaway, everything else is up for grabs. So you guys should be happy since for years we’ve been complaining that the awards were too predictable and boring.

  8. Daveylow
    February 11, 2013

    I think the problem now is that there are just too many award ceremonies before the Oscars. It seems to take away from looking forward to the Oscars themselves. This year the double whammy of the Critics Choice and Golden Globes, two award competitions I find kind of meaningless, somehow made the race terribly predictable all of a sudden.

    I was kind of shocked that Argo won the top BAFTA awards last night. They used to know better. Now they just want to mimic the Oscars, which is kind of pointless. Though they always do manage to throw in a weird surprise, like giving adapted screenplay to SLP last night.

  9. February 11, 2013

    As weak as the Oscars get at times, they’re the Medal of Honor compared to the Pulitzer Prizes. Twice, the Pulitzer board pulled their fiction prize rather than award it to a difficult work (first, Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, then for David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King.)

  10. daveinprogress
    February 11, 2013

    Thank you Sasha for another great state of the race essay. The point of difference that you provide is that you wear your heart on your sleeve. You pull no punches and you have a distinct voice in this increasingly bland landscape of gossip dressed up as journalism. You wearing your heart on your sleeve makes you a target, but it takes determination and great courage (and lots of hard work) to remain standing and still have an impassioned view on a clearly flawed process. Does anybody honestly think the Academy Awards is a fair and definitive bestowing of greatness. But it is history, and it is the biggest prize, love it or hate it. And it is a mirror for those of us who eternally love movies and the discourse that is ellicited from the still wondrous process of watching those perimeter lights slowly dim in the cinema and as the body finds its groove in the chair, and the mind and senses begin to open and take in what is being presented on the screen,and being transformed by the ideas or the visuals or the feelings. Greatness is in the eye of the beholder.

    This may sound pompous, but growing up watching the Oscars in the 70′s and ever since, I held them up to be the most lofty of prizes and whomever was adorned, WAS the best! They had to be. I have come to see the Academy Awards as that ‘childish thing’ that i choose to never fully let go of. I sense that many folk, especially on this site (the lucid and eloquent ones) have outgrown the Academy.

    Through my life’s twists and turns – loss, grief, cancer, I still look to and love movies and the Oscars, but i no longer think that those wonderful ‘men in their flying machines’ (AMPAS luminaries) are any better judges of art or meaning than a humble soul like myself. In fact, I validate my choices and don’t need THEM to tell me of the greatness of a performance or of a storyteller. I know the power of a Michael Fassbender, Michael Shannon or Tilda Swinton turn, even if they don’t. I can see through the flimsiness of The Artist or Silver Linings Playbook, even if they can’t.

    Keep fronting up Sasha. There is a huge support and audience for that voice with a point of difference. Taking the road less travelled can be an extremely rewarding and meaningful trip. There are a lot of souls like the one that wrote to you after Brokeback. The mirror is a poweful one. That is where the richness lies.

  11. Koleś
    February 11, 2013

    “the way I see it, in the top 8 categories there are only 2 locks-Daniel Day Lewis and Anne Hathaway, everything else is up for grabs. So you guys should be happy since for years we’ve been complaining that the awards were too predictable and boring.”

    I agree that this is the most unpredictale season we had in… well … allways :). But when it comes to locks you forgot about “Amour” winning best foreign and “Life of Pi” winnig VFX. The rest is up for grabs.

  12. rufussondheim
    February 11, 2013

    What I love about Sondheim is his ability to use wordplay in meaningful and substantive ways. Anyone can write “Time Passes Quickly” but no one else can write “It’s a very short road from the pinch and the punch to the porch and the paunch and the pension.”

    And no one else can write what appears to be a throwaway line tucked in the secondary vocal of a climactic song “Look at all you gave to me, let me give to you something in return. I would be so pleased.”

    And would anyone else write a love song sung from assassin wannabees toJodie Foster and Charles Manson that’s simultaneously beautiful and completely disturbing?

  13. Scott
    February 11, 2013

    It’s gotta be Joni Mitchell. Read any lyric from Hejira.

  14. rufussondheim
    February 11, 2013

    I wouldn’t count Amour as a lock just yet. Foreign Language Film is one of the categories that annually provides us with suspense simply because they’ve ignored the frontrunner numerous times.

  15. Scott
    February 11, 2013

    Amelia by Joni Mitchell

    I was driving across the burning desert
    When I spotted six jet planes
    Leaving six white vapor trails across the bleak terrain
    It was the hexagram of the heavens
    It was the strings of my guitar
    Amelia, it was just a false alarm

    The drone of flying engines
    Is a song so wild and blue
    It scrambles time and seasons if it gets thru to you
    Then your life becomes a travelogue
    Of picture-post-card-charms
    Amelia, it was just a false alarm

    People will tell you where they’ve gone
    They’ll tell you where to go
    But till you get there yourself you never really know
    Where some have found their paradise
    Other’s just come to harm
    Oh Amelia, it was just a false alarm

    I wish that he was here tonight
    It’s so hard to obey
    His sad request of me to kindly stay away
    So this is how I hide the hurt
    As the road leads cursed and charmed
    I tell Amelia, it was just a false alarm

    A ghost of aviation
    She was swallowed by the sky
    Or by the sea, like me she had a dream to fly
    Like Icarus ascending
    On beautiful foolish arms
    Amelia, it was just a false alarm

    Maybe I’ve never really loved
    I guess that is the truth
    I’ve spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitude
    And looking down on everything
    I crashed into his arms
    Amelia, it was just a false alarm

    I pulled into the Cactus Tree Motel
    To shower off the dust
    And I slept on the strange pillows of my wanderlust
    I dreamed of 747s
    Over geometric farms
    Dreams, Amelia, dreams and false alarms

  16. rufussondheim
    February 11, 2013

    Joni Michell is indeed very good. But Sondheim does something pop music artists simply don’t have to do, they have to write for characters and the work needs to be part of a cohesive whole. Sondheim, to me is the perfect combination of lyrics and composition, and that he’s created so many meaningful and substantive characters as well is amazing to me. He’s in a different plateau than any popular music artist.

  17. The J Viewer
    February 11, 2013

    Thanks for a good read and some thoughts, Sasha. And for your predictions, too.

    Juliette Binoche is *amazing – *in caps, italics and underlined. This wonder woman could simply wear a seemingly commonplace character sitting up in a small-town’s cafeteria sipping up her morning coffee, and in process has me mesmerized still. I’ll watch anything with her in main or respectably supporting character.

    Russell Crowe deserves to win for his role as Maximus in Gladiator. Speaking for myself, I can’t complain. He also could have won for his role in A Beautiful Mind as well but we know what was — as many of us do believe *coughing BAFTA* – one of the factors that helped steal it from him that Training Day year.

    And Laura Linney. . . . I quote part of RS’s Peter Travers’s words written in year 2000: “Linney is a wonder, letting complicated emotions crack Sammy’s fragile composure. [SPOILERS (next, through the end of the quote)] In the final scene, Sammy sits with Terry on a bus-top bench, two grown-up orphans struggling with feelings they can’t articulate. There may be bigger, costlier, weightier films this year. There’s none lovelier.” Looking forward to more from Laura Linney as well.

  18. Koleś
    February 11, 2013

    “Our relationship to each other, and to those who are close to us in life, is all that really matters. I promise.”

    I have a very love/hate realtionship to this site. Some of the thing I read here really piss me off, other things are genuine gold. But the only true thing I have to say is this – Keep up the good work. I’ll see you next year :)

  19. AnthonyP
    February 11, 2013

    Just saw Side Effects.
    Screw 2012, I’m moving on to 2013!

  20. Kane
    February 11, 2013

    Sasha, thank you for all you’ve done. I’ve been reading your website, daily, for over a decade now. You aren’t the reason I fell in love with film but you certainly helped me dissect the awards season much better. I’m 26 now and since I started following you I’ve graduated high school, grew facial hair, went to 3 colleges, got a job (NOT in film sadly) and got engaged to my lady love of 4 years with our wedding later this year. All the while my life was changing before my eyes your website was a constant. When you went from Oscar Watch to Awards Daily I freaked because I was so used to typing “www.oscarwatch.com” and my slight OCD didn’t want me to accept that change. Although I didn’t start commenting until recently, I’ve read almost all of your articles and read many comments by some fo the same readers for so long now that I’ve felt like everybody’s a classmate of some sort. Anyway, I appreciate all that you do and don’t always just stick to facts and the awards. Seeing articles that speak to you are also as important as what you predict. Keep on keepin’ on and I’ll still be reading after I get married, have a kid and when Roger Deakins finally wins his 1st Oscar posthumously (wouldn’t that be ironic?).

  21. CJ
    February 11, 2013

    The first year of Oscarwatch was actually American Beauty winning. But, I think the site only started around December? I remember coming across it in some sort of pre google search engine (MSN’s maybe?, and immediately writing it down so I could come back. So, I guess the first year covering from start to finish was Gladiator’s year.

    There was another Oscar related site (the name escapes me!) that I visited back then….the accompanying messageboard even had some fairly big names on it (Ed Gonzalez was a active user under the handle TheApostle), including Andrew Mondshein who was nominated that year for editing Sixth Sense. I know we were all pulling for him.

    Anyways, this post has me walking down memory lane now. Can’t believe I have followed this stuff for as long as I have. :-)

  22. Dirt
    February 11, 2013

    Very glad you do what you do Sasha

  23. Andrew
    February 11, 2013

    Sasha, as I have said before, this is the best Oscars site around, thanks for all your hard work.

    I fear that you have seriously overreacted to this Awards season, due to your love for Lincoln.

    The precursors have all told us one thing; it is the year of Argo.

    The omission of Affleck from the director’s line up seems to be an anomaly this year. It appeared he was a shoo-in, so who knows whether enough of the Director’s branch sent votes the way of the others thinking Affleck was already in.

    The fact that Argo did not get as many technical nominations as the more Oscary films Lincoln and Life of Pi is not a surprise.

    I ask this: what would be more of a shock at this point- Argo winning without a BD nomination, or Lincoln winning where Argo has won all the main precursors?

  24. February 11, 2013

    Bette has just written the definitive statement on the Brokeback Mountain snub. Fucking publish that shit, Bette!

  25. AnthonyP
    February 11, 2013

    I still think you’re picking with your heart, Sasha. Riva will not win. And I know your Lincoln pick is a wish pick.
    Nothing would be worse for you than to cave in and pick Argo objectively, only to have Lincoln win and you’re not on record as having chose it in the 11th hour.
    Your site has opened me up to seeing so many more films than I normally would have. I think that is the main point of this site… to celebrate film.
    Thank you for that.

    The Gatekeepers comes out next week, which means I will only have the movie No left to watch in order to see every film in every category. Unfortunately it doesn’t show in San Francisco until March 1st. Have any extra screeners?

  26. tr
    February 11, 2013

    I could be wrong, but I think getting rid of the preferential ballot would go a long way towards eliminating this trend of uniformity. I don’t see any reason wny awards shouldn’t be voted for like anything else. Voters check off one name or title and that’s it, whichever choice garners the most votes is the winner. Pretty simple.

  27. phantom
    February 11, 2013

    OK, people, I don’t know David O. Russell. I do know that I find his film, Silver Linings Playbook remarkably overrated. Again, I don’t know the guy, so I couldn’t possibly know whether he is an entitled douchebag or not…but I DO know for sure that he ACTED like one last night when BAFTA had the nerve to award someone other than his leading lady. True colors ?

    Anyway, I am very disappointed with this season. It started out so well, it was so promising with all the succesful late entries and critics groups starting so bold (Zero Dark Thirty) but it seems that in the end all I will remember that

    - Ben Affleck and George Clooney, actor-directors I respect, with all their power and success, weren’t above annoyingly agressive campaigning
    - Harvey Weinstein seemed to give it his all again, which wouldn’t bother me, had it not involved these three little words : son, pneumonia, Biden. I could elaborate but it wouldn’t be pretty.
    - The concept of smear campaign is not only alive and well, it had its most ‘succesful’ season yet, or at least in my 17 years of Oscar watching, I have never seen anything remotely close to the vicious takedown Zero Dark Thirty had to suffer through. I guess it’s a good thing US senators have time to mess with motion pictures, it probably signals that their country is in such great shape that they have simply nothing better to do. I honestly hope that the whole controversy wasn’t the doing of an Oscar rival and my fairly logical conspiracy theory that Weinstein was behind it (again, I could elaborate), is just that : a conspiracy theory.
    - I was hoping to see the long overdue Ewan McGregor scoring his first Oscar nomination this year for his heartbreaking, devastatingly raw performance in The Impossible, but no, the Academy went with not only 5 previous nominees, but 5 previous WINNERS. Some of them deserving…some of them so clearly NOT.

    P.S. To be fair, I am grateful for Harvey Weinstein because at the end of the day, he makes a lot of excellent films SEEN, films that probably wouldn’t have a fighting chance without him. I AM happy when a low-budget indie like Silver Linings Playbook makes 100M in the US alone, even if I don’t like it personally, because I do believe that such accomplishment is a good thing for the sequeltentpolefranchise-crazed film industry. Having said that, I HATE what his campaign method represents and I HATE that others are now trying to imitate him because they KNOW that method WORKS.

  28. Tony
    February 11, 2013

    I Simply love the fact that Sasha doesn’t lose the hope. Me, myself, I still hope that at the the end of the day the REALLY finest and best of them all-and that is, of course LINCOLN, will win the big award. I also like the fluctuating perspective of the Best Actress race and the momentum Riva got last night by winning the Bafta.

  29. AnthonyP
    February 11, 2013

    ha Phantom, love your comment. You’ve described perfectly the wonderful stressful world of Oscar watching.

  30. Radich
    February 11, 2013

    Daveinprogress posted:

    “This may sound pompous, but growing up watching the Oscars in the 70′s and ever since, I held them up to be the most lofty of prizes and whomever was adorned, WAS the best! They had to be. I have come to see the Academy Awards as that ‘childish thing’ that i choose to never fully let go of.”

    This was exactly me (although my attention towards the Oscars began in the 80s). I remember getting very emotional when a film I loved won the Oscar, or mainly the awards show on TV would make me cry; all those film clips and homages to people in film would make me a pile of tears. I used to record on VHS tapes (remember those?) each year the show – My friends knew that it would be a waste of time calling me during the broadcast because I would not pick up the phone. To me the Oscar was the ultimate word in film.

    Good ‘naive’ times.

    I still watch the show and I’m glad when some of my favorites are called on the stage to get the gold. And I want my favorites to win, of course. But by now I know pretty well that it is not the only or last word on great achievement. I might be disappointed at the end, but I don’t lose sleep anymore. It is a beautiful party and all I have to do is enjoy the show from my living room in Brazil.

    As I said before, Sasha, thank you for your coverage and passion. You are right, all that really matters is our shared experience here and in our personal lives. And the experience we share inside that old darkroom when the film is about to begin – The magic of this moment cannot be taken away from us.

    This is why we are here. Thanks. :)

  31. alan of montreal
    February 11, 2013

    I think I first came across Oscarwatch through Alex Fung’s old site (anyone remember him?). I’d been a casual Oscar follower since my teens (pop culture was usually the subject that I killed at in Trivial Pursuit), and when I discovered Alex Fung’s site, it spurred my obsession. That multiplied even more once I got to Oscarwatch. I’ve seen some films I was a fan of find success, while others found no success at all (hello, Ice Storm)–I’ve been elated and I’ve been frustrated, but I always treated it like a pleasurable hobby in my life to take me away from the mundane vicissitudes of quotidian life. Thanks, Sasha (and Ryan and the other contributors past and present), for giving me some much needed escapism!

  32. Elton
    February 11, 2013

    @Bette

    GREAT GREAT GREAT post!

  33. KT
    February 11, 2013

    Great piece Sasha–I loved the 2000 year for movies. Very close for me between Soderbergh and Lee for Director. I really enjoyed Traffic and Crouching Tiger. Gladiator was huge for resurrecting the Hollywood historical epic, for recreating Rome, and for resonating with the times of a triumphant United States…which makes its Best Picture win clear.

    One thing: I think now more then ever confirms my suspicion that DAVID O. RUSSELL is winning Best Director. I’ve posted this many times. With Life Of Pi coming up short at the BAFTAs and Russell winning screenplay, I have a feeling (eeeek) that Russell will win at the Oscars.

  34. Zach
    February 11, 2013

    I can only echo the thanks and appreciation for another beautiful essay. There’s a lot I’ve grown to hate about the Oscar season, and a lot that’s left me indifferent, which is the one thing Hollywood doesn’t want you to feel. But if there’s one constant, one source of sanity, and one thing I’ll always love about the race, it’s this site. If we the readers provide some small consolation, I hope it’s enough to keep this site going for as long as the Oscars continue to be. Not continue to be relevant, because they’re already not…just continue to be.

  35. David Lindsey
    February 11, 2013

    From someone who has been following Oscarwatch/Awardsdaily since the beginning, let me say “thank you”. You have been and always will be my first stop in Oscar coverage.

  36. AnthonyP
    February 11, 2013

    I found Soderberg today in Side Effects. It was an emotional roller coaster for me.
    I would run back to that one again over all the BP nominees.
    2013 and the future is looking good.

  37. alan of montreal
    February 11, 2013

    I haven’t been able to see all the films this season (for reasons academic and economic), so I haven’t ventured into a lot of the debates about the films and their Oscar-worthiness. I have obviously looked at some of the discussions with interest, though, and I can’t recall a year when there were so many horse-races, and when there were so many arguments about this-or-that film or performance across almost the entire slate of categories. Sasha, I’m wondering in your esteemed history of Oscar-watching, if this has been true for you, as well? Or if not, what year would you say has been the most hotly debated as a whole (as opposed to just a few categories)?

  38. phantom
    February 11, 2013

    And I almost forgot my biggest disappointment of all : the remarkably dated yet still thriving film elitism of the Academy. They obviously won’t recognize

    - the (arguably) bravest, fiercest and most fearless directing achievement of the year (Kathryn Bigelow), not if some idiots tell them not to because the obviously pacifist director is now suddenly perceived as a torture fetishist thanks to a bunch of malignant laics
    - the daring, divisive masterpieces (The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, Anna Karenina, Cloud Atlas, Looper)
    - a great script of a cult-bound film if it dares to be about teenagers (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
    - a visual masterpiece in ANY technical categories let alone main ones if it dares to be innovative, risky and quite simply…different (Cloud Atlas), how they managed to leave off the Makeup from even the shortlist (!), and ignore the beautiful score is beyond me
    - a tour de force performance in the vein of Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker, if it dares to be featured in a James Bond film (Javier Bardem)
    - a glorious finale of one of the greatest film trilogies ever, not in ONE category, but what can you do, it IS a comic book movie after all (The Dark Knight Rises), so they obviously HAD TO embrace something like the (IMO) bland, calculated Oscar-bait that is Silver Linings Playbook

    When all is said and done, I have to say, I loved a lot of choices the Academy made this year…unfortunately there were simply MORE that I hated.

  39. Andrew
    February 11, 2013

    I assume Sasha that you are the only Oscar expert sticking with Lincoln?

    Wouldnt it be better to get the prediction right, rather than stick with what you want to win?

  40. Bryce Forestieri
    February 11, 2013

    Top 10 Female Performances of 2012, The Truth

    1. AMOUR – Emmanuelle Riva
    2. COMPLIANCE – Ann Dowd
    3. RUST AND BONE – Marion Cotillard
    4. ZERO DARK THIRTY – Jessica Chastain
    5. DESPUES DE LUCIA – Tessa Ía González Norvind
    6. BARBARA – Nina Hass
    7. THE MASTER – Amy Adams
    8. ANNA KARENINA – Kiera Knightley
    9. THE DEEP BLUE SEA – Rachel Weisz
    10. ZERO DARK THIRTY – Jennifer Ehle

    Any others ya’ll consider above to what Lawrence did?

  41. daveinprogress
    February 11, 2013

    Re Supporting Actor.
    It is interesting to see Sasha’s prediction that De Niro might take it. I think i’m still predicting TLJ, but one of the only saving graces for me with Silver Linings Playbook was Robert DeNiro, and although on paper, Waltz or Jones seem the more likely, even Arkin if AMPAS has gone completely bonkas, if it is a case of giving a repeat winner – (personally i would scream like a hyena on ecstacy if Philip Seymour Hoffman wins) – give it to arguably the greatest living screen actor. He is still mesmerising. And to her credit, Jennifer Lawrence in the one scene i can recall where she faces De Niro, she holds her own really impressively, but i still think she overacted and over gesticulated (the fault of that ol’ face puller director of hers).

    BP: Argo
    Dir Ang Lee
    Act DDL
    Act Riva
    Sa Jones
    Sa Hathaway
    Scr Amour, Argo

  42. phantom
    February 11, 2013

    Andrew

    Sasha’s prediction actually makes sense and doesn’t look like just wishful thinking. She knows that only ONE film has ever won BP without a BD nod, and though Argo could be second, precedent backs a contender with a BD nomination…and Lincoln is probably first when it comes to those, for all we know it could have been close second every time Argo won something in the last few weeks and who knows how many of those awards Argo would have won without their narrative-explosion that was the Affleck-snub.

    Affleck won’t win BD and whoever WILL, might just secure his film BP, as well, because as likely as that split looks like, again, precedent doesn’t back it up at all. If there wasn’t a split when they could have awarded Scorsese instead of Hazanavicius, Fincher instead of Hooper, Fincher instead of Boyle, Scorsese instead of Eastwood etc., I honestly don’t see how people are so certain that the split will DEFINITELY happen this year. Don’t get me wrong, it IS a strong possibility, but in my opinion, far from a done deal.

  43. chrisw
    February 11, 2013

    Sometimes they get it right. Sometimes they get it wrong.

    It happens.

    I’ll say, “Good job,” when they pick right and, “That’s a shitty pick,” when they pick horribly.

    I could say a lot about recent Oscar history, both fantastic and bad, but my feeling of complete joy seeing Scorsese and Jeff Bridges finally win the big one will always be remembered.

  44. John Webster
    February 11, 2013

    I think we’re past hope on Lincoln having a shot at Picture, but I like that you’re sticking to your guns Sasha. It would truly be such an amazing Best Picture winner. I like Argo a lot, but the thought of it winning over Lincoln is just gut wrenching to me. :(

    I don’t typically agree with your film criticisms or picks each year (and I definitely don’t agree about ‘Gladiator’ – sorry, it’s one of my favorites), but I feel like this year, we were perfectly in sync. Alas, it’s just not meant to be.

  45. mlrg
    February 11, 2013

    “There was another Oscar related site (the name escapes me!) that I visited back then….the accompanying messageboard even had some fairly big names on it (Ed Gonzalez was a active user under the handle TheApostle), including Andrew Mondshein who was nominated that year for editing Sixth Sense. I know we were all pulling for him.”

    This board was “The Unofficial Academy Awards Discussion Board” and it’s still up and running with some posters from back then, including me.

    Actually, this Board was created by Wesley Lovell aka OscarGuy, back in 1997, so I think he was the first website to follow the Oscar race

  46. February 11, 2013

    “By the time the Oscars rolled around, some thought that if there was an upset over Crowe, it would have been Ed Harris for Pollack, who remains overdue. Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys and Ralph Fiennes for Sunshine should have been nominated, if you ask me.”

    Bette, I agree. :)
    Great post, about Brokeback Mountain and much more.
    Thanks!

  47. The Dude
    February 11, 2013

    De Niro ain’t winning- he has won nothing, already has two Oscars, wasn’t BAFTA nor GG nominated, and Harvey already has the BAFTA and GG winner on his side.

  48. KT
    February 11, 2013

    To add to the Brokeback Mountain comments, everyone always cites the Borgnine and Curtis examples. Look at Clint Eastwood’s reaction when Ang Lee wins Best Director at the Golden Globes. Just the way he says the name of the film–he probably didn’t watch it either:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbcA4Vs_kKo

  49. February 11, 2013

    wow, KT, I’d never seen that.

    That disdainful Eastwood sneer. We’ve come to know it all too well, haven’t we? Grotesque.

  50. Film Fatale
    February 11, 2013

    Bryce, nearly everyone but a few great ones above Lawrence for me:

    Gina Gershon’s career high in Killer Joe’s BIG scene

    Noomi Rapace asking the big questions in Prometheus

    Meryl Streep’s shut down wife that blooms in Hope Springs

    Zoe Kazan’s inspired performance in Ruby Sparks’ BIG scene

    Aubrey Plaza’s delicate and wistful sensitivity/sarcasm balance in Safety Not Guaranteed

    Penelope Wilton’s caustic, bitter wife in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

    Rashida Jones coming to grips with the end of marriage in Celeste and Jesse Forever

    Rebel Wilson’s deadpan par excellence in Pitch Perfect

    I am SURE there are more, but this is off the top of my head…

  51. rufussondheim
    February 11, 2013

    Bette!

  52. MauiJim
    February 11, 2013

    I love that you began this article with the Soderbergh speech. His unexpected win that night was one of the great Oscar moments for me. Gladiator’s BP win that night is somewhat similar to Argo’s inevitable win this year – hardly the best pics. Oh well. I am waiting with baited breath to hear which director’s name will be announced and how many awards Lincoln will pick up. Strange, disappointing year; however, still excited.

  53. Antoinette
    February 11, 2013

    Does anybody honestly think the Academy Awards is a fair and definitive bestowing of greatness.

    I used to think it was fair and that they just had bad taste sometimes until the SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE year. That was the first time I recognized them getting swept up in a tidal wave of hype. They haven’t really recovered from that or maybe they were always like that. When THE HURT LOCKER caught the wave I was fine with it, but it really isn’t right. They should watch the films and choose, but I don’t know if that will ever happen again.

    I don’t remember when I started coming here. It’s been a while anyway. I used to go to gold derby back before The Envelope. But I’ve been following the Oscar race one way or another for decades. The first time I remember watching the show was the AMADEUS year but I was a kid then. Since I’ve been paying attention, I haven’t disagreed with the Academy that often. But it’s been more often recently. So whichever way it is that they’re changing, it’s away from my own personal tastes.

  54. Astarisborn
    February 11, 2013

    The fact that “Ang Lee has yet to win for both Picture AND Director” is a pleasant omen that the academy may just be thinking about this when they mark their ballots.

  55. Bryce Forestieri
    February 11, 2013

    “and given Best Picture to Blade Runner”

    +1

  56. alan of montreal
    February 11, 2013

    I think people keep forgetting the Academy is essentially just a club–it’s not a critics group, it’s not a bunch of academics, it’s a club with an exclusive membership that you have to be invited to. Some may have “good taste,” some may have “bad taste,” and some could probably care less and give their ballot to their kids or grandkids to fill out. I think you’re more likely to see their tastes align with the audiences at film festivals who vote for the audience awards, which is why the Toronto Film Festival Audience Award provides such a good indication of what will get nominated come Oscar time. Add to that the politics of friendship and other forms of nepotism, coupled with sentimentality and, lest we forget, money (awards industrial complex, anyone?) and there you have it–the Oscars. That’s why it’s pointless to get frustrated about the merit of the awards; it’s better to treat it simply as a game. If it was truly based on merit (and it’s not as if that isn’t a subjective term, anyway), it would be much more international in scope (and people such as Kurosawa, Fellini, Bergman, and Ray as well as Ullman, Masina, Von Sydow, Mifune, Cheung, Lorre would have statues in their hands) there would be greater diversity ethnically, racially, and sexually among the nominees, and indie films would have as much of a chance as the big studios of seeing work recognized. But we’ve got what we’ve got, for better or for worse. It can never be all things to all people, so why invest so much emotion in it? There are other things in life and in the world where that emotion can be put to better use.

  57. Victor Barreto
    February 11, 2013

    Bette, you should have your own blog! Werckmeister Harmonies in 2001, that would be something! And just the thought of The Turin Horse being the last movie of Bela Tarr already makes me depressed.

  58. Andrew
    February 11, 2013

    Phantom, one question: what would be more unusual: Argo winning BP without a director nom , or Argo winning critics choice, GG, BAFTA BPs and winning SAG ensemble and then losing BP?

    I get Sasha’s love for Lincoln, but there is a difference between predicting what you what to win and predicting what will win

  59. steve50
    February 11, 2013

    “I have come to see the Academy Awards as that ‘childish thing’ that i choose to never fully let go of.” (have to admit I agree, daveinprogress)

    Missing – Feared Lost

    Little “Oscar Enthusiasm” (O.E.) has gone missing. He was last seen frolicking with bf “I Love Movies” (I.L.M.) somewhere near the Campaign Trail about 36 hours ago.

    For decades, the two of them have often played in that area and know well its dangerous swamps and crevices, but very late on Saturday/early Sunday, an unusually large cloud enveloped them.

    I.L.M. climbed a nearby hill and escaped, but O.E. has not been seen since.

    I.L.M. misses his energetic friend and has put on a strong face in hopes that someday maybe O.E. will return to play; in the meantime, I.L.M. vows to stay on the hill, keeping their favorite movies safe and well away from the Campaign Trail and the dangers that lurk there.

  60. daveinprogress
    February 11, 2013

    ^ :)

  61. phantom
    February 11, 2013

    Andrew

    “Phantom, one question: what would be more unusual: Argo winning BP without a director nom , or Argo winning critics choice, GG, BAFTA BPs and winning SAG ensemble and then losing BP?”

    Well, since only ONE of the 84 BP winners pulled off the big victory without a BD nomination, I would still say, Argo winning would be more unusual, mainly because all those BD awards (DGA, BAFTA, GOLDEN GLOBE, CRITICS CHOICE) that would obviously catapult ANY contender into BP frontrunner status, are basically irrelevant in this case, because the Academy clearly had a different idea about BEST this year, and Argo wasn’t one of them, or at least not in their top5.

  62. CJ
    February 11, 2013

    @mlrg — Thanks….that was it! I haven’t been there in eons.

  63. Robert A.
    February 11, 2013

    “Well, since only ONE of the 84 BP winners pulled off the big victory without a BD nomination…”

    Actually, this isn’t technically true. In the early days, there were a couple of cases of movies winning BP without Best Director nominations.

    1927-1928: Wings wins BP. No director nod.
    1931-1932: Grand Hotel wins BP. No director nod. In fact, it didn’t even get nominated in any other category except BP, and it still won.
    1989: Driving Miss Daisy wins BP. No director nod.

    So there have been three cases, but two of them go too far back to be very useful for comparison purposes.

    There’s this though, too. No movie that has won BFCA/Globes/DGA/PGA/SAG Ensemble has lost Best Picture. Has never happened. Add BAFTA to the mix and Argo looks even more formidable. But, just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it can’t happen this year. Also, since SAG Ensemble didn’t begin until the 1995 movie year, the stats for this winning combination can only be traced back 18 years.

    Precedent is against Argo. But precedent only tells you so much. Each year is its own case study with its own evidence of what will win BP, and the evidence for this year is saying, overwhelmingly, Argo.

    We’ll see…

  64. Sammy
    February 12, 2013

    @Bryce – I agree with you. Lawrence is not in my top ten either. I would nominate Cotillard instead of her.

  65. Sammy
    February 12, 2013

    SLP will win something at the Oscars – that is inevitable. If it is not Lawrence which is possible after Riva’s Bafta win then it would be Russell taking scr or BD. Or it is DeNiro getting the award.

  66. phantom
    February 12, 2013

    Robert A.

    Thanks, those are some interesting stats. I guess it is mostly a weird year because films (almost) never win BP without a BD nod, but then again, BP nominees with THIS kind of precursor love (almost) never lose the Oscar BP. So in the end, excellent cases could be made for both sides, and if we go by precedent, both could be equally as wrong as right.

  67. Erik
    February 12, 2013

    Sasha, quite simply, thank you…..for everything. For making me want to go to the movies, for the privilege of being a part of this unique family, and like that kid who once wrote to you, for helping me believe that no matter what, life is precious and I am worthwhile. What a journey it’s been with you.

  68. Jack Traven II
    February 12, 2013

    Great read, Sasha. As always. Insightful articles like that are the reason why I love coming to your site.

    It really made my day.

    Danke!

  69. Alex Brando
    February 12, 2013

    Guys and gals – I think it would be futile to make all these hypootheses and not say the obvious – it’a going to be very close between Argo and Lincoln in terms of vote count, so it could go any way, and it won’t be because of hype. I personally don’t know, as I think Sasha doesn’t too, but for now momentum has Argo, so I wish it would be it. Though of course it could turn very well that everybody at Oscar night is excited for Argo, only to watch the presenter read the name of Lincoln. At the end, a lot of people will see this as a testament to all of the BP-nominated movies being great, while others will go search for the even better BP-material movies, like Holy Motors and Tabu, so ut’s a win-win situation.

    As I’ve mentioned before – my personal favorite from the only winnable (American) BP nominees is Zero Dark Thirty, and I do think that it’s the most stylistically perfect, the most dramatic and relevant to our times. It’s unfortunate that the torture debate shot it down, because at the end we should remember that there was a lot of negativity from governmet officials exactly because the film might have had some inside sources. I mean – it could be 50% true, 100% true or not at all – but th fact is that we still don’t know whether this early-on torture really had a detective-like effect on the search. And the movie just showing one of the scenarios without condoning is not equal to approving, so the officials’ response is really hypocritical at the end.

    I am really happy for the best actresses and the best supp. actors, as they are all great and made a terrific race. The acting categories are for me what makes me come back, since the technical ones are always subjective, while acting is very much alive and more than an art. Anyway, that’s just me…

    I feel sorry for Lawrence if she ends up losing to Riva, but at the end of the day, despite her skills, this is nor even half the role she had in Winter’s Bone. But she (or Chastain) could very well be the Meryl of our generation so watch out. ;)

    For supporting, I would say it Waltz, because heeee’s just that goood! No, really! But overall I don’t have a favorite here, like them all. Obviously TLJ was the most-developped character in Lincoln, so that’s a plus. But PSH has a lead-like role in The Master, so another plus.

    And I do wanna thank Sasha for facilitating discussions and not just stamping her opinion all over. She’s been a real warrior, and kept on despite the chaotic events. And she made me and others discover Beasts for which I am willing to let go of her supporting for The Dark Knight Rises… It’s about being different and making independent decisions, even if that proves wrong at times. Maybe that’ll change the academy, one step at a time….

  70. Melissa
    February 12, 2013

    Thanks again for your wonderful insight, Sasha. I discovered Oscarwatch 14 years ago and have been tuning in ever since! I even won an American Beauty screenplay book in 2000 for successfully predicting many of the winners. You are by far one of the best writers out there. You make me so excited to watch movies, including Cloud Atlas which I LOVED (screw popular think)

    And a little suggestion to the Academy: completely move the date of the Oscars, so that the guilds have no impact on the Academy choices and eventual winners. Would be very interesting to see how that would shake up…

  71. February 12, 2013

    I was going to write a long post, but simply said, I remember how wonderfully supportive you were to all of us in the gay community the night that “Brokeback” lost, so unfairly to “Crash.” And you were so comforting…and…well…so much more, always. The only Oscar “pundit” who has serious moral fiber.

    Simply, what would we do without you?

  72. Aaron
    February 12, 2013

    I read AwardsDaily knowing that it will be the most enjoyable reading of my day. Thanks to you, Sasha. Greetings from México :)

  73. Pierre de Plume
    February 12, 2013

    I wouldn’t count Amour as a lock just yet.

    Point well taken, rufus. When it comes to the Oscars, taking something for granted is a big mistake.

    Sasha, I keep coming here for many reasons — the quality of the writing, both yours and the commenters (I’m thinking now of daveinprogress but there are many others), but maybe most of all because it takes a lot of guts to bare your feelings in an environment where one is so vulnerable to attack.

    Although I’m predicting Riva right now, I’m aware that her win would break the pattern of the younger “babe” nominee getting it immediately after a win by an older nominee (Streep). This is a pattern that goes way back.

    I’m surprised your picking De Niro — it’s a tough call to make.

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