Oscar Flashback

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Our friends at Fandor have created a cool digital flip book detailing an “alternative history” of the Academy Awards. In its pages, you won’t find a dry recap of the films that have won Oscar gold over the years. Instead they have opted for a less traditional approach, featuring:

  • Films that might have won Oscars, if the award had existed before 1927
  • Films that should have been nominated, but were snubbed
  • Films that were nominated and should have won, but lost out
  • A video essay series discussing this year’s nominees

Fandor is a streaming film service specializing in award-winning and acclaimed independent and classic films.  If you haven’t discovered them by now, this is a fantastic introduction.

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ABOUT FANDOR
Fandor’s mission is to create a community of film lovers and makers connected by meaningful and entertaining cinematic experiences. Fandor is the home of thousands of handpicked, award winning films from around the world, of all lengths and genres. By investing in strategic partnerships with festivals (F|FA) and individual filmmakers (FIX) Fandor is generating greater opportunities for filmmakers, while their member-based service reaches audiences through TV set-top, desktop, and mobile devices, as well as through Keyframe, Fandor’s digital film art and culture magazine. Fandor supports great cinema by investing half of all membership fees back to the films watched.

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LOS ANGELES, CA – A 20th anniversary screening of “The Shawshank Redemption”; restorations of Mary Pickford’s “Little Annie Rooney” and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Bank”; a screening series and panel discussion complementing the landmark Hollywood Costume exhibition; and six diverse films from director Edgar G. Ulmer are all part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ November programs. Ticket holders for Hollywood Costume will receive free same-day admission to Hollywood Costume-related public programs.

“THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION”
With special guests Frank Darabont, Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins

The Academy will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Best Picture nominee “The Shawshank Redemption” on November 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The evening will feature an onstage discussion with writer-director Frank Darabont, who received an Oscar® nomination for his adapted screenplay, Best Actor nominee Morgan Freeman, and star Tim Robbins.

[Yo, Academy, I’m really happy for you, and I’ma let you finish but here’s a brilliant visual analysis of The Shawshank Redemption from AD contributor Daniel Smith-Rowsey — Ryan]

DEFINING CHARACTER: THE ART OF THE COSTUME DESIGNER

Hollywood Costume curator and Oscar nominee Deborah Nadoolman Landis will moderate a discussion on November 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bing Theater with two of today’s top costume designers: Judianna Makovsky, who earned Oscar nominations for “Pleasantville,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Seabiscuit,” and Michael Wilkinson, whose work includes “300,” “Man of Steel” and the Oscar-nominated “American Hustle.”
Hollywood Costume ticket holders will receive free same-day admission to this event.

THE PERFECT MATCH: HOLLYWOOD COSTUME COLLABORATIONS

This screening series explores the collaborative partnerships between costume designers and directors. Mark Bridges will discuss his work with director Paul Thomas Anderson and Jeffrey Kurland will share stories of his experience with Woody Allen as they introduce each evening’s films at the Bing Theater. Moderated by Deborah Nadoolman Landis.
Hollywood Costume ticket holders will receive free same-day admission to these events.

THE MARY PICKFORD CELEBRATION OF SILENT FILM
THE COSTUME OF SILENT DRAMA: MARY PICKFORD AND LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY

The Academy and the Mary Pickford Foundation will continue their annual celebration of silent film with the restoration world premiere of “Little Annie Rooney” (1925) on November 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bing Theater. Film historian and author Jeffrey Vance and Academy Film Archive Director Michael Pogorzelski will discuss the restoration of the silent classic. The screening is presented in conjunction with Hollywood Costume, which includes the costume that Mary Pickford wore in the title role.
Those who purchase tickets to “Little Annie Rooney” may view the exhibition free of charge immediately before the screening, from 5 to 7 p.m.

THE COSTUME OF SILENT COMEDY: CHARLIE CHAPLIN AND THE TRAMP RESTORED

Fascinating stories, behind-the-scenes footage, never-before-exhibited documents and the earliest filmed images of Charlie Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” character will all be part of a unique presentation hosted by film historian and preservationist Serge Bromberg on November 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bing Theater. The evening includes screenings of two Chaplin shorts: “A Night in the Show”(1915) from a new print, and “The Bank”(1915), from a new restoration making its theatrical world premiere. Chaplin’s ensemble from “The Tramp” is currently on view in Hollywood Costume.
Hollywood Costume ticket holders will receive free same-day admission to this event.

AFTER EXPRESSIONISM: THE VERSATILE EDGAR G. ULMER

In conjunction with the exhibition Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s, presented by LACMA in association with the Academy, the Academy will present in November six films directed or co-directed by production designer-turned-director Edgar G. Ulmer: “Detour,” “The Strange Woman,” “People on Sunday,” “The Light Ahead,” “The Black Cat” and “Ruthless.”

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Considered the greatest film of all time Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo was not taken very seriously at all when it first came out in 1958. Had we been covering it — or were it opening today — it would be chewed to pieces. This should give SOME comfort to filmmakers whose films were misunderstood by critics of that time but were rediscovered later as their resonance outlasted that early criticism.

It also is a good reminder of how unimportant it becomes, over time, to judge a film whether Oscar voters will go for it or not. I feel culpable in helping to build this ugly beast but now, when I go to read commentary on Gone Girl, I almost always read people saying things what the Academy will or won’t do, measuring success with yet another barometer. Let’s see, the gauntlet is as follows:

Get the movie made – almost impossible. The money, the international bankability, the money, the time, the money. One fight after another. Years and years go by – and finally the film gets made. Then you have to:

1. worry about opening weekend. Did it pass or fail! Oh my god, did John and Jane Popcorn shell out what remains of their income to actually go to the movies? Did teen boys go? Tell me, did the 13 year-olds turn out? Did women go? Women were our target demo cause you know, they like “airport reading.” Did the women pull themselves away from Kim Kardashian’s Instagram long enough to go out to a movie that wasn’t necessarily a romantic comedy?

2. The gauntlet of YELP in place of actual film criticism. Vertigo had about three or four reviews to deal with, plus Hitchcock fans. Movies now? A twitter tsunami of amateur box office analysts (CINEMASCORE!!), the social justice bloggers, the old school critics who still command authority and influence dozens of those beneath them and then the awards analysts. Everyone is one now. And everyone holds their breath to SEE WHAT THE ACADEMY IS GOING TO DO?!!!

3. It gets made. It makes money. It barely squeaks by the amateur professionals online. It earns a pretty decent B Cinemascore and opens the weekend, showing it has good word of mouth and legs. Wait, the social justice bloggers are saying it’s misogynist — wait, no, it’s feminist. Wait no it’s none of those things it’s just a hollow pointless amalgam of crafts with nothing whatsoever to think about. It’s an airport movie! A popcorn movie. The Academy will NEVER GO FOR IT IN A MILLION YEARS.

By the end of it, everyone is looking at each other like they just did eight rounds of cocaine off a hooker’s thigh in a pink motel on San Fernando road. The high has worn off. The jiz long since dried up and brushed away. All that’s left is awkward conversation and mild confusion: what just happened there?

But back in 1958, things were very different. Perhaps the end result will be the same — a couple of tech nods and a happy consensus that gave Gigi the clean sweep!

Back in 1958, Vertigo came out amid much gossip surrounding the decision to cast Kim Novak over Vera Miles. Hitchcock was known as a box office king, not yet an auteur. People went to his movies for thrills and chills, not for Gigi-like deep thought. Thus, the movie didn’t hold muster with some critics, like Variety and the LA Times.

Variety writes:

“Vertigo” is prime though uneven Hitchcock and with the potent marquee combination of James Stewart and Kim Novak should prove to be a highly profitable enterprise at the box-office.

And:

Miss Novak, shopgirl who involves Stewart in what turns out to be a clear case of murder, is interesting under Hitchcock’s direction and nearer an actress than she was in either “Pal Joey” or “Jeanne Eagles.”

But the best quote is this:

Unbilled, but certainly a prime factor in whatever success film may have, is the city of San Francisco, which has never been photographed so extensively and in such exquisite color as Robert Burks and his crew have here achieved.

Through all of this runs Hitchcock’s directorial hand, cutting, angling and gimmicking with mastery.

And then…

Unfortunately, even that mastery is not enough to overcome one major fault, for the plain fact is that the film’s first half is too slow and too long. This may be because: (1) Hitchcock became overly enamored with the vertiginous beauty of Frisco; or (2) the Alec Coppel-Samuel Taylor screenplay (from the novel “D’entre Les Morts” by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac) just takes too long to get off the ground.

Frisco location scenes – whether of Nob Hill, interior of Ernie’s restaurant, Land’s End, downtown, Muir Woods, Mission Dolores or San Juan Bautista – are absolutely authentic and breathtaking. But these also tend to intrude on story line too heavily, giving a travelogueish effect at times.

Despite this defect, “Vertigo” looks like a winner at the boxoffice as solid entertainment in the Hitchcock tradition.

1958: Nominations: Best Art Direction, Sound

The funny thing about that review is that he (or she) isn’t wrong. It’s merely that, over time, those so-called defects are forgiven to make way for the riches the film really does have to offer.

It’s difficult to find many reviews about Vertigo but there is also this one from Bosley Crowther, an opening paragraph that could have easily been written about Gone Girl:

YOU might say that Alfred Hitchcock’s latest mystery melodrama, “Vertigo,” is all about how a dizzy fellow chases after a dizzy dame, the fellow being an ex-detective and the dame being—well, you guess. That is as fair a thumbnail digest as we can hastily contrive to give you a gist of this picture without giving the secret away. And, believe us, that secret is so clever, even though it is devilishly far-fetched, that we wouldn’t want to risk at all disturbing your inevitable enjoyment of the film.

His review is quite positive, though nowhere in it would you ever, in a million years, know that it would one day be considered by over 200 film critics to be the best film of all time, followed closely by Citizen Kane.

From Wikipedia:

The Los Angeles Times admired the scenery, but found the plot “too long” and felt it “bogs down” in “a maze of detail”; scholar Dan Aulier says that this review “sounded the tone that most popular critics would take with the film”

Also from Wikipedia, again which echoes what people are saying about Gone Girl and Fincher’s work:

Additional reasons for the mixed response initially were that Hitchcock fans were not pleased with his departure from the romantic-thriller territory of earlier films and that the mystery was solved with one-third of the film left to go.

Orson Welles disliked the film, telling his friend the director Henry Jaglom that the movie was “worse” than Rear Window, another film that was not a favorite of Welles’s.

In an interview with François Truffaut, Hitchcock stated that Vertigo was one of his favourite films, with some reservations. Hitchcock blamed the film’s failure on Stewart, at age 50, looking too old to play a convincing love interest for Kim Novak, who at 25 was half his age

Whether the reviews sunk the movie or the fans were “disappointed” with Hitchcock’s change in tone, the film did not make as much money as Hitchcock’s other films, apparently, which is where the Vertigo/Gone Girl comparison stops. Gone Girl IS making money. Lots of it.

The 1958 Oscars came nowhere near honoring Vertigo, as it was considered to be what many are dismissing Gone Girl as – a “popcorn movie.”

The sad lament is, of course, Gone Girl has women in it! It’s about a woman! And in 1958 there were lots of movies about women in the Oscar race for Best Picture: Auntie Mame, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Separate Tables and the only one that could be considered an all male joint, The Defiant Ones. Contrast that to 2014.

So you’ll shriek your fists furiously and and say “I know Vertigo and Gone Girl is no Vertigo.” I completely agree. They are very different films but the reception to them is quite similar. My question to you is, how can you possibly know whether any film is any good or not when Vertigo was this misunderstood and this revered now?

When you judge a film, any film, on its Oscar prospects it immediately takes a nose dive. If it will appeal to Oscar voters it’s written off as cheap Oscar bait and not respected by critics. If it’s popcorn entertainment, suddenly the Academy has such good taste they would not deign to reward such a thing. And indeed, perhaps there was nothing “important” about Vertigo. And perhaps there is nothing “important” about Gone Girl.”

Now, Gigi. There’s an “important” movie.

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Apple Beats has made and released a documentary Do the Right Thing 25 Anniversary: A Beats Music Experience which ends with a block party featuring Dave Chappelle, Wesley Snipes, Mos Def and Public Enemy performing of “Fight the Power.”

1989!!

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My Facebook friend (#humblebrag) and one of my favorite film directors Rod Lurie recently posted the following status update:

[Redacted, how much he loved Joe Carnahan’s film The Grey] “If I had been a critic when that film came out I would have pounded the Academy into submission. I swear I would have. Indeed, without hyperbole, it’s the greatest American film ever made that doesn’t have a single Oscar nomination. Am I right?”

While I agree with him that The Grey is indeed underrated and transcends the box the critics wanted to put it in, it will have to take its place in line behind many greater films that received no Oscar nominations. Several of these American films were made by directors who weren’t well known. For some of them, though, there is no excuse — Here is our list:

1. Touch of Evil (Welles)
2. Stardust Memories (Allen)
3. The Killing (Kubrick)
4. The Searchers (Ford)
5. Mean Streets (Scorsese)
6. Zodiac (Fincher)
7. Miller’s Crossing (Coens)
8. Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino)
9. Blood Simple (Coens)
10. The Big Sleep (Hawks)
11. The Big Lebowski (Coens)
12. This is Spinal Tap (Reiner)
13. Harold and Maude (Ashby)
14. The Shining (Kubrick)
15. Cloud Atlas (Wachowskis)
16. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks)
17. Badlads (Malick)
18. Say Anything (Crowe)
19. His Girl Friday (Hawks)
20. Three Kings (Russell)
21. Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick)
22. The Ice Storm (Lee)
23. Groundhog Day (Ramis)
24. Shame (McQueen)

And a few famous non-American films:
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There are just a few years that will always be remembered in Oscar history, either because one film so thoroughly dominated those awards, or because another film didn’t.   Gone with the Wind was the kind of film that Oscar seemed to be made for.  That film swept the Oscars 75 years ago.

In many ways, Gone with the Wind is such a great film. The central role of Scarlett is the kind we just don’t see anymore —  such a richly drawn character with vibrancy, a complicated woman who is both good and bad, but mostly bad.  Women are never at the heart of historical epics anymore.  We have Sandra Bullock in Gravity now, and despite how nice and likable she is, her mere presence in the film at all seems controversial, can you imagine today’s audiences trying to make sense of Scarlett?

What we remember about Gone with the Wind was that it starred the unequivocal Vivien Leigh.  Clark Gable as Rhett. Hattie McDaniel as Mammy.  We remember the famous story to find the perfect Scarlett — how many actresses auditioned for the role and failed, and how one English actress managed to nail it.  Leigh would later revive the role, of sorts to play a fading southern belle in A Streetcar Named Desire.  Those two performances remain among the best ever.

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Whenever a film comes along that seems “difficult” for Academy voters, but also one as highly praised as Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, inevitably people start talking about a potential Best Picture / Best Director split. We know the split. We’ve been anticipating another Picture/Director split since it last happened in 2005, with Brokeback Mountain and Crash. Last year’s split was forced at the nominations stage and therefore can’t really be taken into consideration as an unadulterated example. There is no chance Ben Affleck would not have won Best Director had he been nominated.

Splits — Picture and Director Oscars going to two different films — often occur when there is a movie whose artistry voters feel obligated to reward, but another movie wins Best Picture because they genuinely love it more. In each instance, the BP winner is the more emotionally accessible of the two — more moving, or a crowd-pleaser. Splits don’t happen often but often enough to reveal patterns.

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Now that Blue Jasmine has opened with the best premiere numbers of Woody Allen’s career, the film will be seriously considered for several Oscar nominations – Best Actress for sure, if not Best Picture. But there have been some rumblings in reviews and out of the mouths of well-placed New York film critics that it’s a modern-day update of A Streetcar Named Desire.  If Woody Allen had wanted to do a spin on that movie, he could have done so; after all, he made A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy.  But to draw a closer parallel and one that better suits the brilliance of this film we need only look at Stardust Memories to see how it corresponds so beautifully to Fellini’s 8 1/2. At the time, Woody was accused of being a Fellini (or Bergman) imitator. It was well known that Woody admired both directors so when Stardust Memories came out, in black and white, the same rumblings were heard: it’s Woody riffing on Fellini. But after all of these years, Stardust Memories shines as one of the director’s best and most accomplished films; the framework may resemble 8 1/2, to be sure, but the themes, the characters, the ruminations bear Woody Allen’s own unique imprint.

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“Good day, Dr. Brewster. I said good day sir.”

Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie is easily one of the best performances ever by any actor. Hoffman was annoyingly, famously careful in his research bringing this character to life but in the process it made him think differently about women. One of the laments in watching how Hollywood is changing is that the actors and filmmakers who came of age in the late ’60s and early ’70s are going away. There are no brilliant minds to replace them. It was an era of smart actors, assertive women, political action, daring cinema, Blood on the Tracks for godssakes.  Though it was mostly before my time I can’t help but continually look back at the great generation of artists that era produced.  I am hoping that soon there will be prominent actors like Dustin Hoffman who are not afraid to think and to say things like this (thanks to @maxthegirl):

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Over at the Film Experience, Nat has written up an appreciation of George Lucas’ American Graffiti.  That’s his 4th of July pick.  Ours is the other history-making blockbuster.

There isn’t a better day in America to enjoy Jaws than the 4th of July.   As the business owners on Amity Island are in a panic. There’s a shark in the water and it’s killing people. A woman, a young boy. But the mayor of Shark City doesn’t want to tell people that.   They need summer dollars to keep Amity Island comfortable. But Chief Brody is from the city where you take care of the problem the old fashioned way. The shark in Jaws has always been more than just a shark. It represents fear of the unknown, and unfamiliar enemy to the traditional Chief of Police. In picture-perfect America the water belongs to us. We lay out our beach towels, blow up our rafts and take to the glittering, inviting sea. And yet, in the water, we are mostly vulnerable.  The 4th of July is supposed to be a celebration of our country’s birth and an affirmation of freedom.  But isn’t it funny, then, that our dreams are punctured by a hungry predator seizing the opportunity to attack.

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Leonardo DiCaprio is heading into his fifth collaboration with Martin Scorsese with The Wolf of Wall Street this November. He is Scorsese’s Jimmy Stewart — a laced-up-to-the-collar everyman put in extraordinary circumstances. He anchors Scorsese’s camera by adding a down to earth normalcy. With De Niro, you think you know what you’re going to get — a darkness that worked for Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. But the director needed a new hero, one who could change his color with each new atmosphere he was put into. De Niro was uncorked, back in the 1970s, the minute he appeared on screen. You waited for his flame to rise. With DiCaprio, you never know where he’s going to take you. You never know what his breaking point is, what might set it off, or how far or deep he will go.

The trailer for Wolf is a dazzler and promises another inspired, trusted collaboration between artist and muse. Scorsese’s actors keep so much in that when they finally uncork it’s a spectacular display of emotional and physical extremes. In their first collaboration together, DiCaprio played the protagonist while giving the movie mostly over to the brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher. Gangs would be their first mob movie together, which would be followed up by The Departed, and now, Wolf of Wall Street.  Though DiCaprio would be paired up with another scene-stealer in Jack Nicholson, he was the one really coming unglued in The Departed.  In The Aviator Scorsese facilitated one of DiCaprio’s most difficult performances and one of his best — it’s certainly way up there.  As the nervous, stuttering, withering Howard Hughes, DiCaprio surprised everyone with his ability to play Hughes at every stage of his life. It would be his first leading actor Oscar nomination, with his second and last for Blood Diamond in 2007.

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We Oscarwatchers put a lot of faith in the gatekeepers — those bloggers and critics who see movies first, review them, assess their merits, and assign them into meaningful categories. The public at large have, for the most part, discarded critical consensus when it comes to seeing movies they want to see. All they need is some heavy marketing, a movie star, a promised thrill ride, and the fruits of many years spent branding these consumers from birth can be harvested as they go like lemmings to the multiplex and throw down, all in the name of fun, all in the name of perpetuating what we still call the movie business.

But the Oscar race is different. It stands alone as this island onto itself, the last vestige of what most of us still think of as the movie business. In this world, dramas still reign. In this world a movie like Argo will seem like, in the cloistered heat of the season, the best film of the year. No one actually thinks it is, just like no one thought The King’s Speech was, but it is the most agreed upon, most tolerable of the nominee pool — itself a collection of 5-10 titles that repeatedly excludes many of the best films in movie history.

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File this one under “truth is stranger than fiction.”  You hear rumors throughout the years about famous people on movie sets. How do you know what to believe? But this story, about how mean director Herbert Ross was to Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton may be the stuff great rock operas on made on – somewhere in here is the truer story, the All About Eve story that we’ll probably never know – either way, oh the irony at Roberts getting her first Oscar nomination anyway:

“Herb Ross was basically a choreographer,” said MacLaine, who played twice-widowed salon patron Ouiser. “That means he could be sometimes very stern and sometimes very harsh. My deepest memories of the film were how we bonded together after he told one of us or all of us we couldn’t act.”

Field — who played who played Roberts’ character’s mother, M’Lynn — said that the late filmmaker “did pick on one of us severely. He never told me I couldn’t act. . . He went after Julia with a vengeance. This was pretty much her first big film.” (Ross died of heart failure in October 2001.)

According to MacLaine, 79, Roberts “would come to my house every night and say, ‘I think I’m terrible. What am I doing?’ and she really was in tears. I remember the day Herb said to Dolly Parton, ‘Why don’t you take some acting lessons?'”

“You don’t say that to Dolly Parton!” Field exclaimed. “Dolly Parton is absolutely the funniest, wittiest and filthiest, and she will cut you to ribbons.”

Several veteran actresses often stood up for Roberts when Ross’ directives got out of control. “Our keenest memory was how hard it was to work with our director. We hated him and we would go after him,” Field recalled. “The stronger ones of the group who were just older and had been there longer would go after him. That meant Shirley and Dolly.” According to Field, Ross even asked Roberts “to cut off some little wart or mole she had under her eye.”

Despite their off-camera drama, the stars still look at the film fondly. “For me, it is the story about the power of friendship,” Field said. MacLaine added, “And we stayed friends after the movie. We never went to the director’s funeral, but. . .”

I don’t think any actors have ever captured it better than Gwyneth Paltrow and Joe Fiennes.

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Ah, the good old days when the Oscars were still a mystery.

Siskel gets Best Actor right.

Part two after the jump.
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This was posted on Facebook from a group called Memories are Made of This.  There are good Oscar Best Picture winners, bad Oscar Best Picture winners and most of the winners that are somewhere in between.  But I’m fairly sure the Sound of Music was deserving for its top prize and for my money Julie Andrews was the reason why.  You do have to sit through Climb Every Mountain but you also get the breathless exuberance of the young Andrews.

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Something has happened to Academy voters. Is it really true that they’ve all just aged out to the point where they really can’t tolerate any loud noises? The truth is that you can’t really say “The Academy” anymore because there isn’t such a thing. The guilds now decide what wins Best Picture, but more specifically the Producers Guild. In scheduling their awards earlier than the Directors Guild, the PGA has now become the dominating force in the race. Oscars 2012 felt like a staged coup against the branch of the Academy that dared to “snub” Ben Affleck.  We’ll never know what the race would have looked like had Affleck gotten a director nomination. Argo might still have been their consensus pick – after all, it is in keeping with their pattern of late.

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Right now, Scott Feinberg over at Hollywood Reporter, has Lincoln winning four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. If it wins those four it shows broad support but it will share the record with the King’s Speech for lowest Oscars won with 12 nominations. But it makes sense in year where there are more than five nominees.

How many Oscars a film wins depends on how much competition it has and where that competition is coming from.  It goes without saying, of course, that history was meant to be broken.  Before the King’s Speech won only four Oscars no film with 12 had ever won that few.

Since there have only been 14 films nominated for Best Picture with 12 nominations, I thought I’d take a look back at those races and how they turned out.

But first, let’s look at the changing landscape of the Best Picture race itself.

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We as Oscar pundits invest so much of our time into the Oscar race, nearly a whole year, that the narrative we have planned out tends to want prominence in our minds even when the stats are against it. In the 14 years I’ve been covering this race it always comes to this point in the year where we start to drag out the freak years, the one-offs, the anomalies in hopes of finding evidence that our desired narrative still has a chance to flourish.

The funny part of it is, this is one of the years the exceptions might actually come true. There are so many odd things that have happened for the very first time ever in Academy and guild history that we actually might see some strange things transpire come Oscar night. Or we won’t.  There is either one frontrunner to rule them all (none has emerged so far) or it will be split up all over the place. I don’t think there can be a wrong prediction right now.

But first let’s look at the anomalies from the past and then we’ll look at what has changed this year and whether any of it will make a difference.

What are the biggest freak incidents in recent years?

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All props to In Contention‘s astute Oscar pundit (I’m sure he’ll hate that description) Kris Tapley  for pointing out that of Skyfall’s potential nominations — Sound, Sound Editing — Cinematography is certainly among them. Best Supporting Actor is also possible for Javier Bardem. Standing in Skyfall’s way overall? It’s really as simple as “Bond. James Bond.” It’s also a genre movie, and as we all know, the Academy no-likey the genre movie. I have long believed they should create a bigger category than just “Best Visual Effects” to honor the changing of the guard in Hollywood films to include a category: Best Effects-Driven Film. That way, they can honor movies that would never make it into their Best Picture lineup because of their own prejudices, but that deserve recognition as film achievements nonetheless.  Those movies this year would easily include: The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, The Avengers and perhaps The Hobbit. They have Best Animated and Best Foreign Language, they might as well acknowledge Best Effects-Driven.

But back to Roger Deakins. You might be surprised to look at his filmography and note when he didn’t win:

2011 True Grit –> Wally Pfister, Inception
2009 The Reader –> Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire*
2008 No Country for Old Men & Jesse James –> Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood
2002 The Man Who Wasn’t There –> Andrew Lesnie, Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring
2001 O Brother Where Art Thou –> Peter Pau, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
1998 Kundun –>Russell Carpenter, Titanic*
1997 Fargo –>John Seale, The English Patient*
1995 Shawshank Redemption –>John Toll, Legends of the Fall

And the films he was never nominated for, here.

The conclusion: Cinematography goes with Best Picture when there is a near sweep of the categories. But when it doesn’t go to Best Picture it either goes to a strong Best Picture candidate as a consolation prize or else it’s totally off the wall, like Legends of the Fall. To beat Deakins now, though, you have to either sweep or be a movie that almost wins Best Picture, or has strong enough support in the Academy to overcome what is now an embarrassing oversight.

Vids after the cut.

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