Bits and Bites

12 hang

NPR Talks to John Walker, editor of 12 Years a Slave:

“And we see him hanging, and doing this surreal dance with the tiptoes of his feet in the mud,” Walker says. “And we aren’t plying you with music, and we aren’t making big comments — and we’re not that close.” The physical distance allowed the filmmakers to not just show Solomon dangling from the tree in agony but also to see the other slaves, forced to carry on with their tasks all around him. “To me, it always felt like it was sort of a great way of realizing the casual nightmare of it all,” Walker adds quietly. He says he didn’t really have a hard time working on such scenes of brutality. What was hardest was when Northup’s freedom is eventually restored. “I was in tears in the cutting room when I saw that come in,” he says. “There wasn’t a single shot of that family reunion that wasn’t heartbreaking.” Perhaps those big emotions are — partly— why some people are afraid to see the film. It’s made less than $50 million in the United States. But most moviegoers who’ve seen it are happy they did. 12 Years A Slave is the best-reviewed film of the year, according to the website Rotten Tomatoes. (It sent McQueen its own award, the Golden Tomato.)

Tom O’Neil Skypes with his editor Paul Sheehan post-BAFTA.

Matt Zoller Seitz will be reading from his book The Wes Anderson Collection at Skylight Books in Los Angeles on February 20, 7:30pm.

Behind ‘American Hustle,’ a world of passion, humanity and clarity [LA Times]

Will American Hustle sweep the Oscars? [Bloomberg]

Alfonso Cuarón On ‘Gravity,’ Creationists, and Bonding with Sandra Bullock Over Divorce [Daily Beast]

Alfonso Cuaron on Gravity being named Best British Film:

“I don’t need to set the record straight,” Cuarón told reporters. “There’s a series of rules that make a film eligible for BAFTAs as a best British film or not. And ‘Gravity’ definitely has all the requirements, except a couple of Mexicans that came here — legally, I have to say … . And a couple of American stars. The rest is a film that was completely shot in this country, developed in this country.”


Nathaniel Rogers (Gurus of Gold pundit and otherwise brilliant human) has begun his Oscar Symposium. He kindly invited a few of us to chat along with him. Mostly we try to stay focused on the acting races. It does sort of swerve outside the lines at times. Check it out.

The New York Times features screenplay excerpts from some of the year’s most vividly written screenplays. They smartly include Kill Your Darlings, one of the best and most underrated writing of the year.  Ten years of honing and rewriting birthed something close to perfection, especially from a writing standpoint. They also highlight Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said,  Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke/Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight and Spike Jonze’s Her. NY Times

Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil chats with Marty Scorsese — it’s that time of year when we have to worry about what Academy members will think.  Too bad that’s become every time of year.

Frozen overtook the US box office this past weekend leading journalist Susan Wloszczyna to post this on her Facebook page:

OK, Hollywood: With Frozen topping the box office in its 7th week and Catching Fire poised to bump Iron Man 3 as 2013’s top grosser, can we please hire more female directors and make a bunch of movies with women in the lead that are more than just romantic comedies? And how about a lady person to direct Wonder Woman while we are at it?


Kris Tapley talks to Scorsese’s longtime editor, Thelma Schoomaker.

Movie City News’ Laura Rooney has begun compiling the big list of the top tens. So far, it’s looking a lot like the Oscar contenders for Best Picture:

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 3.24.55 PM

Meet the real Wolf of Wall Street, “”The greed’s good to a point until it reverses on you and makes you into a monster. You know, there were times I look back at the way I acted and some of the things I did — I was a monster.”

Glenn Whipp reports that the first film sent out to the 100K SAG membership is Dallas Buyers Club.

Do Androids dream of Monogamous Relationships?

John Ridley’s The Toughest Scene I wrote in New York Mag.


Matthew McConaughey wins Best Actor from the Rome Film Fest, while Scarlett Johansson takes the prize for Actress based on a voice performance.

Anne Thompson attends the Governors Awards and makes a few key points about the “serious opportunities for Oscar networking.” She said that Saving Mr. Banks is “playing well” for Academy members. Likable Tom Hanks, likable Emma Thompson, you do the math. Also mentioned by Thompson, Christian Bale appears to be favoring Out of the Furnace over American Hustle, but I’ll guess that’s because he thinks one needs more exposure than the other.

Julianne Moore will play the lead in Still Alice, about a woman suffering early onset Alzheimer’s. The more Moore the better.

The Selfish Giant wins top prize at the Stockholm Film Fest.

Batkid got a thumbs up from modern Batmen – Christian Bale and Ben Affleck on Twitter.

Dallas Buyers Club is the first hit with a mob-mentality activist move against it – stay tuned for more. It’s Oscar season, don’t you know. Dallas Buyers Club: An AIDS Drama the Tea Party can enjoy.

Assassination of Jesse James 3

Assassination of Jesse James 3

Gravity’s tops the box office for the third consecutive week. What was that thing about women not being able to open movies? Seems to me we have a solid with Sandra Bullock.  12 Years a Slave also did very well in limited release. What was that thing about it being too brutal for people to want to see?

A revival of Jesse James and the Coward Robert Ford has been planned and will take place in December. In Contention’s Kris Tapley (and a few other sites, like this one) had a hand in helping it get off the ground.  , “No Eulogies: A Revival of ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford'” will take place at the Sumner M. Redstone Theater on Saturday, Dec. 7. Dominik will be on hand to participate in a Q&A after the screening, and who knows what the candid artist will have to say with six years removed from what was a troubling post-production process and a release that, quite frankly, could have been more delicately handled by the studio?” — Very cool indeed.

Jeff Wells flew all the way to London to catch a screening of Saving Mr. Banks.  He will be posting his review of it soon.

Gravity and 12 Years a Slave both hover at 96 over at Metacritic. That makes them the best reviewed films of the year so far – and both are headed smack into the center of the Best Picture race.

Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce will make Stranger-land, a film about children disappearing into the outback.

AO Scott notices that many of the characters in the top films right now are “Facing a Pitiless Void.” Indeed.



In his excellent Grantland piece, Wesley Morris draws an eerie parallel between Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, but more to the point, Ryan Coogler’s film. It calls to mind what is, I think, the difference between an objective film review (if there is such a thing) and a critic who gets or cares about the bigger picture. Says Morris:

The reaction to the movie trumps ambivalence about how it was made. To some extent, what’s upsetting people is that Coogler has crafted a gentle portrait of a man we know will die at movie’s end. In the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial, that empathetic gentleness suddenly feels crucial. It feels like a tonic. I saw the film for a second time last Friday, and I left with a long face. There was no one for me to comfort this time. Those weeping around me had brought their own shoulders to cry on.

Spike Lee’s Kickstarter is already up to:

But of course, the haters are out in force. Steven Soderbergh has contributed $10,000. Anyone who contributes is putting in a vote to say: we support Spike Lee making this movie and we’re putting our money where our mouth is. In short, WE are the producers. What could be wrong with that?

Hailee Steinfeld in the new Romeo and Juliet – poster and trailer here.

David Thomson calls Blue Jasmine the best film Woody Allen has ever made (I would say it’s his best since Crimes and Misdemeanors).

First look stills for Diablo Cody’s Paradise.

unknown New Poster for the new biopic about Steve Jobs, starring Twitter pioneer Ashton Kutcher.  The tagline, “It only takes one person to start a revolution.”

The New York Times lampoons the current state of Hollywood, or “Hollywood” as it chases down the deep pockets of international box office, the ever-growing hispanic audience here in the US and men, who are the primary ticket-buyers. As usual, the most outspoken player is Lynda Obst. Some choice quotes from the story:

“Hollywood’s popcorn season has long meant superheroes, destroyed cities, epic explosions and animation. Bigger! Louder! Faster! More! Especially more: From May 1 to July 4, studios will have released 13 movies costing $100 million and up (sometimes way up), 44 percent more than in the same period last year.”

“’Girls will go to a guy movie if it’s good, but guys will not go to a movie if it appears to cater to girls,’ [Obst] said. ‘In other words, if a movie is supposed to be for everyone — and that’s always the goal these days — you target it toward men. Cut the Nicholas Sparks. Pull back on the mushy stuff.

‘The stakes need to be much, much higher,’ she continued. ‘A gun battle? How cute. We need hotter weapons. Huge, big battle weapons — maybe an end-of-the-world device. And what about the cars? Are they disguised? Is it the future and they can fly? The visual effects are going to be your stars.'”

“‘International’  in Hollywood increasingly means one country: China. It’s now the largest foreign market, with $2.7 billion in ticket sales last year, a 36 percent increase from 2011. New movie screens are being added there at a pace of roughly 10 a day. By decade’s end, China is expected to become the No. 1 movie market, surpassing North America, which had ticket sales of $10.8 billion last year.


the comments make the piece.

Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks maybe thinking about remaking John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath – does the movie need to be made, asks Anne Thompson?

Nathaniel Rogers at the Film Experience has put together a top ten list of those who deserve honorary Oscars. Doris Day is among them. I hope that Kathleen Kennedy, who should have won last year instead of Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov, wins in competition. She is not old enough yet to get an honorary Oscar.   But I’ll back the other choices 100%.

Buzzfeed takes a good long look at the demographics of the Academy and makes handy pie charts to illustrate how much they are trying to diversify. It’s startling, actually, how much they’re trying to involve women and other minorities – the times, maybe they are a-changing?

The goodie bag for the Oscar contenders this year is impressive. Hell, it’s worth getting an Oscar nomination just to get one:

This year’s goody bags include a $12,000 trip to Australia, condoms, a $600 acupuncture appointment and a package of 10 personal training sessions valued at $850.  Circus lessons for the nominee’s children worth $400 are also included, as well as a $5,000 face-lift procedure, a $1,800 one-year membership to Heathrow Airport’s private VIP service, a $3,000 stay at the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort in Mexico, and Windex.

David and Goliath narrative reaches its climax in teasers for Oscar:

“Lincoln,” “Argo” in tight race as Oscars roll out red carpet
“Lincoln” goes into Sunday’s three-hour plus ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, including a directing nod for double Oscar winner Steven Spielberg.  But its front-runner Best Picture status has been dented by the six-week victory streak enjoyed at other Hollywood awards by Ben Affleck’s “Argo.”

Django wants you to want violence — disturbs this Colorado writer:

So, too, do I go to malls, to churches, to public gatherings where political figures speak — all places where someone has inflicted violence. What were those thugs feeling when they let loose? At the moment of their massacres, were they also fueled by anger, powerlessness, a need to snuff out what they perceived as evil?

As I watch “Django,” I, too, can think of no other way to escape the chains of my wrath than to see those people dead. Do I actually share something in common with the worst of the worst?

Forbes Magazine – “Oscars 2013 – Please, Anything but Argo“: it basically comes down to the mostly faceless house guests.

Wired MagazineZero Dark Thirty should win the Oscar.  Really? Even after Argo was based on an article from Wired magazine?

First Early Oscar moments.





Oscar Podcast episode 20 with Craig Kennedy and Ryan Adams — we talk about our Oscar predictions, such as they are.

Vulture offers up Four Oscar tactics that work:

Oscar Tactic No. 3: Act humble — even if you’re not. (Especially if you’re not.)
Humility — even false humility, given the outsize egos of so many male Academy members — is essential. Says our first consultant, “I was working with an Oscar-nominated actress recently, and she told me she went to the Sorbonne … I was like, ‘Wow! That’s a great nugget — we should use that in interviews and press materials,’ and she was immediately like, ‘Whatever you do, do not tell people I went to the Sorbonne!’ And she was right: This is a town that doesn’t appreciate or reward smart women … It probably hurt Sharon Stone’s career immeasurably when she claimed she was in MENSA.”

Dick Gordon of The Story talks to one of the people who hid away with Canadians during the real Argo story. It’s interesting to see just how far from the truth Argo really is – as in, the real hero was probably Ken Taylor. Nonetheless, the movie is a celebration of that time, of Hollywood.

Oh, and His Royal Highness will be attending the ceremony:


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

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

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

–> 17 Unusual Oscar Records [TIME]

–>Ethan Hawke On the Oscars:

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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




David O. Russell probably didn’t know there was a camera on him when he heard Emmanuelle Riva had just won the BAFTA.

In Contention’s Kris Tapley does his annual Best Shots of the Year post.  

In typically old Hollywood fashion, you can’t have a leading actress race without a feud – but Chastain calls out media instead for needing this narrative.  And it’s true, right? Admit it.

Jeff Wells on the Argo backlash – those mean ol’ directors who “snubbed” him have turned this race into the reality show that it’s now become – we’ll never know how Argo might have fared without it.  Damn that Benh Zeitlin, Steven Spielberg, David O. Russell, Ang Lee and Michael Haneke.  Damn them!

And the Wall Street Journal says what Joe Courtney should remember when he made a last minute bid to do what so many others have done this year that: “Civil War historian Warshauer suggests Courtney’s view is a bit too positive, since both before and throughout the war, Connecticut was virulently racist.”

Connecticut’s State Democratic Convention responded to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 with a resolution saying it “would disgrace our country in the eyes of the civilized world, and carry lust, rapine, and murder into every household of the slaveholding states.” And once the 13th amendment passed, when Connecticut citizens were asked to remove the word “white” from the state constitution’s description of who could vote, they soundly refused – on two separate occasions.

Congressman Courtney’s point that Connecticut’s votes on the 13th amendment were misrepresented in “Lincoln” is indisputable. But in tinkering with history, Steven Spielberg may accidentally have more accurately depicted 1865 Connecticans’ complex and conflicted feelings about slavery itself.


The Weinstein Oscar Playbook continues today as David O. Russell and Bradley Cooper meet with Joe Biden to discuss mental health.  They have nothing to lose so why not? It’s not like they have to defend their frontrunner status – they get to be scrappy underdog coming up from behind. But the time to do all of this and be taken seriously was BEFORE the Oscar campaign. Now it just kind of looks like shameless campaigning.  But hey – that’s what you could call Oscars 2012: shameless.

Beautiful pictures of Anne Hathaway & Hugh Jackman, Sally Field, Naomi Watts, Lil’ Q, Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz and Jessica Chastain — more at TIME Magazine’s Great Performances.

Vulture lays out Six Reasons Argo is going probably win Best Picture — 1. Hollywood finds itself fascinating. (because it’s a town built on narcissism – the catch: they have to portray Hollywood is a positive light, as in NOT The Player), 2. It’s like a Rocky for actors. (Except even Rocky had a Best Director nomination but, yeah).  3. It’s a Rocky for producers too. (I thought Silver Linings was the Rocky in the woodpile).  ETC.

Life of Pi and Brave ruled the Visual Effects Society awards — Kris Tapley has the rundown.  

Meanwhile, Gold Derby has five reasons Life of Pi can win Best Director at the Oscars

Lincoln hits $171 million, stays in or close to the top ten for 13 weeks.  Aren’t they reading the memos from Hollywood? It was supposed to be a flop.


“Hey Ben, it’s Joe.”
“Yeah, you remember, you campaigned for me once to get the democratic seat in congress?”
“Right.  You were the guy who kept asking me about my hair. Right.  I remember.”
“Your hat.”
“My HAT. Right.”
“So anyway, I think I can finally blow the lid off this Lincoln/Spielberg thing, you know, firm up the old Oscar for you.”
“That’s okay, Joe, I really don’t need–”
“Spielberg must be stopped, Ben.  He is a megalomaniac bribing President Clinton to shill for his movie – he owns half of Hollywood and he has a whole mafia behind him. He paid off all of those critics and I swear he sent his own money to theaters to puff up the box office. NO way the Academy’s gonna go for ‘that movie.’  But there’s something much, much worse.  I’m just going to say it outright: He’s out to ruin Connecticut’s good name.”
“Good name? I don’t follow.”
“We voted yes on the amendment to abolish slavery.”
“You mean, like, 150 years ago?”
“Yeah, I know you, Ben. You made sure every single scene in Argo was right — by history!”
“You have to take certain license — I’m sure that Kushner and Spielberg made a mistake there – there are always going to be mistakes in movies, especially movies about real live events.”
“But — but haven’t you been reading the news? Spielberg isn’t only blackmailing Clinton but he’s out to commit racism – no black people in Lincoln! How about that? You should fear him, Ben. We all should. He deliberately tried to paint Connecticut as racist like those shitkickers in Alabama got nothing on our proud state.”
“Yeah, Joe, you know – in the grand scheme of things does it really matter that much?”
“Well, because Oscar.”
“I gotta go, Joe. BAFTAs are coming up soon.”
“Oh and Argo will sweep! They love Argo too!  Like a lot, a lot! Hey hey, wait a minute Ben! You remember how we hung out, ate chicken tacos? You remember that? I’m gonna fix it for you, Ben. I’m gonna fix the Oscar and it’ll be just like old times! I’m going to force Spielberg out in public to change that fact before Lincoln goes to DVD. I will publicly humiliate him before Oscar ballots go out. And when you win that Oscar Ben, thank me.  Okay? You gonna do it, right Ben? Ben? Hello? Hello?”




Leon Panetta, portrayed by James Gandolfini in Zero Dark Thirty, talks about the film and says he thinks it was an accurate portrayal of those events. Though he wasn’t around for the interrogations he knows that the way they ultimately found Bin Laden was from many different ways of gathering information over a long period. Watch the interview with Martha Raddatz.

Ever wonder about those crabby snacks and homemades from Silver Linings? Here is a recipe for crabby snack and here is a recipe for homemades! via  Huffpo food.

Speaking of Silver Linings, it recently won best film at the second inaugural Australian Academy Awards.

Meanwhile, The Frisky looks into the notion of slut shaming and Silver Linings, writing, “Is Lawrence receiving buzz for playing Tiffany because it’s truly her best performance, or is it because, for the first time in her career, she’s playing a strong woman who compromises a part of herself for a man? Tiffany is a great character and Lawrence plays her wonderfully. But Tiffany does not exist in a vacuum, and the way she is treated by Pat matters. Tiffany doesn’t strike me as a person who is necessarily meant to be monogamous, but if she is, she’s certainly not meant to be with a man who judges her for her past. That’s not in keeping with Tiffany as a character, or with the other characters Lawrence has played throughout her career. I’m glad that “Silver Linings Playbook” features a woman who is unapologetic about her sexual history – I just wish that her love interest could share in her comfort with it.”

Sally Field telling Ellen Degeneres on Lincoln bringing tears to Obama’s eyes:

“Then afterward… Jimmy Spader said, ‘I saw him (Obama) toward the end lean down and wipe his eye’. We were all really, really moved. He then came around to us all and thanked us… Caught in the headlights of his face, coming at me, I said – and I wish I hadn’t, because I feel a great deal of loyalty towards (character, Lincoln’s wife) Mary – ‘Aren’t you glad you’re not married to her?’ I didn’t want to say that, it just came out like that.

“He recovered for Mary and said, ‘No, no, not at all, I thought she was really amazing’. And I did too.”










The Carpetbagger beats the drum of Les Miserables and Affleck, with some Sundance thrown in — can you hear the people sing?

Jeff Wells has a beautiful photo of Marilyn when she attended the Oscars for All About Eve.

What you will not see in Zero Dark Thirty – HuffPo’s Jan Lisa Hunter goes to bat for Bigelow.

The NY Times’ Manohla Dargis and AO Scott talk up the  influence Obama has had on films lately, — his second term is having a hell of an impact on this year’s Oscar race too:

The Lincoln in Mr. Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s film represents the triumph of the moral good, achieved through rational discourse, the law and backroom wrangling. In Quentin Tarantino’s “Django,” by contrast, the salt-and-pepper team played by Christoph Waltz and Mr. Foxx embodies a blood-drenched fantasy of justice achieved through the rule of the gun. It’s a fantasy that has deep roots in American history, on screen and off. What these period pictures have in common is a sense that righting our wrongs is a shared burden. Or, as Nick Fury, in describing another battle between good and evil, puts it: “There came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat.”


“On the first movie I met this girl [via Make-a-Wish], and I can’t tell this story without crying. […] She had scars all over her body—burns—and she was telling me she was always so ashamed of the way she looked and she was so embarrassed, and now she has the nickname the Girl on Fire, but she loves it and wears it proudly. It gives her confidence. That was the first time in my entire career that I actually felt like there was a point in this. Not to sound rude, but it is stupid. Everybody’s like, ‘How can you remain with a level head?’ And I’m like, ‘Why would I ever get cocky? I’m not saving anybody’s life. There are doctors who save lives and firemen who run into burning buildings. I’m making movies. It’s stupid.'”
The whole quote by Jennifer Lawrence in Vanity Fair

Paul Clifford looks at three adaptations – The Hobbit, Life of Pi and Les Miserables

David Edelstein, the first critic to herald the coming debate about torture in Zero Dark Thirty does a follow-up for CBS Sunday Morning, “But there’s nooooo question “Zero Dark Thirty” says the CIA was led to the courier who led to bin Laden by illegal torture, and that anyone opposed was a wussy unwilling to go to what Dick Cheney called “the dark side.” Is it true? The administration says no. So does Diane Feinstein, author Peter Bergen, and even some in the CIA. Others say yes, among them screenwriter Mark Boal’s CIA sources, and “Black Hawk Down” author Mark Bowden. But to say, as Bigelow and Boal have, that their position isn’t pro-torture, they’re just reporting the facts, is disingenuous. Even the context is pro-torture.

Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir writes an interesting, important piece about the new Civil War, and how post-war America invited a continuation of this brand of thinking:

You can’t boil one of the most tumultuous periods of American history down to one paragraph, but here goes: Lincoln was assassinated by a domestic terrorist and replaced by Andrew Johnson, who was an incompetent hothead and an unapologetic racist. Within a few years the ambitious project of Reconstruction fell victim to a sustained insurgency led by the Ku Klux Klan and similar white militia groups. By the late 1870s white supremacist “Redeemers” controlled most local and state governments in the South, and by the 1890s Southern blacks had been disenfranchised and thrust into subservience positions by Jim Crow laws that were only slightly preferable to slavery.

So even though it’s a truism of American public discourse that the Civil War never ended, it’s also literally true. We’re still reaping the whirlwind from that long-ago conflict, and now we face a new Civil War, one focused on divisive political issues of the 21st century – most notably the rights and liberties of women and LGBT people – but rooted in toxic rhetoric and ideas inherited from the 19th century.

“She, over a decade, kind of went down the rabbit hole, getting lost in her work, until finally at the end of the movie, [the pilot] says ‘Where do you want to go?’ She has no idea where she goes now. Who is she now? She’s trained to be unemotional and analytically precise. I’m trying to be the exact opposite. I’m trained to be emotional and kind of a hot mess, so that was a bit of a stretch.” Jessica Chastain on her role in Zero Dark Thirty.


AO Scott, Manohla Dargis and Stephen Holden do their annual “And the Oscars Should Be” column.  They only agree on two films, Amour and Zero Dark Thirty.


“If they don’t, they won’t vote. And that could suppress the number of people who participate in Oscar nominations this year. We’ll never know, as the Academy does not release the number of people who vote.” – Anne Thompson speculating on what many Oscar bloggers (Hammond, Feinberg, Poland) are calling a “disaster” in Academy online voting.

Just so you all know, Hammond wrote this in mid-December:

Firmly answering those concerned members, the Academy is going the extra step of automatically sending a paper ballot to every dues-paid voting member who did not, for whatever reason, register to choose either online or paper ballot options by today’s deadline. In other words — have no fear. As long as your dues are paid up, one way or another next week you will be getting a ballot even if you did nothing. Whew.

That means, they got paper ones in case the online thing doesn’t work out. The only ones shit out of luck are those overly confident seniors who chose the online option, couldn’t figure it out, called the helpline, still couldn’t figure it out, got huffy because they might have had to download Firefox, then threw up their hands. How many of THOSE do you think are out there?


In Contention’s Kris Tapley tweeted his best performances:  “Chastain, Day-Lewis, Hathaway, Hedlund, Lavant, Lerman, Jackson, Mann, Neeson, Phoenix/Hoffman, Riva & Wallis.”


“But there’s also a case to be made that doing that is part of the job of Oscar writers such as myself. We have a platform that can serve a purpose beyond just, “Look at me, I’m a good guesser!” There’s value in pushing for what you think is right – or at least worthwhile (which, ironically, is the central theme of Compliance, too.)” EW’s Anthony Breznican’s column, Why I Wish I’d pushed Harder for Ann Dowd


Three senators protest the “misleading” content in Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty boasts impressive opening day numbers, according to It has a must-see-it, no doubt, “$124,848 from only 5 locations on its first day of release. A final number is due later today.”

Kris Tapley talks to Jessica Chastain about being a woman in a man’s world, the feminism in Zero Dark Thirty. “In Hollywood, in America, the female character not being defined by whatever the man was in the film.”


Jeff Wells took some nice footage of Tarantino at the Academy theater last night having a q&a with Elvis Mitchell. The crowd really went for Django Unchained, and Tarantino got a standing ovation when he came to the stage.

Tom O’Neil over at Gold Derby has compiled a list of screeners that have been going out to Academy members. Getting them there early is essential for films that don’t have purty young girls naked in them or big stars or rave reviews. He’ll be keeping track along the way. [GD]

At Vulture, Kyle Buchanan is doing Oscar Futures, tracking the ups and downs of various contenders. Up this week, Silver Linings Playbook. [Vulture]

And EW’s Anthony Breznican is writing up the Oscars this year. This week’s column, Keep Your Eye on tracks the current frontrunners: Argo, Lincoln, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook. Have a look! It will be vital to follow Breznican’s column throughout the season. [EW]

Jeff Wells continues his “take down” campaign of Lincoln while heavily advocating for Silver Linings Playbook. This time he imagines what people walking out of the theater might be thinking. Later, he points to the Sweet Spot video at the NY Times and sums the whole thing up as “everybody hated Lincoln” when in fact, two people did, and they disagreed with Scott’s review.  While it’s true, it isn’t going to send people out of the theater with happy tears streaming down their faces as they beam positivity to that fantasy scenario that just played out , and fanboys won’t erupt in spontaneous applause at various sections of the branded action flick, and perhaps it does require more than just showing up – to Jeff that means everyone hates it – his idea of a great movie is a “popular” one. By that definition, The Avengers is the best film of 2012. It’s a bizarre fixation, this. But all part of the delightful season known as Oscar. The best comment comes from Kris Tapley, who writes to Jeff’s headline of “beating a dead horse,” this: “Actually I think you’re skull-fucking the horse’s ocular cavities at this point.”

I see Jeff’s one-sided depiction of audiences reacting to Lincoln and raise him this comment by my Michael Fox on Facebook:

I went to the first ever showing of this film in Bozeman, Montana. It was a 3:00PM show. The theater was packed and it was a completely older audience. I would say the average age was about 60. No cel phones went off, the crowd was really into the film and at the end everyone applauded. Then a surprising number of people started talking to each other. People who did not know each other but had just watched the film together. They were talking about the characters in the movie-Stanton and Stevens and the three vote getters. I was impressed. We just went though a pretty contentious election here and I thought that this was a perfect film for folks in my town to see. Politics ain’t pretty and this film really demonstrated that.

So maybe they don’t skip out of the theater clutching their bosoms with joy and uplift about life but they are talking about this movie probably more than they are talking about any other. Second to Lincoln would be Life of Pi, Argo and The Master. [HE]

Meanwhile, David Denby at the New Yorker writes up “SIX FOOTNOTES TO THE GREATNESS OF LINCOLN. Worth a read:

Steven Spielberg began by hiring the best playwright in the country. According to the press notes for the film, Tony Kushner, immersing himself in the politics and language of the period, delivered a five-hundred page script, which was unfilmable except as a TV mini-series. At some point, when Kushner was in his car, Spielberg called, and said something like, “The best part of your script is the eighty pages devoted to passing the Thirteenth Amendment. Let’s make the whole movie about that.” [New Yorker]

Over at In Contention, Kris Tapley points out in his tech support column that the movie Skyfall has three potential Oscar contenders who, between them, have a total number of 34 Oscar nominations with zero wins.

Roger Deakins, 9 Oscar noms for cinematography, 0 wins.
Thomas Newman, 10 Oscar noms for original score, 0 wins.
Greg P. Russell 15 Oscar noms for sound, 0 wins.

Jeff Wells declares, “Lincoln hasn’t a fucking chance in hell of winning the Best Picture Oscar.” It makes me long for Damien Bona to be alive and writing up this Oscar year.

Frustrated at how things seem to be turning out, he queries Oscar pundits to find out how they think about Oscar predicting because he really wants Silver Linings Playbook to take the whole thing. Some interesting responses from Anne Thompson, Pete Howell, Steve Pond, Tom O’Neil, Scott Feinberg and Kris Tapley. At the very end Wells writes:

Wells to Stone: I just heard from a friend who went to see Lincoln last night at the Arclight, and she said she found it slow and slogging, and that a few people walked out. You’re living in a Lincoln bubble. An industry-centric Lincoln bubble. Reality will filter in eventually. It’s a good film but forget the Best Picture Oscar.

His readers disabuse him of the notion of walk-outs in fairly short order.

For the record, Jeff Wells has Lincoln listed all the way down at number 9 on his list. I have Argo in the number one spot, followed by Lincoln with Silver Linings in the third slot. I suspect much in going to change in the coming weeks but, no offense, only someone with limited awareness would dismiss a film like Lincoln.  But that’s just me. For now it remains in the underdog spot, which is the best place for it to be.

Melena Ryzik talks with Jennifer Lawrence, a gal with sass, for the NY Times.

How do you push your late entry into the Oscar race? NY Times’ Michael Cieply writes:

For those who have wondered how Hollywood’s studios will get their latest-released movies seen by thousands of awards voters before the unusually early onset of Oscar voting on Dec. 17, Universal Pictures has an answer: blitzkrieg.

On Friday, Universal’s publicity team circulated word of a lightning strike by its “Les Misérables,” which opens in commercial theaters on Christmas Day, with a series of six Los Angeles-area screenings in about eight hours on Nov. 24. The film’s director, Tom Hooper, will attend all of them — and this, after he executes a similar maneuver in New York on Nov. 23, where the screenings cluster in more manageable Manhattan.

Skyfall’s half-billion dollars in incredible worldwide opening

Alexandre Desplat on Zero Dark Thirty:

“I know it sounds like an action film, but it’s more like a Japanese Kurosawa movie.  And the way I approached it was very organic and I used a very strange lineup.  At Abbey Road I had twin horns, twin trombones, three tubas.  I had strings, I had violins, twin celli and twin basses.  It’s a very strange sound, very deep, very dark, but as I said very archaic as if the sound was coming from 2000 years ago.”

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