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The State of the Race: Hope is the Thing with Feathers

“I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

There is a scene in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave when Solomon Northup is recognized by one of the white people who knew him as a free man. “What is your name?” He is asked. His name is the only thing that has come to matter for that film this year. It is the reason Steve McQueen has been killing himself to help publicize the movie – committed to bringing the novel to classrooms, it is the reason Brad Pitt initially wanted to tell this story, and it is the thing that has brought screenwriter John Ridley to tears every time he’s talked about his experience writing the film. A name is something free people take for granted — but a name like Solomon Northup was too easy to forget for too long.

Has there ever been a year like this one where one movie keeps winning Best Picture but not Best Director? Not even the DGA? Certainly not the BAFTA who took the compromise route of putting Gravity in for Best British Film and having it win there (mais bien sur). Let’s look at it, shall we?

You can’t really count the Critics Choice, or the BAFTA because one is too recent and one changed their dates as to render them not a precursor. We can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no split like this one has occurred since those awards bodies factored into the race. So we are talking more about the Golden Globes, the DGA and the Oscar.

Facts:

Fact #1 – no two films have ever tied the PGA before.
Fact #2 - Only the PGA and Oscar use the preferential ballot with more than 5 nominees (not BAFTA, not Globes, not Critics Choice).
Fact #3 – no film directed by, written by and starring black filmmakers has ever come this close to winning Best Picture
Fact #4 - If the awards precursors hope to influence the Academy into picking 12 Years a Slave for Best Picture and very little else — by the looks of it that is exactly how it might go down — then you’re looking to go all the way back to 1936 when Mutiny on the Bounty won a single Oscar for Best Picture while John Ford’s The Informer won Director and three other Oscars. Or you could go with 1940s Rebecca, which won two Oscars including Best Picture against John Ford again with Grapes of Wrath, which won 2.
Fact#5 - There is precedent for a film under a preferential ballot to win Best Picture without Director or any other major awards. It has happened before, albeit a very long time ago. In recent times, however, you’d have to find for a repetitive trend to split as this has been, where picture and director have gone to two different movies. I suspect that it has never occurred, not ever. But let’s see.

What I found in my research is rather staggering. Twice before in Globes/DGA/Oscar history there been a split vote that was repeated across the board.

1967 – In the Heat of the Night wins the Globe and Oscar for Picture/Mike Nichols wins the Globe for Director, the DGA and Oscar
1989 – Driving Miss Daisy wins the Globe and Oscar for Picture / Oliver Stone wins Director for Born on the Fourth of July (but Bruce Beresford was not nominated for Director)
2013 – 12 Years a Slave wins Picture at Globe (people presume also Oscar) / Alfonso Cuaron wins the DGA and Director Oscar.

Here are a few key differences in the years, before we talk about the similarities. The difference with 1989 is that Driving Miss Daisy was the popular crowd-pleaser while Born on the Fourth of July the more difficult/challenging film. Another big difference is that obviously Bruce Beresford was not even nominated so they didn’t opt out of choosing him as they did Norman Jewison.

The New York Film Critics gave their director prize to Mike Nichols for The Graduate. They gave Best Picture to In the Heat of the Night — once again, the agreeable compromise split. But this year, they gave their director prize to Steve McQueen and their picture to American Hustle. In 1989, the New York Film Critics had nothing to do with the Oscar race for Best Picture.

But really, you’re looking more at 1967 than any other year. 2013 mirrors 1967 for two significant reasons. One, there was an agreed upon consensus split that Nichols would win director because The Graduate was a “better movie” or more well liked or more relatable or more moving or more culture defining for the then (and now) target demo. But In the Heat of the Night was culturally important. I had been looking for a dynamic that matched this year in a split vote scenario but could not find one until I landed on 1967. Even then there were complaints about the movie “only winning because…” Even now people complain that The Graduate was better or Bonnie and Clyde better. To my mind, those are films that don’t need a gold statue to validate them: their brilliance is far beyond what the Oscar race can do. In the Heat of the Night’s win was significant in so many respects — for one thing, Sidney Poitier is seen slapping a white man. Think about what was happening then. It was 1967 — one year before RFK and Martin Luther King were shot, right smack in the middle of the violent desegregation in the South. How the Oscars, and the awards community back then, ever got their shit together to award such a timely, vital, and yes, important (with or without the quotes) film is staggering.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 10.26.17 AM

Nonetheless, it is not a big leap to say that In the Heat of the Night and 12 Years a Slave are two films that deal with the race. The big difference? Norman Jewison was very much an A-lister and a white director.

The three films made by black filmmakers this year each had honorable intentions. Lee Daniels’ The Butler hoped to help educate younger audiences about the civil rights arc, one that continues in many parts of the US. My good friend Michael who has been staying with me in North Hollywood had someone scrawl on his brand new car the other day “get out of my neighborhood, piece of shit N*gger.” And that is right here in sunny California, in a mostly liberal enclave. To pretend that race isn’t an issue here in the US is to pretend that poverty isn’t an issue. Ryan Coogler wanted to tell Oscar Grant’s story from the everyday life of a typical African American young man in the US. Both of these films deal with the defining point: you are always going to be prejudged by the color of your skin.

But this is the game of Oscar. The Oscar race could give a rat’s ass about such things. Leave politics out of it, they say. Film critics have been mostly defensive when the issue of race comes up — they being almost exclusively a white voting body — as if voting against 12 Years a Slave was, for them, a badge of honor because it meant they were judging the film solely on merit oblivious to its potential social impact or what a win for that film would really mean both to the history of the Oscars and to perception in America overall.

There is buried resentment in anything that smells remotely like affirmative action. Resentment that minorities are taking “our” spots in colleges just because they’re minorities. Resentment that 12 Years a Slave might win just because a black man directed it and they want to make history. But to my mind, I don’t know how you add all of that up and come out the other side not wanting to vote for 12 Years a Slave, the least thing about its win is that it would make history — which, by the way, it would not do simply because of who wrote, directed and starred in it but first and foremost because of what it’s about: honoring an AMERICAN hero.

Films like that, though, don’t usually win Oscars. 12 Years has had to deflect its own merit since its awards run began, once Kyle Buchanan pronounced that it would win Best Picture that sent many of the major critics scattering, not wanting to have their choice for Best Picture decided for them, despite 12 Years being the best reviewed film of the year (with Gravity a very close second). It was compounded further by the memes that traveled alongside it — it was “torture porn” or “it’s only about slavery is bad.” Suddenly, the best-reviewed film of the year began to lose steam.

The rumor that BAFTA voters were going to go whole hog for 12 Years was being floated around on various film sites. Kris Tapley at In Contention spoke to someone who said the Brits were putting all of their weight behind it. This notion ballooned to such significant proportions that almost ALL of the pundits at Gold Derby had 12 Years winning multiple awards, including Best Supporting Actress (instead they picked Jennifer Lawrence, mais bien sur), Adapted Screenplay (they picked Philomena), Actor (the pundits got that one right) and Picture (ditto). They assumed that the film would be rewarded as that early buzz indicated and when it didn’t the film suddenly looked much more like a loser and less like a winner. That is how these things go, my friends. The awards race is about perception — if you can get a handle on perception you can control the race.

But let’s not ever kid ourselves what all of this is really about. You know it once the year has come to a close, when the lights come up to reveal the discarded debris, the half eaten popcorn, the spilled coke, the crumpled speeches, the lost earring, the lipstick stained napkins. The pretty people have fled the scene, removed the injurious heels and sewn-on dresses, showered out the lacquer in their hair, and with no one else around can begin again to feel like human beings. They are sometimes seen wolfing down burgers, finally allowed to ingest fattening food. The perception of who they have to be slowly melts away. We go home with that tiny burst of happiness floating around somewhere inside. It takes us to dreamland where our hands can sometimes touch the stars.

There is another side to this bizarre scene, however. The part that opens doors and doesn’t close them. The chance that maybe this year things might be different. The Academy has split with the consensus before, awarding both Halle Berry and Denzel Washington on the same night when no one thought they would. In those private moments of voting enough of them said — you know what? I’m going to use my vote for something that actually matters for once. No one even thinks about the Oscars after they’re over. People barely remember what won the following year. Does anyone care if we underline something that has already been bolded? What does any of it mean? In those moments they know that their vote really counts for something. Not nothing. But those moments are few and far between. This race is about perception — being on the side that’s winning, feeling the uplift of belonging to something greater than ourselves.

Emily Dickinson wrote:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Hope is the thing that brings so many readers here who love Alfonso Cuaron and Gravity and want to see it richly rewarded because if that film is rewarded that means something to them — it means their favorite was given a prize and that means their feelings were validated by a group they admire. Everybody wins. Hope is the thing that keeps David O. Russell making movies that do so well with the awards community until that very last second. Hope is the thing that drives screaming fans to line up at premieres and at the Oscars in hopes of getting a glimpse of one of their idols. Hope is the thing that drove James Schamus to inspire and deliver great movies to the Oscar race for his ten year reign. Hope is the reason Ellen Page came out, and it’s the reason The Weinstein Co. backed two films by African American directors this year — and then to be considered a “failure” by many for not reaching the end zone. Hope is not a shameful thing. It is a beautiful thing. It is the thing that makes me wake up every morning for fifteen years and look at the Oscar race like every day is a new day. Ah, but hope is also the thing with feathers, so fragile to weather such a mighty storm.

Current predictions in the majors

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Best Editing: Captain Phillips
Best Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing, Score, Visual Effects: Gravity
Production Design & Costume: The Great Gatsby
Foreign: The Great Beauty
Doc: The Act of Killing
Animated Feature: Frozen
Song: Let it Go, Frozen

110 Comments on this Post

  1. 12 Years a Slave will win Best Picture, it is the perfect one in the middle : acting-writing heavy unlike Gravity and important and serious unlike American Hustle. At the end of the day that’s the kind of film that appeals to the Academy : a drama with a big ensemble and a nominated script.

    Also, now that we are pretty much done with the season, here is a summary of all the awards, it helps with the consensus :

    http://www.awardscorner.blogspot.hu/2013/12/awards-chart-2013.html

  2. Your winner predictions are hard to disagree with. I’ll just allow myself to retain a little bit of hope for McQueen and Jonze (Screenplay).

  3. Ah there it is, Sasha finally relents to the consensus split. A well written piece.

  4. I agree with all your major picks, Sasha. Lovely article as always. Love the Emily D. poem. It was nice to read it. Again.

    But I do hope that Chiwetel Ejiofor wins Best Actor. He won last night at the BAFTAS. And you could tell by his face he was totally surprised. I think the Academy is going to recognize him. He’s on the cover of Vanity Fair. BEFORE the fold. The actual cover.

    And in his moving acceptance speech, I was moved to tears several times. He presented himself with great dignity. He’s an actor’s actor.

    Matthew McC. is coming off as a movie star/good ole boy. He STILL doesn’t seem like a serious actor. In his acceptance speeches. There’s something still hippie-dippie about him. And he’ll get other chances.

    If AMPAS voters waited to see the BAFTAS, they’ll be VERY impressed by his speech and with the way he presented himself. They know he has a track record of great performances in great films. “Dirty Pretty Things” springs to mind. And there will be others.

    There will be many others. MANY of Matthew McC. And there’s the British voting block which in a tight race will tip the scales. Like it did for Tilda Swinton, like it did for Marion Cotillard. And the BAFTA LOST the race for Mickey Rourke when he dropped “F” bomb after “F” on the Royal Opera Stage(of wherever they held it that it.) I’m plunking for Chiwetel. And Lupita. AND Best Adapted Screenplay. AND Best Picture.

  5. I think you’re very close with the exception of Lupita Nyong’o. I think Jennifer’s win at the BAFTA’s pretty much seals the deal for her to get an oscar. Think about it. You have Lupita in a British film and Jennifer in an American film at a British awards show and Jennifer won. And it’s not like the Brits didn’t recognize other performances from people of color (probably a more liberal voting group than we are). Barkhad over Brit Michael Fassbender. Chiwetel winning for lead actor. 12 Years winning best picture. Barkhad winning over Fassbender alone demonstrates to me that the Brits are sympathetic towards actors of color over their own established British stars in a British film, yet they didn’t award Lupita for supporting actress. The only thing that may hurt Jennifer in the long run is the fact she wasn’t there to accept the BAFTA.

  6. Al Robinson

    Okay, I have to ask. Since both American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave are the only Best Picture nominees with all 4 “Big” nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, AND Best Editing, but American Hustle has 1 more acting nomination than 12 Years a Slave (4 to 3), does that mean that some voters might look at that and vote for American Hustle?

  7. Those predictions seem accurate but I still think Her will walk away with Original Screenplay.

  8. The way I see it, & maybe fellow Gravity fans too, BAFTA just came up with a tie ala PGA, 12 Years a Slave & Gravity winning the 2 “best film” awards, given these 2 films are wrestling each other Oscarwise. Gravity won a whopping 6 trophies & Cuaron won BD. To hell with stats & precedence, I’m so confident now Gravity will win the Oscar for best picture I’d shut down the TV right after the last acting winner gives speech. (I have to go to work at around that time anyway)

  9. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Your winner predictions are hard to disagree with. I’ll just allow myself to retain a little bit of hope for McQueen and Jonze (Screenplay).

    Hope is the thing with feathers. :) Me too.

  10. Bryce Forestieri

    In 1967 the American film that deserved most of the top honors, including Best Picture and Best Director, was BONNIE & CLYDE. Everything else is a few steps below. Runner-up is IN COLD BLOOD, and of course THE GRADUATE is very “important” for a great many people, of which I’m not one. Great year of Cinema if we look into the “foreign department”, but I guess that’s not relevant to the discussion.

  11. I still can’t help but think what a shame it is that Wolf of Wall Street might get shut out. It was by far the best of the year (in my opinion at least). It looks like another Marty masterpiece that we’ll look back on ten years from now and wonder how it was not immediately recognized as the achievement it is.

    That said, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle are all great movies, so at least this won’t be one of the academy’s more embarrassing years.

  12. SallyinChicago

    At this point, I think Steve McQ is glad to have gotten the Bafta. To get that award from his home country was monumental, and he can stop campaigning IMO.
    The big question(s) now is: Will Abdi beat Ledo? Will Chitewele sneak in and beat DiCaprio and McCon?
    I think Lupita has won enough awards, so if she loses on Oscar night…won’t matter because she is well known now. She simply needs to get a good agent.

  13. John Oliver

    If it comes down to Gravity and 12Years a Slave, just look at your top 7 major categories-Gravity has 3 noms (pic, dir, actress) and 12 Years has 6 (pic, dir, screenplay, actor, Suppt actor, Suppt actress). Of course American Hustle has all 7.

  14. Al Robinson

    “I think Lupita has won enough awards, so if she loses on Oscar night…won’t matter because she is well known now. She simply needs to get a good agent.”

    SallyinChicago,

    I agree to an extent that she’s now well known, and can now capitalize on the awards she’s already won, but I think that almost every Oscar nominee would trade in ALL the previous award if it meant they win the Oscar.

  15. José R. Ortega

    And yet again another piece about making history and that poor old Steve McQueen who oughta win for all the African-Americans and their place as a minority. Mean old white Academy! Shame on you!

    Sad.

    “12 Years a Slave” is a remarkable film and should win on that basis alone. Stop mentioning “history being made”, “open doors” and “civil rights” every five seconds.

    What is different with Alfonso Cuarón, for instance? He’s mexican (a minority within the US, and may I say, even worst treated than african-americans), only the second mexican nominee for Best Achievement in Directing. There’s been 28 “Black Oscars” versus only 10 “Mexican Oscars” besides the country being humiliated for 8 times in the Best Foreign Language Film Category (most infamously with “Pan’s Labyrinth”).

    “Gravity” was an oddity in the making, they also struggled to get this film done.

    IMO, “12 Years a Slave” might be the best film of the year, but Alfonso Cuarón’s is truly the greatest achievement in directing, both in the storytelling aspect, and with the work with his actors. Add the fact that he masters the technical aspects, even editing the film… We got a clear and deserving winner, this WILL be a split. No matter the race, color, sexual preference, age, height, weight, or anything else.

    Please, please, please, take the quality of “12 Years a Slave” as your angle, not race.

  16. John Oliver

    I still think Tom Hanks deserved the spot over Christian Bale.

  17. deerbright

    12YAS is a good film about a very important topic. Maybe not the best.
    Whether guilting old white males into voting for it is better than Harvey’s campaign tactics, I can’t really say.
    Maybe it will win BP and lose every other nom, that would be for the books.

  18. I wonder if 12 Years A Slave is in the same position as Brokeback Mountain was in 2005/06 – winning the Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Film but missing out on the Oscar? 12 Year A Slave is the favourite, but other than Best Picture I can’t see where else it will win awards. I would dearly love Chiwetel Ejiofor to repeat his BAFTA win and take home the Best Actor Oscar. However, home advantage counted for a lot last night.
    Matthew McConaughey is still the favourite. John Ridley hasn’t been picking up the pre-Oscar Screenplay prizes nor has the film made a showing at any of the technical awards.

  19. Al Robinson, don’t look at who has more acting nominations. Last year Silver Linings Playbook had 4 acting, picture, director as screenplay nominations. It lost to Argo which had picture, 1 acting and screenplay nominations. Argo was both the juggernaut and the little engine that could. Took 3 out of 13 Oscars it was nominated for. Lincoln had 13 nominations (3 for acting) last year as well. Pay attention to the current, not the waves.

  20. Des Brown, the difference between this year and 2005 is that Crash winning was seen by almost nobody. If Gravity wins it won’t be a COMPETE surprise, ditto American Hustle.

  21. SallyinChicago

    12YAS is a good film about a very important topic. Maybe not the best.
    ^^ Go through Oscar History, there are many many films that were BP that were crap and didn’t stand the test of time.

    About the Guardian op-ed — this stood out to me: “Jennifer Lawrence’s stock price has now peaked.”
    YAY! Because I thought JenLaw was OK in that role. But Christian Bale and Bradley out-acted her IMO.

  22. SallyinChicago

    As for Crash winning BP….in my opin. it has stood the test of time. I just saw it again on DVD a few weeks ago and was just as invested in it then as now.

  23. Al Robinson

    “Last year Silver Linings Playbook had 4 acting, picture, director as screenplay nominations. It lost to Argo which had picture, 1 acting and screenplay nominations. Argo was both the juggernaut and the little engine that could. Took 3 out of 13 Oscars it was nominated for. Lincoln had 13 nominations (3 for acting) last year as well. Pay attention to the current, not the waves.”

    Kane,

    That is very true. I forgot that for Argo last year. Thanks for the response. Little ripples make bigger waves. :-)

  24. “As for Crash winning BP….in my opin. it has stood the test of time. I just saw it again on DVD a few weeks ago and was just as invested in it then as now.”

    SalliyinChicago,

    Regardless of what one feels about the quality of Crash, years later Brokeback Mountain is still a better film and deserved to win Best Pic.

  25. 12 Years a Slave is not the better acted, but has excellent performances, is not the better written, but has an excellent screenplay, is not the better directed, but Steve McQueen is a genious. Even with all of this in mind, for me, the sum of its parts added to the epic story that it tells, I wouldn’t deny it a Best Picture award.

    My takes (Personal Picks/Predictions)
    Best Picture: (12 Years a Slave/12 Years a Slave)
    Best Director: (Alfonso Cuaron/Alfonso Cuaron)
    Best Actor: (Leonardo DiCaprio/Matthew McConaughey)
    Best Actress: (Sandra Bullock/Cate Blanchett)
    Best Supporting Actor: (Jonah Hill/Jared Leto)
    Best Supporting Actress: (Lupita/Jennifer Lawrence)
    Best Original Screenplay: (Her/Her)
    Best Adapted Screenplay: (Before Midnight/12 Years a Slave)

  26. Bob Burns

    Sasha speaking French makes me think of that foto of the giant croissant she posted from 2012 Cannes.

    agree entirely with Stephen Holt’s comments about Chiwetel Ejiofor. Great acceptance speech honoring Northrup. Hope he wins again

  27. Brokeback won:

    DGA, PGA, WGA
    Most nom
    BAFTA
    Globe
    NY, LA and about 20 other critics prizes
    Virtually all director’s prizes
    Brokeback’s box office was double and a cultural zeitgeist

    Crash won Sag, and also a WGA

    Brokeback towers over Crash.

  28. The only prediction here that I see as flat out wrong is Original Screenplay. Her has won the vast majority of critics’ awards (including the BFCA), the Golden Globe, and the WGA. There has only been one instance where a screenplay winning all of those precursors lost the Oscar, that being Up in the Air. However, that was mainly due to the controversy over authorship. With Her, there is no controversy as far as I know.

    It is a shame that the BAFTAs didn’t tell us much about Best Picture given that they just opted to give both Gravity and 12 Years a top award. Since AMPAS doesn’t have that option, I’m hoping that things will still slide in Gravity’s favor with it almost certainly winning Best Director and a multitude of other awards. Plus, you may be right about Captain Phillips winning Editing because of the ACE Eddie, but I just don’t see them NOT giving Gravity that Oscar too.

  29. I expect 12 Years a Slave to win Screenplay, and probably Lupita, even if it loses Picture.

    But it’s weird to have a Best Picture winner whose only other wins are Screenplay and Supporting Actress. When’s the last time something like that has happened? The Life of Emile Zola in 1937? It’s one thing to lose Director, but also Lead Actor and Editing and not sweep the techs? Chicago was a feel-good film and still won Editing and three other techs. And it was never going to win screenplay as a musical. Even Argo last year won what it reasonably could — Screenplay and Editing.

    A Supporting Actress award to Lupita doesn’t scream Best Picture to me to a film about one slave’s struggle for freedom. And yet Gravity is following Pi’s trajectory last year, with wins in Director and SOME techs, but none of the crucial ones. Easily the biggest winner of the night, but never a sweep.

    Editing will be the tell. I think Captain Phillips will win, but if Gravity takes it, Gravity wins Picture too.

    But the problem with Slave winning Picture and so little else — for a film in which McQueen and Ejiofor DOMINATE — is that it smacks of the Academy’s hands being tied. A BEGRUDGING Best Picture vote. And the Academy never votes like that, no matter what the precursors tell it. They really loved Schindler’s List. They at least greatly respected In the Heat of the Night, giving Best Actor to its central character, Rod Steiger, over overdue movie idol Paul Newman. And it won Editing. The Graduate won nothing but Nichols, who was overdue from Virginia Woolf? the year before, so that win looks less like an acknowledgement of the “better” or “more popular” film and more like a pity vote.

  30. José R. Ortega

    “As for Crash winning BP….in my opin. it has stood the test of time. I just saw it again on DVD a few weeks ago and was just as invested in it then as now.”

    Actually it isn’t a bad film, it is a great film, I’ve seen it like five times and made me cry every single time. But “Brokeback Mountain” was far superior. That year it had everything in its favor, “Crash” came out of nowhere, just remember the llok on Jack Nicholson’s face while announcing the winner.

  31. Jerry Grant

    Great article Sasha. Powerful stuff. And I’m glad to see you’ve turned the corner on your predictions. I have had those top 8 set for the last few weeks at least, and glad to feel vindicated. (You gotta be pretty ballsy to go against the 12 Years/Cuaron split at this point.)

    By the way, isn’t this a good thing? What’s so wrong with a split that everyone agrees upon? I’m very happy with it, even though I would prefer McQueen to win. Cuaron SO deserves an Academy Award. He should’ve won an Academy Award for _Children of Men_. He is a genius, a visionary, without a shadow of a doubt.

    I fully agree that Original Screenplay will go to _American Hustle_. _Her_ is no Charlie Kaufman script. The Academy likes _American Hustle_ more (as do I). David O. Russell still hasn’t won an Oscar. Give it to Russell.

  32. I was so happy when Crash won BP as it was my fave film that year. Have revisited it over the years and I have to disagree with SallyinChicago as I don’t think it holds up. It even makes me cringe in parts. I’ve seen Brokeback Mountain multiple times now and it still makes me teary every watch. It’s a masterpiece.

  33. Again, the irony is that if they had given Best Actress to Riva like many on this site said, then Lawrence would be a shoo-in for a makeup Oscar. Thankfully, her win last year means Lupita should be getting it now which she more than deserves.

    Can’t argue with your predictions. Only way Blanchett loses is if A), the Allen scandal gets some new fire thrown and voters are nervous about hearing her thank him on stage. Or B), a lot of voters go “ah, she’s a sure thing, I’ll throw a vote to Adams or Bullock.” Hey, not that off-base, plenty of times in the past that seems to have happened (Tomei, Binoche, Marcia Gay Harden) and some might want to give “Hustle” something big and reward Adams on so many nominations. But right now, pretty safe on Blanchett, hard to believe she turns into the Denver Broncos of movies and loses the big prize at the end.

    Do love the comparison to 1967, was just reading the great book “Pictures of a Revolution” on that year and how it was a watershed, one can hope that same inspiration follows this year too.

  34. Probably my favorite article by you, Sasha. Well written.

  35. In the Heat of the night won 5 Oscars though, while 12YAS is expected to win 3 at best (i’m worried about lupita now too). i don’t know. is it possible it could win with just Picture and Screenplay? wasn’t the last movie to do that The Greatest Show on Earth? I suppose it could happen. And like someone said above, The Graduate only won for Mike Nichols, while Gravity is going to take home quite a few trophies. and really, the preferential ballot is still the biggest obstacle for it i think, because even if they intended to split it up this way it might not happen. if they still were using the weighted ballot i’d feel a lot more comfortable predicting this split

  36. Bryce Forestieri

    Can’t they just write in TRUE DETECTIVE for all the top honors?

  37. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    “By the way, isn’t this a good thing? What’s so wrong with a split that everyone agrees upon?”

    Jerry, I can’t really argue with it. Just as I can’t argue with In the Heat of the Night and The Graduate splitting. Two very good films. I can’t make the case that Cuaron doesn’t deserve it – except to say that he’s one of the big time A-listers who will have multiple opportunities to win. I don’t feel the same opportunities open not just to Steve McQueen but to black directors overall. Other than that…

  38. julian the emperor

    Ok, great, just NEVER say again that you cannot predict a split year! And never again chase down those who do…right!?;)

    This is a nice article, I enjoyed the references to 1967 (for everyone who’s read Mark Harris’ great book on that years’ oscar race, it’s always a pleasure to see any reference to that particular year), but I don’t recognize the resentment you refer to with regards to 12 YAS. From the critics you say? The same critics who gave it the best reviews of the year and the lions’ share of critics’ prizes? Or did I miss something? Did you mean someone else’s resentment?

    Oh, and btw, I think about Halle Berry’s oscar win in quite another way, I must say. A thoroughly undistinguished actress winning an oscar over the mighty Sissy Spacek? That’s not a vote that matters to me, to be frank. That was a bullshit call.

  39. I thought Crash was a fine film. Heavyhanded? Yes. But also extremely well-acted and emotionally involving. But, Brokeback Mountain is also those two things and so much more. The first time I saw Brokeback I thought it was pretty good. The second time, I loved it.

    I also watched Argo for the third time and while I don’t think it’s the absolute best movie of 2012 (I had it at #3 on my top ten, behind Looper and Zero Dark Thirty), it is the most rewatchable and I expect it will earn many more viewings in the future. It’s a shame Affleck was left off the director list last year because he certainly turned in fantastic work here.

    I expect 12 Years a Slave to win three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It could also take either Costumes or Production Design but I doubt it.

  40. Jerry Grant

    “I can’t make the case that Cuaron doesn’t deserve it – except to say that he’s one of the big time A-listers who will have multiple opportunities to win. I don’t feel the same opportunities open not just to Steve McQueen but to black directors overall.”

    I fully agree. Seeing McQueen win for Director would really be something. But it will be something to see him win BP anyway. And a night where John Ridley, Alfonso Cuaron, and Steve McQueen win top Oscars (two black artists and a Mexican artist) is certainly a good night for the Oscars.

  41. Cate Blanchett did not mention Woody Allen in her BAFTA thank you speech. Same thing at the Santa Barbara Film Fest. I thought actors tend to gush over their directors. Is it a calculated omission?

  42. Evidence for a 12 Years / Gravity split:

    Globes split
    PGA tied on a preferential ballot (Yes it’s that close)
    DGA for Cuaron
    BAFTA split (No film has ever won Best British Film and Best Director)

    There is obvious major love for these films, essentially political cover for an AMPAS voter to justify splitting their vote.

  43. unlikely hood

    Aye Bryce – The win for Mike Nichols was as much about Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as it was about The Graduate. To put in another way, had Arthur Penn made The Graduate and Nichols Bonnie and Clyde, frame by frame the same way, Bonnie and Clyde would have won that award. Nichols had clearly made two of the best films of the last two years, and judging the films as a pair, Nichols was everything the Academy wanted to be…stylistically austere when necessary, shocking when appropriate (think of those shock cuts as Mrs. Robinson undresses) – when profane, never without reason. The tones of those two films are rather different, yet judged perfectly based on the source material. Also, Nichols (with help from Simon and Garfunkel) invented the seamless rock soundtrack as narrator. That was like John Ford (with Gregg Toland) inventing deep focus; the town knew how much it would use it even then. (Thus, Ford had to win Best Director in 1941.)

    Is it me, or is this race all over but the crying? 12YAS, Cuaron, McConaughey, Blanchett, Leto? And a lot of wins for Gravity? Maybe *some* suspense in Supporting Actress and the Screenplay categories? Ellen’s gonna have to work double-time just to keep this one entertaining.

  44. Cate Blanchett is this year’s Daniel Day Lewis. No Best Actress has come this far with winning the precursors than to lose the Oscar. BAFTA was a show of how strong a contender she is. The voting was right in the middle of the Farrow drama. Blanchett managed to beat BAFTA home town favorite Judi Dench.

  45. It all comes down to the American Hustle #1 voters. Which film would they rank higher, 12 or Gravity? Her should and will win best screenplay with ease in my opinion, which raises and interesting question, will they really let AH go home empty handed? If they want to give it a consolation prize, I doubt that it’s best original screenplay, more like best supporting actress, which would make it really difficult for 12 to win BP. I think we’ll see some spread among the BP noms, 12 will win 1, AH will win 1, Her will win 1, Captain Phillips will win 1, Gravity taking BP and BD.

  46. Almost 10 years after the fact, the Brokeback Mountain vs Crash debate is still endless amusing for 3 different reasons.

    1) You live by the sword, you die by the sword. Brokeback’s rise was always tied to the politics of being a story about two men falling in love with each other. Critics allowed themselves to emotionally fall head over heels for that movie because instead of being yet another traditional love story, this one different. Supporters of the film never could admit that politics helped the movie soar into the hearts of otherwise discerning critics. The irony being of course, politics is probably what prevented old white men from seeing the movie, little-lone vote for it on their Oscar ballot.

    2) Crash- I still laugh every time someone defends Crash winning Best Picture. A film isn’t great simply because it’s enjoyable and emotionally powerfully.

    3) The best Hollywood film of that year didn’t win a single Oscar. Good Night, and Good Luck was simply a better movie than the other two.

  47. Scott (the other one)

    Best original screenplay is one of the toughest calls. It is traditionally the award that can go to smaller, more indie type films — like Her. But it is the one award that voters might give to American Hustle (sorry, J-Law doesn’t have a chance against Lupita).

    How will the lawsuit against Her and Spike Jonze affect voters, who are marking their ballots as the news breaks?

  48. Bryce Forestieri

    “Also, Nichols (with help from Simon and Garfunkel) invented the seamless rock soundtrack as narrator. That was like John Ford (with Gregg Toland) inventing deep focus”

    As always, kudos to unlikely hood. Indeed the Oscars with an American focus, for many what they should be in principle. I know it’s argued that Mizoguchi got to deep stage *just* before Ford, is there such a counter case for Nichol’s innovation? Anyone? Maybe something from the New Wave? I’m at a loss.

  49. Nice piece, Sasha.

    And…

    “Seeing McQueen win for Director would really be something. But it will be something to see him win BP anyway. And a night where John Ridley, Alfonso Cuaron, and Steve McQueen win top Oscars (two black artists and a Mexican artist) is certainly a good night for the Oscars.”

    This ^^^ I Couldn’t agree more with you more, Jerry.

  50. American Hustle will go home…..with 0 Oscars!!!!!!!

  51. Even after the BAFTAs, I still cannot get these facts out of my head:
    1. There has never been a Best Picture/Best Direction split in a year ending with 3.
    2. It’s rare for a movie to win more Oscars and not win Best Picture, especially if Sasha is predicting Gravity to win 6 including Best Direction. Examples:
    1952 : The Greatest Show on Earth wins 2; The Bad and the Beautiful wins 5 (wasn’t even nominated Best Picture) and High Noon wins 4.
    1969: Midnight Cowboy wins 3; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid wins 4
    1972: The Godfather wins 3; Cabaret wins 8 (including Best Direction)
    1976: Rocky wins 3; All the President’s Men and Network win 4
    1977: Annie Hall wins 4; Star Wars wins 6
    2004: Million Dollar Baby wins 4; The Aviator wins 5
    2012: Argo wins 3; Life of Pi wins 4
    This is 7 years out of the last 60 years. And no film has ever won so much as 6 without Best Picture since 1977.

    Of course, 2013 can break this trend. Until proven otherwise on March 2, I will continue to predict Gravity for Best Picture. But Best Picture is not really a category I care about. Last year (which was an awful year for movies), I just wanted to see Daniel Day-Lewis become the first person to receive 3 Best Actor trophies. This year’s anticipated highlight: seeing Alfonso Cuaron win Best Direction.

  52. JustSayingObviousThings

    @Frank69: Actually: with 3 (screenplay, Lawrence and… best picture). Just wait and see. :)

  53. 2) Crash- I still laugh every time someone defends Crash winning Best Picture. A film isn’t great simply because it’s enjoyable and emotionally powerfully.

    The second sentence. Having a hard time comprehending this. Could you clarify?

  54. Has anyone thought about this possibility …….

    Perhaps a lot of the older Academy members (and there are plenty) wouldnt want to watch a space movie such as Gravity or even want to award it.

    Theres so much talk about people not wanting to watch or award a tough mvie like 12YAS.

    But think of the Gravity possibility.

  55. For awhile I had joined in the thinking that this year is perfect for a split, mostly because it was a best possible result given the circumstances for a heavy-going film in a quality year. Now that 12 Years has basically crash landed at the BAFTAs, I think a split will be a surprise.

    I’m afraid the film, an unflinching look at a detestable subject is difficult enough when just taken at face value, has been unfortunately and irretrievably entangled in politics of race, guilt, and moral obligation. That might have worked in the 60s or 70s, but not with the contemporary escapist-seeking voter. It’s a muck of a mess that overshadows the film itself; it would have been a tough enough climb for the film without it.

    When The Hurt Locker won, there was no serious contender – they had already awarded Cameron for his previous fantasy and weren’t about to do it again. This year, there are alternatives, each of which is better than the last three winners. Among those is Gravity, the thoughtful thrill ride by a well-loved director that satisfies on every level and oppresses on none.

    I doubt (and in a way hope) that the Academy does NOT vote for 12 years a Slave because they feel they “should”. I’d rather the film get tossed in the box with Citizen Kane, Network, The Social Network, etc., than carry the mantel of begrudgment for eternity.

    I would love it to win because of itself, but I don’t think that’s possible anymore. If a voter doesn’t love a film, they should not vote for it. Not because they “should”, not because it’s the likely winner, not because it “represents” the voter – they should vote for the film they think is best. This year, given all that we know from what has gone by, that film (for the industry) is Gravity.

    So I don’t believe there will be a split. If there is, it will look incredibly suspicious – even ridiculous – if 12 Years fails to win anything else.

  56. My point about Crash is that people seem to mistake emotional resonance with talented film-making. Crash moved me emotionally but that doesn’t make it a great movie…

    Of course, with Brokeback Mountain, everyone who championed that film always mistook cultural importance with cinematic innovation. Was it powerfully culturally to see two male cowboys fall in-love on screen? You bet it was. Does that make a masterpiece of cinema? Some obviously think so. I don’t because I can distinguish between cultural innovation and cinematic brilliance.

    Isn’t that what is at the heart of the matter this year as well? If 12 Yrs wins, it can probably thank Brokeback Mountain because Academy voters are still dealing with the backlash from that vote. They’ve learned from that “mistake” and won’t repeat it this year, even if it means the more brilliant piece of film-making, Gravity, loses out on the top price.

    I am just can’t believe Goodnight and Good luck went home empty handed.

  57. >1. There has never been a Best Picture/Best Direction split in a year ending with 3.

    Oh, come on! Now this fact-mania gets really silly. ;)

    This reminds me of season 2002/2003, where somebody here at AD argued: “Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones can’t both win, because never have two actresses with the same first surname-letter won for the same movie.” ;)

    I give you a hint: Stop looking at the past. There is no formula. Yes, there are statistics and similarities between the years, because the academy has their own “opion” and their own “taste”. But you guys always argue like it’s a law. A lot of you seem to believe, that an academy member wouldn’t vote für his favorite movie, if it wasn’t nominated for editing or directing. And that’s just silly – like Argo proved last year. It’s silly, that 300 people could decide what 6000 voters are “allowed” to vote for.

    And now you’re thinking: “How can 12 Years a Slave win Best Picture and (maybe!) nothing else?” Newsflash: Because it’s possible! 12 Years a Slave is just slightly a frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress and for Best Adapted Screenplay. I believe it will win both awards, but if it doesn’t, I never would count it out for Best Picture till that damn envelope was opened.

    There are a lot of signs, that 12 Years a Slave wins just a couple of awards including Best Picture and Gravity will get a lot more including Best Director. It isn’t relevant, that never before the “important” movie got Picture and the “loved” one got Director. To be honest: I would vote for Gravity in both categories, because I love it beyond any reason. But in case of a split, I rather would see 12 Years a Slave getting Picture and Gravity getting Director. Because Cuaron fucking deserves that award, because his directorial achievement was fucking unbelievable.

    Steve McQueen would win Best Director, if there wasn’t Alfonso Cuaron. And Gravity would win Best Picture, if there wasn’t 12 Years a Slave. It’s just that simple, case closed.

    And I don’t think this is Steve McQueens only chance of winning an academy award for Best Director. The guy made three truly remarkable movies. The first ones weren’t academey-friendly, yes – and he won’t change his agenda, showing a lot of painful truth in his future features. But he will make more great movies and will get his recognition as a director.

  58. 12YAS will win FIVE:
    – Best Picture
    – Best Actor (we always have one major surprise at the acting categories)
    – Best Suporting Actress (Lawrence won GG because she is the star of the moment and BAFTA because she didn’t win there last year)
    – Best Adapted Screenplay
    – Best Production Design (they usually throw this one to a particular movie they want to reward more than they can)

  59. Bob Burns

    I won’t defend Crash winning. liked the film and remember many people here saying nice things about it before it became a BP contender. sasha wrote a very positive piece about it when it was released in late spring.

    I doubt anyone involved with the film had any thought that it would become an awards contender. Haggis said he wanted to do a string of linked set pieces illustrating how otherwise tolerant people become racist when in conflict. it challenges the audience to notice their own racist feelings that emerge unbidden.

    I recommend listening to the director’s commentary, Haggis and Cheadle. They have a pretty dark view of the characters and the narrative is open to multiple interpretations. For example, the epiphany of Bullock’s character at the end was phony and manipulative and sincere all at once.

    The movie is saying to the audience, “you’re racist. everyone is.” amazing to me that a movie that makes that statement would achieve any kind of success.

    again, I would have voted for the superior BBM, but that doesn’t have anything to do with my appreciation of Crash.

  60. SallyinChicago

    Can we all agree that this will be an unconditional Oscar year and there’s no use predicting….but it still befuddles me how the BAFTA best supporting could go to Abdi and Lawrence.

  61. SallyinChicago

    I have to disagree with SallyinChicago as I don’t think it (Crash) holds up.

    ^^ The story line holds up, and some of the same prejudices and thoughts about other nationalities & races happens today.

  62. To clarify my earlier statement, there’s no LEGITIMATE controversy surrounding Her. Back when Up in the Air’s authorship was in dispute, there was a legitimate claim from Sheldon Turner about how much of his draft/adaptation of the book was used by Jason Reitman. Obviously they ruled in his favor (i.e. Reitman had used enough of his draft to warrant Turner getting a credit). This lawsuit against Her is entirely frivolous. After seeing the teaser for this “Belv Show,” it’s completely clear that these guys are extremely desperate to attach their names to a great film.

  63. Jerry Grant

    This is going to be a freaky year.

    -This will be the first Oscars where the third in a trilogy will lose a screenplay Oscar to a movie written by a black screenwriter
    -This will be the first Oscars where the year will have four different digits AND one of the BP nominees has the word “American” in the title
    -This will be the first time in history that two people with African last names lose on the same night someone with an African last name wins.
    -If Alfonso Cuaron wins, he will be the first person to do so after having made a Harry Potter movie
    -No Chinese person has ever directed a Harry Potter movie
    -Never before in history has a movie NOT nominated for Best Director also been nominated for exactly 6 other Oscars including Sound Editing AND Adapted Screenplay, while also being out on BluRay and being about pirates (hint hint Captain Phillips!)
    -Never before has a gay woman ever hosted the Academy Awards, except 3 times
    -No movie about outer space has ever won a single even one Oscar except for Driving Miss Daisy, which was not nominated for Best Director

    Can’t wait!

  64. @PJ I guess I didn’t know what u meant because I always found great films enjoyable to watch and emotionally challenging at times. Anything less would not be worth it. I found crash too preachy and pushes its point too hard that it’s laughable

    @Andy I know it’s ridiculous to analyze that too much, but hey, it’s true :)

  65. Well, for all it’s worth I ‘ll still hope for Leo to win the Oscar this year for The Wolf of Wall Street! :-)) That will be the most awesome feeling in the world! :-(

  66. I didn’t read what anybody said so if I repeat something, sorry.

    I think yesterday made it pretty clear that this is a year about spreading the wealth. They’re going to find a way to award everything, which would be good for the locks except McConaughey and possibly Nyong’o.

    So if I’m predicting and this is not my forte, I’d do it this way. Instead of thinking of the individuals, think of the films.

    Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave (takes care of McQueen and Pitt)
    Best Director: Gravity (Bullock is already taken care of; Clooney will be satiated, especially if they give it the technical awards making it the MOST AWARDED film of the night)
    Best Actor: The Wolf of Wall Street (awards Leo not just for being an actor but a producer)
    Best Actress: Blue Jasmine (rewards everyone involved without “getting involved”
    Best Supporting Actor: Dallas Buyers Club
    Best Supporting Actress: a second for 12 Years a Slave to say that it IS best of the year for sure (or perhaps the award for American Hustle)

    See what I’m saying?

  67. Then, because why not…

    Original Screenplay: Her
    Adapted Screenplay: Philomena
    Animated: Frozen
    Song: Mandela (taking care of Bono and Nelson Mandela)

    I can really envision people sitting with their ballots looking for places to plug things in because this is supposed to be such a great year with so many great films. So prove it by giving everything something.

  68. What I’m saying is, it’s not a split, it’s a splay.

  69. @ Vily- I’m with you on the sinking ship of Leo. I just can’t vote for anyone else, and I loved MM in DBC. I’ve gone down in flames before so its no big deal if it happens again.

  70. @Frank69- if your prediction comes true and AH gets nothing on Oscar night I will be a very happy camper!

  71. Predictions:

    Best Picture: Gravity (Sticking with the original argument of PGA+DGA, with the DGA being particularly key, plus great support from several areas. Given that we didn’t get a real showdown with BAFTA, I’m thinking when they do officially go head-to-head with a large voting body like AMPAS, Gravity will be the victor)
    Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron (majority of critics’ awards, Golden Globe, and DGA).
    Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey (Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and SAG)
    Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (pretty much every award out there)
    Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto (again, pretty much every award out there)
    Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (Critics’s Choice and, more importantly, SAG. Plus, this is one of few awards 12 Years has a real shot at, so it’s definitely going her way.)
    Best Original Screenplay: Her (by far the most popular screenplay throughout awards season, winning a vast majority of critics’ awards, the Golden Globe, and the WGA. This one’s a done deal, so it seems rather bizarre that some are still clutching to American Hustle like it has a chance.)
    Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave (the 2nd most popular screenplay throughout awards season, and once again, one of the few awards that 12 Years is actually in the lead for, so it’s pretty much a done deal.)
    Best Film Editing: Gravity (It may seem crazy to go against the ACE Eddie, but how do you NOT give the most technically brilliant film in years Best Film Editing. After watching the special features on the Blu-ray, it’s absolutely incredible what they had to do to get this done, but even before learning that, it was still the most impressive.)
    Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (They might as well go ahead and give him the award now.)
    Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby (Most popular in the category everywhere and took Best Period Design from the ADG.)
    Best Costume Design: The Great Gatsby (Again, most popular in the category. Will probably win Period Design from the CDG.)
    Best Animated Film: Frozen (Most popular.)
    Best Original Song: Let It Go (Once more, a pretty popular song.)
    Best Score: Gravity (Critics’ Choice, BAFTA. Seems the safe choice.)
    Best Visual Effects: Gravity (Duh.)
    Best Makeup and Hair: Dallas Buyers Club (Out of these three, it seems the obvious one.)
    Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing: Gravity (Technical awards that it’ll easily clean up. Plus, Gravity just took top honors from the MPSE, and will probably do so from the CAS in a few days as well.)
    Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty (The popular choice.)
    Best Documentary: The Act of Killing (Again, the popular choice.)
    Best Animated Short: Get a Horse (GD says so.)
    Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (GD says so.)
    Best Live Action Short: The Voorman Problem (GD says so.)

  72. ‘Cate Blanchett did not mention Woody Allen in her BAFTA thank you speech. Same thing at the Santa Barbara Film Fest. I thought actors tend to gush over their directors. Is it a calculated omission?’
    Scott,
    I wondered the same thing. It’s a glaring omission, after thanking him and singling him out so effusively in her previous speeches. Is it a publicist-driven choice, or personal choice? It actually makes me respect her more: that she’s not just accepting either side’s version, including Woody’s… or maybe I’m readint too much into it.
    *Pictures at a Revolution is one of the greatest books about film I’ve ever read.

  73. Mark Fulwiler

    Anyone think June Squibb has a chance? She’s my choice.

  74. Mark Fulwiler

    My gut feeling right now is that Slave just wins Best Adapted Screenplay and nothing else, and Gravity wins BP/BD. But watch out for Philomena to possibly win Best Score. Also, Captain Philips for editing as a consolation prize.

  75. ”Brokeback’s rise was always tied to the politics of being a story about two men falling in love.”

    There were movies that were gay love stories BEFORE ”Brokeback Mountain” (2005) and there have been movies that are gay love stories SINCE. But none of them have ever garnered the acclaim or all the Best Picture awards that ”Brokeback” did. As we know, critics’ reviews don’t always go hand-in-hand with box office, but it grossed $83 million and even set some records back then for average-per-screen.

    That’s a tribute to Annie Proulx’ story, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana’s adapted screenplay and Ang Lee’s direction, not to mention Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performances.

    ”I can distinguish between cultural innovation and cinematic brilliance.”

    Maybe you can, but the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. On some occasions, a movie can be a cultural landmark AND brilliant cinema. ”Brokeback” is one of those and its Best Picture loss, in some part due to homophobia, is a black mark on Oscar history.

  76. José R. Ortega

    Andy, great comment. I couldn’t say it any better.

  77. ”What a shame it is that ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ might get shut out.”

    I agree, Bob. But it won’t be the first time a Scorsese masterpiece loses Best Picture. There’s ”Raging Bull.” There’s ”Goodfellas.”

    ”I still hope for Leo to win.”

    I do, too, Vily. Unlikely as his odds might be. For now, I’m thrilled he got to make the movie he wanted and gave such a tour de force. I just think Leo deserves an Oscar sooner than later. He shouldn’t have to wait as long as, say, the Academy made Scorsese wait for his.

  78. One thing I can say…..we’re on the homestretch now (unless there’s some important award still in the air to consider as a precursor)…all we have left now is speculation. At this point, the things that interest me most are any rumors that pop up about the AMPAS voters and what they “are doing”…..that prove true in retrospect….or even prove true beforehand!

    *sigh*

  79. Oscar voters have to deal with two great issues when they vote this year. Race and homophobia. If anything, they have, sometimes, done the right thing with race, when given the chance to think about it. Like they have this year with the SUPER long period between nominations being announced and the start of the voting this past Friday.

    That helps “12 Years a Slave” and they aren’t going to give it JUST ONE Oscar. That would look REALLY bad. They’re all guilty white liberals. So they are going to make “12”s inevitable win look as little like tokenism as possible. To me that would mean besides Best Picture, Chiwetel, Lupita, John Ridley and something no one is expecting like Production Design, which is what they gave Lincoln last year.

    “12” was filmed RIGHT in the middle of the Plantation area of the deep south. Some of those trees they Steve McQueen kept cutting to so beautifully when something horrible happened, have been there all the way back when slavery was happening.

    And homophobia? While the “Dallas Buyer’s Club” is BIG GAY MOVIE, let’s face it. And it’s a great one, too, but now that Focus has gone down the drain, I think they’ll be content to award Jared Leto in Supporting for it. And give “Slave” the other BIG WIN, for Chiwetel.

    Great analogy to “Heat of the Night” in 1967. They did the right thing that year, and that was Rod Steiger’s Oscar winner, too.

    They SHUT OUT “Fruitvale” and “The Butler” so they CAN’T give “12 Years” just won. And they’re over Jennifer Lawrence. I mean, she’s not even 23 yet! Two Oscars to such a young woman! They will never do that.

    They’re VERY serious-minded snobs if you must know.

    Another reason why I think the surprise will be Chiwetel. There’s gotta be a surprise SOMEwhere in the Acting Categories. Cate and Leto are locks. So the only room for movement is in Best Actor and Best Supp. Actress.

  80. OT: You guys on the West Coast. Don’t miss the first Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. U2 perform twice including their nominated song “Ordinary Love” and it is brilliant.

  81. I love that when I bring up this site that DALLAS BUYERS CLUB dominates in babyblue.

  82. Yvette, I do too. I think it’s very smart of her (and her team?) at this point. Cate is great. I may be reading too much into it as well but I think she may think Woody culpable. I don’t think it should reflect upon her winning but personally I appreciate that she has stopped acknowledging him. It will make it easier on the ballot to vote for her.

  83. “Two very good films. I can’t make the case that Cuaron doesn’t deserve it – except to say that he’s one of the big time A-listers who will have multiple opportunities to win. I don’t feel the same opportunities open not just to Steve McQueen but to black directors overall.”

    Ugh, I hate the “oh, he’ll have plenty of chances in the future” argument. More often than not it leads to a great performance or directing job from a younger actor-or-director getting snubbed in favour of lesser work from an established veteran who’s overdue….and probably overdue since they were snubbed when they were younger and deserved it more.

    For all we know, Gravity will end up being the peak of Cuaron’s career and he’ll make nothing but crap for the rest of his career. Unlikely, sure, but a lot of great directors fall off that cliff and never get back. Along those same lines, for all we know, McQueen will go on to make a string of classics and 2013 will be just the first in a long list of Oscar nominations for him.

    The good part about this year is that in a split, everybody wins. Cuaron wins BD and McQueen picks up an Oscar for co-producing 12 Years A Slave….or, McQueen wins BD and Cuaron picks up an Oscar for co-producing Gravity. Or, hell, McQueen wins BD, 12 Years wins Best Picture and Cuaron still goes home with something if Gravity wins the editing award.

  84. Scott,
    I agree completely. Unlike some – no one here, just in general – Cate, maybe, doesn’t seem to be blinded by his genius as an artist and as the creator of a character/role she obviously cherishes… But as a mother may have questions about him as a human being. Again, maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it suggests she has character.

  85. I see that many people are making comparisons to 1967, but I can see something interesting in 1968, where it looked as if Harvey and his film, The Lion in Winter, would win picture and director. After all, he had won the DGA. Well, when the dust settled, it was Oliver! and Reed. We could still get 12 Years a Slave and McQueen.

  86. Al Robinson

    I wonder how history will judge 12 Years a Slave? Will people consider it a “masterpiece”, or ignore it? How will it fit amongst the great “white people driven” movies?

  87. Al Robinson

    I just thought of this thought that I had had a couple of days ago, after I re-watched Gravity, this time on my laptop computer. I had been worried that Gravity was going to lose some of it’s luster due to no-longer being on a giant screen, but in fact, I think it had an opposite effect. Seeing it on a small screen made the movie feel all the more intimate. I think in the grand scheme of things, it’s all about Ryan’s quest, and a smaller screen helps bring us closer to her. Also, Cuaron is a great director in that he put us inside her helmet countless number of times, which makes us feel all the more connected to her, and her fear and other emotions. Absolutely terrific! :-)

  88. Robin Write

    Gravity could take up to 8 Oscars; and movies like Dallas Buyers Club, Her, The Great Gatsby, and American Hustle could equal or even outscore 12 Years A Slave.

    So what we have to remember then is the amount of Oscars won by these movies will not reflect how much they are loved {a la The Godfather and Cabaret}.

  89. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    So what we have to remember then is the amount of Oscars won by these movies will not reflect how much they are loved {a la The Godfather and Cabaret}.

    Robin Write, I like that.
    2 years later, 1974.
    The Godfather II – 6 Oscars
    Chinatown – 1 Oscar

    Really makes Chinatown look like a worthless unloved movie, doesn’t it? Or does it.

  90. I really think they will not let Gravity outscore 12YAS by a large margin. My predictions:

    – Gravity wins 6 (Director, Cinematography, Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Efects)
    – 12YAS wins 5 (Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Production Design)
    – Dallas Buyers Club wins 2 (Supporting Actor, Makeup)
    – Frozen wins 2 (Animated, Song)
    – Her wins 1 (Original Screenplay)
    – Capitain Phillips wins 1 (Editing)
    – Blue Jasmine wins 1 (Actress)
    – The Great Gatsby wins 1 (Costumes)
    – The Great Beauty wins 1 (Foreign

  91. Claudiu Dobre

    Wooooow… It finally happened! :) Although I guess it’s probably more a concession that McQueen simply isn’t winning BD than anything else, and Sasha still thinks Gravity is the real favorite for BP (I think the hope bit at the end is evidence of that – though that’s not its sole purpose, of course). Either way, it’s still something that she’s predicting a split, whether or not she actually believes in it.
    Anyway, I love Sasha! I love that she always goes to the stats, like me! She too firmly believes in the lessons history can teach us.

    “If the awards precursors hope to influence the Academy into picking 12 Years a Slave for Best Picture and very little else — by the looks of it that is exactly how it might go down — then you’re looking to go all the way back to 1936 when Mutiny on the Bounty won a single Oscar for Best Picture while John Ford’s The Informer won Director and three other Oscars.”

    So not just Grand Hotel… I actually knew that at one point, but, like many other things, I forgot it. :(

  92. Robin Write

    “So what we have to remember then is the amount of Oscars won by these movies will not reflect how much they are loved {a la The Godfather and Cabaret}.

    Robin Write, I like that.
    2 years later, 1974.
    The Godfather II – 6 Oscars
    Chinatown – 1 Oscar

    Really makes Chinatown look like a worthless unloved movie, doesn’t it? Or does it.”

    Only if you get brainwashed by the number of wins. It bugs me sometimes, but my personal choices rarely win – as I am sure most of us can appreciate.

    Remember Titanic battering Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential 11-2 each way. Shocking.

    I love 12 Years A Slave and Gravity in different ways, but equally, and their Oscar wins won’t change this.

  93. @Robin White @Ryan Adams: And movies like The Wolf of Wall Street will be forgotten while “great” masterpieces like Dallas Buyers Club will walk away with 2-3 Oscars! And that’s “the name of the game!”

    How ironic?!

  94. Robin Write

    @Daniel

    “I really think they will not let Gravity outscore 12YAS by a large margin.”

    It does not always work like that unfortunately. They vote for what they vote for and not necessary “let” things happen. Look at the Oscar wins for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button versus Slumdog Millionaire. The Exorcist versus The Sting. E.T. versus Ghandi. Did you think they would “let” The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King {a really excellent movie nonetheless} completely dominate over movies like 21 Grams, Finding Nemo, Lost in Translation, Mystic River, Seabiscuit, In America, 21 Grams, or City of God?

    On the balance of things, Oscar categories don’t always reflect the whole impact or appeal of the movies, Gravity benefits here, as it has the acting and pretty much all the technical categories going for it, 12 Years A Slave does not quite.

    I enjoyed Short Term 12 and Frances Ha a lot, but they are never winning Visual Effects or Costume Design. :-D

  95. Claudiu Dobre

    “Is it me, or is this race all over but the crying? 12YAS, Cuaron, McConaughey, Blanchett, Leto? And a lot of wins for Gravity? Maybe *some* suspense in Supporting Actress and the Screenplay categories? Ellen’s gonna have to work double-time just to keep this one entertaining.”

    If only… But no, it’s still way close. The unknowns of who the preferential ballot will favor and the PGA tie all but guarantee that.

    “American Hustle will go home…..with 0 Oscars!!!!!!!”

    I have to admit I’m having trouble picturing this. It’s obviously loved and it’s not gone 0-for anywhere yet.

    “It all comes down to the American Hustle #1 voters. Which film would they rank higher, 12 or Gravity?”

    That’s a pretty tough one. If they voted for AH because it was entertaining, then Gravity. If they voted for it because it was an acting tour-de-force, then 12 Years. Hard to say…

    Anyway, I think AH’s consolation prize could still easily be Screenplay. And, besides, even if Lawrence does win (which I don’t believe will be the case), I see no problem for 12 Years to win even with just Screenplay – after all, with the preferential ballot in play, it’s probably going to have to win based on having more 2nd and 3rd places, and those voters, while helping it win BP, won’t have any reason to feel they have to give it much else (as they don’t have it as their winner). Argo’s showing last year (winning only 3, all of which it was favorite to win) kind of shows that this sort of thing is far more likely to happen with the preferential ballot than with the one vote system.

    12 Years winning BP, Screenplay and one more out of the blue (they’ve always found it so easy to do that) is probably the most likely scenario, though. Like Daniel said – there are always a few huge surprises. This is definitely not a major issue for 12 Years to overcome in winning BP.

    The arguments for Gravity losing (weak writing, few actors, space movie) make it unlikely that it’ll lose by placing 5th when 12 Years places 4th, for example. Either they loved it more than the precursors (but I think the PGA tie proves this scenario is rather unlikely), in which case it’s just winning by leading in every round, or it’s divisive, like the lacking nominations would indicate, in which case it’ll lose due to being placed 7th-9th a lot where 12 Years will be much higher.

    “Perhaps a lot of the older Academy members (and there are plenty) wouldnt want to watch a space movie such as Gravity or even want to award it.”

    There’s a chance of that, for sure. But most likely most of them will have watched both this and 12 Years (and AH) by March 2nd. There’s so much time.

    “I would love it to win because of itself, but I don’t think that’s possible anymore.” (about 12 Years a Slave)

    Based on what? What actual evidence do you have for this guilt-voting theory?

    “This year, given all that we know from what has gone by, that film (for the industry) is Gravity.”

    Then why did it tie for the PGA, lose the ACE, not get nominated for the WGA?!

    “A lot of you seem to believe, that an academy member wouldn’t vote für his favorite movie, if it wasn’t nominated for editing or directing.”

    Wrong! It’s the other way around: a movie that isn’t nominated for editing or directing or screenplay is unlikely (VERY unlikely most of the time; exceptions happen, but very, very seldom, which is what the stats prove) to be the consensus favorite of the 6000 members.

    “Can we all agree that this will be an unconditional Oscar year and there’s no use predicting”

    No.

    “we didn’t get a real showdown with BAFTA”

    We did, though… Both were nominated for Best Film. I understand the argument that they gave both BP, in a way, but I believe it’s a highly questionable one.

    “2) Crash- I still laugh every time someone defends Crash winning Best Picture. A film isn’t great simply because it’s enjoyable and emotionally powerfully.”

    Read Ebert’s review. That’s not why it’s a good movie (I’m not saying it’s great, though) – he explains why he thinks it is beautifully.

    “Good Night, and Good Luck was simply a better movie than the other two.”

    Except that it wasn’t and that’s just your opinion…

    “I won’t defend Crash winning. liked the film and remember many people here saying nice things about it before it became a BP contender. sasha wrote a very positive piece about it when it was released in late spring.”

    Oooh… I didn’t know that!… And very nice defence of the movie – not the win :) -, Bob!

    @Jerry Grant – I LOL’ed at your exaggerated stats. :) Very funny post!

  96. I think it’s a shame that Nebraska has never been considered to win Best Picture. It has stayed in my mind two months after seeing it. Its original screenplay, especially, is noteworthy.

  97. Roger Ebert and Oprah Winfrey might have thought Crash was a great movie but severak other reputable critics didn’t. (The handling of Asian/Asian American characters in the film boggles the mind.) And it wasn’t a huge smash at the box office either. Interesting to look at how Ang Lee’s and Paul Haggis’s career paths have gone since then.

  98. Claudiu Dobre

    75% on Rotten Tomatoes isn’t a bad score… It’s not a great score, but it’s still good. Read the reviews there – they aren’t exactly bad either. Plus, I was citing Ebert to illustrate that it wasn’t necessarily its emotional pull that was its main virtue (like somebody assumed here), but the smart weaving together of the stories and character development, not trying to defend Crash by saying that Ebert liked it.

  99. Claudiu Dobre

    Let me clarify – citing Ebert’s REVIEW as evidence that it wasn’t necessarily etc. (as he wonderfully emphasizes its other qualities)

  100. Speaking of Asian/Asian-American characters, the Academy has a pretty abysmal track record of recognizing Asian/Asian-American actors.

    Somehow, even in Best Picture nominees and winners, they get ignored.

    * ”The Last Emperor” (1987)
    John Lone: Golden Globe nominee for Best Actor
    Film gets 9 Oscar nominations; wins all 9. But no nods for Acting.

    * ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000)
    Michelle Yeoh: BAFTA nominee for Best Actress
    Ziyi Zhang: BAFT nominee for Best Supporting Actress, Independent Spirit winner for Supporting Actress, Toronto Film Critics winner for Supporting Actress
    Film gets 10 Oscar nominations, wins 4. But no nods for Acting.

    * ”Slumdog Millionaire” (2008)
    Dev Patel: BAFTA nominee for Best Actor; SAG nominee for Supporting Actor; Critics’ Choice winner for Best Young Actor; National Board of Review winner for Breakthrough Performance, Actor
    Freida Pinto: BAFTA nominee for Best Supporting Actress
    Film gets 10 Oscar nominations, wins 8. But no nods for Acting.

    WTF? These films were acclaimed and even got some acting nominations and wins from other organizations, but at the Oscars, got nominated for everything, except for their cast. Shame on the actors branch.

    The last time an Asian won Best Actor was 1982: Ben Kingsley, ”Gandhi.”
    The last time an Asian won Best Supporting Actor was 1984: Haing S. Ngor, ”The Killing Fields.”
    The last time an Asian won Best Supporting Actress was 1957: Miyoshi Umeki, ”Sayonara.”
    And an Asian has NEVER been nominated, let alone won, for Best Actress.

  101. unlikely hood

    Daniel’s predix are reasonable. So are Antoinette’s (splay not split). Probably the truth will be somewhere between them.

  102. American Hustle is a better film than the Wolf of Wall Street .
    12 years a Slave will win best picture and best director.
    Capote was the best film of 2005.

  103. Claudiu Dobre

    I would say 12 Years a Slave will most likely get 3-4 Oscars, and Gravity most likely 5-6. Also possible are 2 for 12 Years a Slave or 7 for Gravity, but I don’t think this is very likely to happen, unless Gravity wins BP (in which case I actually doubt 12 Years is ever getting more than 1 Oscar, if that).

    I was curious what the BP odds were now, post-BAFTA, at William Hill (the site I bet on). They’ve become even more favorable to 12 Years; a rough translation to percentages would be 55% for 12 Years a Slave and 18% for Gravity, which I think is very close to the truth. Mind you, 18% is a seriously threatening percentage for a second-favorite. It’s far from over. Their odds are in line with those offered by other bookmakers (roughly 1.15-1.25 for 12 Years and 4.2-5.5 for Gravity).

    They do, however, have Dallas Buyers’ Club in 3rd, so I wouldn’t say they’re completely on the mark. But nobody’s perfect… :) Anyway, the point is: they don’t seem to think 12 Years’ BAFTA showing was poor, like some have been suggesting…

  104. SallyinChicago

    The last time an Asian won Best Actor was 1982: Ben Kingsley, ”Gandhi.”
    The last time an Asian won Best Supporting Actor was 1984: Haing S. Ngor, ”The Killing Fields.”
    The last time an Asian won Best Supporting Actress was 1957: Miyoshi Umeki, ”Sayonara.”
    And an Asian has NEVER been nominated, let alone won, for Best Actress.

    ^^This could be why a lot of Asian/Chinese/Indian actors are now filming in their countries vs. making movies in the States.

    Again, this gets to “script” and writing. The reason you have a lot of Black-themed movies coming out is because a) there are a lot of past and present stories to be told. b) better script writing/stories.

    There are demographics that Hywd has been ignoring for years and these people want to see their tribe on screen and want to see their stories told.

    I predict you will see more Asians, other minority actors & movies break through in the next 2 years, because we got a lot of Asians in this country.

  105. SallyinChicago

    One last thing (where’s the edit button???)
    If you notice Harvey Weinstein is producing more women-and black-themed movies. Why? Because they sell, and women and minorities want to see themselves and their stories on screen.

  106. Just to be a contrarian, Captain Phillips could snake best picture if it snagged supporting actor, adapted screenplay, and editing. Only if the too contenders really cannibalize each other.

  107. Dennis Bee

    Sasha, you know I agree with you on the old axiom, Never Bet on the Split. You’ve said until you’re blue in the face that splits happen when they’re unexpected. The exception is a year like last year, when the favorite for Best Picture unaccountably does not get its director nominated, and so there will have to be a split. Even then, the split shifted at the last minute, from Steven Spielberg to Ang Lee, two men who already knew something about Picture/Director splits.

    When splits are predicted, most of the time the director ends up pulling the picture in. The most famous example is Francis Coppola in 1974 bringing in THE GODFATHER, PART II for Picture, even though most of the “gurus” of the day were saying CHINATOWN/Coppola. The latter had won the DGA, just as he had two years before when Bob Fosse shocked everyone in one of those “splits nobody saw coming.” Another example of the DGA director pulling in the picture despite predictions is Scorsese/THE DEPARTED.

    A few other things: I wonder why no one has been bringing in the precedent of 2000, when most predictions had GLADIATOR for BP, while nobody but nobody thought Ridley Scott would win along with it. A split was widely predicted, and a split occurred, but it was the wrong split: 2000 had been Steven Soderbergh’s year; the prolific director had two movies up for BP, just as Coppola had in ’74. Coppola was prevented from getting nominations for both GODFATHER II and THE CONVERSATION by a rule that was changed in time for Soderbergh’s annis mirabilis. However, Ang Lee won the DGA, for a virtuoso surprise hit that might be comparable with GRAVITY; I thought Lee was winning because Directors Guild voters thought that the two Soderberghs would cancel each other out, so they voted for someone else. By the time of the Oscars, TRAFFIC had amassed enough support to pull it Soderbergh for the Oscar.

    2000, like this year, was seen all along as a 3-way race for BP. Ang Lee, who would have been, and now is the only non-white winner of Best Director, lost out, while his film won four Oscars. I won’t even go into 2002, an even wilder race, when the split came out of seemingly nowhere (Again, it was the wrong split; many thought/wanted CHICAGO/Scorsese).

    Actually, in a scenario like 2000 or 2002, 12 YEARS A SLAVE wins BP, and GRAVITY sweeps or nearly sweeps the “technicals,” while David O. Russell (who, like Alfonso Cuaron, might be seen as “overdue”) swoops in from left field to take Best Director.

    Another possibility is that last year’s ARGO/Ang Lee split changed the criteria in voters’ minds, at least temporarily, for what makes a “Best Director.” One voter told EW last year that in “degree of difficulty,” an Olympics term, Lee had by far performed the most prodigious feat of directing: coordinating a performer alone for long stretches against a green screen. Unlike Lee, Cuaron is working from an original concept with his son, no less (How sweet! Family values). It’s the opposite of the GLADIATOR/TRAFFIC, CHICAGO/THE PIANIST splits; there a popular splashy spectacle won BP, while the better-known director of a topical, humanistic drama wins BP.

    BTW, another sense in which the ’67 analogy is a good one: Nichols was winning a makeup for the previous year’s WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF. Mike Nichols was clearly the coolest director on the planet during the brief season of ’66-67, sort of like Soderbergh in ’00 and perhaps Cuaron now. The name Steve McQueen still makes most voters think of BULLITT and THE GREAT ESCAPE, just as John Madden, Oscar-less director in another notable split, that of 1998, was known better as the handle of a beefy, jocular football commentator than as the (British) director of a film better known by its theme, stars, and writer.

    Bottom-line: I still can’t break my Never Bet on the Split rule: I’ve said all along that 12 YEARS A SLAVE will win and carry McQueen in with it. Remember that the Academy likes to make cultural statements and establish “firsts.” If the first film with a Black director wins Best Picture without its director, there will always be an asterisk on that win. I think a quorum of the voters feel that responsibility enough not to let it happen.

    Also: I think BAFTA indicates that all bets may be off on Best Actor. It’s an unusually long time between the precursors and the Oscars this year. The other years when the Winter Olympics pushed back the Oscar ceremony into March, races resettled in strange ways: the CRASH of ’05-’06; ’09-’10, when Kathryn Bigelow lugged in THE HURT LOCKER, at a time when many were wondering how a movie as massively popular as AVATAR could lose BP, but sure that (1.) The Academy wouldn’t fluff this chance at the first female Best Director and (2.) James Cameron isn’t actually Mr. Popularity in the industry; no one wanted a repeat of his boorish “King of the World”/”A moment of silence, please.” (Pause) “Now let’s go out and party ’til dawn.” TITANIC performance in ’98. McConaughey looked like the edgy choice six weeks ago; now DiCaprio may have taken a bit of the edge off McConnaissance, while Ejiofor may always have been the front-runner here. This is another three-way, folks.

    Sorry for the long post. When I break my silence, I really break it.

  108. Just one more Asian-themed Best Picture nominee for discussion:

    * ”Life of Pi” (2012)
    Suraj Sharma: Critics Choice award nominee, Best Young Actor; Image Award nominee, Best Actor; BAFTA Rising Star nominee
    Film gets 11 Oscar nominations, wins 4. But no nods for Acting.

    Again, how did the members of the actors’ branch of the Academy watch all these pictures (”Last Emperor,” ”Crouching Tiger,” ”Slumdog Millionaire,” ”Life of Pi”) and fail to nominate ANY of the Asian actors at the center of those movies? I don’t think the Academy voters are racist, but they’re sure lazy – especially when those performances were celebrated and cited by other critics’ groups and organizations.

    Is it any wonder that no Asian actor has WON an Oscar in 3 decades? First, they have to get NOMINATED. And that’s pretty rare, even when there are award-worthy, eligible candidates.

  109. I’m hoping 12 years wins the top award so that next year the academy will be open to the possiblity of giving BP to a sci fi film – Interstellar! According to a recent interview with Oscar frontrunner Matthew McConaughey its Nolan’s most ambitious project yet… which we all know REALLY IS SAYING SOMETHING! wegotthiscovered.com/movies/matthew-mcconaughey-calls-interstellar-ambitious-christopher-nolan/

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