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Voters Afraid to Watch 12 Years, Truth Emerges at Oscar Panel

Earlier today I was invited to attend the Vanity Fair Oscar blogger panel at WeWork, Hollywood, a very comfortable social workspace where, for a monthly fee, you can sit and wi-fi. Free food and drink. You’ve likely seen some of these places pop up around big cities – for anyone who works at home, this affords you kind of mixed experience between a library and high end coffee shop.

The subject of the discussion was “do Oscar predictions matter?” It was moderated by Mike Hogan Digital Director at Vanity Fair and included Anne Thompson, Dave Karger, Pete Hammond, Kyle Buchanan, and Krista Smith. Peggy Siegel also joined the group, giving the majority slightly to the women.   While we bloggers and journalists can give insights on the race itself, Siegel is the one who really knows the voters best considering she is at almost every major gathering in town.  Siegel was the one, I thought, who could offer the best insights into what the buzz was. Sure, Pete Hammond talks to voters, so does Anne Thompson, Dave Karger and Scott Feinberg.  But Siegel talks to them not from the perspective of a journalist, but from the perspective of someone they see and know socially.

There was an Academy member there, Bruce Feldman, known to Anne, Pete and Peggy. Feldman really does appear as you’d imagine any Academy member would: middle-aged, white male.  He was not liking anything I said, being that I was the only member of the panel critical of the Academy’s choices. We did start with Citizen Kane, after all.  He kept rolling his eyes and shaking his head, so much so that everyone on the panel noticed. After a while we started to make jokes about him. “I’m an Academy member,” he said to me at one point. “I don’t agree with anything you’re saying.” “I am not surprised that you don’t,” I said back.

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The screeners Peggy Siegel is holding are representations of the DVDs sent out to voters.

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We Work!

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Pete, Kyle, Anne…

____

He most certainly did not like the things that were being said about “them,” the generalizations, the second-guessing. It was clearly irritating.  He did say at one point that he knew “some” Academy members that were like the ones we were all describing. Then he said there were some that actually were critical and did think about things other than what they “like.”

The discussion opened with the King’s Speech vs. The Social Network. Siegel said that Harvey Weinstein always knew that the “noise” online was in direct conflict with what the Academy voters would respond to. Thus, he bypassed the blogs and websites and critics and went straight to the Academy with parties (I recall a big one thrown by Arianna Huffington — at which point it dawned on me how we didn’t get television; television got us).  The Academy was wowed by The King’s Speech and the rest is history.  The panelists, specifically Anne and Pete chimed in with Dave, reminding us that they’d also predicted The King’s Speech. But of course, you all know me. You know how I earn a living. I wasn’t going to let that one go.  I took the mic and announced that the Social Network should have won and that the King’s Speech was a perfectly fine, but not a great, movie.

The Academy member visibly flinched at that one, as you can imagine. “But you’re not an Academy member,” Siegel reminded me.  She was right. The conflict between the “noise” and what voters will do, who voters are, what they respond to, endures.  Vive la difference, I say.   Siegel was telling me what they likely think throughout the Academy, and have always thought when they are criticized for their eternally bland choices. They shrug. It doesn’t matter to them. Why doesn’t it matter? Because they have the vote.

So why pay any attention at all? This question was brought up.  The Oscars are still the “gold standard,” it was agreed. They are still, for better or worse, the most respected film awards in the world.  Cough cough cough.

It was clear that the Academy member and I weren’t going to be breaking bread any time soon.

But the bombshell of the day came when Peggy Siegel said that voters she spoke with (and remember, she goes to EVERYTHING) could not even bring themselves to watch 12 Years a Slave.  You have to watch it, she would urge them. But they would hold up their hands and say — I can’t.

This opinion was countered somewhat by Pete Hammond, and later on Twitter, Scott Feinberg, but Siegel isn’t a journalist nor Oscar blogger. She doesn’t have an immediate stake in the game at this point. She was sharing her experience with those people and this movie.

Other things I learned:

Pete said that he could detect no strong buzz for one film or the other but that it really was split between the three — Gravity, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave. He said that the below the line people he talked to were ALL voting for American Hustle.

Pete is predicting Gravity to win after doing his own preliminary math on the preferential ballot. It will have a lot of number 2s, he concluded, which is how he formed his prediction for best Picture.

Dave Karger, Kyle Buchanan (of course) and Anne Thompson were still sticking with 12 Years a Slave, at least for now.

I told the crowd I was hoping for Steve McQueen to pull it out, but that comment was met with resistance by both Peggy Siegel and Krista Smith who talked about Alfonso Cuaron’s 4-year journey to bring the film, and the visual effects, to the big screen. I know, I know, I thought. But…no one is ever going to get me to agree that Gravity and Cuaron should win over 12 Years and McQueen. I can live with that decision, however. Gravity is a monumental work.

Bruce Dern seems to be picking up some buzz around town, him being the most “overdue” of the pack of actors.  When asked why Redford did not get a nod, Siegel and others agreed that he just didn’t want to campaign for it.  I tried to add that Redford doesn’t much care for the Oscars anyway, which also pissed off Academy member dude.  Oh well.

That Academy member, by the way, had put Wolf of Wall Street at number 9 on his Best Picture ballot.  Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 1.55.11 PM

We Vote with Our Hearts, Admits Academy Member

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The State of the Race: All Over But the Shouting

148 Comments

  1. MWeyer
    February 25, 2014

    I’m sorry but “Social Network” is one of the most overrated and self-important movies of the last decade and I’m glad the Academy chose “King’s Speech” over it. There, I said it and I’ll continue to say it, “Network” did not deserve that award, this is not trolling, just my honest opinion.

  2. MWeyer
    February 25, 2014

    Sorry if I ranted before but do offer kudos to you, Sasha, I have quite a few bones with the Academy I’d love to pick publically (like how in the HELL they couldn’t nominate Tilda Swinton for “We Need To Talk About Kevin”) so can’t blame you for taking this opportunity as we all would like to.

    Sadly, I’m not at all surprised at the “12 Years’ refusal, much the same as films like “Schindler’s List” (which really was more Spielberg than movie itself) and others, can imagine a few voters afraid of that material. I just hope this doesn’t mean a “Hustle” win and as much as “Gravity” deserves it technically, still wish “12 Years” gets the honor due it for such a fine film.

    BTW, did they give any indicators on the acting races? Just curious any word on Lupita vs Lawrence or Best Actor.

  3. cupidboy
    February 25, 2014

    “That Academy member, by the way, had put Wolf of Wall Street at number 9 on his Best Picture ballot.”

    Just as I thought :(

  4. daveinprogress
    February 25, 2014

    Good on you, Sasha for being you and speaking your truth.
    There’s just not enough of it. Very illuminating stuff. The pomposity and sheer complacency of members not sliding a disc into a machine and watching the creme de la creme of the year. It’s not like they are being asked to spend a few bucks and actually go to a cinema and embrace the wonder of the big screen experience. How tiresome that would be.

  5. WW
    February 25, 2014

    ”The King’s Speech” was a yawn. But it fit the Oscar-bait profile so well, especially for aging Anglophiles: It was historical, had easy-to-root-for characters and had a feel-good, inspiring vibe. Zzzzzz.

    I’ll take ”The Social Network” any day, and agreed with the Golden Globe voters, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the L.A. Film Critics, the N.Y. Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics, etc., who all named it Best Film.

  6. Aaron
    February 25, 2014

    The Social Network was such a superior film to The King’s Speech (as was Black Swan and Winter’s Bone, in my opinion). I will agree that is an embarrassing oversight, seeing that it (Network) virtually swept everything until SAG stopped it in its tracks.

    I don’t think however, that there’s a fine parallel between 12 Years and Gravity, however. Both of them are damn fine films and either one would be a worthy winner. One winning over another would not be an atrocity. Just my two cents. BTW, Gravity itself is such an atypical Academy film that it winning would be something to celebrate, in my opinion.

  7. February 25, 2014

    If this was a public event, I don’t understand why we’re protecting “Bruce”‘s identity. Unless he was an unknown person that no one on the panel recognized and he didn’t give his last name?

    To me, if you show up at a public event, say that you’re an Academy member, and then shake your head in such an agitated manner that the whole panel notices, you risk the chance that one of those panelists is going to publish your name!

  8. Bryce Forestieri
    February 25, 2014

    Who is Peggie Siegel?

  9. Sasha Stone
    February 25, 2014

    I’m sorry but “Social Network” is one of the most overrated and self-important movies of the last decade and I’m glad the Academy chose “King’s Speech” over it. There, I said it and I’ll continue to say it, “Network” did not deserve that award, this is not trolling, just my honest opinion.

    You know, that isn’t true. Not about Social Network. I don’t get where “self-important” comes into play. It is a flawless work of art about a changing America. Fincher captured it beautifully – perfectly. I’m not sure what people were looking for, certainly not a pumping up of a stuttering King’s ego so that he could give a speech. No, our flawed hero, Zuckerberg, was a social misfit who forever changed the way people live their lives. Not just communicate – but LIVE THEIR LIVES. The beauty in The Social Network is that it had all three elements working perfectly together – Sorkin’s amazing script, which put friendship and the shattering of that friendship at the dead center of a story about a guy trying to bring “friends” together. The acting – perfect. And the direction. I watched that movie 30 times in 2010 and I can tell you, it is tight as a drum, full of exacting, exhilarating shots from beginning to end and lest we forget Trent Reznor’s score. You don’t come across movies that good hardly ever. I don’t buy that “some movies you feel” stands the test of time. And I can tell you, the King’s Speech hasn’t. Not yet anyway. Nowhere near. No, Network might not have deserved it but All the President’s Men sure as hell did.

  10. JPNS Viewer
    February 25, 2014

    Thanks for another good read, Sasha.
    And — joining daveinprogress, as well as others-with-or-without-any-comments before me — kudos for being true to yourself and speaking your mind.

    From what I’ve gathered, it seemed like a healthy, straightforward, interesting panel discussion. I’m hoping that, if legally practical, etc., someone would be nice enough to provide for podcast or even a vdo clip.

    Anyway, besides the equally meaningful content here and there captured in this article, the following snippets are part of what I also love in terms of additional entertainment value:

    Quote I: “(Siegel was telling me what they likely think throughout the Academy, . . . . Why doesn’t it matter? Because they have the vote.

    So why pay any attention at all? This question was brought up.) The Oscars are still the “gold standard,” it was agreed. They are still, for better or worse, the most respected film awards in the world. Cough cough cough.”
    [Lol with Sasha: priceless . . . . ]

    Quote II: “That Academy member, by the way, had put Wolf of Wall Street at number 9 on his Best Picture ballot.”
    In brief, I love the lingering effect rendered here, thanks to the clever choice of the ending sentence, given that it’s a common knowledge around here that, the prediction aside, the author (Sasha) reportedly loves Wolf most, not to mention some other readers. So, one would feel the nuance here if one got the beautiful and underling motive.

  11. Alan D
    February 25, 2014

    Ha. Love how you show your spunk at the panel, Sasha!

  12. Mike
    February 25, 2014

    Sasha, good for you for standing up to the arrogant Academy member. He thinks so much of himself and his Academy, but if we were to go year by year, he’d have a very difficult time defending the large majority of their choices. I’d make a list but nobody would read it.

    Also agree with you that Social Network is a far superior film to King’s Speech, I’m very confident that critical consensus will bear that out in time (it certainly does already, I’m talking 10, 20, 50 years). Personally I thought Black Swan was the most exhilirating and cinematic film of 2010, but whatever, King’s Speech was just a nice, feel good ok movie that the Academy farts fall for again and again. And again.

    But All the President’s Men, as great as it is, and certainly in a totally different league than feel-good Rocky, did not deserve it either. Taxi Driver and Network were also 1976. The former is the most revered film not just of that year, but maybe that decade, in close competition with Apocalypse Now and The Godfather for that honor. And personally, I’d pick Network, the most prescient script of…ever! Razor sharp, hilarious, devasting, perfectly directed, brilliantly acted, of its time, relevant to ours, my choice for best film of the 1970s (Tarkovsky’s Mirror notwithstanding).

    Next time you meet up with some arrogant Academy types, give it them but good, again. I know a few, and they are much more humble than the one you met at that luncheon, willing to admit that their group choices are lacking. Before Citizen Kane, and after, decade by decade, about 25% to 33% of their winners shouldn’t even have been nominated, and if 25% really deserved it, that’s giving them too much credit. The losses of City Lights, Grand Illusion, Grapes, Kane, Searchers, Vertigo, Singin’, Night of the Hunter, Strangelove, Graduate/Bonnie, 2001, Apocalypse, Raging, Blade Runner, Right Thing, Goodfellas, Toy Story, Fargo, Mulholland, Eternal Sunshine, Brokeback, wall-e, Social Network alone, to films not nearly in the same league, disqualify them. They ain’t no gold standard!

  13. MWeyer
    February 25, 2014

    To each their own, I guess, Sasha.

    Reminds me of a great line in the classic comic series “Starman” where our hero is warned he’s the only one who can stop a threat and he fires back “I’m also the only one who thinks ‘The Two Jakes’ is better than “Chinatown.”

    BTW, did you get any indicators on the acting races? Just seeing if any feel for Best Actor or Lupita vs Lawerence and such.

  14. MWeyer
    February 25, 2014

    And before others rant on me for daring to dislike “Social Network,” I remember a sign at my local library: “NEVER apologize for your taste in reading.” In my opinion, your choice of movies should be much the same vein.

  15. Daveylow
    February 25, 2014

    If Gravity is “a monumental work,” why should Steve McQueen and 12 Years a Slave win? I’d like to see 12 Years win, too. But if Gravity wins, would that be awful? No, not if it’s a monumental work.

    I will be royally pissed if American Hustle wins, though. Hustle makes The King’s Speech look like a masterpiece.

  16. Daveylow
    February 25, 2014

    I really have a problem with anyone who would list The Wolf of Wall Street in 9th place.

  17. John C.
    February 25, 2014

    I totally agree that Social Network deserved Best Picture in 2011. The King’s Speech was an intense bore to me. The thing is 12 Years a Slave (though vastly superior masterpiece) is this year’s King’s Speech. It’s the historical epic with an easily identifiable story of survival and triumph over evil. It’s got a big cast of respected actors. It’s got the Oscar seriousness.

    Gravity is this year’s Social Network. The modern thriller that virtually everyone loves and virtually has no chance of winning because its too modern. Same parallel can be said about Hurt Locker v. Avatar (though I don’t consider Avatar a masterpiece, it’s definitely left its imprint into our collective cinematic mind for all time).

    Though they didn’t win, there’s no question that Avatar, The Social Network, and Gravity have and will stand the test of time compared to the Best Picture winners they lost to. The Hurt Locker and the King’s Speech have not aged well at all. I suspect 12YAS may fall in the same boat when it’s all said and done.

  18. February 25, 2014

    Personally, I liked Inception and True Grit more than King’s Speech and Social Network–but they are still my top 4 for that year (I’d probably pick Enter the Void as my 5th). The real travesty was not giving Best Director to David Fincher. Absolutely insane.

    What annoys me about this year is that the Academy (mostly) nominated the right films–they and I have at least one mutual nominee in every category except Makeup–but they seem likely to give more favor to Gravity and American Hustle (my #29 and #31 films of the year) than to 12 Years and Her (my #2 and #4 films of the year).

    But…what are you gonna do?

  19. JPNS Viewer
    February 26, 2014

    (Reference: I used the elements included in JamDenTel’s comment [11:31 pm AD time] as a springboard for this comment.)

    Back from consulting with the Best Director and Best Picture Wiki source, re The Social Network year, […] all of the ten nominated films seen, I agree with the notion that David Fincher should have gotten Best Director that year.

    My own personal rankings of Best Director (that year) (using the Oscar list only):
    1) David Fincher (Winner in an alternate universe)
    2) David O. Russell (Well, don’t hate me . . . . )
    -
    3) Coen Brothers
    4) Darren Aronofsky [I may or may not change my mind later between no. 3 and no. 4, though]
    5) Tom Hooper

    BP that year:
    Had someone asked me that very year […], I might have said Inception. BUT for now, as opposed to going back to Feb. 2011 (The Social Network Oscar year), if I have to choose BP from that year’s BP list only, then I definitely go for The Social Network (B+).
    (I liked that particular year very much even though, as implied on the B+ grade given to my own choice of BP, The Social Network [that year], strangely enough, there was not even a film, at least out of those ten BP nominees, that I somehow feel strongly connected with or passionate about as I do, let’s say, American Beauty, No Country for Old Men, to begin with.

  20. JPNS Viewer
    February 26, 2014

    [Correction]

    (I like that particular year very much even though, as implied on the B+ grade given to my own choice of BP, The Social Network [that year], strangely enough, there is not even a film, at least out of those ten BP nominees, that I somehow feel strongly connected with or passionate about as I do, let’s say, American Beauty, No Country for Old Men, to begin with.)

  21. Pierre de Plume
    February 26, 2014

    I’d have loved to be in the room to hear this discussion and would be interested to learn, Sasha, whether your experience on the panel has altered any of your predictions.

    Feldman’s presence must’ve made the air thick enough to cut with a knife. :)

  22. Rob Y
    February 26, 2014

    Oh to be a fly on that wall . . . .

  23. alan of montreal
    February 26, 2014

    I’ve said this ad nauseum, but here I ho again anyway: I was fine with the Social Network up until the scene where Brenda Song’s character goes all “crazy Asian bitch” out of nowhere and lights the wastepaper basket on fire. As a Chinese Canadian who’s seen way too many racist and misogynist depictions of Asian women onscreen, that one scene ruined the entire film for me. I wasn’t a huge fan of The King’s Speech, either, but I was happy that TSN lost out and only wished that Sorkin had also lost out on screenplay (I wanted to post something on race and film, as well, to take the discussion beyond simply the black vs white debate, but that’ll take me a good couple of hours to write).

    I finally managed to see Wolf of Wall St. today (along with The Great Beauty and The Past–I binged), and I have to say it was a really entertaining film, and I can see why Leo is suddenly getting all this awards buzz because it is the best thing I’ve ever seen him do. I think about 10 minutes could have been cut–specifically the whole gay butler mini-subplot, not so much because I thought it was homophobic, but rather because I didn’t think it really added anything to what was a super long film. I also must say that I looooved The Great Beauty. It was breathtaking in every way cinema should be.

    So now the only best pic nominee i haven’t seen is Captain Phillips, which even came back to theatres here for limited re-release and I still couldn’t get to it. Sigh. In any case, I am still in the 12 Years camp–which is my favourite film released last year. The only flaws I found were in Paul Dano’s and Alfre Woodard’s perfs, both based on accent issues (the former because of inconsistency, the latter because it sounded like she was sucking on lemons–and i usually love her work). I would still put Hunger ahead of it as far as McQueen films go (that film is perfection to me), but 12Years is very close behind.

    So excluding Captain Phillips, I would rank the other films this way:
    12 Years
    Her (a verrrrry close second)
    Gravity
    Wolf
    Nebraska
    DBC
    American Hustle (i actually thought JLaw was the weak point)
    Philomena

    I actually enjoyed all the films a lot this year. There were tiny flaws in each, but overall I’m quite pleased by the list.

  24. alan of montreal
    February 26, 2014

    by the way, that AMPAS member sounds like a real douche. Regardless of what I think of The Social Network, I’m glad you stood your ground with such vigor, Sasha.

  25. Natasha
    February 26, 2014

    I guess, if 12YAS wins BP, there will be a number of voters who never saw it but just relied on word-of-mouth regarding something about the movie (how good it was and/or historical importance) and voted it #1 or at least placed it high on their ballots…if what Siegel revealed is representative of a significant batch of voters….and indicates the power of word-of-mouth (hearsay and secondhand reports) in AMPAS.

  26. February 26, 2014

    I guess, if 12YAS wins BP, there will be a number of voters who never saw it but just relied on word-of-mouth regarding something about the movie (how good it was and/or historical importance) and voted it #1 or at least placed it high on their ballots…

    oh, is that what you guess? you’re a terrible guesser.

  27. Q Mark
    February 26, 2014

    The thing is, it’s a 6000-person secret ballot. Since we never get the voting totals, lists of who voted for what, demographic breakdowns, etc. all we get is these little ‘word of mouth’ anecdotes from certain Academy members. While I have no doubt that Siegel has spoken to a lot of Academy members, her sample size of voters who flat-out ignored 12YAS can’t possibly be large enough to make this a significant issue. I’m sure just as many voters didn’t watch Gravity (“sci-fi? Pfft, no space movies for me, thanks”), Wolf Of Wall Street (“three hours? And I’ve heard it’s a lot of bad language! No thanks!”), Her (“a guy falls in love with his computer? Too far out for me!”), American Hustle (“Jeremy Renner didn’t make much eye contact with me at that Academy luncheon in 2010, screw him and his movie!”) or the other contenders for stupid reasons as well.

    If anything, I’d guess the number of those 6000 Academy members who actually watch every Best Picture nominee is shockingly low.

  28. February 26, 2014

    Q Mark, everything you wrote is spot on.

    Hundreds of voters skip dozens of movies. Most of them probably feel bad about it and would feel bad about publicly admitting it.

    Here’s what I think we know about people who do admit it: they’re proud of it. They’re not the least bit ashamed to say they didn’t watch The Wolf of Wall Street or 12 Years a Slave or Gravity.

    They think it means they have higher standards that everybody else. They skip the movies they’re not interested in — and they believe those movies are beneath their standards. They think they’re being rebels by skipping the movies they feel are being “forced on them.”

    So it’s ridiculous for people like Natasha to suggest that somebody who doesn’t give enough fucks about a movie to watch it would “vote it #1″ based on word of mouth.

    No matter what 12 Years a Slave ends up winning on Sunday, we should prepare ourselves to hear more of that type of nonsense from people here who don’t like 12 Years a Slave.

    “oh, academy members were afeared of watchin it but they were afeared not to vote for it!” (on their secret ballots)

    such transparent bigoted bullshit nauseates me.

  29. m1
    February 26, 2014

    “King’s Speech was…not a great movie.”

    I agree completely. TKS is not a great movie. It is an exceptionally amazing one. And when the biggest criticism you can levy against it is that it is “happy” or “makes you feel emotions”, you know you have witnessed a masterpiece.

  30. murtaza
    February 26, 2014

    This member should’ve been spanked on behalf of the entire Academy for not nominating Kathryn Bigelow last year and for not naming ZD30 best picture.

    As for 2010….
    I liked both films Social Network and King’s Speech. Network was tense, dark but i couldn’t get Jesse Eisenberg, too annoying. Speech on the other hand was too formulaic, made to win Oscars. I wanted some third movie to win that year, maybe Black Swan.

    There was so much to criticize Academy for, even just for their recent choices. Like ignoring Fassbender for Shame, Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin and Elizabeth Olsen for Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene. Both of these deserved to be nominated more than Rooney Mara’s robotic act playing Lisbeth.

  31. JPNS Viewer
    February 26, 2014

    @“alan of montreal” [Feb. 26 12:55 am]

    In general, whether or not I find one supposedly racially offensive angle in a film to be objectionable to my mind, at least I usually do not forget about them if there’s at least an element in there.

    As a SE Asia-based Fareast Asian guy, I’d like to respond empathetically and more constructively to the so-called “crazy Asian bitch” stereotype in that film. Unfortunately, for some reason, and #ironically so [#see the previous paragraph], I need to re-watch the film to gather all of the sub-elements reportedly being geared towards Brenda (?) Song’s character. (While I believe in good faith that, yourself as a Chinese Canadian, someone in a sense directly involved in the situation, you most likely have a good point for being upset, which otherwise would have been ignored, I need to check the context and all for myself – again – to begin with.)

    HOWever, the main point of this comment being: to me, the so-called Asian stereotype; while depending upon several factors and on case-by-case basis, . . . still in general and on paper, if it’s meant to be offensive — let’s say — towards Chinese, Korean, Tibetan, and the list goes on, then to me it’s similar to being abusive and distasteful to Japanese because, to be honest, the way I see it is that in too many a case we are all alike and the same #to them.
    So, for the time being I am by default in my empathetic response to your thought and comment about your own unpleasant experience. (And in general I could see why a tiny yet important element, if any, might unfortunately help ruin the whole thing.)

  32. m1
    February 26, 2014

    “pumping up of a stuttering King’s ego so that he could give a speech.”

    Seriously, Sasha? Way to grossly oversimplify The King’s Speech. When was the last time you saw that movie?

  33. steve50
    February 26, 2014

    Q Mark nails it, I think. AMPAS is a large organization made up of a varied cross-section of industry workers (and retirees), each with various interests, concerns and in some cases, agendas outside of the task at hand which is selecting the “best” of the past year. Being such a herd-like entity, they are also vulnerable to marketing and campaigning.

    One cannot expect that all members will have seen everything – a cinematographer or actor’s job is not to judge movies, but to make them. They salute their peers annually based on different criteria than an audience, whether that audience is made up of critics or the popcorn crowd. They have no interest in seeing everything as that jobis outside their domain of responsibility.

    So this all feeds into the statement:
    “The Oscars are still the “gold standard,” it was agreed. They are still, for better or worse, the most respected film awards in the world.”

    Most well-known film awards, yes; best advertised, organized, broadcast and branded – all, yes. “Most respected”? Outside of the Academy, probably not. The general public speaks at the box office and seldom do they agree with Oscar’s choices. Critics and cinephiles consider the Oscars an amusing curiosity whose value comes from providing attention on film and the opportunity to engage in discussion about the past year – the pageant helps to focus interest on things like sound, score and supporting players. It’s a feast where you don’t really plan on liking the dessert.

    Respect comes from knowing that the judging comes from people who have seen everything and, as with the Sight & Sound group, knowing who each individual is, their credentials, and how each individual voted, or at least the general final tally.

    Groups like the individual guilds, the AFI, NAACP, etc. make it clear by their identity what they represent and why they like what they like – we know who votes and why.

    But saying that Oscar is the gold standard of all film awards? Oreos outsell quinoa – does that make Oreos the gold standard of nutrition?

    (a little aside about the AFI, which claims to honour only American fare. I’m assuming that since the makers of Gravity went to great efforts to be branded as a British film, we won’t expect to see Gravity turn up on any AFI “best” lists. Unless, of souse, it was only a ruse to ensure a prize during this highly competitive season) Guess we’ll see soon enough.

  34. Spacey
    February 26, 2014

    I watched “The Social Network” the other day for the first time in a while and I was all, “ok, let’s see how this holds up”, like it might have aged or dated itself. It didn’t. It’s still a masterpiece. If anything it’s even more relevant today. Sigh. Fincher.

    If Hustle wins over 12 years I’ll retire from everything.

  35. February 26, 2014

    “But the bombshell of the day came when Peggy Siegel said that voters she spoke with (and remember, she goes to EVERYTHING) could not even bring themselves to watch 12 Years a Slave. You have to watch it, she would urge them. But they would hold up their hands and say — I can’t.”

    No, it’s not a bombshell, it’s merely a confirmation of what we’ve suspected all the long. If 12YAS does not win Best Picture, AMPAS will be confirming what a spineless bunch they are – it has won the awards that matter leading up to the ending of this wretched awards season.

    If American Hustle beats out both Gravity and 12YAS… what’s the word stronger than, ‘I’ll be livid’?

    I believe 12YAS will still win BP, and Cuaron BD… this split honors two great films, the academy won’t risk continued questioning of its legitimacy if one of these films win both, or American History takes it all.

  36. February 26, 2014

    Sigh… really, Sasha? King’s Speech vs. Social Network? Again? Why can’t you let it go?

    To be honest: What did you expect? That you tell them “The Social Network deserved it over The King’s Speech“ and everyone applauds „Yes, you are right! We made a mistake!“?

    I am saying this over and over again: There is no absolute Best Picture. There are always more than one candidates. The King’s Speech was such a candidate, as was The Social Network, Black Swan or Inception. It’s not just the Oscars or the BAFTAs – The King’s Speech has a Metascore of 88/100. That’s not perfect, but it’s far from “undeserving“. And it has an IMDB-Rating of 8,1, compared to the slightly lower 7,8 für The Social Network, with roughly the same number of votes (between 320.000 and 330.000). But that doesn’t matter, right?

    Yes, it can be frustrating, when the personal favorite doesn’t win – it “happened“ to me with Brokeback Mountain, it “happened“ when Christopher Nolan wasn’t even nominated for Inception, it “happend“ when the academy “ignored“ more or less The Truman Show. But I move on. And concerning the Crash-thing: I know a LOT of people, who loved that movie. And who don’t understand, why there was… no… still IS such a fuzz about the Oscar-win over Brokeback. One of these people is an experienced film critic – and don’t get me started about Roger Ebert, who adored Crash.

    To be honest: Of all the people, who I personally know, I am the ONLY one who thought Brokeback Mountain was the better film.

    This talk about “the Academy is always wrong“ is so tiresome. There ist no “wrong“, there are just opinions and tastes. Different ones. Argo wasn’t the “safe“ choice – it was THEIR choice. The same goes for The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire or No Country for Old Men. Yes, they voted for No Country for Old Men – and not just because the Coens were overdue! If “overdue“ was really the only factor, Scorsese would have won ages ago. The members of the academy simply thought: No Country for Old Men was their choice for “best“ picture. Period.

    Why can’t you just be happy, when your choice was awarded? Like The Hurt Locker or The Departed? And why can’t you just be happy FOR THE OTHER FANS, when THEIR choice was awarded? No, you just have to transform your opinion into a fact – a fact, that it’s the “right“ one.

    Sorry, you shake your head in disbelief about the stubborness of the academy. But you are yourself stubborn. You list all the awards for The Social Network and point with your finger at the academy: “Look, you are wrong“… but you ignore all the accolades Alfonso Cuaron already collected for his directorial achievement and insist, that Steve McQueen simply deserves it more. Again, sorry, that’s just defending your own opinion and not a (not existing) formula, which could objectively decide, which movie or director is better than the other one.

    Please, Sasha: Let it go. Enjoy the movies, enjoy writing about it. Jesus christ, even your tagline “Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown“ is so zynical and dishearten together. Why can’t you take it like Whoopie: “Don’t forget: It’s just the oscars.“?

  37. Joshua G
    February 26, 2014

    The King’s Speech is the textbook definition of “pleasant.” It’s not a bad movie. It’s not a great movie. It relies on sentimentality to get you to identify with a man that, during the time period it took place, you would NEVER identify with. Firth and Rush are the real reasons that film gets any critical acclaim at all. Hooper’s direction sure as shit doesn’t do anything for it.

    Just imagine if Fincher had directed The King’s Speech – imaging THAT movie. We would get much more interesting themes beyond “we have to teach this man to speak well by having him say ‘fuck’ a lot.”

    The Social Network is the Citizen Kane of the last 25 years. Like Sasha said, it’s a story about the only friends who ever saw you as a human behind the public persona getting tossed aside for a dream of power. It’s about jealousy, arrogance, and much deeper themes than the put upon courage of a ruler who, even if he doesn’t make the speech, doesn’t really change anything.

    There’s nothing wrong with The King’s Speech as a whole. But there is NOTHING wrong with The Social Network…at all.

  38. m1
    February 26, 2014

    “Just imagine if Fincher had directed The King’s Speech – imaging THAT movie.”

    Oh, ew. That would have been awful.

  39. Koleś
    February 26, 2014

    “The Social Network is the Citizen Kane of the last 25 years.”

    Holy shit.

  40. Joshua G
    February 26, 2014

    @Andy It’s what she does. If Sasha was never right, not only would this conversation not keep coming up, but nobody would visit this site. TKS vs. TSN is the most recent egregious oversight. Then go back to Crash vs. Brokeback. Then further back and further back. That’s what we do. That’s why there’s voting. Everybody knows the Best Picture isn’t the Best Picture. But there’s nothing wrong with calling out a group of people who are asked to determine what is the “best” in a vacuum when they miss so often.

    If anything, I’m happy to read Sasha’s writing because she won’t let things slide. We look at all the stats and point to trends because it’s fun. That forces us to keep returning to the past and digging up old wounds.

  41. Pete
    February 26, 2014

    So if the Oscars end up approximating the guilds can we remember these hysterical days parsing voting conspiracies?

  42. Pete
    February 26, 2014

    Margin Call was better than Social Network by a country mile.

  43. SallyinChicago
    February 26, 2014

    Just to let you know — I pre-orded 12 Yrs a Slave DVD, and I suspect it will get a bunch of sales via DVD, esp. since the Public Schools have the book and movie as part of its h.s. programs. McQueen said the movie had made over $100Mil – probably Worldwide. They made the movie for $25Mil, add in the promo cost, and it’s made a profit. Whether or not it wins Oscar, makes no diff at this point. Because really folks it’s about the revenues.

  44. Bob Burns
    February 26, 2014

    Listening to that self-congratulatory fool it’s obvious why the last three winners have been the most narcissistic of the available choices….. as is American Hustle.

    A king saves the world by taking acting lessons. Talented entertainers do the monkey dance for a Hollywood hot shot. Hollywood hoodwinks muslim extremists. Actors make a bunch of Jersey lowlife crooks cute and funny.

    who gives a shit whether anyone picks 18 or 21 right winners? that’s about as stupid as waiters and groundskeepers betting on who gets to be president of the country club.

    great piece Sasha. in its own way one of the best ever. Maybe, one day, the Oscar bloggers will figure out a way to get off the industry teat and report the truth.

  45. Bob Burns
    February 26, 2014

    re: TKS the historical re-write of that film is beyond the pale. The king was, at the time, unconstitutionally meddling in politics, blocking Churchill at every turn and was more pacifist than his man, Neville Chamberlain….. who made his peace in our time speech, George at his side, from the same window where royal babies are presented to adoring subjects.

    He was a hero later, during the war, but at the time the movie depicts his actions were destructive and resulted in countless needless deaths.

    Speech therapy, my ass.

  46. Nic V
    February 26, 2014

    Just because a film is ground breaking or has a social impact doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better film. Just because you can’t personally relate to the subject matter of one film over another doesn’t mean that it’s a better film. It just means that film speaks to you and that doesn’t mean that what you take from that film as a fan isn’t valid. So if 12 Years doesn’t win that doesn’t reduce it’s impact on film or it’s impact on society, it just means people liked something else more. That’s already played out in the ticket buying aspect of this whole process. I still think that 12 Years is going to walk away with BP. But if it doesn’t there are a number of films nominated this year that could easily be recognized as quality work.

  47. February 26, 2014

    People who admit they did not see one of the Best Picture nominees should be withdrawn their ballot. I can live with people voting their hearts (to a degree) and I don’t expect them to always like what I like. But if they do not see at the very least the BP nominees, they have no business voting for this prestigious and still important award.

    Period, end of conversation.

  48. Ben Gordon
    February 26, 2014

    Sasha, as many times as I will disagree with your preferences and opinions on the Oscars race I just want to say how much I admire you’re willingness to speak out for what you believe. I was grinning ear to ear while reading this article. Regardless of who wins, each of us in our hearts knows which film we loved best each year and a piece of metal in the shape of a man can’t change that. Thank you for taking the reins and pushing back against the “stodgy old white guy” that is the Academy.

  49. Robin Write
    February 26, 2014

    I think Sasha is pissed off too with the manner in which The King’s Speech won. That it just started scooping everything up at the end and killed the race, even though The Social Network was winning most of the Best Picture awards. And I was pissed off about this too, especially Hooper winning Director. That was Nolan’s award {had he even been nominated}. Or Fincher’s.

    A similar thing happened with Sideways {though I don’t resent Million Dollar Baby so much} which also meant Giamatti incredibly missed out on a Best Actor nomination.

    Oh I could go on all day. This is why I don’t post on here too often. I would have to quit my job and leave my wife to fit in the time to have my say. And to do it in front of an eye-rolling Academy member would be a bonus…

  50. February 26, 2014

    I agree with Jorge.

  51. Z
    February 26, 2014

    Love how Sasha comes off just a smug as the AMPAS member, yet she gets the hero worship…

  52. The Dude
    February 26, 2014

    Hammond’s reasoning for predicting Gravity is the same as mine. It’s the least divisive out of the three main candidates.

  53. KT
    February 26, 2014

    Good for you Sasha. Some of your compadres on that panel would never speak out against the Academy’s history, in fear for their jobs. Also, I love how irritated you made Peggy Siegel. Yes, Academy members should be called out for their choices. They need to know they have a responsibility when voting, and that their decisions should mean so much more than simply what they like, since the anointed film lasts for posterity, good or ill. It’s that decision between what is right and what it easy, and it’s certainly not right to be a voting member and not see all the nominated film so many people worked hard to bring to the big screen.

    Is there a video of this panel online?

  54. evelyn garver
    February 26, 2014

    I think critics have a lot to answer for with their hyperbole in describing the violence in 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Within their praise of this remarkable film, they exaggerated the difficulty of watching it, making audiences, and possibly Academy Members, reluctant to see it. Yes, the film is harrowing, but it’s also a work of art that should have been far more widely seen.

  55. steve50
    February 26, 2014

    “Thank you for taking the reins and pushing back against the “stodgy old white guy”

    While I am in agreement, Ben, with most of what you said, be careful of the above generalization. The results from our own AD preference poll are forthcoming and the breakdown by age demographics might just surprise you. I don’t the folks in AMPAS are going to be that much different.

  56. Bryce Forestieri
    February 26, 2014

    “They skip the movies they’re not interested in — and they believe those movies are beneath their standards. They think they’re being rebels by skipping the movies they feel are being “forced on them.””

    100% Agree. I realize you weren’t talking about this, but it’s worth noting this attitude is not exclusive of fools who vote for awards; from the most casual of moviegoers to the most “knowledgeable” cinephiles, everyone has been guilty. I know I have. How many skipped THE TEXAS CHANINSAW MASSACRE just to have it pop up -decades later- in Sight&Sound (lower ranks granted, but still goddamn it).

    THE QUEEN >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> THE KING’S SPEECH + MARGIN CALL

    My top 10 in 2010 (if I remember correctly, it was a mammoth year in cinema, as suggested by my top 10)

    1. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
    2. I AM LOVE
    3. TRON: LEGACY
    4. NEVER LET ME GO
    5. I SAW THE DEVIL
    6. ANIMAL KINGDOM
    7. THE ILLUSIONIST
    8. BLACK SWAN
    9. SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD
    10. THE GHOST WRITER

  57. KT
    February 26, 2014

    Also, I love how people on the panel were already defending the presumptive Academy pick Cuaron for Best Director. He worked 4 years on the project, blah blah blah. What director today doesn’t work for years on their films? Why such blowback when you simply said you would vote for McQueen? Is it a problem when someone goes against the consensus winner? I wonder how many people in Hollywood have integrity. It always surprises me the extent people will go to to win an Oscar, even in a world today when Oscar doesn’t have the same financial boost it once did. It doesn’t mean anything if people are willing to smear their competition and buy votes and bully voters and treat the films like their presidents in an election. Philomena going to see the Pope, give me a f—ing break. What incenses me the most, is that directors put their life in making a film, their souls for years, and then some Academy members, who have a responsibility to see everything, will trivialize the work and not even watch it, a decision that takes seconds. Is their no respect for the process it takes to make a film? Luis Bunuel was onto something years ago…

  58. Mike
    February 26, 2014

    It’s always interesting to look back at the Oscar race from the perspective of a few years and to see which films ultimately hold up (or become better) with time.

    For example, I think AMERICAN HUSTLE’s stature is actually going to rise in the years to come. It’s a film that on first glance may seem messy, or frivolous, but upon repeated viewings the themes David O’Russell is exploring become more obvious and it becomes clear how expertly crafted and cast the film truly is. All of it ties into an idea of illusion that is by design, deceptive.

    THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is another one. A juggernaut that like a 30 year old Quaalude is going to kick as with its potency as time goes by.

    That’s why such a big part of the Oscars and their place in film history for me is noticing specifically how consistently just below the curve each year’s Best Picture winner often is. But that’s the definition of art in a lot of ways – and at least the Academy usually at least nominates the CITIZEN KANES and RAGING BULLS even when they aren’t collectively ready to recognize the full genius that they are.

  59. Bob Burns
    February 26, 2014

    Bruce Feldman bio posted on the site of his company:

    http://uptowngroup.com/

    If I had credentials like that, I’d be in danger of feeling self-important, too.

    thing is that everything is already pre-chewed for the Academy before they ever vote, then they act like they’re experts. all the really good choices they will make have been thought through for them for weeks/months, then they take the credit. entitlement mentality.

  60. Notenoughtime
    February 26, 2014

    Z, what hero worship are you referring?

  61. Bob Burns
    February 26, 2014

    and, to answer Bryce, Peggy Siegal:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peggy-siegal/

  62. Notenoughtime
    February 26, 2014

    Hey Andy, great entry.

  63. Sasha Stone
    February 26, 2014

    For example, I think AMERICAN HUSTLE’s stature is actually going to rise in the years to come. It’s a film that on first glance may seem messy, or frivolous, but upon repeated viewings the themes David O’Russell is exploring become more obvious and it becomes clear how expertly crafted and cast the film truly is. All of it ties into an idea of illusion that is by design, deceptive.

    The problem with Hustle for me is that it’s the kind of movie about a movie that would rise in years to come. It, like Argo, like The Artist, like the King’s Speech, is trapped in nostalgia. Some movies can emerge over decades to maintain resonance when they are not really about their time — but the ones that seem to hold so permanently now are movies that were about their time, like Casablanca, Vertigo, Network, All the President’s Men, etc. The Godfather I and II bop around in time but they really do nail the period in which they were made. Hustle reaches back already to that nostalgia – I’m not sure what that’s going to look like in ten or twenty years. Wolf, yes.

  64. Bryce Forestieri
    February 26, 2014

    ON TOPIC: HOLY SHIT:

    Fincher to direct Sorkin’s Steve Job’s pic

    http://www.slashfilm.com/david-fincher-direct-aaron-sorkins-steve-jobs-biopic/

  65. Sasha Stone
    February 26, 2014

    Love how Sasha comes off just a smug as the AMPAS member, yet she gets the hero worship…

    I totally get hero worship, fwiw. But more people hate me than love me. I can live with that. Until I can’t.

  66. Sasha Stone
    February 26, 2014

    Sigh… really, Sasha? King’s Speech vs. Social Network? Again? Why can’t you let it go?

    Of all the things people have written to me over the years on this site nothing will ever both me more than that one. I did not bring up King’s Speech and TSN – the moderator did at the panel. I was supposed to sit there and shut up about it?

  67. Sasha Stone
    February 26, 2014

    It’s still a masterpiece. If anything it’s even more relevant today. Sigh. Fincher.

    It’s perfection in every way.

  68. Sasha Stone
    February 26, 2014

    we should prepare ourselves to hear more of that type of nonsense from people here who don’t like 12 Years a Slave.

    The push back is enormous, everywhere.

  69. keifer
    February 26, 2014

    “The Ghost Writer” swept the European Film Awards and didn’t get one Oscar nomination. What does that tell you?

    “The Great Beauty” is the best film of the year and they throw it a bone – the Foreign Language Oscar. I like the days when AMPAS recognized foreign films for Best Film (The Emigrants, The Postman, Life is Beautiful). The Great Beauty should have been in the top 10.

    And about the Academy dude . . . I wonder if he even watched “The Wolf of Wall Street”. No. 9? In my opinion, of the 9 films nominated, it is the Best Picture.

  70. Sasha Stone
    February 26, 2014

    Q Mark – I can tell you that many voters probably did skip Gravity – also out of fear of it making them dizzy/sick. One movie we can be sure they watched: American Hustle.

  71. Sasha Stone
    February 26, 2014

    Feldman’s presence must’ve made the air thick enough to cut with a knife.

    Apparently he is very well known and liked among my fellow Oscar bloggers – Anne, Pete and Jeff Wells all know him and count him as a friend. To me he is your typical Oscar voter. Someone who thinks he’s hip and critical thinking but can’t admit that time and age has softened his reaction to films. And in a way, why wouldn’t it. You live your whole life avoiding pain and suffering. Now that you’re old all you really want is to feel good, to feel hopeful. Love and a bit with a dog.

  72. Jade Fox
    February 26, 2014

    Bob Burns I very much like your point about the narcissism that the last three BP winners have. It wasn’t always this way. They’ve made safe choices for decades now but many of those safe movies weren’t about Hollywood or acting at all. And you can throw Crash in there as well because a few of those characters worked in Hollywood and the story takes place in LA What caused the change?

    And keep giving them hell Sasha. Someone has to burst the bubble they so obviously live in.

  73. SallyinChicago
    February 26, 2014

    Well thank god the Academy invited more “diverse” members (Asian/Black/women) to join this year and these Felder type people will die off soon. There’s a trump card in the Academy you mentioned that the British actors number about 600. Well BAFTA voted for Alfonso and McQueen so I’m going with those two to take the top awards. I read that Abdi is being considered to star in another movie about a Kenyan runner; I think he’s got a good shot at winning Best Supporting.
    My prediction again: All non-American foreign actors to win.

  74. Jorge
    February 26, 2014

    Sasha – I agree with your view of Hustle. That said, I would add a corollary- the great movies have a great mix of emotional nostalgia, potent understanding of our present human condition, and something insightful to say about our future and our potential.

    The whole reason I think TSN is a masterpiece is because I see that brilliant blend. There is a certain nostalgia in the characters about the their relationships, about times when things were better and simpler and funner between them before greed and ambition took over. In a sense, it is a subtle but unmistakable message of nostalgia for a world pre FB where friendships were real and not just a list of acquaintances. And then there’s the present and future stuff, etc.

    Anyway, I just thought it relevant to add that since we were discussing the problems with American Hustle’s tone

  75. SallyinChicago
    February 26, 2014

    ^^ Notice the Academy member didn’t mention the two African actors, though they’ve been cleaning up in all awards.

  76. Kane
    February 26, 2014

    Sasha, you speak of films and nostalgia. I remember how much you loved Hugo. Though it is clearly different than the last 3 winners, would you say it’s all about nostalgia too? I know none of us were around in that era but as the movie goes to Mellies and his film work, that was all about nostalgia for me.

  77. EdkargIr
    February 26, 2014

    Many of the bloggers on this site have seen all 9 of the bp nominations so I thing academy voters should do the same or not vote. I Am an independent spirit voter and I have seen all the nominees. I voted for 12 years a slave for Bp,bd,ba,BSA, and screenplay.

    If I was a academy voter I would place The Wolf of WallStreet 8th
    I do not think the film is as good as many on this site do. So I can understand her placing wolf 9th.

  78. Pete
    February 26, 2014

    After Wolf of Wall Street’s incredibly stylistic debauchery, the Social Network’s portrayal of hedonism is laughable at best.

  79. Tufas
    February 26, 2014

    Amount of times Best Picture coincided with my own favorite of that given year, this century, so far:

    2.

    The Departed and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

    Every other year my pick (not my prediction, but my own pick) was another nominee.

    When The King’s Speech won, I favorited The Social Network. I favorited Zero Dark Thirty over Argo. I prefered Inglorious Basterds over The Hurt Locker (my favorite movie that year was A Prophet, didn’t even win Best Picture in a foreign language). I thought Brokeback was ages above Crash. And the years The Artist and Slumdog Millionaire won, I can’t even remember what else was up for the award.

    This year my favorite is Gravity. I can also live with a 12YAS win. Or, goodness lord, The Wolf of Wall Street. I just hope American Hustle dies and goes away.

    Still, looking forward for a grand Oscar night. Junk food ready!

    T.

  80. Mike
    February 26, 2014

    Of course on first glance AMERICAN HUSTLE seems to be all about nostalgia (that hair! those clothes! that soundtrack!) but I think that’s actually part of David O’Russell’s slight of hand too — what’s veiled under the cloak of period nostalgia is actually a pretty astute look at our current culture which has never been more obsessed with winning, deception and manufactured personas.

    I think that’s pretty timeless actually.

  81. Buford T Justice
    February 26, 2014

    The folks who refuse to watch 12YAS are the same folks who refused to watch the much more harrowing Schindler’s List , but still voted for it due to it’s historical importance and the weight of P C …I wouldn’t worry about those folks
    It’s quite clear to me that the Academy will make the safe choice, the least hassle , and reward both movies ,; Gravity with the most Oscars, (including BD) and 12YAS with only about 2-3, but best picture …this is the obvious compromise choice that will result in the least amount of unhappy people…BAFTA did it , PGA did it and the Golden Globes did it , so why not the Academy ?

  82. Mike
    February 26, 2014

    The difference Buford is in the preferential balloting system of the Academy. That’s what makes it such a nail biter. It seems unlikely to me that AMPAS members who didn’t actually watch the film are going to rank it number 1 over 8 other films they actually saw.

    Why many are predicting GRAVITY is because its easy to imagine it being the #2 vote on a lot of ballots, which could allow it to win by consensus. AMERICAN HUSTLE could be right in that mix too if GRAVITY and 12 YEARS are splitting all the number 1 votes.

  83. keifer
    February 26, 2014

    I think the acting in “American Hustle” is what saves the film and makes it entertaining, and, like “Silver Linings Playbook” last year, obviously has broad support from its largest branch, the actors.

    But Best Picture? Nah. Not my choice. Which means the “WELL LIKED” movie will probably win Best Picture, after more artsy fartsy movies (“Nebraska”, “Her”)steal some votes away from “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” and prevent either of them winning.

    But does anybody out there LOVE-LOVE-LOVE “American Hustle”? It’ll probably win, but the win will appear “vanilla” if it does. And this site will go ballistic, I fear, in its reproach of the Academy once again (deservedly so).

    Most people I’ve talked to who have seen the film like it and appreciate the acting, but don’t consider it a great film. It’s a fun film to watch. BUT, “The Sting” it IS NOT.

    I do think Sasha, however, because it is a spot-on period piece depicting the ’70s, that it will hold up in years to come. It has a sassy, ’40s screwball comedy sensibility about it that never really goes out of style. But it certainly isn’t the Best Picture of the year.

  84. Robert
    February 26, 2014

    A good friend of mine in LA who’s a film producer (but not an Academy member but I think is in PGA).resisted seeing 12 Years a Slave for weeks because she heard it’s so violent, ” torture porn” blah blah blah and was resentful that it seemed people were going to vote for it because it’s about slavery.. She was angry because she adores Gravity and I don’t (although considering I went and saw it while she had refused to see 12 Years showed how absurd she was being). I badgered her into finally seeing it. She called me gushing about how brilliant it is and thanking me for forcing her to see it.

    Sadly I’m sure my friend is like a lot of people in the industry and in the Academy.

    I live in NYC and almost all of my friends feel the same way as I do about Gravity: we love Cuaron, the film is gorgeous to look at and a technical marvel, but we were all bored by it.

    On the topic of The King’s Speech and Social Network, I liked TNS a great deal but thought TKS was a superior film– beautifully made and acted, engaging, and a deserving Best Pic. I think the Academy got that one right.

  85. Zach
    February 26, 2014

    If Slave loses, especially to Gravity (not even my personal favorite of the year but an understandable “they were awed by it” choice), I will refuse to believe it’s because too many voters were “afraid” to see the movie. That’s ridiculous. It’s not that graphic and they’ve nominated more graphic films before. No one was afraid to see Schindler’s List, or dare I say award it sight-unseen. The difference is that Slave is aloof, stark, meagerly done. It’s no epic and it’s no Spielberg film. And while some love that about it, it’s not for everyone. Its biggest virtues like the direction and script are also its biggest obstacles to mass appeal. So IF if loses, it won’t be because it was “too much” for the voters, many of which obviously HAVE seen it and just prefer other films. This isn’t going to go down as another Brokeback Mountain scandal — and even there, dare I say, you had a similarly aloof, relentlessly grim drama with several long stretches of silence, up against an action-packed race relations drama starring half of Hollywood. It wasn’t all bigotry. And this won’t be all racism or apprehension toward the subject matter or its depiction. If someone makes a gay Titanic or a gay West Side Story or a gay Slumdog Millionaire, it’ll win. If Solomon Northrup’s story had the depth and detail of Alex Haley’s, it would definitely win. And on that note, though it’s not about American slavery obviously, Slumdog’s triumph proved, like The Last Emperor, that a film of quality about minorities CAN triumph. If Slave loses, just like when Brokeback lost, precursors be damned, you don’t HAVE to take it as a sign of Hollywood’s disapproval of minorities. Other films have, can, and will succeed with voters, just not THESE movies.

    Of course, if you approach it as an institutional problem as Sasha has so astutely done all season, then I get it. So few of these movies get made, maybe not because the ones that do turn into failed Oscar bait, but more so because of the industry’s barriers to minority filmmakers. In that sense a win for Slave would not only be groundbreaking but crucial. But all I know is that the Best Pictures and above-the-line Oscar wins I like the best, the ones that stand the test of time the most, are the ones that legitimately deserved their wins. The wins based on quality, not politics, not on trying to influence a society that’s already two years ahead of any projects in development.

  86. Christophe
    February 26, 2014

    Early numbers for The Grand Budapest Hotel suggest it is opening at #1 in France, which is pretty huge since Wes Anderson barely ever cracked the Top 10 before, but critics are saying it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Hopefully, it could be his first film to become a BP nominee, even though there have been many disappointments on that front in the past.

  87. Buford T Justice
    February 26, 2014

    Mike February 26, 2014 at 9:32 am
    The difference Buford is in the preferential balloting system of the Academy. That’s what makes it such a nail biter. It seems unlikely to me that AMPAS members who didn’t actually watch the film are going to rank it number 1 over 8 other films they actually watched
    ================================
    I DISAGREE …the gravitas of subject matter , the Hollywood ”group think” ..the white guilt ..the weight of political correctness will all come into play ….I think the folks who haven’t watched the movie are a very small group , anyway

    As far as preferential ballet and all the so called #2′s that Gravity will get …THINK AGAIN SHERLOCK …the fervent supporters of 12YAS will be acutely aware of that and will tactically mark Gravity way down on their ballot …I WOULD !

  88. maja
    February 26, 2014

    luv ya sasha!
    Re: “New York Times Mag” article: Just read the article and am a little bit frustrated. Boris Kachka could at least have mentioned that you, the so-called “Oscar Bloggers” are replacing the so-called print trades in no time, since print is going down the drain everywhere. And that you are not posting about the Oscars only, but year-round. About arthouse films, foreign films, life in general, and that everybody can interact with you and you connect other readers around the globe by commenting. You guys are doing more to democracy than any state with their laws and restrictions will ever be able to accomplish. And of course Boris Kachka forgot to mention what it must be like, living this life. Having the freedom to work and travel and have a living from the ads, but the downside, too. Having to be accessible at all times, being responsible and having to juggle the ad income regarding your journalistic freedom. In a big publishing house, if you write a bad review for a film that puts down advertising, they might pull you into a meeting, asking if you can soften it down to be a film that is still recommended. But you guys have to sort this out all by yourselves. A tightrope, and I hope the companies won’t be able to make you their slaves ever… Big Hugs

  89. menyc
    February 26, 2014

    “I’m sorry but “Social Network” is one of the most overrated and self-important movies of the last decade and I’m glad the Academy chose “King’s Speech” over it.”

    I’m sorry but “Social Network” is not overrated, is brilliant and is a self-important movie (that’s the point) of the last decade and I’m repulsed that the Academy chose “King’s Speech” over it.

  90. Mike
    February 26, 2014

    Well in the spirit of examining how a movie stands up the test of time — whether it wins or not, I think part of the context of 12 YEARS A SLAVE in the historical lexicon will be — is this a film winning on its greatness or on it’s cultural ‘importance.’

    I’ve had a bit of a hard time during this race discerning if Sasha’s passion for 12 YEARS is based on the merits of the film itself or merely what it would represent historically for a film about slavery, written and directed by black artists winning in these categories for the first time.

    So much of what has been fueling 12 YEARS in the race has been this belief that it’s important to vote for it. Even the ad campaign: “IT’S TIME” seems to be suggesting that.

    So while the film might be a great film, in this race it’s impossible to separate it from the cultural smorgasbord surrounding it. I feel like this is a little of the same situation that surrounded BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and as much as people like to say that film lost due to homophobic middle aged AMPAS members — I think frankly some of them were just turned off by the impetus that they SHOULD be voting for it. Maybe some just felt more passionate about CRASH.

    As has been said endlessly before, voters vote with their hearts. And I don’t think its fair to say that their hearts should be ruled by historical significance of their choices. At the end of the day, too much stock is put in what actually wins BEST PICTURE. How often has the best film actually won?

  91. Buford T Justice
    February 26, 2014

    At this stage of the race I am very confident that 12YAS will win , and quite easily …the same folks who voted for a rather polished , British historical movie like the Kings Speech are EXACTLY the same folks who will vote for 12YAS…they are not going to be much interested in a high tech sci-fi movie like Gravity , in fact, I’d guess they would even go for American Hustle instead of gravity

  92. Bob Burns
    February 26, 2014

    thanks, Jade Fox.

    sadly, even ironically, I believe you are right about Crash being something of a narcissistic choice for your stated reasons.

  93. Diego
    February 26, 2014

    I can’t belive that you still have the issue of Social Network losing best picture, please, get over it… move on…

  94. Robin Write
    February 26, 2014

    @Diego

    Believe it! I still shiver when I think about Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption losing to Forrest Gump.

    Do you expect Oscar fans to just not feel anything about stuff like this?

  95. Zach
    February 26, 2014

    ^^Exactly. When something wins for the political reasons and not based on quality, it’s a mockery of the awards. When Best Picture wins nothing else but screenplay and a supporting acting award, and something else wins two to three more awards including Director (even if the rest are technical), how can you say it’s winning on its merits rather than politics? Maybe if Ejiofor were winning…maybe if a third film were winning Director and not Gravity, which will already have the most wins of the night, guaranteed. But it just LOOKS BAD and TAINTS the outcome to give Slave so little but still Best Picture. Even last year they went out of their to spread the wealth in order to justify Argo’s win without Director or much else. I didn’t like that Lincoln lost out on 1-3 categories it really deserved, but at least the final outcome made sense on paper. What are people going to think in 30 years when they look back on this year and see that Slave won nothing else but Supporting Actress and Screenplay (for the wrong reasons) while Gravity won Director and 5-6 techs, maybe even Editing, but not Picture?

    The “It’s Time” campaign is the biggest fail since Melissa Leo’s “Consider Me.” Even if, like hers, it has no effect on the outcome or somehow only helps its subject win. It’s still a turnoff.

  96. Mike
    February 26, 2014

    And of course if GRAVITY wins, the sentiment may feel like its winning because of its pioneering special effects. While I think there is more to the film than just effects, I don’t think GRAVITY is a genre changer in the way something like 2001 was (and I have heard a few people suggest that a vote for GRAVITY is a vote to ‘correct’ that film’s snubbing 45 years ago, which of course absurd).

    In truth the movie I loved best this year was HER. The film all my Hollywood friends love best was HER. The film they think is most timely and culturally relevant and the best written and directed is HER. Wouldn’t it be kind of refreshing to see something like that win? It would represent a true voting of the heart.

  97. February 26, 2014

    Well, 40 years ago a film that won only Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay won Best Picture over a film with 8 wins including Best Director. I don’t see a lot of people complaining of The Godfather though.

  98. February 26, 2014

    What are people going to think in 30 years when they look back on this year and see that Slave won nothing else but Supporting Actress and Screenplay (for the wrong reasons) while Gravity won Director and 5-6 techs, maybe even Editing, but not Picture?

    They might think, “hmm, I wonder if this means a Screenplay is more important to a movie than all the really cool Sounds and Visuals?” or “hmm, looks like acting is a really important thing in a movie after all.”

    Funny to me how Argo can “make sense on paper” with 3 Oscars — Picture, Screenplay, Editing — while you believe 12 Years a Slave would look like a travesty to you with 3 Oscars — Picture, Screenplay, Supporting Actress.

  99. Mike
    February 26, 2014

    Well a lot of people I know already look back on ARGO and think, “Oh, that didn’t really deserve to win” — which seems to be per the course more often than not once a few years have past.

    For whatever its worth – I’ve come full circle and think Jennifer Lawrence is going to take Supporting Actress. Just a hunch. But I think 12 YEARS might pop up in production design, costume etc.

  100. murtaza
    February 26, 2014

    i think this this voter putting WOLF at ninth is fine, it’s the least effective but most entertaining film. Of course it must’ve pissed Sasha but WOLF is the only film i wish would’ve bumped by LLEWYN.

    @ KANE
    Hugo was not about nostalgia because it was Scorsese film and everything Scorsese and Fincher does are always a masterpiece for Sasha. So much so i can tell what will be Sasha’s best film of 2014, yes it’ll be GONE GIRL…

  101. keifer
    February 26, 2014

    I guess what’s fun about dissecting the AMPAS choices for Best Picture over the years is the very real fact that they have made absolute blunders historically since their inception: “Citizen Kane” should have won over “Rebecca”, “The Lion in Winter” should have won over “Oliver!”, “High Noon” should have won over “The Greatest [NOT] Show on Earth”, “Brokeback Mountain” should have won over “Crash”,
    etc., ad nauseum.

    I, for one, won’t be surprised if they reward “American Hustle” best picture. It doesn’t deserve it, but I’m pretty sure it will win. As the AMPAS member on the panel suggested, they don’t like being “told” who to vote for. Sometimes, they vote out of protest about what they are expected to check off on the ballot.

    Again, that’s what makes AMPAS fun to watch.

  102. February 26, 2014

    ajnrules, Thank you.

    When I make a list of the 10 best movies of all time, I don’t do it by counting up to see which movies have the most Oscars.

  103. Zach
    February 26, 2014

    Ryan, I only think Argo makes sense on paper (and no, I don’t think it should’ve won) because they spread the wealth. It wasn’t like Pi swept the techs. Best Picture doesn’t have to win the most, though it usually does. But when’s the last time another film beat it by more than one award?

    And yes, Screenplay and an acting award are very important awards that justify a Best Picture win more than the techs. But if Gravity wins 5 techs + Director + Editing and Slave just wins those two and Picture? I don’t think the win will hold up. Especially after people see the film and recognize that the screenplay win wasn’t a slam dunk. And Lupita wasn’t a slam dunk. And Chiwetel was not only the lead but the narrative focal point of the film.

    Now I don’t want Slave to steal Art or Costumes from a more worthy film just to justify its Best Picture win more. In that case I would rather it win with a big deficit to Gravity in its total awards count. But it still smells funny. The expected Oscar outcome will be doing only the bare minimum to help Slave’s legacy, by crowning it the first predominantly black Best Picture, directed by a black man, just without many additional wins. But hey, if that’s enough for its fans, especially since the Oscars ultimately mean more in the here and now than 30 years from now, then fine.

  104. Zach
    February 26, 2014

    12 Years a Slave is no Godfather.

    And a win for Lupita isn’t equivalent to Brando. That split makes sense. Some do complain Coppola was robbed; of course, the blow is softened by the knowledge that he won two years later for the sequel. And maybe the Academy saw that coming too and had all the more reason to award Fosse when they had the chance. But Slave’s win will just look curious or political in years to come if it only takes 3 and Gravity wins at least six.

  105. Scott (the other one)
    February 26, 2014

    I am still predicting 12YaS for the win, but if the Academy’s white guilt and political correctness could not lead to a win for Lincoln last year, when that movie was 100% palatable, I do wonder if their white guilt and political correctness can possibly lead to the much more difficult-to-watch 12YaS winning.

    For the last three years, the Academy has chosen the “entertaining” and politically and thematically inoffensive top contender (The King’s Speech, The Artist, Argo) over the “more difficult” top contender. On the other hand, the year before, the difficult Hurt Locker won over the entertaining Avatar. The preferential ballot is utterly unpredictable, and I just am so unsure about how this will play out when there are two films that a large number of people LOVE one or both of (Gravity and American Hustle) and one film that some hate, some respect but don’t love, and a few love.

    But as far as I am concerned, the more uncertainty the better. Surprises are way more fun that predictable wins, and with so many precursor awards now, there are so few surprises for Oscar night.

  106. Scott (the other one)
    February 26, 2014

    I am actually starting to seriously think about switching my BP prediction to Gravity. I am not saying anything new here, but of all the BP nominees, I think it will have the most #1 votes because lots of people really love it. It will also have a lot of #2 and #3 votes. There are not that many people who will rank Gravity lower than #3. However, there are lots of people who will rank 12YaS anywhere from #2- all the way down to #9 (the idiotic “torture porn” perspective, or the silly “can’t we just all get over the slavery thing” demographic).

    In a preferential ballot system, I’m really starting to think the Gravity has the edge.

  107. keifer
    February 26, 2014

    12 Years a Slave also has another positive in its column in regards to winning the Best Picture Oscar.

    Imagine the photo opportunity with Brad Pitt holding the Oscar over his head with Angelina looking on in adulation? Similar to Clooney and Affleck getting there’s last year. Come on guys, it’s an enticement some AMPAS members won’t resist.

  108. Mike
    February 26, 2014

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say there ‘aren’t’ many’ who will rank GRAVITY lower than 3. It’s a little more divisive on the whole than the tech/director honors it’s receiving might indicate.

    But I do agree it could average out to the highest score.

  109. Scott (the other one)
    February 26, 2014

    Mike — Agreed that maybe I overstated it, but overall I think Gravity has much more love/like than 12YaS, and that will really matter in the preferential vote.

    FYI, I think that Gravity was THE most overrated film of the year. I went with four people, and afterwards every one of us shrugged our shoulders and asked, Is that all there is? And really, Sandra Bullock (whom I love) was, let’s face it, not really very good. I could not ever forget for one second that I was watching a Hollywood star and beauty in the role. I know that people love it, but I am completely counfounded by that love.

    I still reel with shock at the win of The King’s Speech over The Social Network. One is a fusty, old-fashioned Masterpiece Theatre film about an entirely uninteresting subject (who gives a shit about a King who can’t speak properly for chrissakes?), the other an incredibly nuanced and layered portrait of America. I don’t even get the theory that TKS was just more likable and entertaining — the reek of mothballs off of that movie is overpowering, and I feel like there are a hundred movies just like it. Every time I re-watch The Social Network, I am totally engaged, moved, amused, and challenged by it.

    Crash may have been a huge upset, but actually I think there are way worse pictures that have won BP in the 200s: Million Dollar Baby, The King’s Speech, and The Artist. At least Crash wasn’t audience-pandering pap.

  110. February 26, 2014

    Mike — Agreed that maybe I overstated it, but overall I think Gravity has much more love/like than 12YaS, and that will really matter in the preferential vote.

    This assumption is not borne out in the AD Simulated Ballot

    People rank all the movies all across the board in every variation imaginable.

    There’s hardly any way to say, “if this voter chose X for #1 then he won’t be putting Y at #2″ — that’s a false assumption too. People display eclectic taste.

    I’ll ask Rob if there’s a way to a way to take each BP winner and find how their distribution looked on first round ballots.

    isolated for each BP nominee, I mean, for example:

    Where did voters place American Hustle?
    at #1 – 100 votes
    at #2 – 200
    at #3 – 200
    at #4 – 250
    at #5 – 150
    at #6 – 150
    at #7 – 100
    at #8 – 200
    at #9 – 200
    (hypothetical example
    We’ll see if that can that distribution be found without causing Rob too much hassle.

  111. Scott (the other one)
    February 26, 2014

    Ryan — I am sure that every film of the 9 nominees has rankings from #1-9. Undoubtedly, in 6000 ballots, this will be the case. So yes, there are ballots that will show that Gravity is ranked 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, and 9, and the same for every movie.

    I never said that if someone ranks Gravity #1, he or she will never rank 12YaS as #2, so please do not suggest that I made that ssumption. I never said anything about how a person who likes one film may rank all the others. I am sure there are people who loved Gravity and loved 12YaSlave, liked 12YaS, were indifferent to 12YaS, hated 12YaS, and did not see 12YaS.

    But I don’t think it can be denied that it is likely that there ARE more popular films, and more loved films, and less popular films, and less loved films, and I THINK (of course, I am not sure) that generally Gravity has more love, affection, and general liking than 12YaS, and that is why I am thinking of changing my prediction. But I am not sure if I will!

  112. February 26, 2014

    I never said that if someone ranks Gravity #1, he or she will never rank 12YaS as #2, so please do not suggest that I made that assumption.

    I didn’t intend to suggest that. That had nothing to do with you. I’m only naming a couple of misconceptions that lots of people have. People think Gravity doesn’t get many votes lower than #3. That’s wrong. People think if a voter likes one movie then he’ll dislike another movie. That’s wrong.

    But I don’t think it can be denied that it is likely that there ARE more popular films

    oh rilly. way to go out on a limb there.

    Scott, we all know what the most popular movies are. We knew than pretty much as soon as Gravity earned its first 500 zillion dollars. We knew that as soon as 12 Years got a zillion perfect scores on metacritic.

    I’m just tellin you what I see on the actual ballots of 1200 actual readers at AD. Yes, Gravity and 12 Years and American Hustle all have clusters of top spots on a lot of ballots. As WE All Expected. But don’t kid yourself, all those movies scored low on many ballots too.

  113. SallyinChicago
    February 26, 2014

    Solomon’s descendants (they must feel like stars!)

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/12-years-a-slave-solomon-683174

  114. SallyinChicago
    February 26, 2014

    Jorge February 26, 2014 at 6:12 am
    People who admit they did not see one of the Best Picture nominees should be withdrawn their ballot. I can live with people voting their hearts (to a degree) and I don’t expect them to always like what I like. But if they do not see at the very least the BP nominees, they have no business voting for this prestigious and still important award.

    Period, end of conversation.

    ^^ So true. I read awhile back that ONE academy member gave his screenings to his KID to watch and recommend what movie to vote for.
    They should all sign an AGREEMENT / contract that they watched all 9 movies.

  115. Scott (the other one)
    February 26, 2014

    Ryan — why do you turn every interaction on this Board into a fight that you have to win, generally by becoming sarcastic and adopting a snide tone?

    Can’t I suggest that, in trying to formulate my prediction about what will win BP, my sense is that Gravity draws more affection and this will translate into higher rankings than 12YaS, which will in turn translate into a BP win in a preferential voting system?

    Holy F, you are one crabby person.

  116. SallyinChicago
    February 26, 2014

    Well a lot of people I know already look back on ARGO and think, “Oh, that didn’t really deserve to win” — which seems to be per the course more often than not once a few years have past.

    For whatever its worth – I’ve come full circle and think Jennifer Lawrence is going to take Supporting Actress. Just a hunch. But I think 12 YEARS might pop up in production design, costume etc.

    ^^
    When I look at acting parts, I ask myself, could someone else have played that part? In JenLaw’s case, yes….Natalie Portman, Lindsey Lohan….any number of young 20ish/30ish actresses. The one problem I had with JenLaw in AH was could never wrap my mind around HOW OLD SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE? I kept looking at a 23 yr old playing someone who was 23? 30? I don’t know. Only Marlon Brando could have played Corleone…only Meryl could have played Thatcher…only Chitwele could have played Solomon….and the same for Lupita.

  117. SallyinChicago
    February 26, 2014

    To add to that ^^ as for Argo not being worthy (which I didn’t it was such as GREAT movie), the fact that Lincoln was setup to win it all and didn’t, maybe 12 Yrs a Slave will be that movie that takes Lincoln’s place in winning.

  118. February 26, 2014

    Thank you for adding his name Sasha! He’s actually one that I didn’t have on my list yet, so I’ll be updating tonight!

  119. SallyinChicago
    February 26, 2014

    Sandra Bullock (whom I love) was, let’s face it, not really very good. I could not ever forget for one second that I was watching a Hollywood star and beauty in the role.
    ^^ Do you think a slightly unknown actress would have been better in the role….sometimes I think so. Because the movie would stand on its own and WOM would drive people to the movie.

  120. m1
    February 26, 2014

    “who gives a shit about a King who can’t speak properly for chrissakes?”

    I didn’t…until I saw the movie.

  121. m1
    February 26, 2014

    “At least Crash wasn’t audience-pandering pap.”

    Yes, it was. Much more than the other three movies you mentioned, actually. And I actually think Gladiator is worse than all four of those.

  122. February 26, 2014

    Can’t I suggest that, in trying to formulate my prediction about what will win BP, my sense is that Gravity draws more affection

    You can have that sense all you want, Scott. I’m telling you what I see, not what I sense.

    I’m trying to give you concrete evidence that it’s an very fragile illusion to think Gravity has far fewer detractors that 12 Years. That’s not a fact. It’s a ‘sense.’ I have seen the numbers that show otherwise.

    I know AD readers are not the Academy. But we have 1200 readers who helped participate in an experiment, and the sole purpose of that experiment is the give us a set of ACTUAL numbers that we can examine and count to see which “perceptions” are true and which ones are false.

    I get frustrated when I try to explain that and you hit me with “some movies are just more popular than others”

    Sorry to hear you think I’m crabby, but one thing I don’t do is call you insulting names.

  123. Mike
    February 26, 2014

    I think the argument that keeps popping up that Jennifer Lawrence is ‘too young’ for the role she is playing is a little absurd. She’s playing a fictional character that is as old as the co-writer/director David O. Russell deemed her to be. She’s repeatedly called “young” in the dialogue of the script, and its not inconceivable that the character is actually 23 years old, and that she was a “young” single mother in her teens when she met Bale’s character. The dialogue even infers that.

    The whole point of AMERICAN HUSTLE is that nobody is what they appear to be. How much less interesting would it have been if the role had been cast with someone ‘expectedly older’ in the part? Part of the reason Bale’s charter is so dismissive of her is arguably because she’s young.

    I also think Lawrence made the comedy of the role look effortless. I’m pretty sure if you saw Natalie Portman or Lindsay Lohan attempt the role, you’d only appreciate the work Lawrence brought to the part even more.

  124. Bryce Forestieri
    February 26, 2014

    GRAVITY has many detractors. Most of them come across as severe idiots. We had a BAFTA voter a while back and today an AMPAS voter expressing how they feel about the film. I’m not linking

  125. Scott (the other one)
    February 26, 2014

    Ryan — fair enough. I found your earlier message snarky, but this explains it in a better way without the snark. So, truce!

    It’s fair that you, who had seen the AD ballot results, may have more reliable information. But those of us who do not have the benefit of seeing those results (until a few minutes ago when they were posted) have nothing else to go on but our “sense” and intuition. And after all, part of the fun of these boards is expressing, and arguing about, what our “sense” of things, our intuitions about trends, is — and none of us has much concrete evidence to go on than that.

    As for the AD results, very interesting. 1200 is a good sample but: (1) I suspect that the average AD voter has seen more of the nominated films than the average Academy voter (could be wrong). (2) AD voters are probably more inclined just to vote in order of true preference, and not try to second guess the ballot by adjusting rankings to achieve a better result for their top choice. (3) Was there any control over AD voters voting twice? (4) I assume that most AD voters don’t work in the film industry, whereas Academy voters do and are influenced by fiscal and personality motives. All of which is to say, the AD results are very cool to look at, and probably QUITE reliable, but not 100% definitive. (And I know, you acknowledge this.)

  126. February 26, 2014

    Well you were right Scott, insofar as we can see on the simulated ballot that the two movies with fewest placements lower than #3 are Gravity and 12 Years.

    I think we’re all surprised to see how American Hustle got slammed early and hard by a lot of voters.

  127. February 26, 2014

    Also it’s fair to say that people who admire 12 Years and Gravity have found a safe haven of like minded people at AD the past few months. While fans of American Hustle have met with more antagonism here. So we’re in a gerrymandered community enclave to some extent. (Sorry about that, JPNS Viewer!) :)

  128. Jase
    February 26, 2014

    I disagree: The King’s Speech wasn’t even a “good” movie. I’m sorry but that thing played like a bad TV film. The direction was terrible in parts (no sense of time or the passage of time) and the screenplay was predictable schmaltz. I don’t think The Social Network is the great masterpiece so many bloggers think it is (I preferred The Fighter that year, still the best of Russell’s nominated work, I say) but my god at least The Social Network aspires to be cinema with a capital C! The King’s Speech was Olive Garden filmmaking.

    Sasha, you shouldn’t feel cowed by other blowhards who enjoy blowing the Academy (Anne Thompson, Dave Karger, Pete Hammond) into proclaiming year after year that The King’s Speech is a good but not great film. It was a bad film, plain and simple. Not as awful as Braveheart, but just utterly forgettable. I don’t always agree with you Sasha, and sometimes you argue in a frustratingly narrow or intellectually dishonest way. But your heart is in the right place, your progressive politics are admirable, and at least when you advocate for a film, I truly believe it’s YOUR opinion and no one else’s. I can’t say that for some of the other bloggers who attended this panel with you. They may have the respect of the Academy, but that’s like saying a hooker is better than a woman who’s single because the hooker gets paid to whore her body out. You’re your own person (and you’re usually right about which film is better) and that counts for a lot. Better than the Academy’s respect is of course, self-respect.

  129. Natasha
    February 26, 2014

    @ RYAN:

    Ryan Adams February 26, 2014 at 1:44 am

    ME: I guess, if 12YAS wins BP, there will be a number of voters who never saw it but just relied on word-of-mouth regarding something about the movie (how good it was and/or historical importance) and voted it #1 or at least placed it high on their ballots…

    RYAN: oh, is that what you guess? you’re a terrible guesser.

    My reply: I guess I’ve become too used to wording things with disclaimers in mind when I consider my own life experiences LOL

  130. Claudiu Dobre
    February 26, 2014

    “Personally, I liked Inception and True Grit more than King’s Speech and Social Network”

    Far out! Me too! :)

    “Gravity is this year’s Social Network.”

    Even I, not the biggest fan of The Social Network by any stretch of the imagination, can’t possibly ever agree with that comparison. Simply put, one is an extremely well-written, socially and culturally relevant movie, and the other is just not…

    “12 Years a Slave is no Godfather.”

    But it’s way closer to being that great than Gravity is to being as great as Cabaret…

    “But Slave’s win will just look curious or political in years to come if it only takes 3 and Gravity wins at least six.”

    To you…
    Are you saying that, had Citizen Kane won Best Picture, in addition to screenplay, people would have thought it undeserved because How Green Was My Valley (easily the more beloved movie at the time) won twice as many Oscars that year, including director? Your argument makes no sense, except for the ‘political’ part but, honestly, no matter if 12 Years wins BP and a total of 2 or 9 Oscars, there will be just as many people calling its win political 30 years from now. The real problem is that this shouldn’t be an issue anymore, in this day and age – but it is. This is not 12 Years a Slave’s fault. Would you have preferred that it not be made at all, or that it not even be nominated for Best Picture? Because that, sadly, is the only way it could ever have avoided such accusations.

    “There are not that many people who will rank Gravity lower than #3.”

    This based on what? I say it’s precisely the other way around, considering who’s doing the voting and the genre biases they have.

    @Andy – great post!

  131. Natasha
    February 26, 2014

    I re-quote “I guess, if 12YAS wins BP, there will be a number of voters who never saw it but just relied on word-of-mouth regarding something about the movie (how good it was and/or historical importance) and voted it #1 or at least placed it high on their ballots…if what Siegel revealed is representative of a significant batch of voters….and indicates the power of word-of-mouth (hearsay and secondhand reports) in AMPAS.”

    I emphasize “…if what Siegal revealed is (TRULY) representative of a significant batch of voters…and indicates…….in AMPAS.”

    This was suggested as a guess as to why things might go the way they go with my limited knowledge of AMPAS. I put “guess” since I was hesitant. I didn’t think it was going to provoke….well, anyone….being just a “guess.” Too bad if the suggestion is a stretch.

  132. Buford T Justice
    February 26, 2014

    The King’s Speech is indeed like a episode of Masterpiece Theater , but those over 60 Academy voters are very similar to the folks who would watch M T and would like and admire a polished , Brit period piece and drama …the folks who like to watch M T are much more likely to vote for 12YAS than the other two …just another reason why I’m convinced that 12YAS will win

  133. February 27, 2014

    NATASHA: I guess, if 12YAS wins BP, there will be a number of voters who never saw it but just relied on word-of-mouth …and voted it #1 or at least placed it high on their ballots…

    RYAN: oh, is that what you guess? you’re a terrible guesser.

    NATASHA: I guess I’ve become too used to wording things with disclaimers in mind when I consider my own life experiences LOL

    No Natasha, I wasn’t trying to play gotcha with semantics. I just didn’t have time last night to explain why your assumption is an oversimplified fallacy.

    I’ll try to explain now, ok?

    ===

    I took your comment to mean this: “If 12 Years wins and there are people who never saw it, then that must mean some people who never saw it have voted it as #1 anyway.”

    Am I summing up your feelings correctly?

    If I accurately understand your rationale, then here’s how you’re wrong. Consider this:

    Suppose 500 voters never watched 12 Years a Slave (Is that enough for you? I think the number is fewer than that, but I want you to think my example is fair. So let’s go nuts and say there’s a big dumb wad of 500 sulks in the Academy who never watched 12 Years). That’s 10% of the Academy who refuse to watch the best reviewed movie of the year. Sound legit? Happy with that premise?

    If 500 voters never watched 12 Years a Slave, that means 5500 did.

    To save time, let’s simplify those 5500 voters into a gang of 2700 hardcore Gravity-lovers and and gang of 2700 hardcore 12-Years-lovers.

    (We will allow for the very unlikely possibility that all 6000 Academy members all saw Gravity, if that makes you more comfortable — [although I seriously doubt if it's true]. But perhaps — if we can wrap our heads around this — possibly only 2700 voters out of 6000 felt Gravity was the best movie of the year. That’s 45% of voters who are wowed by Gravity enough to mark it #1 on their ballots. Does 45% represent enough people going gaga for Gravity so that you feel I’m playing fair?)

    2700 votes for Gravity, 2700 votes for 12 Years. That leave 600 voters who are trouble-makers who have named one of the other remaining 6 BP nominees as their favorite. Let’s take a breather, to let this much sink in.

    ===

    ok we’re back. Now it gets ugly.

    Just a reminder: we’ll say the 600 remaining stray ballots include ALL the 500 people who skipped out on 12 Years a Slave. (although some will have already gone into the Gravity stack). Regardless, NONE of the remaining voters have “voted 12 Years #1 or placed it high on their ballots.” Not One. None of them.

    “I didn’t watch the damned thing, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to put it at #1, #2, #3 or #4 on my precious ballot” — say 500 jackasses.

    (they all phoned up Scott Feinberg and that’s what they told him, and then Mr Feinberg wrote up his scoop for THR.)

    – but now let’s say 301 of those people would still rather see 12 Years a Slave win BP than “the movie that glorified greed” (Hope Holiday for one), or “that crazy movie about the talking iphone slut” or that “muddled mess of hideous hairstyles” or “that black and white movie that put me to sleep” — or whatever other dumb reasons the 500 laziest Academy members might have. All those movies certainly have their share of haters, yes?

    Because make no mistake, these 500 hypothetical voters who have bailed on watching one of the most acclaimed BP nominees have already proven to us that they’re the dregs of the Academy. And a lot of those lowbrows are going to dislike Gravity too, and some of them will despise Her, and some of those assholes will hate Captain Phillips. Right? So there could very easily be 301 of these jagoffs who put 12 Years a Slave at #6 or #7 or #8, do you agree?

    And then, in the 6th, 7th and 8th rounds of ballot redistribution, those 301 ballots that have 12 Years a Slave at #6 and #7 and #8 all go in the stack for 12 years a Slave.

    And that’s how 12 Years a Slave gets 3001 votes and wins Best Picture — Without One Single Voter Who Didn’t See It being a sneak and “voting it #1 or at least placing it high on their ballots…”

    ===

    Because many many of those 500 people who refused to watch 12 Years a Slave also managed to miss Captain Phillips or Wolf of Wall Street and Her too. Can you see how that’s not only possible but likely?

    It’s just not as fun to brag to Peggy Seigel about all those other movies they missed. (and Peggy Siegel forgot to ask them).

    No, Because 12 Years a Slave has become the movie that all the snots love to boast about missing. But it’s not like those snots have a bug up their butts only about 12 Years a Slave. Lots and lots of those snots also saw and hated Wolf of Wall Street, or saw and got confused by Her, or saw and fell asleep during Nebraska.

    So they can still skip or hate 4 or 5 different BP nominees and and still place 12 Years a Slave FAR from the top of their ballots. (They might even hate Gravity worse than the movie they didn’t even see, yes? Because remember, these lazy twits have already proven to us that they’re certified idiots).

    But in the last rounds of redistribution their ballots can still “gravitate” to 12 Years, even if they’ve just lazily added all the titles they skipped or hated at random to their 6th, 7th, 8th slots.

    Voila: that’s how 12 Years a Slave accumulates 3001 votes without one single voter who never saw it putting it at #1 — because nobody was somehow “guilted” into naming it as their #1 fave.

    Because, Natasha, it makes no sense that you would HATE or DISMISS or FEAR a movie so much that you don’t even give enough shits to watch it — and then when you fill out your SECRET ballot in your bathroom with the door locked, you somehow feel compelled to list it as #1. Why? Because your turds in the toilet are watching you?

    Because those 301, or 101 or 51 people only need to put 12 Years at #4 or #5 or #6 — just so long as those 301, or 101, or 51 people put Gravity at #7 or #8 or #9.

  134. Robin Write
    February 27, 2014

    Ryan, why are you making me read all of that when I am trying to work? When I say work I mean read. Read about the Oscars. :-D

  135. February 27, 2014

    yikes, Robin Write, I know. What a nagging lecture that was, right? I tried to think how I could explain it more briefly, but I kept wanting to add detail to make it clear.

    My deepest apologies for being Professor Severus Snape this morning.

    I want that scenario to be true, but I fear it won’t be.

    It’s going to come down to 40 or 50 votes, and we have no idea what’s going on in the minds of those 40 or 50 voters. Assuming there’s much going on in their minds at all.

  136. Robin Write
    February 27, 2014

    Are those the same 40 or 50 who only have a couple of marbles rolling around up there? The same 40 or 50 looking at their ballots and wondering what the soup of the day is? Yikes, indeed…

  137. steve50
    February 27, 2014

    (Obviously the conversation is happening on this post, so I’ll re-post here)

    No question, 12 Years and Gravity are close in our poll. The problem is, our mean average age on the site is considerably younger than the Academy. If you weight these results according to the average AMPAS member age, which is over 55, it looks good for 12 Years a Slave.

    However – this is key – likely most of the voters saw the nominees on screeners. This is really bad news for Gravity as its accomplishments do not stand up outside the 3D theatre. I just watched the film at home and the experience does not translate. While one can still appreciate Cuaron’s work in pulling all the elements together, the end result only has impact when seen in its intended environment. This will definitely factor in with those voters who are considering making the historical choice of awarding an effects-heavy film. It didn’t work for Pi last year and I don’t know that Gravity has the same depth outside its considerable technical wonders.

    You would think that this is good news for 12 Years, but I doubt it. There is the baggage of those who refuse to see it combined with the habit of voters jumping at more entertaining entries in the past. Do they want to award a film that people need to be convinced to see? A hardcore sector of older voters obviously think so, but is it large enough to pick up the Gravity fallout voters in the screener crowd?

    So what film benefits, plays well at home, fits the “entertainment” role? You got it – American Hustle. Giggles, nostalgia that aims squarely at the majority demographic (the “weren’t we cute back then” factor) and causes nobody any pain.

    12 Years a Slave is arguably the only “downer” pic that made the BP cut this year (Fruitvale, LLewyn, etc, were worthy, but did not have the support). This shows that the focus is more on entertainment than provoking thought or examining social woes. It isn’t so much about voter “savvy” as it is about voter self-image.

    12 Years overcame that with its massive historical importance and legacy, but can it translate to a BP win? Can you put metal in a microwave? We’ll see, but I think we have more of a 3 horse race that people are giving credit, and it’s the older voter who selects which screener(s) HE wants to watch that will decide this race.

  138. February 27, 2014

    Excellent commentary Steve50.

    I just posted my question of the day at twitter:

    Why should film fans take Oscar so seriously when many of the voting members of the Academy don’t take their responsibility seriously?

    I’m confident this year will be my last year giving so much attention to this shit. I have never witnessed such politics and bullshit in an awards season, and 80% of it is related to the love/hate for 12YAS. I wonder why that is.

  139. Robin Write
    February 27, 2014

    Great question Simone, but I doubt I will ever stop giving this shit so much attention. I hope to be in the industry myself one day. How will I feel then?

  140. February 27, 2014

    If you weight these results according to the average AMPAS member age, which is over 55, it looks good for 12 Years a Slave.

    It’s encouraging to see AD reader participants over the age of 56 leaned strongly toward 12 Years a Slave. But after what we heard yesterday, I have to wonder if Academy members over the age of 56 age are as sophisticated and conscientious as our older AD readers.

    We’re also not seeing the numbers of another age group: those over the age of 75.

    Another troubling thing that Rob and Marshall and I talked about in email exchange when Rob first showed us his preliminary BP breakdown: We noticed in each round of distribution, how 12 Years and Gravity each picked up a fairly equal number of votes from each movie that was eliminated.

    This held true for Her, Captain Phillips, Nebraska — all the other nominees except for one…

    so, uh-oh… then we observed what happened when American Hustle was eliminated. The Hustle ballots were not distributed equally. In fact, those Hustle ballots went for Gravity by a 2 to 1 margin. Something like 68% of the Hustle ballots went for Gravity and just 32% of the Hustle ballots went for 12 Years a Slave.

    That’s the only round of preferential balloting that caused a major disruption to the fragile balance.

    I say that’s not surprising — it’s no surprise that voters inclined to like the most rollicking frivolous movie (American Hustle) would not be drawn to the movie that’s the antithesis of rollicking or frivolous (12 Years).

    Not that Gravity is a rollicking funtime romp. Not at all. But at times it’s a circus thrill ride. And so is American Hustle (though Hustle is more of a clown show).

    So that’s not good news for 12 Years supporters. But it’s a good sign for Gravity supporters.

    Let me just say again though: I don’t think Gravity is a light frolic. I think it can be enjoyed on many levels — and one of those levels is the level of a wild ride. Nobody will ever accuse 12 Years a Slave of being a wild ride.

    I’m not worried about the redistribution of ballots for any other round when any other movies are eliminated, because those ballots fall equally in either stack — Gravity or 12 Years.

    But 12 Years will need to have established a strong headstart to survive the blow it will get when the ballots for American Hustle are redistributed.

    So, to put it bluntly, anyone who hopes 12 Years a Slave will win Best Picture should be prepared for the possibility that the ballots of David O Russel fans will fuck things up.

  141. February 27, 2014

    What Peggy Siegel said about 12 Years being too brutal for Academy members to watch, is of course upsetting. But it just confirms what I believe everyone who was at the Telluride screening said back in September. I remember, we all feared that would be the case but hoped for the better. So it is shocking but not shocking in a way.

    I will of course continue hoping for a 12 Years win for best picture.

  142. February 27, 2014

    Thanks Robin, I hope that people like you can be one of the guiding lights of change in the industry one day.

    @Tomris, any film besides 12YAS winning Best Picture would just be hysterical and AMPAS would look like complete fools. And I’m prepared for the aftermath fuckery if this occurs.

  143. Robin Write
    February 27, 2014

    We shall see Simone. I am on Twitter but have not tweeted or blogged for about two years now. Shocking! But with employment, screenwriting, and a certain little 18 month old in the house, time is limited. Finding my feet again though and will be networking myself very, very soon.

  144. Natasha
    February 27, 2014

    RYAN: “My deepest apologies for being Professor Severus Snape this morning.”

    Thank you.

    RYAN: “It’s going to come down to 40 or 50 votes, and we have no idea what’s going on in the minds of those 40 or 50 voters. Assuming there’s much going on in their minds at all.”

    I was going to ask you about this but you elaborated much further in subsequent posts. That out of the way, coming down to 40 or 50 votes only is really something….

  145. February 27, 2014

    “That out of the way, coming down to 40 or 50 votes only is really something…”

    or 4 or 5 votes.
    or less.
    #PGA

  146. SeattleMoviegoer
    February 28, 2014

    my, my! these oh-so-delicate members of the academy who are “afraid” to subject themselves to a movie with disturbing subject matter! this reminds me of the year of UNITED 93–a movie that took the lion’s share of critics awards and placed on more than any other movie atop 10 best lists–yet failed a best picture nomination. they were “too afraid” to see it and claimed it was “too soon” or some other such rubbish. what did they do? they voted THE DEAPARTED best picture. that had various scenes of shocking, ultra violence and ended with the major characters getting their heads blown off at close range. go figure.

  147. February 28, 2014

    I almost saw Sasha on the Today Show this morning. They were talking to Dave Karger and they showed like half a second of this but Sasha’s hair was covering her face.

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