85th Academy Awards

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“If you are losing a tug of war with a tiger, give him the rope before he gets to your arm. You can always buy a new rope.” – Max Gunther

A quick timeline:
January 10th
– Oscar nominations, Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow left off
January 10th – Ben Affleck wins Best Picture and Director at the BFCA
January 13th – Ben Affleck wins Best Picture and Best Director at the Globes

January 24 – PGA ballot deadline
January 25 – SAG, DGA deadline

You build momentum one win at a time, but particularly so if it is an unexpected win. What Ben Affleck’s double wins did on the heels of his presumed “snub” threw fire on gasoline and set into motion a narrative that would turn what was once a wide open Oscar race into one of those years where one movie wins everything — like Slumdog Millionaire. In fact, that was the last time a movie won as many awards as Argo is winning. The drama continues every step of the way because everyone knows that the one award Argo can’t win is Best Director. It was a blessing in disguise.

That it is up against evil Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln makes it all the more juicy. I just saw a headline yesterday that read “will Argo steal Lincoln’s Best Picture Oscar?” Even when it was clear Argo was going to win that narrative kept chugging away and will continue up to Oscar night. People love that kind of thing.  It makes us all think justice is being done. The good guys are winning against the bad guys.  It’s the nature of humans, and the nature of the Oscar race.

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Our good friend Sam Juliano visits the Boulevard Diner in New Jersey and discusses the upcoming Oscar race with his son Sammy and Dennis Polifroni.

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UPDATE: Ballot Deadline – Tuesday Night at 11PM PST.
Rob has assembled the pages for the final stage of the Awards Daily Simulated Ballot. Vote Now! After you make your selections in each category, please answer a few questions so we’ll be able to chart the demographic breakdown by age group, gender, and region of the world.

DataVis1This year’s Oscar race has brought out the Nate Silver in everyone it seems.  The newest of these is the Social Oscars where you can click on a category and see what the percentages are.  Then there is Farsite Forecast which does the same thing.  We have our own Nate Silver in Marshall Flores who is a math whiz and has been following the Oscars for over a decade – he knows what I know and that’s the math don’t cut it. Why you only need look at the Best Actress race to figure that out.

Also, this year is an unprecedented year all the way around.  It was the first year that the Oscar ballots were sent in before the guilds announced.  We’ll find out if the guilds really do boss the Oscars around since the best director category left off the current Nate Silver favorite, Ben Affleck and Argo.  True Oscar stats would note the history and the precedent for Argo winning Best Picture with only seven nominations (fifth in line) + no director nomination.  If it happens it will be the first time ever in DGA/Academy history that their winner won Best Picture without a director nomination. It’s never happened. Never.  Yet we all know it’s about to. That defies the stats. Of course, these guys aren’t using historical record – they’re using precursors – which seem to back up mob mentality and groupthink. And there they are probably right.

Then there is Gold Derby, which tracks the odds based on what their pundits are thinking. I have removed myself from Gold Derby as a pundit because I don’t consider myself an expert on what will win. I am, however, an expert on what should.  [crooked smiley]. Predicting the Oscars is, to me, the least interesting part of the Oscars. It’s sort of like predicting whether it will rain on Saturday or whether the little mouse will pick door #1 or door #2.  What interests me more is the why, not the what.  I could say the same thing about the political elections. I don’t care what people are going to pick. I care who’s running for office.

The Vegas odds will tell you exactly what the Gold Derby odds are telling you. There is no difference because they are all drawing from the thought pool. The way things are going now, though, I wonder if there will ever be any surprises again.  I don’t think a movie like The Godfather I or II could run the gauntlet today and win. It couldn’t overcome the giant guilds picking what they facebook-liked over a masterpiece.  Nor nastiness we saw in this year’s race. Can you imagine?

You got a predictions site of a statistics site for Oscars enter it in the comments below.

 

 

The Oscar blogging scene has become as vanilla and uniform as the race itself. No more Stu Van Airsdale, no Mark Harris this year.  But lo!  Mark Lisanti over at Grantland reminds us just how awful this shit can really be.  What do you all think is number 1? I have to go with either Crash winning BP, Social Network losing BP or Do the Right Thing not getting nominated.

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The Carpetbagger reports:

LOS ANGELES— Count Tony Kushner, the “Lincoln” screenwriter, among those who believe several United States Senators went too far when they suggested that Sony Pictures should somehow correct its depiction of torture in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Mr. Kushner on Monday was among 28 supporters of a letter sent to all 100 Senators objecting to the pressure exerted by three of them — Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain — on “Zero Dark Thirty,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. Other supporters, according to Norman Siegel, a lawyer who helped organize the protest, included the lawyers Alan M. Dershowitz, Laurence Tribe and Floyd Abrams.

“History demonstrates, in particular the 1950s McCarthy period, that government officials should not employ their official status and power to attempt to censor, alter or pressure artists to change their expressions, believes, presentations of facts or political viewpoints,” the letter said.

Mr. Kushner has been nominated for an Oscar in the best adapted screenplay category, while Mr. Boal is up for best original screenplay.

For purchase info, head on over to Oscars.org

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Meet some these Oscar monstrosities up close, after the cut, if you dare.

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

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

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

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courtney.img_assist_customYou don’t get into politics and not know the reprecussions of timing in an election season, I mean, an awards season. People wouldn’t campaign for Oscars if it didn’t result in wins. Campaign, you know, like politicians? Campaign, you know, like Ben Affleck did for Joe Courtney back in 2006? It’s great that Affleck did that. He’s a stand up guy who is involved in politics loosely. But no way no how is this dude coming clean completely when he plays dumb — from the Carpetbagger:

Though he credited Mr. Affleck’s speech at the University of Connecticut with helping him win the 2006 election, by just 83 votes, he and the actor-turned-filmmaker did not know each other and have not had much contact since, he said. They did meet, though, a few months ago, when Mr. Affleck testified before Congress about his charity efforts to help the Congo.

“We shook hands and reminisced about the ’06 election,” Mr. Courtney said, according to Steven Zeitchik at The Los Angeles Times. “That’s as far as sub rosa communications extended.”

A spokesperson for Warner Brothers, which released “Argo,” also denied that there was any connection between Mr. Affleck and Mr. Courtney’s letter, and added “dismay that anyone would suggest otherwise.”

Of course, that is a bit of protesting too much, as this is exactly the time when potshots at front-runners — which “Argo” has steadfastly become — are common, as any studio executive worth their contracted-trade ads knows. Whether the mini-tempests make a difference or not (exactly how many Academy members are from Connecticut?) remains to be seen, but last we checked, Academy members were not big sticklers for truth.

Protesting too much indeed, specifically since Courtney sought out Affleck to shake his hand “a few months ago.” Come on, dude.  Smart of the WB to get out a statement – but lest we forget, the congressman made a big splashy deal about it and the only two people who benefit are himself and Ben Affleck.  For that alone his motives are suspect. That’s what politicians do — find dirt, expose dirt, try to ruin the chances of another to win.  It’s naive of him to imagine he wouldn’t impact the Oscar race. He isn’t that stupid.  No, it isn’t his “job” to save Spielberg from embarrassment but at least he should be more honest about his motives.  Lincoln has been hit from all angles — ironic since the anniversary of his death is coming up next month.  Winning comes at a high price and it’s reserved only for those who want it bad enough.    Ben Affleck is a really nice guy, a beautiful man with a beautiful family — the next JFK and Jackie probably.  He’s going to win the Oscar.  Spielberg and Co. can’t compete with that, not in a million years. So don’t worry, Joe.

When I first heard this news I was hoping they would be performing some of the showstoppers from Chicago. But alas, no.

Academy Award® winner’s Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones will join their “Chicago” cast mates Richard Gere and Queen Latifah to present together on-stage at the Oscars®, show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced today.

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“Unconsciously we all have a standard by which we measure other men, and if we examine closely we find that this standard is a very simple one, and is this: we admire them, we envy them, for great qualities we ourselves lack. Hero worship consists in just that. Our heroes are men who do things which we recognize, with regret, and sometimes with a secret shame, that we cannot do. We find not much in ourselves to admire, we are always privately wanting to be like somebody else. If everybody was satisfied with himself, there would be no heroes.”
― Mark Twain

As we march towards the Oscars and Hollywood readies itself to crown its new king, the director category sits there like the guests at the dance who didn’t bring a popular date. Every other member of every other branch, seven in total, but only six if you count the individual branches using the preferential ballot, picked Argo.  But the directors didn’t.

In the past 40 years of Academy history, Chariots of Fire is lone Best Picture winner that trailed its competition with the 4th highest nominations tally overall.  Argo stands in line behind 4 other films this year with only the 5th highest total.  With that 8th nomination, a directors nod, Argo would have tied with Silver Linings Playbook and Les Miserables, giving Affleck a realistic chance to win.  But there was a reason Argo was left off the Best Director list.  No one has adequately come up with a good enough reason to satisfy his fans.  “It was a fluke,” some say. “It was just a quirk of weird timing in a weird year.” But the truth is that the directors branch knew Argo was a frontrunner and they knew everyone expected them to nominate Affleck.  We were all surprised when he wasn’t on the list.   Probably he split up the vote along with Bigelow, Tarantino, Anderson and other strong directors in a strong year.  Affleck’s unexpected absence ended up working in the film’s favor and now, inexplicably, Argo is the film to beat.  No film has ever won with the fifth most nominations.

If the names that replaced Affleck and Bigelow had been bad choices, lazy choices I could see condemning the Academy.  But you have to admire a group that picked Benh Zeitlin and Michael Haneke, stepping outside the box to reward visionary auteurs.  How can you complain about that? For once, the Academy has proved itself more daring than the critics.  Whoda thunk it?

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I’ve heard twice now, from two separate reporters observing Ben Affleck “on the campaign trail” that  he “really wants to win this.” If Affleck ever decides to run for office, homey could be president.  He’s got it all.   Argo is doing hard core campaigning opposite David O. Russell, another one who clearly wants to win this.  Victory might then be a double edged sword. On the one hand, you can’t get it unless you campaign for it. On the other hand, how will you ever know if you really deserved it or not?

Remember John Horn’s story about the two different campaign styles where it was revealed Affleck badgered (nicely) one awards blogger about not switching over to Argo? We all knew he was talking about Anne Thompson and she confirms it:

“Argo” producer George Clooney has given Ben Affleck some campaigning tips. The tall multi-hyphenate keeps himself humble and self-deprecating in his many acceptance speeches as well as making charming and accessible conversation on his rounds. This is one of the advantages of being an actor in a tough race. People adore Affleck. And he’s open about wanting to win this one. I told him that after his PGA, SAG and DGA wins, I’ve gone over to the “Argo” side for best picture. “You’re not going to change your mind and throw us out?” he challenged me.

Meanwhile, Thompson also reports that Ang Lee got the “most applause” at the gathering for Life of Pi, which clearly is well loved by the Academy.  So many great films are dividing the votes all over the place.

 

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The rest, after the cut.

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THE ACADEMY AND GALLERY1988 PRESENT A NEW EXHIBITION “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION”

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Gallery1988 will present “For Your Consideration,” their first collaborative exhibition featuring art inspired by the 2012 Best Picture Oscar® nominees, on display February 14 through 17 at Gallery1988 Melrose in Los Angeles. The images can currently be viewed in a digital gallery at http://oscar.com/for-your-consideration.

“Working hand-in-hand with the Academy has been a dream come true for Gallery1988 and its artists,” said Jensen Karp, co-owner and co-curator of Gallery1988. “So much inspiration has come from past Oscar telecasts as well as the amazing range of films that have been nominated this year. It was a perfect fit for our style of artwork and treatment, and we can’t wait to show everyone the results of some of our most creative contemporary minds.”

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As part of the Bond tribute:

Mercifully, this long and agonizing season is finally coming a close. If you’d like to print a ballot you can download one here.

Final voting for the Oscars will officially open on Friday, February 8th at 8 a.m. PT and end on Tuesday, February 19th at 5 p.m. PT, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today.

Members of the Academy may vote in up to 24 categories. This year, for the first time, voting members will be eligible to vote in Documentary Feature, Animated Short Film and Live Action Short Film categories.

Academy members may cast paper ballots or vote online. The accounting firm of PriceWaterhouseCoopers will tabulate and verify the results.

“We’re looking forward to a continuation of the high turnout we saw during the nominations phase,” saidAcademy COO Ric Robertson.

Oscars for outstanding film achievements of 2012 will be presented on Oscar Sunday, February 24, at the Dolby Theatre™ at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and will be hosted by Seth MacFarlane. The Oscar presentation will be televised live on the ABC Television Network and in more than 225 countries worldwide. For more information go to Oscar.com or download the official Oscars app.

 

From TIME:

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So far, the winners from last year are the most recent presenters announced: Meryl Streep, Jean DuJardin, Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer.  Now, you can download recipes from the governor’s ball for your Oscar night. But in case you might want to have some movie themed recipes, here are a few suggestions.

Lincoln’s second inaugural ball menu has been posted online, with such items as oyster stew, terrapin, quail and pheasant.

You could go middle eastern with hummus Zero Dark Thirty style.
For Les Mis, well, let them eat cake! (I know, wrong war) maybe french onion soup?
For Life of Pi you could eat raw fish or you could make a traditional curry.
For Argo, chicken tacos.
For Silver Linings Playbook crabbycakes and homemades.
For Beasts of the Southern Wild try crawfish boil.
Amour – cooked pigeon.  Well?
Django Unchained – why, white cake of course.

The Oscars recipes can be found here.

 

 

If you’re in this business, “business,” long enough you’ll see a lot of nasty shit. I don’t just mean regular old shit you can flush down the toilet, I mean the kind someone leaves slumped in a pile outside, back behind the dumpster where it sits for weeks until the scent mercifully evaporates.  There is nothing you can do it about it, of course, because the press drags it around like a paralyzed mouse, flipping it up in the air just for fun, and ad impressions.

The narratives begin to form and you suddenly realize that the Oscar race has nothing to do with actually awarding high achievement but people voting irrationally – the same way the 75 year-old on his second or third marriage decides to buy a candy-red Ferrari that he doesn’t need, looks ridiculous driving, and will have to sell anyway as his finances take a dive because his new wife can’t stop spending.  That, my friends, is irrationality and it’s the emotional soft spot Oscar campaigning mostly aims to exploit.  It means you don’t think, you feel and that feeling helps to identify you. It means you are operating from a certain pre-packaged delusion that falsely makes you buy something or vote for someone, or worse, not vote for someone.  In sports, it is about winning and losing. In politics you hope the people can see through the bullshit and look at the facts. But the Oscars are about a subjective opinion, which is why voters are so easily manipulated and why the press is always, every year, a willing participant: fool the press, fool the voters.  But hey, don’t worry about it, Jake.

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When the Oscar luncheon was livestreamed once we all got to see the contenders be introduced and hear the applause for the Academy. But they did it once, never again. Now you have to get a credential to go.  Feinberg writes the whole thing up thoroughly, in case you’re interested in the details. Of course, the crowd there isn’t really the same group who votes – I think I remember Annette Bening getting a huge round of applause for the Kids Are All Right because she is very popular but of course, Natalie Portman won the Oscar. Here is how Feinberg ran it down:

It’s dangerous to read too much into such things, but it struck me that best picture nominee Affleck, who was denied a best director Oscar nom but whose film has swept all of the major awards thus far, received only average applause, whereas the principal people associated with Lincoln, which received the most Oscar nominations this year but has not yet won any major awards, received louder-than-average welcomes, including best supporting actor nominee Tommy Lee Jones, best supporting actress nominee Sally Field, best adapted screenplay nominee Tony Kushner, best cinematography nominee Janusz Kaminski, best film editing nominee Michael Kahn and best costume design nominee Joanna Johnston. (Best actor nominee/frontrunner Daniel Day-Lewis was unable to attend the event.)

Others who received noticeably loud receptions: best supporting actress nominee Amy Adams (The Master), whose nom this year is her fourth in the last seven years; best picture — but not best director — nominee Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty); best supporting actor nominee Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook); best original score composerAlexandre Desplat (Argo); and Life of Pi visual effects nominees; best supporting actress nominee Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables), who got a kiss from Jones as she passed him on her way up the bleachers; best cinematography nominee Seamus McGarvey (Anna Karenina); and best actress nominee Naomi Watts (The Impossible).

The most memorable of the many encounters that I witnessed during the afternoon was when Wallis’ mother brought the young actress, who had been chatting with her tablemate Spielberg (even though she has not yet seen E.T., she told me), over to meet Washington. He initially asked her, “What’s your name? Are you up for an Oscar?” She replied “Yes, best actress,” and he asked her for what. When she told him, he exclaimed, “Ohhhhhh! Your hair was all wild!” He asked her, “How’s all this been for you? Do you miss school?” She replied, “Not really,” prompting hearty laughter. And, after posing for some photos together, he said, “Well, very nice to meet you!”

Little Q was one of two African Americans there today, which prompted Denzel Washington to say during the press conference, “you see many people who look like me walking through the door?” Washington also said the industry, and Oscars, were particularly harsh on black women — and I have to agree, especially since they had the opportunity to nominate writer/director Ava DuVernay for Middle of Nowhere and passed.  Washington was asked this question vis a vis Django Unchained and Lincoln and he transformed that question into something positive, but added, “there’s always room for improvement.”

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