85th Academy Awards

And go.


My Oscar year started on the French riviera. It was cold and raining. Without the sunshine glimmering off the pavement we were instead teased by all of that sunlight in Rust and Bone, one of the more memorable films from Cannes. When you leave the cloistered confines of Los Angeles, you are no longer obligated to follow the rules we all live by unquestionably. Movie stars are pretty here, and young. Female stars are mostly disposable. What they’re wearing, how thin they are, whether they look old yet, who they’re fucking.

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For the winner of our Oscar contest, all nine of the BP nominees (or nine of any Oscar nominated movie, whether in BP or not).

Runners-up – one dvd copy.

New York Magazine brings out some lovely photos of the 85 year-old Riva.


After the cut, Emmanuelle Riva in Cannes, 1959. 5-minute subtitled interview discussing Hiroshima mon amour.

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Oh, the beauty of the an illusion.  Once you pull away the curtain you know exactly what’s standing there by now, right? Oz, the envisioned glory town, Kansas – the reality. Up in the Air writer Walter Kirn writes up his experience in 2009 brilliantly which I hope he’ll turn into a book – I advise you read the whole thing but I will just quote this bit:

The broadcast. I’d almost forgotten that’s what it was: an event in which the intended audience was elsewhere, in anonymous living rooms stocked with chips and wine. You knew this because of the time-outs for commercials that broke the show’s momentum every few minutes, reducing it to a series of short, lame bits that forced us—the supposed chosen ones, who were really just extras brought in to fill the shots—to cravenly, insincerely applaud a show that sucked even worse in real life than on television.

Television. That’s where I ended up watching most of it anyway, out in the lobby, on a set above the bar, where I kept getting stranded because the warning lights that signaled us to rush back and take our seats after each of the endless commercial breaks flashed faster than I could bother to move my legs. Plus, the show just looked better on screen, which allowed me to see into the front-row drama pit where Clooney and Baldwin were joshing with each other in a way that convinced me the Best Actor contest had already been decided in George’s favor. Meaning my favor, really.

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[disclaimer: this and everything posted on this website written by me is my opinion, my own thoughts on the matter, and should never be confused with absolutes.]

The truth about we crazy humans is that most of us like to be on the winning side.  It feels good to win. It sucks to lose. When you lose your testosterone drops if you’re a male and that probably feels like what post-partum depression feels like to women. Just a guess. I’m not a doctor. And I don’t even play one on TV. Hannibal does it to amuse himself!

But the problem with that is that the egg timer starts ticking on the winners and before long, they are hated.  With a passion.  Many of us fight this urge to hate on a winner we deem unworthy for the big prize.  Argo is in the hot seat right now for that one. The Oscars now more than ever feel like a political election more than they do a meditation on the year’s best.  Is it the team mentality we all contribute to every day? Is it the inevitable result of the global popularity of reality competitions? Is it the explosion of the awards watching industry? Or os it simply human nature, as old as time, impulses that drove the Romans to make a sport out of life or death? We are living through Paddy Chayefsky’s version of humanity in Network over and over again.

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It’s gotten to a point where every award won counts as “the Oscars.” Oscar turned his back on the consensus rules which said Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow should have been nominees – and when that happened, the industry and consensus forced things back to where they think they belong. Thus, Oscar will be forced to adhere to the status quo it strayed from to begin with. Funny, isn’t it?  But if any film WITH a director nomination wins, the rules will have been (mostly) adhered to.

Looking at this pic, though, I’m starting to think people are seeing Ben Affleck as the star of his own Oscar movie and they want it have a happy ending.

Thanks to Michelle McCue for the pic.


–>Nate Silver takes a crack at Oscar predictions by offering up the general consensus. He admits that in many categories there is just no way of knowing for sure. The only thing he doesn’t factor in in his stats is Academy history itself and relies completely, as so many now do, on precursors. This year’s Oscars will pit precursor strength against Academy history and the Academy will likely lose.

–>Despite Lincoln taking an unusual pummeling from some reporters at the NY Times this year, my pal David Carr among them, their readers, by an enormous majority, pick Lincoln as the winner.  New York Times readers are my people. Most people “out there” are going to be shocked when Argo is picked because they haven’t been following the drama.  No one in a sane world would ever believe that this year went down the way it did unless they lived through it, which we all are currently doing, mind-bogglingly, unrelentingly.

More than 75,000 readers haven’t waited on her guidance to start their ballots. Even though “Argo” has surged among Hollywood insiders, the reader choice is clearly for “Lincoln” for best picture, director, actor and adapted screenplay.

–> 17 Unusual Oscar Records [TIME]

–>Ethan Hawke On the Oscars:

“People want to turn everything in this country into a competition,” he tellsGotham (via The New York Post), so “it’s clear who the winner is and who the loser is. … It’s why they like to announce the grosses of movies, because it’s a way of saying, ‘This one is No. 1.'”

He continues: “It’s so asinine … if you look at how many forgettable, stupid movies have won Oscars and how many mediocre performers have Oscars above their fireplace. Making a priority of chasing these fake carrots and money and dubious accolades, I think it’s really destructive.”

Maybe this signals a swing back to the days when stars didn’t believe in showing up at awards shows. When I was a young woman no respectable actor went to the Golden Globes. Heck, now they all go to the Critics Choice.

–>Infographic – 14 things you didn’t know about the Oscars




2012 Oscars Backstage

It’s been a rough year for Zero Dark Thirty fans, a rougher year for Lincoln fans.

Starting as far back as October with the systemic and relentless takedown over at Hollywood-Elsewhere.com, Lincoln could not catch a break. The top pundits in the field like Steve Pond and Dave Karger knew in their bones Lincoln was “too boring” to win, that too many people “didn’t like it.” It didn’t pass the “kitten in a cup” test.  Their predictions flew all over the map as the result. They knew what couldn’t win but they didn’t know what could. They’d seen Argo and written it off as a fairly bland choice to take Best Picture.  It was good but not good enough.   When Zero Dark Thirty came out it especially seemed to take away much of Argo’s luster.

But then Zero Dark Thirty was taken out by a continual debate. But then Zero Dark Thirty was taken out by the blow-back of continual debate. If Bigelow and Boal said it wasn’t based on true events they would be branded as reckless torture advocates. If they said it was based on true events they would be accused of perpetuating a right-wing ideology that seemed to justify torture by making it appear effective and claiming it was key to getting Bin Laden.   Bigelow was called Leni Reifenstahl and took the kind of hard fall you can only really take now, with the news cycles in fast-motion and a hungry beast that needs continual news, preferably scandal, to keep it going at such high speed.  We feed the beast because the beast must be fed and Zero Dark Thirty was the perfect sacrifice: not one, but two women set to take a fall, both the film’s director, headed for her second Best Director nomination in three years, and the film’s star, who was and is the only female lead in the Oscar race that isn’t defined by her male co-star. (You could make a good case for Beasts of the Southern Wild in this regard).

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Since it’s such a wide open Oscar race, since nothing like this has happened quite this way … ever … theories keep popping up everywhere. Moreover, there doesn’t appear to be a very strong consensus forming. The only thing pundits seem absolutely certain about is Argo winning Best Picture.

The psychics know this and yet:

In a survey of 50 Hollywood Psychics professionals, more predicted an Oscar win for Lincoln than for any other film, with most of the remaining forecasts split almost evenly between Argo and Les Misérables.

They also have Daniel Day-Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence to pick up the acting prizes, and for Spielberg to pick up his third Best Director Oscar.

The Huffington Post has also come up with an odd kind of way of calculating things, using an eccentricities method of known networks. In that paradigm, Daniel Day-Lewis, Naomi Watts, Sally Field and Robert De Niro are the winners.

Scott Feinberg went and hung out with a prickly director who gave him his honest picks in the various categories. You can tell 2012 is a very strong year because everyone’s “should wins” are all over the place. One thing I can say with a certainty is that I feel a groundswell not for Silver Linings for Best Picture but for Zero Dark Thirty and that will be my No Guts, No Glory for Best Picture. Here is the funniest paragraph but you should read the whole article:

“This is a preferential system. I’m putting Amour at No. 9 because I’m just pissed off at that film. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a movie that I just didn’t understand, so that’s my No. 8. Les Miserables goes in seventh place — it’s not just the most disappointing film of the year but the most disappointing film in many years. Above that I’m putting Silver Linings Playbook, which is just a “blah” film. Django Unchained will go into my fifth slot — it’s a fun movie, but it’s basically just Quentin Tarantino masturbating for almost three hours. Next up is Life of Pi because of how unique it is and for holding my attention up until its irritating ending. Argo is gonna go in third place, but I don’t want it to win because I don’t think it deserves to win and am annoyed that it is on track to win for the wrong reasons. Actually, come to think of it, do we have to put a film in every slot? Because what I want is for my best picture choice to have the best possible shot, so why even give any support to the others? [He has his assistant call the Oscar voting helpline, finds out that voters can leave slots blank and promptly removes all of the aforementioned selections.] I’m basically OK with one of two films winning. Lincoln is going in my second slot; it’s a bore, but it’s Spielberg, it’s well-meaning, and it’s important. Zero Dark Thirty is my No 1.”

One thing we know about the industry now is that they prefer their women naked and on their backs. One they don’t like – women behind the camera. I would add to this consider filmmakers of color. Consider other narratives than those that serve middled aged white males.   Unstick from the romanticized nostalgia of the past: Argo, The Artist, The King’s Speech…in a year where the first black president was re-elected due in large part to the changing tide of women and gay rights, the rise of immigrants the industry has decided to do what it does best: worship the white dudes.  Moreover, to choose a film, Argo, that does nothing to define what’s happening in our world right now but only massages the need to remember when white men ran Hollywood and the CIA. I am happy that (supposedly) Jimmy Carter will be vindicated. But less happy that it’s such a safe choice and evidence of the devolution of the Oscars.

Will a change ever come? I’ve been at this 14 years and I’ve only seen it go backwards. I’m still waiting.  I advocated for Halle Berry to become the first black actress to win. Ever.  She won.  No other black actress has won since. I advocated for Kathryn Bigelow in 2009. She won. But good luck getting close to that ever again.  Why does it matter? Look around you.

Thanks to Women and Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein.

When Argo wins Best Picture it will be the weakest Best Picture winner since 1932’s Grand Hotel.

Weak because:
Life of Pi – 11
Les Mis, Silver Linings-8
Argo – 7 + no director

With no director nomination and at that nominations rank Argo is on the level of Grand Hotel in terms of strength. Best Picture strength is measured by nominations rank and having a best director nomination. It is up to you to decide the film’s worth. I am talking stats.

That’s 80 years since we had a winner with fewer nominations and no director nomination win.  Emmanuelle Riva was five the last time that happened.  Call it a fluke of timing, blame the DGA for not announcing before ballots got turned in, fume at the directors in the Academy for leaving Ben Affleck off their list but no matter, the context will eventually evaporate and we will be left with the stat.

There are two kinds of film fans. Those who zero in on the director and those who don’t. Me, I’m someone who zeroes in on the director. I have always been that way, as a film fan and as a wanna-be filmmaker once upon a time (#humblefail). I grew up studying films through the director – Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen, etc.  Therefore, it always bugs me when a film wins without its director. Brokeback Mountain and Ang Lee should have won, or Crash and Paul Haggis. Shakespeare in Love and whatever that guy’s name was or Saving Private Ryan and Steven Spielberg.  I’m just funny that way. Only kidding about John Madden!

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Hat tip, ROS

The list, after the cut.  Most are “pretty good” but what you notice about them is that they are, surprise surprise, actor driven. They are about people audiences care about and can relate to.  How visionary they are, how memorable, how pivotal, how brilliant is the least important thing about them.  Remember that if you ever want to win Best Picture.  The history of the Oscars is the history of the internal worlds of the voters as they age over time.

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85th Academy Awards, Set Ups
Think they’re planning on taking Argo’s Oscars hostage and shipping them to Iran?

The performers have been named to help us celebrate the musicals from the past decade: Jennifer Hudson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe (!), Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmaybe, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks and Helena Bonham Carter.

Earlier this month, the producers announced a planned tribute recognizing the resurgence of musicals over the past decade with performances highlighting “Chicago,” “Dreamgirls” and “Les Misérables.”

Hudson, Zeta-Jones, Jackman, Hathaway, Crowe, Seyfried, Redmayne, Barks, Tveit and Bonham Carter join a stellar list of previously announced performers including Adele, Dame Shirley Bassey, Norah Jones and Barbra Streisand and presenters including Jennifer Aniston, Michael Douglas, Jamie Foxx, Paul Rudd, Salma Hayek Pinault, Melissa McCarthy, Liam Neeson, John Travolta, Ben Affleck, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Mark Wahlberg, Ted and “Marvel’s The Avengers” cast members Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo; returning 2011 Oscar winners Jean Dujardin, Christopher Plummer, Octavia Spencer and Meryl Streep; “Chicago” cast members Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, Renée Zellweger and Zeta-Jones; and special guests Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Radcliffe, Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron.


The Oscar race is to muggles mostly a beautiful illusion. We all cheer the gods and goddesses as they amble their way down the red carpet, stuffed into spanx, the third day of their Master Cleanse, trying not to look too nervous.  It will be a splendid affair, complete with our own Jack and Jackie — or Most Beautiful Couple in Ben and Jen and the awards will bestowed upon the favorite.

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Even now, as Argo has won every major award heading into the race, when not a single other director in a wide open year, has pulled in a win, when, for the first time ever our contender tracker has NO wins next to the directors name, the Business Insider’s Kirsten Acuna, and many others, continue to push this false narrative, that Argo is the “longshot” and Silver Linings the “Cinderella” and Lincoln the “most conservative, safe bet win for the Academy.”  They predict Lincoln to win proving that they haven’t read a single article during the Oscar race. But you know, this is what drives the underdog and beats down the presumed frontrunner which, by the way, hasn’t won a single major award since the season began. What it has won? The American public.

I guess the muggles won’t rest until Lincoln suffers its final fate next Sunday.  And then the glorious headlines that the little movie that could (Argo v. Silver Linings) triumphs over mean ol’ Spielberg.  Oof.

Meanwhile, over 50 psychics in Hollywood are surveyed and they say Lincoln will win:

In a survey of 50 Hollywood Psychics professionals, more predicted an Oscar win for Lincoln than for any other film, with most of the remaining forecasts split almost evenly between Argo and Les Misérables.

In other major categories the planets and stats seem almost perfectly aligned. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) gets a 99% certainty nod to win Best Actor from the Huffington Post and a clear majority from the psychics, as well. For best director, the HuffPo is 88.4% certain that Steven Spielberg will add a 3rd Best Director statuette to his stash. The psychics couldn’t agree more.

In the Best Actress category, Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) gets a 73% will-win verdict from the Huffington Post, and a similar psychic vote of confidence.

It’s hard to argue with so much accord, but one psychic bucks the trend. Spiritual Advisor and Tarot Card reader Vandine picks Beasts of the Southern Wild as the wild card that might “possibly sweep” the awards. “The cards were inconclusive,” she says, “Leaning slightly towards Beasts in several categories. This is going to be tight.”

Many films delved into history this year but only film actually changed it.  After seeing Lincoln, Mississippi finally got around to ratifying the 13th amendment.

I think there’s a 110 percent chance Daniel Day-Lewis will win. I think ‘Argo’ will definitely win Best Picture. I think Ben Affleck not being nominated for Best Director has now turned into a blessing because everyone’s outraged by the fact he wasn’t nominated, so now he’s going to win everything, and I think it’s a great movie too.” — Mark Wahlberg on the Oscar race, who then added Life of Pi was his favorite movie.

It has taken a while for anyone in mainstream press to get around to the Zero Dark Thirty Oscar story but this LA Times piece is a great place to start. One of the worst things about this year was watching the critics embrace Zero Dark Thirty almost completely, only to abandoned it when the torture debate started.   Usually critics will stand by the film rated their best reviewed film of the year.  Not this year.

Andrew O’Hehir makes a case why Argo doesn’t deserve Best Picture and in so doing sort of nails the swollen absurdity of this year, maybe every year:

“Then again, I’m the guy who told you a few weeks ago that “Lincoln” was a shoo-in, and might sweep all the major awards. As usual in Hollywood, nobody knows anything, and that sound you hear in the background is veteran Oscar-watchers beginning to hem and haw and hedge their bets all over the place. Roger Ebert recently wrote that he feels the momentum shifting toward David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” and that’s not an utterly outrageous suggestion. There’s definitely a mounting degree of anti-Affleck backlash out there, and it has to coalesce around something. Russell’s vaguely offbeat rom-com, which I enjoyed perfectly well but can barely remember beyond Robert De Niro’s supporting performance, has two great advantages. It makes absolutely no claim to have anything to do with real events (except insofar as mental illness and the Philadelphia Eagles both exist) and it’s the only nominated film that’s arguably even more trivial than “Argo.”








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