The Chateau Marmont sits on a slump of a hillside off Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, at the mouth of the Sunset Strip. Black cars lined up outside for the valet, trailing down Sunset and clogging traffic. As we walked in, we were just behind Boyhood’s star, Patricia Arquette, who was right behind Ellar Coltrane heading down the makeshift red carpet on the way in. After several smiling people working the party noted our names on their iPads we headed through the door, up the stairs, following the sound of laughter and clinking glass. The party for the BOYHOOD Blu-ray and DVD was hosted by Diane Keaton and Jon Hamm. In attendance, in addition to Arquette and Coltrane, were the film’s other star, Ethan Hawke and the film’s director, Richard Linklater. This was a celebration for the film that is destined to take the Best Picture Oscar, amid some doubt by people who cover the Oscars who can’t see how a movie this small can actually win Best Picture. They might not remember 2011 that well. Or 2009 for that matter.

Little films these days have the edge over bigger films, as Hollywood’s energy and money focuses more on blockbusters and opening weekend hits than it does prestige pics. That term has been coined recently because that’s the only way to describe this industry, the awards industry, the business of making films for the small population of people who are still interested in the art of film. There are films that fall way outside the box, like Goodbye to Language or Under the Skin. There are films that fall way outside the box in different ways, like Guardians of the Galaxy. But the term prestige picture usually implies movies that are made for “them.”

It isn’t often I get to spend an evening with Academy members. At first I wasn’t sure who the attendees would be. This crowd seemed much older than the hipper faces I saw the last time I partied at the Chateau during Oscar season. This crowd were generally men and women over 40, into their 50s, 60s, and 70s. 90% were white. Their faces looked almost famous. I saw an almost Tea Leoni and an almost Robert De Niro. I saw tightened skin covering features that once must have been striking and angular. I saw a lot of comfortable people, relaxed in who they were, drinking, hugging, chatty. The mood was bubbly and celebratory. I saw Indiewire’s Bill Desowitz. When I said, “wow. This is quite the scene.” He said, “this is what it feels like to be at a party with the frontrunner.”


Later in the evening, when the crowd thinned, Arquette, Hawke and Coltrane made their way out. You won’t meet a more laid back group of filmmakers, truth be told. Arquette is warm and friendly, always with a big smile and welcoming expression. She is very mother-like. Hawke is dashing and tall, not as scruffy as you’d expect, with a beautifully chiseled jaw. Like most men, dammit all, he’s settling into age with apparent ease.

Coltrane seemed unfazed, as you would expect from his thoughtful demeanor in Boyhood. Soft spoken, not a schmooze, just an honest person with his new family that he’s known for 12 years finally reaping the rewards of a dedicated film shoot. It was clear from the smiling faces everyone was happy with this choice for the frontrunner.

“So these are Academy members,” I said to Anne Thompson. “Yes,” she said bluntly. “These are Academy members.”

As I squeezed down a corridor a man addressed me as Sheila. “Sheila, hi!” He seemed to think he knew me. I kept saying I wasn’t anyone he knew but he insisted on striking up a conversation. Turned out, he was in the foreign language branch. “I saw all 83 of the contenders,” he said. When I looked shocked he said “well, when you’re retired you have lots of time on your hands.” He said the one film that popped for him was Wild Tales. He liked it so much he’s seen it about three times.

The slim waitresses passed out glasses of milk with chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t figure out if this was some tradition at the Chateau or if it was in keeping with the film’s title, Boyhood. They were passing out tiny burgers and rice balls. There was champagne flying off trays, bartenders serving crowds with red wine, whiskey and coke, and lots of beer. Journalists were co-mingling with Academy members and the whole thing kind of had the feel of an upscale Hollywood wedding reception celebrating the union of frontrunner and membership. “People want to be on the winning side,” someone said to me when marveling at how many had braved traffic to be here.

It was the last night before ballots were to be turned in. In an email to Kris Tapley, Anne Thompson and Steve Pond I found out most Academy members had likely already voted, voted early, probably at the same time the other big industries were voting. There simply isn’t time for one awards announcement to influence another. The race is its own fossil – caught in a moment and destined to remain there.

Boyhood, like most every other significant work of art, is too good for the awards race. It’s too good to be treated in competition with other films. But one thing I can say about it is that if there ever was a movie awards were built to reward it’s this one. It’s truly a marvel. I had been worried that there was a whisper campaign afoot revolving around Boyhood that it was a “gimmick.” That if you take the whole 12 years thing out of it it’s nothing extraordinary. This was worrying me because I know how whisper campaigns work. Voters who really want to vote for another movie are let off the hook with a whisper campaign to give them a reason not to vote for something. “It’s only about the first 45 minutes,” was the one stuck to Saving Private Ryan. “It’s a history lesson” stuck to Lincoln. They can be hard to get rid of once they hit the circuit. That’s why it was important for Linklater and his cast to get out there and show voters how serious they are, how friendly they are, which is really how you win Oscars in this town. You can’t not show up and win.

I didn’t want to poll Academy members to find out what they thought about other movies. I don’t want to know because it’s too heartbreaking. I look around at them and I think they seem like perfectly nice people. They love movies. They like being Academy members and what’s not to like? Free movies, wonderful parties, access to famous people. It’s like the Golden Globes only slightly more uptown. But the thing about them is that you take one look at the Academy and you can’t imagine how in the world this group could ever relate to the majority of ticket buyers in the country and the majority of people, period. They are so shut off from the struggles of every day life, most of them. Or they seemed that way to me. Thoughtful, liberal, wealthy – very very wealthy – what they need from a film is going to be different than what I need. What unites them and us is often the ONLY thing that can win Best Picture, the one film anyone can watch.

Boyhood’s biggest competition is The Imitation Game. They had a party at the Chateau late last year that I wished I’d attended. That is the movie to really fear up against Boyhood. Ironically, it’s kind of the same people who went head to head in 2010, when The King’s Speech beat The Social Network. Boyhood isn’t what the Social Network represented. They are two different directors entirely. I note that Kris Tapley, in his coverage of last night, gives his own opinion that The Imitation Game is going to win Best Picture but that they will have another split, giving Linklater Best Director. I myself have never liked splits. I see how it kind of worked last year with Gravity and 12 Years a Slave but I don’t think we have two equal contenders here. I think we have one contender and one that will do very well – like win Best Actor perhaps. But remember, it isn’t The Imitation Game and Boyhood. There are two other films that are important, like Birdman and the Grand Budapest Hotel. In many ways, it’s a four-picture race. But the mood last night sealed the deal for me, though I’ve had no doubt since Telluride. This is Boyhood’s to lose.

I think I said something terribly embarrassing to Linklater. It was something about what a good storyteller he is. What I meant by that was that he is a good organic storyteller and a good raconteur in the grand tradition of the southern raconteur. His films are filled with people talking – and the talking leads the story because what they say is important enough to move the plot along. The extraordinary in the ordinary. Whatever beats boyhood will need to be extraordinary.

By the time the cookies were nothing but crumbs on the trays, it was time to leave the make-believe world of the cultural elite in the Chateau Marmont. There were too many people inside, even still, the party going on and on. You’d never know by the smiling faces inside that the Oscars are still a game of winners and losers. They’re a game of moneyed campaigns and dirty tricks. They simply get their ballots and fill them out. They will tell you nothing extraneous influences them. We know from the bottom line and from history that isn’t true. It is the illusion we all maintain because the show must go on. Like the headlights streaming down La Cienega look like gleaming stones on an imaginary river, so do the Oscars, the gossamer of a thousand dreams.


Tonight, the BAFTAs will announce their nominees. But they, like the winners of the Golden Globes and the DGA will have no impact on how the Oscars are voted because their ballots are turned in tonight at 5pm.  

The BAFTAs also have such a varied history it’s hard to gauge how influential they have been.  For instance, they only changed their date to be before the Oscars in 2000.  Secondly, two years ago they completely changed the way they vote on awards. They used to have everyone do the nominating and then each individual branch would vote on the winners. Now they’ve reversed it (I think).  Each branch does the nominating and the whole voting body picks winners, which is how the Academy does it.

Last year, BAFTA nominations came out, once again, the same day as Oscar ballots where due, thus there could be no direct influence by them. This is how they went. They can, however, be indicative of what might be the “BAFTA SURPRISE,” that last little piece of the puzzle to throw everything out of whack.

What we know will be HUGE with the BAFTA to a deafening and threatening degree will be The Imitation Game. Though it doesn’t have a British director, it has a British hero at its center. It will do battle with The Theory of Everything in both Best Picture and Best British picture.

Last year’s BAFTA surprise was clearly Philomena. Its presence in the race popped up at BAFTA, then showed up in the Oscar nominations. There is so much crossover voting because … well … British people. Also, the British tend to make movies Oscar voters like — where the Americans are trying to work outside of that box.

The year before there wasn’t really much of a BAFTA surprise, except that Emmanuelle Riva won Best Actress but Jennifer Lawrence still won the Oscar.

This year we know we have The Imitation Game and Theory of Everything sewn up. What we don’t know is whether Mr. Turner will in fact make an appearance there or not, becoming the Philomena of this year. One of the things driving Philomena’s inclusion was that it was one of the more gently moving stories in the race. What a wonderful story, even if the film wasn’t roundly accepted by critics. It make an imprint on the heart, which is really what can drive these last minute inclusions. I don’t know if Mr. Turner does that. But maybe the fact that Turner is such a famous British painter and a source of pride, the BAFTAS this year might be All British All the Time with three, count ’em, three famous British men who really did greatly impact their culture and cultures throughout the world.

I don’t know if Mr. Turner will show up at the BAFTAS at all, or whether if it does that means it will then show up at the Oscars. This year seems to produce one question after another, after another. They’re coming eleven hours from now.

I suspect Best Picture will go like:
Grand Budapest Hotel
Imitation Game
Nightcrawler or Theory of Everything or Gone Girl

British Film
Imitation Game
Mr. Turner
Theory of Everything

The rest, I have no idea.


And they are, as follows:

  • Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC for Unbroken
  • Óscar Faura for The Imitation Game
  • Emmanuel Lubezki ASC, AMC for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Dick Pope, BSC for Mr. Turner
  • Robert D. Yeoman, ASC for The Grand Budapest Hotel

I believe that with this list we have only three films that have hit all of the guilds so far: The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman.  That does not mean instant slam dunk for Best Picture but it’s worth noting, for the record.  The big surprise for me on this list is The Imitation Game, which shows how popular it is – considering the cinematography isn’t the thing that stands out about it.

This is Deakins’ 13th ASC nomination. He previously won for Skyfall (2013), The Shawshank Redemption (1995) and The Man Who Wasn’t There (2002). His other nominations include Fargo (1997), Kundun (1998), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2001), No Country for Old Men(2008), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2008), Revolutionary Road (2009), The Reader (2009), True Grit (2011) and Prisoners (2014). He was also the recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

Lubezki won the ASC Award last year for Gravity. He also took home top honors for The Tree of Life (2012) and Children of Men (2007), and was nominated in 2000 for Sleepy Hollow.

Pope previously earned a nomination for The Illusionist (2007).

These are the first ASC nominations for Faura and Yeoman.

For more information regarding the ASC Awards, visit the ASC website at, or call 323-969-4333.



“America is not so much a nightmare as a non-dream. The American non-dream is precisely a move to wipe the dream out of existence. The dream is a spontaneous happening and therefore dangerous to a control system set up by the non-dreamers.”
― William S. Burroughs

If we set aside the two films that involve singular British intellects confronting personal catastrophe to enrich mankind with their world-altering achievements, we might define the remainder of the year’s Best Picture race as various meditations on the shifting identity of the American male. With their traditional sense of control rapidly collapsing, American men onscreen are seen in a state of electric desperation, struggling to adjust to new definitions of masculinity and maturity, adapting to new rules made all the more confusing when a man is forced to seize the task of leading but doesn’t yet know where he’s headed.

In three of the year’s best films, the male protagonist plays dress-up in daddy’s business suits, pretending to be the patriarch that the culture has laid at his feet. The irony is that the notion of white male privilege that seems to prevent the film industry from evolving faster is the very thing these filmmakers must confront, because many of these men are not really men at all.

Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher, Gone Girl, Boyhood, Whiplash and to a certain extent American Sniper, are all about boys finding it hard to make that final leap to become men. This topic was brought up by A.O. Scott in the New York Times in his piece “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture:”

In suggesting that patriarchy is dead, I am not claiming that sexism is finished, that men are obsolete or that the triumph of feminism is at hand. I may be a middle-aged white man, but I’m not an idiot. In the world of politics, work and family, misogyny is a stubborn fact of life. But in the universe of thoughts and words, there is more conviction and intelligence in the critique of male privilege than in its defense, which tends to be panicky and halfhearted when it is not obtuse and obnoxious. The supremacy of men can no longer be taken as a reflection of natural order or settled custom.

This slow unwinding has been the work of generations. For the most part, it has been understood — rightly in my view, and this is not really an argument I want to have right now — as a narrative of progress. A society that was exclusive and repressive is now freer and more open. But there may be other less unequivocally happy consequences. It seems that, in doing away with patriarchal authority, we have also, perhaps unwittingly, killed off all the grown-ups.”

Scott draws from television, specifically Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Sopranos to make his point. This year’s race for Best Picture proves that this dire situation isn’t only limited to television — it is far more pervasive than that. Adding another layer of anxiety, perhaps it has a bit to do with how defensive some men feel in the face of so many accusations and demands coming from minorities, men of color who feel they can’t get a leg up.

What we have in this year’s films about the American male are portraits of broken, maladjusted child-men whose familiar concept of control has been removed. Flooding to fill their sense of emptiness is often a subversive urge to get it back. Most savvy filmmakers are not making heroes of these men — quite the opposite. They are showing that the notion of the white male patriarchy is, as Scott, a myth, a concept that has been erased.

In Dan Gilroy’s unforgettable Nightcrawler, we meet one such obsolete patriarch, a man society has mostly rejected despite his seeming to have played by the rules. There is no appropriate job for him. No suitable girl for him. No clear path to the fame and recognition the American dream that was promised to him since boyhood. He can’t cash the check on the white male privilege he was birthed with, that dangling carrot that promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So the Nightcrawler, played by Jake Gyllenhaal invents his own version, his own success story and in so doing erases the moral line of the grand media patriarchs who helped create the notion of ethical journalism. For this new version of the modern American male, all bets are off. He’ll play by his own rules, take what’s coming to him. His birthrights have been stripped so he has no choice but to exploit any gullible person he encounters who’s unlucky enough to take him at his word. “How could THAT guy be unethical?”

Nightcrawler goes beyond the expected indictment of modern media and local news – all that has been corrupted for a while now. If it bleeds it leads. If it bleeds it stays in the 24-hour news cycle day in and day out. Not only that, it shapes how the public perceives reality, how it manages its intake of stress and fear. Renee Russo discovers that a gruesome home-invasion massacre is really connected to drug dealers but she’ll shove the truth aside because she knows what will keep people watching: invent a story that they are all under siege.

Nightcrawler is also about the liberties many of us now take with sensationalized stories, they ways we pluck the fragile feathers off a bleeding bird with relish. The internet has given us an ungovernable society where we can say anything about anyone and it matters for about five seconds and then we move on to the next thing. We are all Nightcrawlers, those of us who willingly participate in a media that’s removed from the ethical lines handed down by generations.

In Gone Girl, Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne never really grew up. He didn’t have to. He went straight from his mother to his wife and was never required to step up on his own. Among his many indulgences are his bar, his affair, his complacency with a complex wife and his cavalier indifference to the woman she really is. Each of those aimless tangents reveal a man who isn’t really a man, no matter how old he is in years. Though the main thrust of Gone Girl is Amy Dunne’s absolute refusal to play the victim, prescribed by contemporary Hollywood’s stricture that women be either victims or saints, upends the traditional notion of the perfect marriage Nick and Amy pretend to have, living out an artificial dream. Throughout the film, both Nick and Amy are manipulating their images in the press — Nick, by refusing to admit what he did and who he is and Amy, by exploiting the lies women tell themselves about the ways good husbands and good wives are supposed to behave. Amy’s desire to have Nick be the man, the patriarch, is an illusion. She made him think he was, perhaps, but her unwillingness to relinquish control over their unified image would never have allowed for a real man to enter the picture. Instead, Nick plays with things. Board games, video games, young students. It came as a big surprise to Amy that he stepped outside the rules by committing the ultimate sin for us women: an affair.

Fincher’s film does not make Nick Dunne the victim of his wife or his marriage, but rather the victim of the dead end where his white male privilege led him. He was born into it, perhaps, but his desire to be a writer has failed. Instead he became little more than the shell of the sort of man that Amy dressed him up to be. As his Missouri hometown collapses economically all around them, what they’re left with is what many of us Americans are left with: the perpetuation of an illusion of happiness.

Fincher does not let up for a second on Nick Dunne, and refuses to turn Amy into a loathsome bitch. He isn’t letting the audience off that easily. Like Nightcrawler, we’re invited inside the hall of mirrors where we dare not turn around because wherever we look we might see ourselves in ways we don’t like. That Fincher doesn’t make it easy to like Nick nor easy to hate Amy is what separates Gone Girl from Fatal Attraction in the end. That was an 1980s fantasy when our economic upturns made us all feel like the worst thing that could happen to us would be an encounter with a psycho bitch. In Gone Girl, there is more systematic decline, coming not just from the inside, but because everywhere you look there’s a camera. Every way you define yourself has a parallel avatar of who you are online.

Both Nightcrawler and Gone Girl echo the empty chambers of modern existence so vividly that they will serve as archeological evidence for anyone wanting to study what American life was really like fifteen years after the turn of the 21st century.

In Birdman, Riggan is a man without a place. He’s failed as a father, as a husband, as a superhero and now, as a stage auteur. He’s failed because he rejected the story as written and now seeks to reestablish a unique identity within that stereotype. Riggan’s unease is made manifest in magical powers, real or otherwise, that help elevate him as the superhero his fans once believed him to be. He can’t find a place in the new America, not with Twitter and viral videos and relevance. He can’t save anything or anyone, not even himself.

In American Sniper, Chris Kyle plays a soldier in a war that was never really right to be fighting in the first place. Kyle’s real world identity is rife with deception. He’s lied outright about things he’s done and people he’s killed but none of his self-delusion makes it into the movie. Instead we’re shown a man fighting a war he thinks was justified. He’s lost within it, more lost without it, increasingly lost in his marriage and ultimately lost when he returns home and tries to live a normal life.

In Foxcatcher, John DuPont is a half-formed person who never had to face any of the challenges most boys face in becoming a man. He has never had to fight or work for anything. It has all been handed to him. This gifting of the ruling class in American society has so dramatically thwarted DuPont that he is virtually incapable of functioning by the normal rules of society. Not only can’t he function, he doesn’t even think he needs to play by those rules. He is an enfant terrible. Taking whatever he wants, while everyone else is being paid to play along. Foxcatcher would not be striking a chord if there wasn’t such a enormous gap between the typical working man and the richest Americans. That helplessness in the face of economic struggle is infused in the characters of Mark Schultz and his older brother David, who is murdered by DuPont as though he didn’t matter, as though DuPont was firing a redundant servant instead of firing a pistol at another human being.

In Whiplash, Andrew is brutally confronted by his drum teacher who wants his student to attain greatness — at any cost. He wants him to be better and more than he is. Or does he only wants to humiliate him and uses the opportunity to do that under the guise of drumming? Some film critics have suggested that Whiplash is about becoming a man and if that’s so, then the definition of manhood is rebellion, refusing to accept someone’s condemnation of your character or your inability to shine. It is much more a reaction to manhood, though, than a story about a character becoming a man. In this coming of age story, or any you see made now, coming of age is less about leaving your childhood behind and more about trying to maintaining the carefree nature of youth.

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood gives us several options to let us observe which type of patriarchal role model the young Mason needs most. None of them are everything they need to be, none of them quite good enough. His own father grows older alongside him but never really grows up. The patriarchal figure in Boyhood is actually the matriarch. Patricia Arquette plays the grown-up who is tasked with raising the boy and guiding him on the right path to become a man. One of the many wondrous things that happens while watching Boyhood is the way we’re reminded of what life was like before social media and the internet. In the film, Mason talks about it in a critical way, as someone who is rejecting the notion of culture’s dominating force. Mason may or not reject the notion of manhood but he is no patriarch. He’s a good person who weathers a rough journey with his soul intact. Perhaps that counts for more than how he’s able to rise up to privilege or manhood.

This is perhaps why films about heroes from bygone eras are popular too. Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, Martin Luther King, Jr., Louis Zamperini — they all came from a time when men were chiseled by experience, when men had to eventually grow up, because how else would they ever change the world?

It is easy to dismiss these films as being only about men. With the sole exception of Gone Girl and The Theory of Everything, they are. But they are more than that. They tell us about who we are now. They express the worry, the fear, the guilt, the lack of faith about what’s coming next. The beauty of reaching into the past is that we know how those stories turned out. The Best Picture slate, if it goes the way the PGA went, will be about rocking the foundations this nation was built upon. All the lost men and all the men we’ve lost tap into our collective consciousness. If art has the power to do anything, it’s to reveal meanings not readily visible at first glance. We look, but we don’t always see. Movies let us watch and rewatch as often as we want, until we discover the meanings we need.


The Writers Guild will announce their winners tomorrow AM. Where in previous years the WGA’s rules disqualified many of the writers who were up for Oscar nominations, this year, there doesn’t seem to be too much of a disconnect, with the exception of Selma and The Theory of Everything, neither of which are eligible for WGA nods.

The WGA can sometimes spring a wild card into the race. In that way, we kind of look for surprise but in the end, find that the consensus is kind of the consensus.

Still, since it’s such a strange year I don’t know how this thing is going to play out. But I’ll go with these as predictions:

Original Screenplay
Wes Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro Inarritu et al, Birdman Not eligible
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Alt. JC Chandor, A Most Violent Year

Adapted Screenplay
Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Paul Thoman Anderson, Inherent Vice
Nick Hornby, Wild
Jason Hall, American Sniper
Alt. Coens et al, Unbroken

How about you Oscar watchers? What am I missing?

won WGA | won Oscar

*nominated for Best Pic
+won Best Pic

Her Her*
American Hustle American Hustle*
Blue Jasmine Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club Dallas Buyers Club*
Nebraska Nebraska*
Captain Phillips Captain Phillips*
August: Osage County 12 Years a Slave+
Before Midnight Before Midnight
Lone Survivor Philomena*
The Wolf of Wall Street The Wolf of Wall Street*
Silver Linings Playbook Silver Linings Playbook*


Original Original
Zero Dark Thirty Zero Dark Thirty*
Flight Flight
Looper Amour*
The Master Django Unchained*
Moonrise Kingdom Moonrise Kingdom
Argo Argo+
Life of Pi Life of Pi*
Lincoln Lincoln*
The Perks of being a Wallflower Beasts of the Southern Wild*
Silver Linings Playbook Silver Linings Playbook*
Win Win The Artist*
Bridesmaids Bridesmaids
50 50 Margin Call
Young Adult A Separation
Midnight in Paris Midnight in Paris*
Adapted Adapted
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo The Ides of March
Moneyball Moneyball*
The Help Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
The Descendants The Descendants*
Hugo Hugo*
2010 2010
Original WGA Oscars
Black Swan The King’s Speech+
Please Give Another Year
The Fighter The Fighter*
The Kids Are All Right The Kids Are All Right*
Inception Inception*
Adapted WGA Oscars
The Social Network The Social Network*
127 Hours 127 Hours*
True Grit True Grit*
I Love You Philip Morris Winter’s Bone*
The Town Toy Story 3*
2009 2009
Original WGA Oscars
The Hurt Locker The Hurt Locker+
A Serious Man A Serious Man*
500 Days of Summer Up*
The Hangover The Messenger
Avatar Inglourious Basterds*
Adapted WGA Oscars
Up in the Air Up in the Air*
Crazy Heart In the Loop
Star Trek District 9*
Precious Precious*
Julie & Julia An Education*
Original WGA Oscars
Milk Milk*
Burn After Reading Frozen River
The Visitor Happy-Go-Lucky
The Wrestler In Bruges
Vicky Cristina Barcelona Wall-E
Adapted WGA Oscars
Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire+
Doubt Doubt
Frost/Nixon Frost/Nixon*
Benjamin Button Benjamin Button*
The Dark Knight The Reader*
Original WGA Oscars
Diablo Cody, Juno* Diablo Cody, Juno*
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton*
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl
Judd Apatow, Knocked Up Brad Bird, Ratatouille
Adapted WGA Oscars
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood*
Joel, Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men Joel, Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men+
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Sean Penn, Into the Wild Sarah Polley, Away from Her
James Vanderbilt, Zodiac Christopher Hampton Atonement*
Original WGA Oscars
Babel Babel*
The Queen The Queen *
Stranger than Fiction Letters from Iwo Jima*
Little Miss Sunshine Little Miss Sunshine *
United 93 Pan’s Labyrinth
Adapted WGA Oscars
The Departed The Departed+
Thank You for Smoking Notes on a Scandal
Little Children Little Children
Borat Borat
Devil Wears Prada Children of Men
Original WGA Oscars
40 Year Old Virgin Syriana
Crash+ Crash+
Cinderella Man Match Point
Good Night, and Good Luck Good Night *
Squid and the Whale Squid and the Whale
Adapted WGA Oscars
Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain*
Capote Capote*
Constant Gardener Constant Gardener
History of Violence History of Violence
Syriana Munich*
Original WGA Oscars
The Aviator The Aviator*
Eternal Sunshine Eternal Sunshine
Garden State Vera Drake
Hotel Rwanda Hotel Rwanda
Kinsey The Incredibles
Adapted WGA Oscars
Before Sunset Before Sunset
Mean Girls Finding Neverland*
Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby+
Sideways Sideways*
Motorcycle Diaries Motorcycle Diaries
Original WGA Oscars
Bend it Like Beckham The Barbarian Invasions
Dirty Pretty Things Dirty Pretty Things
In America In America
Lost in Translation Lost in Translation*
The Station Agent Finding Nemo
Adapted WGA Oscars
American Splendor American Splendor
Cold Mountain City of God
Mystic River Mystic River *
Seabiscuit Seabiscuit*
Original WGA Oscars
Far From Heaven Far From Heaven
Gangs of New York Gangs of New York*
Antwone Fisher Talk to Her
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Greek Wedding
Bowling for Columbine Y Tu Mama Tambien
Chicago Chicago+
The Hours The Hours*
About Schmidt The Pianist*
Adaptation Adaptation
About a Boy About a Boy
Original WGA Oscars
Gosford Park* Gosford Park*
The Man Who Wasn’t There Amelie
Monster’s Ball Monster’s Ball
Moulin Rouge Memento
The Royal Tenenbaums The Royal Tenenbaums
Adapted WGA Oscars
A Beautiful Mind A Beautiful Mind+
Black Hawk Down Shrek
Bridget Jones’s Diary In the Bedroom*
Ghost World Ghost World
The Fellowship of the Ring Fellowship of the Ring*
Original WGA Oscars
Erin Brockovich Erin Brockovich*
Almost Famous Almost Famous
Best In Show Gladiator+
Billy Elliot Billy Elliot
You Can Count On Me You Can Count On Me
Adapted WGA Oscars
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon*
Chocolat Chocolat*
High Fidelity O Brother Where Art Thou?
Traffic Traffic*
Wonder Boys Wonder Boys
Original WGA Oscars
American Beauty American Beauty+
Being John Malkovich Being John Malkovich
Magnolia Magnolia
The Sixth Sense The Sixth Sense*
Three Kings Topsy-Turvy
Adapted WGA Oscars
The Cider House Rules The Cider House Rules*
Election Election
The Insider The Insider*
October Sky The Green Mile*
The Talented Mr. Ripley The Talented Mr. Ripley
Original WGA Oscars
Bulworth Bulworth
The Opposite of Sex Life Is Beautiful *
Shakespeare In Love* Shakespeare In Love+
Saving Private Ryan Saving Private Ryan*
The Truman Show The Truman Show
Adapted WGA Oscars
Gods and Monsters Gods and Monsters
A Civil Action The Thin Red Line*
Primary Colors Primary Colors
A Simple Plan A Simple Plan
Out Of Sight* Out Of Sight


+Won Best Picture

*nominated for Best Pic



2008: Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire+
Milk Milk*
2007: No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men+
Juno Juno*
2006: The Departed The Departed+
Little Miss Sunshine Little Miss Sunshine*
2005:Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain*
Crash Crash+
2004: Eternal Sunshine Eternal Sunshine
Sideways Sideways*
2003: Lost in Translation Lost in Translation*
American Splendor Return of the King+
2002: The Hours* The Pianist*
Bowling for Columbine Talk to Her
2001: A Beautiful Mind A Beautiful Mind+
Gosford Park Gosford Park*
2000: Traffic Traffic*
You Can Count on Me Almost Famous
1999: American Beauty American Beauty+
Election The Cider House Rules*
1998:Shakespeare in Love Shakespeare in Love+
Out of Sight Gods and Monsters
1997: L.A. Confidential L.A. Confidential*
As Good as it Gets Good Will Hunting*
1996: Sling Blade Sling Blade
Fargo Fargo*
1995: Braveheart The Usual Suspects
Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility*
1994: Forrest Gump Forrest Gump+
Four Weddings/Funeral Pulp Fiction*
1993: Schindler’s List Schindler’s List+
The Piano The Piano*
1992: The Crying Game The Crying Game *
The Player Howards End*
1991: The Silence of the Lambs The Silence of the Lambs+
Thelma and Louise Thelma and Louise
1990: Dances with Wolves Dances with Wolves+
Avalon Ghost*
1989: Driving Miss Daisy Driving Miss Daisy+
Crimes and Misdemeanors Dead Poets Society*
1988: Dangerous Liaisons Dangerous Liaisons*
Bull Durham Rain Man+
1987: Roxanne The Last Emperor+
Moonstruck Moonstruck*
1986: A Room with a View A Room with a View*
Hannah and Her Sisters Hannah and her Sisters*
1985: Witness Witness*
Prizzi’s Honor Out of Africa+
1984: The Killing Fields Amadeus+
Broadway Danny Rose Places in the Heart*
1983: Tender Mercies Tender Mercies*
Reuben, Reuben Terms of Endearment+
1982: Missing Missing*
Tootsie Gandhi+
1981: Reds Chariots of Fire+
On Golden Pond On Golden Pond *
Rich and Famous
1980:Ordinary People Ordinary People+
Airplane, Private Benjamin
Melvin and Howard Melvin and Howard
1979: Kramer vs. Kramer Kramer Vs. Kramer+
Breaking Away Breaking Away*
The China Syndrome, Being There
1978: Midnight Express Midnight Express*
Coming Home Coming Home*
Heaven Can Wait
Movie, Movie
1977: Annie Hall Annie Hall+
Julia Julia*
The Turning Point, Oh, God
1976: All the President’s Men All The President’s Men*
Network Network*
Pink Panther Strikes Again
1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest+
Dog Day Afternoon Dog Day Afternoon*
The Sunshine Boys
1974: Godfather Part II Godfather Part II+
Chinatown Chinatown*
Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Blazing Saddles
1973: A Touch of Class The Exorcist*
Save the Tiger, Paper Moon The Sting+
1972: The Godfather The Godfather+
The Candidate The Candidate
What’s Up, Doc? Cabaret
1971: The French Connection The French Connection+
The Hospital The Hospital
Kotch; Sunday, Bloody, Sunday
1970: Patton Patton+
M*A*S*H M*A*S*H*
I Never Sang for My Father, The Out-of Towners
1969: Midnight Cowboy Midnight Cowboy+
Butch Cassidy Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid *
Goodbye, Columbus; Bob, Ted, Carol and Alice
1968:Lion in Winter The Lion in Winter*
The Producers The Producers
Funny Girl, Odd Couple
1967: The Graduate In the Heat of the Night+
Bonnie and Clyde Guess Who’s Coming… *
Thoroughly Modern Millie
1966: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? A Man for All Seasons+
The Russians are Coming A Man and a Woman
1965: A Thousand Clowns Dr. Zhivago*
The Sound of Music, The Pawnbroker Darling*
1964: Becket Becket
Dr. Strangelove, Mary Poppins Father Goose
1963: Hud Tom Jones+
Lillies of the Field How the West Was Won
1962: The Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird *
That Touch of Mink, Music Man Divorce Italian Style
1961: the Hustler Judgment at Nuremberg
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, West Side Story Splendor in the Grass
1960: The Apartment The Apartment+
Elmer Gantry Elmer Gantry
The Bells are Ringing
1959: The Diary of Anne Frank Room at the Top *
Some Like it Hot, Five Pennies Pillow Talk
1958: Gigi Gigi+
The Defiant Ones The Defiant Ones
Me and the Colonel
1957: 12 Angry Men Bridge on the River Kwai+
Love in the Afternoon Designing Women
Les Girls
1956: Around world/80 Days Around world/80 Days+
The King and I The red Balloon
Friendly Persuasion
1955: Marty Marty+
Mr. Roberts Interrupted Melody
Love Me/Leave Me
1954: On the Waterfront On the Waterfront+
Sabrina, Seven Brides/Seven Bros. The Country Girl
1953: From Here to Eternity From Here to Eternity+
Lili, Roman Holiday Titanic
1952: High Noon, The Quiet Man Lavender Hill Mob
Singing in the Rain Bad and Beautiful
1951: An American in Paris An American in Paris+
A Place in the Sun A Place in the Sun*
Father’s Little Dividend
1950: All About Eve All About Eve+
Sunset Boulevard Sunset Boulevard *
Broken Arrow, Annie Get Your Gun
1949: All the King’s Men All the King’s Men+
A Letter to Three Wives, on the Town Battleground*
1958: The Snake Pit Treasure of the Sierra Madre*
Sitting Pretty, Easter Parade

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 11.55.58 AM

This is really worth a watch for those of you who have any doubts about the dirty pool of the Oscar game. It was no coincidence that the Selma ‘controversy’ hit just before ballots sailed into mailboxes.


This year’s race for Best Picture has some wonderful films in the lineup suddenly. There doesn’t seem to be room for movies that aren’t quite as good as the ones that are making it in. But the Producers Guild’s preferential ballot gives voters ten spots. One has to think that if a movie can’t make it on a ten picture ballot, how can it make it on a five picture ballot?

Selma did not send enough screeners out in time for the PGA vote. That doesn’t mean the movie is out of the race. With only three days left to vote for the Oscars, it’s hard to know if Selma makes it in. My guess is that it does.

206 films were directed by women this year. Three that I can think of were directed by black women. Only one shimmers on Rotten Tomatoes with 100% positive reviews and that’s Ava DuVernay’s Selma, the story of the march from Selma to Montgomery and the lead up to the Voting Rights Act. Things were going pretty well for the film until today’s announcement that it did not make the cut for the Producers Guild. And, as was pointed out by Kris Tapley, it hasn’t hit any of the major guilds, from the Editors to the Art Directors. It’s becoming increasingly worrisome to me that this door might remain shut.

If the reason is because this magnificent film isn’t what the steak eaters like? So be it. But if the reason is that it supposedly “got LBJ wrong?” Shame on them.

When Argo was up for Best Picture a scandal erupted in Toronto that great liberties were taken with history, specifically who took credit for the freeing of the hostages and whose credit was quietly removed. That’s history. This year, several films take liberties with the facts for the sake of drama. It isn’t that what LBJ did for the civil rights movement isn’t important. Of course it is important to maintain his revived legacy, to allow for that legacy to nestle peacefully in time.

LBJ is not the primary subject of the film. It shows his resistance as a point of conflict. LBJ’s image was tarnished by the extreme right and has since been rehabilitated. It’s a thing to be proud of that, of all the leaders at the time, LBJ stepped up and did the right thing. And did so because he thought it was right. He was facing opposition at every turn, which the movie shows.

But … guess what? This isn’t a movie about LBJ. This isn’t a movie about his presidency. This is a story about a man who has never had a film made about him. As director Ava DuVernay talks about the film’s history:

“The original script was passed around in 2007, but no major studio was willing to fund it. Brad Pitt’s small production company Plan B Entertainment and French investors financed it in 2008 with a modest budget. For years, it struggled with financing and changes in its director. It wasn’t until Oprah Winfrey stepped in this year that the project turned into a major motion picture event. With her financial backing, Paramount jumped in to distribute the film.

“It’s been 50 years since the events that we chronicle occurred,” said “Selma” director Ava DuVernay at the recent panel discussion. “The fact that there hasn’t been any theatrical portrayal of who he was and what he did is — I think — criminal.”

The Oscars are a game of dirty pool. You have to watch your back if you’re in the race because there are so many forces gunning for your spot. You’re lucky if you are working for a company that is connected to high places, like network television or reputable newspapers. All the better to make sure the distracting message is heard. NBC News devoted significant airtime to it tonight, with Oscar ballots still outstanding. (NBC of NBC/Universal, a studio with its own dog in the hunt.)

Though I appreciate LBJ’s contribution to the civil rights movement, I didn’t walk out of Selma thinking about him. This was an opportunity to watch a richly made film about Martin Luther King, Jr. That message has now been diminished. In one month’s time, when the ballots are counted, no one is going to give a damn. They put their collective footprint down to preserve a US president’s legacy — for whom? tfor people who agree with them? Probably. Or did they think, in their own way, that they were “teaching” DuVernay a lesson?

What did I think of when I watched Selma? I thought of the once-in-a-lifetime appearance on the scene of Martin Luther King, Jr. at a time when oppressed non-voting citizens of the United States needed him most. I thought of the people who laid their lives on the line to make sure that year people in America and in our government knew what was happening in Selma and all over the South. I thought of the story of Selma, and how few stories about America’s civil rights movements have ever made it to the big screen. I thought of Fruitvale Station and The Butler and how they were similarly shut out of the awards race because they confront the ongoing racial tension that weaves through our society now, even with (especially with) a black president. I thought of Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere winning Best Director at Sundance but then having nothing come of it in the awards race — except for the few of us that were paying attention.

I thought of King’s words, his famous speeches, what he changed, how he changed it, and what lingers in our culture 50 years later – and how important it is to celebrate this American hero. I thought of how carefully made Selma was and what a good filmmaker DuVernay is and how she took on the challenge of a much bigger production and combed through it painstakingly, so much so that it wasn’t even ready to produce screeners in time for voting. But I appreciate that kind of meticulousness.

I thought suddenly about Oscar history, and how it might be made this year, how those doors might be flung open for women of color to make some kind of progress. I thought about those doors that will remain shut.

But if it doesn’t, is that going to take away from the film’s impact? I don’t think so. You see, the Oscars are a mirrored reflection of their own tastes. With or without an Oscar nomination, I hope people seek out Selma for its richness of character, its persistence of vision, its unimaginable place in film history — this opportunity will not present itself quite the same way again.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. One of the primary forces for social change was killed by some loser with access to weaponry. That it happened so long ago makes it seem like it wasn’t one of the greatest tragedies we’ve ever faced as a nation. To make your topic of conversation coming out of Selma that it didn’t emphasize LBJ’s enthusiasm for civil rights is to ignore the legacy of the man who is all too often forgotten.

He is a man who left us with words that would influence generations. DuVernay’s film has the opportunity to extend that legacy, not just to young black ticket-buyers throughout the country, not just to the many living in poverty who fight, daily, for their own civil rights, but to the black artists, to the women especially, who face nothing but roadblocks, day in and day out both behind and in front of the camera.

As King himself once said in his Nobel speech:

“Doors of opportunity are gradually being opened to those at the bottom of society. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are developing a new sense of “some-bodiness” and carving a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of despair. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.”21 Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity. So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive. Therefore, I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that those who pioneer in the struggle for peace and freedom will still face uncomfortable jail terms, painful threats of death; they will still be battered by the storms of persecution, leading them to the nagging feeling that they can no longer bear such a heavy burden, and the temptation of wanting to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. Granted that we face a world crisis which leaves us standing so often amid the surging murmur of life’s restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. It can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark confused world the kingdom of God may yet reign in the hearts of men.

That man, that beautifully thoughtful, heroic diamond of a man, deserves to shine.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 2.11.08 PM

One of the reasons, probably the biggest reason, Selma was shut out of the Producers Guild was as simple as — they didn’t send out screeners. Much of the problem around awards season is the time crunch. Can you get as many screeners out as possible before the voting deadline? Can voters all watch movies before the voting deadline? The press will glom onto this and make a big deal out it – but it’s probably much ado about nothing. Here is a clip from one of the year’s best films.


American Sniper (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Producers: Bradley Cooper, p.g.a., Clint Eastwood, p.g.a., Andrew Lazar, p.g.a., Robert Lorenz, p.g.a., Peter Morgan, p.g.a.

Birdman (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, James W. Skotchdopole

Boyhood (IFC Films)
Producers: Richard Linklater, p.g.a., Cathleen Sutherland, p.g.a.

Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics)
Producers: Megan Ellison, p.g.a., Jon Kilik, p.g.a., Bennett Miller, p.g.a.

Gone Girl (20th Century Fox)
Producer: Ceán Chaffin, p.g.a.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Wes Anderson & Scott Rudin, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales

The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)
Producers: Nora Grossman, p.g.a., Ido Ostrowsky, p.g.a., Teddy Schwarzman, p.g.a.

Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy

The Theory of Everything (Focus Features)
Producers: Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten

Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)
Producers: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:

Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Producer: Roy Conli, p.g.a.

The Book of Life (20th Century Fox)
Producers: Brad Booker, p.g.a., Guillermo del Toro, p.g.a.

The Boxtrolls (Focus Features)
Producers: David Bleiman Ichioka, p.g.a., Travis Knight, p.g.a.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (20th Century Fox)
Producer: Bonnie Arnold, p.g.a.

The LEGO Movie (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Producer: Dan Lin

The television nominees are:

The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television:
The Long-Form Television category encompasses both movies of the week and mini-series.

American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX)
Producers: Brad Buecker, Dante Di Loreto, Brad Falchuk, Joseph Incaprera, Alexis Martin Woodall, Tim Minear, Ryan Murphy, Jennifer Salt, James Wong

Fargo (FX)
Producers: Adam Bernstein, John Cameron, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Michael Frislev, Noah Hawley, Warren Littlefield, Chad Oakes, Kim Todd

The Normal Heart (HBO)
Producers: Jason Blum, Dante Di Loreto, Scott Ferguson, Dede Gardner, Alexis Martin Woodall, Ryan Murphy, Brad Pitt, Mark Ruffalo

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (PBS)
Producers: To Be Determined

Sherlock (PBS)
Producers: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Beryl Vertue, Sue Vertue

In late 2014, the Producers Guild of America announced the Documentary Theatrical Motion Picture, Television Series and Non-Fiction Television Nominations. The following list now includes complete producer credits.

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures:

The Green Prince (Music Box Films)
Producers: John Battsek, Simon Chinn, Nadav Schirman

Life Itself (Magnolia Pictures)
Producers: Garrett Basch, Steve James, Zak Piper

Merchants of Doubt (Sony Pictures Classics)
Producers: Robert Kenner, Melissa Robledo

Particle Fever (Abramorama/BOND 360)
Producers: David E. Kaplan, Mark A. Levinson, Andrea Miller, Carla Solomon

Virunga (Netflix)
Producers: Joanna Natasegara, Orlando von Einsiedel

The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:

Breaking Bad (AMC)
Producers: Melissa Bernstein, Sam Catlin, Bryan Cranston, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Mark Johnson, Stewart Lyons, Michelle MacLaren, George Mastras, Diane Mercer, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett

Downton Abbey (PBS)
Producers: Julian Fellowes, Nigel Marchant, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge

Game Of Thrones (HBO)
Producers: David Benioff, Bernadette Caulfield, Frank Doelger, Chris Newman, Greg Spence, Carolyn Strauss, D.B. Weiss

House Of Cards (Netflix)
Producers: Dana Brunetti, Joshua Donen, David Fincher, David Manson, Iain Paterson, Eric Roth, Kevin Spacey, Beau Willimon

True Detective (HBO)
Producers: Richard Brown, Carol Cuddy, Steve Golin, Woody Harrelson, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Matthew McConaughey, Nic Pizzolatto, Scott Stephens

The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:

The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Producers: Faye Oshima Belyeu, Chuck Lorre, Steve Molaro, Bill Prady

Louie (FX)
Producers: Pamela Adlon, Dave Becky, M. Blair Breard, Louis C.K., Vernon Chatman, Adam Escott, Steven Wright

Modern Family (ABC)
Producers: Paul Corrigan, Megan Ganz, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Morton, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Chris Smirnoff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Sally Young, Danny Zuker

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Producers: Mark A. Burley, Sara Hess, Jenji Kohan, Gary Lennon, Neri Tannenbaum, Michael Trim, Lisa I. Vinnecour

Veep (HBO)
Producers: Chris Addison, Simon Blackwell, Christopher Godsick, Armando Iannucci, Stephanie Laing, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Frank Rich, Tony Roche

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:

30 For 30 (ESPN)
Producers: Andy Billman, John Dahl, Erin Leyden, Connor Schell, Bill Simmons

American Masters (PBS)
Producers: Susan Lacy, Julie Sacks, Junko Tsunashima

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)
Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig

COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey (FOX/NatGeo)
Producers: Brannon Braga, Mitchell Cannold, Jason Clark, Ann Druyan, Livia Hanich, Steve Holtzman, Seth MacFarlane

Shark Tank (ABC)
Producers: Becky Blitz, Mark Burnett, Bill Gaudsmith, Phil Gurin, Yun Lingner, Clay Newbill, Jim Roush, Laura Roush, Max Swedlow

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:

The Amazing Race (CBS)
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Elise Doganieri, Jonathan Littman, Bertram van Munster, Mark Vertullo

Dancing With The Stars (ABC)
Producers: Ashley Edens Shaffer, Conrad Green, Joe Sungkur

Project Runway (Lifetime)
Producers: Jane Cha Cutler, Desiree Gruber, Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, Jonathan Murray, Sara Rea, Teri Weideman

Top Chef (Bravo)
Producers: Doneen Arquines, Daniel Cutforth, Casey Kriley, Jane Lipsitz, Hillary Olsen, Erica Ross, Tara Siener, Shealan Spencer

The Voice (NBC)
Producers: Stijn Bakkers, Mark Burnett, John De Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Audrey Morrissey, Jim Roush, Kyra Thompson, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:

The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
Producers: Meredith Bennett, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Stephen Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Matt Lappin, Emily Lazar, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart

Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC)
Producers: David Craig, Ken Crosby, Doug DeLuca, Gary Greenberg, Erin Irwin, Jimmy Kimmel, Jill Leiderman, Molly McNearney, Tony Romero, Jason Schrift, Jennifer Sharron, Seth Weidner, Josh Weintraub

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
Producers: Tim Carvell, John Oliver, Liz Stanton

Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO)
Producers: Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Dean Johnsen, Bill Maher, Billy Martin, Matt Wood

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
Producers: Rob Crabbe, Jamie Granet Bederman, Katie Hockmeyer, Jim Juvonen, Josh Lieb, Brian McDonald, Lorne Michaels, Gavin Purcell

The following programs were previously announced in late 2014. They were not vetted for producer eligibility this year, but winners in these categories will be announced at the official ceremony on January 24th:

The Award for Outstanding Sports Program:

24/7 (HBO)

Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The Atlanta Falcons (HBO)

Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The Cincinnati Bengals (HBO)

Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March To Brazil (ESPN)

Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel (HBO)

The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program:

Dora The Explorer (Nickelodeon)

Sesame Street (PBS)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon)

Toy Story OF TERROR! (ABC)

Wynton Marsalis: A YoungArts Masterclass (HBO)

The Award for Outstanding Digital Series:

30 For 30 Shorts (

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee (

COSMOS: A National Geographic Deeper Dive (

Epic Rap Battles Of History (

Video Game High School Season 3 (

ANEMIC - No Guts No Glory, web

Since this race is really all over the map, with no really strong consensus emerging, it might be fun to do a No Guts, No Glory, something we don’t often do for the Producers Guild. For this, you don’t really need to go wildly off the wall – as in, predicting something that would NEVER happen, but just a gut instinct about what MIGHT happen.

Our contest entries have the top ten predicted as (in order of vote getters) – the biggest surprise in A Most Violent Year making the cut, along with Interstellar and Unbroken:

1. Boyhood
1. birdman
2. Selma
3. Gone Girl
4. Whiplash
5. Grand Budapest
6. Foxcatcher
7. A Most Violent Year
8. Unbroken
9. Interstellar
10. The Imitation Game
11. American sniper
12. Into the Woods
13. Nightcrawler
14. The Theory of Everything
15. The Lego Movie
16. Wild
17. Inherent Vice
18. Mr Turner

For instance, mine is that Guardians of the Galaxy sneaks in there. Any thoughts from you Oscar obsessives?



“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.” – Charles Dickens

The Oscar year started out with a handful of Oscar pundits choosing preordained “Oscar movies” to land in the Best Picture race. Though no one really reported on it in any serious way, some questioned how they could pick movies for Best Picture no one had even seen. On paper, these films all had what it takes to be an “Oscar movie,” that is, they seemed designated not just for Oscar voters but for the public.

The prominent pundits in the field faithfully put alternating titles in the number one spot based just on the concept art, the subject matter, the studios and the stars involved. To make room for these films they would mostly shut out other films that were actually doing well in the year, films that could be called best by anyone’s standards, but they were considered not Oscar-y enough and thus, out they went to make room for films people had not yet seen.

On the flipside of that, Indiewire’s Anne Thompson heroically stood, taking a stand against what Oscar pundits were doing. The notoriously ethical Thompson said she wasn’t going to predict films that hadn’t been seen and would instead work from a list of films that had been seen and were good enough to get in. In so doing, she single-handedly kept alive the season’s big surprise, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and the season’s other big surprise, Whiplash.

The pundits did not let go of their claim that these big year-end movies would make it in. In years past, their mixed to bad reviews might have kept them out of the race when they were finally seen but instead, the studios managed to hold off the critics just enough to get the movies to the public and once that happened, the money started flowing in, the films suddenly look like viable contenders after all and no one seems to notice that they were poorly reviewed. The system confirms itself. The system works.

2014 might indeed mark the moment the Oscar race once again stopped caring about the critics. When the National Society of Film Critics themselves don’t care about critics, how can anyone expect anyone else to care? The NSFC picked Goodbye to Language, which just edged out Boyhood, to win. They picked a film that has a 72% rating on Metacritic, which is on the way low end of the films they’ve chosen in years prior:

Inside Llewyn Davis–92
Amour — 94
The Social Network — 95
Hurt Locker–94
Waltz with Bachir –91
There will be Blood — 92
Pan’s Labyrinth–98
Million Dollar Baby — 86
American Splendour–90
The Pianist –85
Mulholland Drive — 81
Yi Yi — 92

That choice is so utterly balls-out off the charts of the awards race it reads, to me, like a revolutionary battle cry to never want to be in the chokehold of the yucky Oscar race ever again. It also tells me that the face of film criticism has been greatly altered in the past few years as the best film critics have been shunted aside and replaced by people who really aren’t film critics.

With the critics mostly out of the way, the Oscar brand can get back to the business of being the Oscar brand – a mirror reflection of a bygone era that exists only to reflect back at itself. The Oscar Movie is a concept the public both buys into and utterly dismisses the way they would a playlist handed to them by their grandparents of groovy tunes to play on the airplane.

What people think of when they think about the Oscar brand is a typical year like 1980, when Kramer vs. Kramer beat Apocalypse Now. There is no question which film has stood the test of time, which was the work of a visionary genius, and which one, when you look up ‘great’ in the dictionary, there’s its picture. There’s Robert Duvall crouched over a field of napalm. There’s the Dallas Cowboy cheerleader strutting onto the stage. There’s crazy General Kurtz, a transformed god. But the Oscars and the public were far more inclined towards the movie about the single dad and the feminist mother who felt suffocated in the confines of her domestic life. It was the movie for the year where the public was concerned. The Academy rewarded it for that.

Coming out of the 1970s, the era of the auteur director and truly mind-blowing cinema that bled into the Oscar race, was really the last time the Academy hummed. The feminist movement, the sexual revolution, the Manson family, Richard Nixon – it was all bleeding into what the artists were doing, the changing of the guards, as it were. But the 1980s and into the 1990s, things started to look very different. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas redefined the ways movies were made, seen, and rolled out. The blockbuster was born and it would change everything about Hollywood.

Where before, the Oscars cared much more about whether the public liked a movie, the public began flocking to movies that had numbers after their titles and were based on brands and comic books. Fan sites were born in worship of these films and slowly but surely those fan sites took over the dialogue about film and pretty soon there wasn’t a lot of difference between fandom and film criticism. The Oscars had no choice but to reject what the public was mostly buying tickets for and to grapple for anything resembling the Oscar brand. They got their wish in the form of independent cinema and foreign film directors making films Oscar voters can tolerate. The catch — movies like that really need the critics standing behind them.

Years like 2010 and 2012 are rare – when the studios are putting out movies the public and the critics and the Oscar voters like. Movies like Gravity and Zero Dark Thirty and Argo and American Hustle and Lincoln and Life of Pi. There was harmony in that and thus, awards consensus was a no-brainer. But this year, there is a dramatic splintering between what the public liked (Guardians of the Galaxy, Hunger Games) and what the critics liked (Boyhood, Grand Budapest, Goodbye to Language, The Immigrant) and the Oscar brand (Unbroken, American Sniper, Into the Woods, Interstellar). There isn’t much harmony across all of them with the possible exception of Gone Girl, not a critics darling, not quite an Oscar brand but kind of, sort of in the ballpark of hitting all three notes.

But even Gone Girl, at this rate, seems destined to be shoved aside for the Oscar brand. Those movies are making money. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be regarded as successes and they wouldn’t be worthy for Best Picture nominations. But when films that the critics don’t think are best are declared best by the public and the Oscar brand you invite criticism for a group that supposedly rewards highest achievements in cinema, not just movies the public bought tickets for.

Tomorrow the Producers Guild will announce their ten choices for Best Picture of 2014. We don’t know which Oscar tale it will tell. We don’t even know if the Oscars will follow suit. The Screen Actors Guild, Editors Society, and now the Producers Guild, are the only major guilds that will announce while Oscar ballots are still outstanding. The most important, or certainly what used to be the most important, the Directors Guild, doesn’t announce until after Oscar ballots are turned in.

What won’t have an impact on Oscar voting for nominations this year?

Here is how the films break down so far. I’ve bolded the nominees I think most likely–but honestly, any of these could get in. We just don’t know yet how it will finish.

Films that, so far, unite the public, the critics and the industry:
Gone Girl ($166 mil)
The Grand Budapest Hotel ($59 mil)
Nightcrawler ($31 mil)

Films that unite the critics and the industry but don’t seem to need the public (so far anyway) — in limited release:
Birdman ($25 mil)
Boyhood ($24 mil)
Foxcatcher ($7 mil)
Whiplash ($5 mil)
Selma ($2 mil)
Mr. Turner ($983k)
A Most Violent Year ($300k)

Films that are strong with public, maybe strong with industry, not as strong with critics – OSCAR BRAND:
Interstellar ($182 mil)
Into the Woods ($91 mil)
Unbroken ($87 mil)
The Theory of Everything ($24 mil)
Wild ($24 mil)
The Imitation Game ($7.9 mil)
American Sniper ($2 mil so far)

It should be said that some of these films have vastly different stories to tell, critics wise, depending on which site you visit. I am not quite sure where to put them. Here is how they break down:

Wild – Rotten Tomatoes = 91% Rotten Tomatoes, 72% Metacritic
The Theory of Everything = 81% Rotten Tomatoes, 72% Metaticic
The Imitation Game = 91% Rotten Tomatoes, 72% Metacritic

So you see, 2014 is a strange year. To my mind, it marks the first time I’ve seen in a long while that the preordained Oscar movies are probably going to be in the race, whether they are good enough or not. The only reason that matters from my perspective is that I can no longer make the argument that Anne Thompson was right in not predicting films she nor anyone else had yet seen. I think she is morally right. I think it’s better for film overall, better for the Oscars — but it isn’t right. The more cynical approach by the pundits that the Oscar brand will prevail no matter what. And so it goes.

But we’re still talking about only the nominees. The Best Picture winner will likely not be decided by any one thing. It will be decided by what film stands apart from the others and unites the consensus. Though Boyhood is a “small” film, it is an extraordinary film that, when people finally do see it, they will marvel at. A film like that doesn’t come around very often and won’t likely be forgotten any time soon.


Best Picture
The Imitation Game
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
American Sniper
The Theory of Everything
Alts — Nightcrawler , Unbroken

My thing is, I feel like American Sniper and Unbroken might get in. I just don’t know which film gets bumped. Oh, probably Gone Girl but that’s a reality I just can’t face yet. I can’t face a Best Picture lineup that is 100% about the male protagonist, as the AFI foretold. I can’t see women being obliterated from the Oscar race. I just can’t. Not yet.

Best Actor
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
David Oyelowo, Selma
Alts–Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Jennifer Aniston, Cake
Alt. Hilary Swank, The Homesman

Supporting Actor
JK Simmons, Whiplash
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Alt. Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice

Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Emma Stone, Birdman
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Alt. Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman
Ava DuVernay, Selma
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Clint Eastwood, American Sniper
Alt. Wes Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel, Damien Chazelle, Whiplash, Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Original Screenplay
Wes Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro Inarritu et al, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Paul Webb, Selma
Alt. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie) *

Adapted Screenplay
Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Paul Thoman Anderson, Inherent Vice
Anthony McCarten, The Thoery of Everything
Nick Hornby, Wild

Gone Girl
The Imitation Game

Mr. Turner
Grand Budapest Hotel

Production Design
Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
Alt. Unbroken

Sound Mixing
Into the Woods
American Sniper
Get on Up
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy

Sound Editing
American Sniper
Big Hero Six
The Lego Movie
Guardians of the Galaxy

Costume Design
Into the Woods
Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Mr. Turner

Original Score
Gone Girl
Theory of everything
The Imitation Game
Mr. Turner


Believe it or not, I’ve been tracking the Oscars on this website for the entire time my daughter has grown into a 16 year-old. She was just a baby when I started the website in 1999. She was born in May of 1998. I needed a reason to stay home with her, and hoped I could start some kind of online website during the wild wild west that the internet was back then. I didn’t know what it would do or the industry that would eventually rise up around it but something told me it would be interesting to people, watching the Oscar race. Back then, there were so many movies to choose from. It really was about finding the best of them. Movies were cultural events that didn’t exclude whole populations of ticket buyers. The Oscars were held long after the year concluded, to measure a film’s success not just with critics but with the public. No one even thought about the Oscars until late December, early January. Now, January starts the Oscar race for the following year and the public has very little to do with it.

So much has changed since 1999 that it’s become harder to write about the Oscar race. The community here changes every year, depending on what movies or actors are in the race, or how many people I’ve pissed off in a given year. I just wanted to thank you who’ve been coming here since I began this site and how much I value the private emails you send me (even if I never write back, I do read them) and the words of encouragement over the years. I also have to give a shout out to my pal Ryan for always having my back, even if it means swatting away puny giants on message boards and on Twitter. He manages a pretty heated comment section.

Also need to give a shout out to Craig Kennedy, who has really beefed up the TV section, with the help of several writers. Dora has helped us out with our FYC gallery once again this year and we so appreciate it. Jazz Tangcay is AwardsDaily’s newest writer and she’s been handling interviews like a pro. Rob Y, who does an enormous amount of work each year on the AwardsDaily simulated Oscar ballot, which will launch again this week. There are too many readers and commenters here who participate is such illuminating ways every day but we thank you too.

My dad is battling cancer, you might have heard about it on Twitter, and that’s made me ever conscious of time passing too quickly. I don’t know how much longer AwardsDaily will continue. I’m sure many would like it to end sooner rather than later. We hope there are many who want to see it evolve, adapt and endure. I’m proud of the site I’ve built, and namely that I’ve been able to support my daughter and hopefully help her get through college. Honestly, I had no idea this would have been my fate when I started this whole thing. But hey, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans, as John Lennon would say.

Let’s see what 2015 brings. I hope it brings many good things.


This year’s Best Picture race is wide open except for the film right at the top of the list and that continues to be Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. How the Best Picture race is shaped is going to depend on which Oscar race they want to embrace. Is it the one where they pick daring, exciting films that push the envelope, like Birdman, Foxcatcher, Gone Girl, Nightcrawler? Or are they going heroic straight down the line, with Selma, Imitation Game, Theory of Everything or Unbroken? Will it be a little bit of both? We don’t now the answer to that yet – not even close.

The Oscar race is like politics in nearly every way you can think of, from kissing babies, to acting grateful, to having your picture on every cover of every magazine – if you show up and look the part, you too can be an Oscar contender. With good will towards Angelina Jolie and a desire to encourage her newfound artistic endeavor, voters may be inclined to overlook the poor reviews for Unbroken and give it a slot in the end of the year’s selection of the year’s best. It will be a prime example of how the Oscar race works like a political election; the same way George W. Bush’s charisma overrode every other negative thing about him. Conversely, David Fincher’s team is doing the opposite – not kissing babies, not doing meet and greets, not doing lots of publicity or advertising. Guess which way the pundits are predicting this thing will go?

Before the major guilds confirm or deny the consensus so far, we still have this nervous-making next few weeks, before Oscar ballots are turned in, before the consensus forms. How many nominations a film receives is indicative of how much the entire branch overall loved the film. How much they love the film is often dependent upon image. Has any film ever started at such a high peak in the race and then taken such a hard fall as Zero Dark Thirty in 2012? A bigger question, does anyone give a single shit about that now?

And so it came to pass that 2012 came whirring painfully back, like a gust of Doritos breath and beer at a holiday party. Remember that whole Zero Dark Thirty non-story? Remember how such a well-regarded film took such a dramatic fall? Remember Glenn Greenwald flipping out about how the film supposedly condoned torture? Remember Andrew Sullivan condemning the film before even seeing it then, upon seeing it, retracted his objections? Remember Martin Sheen and others demanding a boycott of the film? Remember how a few months later no one gave a damn? The reason no one gave a damn is because the film’s Oscar prospects and much of its political power deflated once the nominations were announced and Bigelow was shut out.

Remember the silly congressman who challenged Spielberg’s Lincoln because it got a fact wrong about how Connecticut voted? It was used a character smear against Spielberg himself, just as the torture debate was used as a smear against Bigelow. Human beings are so susceptible to that – it’s how elections are run and how the Oscar race is run. It’s the horrifying reality of a low stakes game where the only thing on the line, really, once you sweep away egos, is money. We’re right up against it now and just look at how the media is latching on to that swollen tit.

We don’t even realize we’re sinking into it. Tensions run high on Twitter. There’s a sentence you never really want to write, much less read. Op-ed articles draw clicks and RTs and linkage and furious comment debates — suddenly you’re relevant. You’re relevant because people are reading you. They’re reading YOU and nobody else. It reaches a fever pitch that doesn’t die down until ballots are counted and another controversy floats by.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 7.56.52 PM

You have entertainment reporters acting like Woodward and Bernstein, digging up the truth. The Selma controversy (translation: a couple of people get offended) somehow morphs into a credibility problem and before you know it that’s all anyone hears about a movie.

Somehow my pals in the race don’t seem to get that this is business as usual with modern press, social networks and people with agendas to play out. Even with Google a few clicks away, even with the world’s most informative resource right at their fingertips. To puff up in anger about the scene where LBJ asks for J. Edgar Hoover and the very next scene is the FBI taping of King’s sexual exploits.

Hollywood-Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells has been trying his best to stay quiet about Selma. It has to bother him that people have been writing about it as a real threat for Best Picture. None of Selma’s upswing made it onto Hollywood-Elsewhere but once the LBJ so-called controversy hit, he was all over it like white on rice. But a quick Google search brings up this story as reported in Mother Jones in 2013 by David Corn:

Hoover did not let up. A little more than a year after the march, after King had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Hoover told a group of reporters that King was “the most notorious liar in the country.” But the FBI’s war on King was uglier than name-calling. Weiner writes:

[William Sullivan] had a package of the King sex tapes prepared by the FBI’s lab technicians, wrote an accompanying poison-pen letter, and sent both to King’s home. His wife opened the package.

“King, look into your heart,” the letter read. The American people soon would “know you for what you are—an evil, abnormal beast…There is only one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

The president [Lyndon Johnson] knew Hoover had taped King’s sexual assignations. Hoover was using the information in an attempt to disgrace King at the White House, in Congress, and in his own home.

Worse, it seems the FBI was trying to encourage King to kill himself.

Hoover kept feeding Johnson (who’d become president after JFK’s 1963 assassination) intelligence suggesting King was a commie stooge. In 1967, when the FBI mounted an operation to disrupt, discredit, and neutralize so-called “black hate” groups, it focused on King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as Hoover publicly blamed King for inciting African Americans to riot. The following year, King was assassinated by James Earl Ray, who subsequently evaded an FBI manhunt, to be captured two months later by Scotland Yard in England.

As the March on Washington is remembered five decades later, it should be noted that King’s successes occurred in the face of direct and underhanded opposition from forces within the US government, most of all Hoover, who did not hesitate to abuse his power and use sleazy and legally questionable means to mount his vendetta against King.

But despite tgat backstory, the only message that reads loud and clear this week is that the image of LBJ matters more than any other minute of film in Selma. Forget about the moment when the first black woman directed such a high profile film to such rousing acclaim. Forget about a country ripped apart by racially fueled actions by police and even self-appointed neighborhood watch patrols. Forget about the country’s first black President in his second term obstructed more than any sitting president in US history.

What I learned about LBJ growing up was that he liked to take a crap with the door open and that he was a good ol’ boy from the South until he had a major turnaround. This debate is ongoing, as is the debate about JFK’s own position on civil rights. The debate about President Lincoln, whether he was really sympathetic to black rights or whether he, too, was a closet racist.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.00.56 PM

Let’s talk about what’s really at stake here – who gets to take credit for being a civil rights leader back then – LBJ or Martin Luther King. I’m going to tip the credit in King’s favor because without his pressure and leadership there would have been no change. None.

The problem with the Oscar race now is that there are too many people writing about it and not enough stuff to write about. The feeding frenzy that’s about to take hold on Selma is straight out of the Fox News playbook. Clearly we haven’t learned our lesson from 2012.

The buzz around Selma on the eve of its opening was deafening. To date, it’s second only to Boyhood as one of the best reviewed films of the year. It is moving, entertaining, inspiring – and it gives voice to the many who remain silent because their stories aren’t regularly covered in the press, nor represented in the Oscar race.

In the end, it is just the voter and the screener. The publicity fills in the rest. If it becomes about image, as a few movies are trying to do this year, quality goes straight out the window. Now that we’ve arrived at the sticky business of image making in the Oscar race, you’re about to watch a brief but powerful character assassination of DuVernay take place, just like you watched, with horror, the same thing happen to Bigelow back in 2012.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 7.57.53 PM

What is tragic about it, and what people should be paying attention to instead, is how the mirror always gets turned back in the same direction, doesn’t it? The only thing that matters is how we are portrayed – humanity in the best possible light.

The haughty protests coming from the op-ed pieces on Selma aren’t that much different from the same shrill protests that came out against Gone Girl. It’s as though those writers have forsaken their ability to actually think for themselves and are somehow confusing films for pulpits, classrooms and churches. They’re films, they’re art, they are interpretations of ideas, celebrations of human character – but they are never meant to replace real life, or real history.

We give over our living history to people who don’t deserve to shape it, not in the moment anyway. Someone, someday is going to write a wonderful book about how the Obama presidency impacted black American filmmakers. At the top of that list will be DuVernay’s marvelous, exceptional film about the march on Selma. It is a film that speaks to the minority, not the majority.

Best Picture
The Imitation Game
Gone Girl
The Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner

American Sniper

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 6.45.17 PM

Just when I think this was a bad year for movies, along comes Ben Zuk to represent the year.  It’s one of the best things that happens in any year.


Women directors have much to live down before they can be taken seriously. Most of the heads of the five families in the film industry do not trust women to direct, partly because of the money thing. And partly because, deep down, they don’t think women can bring it. Angelina Jolie just proved that she can take a movie with very bad reviews and still open big at the box office. She might even prove a woman can take said film into the Best Picture race just like the men can (Daldry’s The Reader and Daldry’s Extremely Loud both squeezed in with equally bad, or worse, reviews). Not many are heading into the territory of “Unbroken doesn’t tell the whole story about Louis Zamperini,” which included alcoholism and verbal abuse of his wife before the war, then his Christian reform to become a better man through Billy Graham after the war. She can be, and will be, forgiven because she was paying tribute to him, not trying to tear him down.

But the real threat this year is from another film directed by a woman that’s better, and therefore more of a threat. It’s so good, in fact, that it is one of two other films that threaten the current Best Picture frontrunner. It’s so good that it’s being taken seriously enough by the guardians of the status quo, the powers that be, who are trying to shift the conversation from Martin Luther King, Jr. and voting rights to Lyndon B. Johnson. Preserve the white man’s reputation at all costs, is the message here. “Shame on Ava DuVernay for not making LBJ the hero of SELMA.”

The LBJ library director was angry because the portrait of LBJ wasn’t sympathetic enough, “When racial tension is so high, it does no good to suggest that the president of the U.S. himself stood in the way of progress a half-century ago. It flies in the face of history,” he told the AP. The LBJ library is to Lyndon B. Johnson as Unbroken is to Louis Zamperini – it exists mainly to pay tribute. The headlines were misleading in this regard – what they should be saying is that this person, the director of the LBJ library, has a problem with how LBJ is portrayed.

Though Johnson is credited with being the first US president to push for groundbreaking civil rights legislation, his legacy is not without its blemishes. Here’s Barack Obama speaking on LBJ at that very library:

“During his first 20 years in Congress he opposed every civil rights bill that came up for a vote, once calling the push for federal legislation a farce and a shame.”

That was picked apart by the right (of course) but then
rated as “true” by Politifact, based on these snippets in Caro’s book:

–In 1947, after President Harry S Truman sent Congress proposals against lynching and segregation in interstate transportation, Johnson called the proposed civil rights program a “farce and a sham–an effort to set up a police state in the guise of liberty.”

–In his 1948 speech in Austin kicking off his Senate campaign, Johnson declared he was against Truman’s attempt to end the poll tax because, Johnson said, “it is the province of the state to run its own elections.” Johnson also was against proposals against lynching “because the federal government,” Johnson said, “has no more business enacting a law against one form of murder than against another.”

Next, we asked an expert in the offices of the U.S. Senate to check on Johnson’s votes on civil rights measures as a lawmaker. By email, Betty Koed, an associate historian for the Senate, said that according to information compiled by the Senate Library, in “the rare cases when” such “bills came to a roll call vote, it appears that” Johnson “consistently voted against” them or voted to stop consideration.

LBJ biographer Robert Caro wrote about LBJ:

“For no less than 20 years in Congress, from 1937 to 1957, Johnson’s record was on the side of the South. He not only voted with the South on civil rights, but he was a southern strategist, but in 1957, he changes and pushes through the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction. He always had this true, deep compassion to help poor people and particularly poor people of color, but even stronger than the compassion was his ambition. But when the two aligned, when compassion and ambition finally are pointing in the same direction, then Lyndon Johnson becomes a force for racial justice, unequalled certainly since Lincoln.”

In other words, Johnson had a major turnaround. One of the best things about Selma was, to me, how it humanized Johnson and beautifully illustrated that turnaround. That voting rights came to pass so late in American history, in my own childhood, is a mark against our collective character that no president, however passionately he changed his mind, can erase. That little girls had to be accompanied by law enforcement on their way to church and school in the 1960s, for godsakes, can’t be erased. That southern African American citizens were prevented from registering to vote, that the panicked white authorities still removed drinking fountains in the 1960s because a black person used one – that isn’t going to be erased so easily.

The point here is what AD reader Bob Burns said, “if the discussion becomes about LBJ and not voting rights, the bigots win.”

The moment those headlines started to appear my first thought was, “uh-oh, someone is really worried about Selma’s Oscar potential.” The same thing happened with Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty in 2012. It almost happened with 12 Years a Slave last year but that script did not deviate significantly from Solomon Northup’s account.

Believe me, if Unbroken had actually been good enough to win Best Picture, if its reviews were off the charts great, if Angelina Jolie had lived up to the kind of hype they’re selling for this film? You can bet it would be taken apart for fact-checking the way Selma is. Jolie isn’t getting smacked down because she is confirming what most people secretly think about women directors: they can’t direct. But Selma shows that Ava DuVernay, this unlikely contender who turned her life around in her 40s — who is also an activist for civil rights and an advocate for black filmmakers — DID make a great film. Not just a film that people like, but a film with reviews so good it has become one of Boyhood’s challengers. That is why people are getting nervous. She’s rocking the boat, my friends. She’s definitely rocking the boat.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 8.37.42 AM

Here a few basic facts to consider.

1) Selma is not a documentary. As a fictionalized, impressionist take on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, it is not meant to be. Selma is a beautifully rendered battle cry for a movement that still needs mobilization in 2014.

2) The portrait of LBJ is sympathetic. There was resistance to King. History tells us so. But LBJ is not painted as a menace to change, just part of a cog in a giant machine. If someone wants to make a movie about LBJ they can go ahead and do that. That is not THIS movie.

3) The bigger picture here is that with Selma, DuVernay is doubly threatening. She’s a threat because she’s female and black, and Selma is a threat because it’s actually good. This is no condescending pat on the back with a “good job.” This is a potential game-changer.

Note: Why do I compare Selma and Unbroken? They are both films about American heroes that were given to women to direct. They both opened on Christmas Day. One has a giant studio and a superstar behind it and one has a wing and a prayer. One opened big in 3100 theaters nationwide with terrible reviews, one opened quietly in 19 showcase theaters with rave reviews. It isn’t about pitting them against one another – it’s about noticing how differently they are being treated by the public, the press and the fans.


Just posted on their Facebook page.



This site collects top ten lists and compiles them year by year. This is how it’s shaking down for 2014. I’ve bolded the Best Picture contenders via the pundit consensus thus far. Unbroken does not show up on the top 50 here but it does have two votes over at Movie City News.

1. Boyhood (324 lists; 118 top spots)
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (232 lists; 17 top spots)
3. Birdman (181 lists; 24 top spots)
4. Under the Skin (175 lists; 34 top spots)
5. Whiplash (166 lists; 18 top spots)
6. Nightcrawler (136 lists; 5 top spots)
7. Gone Girl (135 lists; 6 top spots)
8. Selma (120 lists; 14 top spots)
9. Ida (119 lists; 12 top spots)
10. Inherent Vice (113 lists; 15 top spots)
11. Only Lovers Left Alive (99 lists; 6 top spots)
12. Force Majeure (92 lists; 1 top spot)
13. Snowpiercer (84 lists; 5 top spots)
14. The LEGO Movie (83 lists; 4 top spots)
15. Guardians of the Galaxy (80 lists; 3 top spots)
16. Two Days, One Night (79 lists; 7 top spots)
17. The Immigrant (75 lists; 4 top spots)
18. The Babadook (65 lists; 3 top spots)
19. Foxcatcher (64 lists; 3 top spots)
20. Goodbye to Language (63 lists; 15 top spots)
21. Interstellar (63 lists; 8 top spots)
22. Citizenfour (63 lists; 6 top spots)
23. Mr. Turner (58 lists; 5 top spots)
24. The Imitation Game (53 lists; 3 top spots)
25. Listen Up Phillip (50 lists; 3 top spots)
26. Edge of Tomorrow (49 lists)
27. We Are the Best! (48 lists; 2 top spots)
28. Life Itself (45 lists; 1 top spot)
29. A Most Violent Year (44 lists; 4 top spots)
30. The Theory of Everything (41 lists; 3 top spots)
31. Love is Strange (41 lists; 2 top spots)
33. Calvary (38 lists; 4 top spots)
34. Stranger by the Lake (35 lists; 4 top spots)
35. Blue Ruin (34 lists; 2 top spot)
36. Wild (34 lists; 1 top spot)
36. Manakamana (34 lists; 1 top spot)
38. The Raid 2 (32 lists; 2 top spots)
39. Mommy (29 lists; 3 top spots)
40. Stray Dogs (29 lists; 1 top spot)
41. Leviathan (28 lists; 4 top spots)
42. Obvious Child (28 lists; 1 top spot)
43. Winter Sleep (27 lists; 1 top spot)
44. Nymphomaniac (26 lists; 1 top spot)
45. Norte, the End of History (24 lists; 1 top spot)
46. Dear White People (22 lists; 1 top spot)
47. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (20 lists)
48. American Sniper (19 lists; 1 top spot)
49. Top Five (19 lists)
50. National Gallery (18 lists; 2 top spots)


Movie City News has launched their top ten of the top ten lists. If you look at the article I posted about Oscar and the “heart light” movies that get in despite their reviews, you’ll see that those same movies do not usually place very high on these lists – though I’ve yet to see one not place at all anywhere. You’ll also see that when Oscar had ten slots for Best Picture, the movies were 9 out 10 in the top ten or top fifteen of these lists. Once the Academy switched up its voting again, that kind of consensus dispersed somewhat. First, this year’s and then after, the following years.

With about half the critics ringing in so far:















Both Unbroken and Selma were headed for the box office on Christmas day, along with Into the Woods, Big Eyes and American Sniper. Unbroken just barely edged out Into the Woods (which was in fewer theaters and had a higher per theater average), to become the Christmas day winner.


Source: Box Office Mojo

The box office success of Unbroken will likely put it in the Oscar camp where pundits had preordained its spot long ago. The machine is the machine and no one can really derail it, especially when so many of us don’t really want to derail it. After all, look at all the waving cocks around The Interview story. We see plenty of bad movies do really well every year, so why shouldn’t Angelina’s movie do well too? Unbroken was the movie that was preordained to get in and whether it was good or not hardly matters. It only had to be passable and to be emotionally wrought enough to take that newly minted 9th slot where the emotionally-driven movies that critics don’t like earn the approval of Oscar voters. It’s that awkward moment when the Hollywood Foreign Press will become the only group that didn’t fall for Jolie’s star power. Everyone thought they would and they didn’t. The same cannot be said for the Critics Choice, which gave the movie a low score but nominated it and its director for Best Picture anyway. An Oscar nod for Best Picture seems all but sewn up, per the machine’s request very early on.

It’s never my favorite thing about the Oscars when a not so great movie gets in. That’s because it takes the spot of a better movie, usually, and because I have to write about the fallout in the years to come where people say “how in the hell did that movie ever get in?” Well, this is how. Hype and PR drive the thing, the pundits play along, the Oscar voters comply and a Best Picture nominee is born. The fix is in, as they say.

If I were giving out prizes for great publicity this year I would give it to the team behind Unbroken and behind Interstellar. In both cases, they needed to try, as long as they could, to keep people from talking about it. After Unbroken’s premiere there was a strict embargo in place. They held back people like me and critics from dumping on the movie so that it could open big and make money, which is what you want any Hollywood movie to do. Unbroken took Christmas Day’s box office with $15 million and will likely earn $40 million, only $20 million shy of its costs. Jolie will be successful enough with this, earn a Best Picture nomination and make another movie. Maybe that one will be better. Interstellar had a similar kind of rollout, though the reviews were a smidge better. Its domestic box office did not do what it should have, though internationally, it has more than made up for its domestic take.

I’m all for the Oscar race for Best Picture to honor films that did really well with audiences, even if they don’t fit the sappy Oscar mold. You do have to kind of marvel at that 9th slot film that has gotten in each year since they changed from a solid ten (and even then you had The Blind Side) to the new system of anywhere from 5 to 10 except for last year. You don’t see better Academy taste born out of that system. You see the Ugly Cry exposed.






People ask why aren’t you supportive of a movie directed by a woman? Isn’t this what you’ve fought for for so long? Well, there were other films directed by women that came out this year that will be ignored by voters because they don’t have a movie star directing them and they don’t have a giant PR team behind them. Their reviews are even better than Unbroken’s. Why aren’t they going to get Best Picture nominations? What are we talking about here? Getting in just because you’re a woman or getting in just because you’re Angelina Jolie? I don’t know. Extremely Loud, War Horse and Les Miserables all got in — so why shouldn’t this movie? I don’t have the answer to that.



I have supported the one film directed by a woman that I personally think deserves to be named one of the year’s best, Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay. Unbroken isn’t so terrible that it’s worth the energy expended to hate. It is only mildly offensive in its treatment of “the Japs.” But I didn’t giggle uncomfortably at it or shake my head thinking: this is SO BAD. It’s just that it’s a film that spends the entire time marinating in the scenes of torture – it was like Jolie was fascinated pulling the wings off of flies. If she wants to go that grotesque, by all means, let her unleash her inner David Cronenberg. But why try to make it seem like a conventional Hollywood story of heroism?

It’s a film that has very little story and has erased any possible humor or irony the Coens (or Hildenbrand) may have put in. It is a story without a story, a film that is just kind of goes from A to Z without any conflict in the story other than he is a POW, he gets tortured, the war ends, he devotes his life to God – he’s a great man and clearly Jolie wanted to do him proud. Perhaps she fulfilled that need for herself and for fans of Zamperini. So people will pat Jolie on the back and say “good job.” That faint praise is a house of cards that will one day fall and when it does it will add itself to the rubbish heap of rumor that women can’t make great films – in the tradition of Penny Marshall, Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers. Maybe their movies made money but no one really took them seriously. But look over here at Selma and you’ll find a great film directed by a woman that does prove that women make GOOD movies, even great movies. If I choose to shine a light there instead of on the “good job” vote (which hardly needs my support at this point) you’ll know the reason why. I’m in it for the long game.

There are a lot of good intentions out there, a lot of love and passion for subject and a lot of dedicated hard work. Why does anyone think that Angelina Jolie should be measured by those things and no one else? If that’s how we’re measuring Best Picture let’s redefine what Best Picture means. I personally did not think Belle was good enough to champion but it’s a far better film, more fully realized, with deeper meaning and a better story than Unbroken. The reviews are better – it is one of only two films released by women of color about women of color. If I were to champion any film I thought deserved it despite my own opinion of it, it would be Belle. But hey, no one really cares what I think, right?

Because there are so few women who get in to the Oscar race, one is put in that awkward position of having to champion THIS film and THIS woman. Most people like me will shut up about it because she’s a woman and I may very well do that – just suck it up and deal when the nominations come out. So the next time a movie like this is sold packaged and ready to pundits who dutifully put it atop their lists because it looks like an Oscar movie and smells like an Oscar movie, the same thing will happen again. It likely won’t change until Oscar goes back to five nominees. And even then…the machine is the machine. It keeps on keeping on. Let’s not kid ourselves that it has anything to do with “best.”

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My daughter drew this for me as a Christmas present. Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!


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