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John Ridley Wins Scripter for 12 Years a Slave

John Ridley brought some of Solomon Northup’s descendants as he accepted his awards, choking back tears. He thanked honoree Robert Towne, “without you I would not be here.” He beat the writers of Philomena, Captain Phillips, The Spectacular Now, and What Maisy Knew. Ridley said he was significantly moved in reading and writing the memoir for Northup.


The USC Script awards are being held tonight.  They are going to be held live on webcast here.

The nominees are:
What Maisy Knew
Philomena
The Spectacular Now
Captain Phillips
12 Years a Slave

The Scripter has changed their practices recently to not really so much honor both the source material (as in, novel or non-fiction book) – not the source material doesn’t matter as much as the adaptation, hence Argo’s win last year. That they did not choose the collaboration of Doris Kearns book, which took ten years to write and Tony Kushner’s screenplay, which took six, is one of those great mysteries of awards season.  That’s why I really don’t know what will win here. I could see it going to any of the three Best Picture nominees – Philomena, Captain Phillips or 12 Years.   The judges listed here.

37 Comments on this Post

  1. 12 Years a Slave wins. No surprise there.

  2. ObamaWins

    USC scripter is not a guild, but it’s good publicity and I am glad it won.

  3. WGA went to CP and and now this to 12YAS. This USC Scripter “committee” is very small–but how influential are they as individuals? I saw some familiar names on there…..hmmmmmm. Score one for Sasha.

  4. ObamaWins

    Why do people keep forgetting that 12 Years A Slave is also a PGA winner?

  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USC_Scripter_Award (Past Winners—plus nominees AND winners in the more recent history)

    (Might as well since I put up the link in the other thread about tonight’s other award)

  6. ObamaWins

    “Score one for Sasha”
    Dude, 12 Years won PGA, didn’t it?
    Unless 12 Years is like Obama who will never get credits no matter what,,,

  7. Um, sorry I didn’t write “Score ANOTHER one for Sasha” I certainly wasn’t under any pretense that this was the first significant moment for 12YAS during this awards season. smh.

  8. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I have a headache Natasha. Would you be a sweetie and count up how many USC Scripter winners since 1993 have gone on to win Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars? My guess at glance would be roughly half.

    But beyond that, I have another request for everybody. Sometimes can we just take a break from wondering “how influential” one award might be on another one?

    Because here’s what I think: Most all awards have a very negligible influence on any awards that follow. All an individual award can do is tell us what how voters are leaning. That leaning does not cause other people to lean the same way. For anyone with functioning brain, it doesn’t work that way. It’s pretty silly to think it does.

    For one thing, I’m not the type of person who believes incredibly creative people have to sit around and wait to be influenced.

    For another thing, I’m not the type of person who believes every time anyone anywhere gives out award that they’re even trying to “influence” the Oscars.

    ===

    You know, gang, sometimes an award is just a wonderful thing in its own right, yes? Can’t we pause just once in a while and Celebrate the awards we see all these talented people winning over the past few weeks. We owe these people so much this year, for giving us all so many spectacular movies to love and enjoy and ponder and cherish.

    I can’t be the only person who sometimes just likes to bask for a few hours in seeing someone I admire win a prestigious award for the amazing thing this wonderful human being has done. Without stapling a tracking device to his ear to see where he might roam.

    Let’s try to remember that we might be seeing some of these people win their very last award of the season this week. For example, there’s no way all three of the Art Directors Guild winners can keep winning very many more awards. And of course only one of the three can win the Oscar (assuming any of them do).

    But wow, isn’t winning the highest honor of the year from your own Guild peers special enough already? I’m just sayin, I’m really very sick of instantly wondering WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE OSCARS?! every time somebody takes home a prize. Just seems to me that we rarely even stop long enough to appreciate all the awards people receive — before we start speculating But What Does This Mean for the Oscars?

    I’m also just sayin another thing: Sometimes I don’t give a shit what every blip on the radar means for the Oscars. Sometimes I just want to revel in the moment of the HERE and NOW instead of having that Black Hole of the Oscar Night sucking my thoughts away from THIS MOMENT of mindful pleasure RIGHT NOW.

    You know, for some writers, winning the USC Scripter Award will be the greatest honor of their entire careers. They’ll ctreasure the trophy, remember the night they won it till the day they die. I just wish we’d take time here to remember that more often.

    ===

    (Natasha, Please don’t think I’m taking my frustration out on you, I know you’re someone who cares deeply about these awards or you wouldn’t take the time to comment, wouldn’t go to the trouble of linking us to past winners, you wouldn’t be here at all if you didn’t love movies and respect the people who write them.

    So I’m not fussing with you ok? I’m only using your comment as a springboard to reveal some of my own mixed feelings about how we regard the awards race.)

    ===

    This is Awards Daily, my friends. It’s not Oscar Daily. We cover all the awards. Sure, it’s interesting to some extent to try to suss out how each award becomes a piece of the puzzle to help us see where things are headed, and it’s fascinating to watch one another guess the Oscar results before Oscar night. That’s tons of fun and I’ve nothing against that at all.

    But I have sincerely come to believe that the idea of precursors “influencing” the awards that follow is a load of hooey. However, I do absolutely believe that precursors can indicate emerging trends. I just don’t think precursors light the way for supposedly blind Oscar voters.

    I’m just very tired of the arrogant idea that all of us here on this site are the only independent thinkers who think about movies. I’m tired of the implicit insult when anyone says the Oscar voters are sheep who have to be led by the hand like little children.

    Look, Martin Scorsese is an Oscar voter. Does anybody think Martin Scorsese has to wait to see what the PGA does before he can know which of the year’s films is hie favorite?

    Name 100 Oscar voters. Name 500. Name 1000. How many of them are so weak-minded that they need to see what the BAFTA will do before they know what to think?

    yes, I do believe there are people in the world who wait to see what others are doing before they “make up their own minds.” But how many readers at Awards Daily are like that? My guess would be ZERO. None of you smart insightful clever witty argumentative friend in this community of movielovers are sheeple who need to be told what to think.

    So how arrogant is it for any of us to believe 6000 of the most talented, nost successful, most creative people in Hollywood need to wait to see what the DGA says before they can pick their favorite film?

    Furthermore, let’s please never forget that it’s a private secret ballot! Suppose an Academy member make a choice that goes against the current trend? Who’s going to know? So what do they care? Filmmakers do not strike me as the sort of people who give a damn what anybody else is doing.

    ===

    So, to bring this back around to where we began. How influential are the USC Scripter awards? I’d say my own best guess is that the USC Scripter Awards have a negligible effect on what anyone already thinks. Just like any other precursor, I think the effects are so negligible as to be insignificant.

    And don’t think for an instant that any of the older retired former filmmakers who’ve been out of the business for decades is going to be sitting around waiting to see what the USC Scripter does. For one thing, I honestly doubt if that faction of Academy members could even tell you tomorrow who won the USC Scripter. For another thing, anybody who thinks elderly retired people have forgotten how to think for themselves doesn’t have much experience with stubborn elderly retired people.

    Would you let the USC Scripter influence you? If not, then why should we assume the USC Scripter is going to influence Carol Channing or Dakota Fanning or Cuba Gooding Jr? Why would they need to wait to be influenced before they know what screenplay they like? Are they more weak-willed and weak-minded than any of us? Of course not.

    Here’s my unwavering belief: Nobody who previously thought Philomena or Captain Philips was the best adapted screenplay of the year is going to now suddenly change their vote on their secret ballot just because USC or the WGA say otherwise. NOBODY will change their minds about what they like based on what USC or the WGA says. Why would they? What kind of person would do that? Would you? Then why would an Academy member?

  9. ObamaWins

    Ryan. Great point. I also do think the Oscar voters do not wait to see who won DGA or PGA to make a decision. I guess the guilds usually match with the Oscars is because they agree with each other, not necessarily try to influence each other. Only a small fraction of people from each guild are Oscar voters, but they add up to the total of the entire membership of AMPAS. Anyway, the guilds show a trend, that is all. Many Oscar watchers and pundits over analyze, I do that myself. Can’t wait till March 2nd.

  10. julian the emperor

    “That they did not choose the collaboration of Doris Kearns book, which took ten years to write and Tony Kushner’s screenplay, which took six, is one of those great mysteries of awards season.”

    Imagine, if things were that simple. A combined effort of 16 years of writing. How could it lose? Well, maybe because 16 years’ of writing doesn’t make a great script per se, merely a very labored one.

  11. Claudiu Dobre

    “You know, gang, sometimes an award is just a wonderful thing IN ITS OWN RIGHT, yes? Can’t we pause just once in a while and Celebrate the awards we see all these talented people winning over the past few weeks. We owe these people SO MUCH this year, for giving us all so many spectacular movies to love and enjoy and ponder and cherish.”

    Of course, you’re right! :) It’s this race, it’s driving us crazy with all of its twists!… As for me, personally, I’m probably too much into the Oscar predicting game, and that’s why I see everything through that lens, instead of taking each awards for what it is, a mighty powerful recognition in itself. But I’m doing that more and more in recent years – I’m beginning to understand just how important each of the other awards are.
    And I too am certainly very happy and grateful that we’ve had such an unbelievably strong year for movies – certainly the strongest I’ve ever followed “live” (so, again, since 2005-ish)… It’s probably for this reason too that almost every winner of every award so far this season has been at least worthy, and, at times, outstanding.

    “But I have sincerely come to believe that the idea of precursors “influencing” the awards that follow is a load of hooey. However, I do absolutely believe that precursors can indicate emerging trends. I just don’t think precursors light the way for supposedly blind Oscar voters.”

    It’d be awesome if you were right about this, because it would mean they actually all vote exactly for what they like. To me that’s, of course, much better than having them vote for what they feel they have to vote for, given what everybody else is voting for. But, sadly, I believe there is at least some influence, inevitably. It’s human nature. It’s very hard to simply ignore peer pressure. There’s probably not that many, of course, like you say. A small percentage can still influence the outcome, though – but most likely doesn’t, most of the time, which is great!

    “I’m tired of the implicit insult when anyone says the Oscar voters are sheep”

    I definitely don’t think that – I actually agree with the Academy and their winners far more than most people, and I rarely think their winner is a truly poor choice, even when it’s not the best of the year for me (Argo would be one of the few exceptions – Rocky would be another example of a movie whose win I simply don’t understand, but there are very few of those). Therefore, I have quite a bit of respect for them. I grew up on their 1990’s winners, watching them on TV as they became available in my part of the world, and I loved every single one of them – since then, I’ve always had a ton of respect for them, which is why I care about the Oscars so much more than the other awards (even though they, too, have their great winners, of course). My respect has waned somewhat (not excessively) with their picks in the 2000’s, but I still have far more respect for them than most, believe me! :) I definitely don’t think they’re sheep. They have very particular tastes and the many patterns, singular to them, that they’ve been following for ages now prove that.

    “Would you let the USC Scripter influence you? If not, then why should we assume the USC Scripter is going to influence Carol Channing or Dakota Fanning or Cuba Gooding Jr? Why would they need to wait to be influenced before they know what screenplay they like?”

    Of course not! But now we have a better clue what screenplay they’re likely to have been favoring already, since the Scripter has a decent amount of overlap of their winners with the Oscars. I would have hated it if 12 Years hadn’t won this, I have to say – I would have seen it as a rather bad sign (not to mention how much I think it deserves to win)…

  12. Excellent post Ryan.

    From a mathematical/statistical standpoint, one award does not provide data to indicate where the voters are heading. Now if all the guilds started voting for one film (like it has for the past number of years), then OK, it does imply strong support for that film. This is what makes a number of previous years so boring. This year, we have nine very strong nominees, that are sharing the awards. This year is what we strive for, What we wanted, in previous boring years.

    Another thing I like to add to what you wrote Ryan, is that the Academy does not get together and think en masse. You do not sit in a room and negotiate the winners list. We like to talk about what we think the Academy “Does or does not do.”

    Basically, nobody knows anything.

  13. Ryan—even if you meant it as a jest, I did what you asked. 8 of the last 20 USC Scripter awards have gone on to win the Oscar Best Adapted Screenplay awards. What is interesting, if anything, is that 5 of those times have been in the last 6 years. Before that, there was nearly a decade where there was no correspondence between the two.

    While this site is called Awards Daily, it seems like it is all a big roller coaster ride up to the Oscars, which, for better or worse, seem to influence a lot of people (you win Best Picture and you generally get a box office bump/dvd sales bump–and if you don’t–most of the time–then there’s no bump).

    So you’re right, Ryan. It doesn’t matter in so many ways. I don’t think most people in the world who saw The Spectacular Now knew it was nominated for a USC Scripter. But sometimes I wish something other than the Oscars drew more people’s attention to good movies–especially the ones Oscar seems to overlook.

    Mentioning Spectacular Now wasn’t random for me, actually. Just saw it about a week ago–what a pleasant surprise. Ninety minutes of your time is all it asks. Saw it back to back with Short Term 12, another wonderful 90 minutes. Yes, I am daring to recommend a few flicks. ;) And you’re right about something else, Ryan. I saw The Spectacular Now without knowing it was nominated for the Scripter (although I did gather it was well received by critics).

  14. Ryan: “But I have sincerely come to believe that the idea of precursors “influencing” the awards that follow is a load of hooey. However, I do absolutely believe that precursors can indicate emerging trends. I just don’t think precursors light the way for supposedly blind Oscar voters.”

    Cladiu Dobre: “It’d be awesome if you were right about this, because it would mean they actually all vote exactly for what they like. To me that’s, of course, much better than having them vote for what they feel they have to vote for, given what everybody else is voting for. But, sadly, I believe there is at least some influence, inevitably. It’s human nature. It’s very hard to simply ignore peer pressure. There’s probably not that many, of course, like you say. A small percentage can still influence the outcome, though – but most likely doesn’t, most of the time, which is great!”

    This summarizes it all well, at least IMHO.

  15. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Thanks, Natasha. I really appreciate you looking into that to see how the Scripter and Oscars correspond. That’s interesting, to be reminded how often they have lined up recently.

    The Spectacular Now was in my own top 20 but I can’t recall offhand where exactly it placed. Between 10 and 15 I’m pretty sure. (I’ll look back to check to confirm when I actually wake up. Replying with my phone right now and it’s disturbing how autocorrect keeps trying to insist the Scripters are the Scriptures so I’m going back to sleep for a couple more hours.)

    I wish I had seen The Spectacular sooner but only caught up to it about a week before nominations were announced . Otherwise I would’ve pushed for it harder, posted more about it. All the same, it was still one of my own personal predictions for an Oscar nomination, and was bummed when it didn’t make the cut.

    Last year the same hope and letdown with The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The Academy very rarely acknowledges films about teenagers in high school or college. Their loss. Perks was about 20x more real and heartfelt than Silver Linings.

    Thanks again. I’ll be in better state of mind when I wake up and come back to this page in a couple of hours.

  16. SallyinChicago

    I’m glad everybody is winning their little guild awards….but bring on the Oscars already!

  17. I thought Perks was a fine film, but nothing overly special. The Spectacular Now, however, was gorgeous from start to finish. A shame it didn’t get the studio push it deserved.

  18. Carlos F.

    The responses here in this particular article have been tremendous reads. Gosh Awardsdaily has such insightful posters :)

  19. lol Ryan went nanners.

    I’ve never thought that the Academy line up in droves to vote for the same film. At least I’ve always hoped they don’t. That’s why every year I ignore the trends and champion the movies and performances I like, which is met with much backlash and vitriol because I must be stupid to think that such movies are going to win. Well I never “think” they will, I hope they will. This year was an off year for me as I really don’t have a cherished film that I feel needs attention. Sure I put in some time for TWOWS and DiCaprio and Blanchett, but the fact that this website along with all the others was so determined to make it a two or three horse race made me step back. It happens every year and it’s sites like Awards Daily, formerly called Oscar Watch, that make it happen. Those of us who’ve been doing this for a long time know that the Academy as individuals can and will do exactly as they please with their ballots. But there are people here who are young enough to have only participated in the hysterics of Oscar season since prediction websites have existed. I mean it’s exactly what the purpose of this website has been. That’s why so many people come here predicting and dismissing movies chances at Oscar sometime in September when not only have they not seen the film, next to no one has. Those of us who used to follow the Oscar race back in the day, still like to actually see a film, judge its quality, and then guess what might win. But if everyone did that then no one would talk about the Oscar race until Christmas when most people have had a chance to see maybe 1/3 of the films in contention. But now this whole Oscar prediction industry is built on the blind leading the blind in terms of predicting the Oscars. So they use precursors to do it. They need proof that they know what they’re talking about so they use statistics and precedent. I don’t agree with it, but that’s what this whole thing is built on. Otherwise, all of our opinions would be equally valid, which they actually are, and no one would need to turn to gurus for Oscar guidance.

  20. Carlos F.

    P.s – We usually look to our past to indicate our future. I think this why after a cast and/or crew member win a “big” award we just lump upcoming award onto them. For once i won’t do that. I’m just going to live in this moment when 12 Yrs won the USC for John Ridley’s beautiful script.

  21. This is a nice win and acknowledgement for 12YAS and John Ridley.

    Thanks for writing what you did Ryan, people needed to be reminded that we’re all here because of our love for cinema, and we should celebrate the films and performances that do well, not just always firmly standing on one side for one film, while opposing other films’ successes and attacking fans of other films.

  22. Ryan, very nicely said! … And thanks for mentioning ”Perks of Being a Wallflower,” one of the best coming-of-age movies I’ve ever seen. I imagine the Academy voters (again, many older white guys) wrote it off because it looked like just another teen movie, but it wasn’t.

    Stephen Chbosky did a masterful job of adapting his own book to the screen, and Logan Lerman was every bit as good as, say, Timothy Hutton in ”Ordinary People” in playing its teen hero. Chbosky and Lerman earned nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics, and Chbosky got a WGA nomination, an Independent Spirit award and a GLAAD award for it. The National Board of Review picked ”Perks” as one of its top films. Chbosky deserved an Oscar nod for his adaptation but got screwed.

    Interestingly, at the People’s Choice Awards, ”Perks” won for Best Dramatic Movie … over ”Argo.” I agreed. ”Argo,” f*** yourself. ;)

  23. Claudiu Dobre

    “Last year the same hope and letdown with The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The Academy very rarely acknowledges films about teenagers in high school or college. Their loss. Perks was about 20x more real and heartfelt than Silver Linings.”

    Yeah, Perks was a great movie! Better than I expected, to be honest, and definitely better than SLP. I have fond memories of the first time I saw it – it literally made my day! :) The Spectacular Now, however, I thought I’d like a lot more than I did. A bit of a disappointment, while still being an interesting and fine film.

    “Those of us who used to follow the Oscar race back in the day, still like to actually see a film, judge its quality, and then guess what might win.”

    I do too, and I’ve only been watching the race for about 10 years. I always wait until I’ve seen at least all of the major players, and only then do I start posting opinions about what will win – here and on IMDb. Because it’s all about the movies, after all, or at least it should be. If not for the movies, these awards wouldn’t even exist/make sense.

    “But now this whole Oscar prediction industry is built on the blind leading the blind in terms of predicting the Oscars. So they use precursors to do it. They need proof that they know what they’re talking about so they use statistics and precedent. I don’t agree with it, but that’s what this whole thing is built on.”

    “Blind” is profoundly exaggerated. Like I said before, most categories are quite predictable. Of course you’ll never get it right 100% of the time, but you’ll get it right AT LEAST 2 out of 3 times, which is far more often than, say, if you bet on the result of a Tottenham-Everton football match (pretty much anybody’s guess which of the 3 possible results was going to happen in that one). I’m using an example from today. All of the precursors and statistics are EXTREMELY important and have time and time again proved to be incredibly effective at helping one predict Oscar winners. It’s very hard to combat this notion within the framework of current human knowledge and thinking. The evidence is undeniable. You might be able to do so with an entirely original philosophical approach, pointing out some logical flaw in everybody else’s thinking, but there’d be little point in doing that because, once you’d have such a tool at your disposal, you’d probably want to try to do more with it, to change/improve the way everybody thinks about everything, or at least lay the groundwork for it.

    So, yes, all opinions are valid (I don’t know about equally, though), because we don’t (yet) have the tools to predict the future with 100% accuracy, but some opinions are demonstrably more likely to prove accurate than all the others. Besides, it’s not very forward-thinking to just reject the stats, I would say – it’s pretty much an accepted truth of contemporary thinking that the more informed an opinion, the better it is. The stats are just extra information, no matter how relevant you, personally, think they are. EVERYTHING is at least a little relevant, all the time… I think they’re VERY relevant, because I’ve seen them in action over and over and I know what fantastically powerful predicting tools they can be. You might disagree with this, which is fine – I’m not even saying you’re not right, how could I know?! But I strongly believe it and, obviously, so do most people in the predicting business.

  24. Bryce Forestieri

    was GRAVITY ineligible? :(

  25. I only wish the Oscars were next weekend…This long wait is just crazy, almost unhealthy:)

  26. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Thanks WW.

    You know, you all know, I’m never an unconditional defender of the Academy as a whole. Far from it. I have even less patience for loudmouth Academy members like Borgnine who proudly spoke out against gay movies or Asner who encouraged people to not even watch Zero Dark Thorty. Those guys and other Academy members like them should be on exhibit in the Academy Museum in the Animatronic Academy Asshole Hall of Fame.

    I’ve also voiced long-held frustration and animosity toward lazy Academy members who freely admit they don’t watch the movies (and hence, not surprisingly, can’t come up with more than 5 tiles of movies they like).

    I mean what sort of pitiful reflection on the film industry is it when 250 movies come out of Hollywood every year and then in December we hear of Academy members crying that they have trouble filling out 10 blanks spaces on their ballots with anything they like.

    This year the Academy kow-towed to those people and once again rewrote the rules of Oscar balloting — “ok, poor baby, don’t strain yourself trying to think of 10 movie titles. You just think of 5, dear, and we’ll let the accountants inflate those choices to 10 nominees with math magic. Don’t worry your pretty little head about finding 10 good movies.”

    In essence this is the Academy and the film industry telling us: “Yes, we do make 250 movies a year but most of us in the industry can’t think of 5 that are worth a damn. Meanwhile, we encourage you idiots out there all around the world to please spend 10 billion dollars per year on movies that we squeeze out of our butts for your benefit. But personally we really can’t stand to look at more than 5 of those turds. (Unless it’s The Blind Side, then we can all agree: awww, look at the poor oafish black boy rescued by the nice white lady.)”

    So to all those Academy members who complain that they can’t think of the names of 5 worthwhile movies, I’d like to suggest Watch More Movies! Like we do. None of us here ever have any trouble thinking of a Top 20 list.

    Critics all across the country are always fudging their Top 10 lists with “ties” in order to squeeze in 12 or 15 titles. (or — as Betsy Sharkey at the LA times did — lump all the “black movies” in a tie for #3 on her Top 10 list. Because, yes, sure, that doesn’t look at all weird or suspicious to claim Fruitvale Station, The Butler, and 12 Years a Slave are exactly equal in your eyes, Miss Betsy. They all look alike to you, right?).

    So I believe any Academy member who can’t think of 10 good movies in any given year is just lazy, snotty, or intellectually incurious. And there are Oscar votes like that. I just like to hope they’re rare, that’s all.

    Because I do believe that the vast overwhelming majority of Academy members have talent and sophistication and brains. I also believe there’s a small faction of the Academy who represent the polar opposite of those fine attributes. And if we need any evidence of the damage than can be done by a small faction of uneducated lowbrows, look at what the tiny Tea Party can do to our national elections.

    So none of what I said last night was meant to coddle the Academy members whose laziness and outdated taste cause us to groan every year at the boners they pull. Those people are Oscar voters too, I’m well aware, and some of them probably do see HER winning a WGA award and say, “Her? Her Who? Who’s this Her I’m hearing about?”

    There’s an Oscar voter running around who said recently she hasn’t seen Gravity. Said it out loud so people could hear her. There are hundreds of Oscar voters who never saw The Social Network and never will, never saw Brokeback Mountain and never will, never even saw The Artist and never will. (wasn’t it Jennifer Lawrence who said “I like making movies, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch a black-and-white, freaking boring fucking silent movie” — the answer is yes, that’s exactly what Jennifer Lawrence said, verbatim. To the New York Times. Like it was something to boast about instead of being ashamed to admit).

    So that’s a whole different issue. That’s a problem than can’t be fixed unless those lazy incurious Academy members are kicked out — and that’ll never happen, so we just have to live with them. Just like the BAFTA has to live with Toby Young.

    ===

    But I’ll sum up in very brief terms what I was rambling on and on about last night. Believe me, I think keeping track of the precursor awards is immensely gratifying, massively fascinating, enormously entertaining for anyone who cares about movies — and (to any extent) for all of us who care about movie awards, precursors have essential importance.

    But I think there are two schools of thought about precursors.

    One school feels that precursors are like a checklist primary election, in which thousands of guild member peasantry select their favorite Tribute each year to send to the Oscar Hunger Games so the Privileged Royalty of the Academy don’t have to get their hands dirty.

    Another school feels that each precursor award is a monumental honor in and of itself. And the 2-month pageant of thousands and thousands of bright intelligent guild members selecting the best of the best in their field, they merely mirror on a larger scale the same tastes and trends that are already formed in the minds in the Academy elite.

    The first school of thought regard the precursors as trend creators who blow in the Academy’s ear and cast a spell on them.

    The other school of thought regard precursors as trend indicators who show us which way the Academy wind is already blowing.

    One way of thinking: the precursors create a force that influences the helpless Academy. Another way of thinking: the precursors reflect forces already being projected by an Academy made up of 6000 people perfectly capable of knowing what they like without being told.

    It’s the classic confusion between cause and effect. Some people think the guild awards cause the ripples that affect the Academy to make them do what they do. Other of us think the precursors simply represent a facet of the causes already in effect in the Academy and Hollywood at large.

    ===

    You know, in the hours and days before an earthquake, hibernating snakes will come out of their holes. They sense what’s about to happen and they come to the surface to avoid getting squished. In the hours before a Tsunami, animals sense what’s coming well in advance so the goats climb to higher ground to escape being drowned.

    The snakes and goats are precursors of what’s about to happen, yes? Any alert observer will watch the snakes and goats decisions and know: oh shit, the earthquake/tsunami is coming.

    But here’s the thing, you guys: The snakes and goats are NOT the CAUSE of the earthquakes and tsunamis. They’re merely SIGNS that INDICATE the earthquake forces and tsunami forces are already happening beneath our feet.

    We watch the snakes and goats because they’re indicators, not causes.

    Of course, this is an imperfect comparison. Because snakes and goats don’t vote to have the earthquakes and tsunamis strike… (Or Do They!?)

  27. Claudiu Dobre

    “(wasn’t it Jennifer Lawrence who said “I like making movies, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch a black-and-white, freaking boring fucking silent movie” — the answer is yes, that’s exactly what Jennifer Lawrence said, verbatim. To the New York Times. Like it was something to boast about instead of being ashamed to admit).”

    Wow! I didn’t know she said that… To go out of your way to say something like that, and to talk sh_t about a movie you haven’t even seen, is pretty lame, to say the least. Never been a big fan, and this definitely doesn’t help.

  28. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    To be fair, Miss Lawrence said that 10 months after The Artist already won the Oscar so it’s not clear whether she meant to diss The Artist or just diss all silent films ever made, in general. So. Is that better?

  29. Al Robinson

    Does anyone think that Dazed and Confused is a coming-of-age movie? I think that it is.

  30. Al Robinson

    Also, good for John Ridley!! Yay!! 12 Years a Slave really was a great script:

    Bass: “The law says you have the right to hold a nigger, but begging the law’s pardon… it lies. Is everything right because the law allows it? Suppose they’d pass a law taking away your liberty and making you a slave?”
    Edwin Epps: “Ha!”
    Bass: “Suppose!”
    Edwin Epps: “That ain’t a supposable case.”
    Bass: “Because the law states that your liberties are undeniable? Because society deems it so? Laws change. Social systems crumble. Universal truths are constant. It is a fact, it is a plain fact that what is true and right is true and right for all. White and black alike.”

  31. Pierre de Plume

    I think it’s fitting that the above discussion occurs on a thread devoted to writing. I’ll throw in my 2 cents: Whether it’s art, politics or anything else, people ultimately choose or decide on their own – maybe after long deliberation or maybe on a gut feeling or whim. What others do or say, however, does make an impact on our conscious or subconscious. Many of us don’t have or make the time to research every issue, every candidate or every film. Sometimes our knowledge is superficial and our opinions can change if we’ve made superficial judgments. Taking the example of Ed Asner/Zero Dark Thirty, I wonder whether he even saw the movie. If he did, maybe a potential bias affected his view. He’s no dummy, but if someone took the time to explain it to him his view might change . . . or maybe it already has.

    This is why we talk about art and politics. This is why what others say and think do have an effect – subiminal or otherwise – on what occupies the forefront of our conscious minds and, often, our decisions.

  32. Claudiu Dobre

    “To be fair, Miss Lawrence said that 10 months after The Artist already won the Oscar so it’s not clear whether she meant to diss The Artist or just diss all silent films ever made, in general. So. Is that better?”

    It’s about the same… :)

  33. Excepted win.

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