Oscar Roundtable

Ben Affleck, Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Gus Van Sant,  Tom Hooper, David O. Russell gather for the director’s edition of THR‘s roundtable series. Some choice quotes after the cut.

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I assembled a group of smart Oscar watchers, critics, bloggers and journalists to kick off our 2012/2013 series of Oscar Roundtable. It’s a bittersweet resurrection, without the captain of our ship, the dearly departed Damien Bona. We’re heading into an unpredictable year with two forces speeding directly towards one another: the best year for Hollywood and independent film alike, and an uncharacteristically early Oscar ballot deadline, before either the PGA or the DGA announce their awards.

Our panel includes:
Brad Brevet – Rope of Silicon
Phil Contrino – Box Office
Clayton Davis – Awards Circuit
Mark Harris – Grantland, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine
Pete Howell – The Toronto Star
Craig Kennedy – Living in Cinema
Guy Lodge – In Contention, Variety
Tom O’Neil – Gold Derby
David Poland – Movie City News
Steve Pond – The Wrap
Katey Rich – Cinema Blend

1. If you accept the notion that studio films are better this year than they were last year, do you think that means the smaller films like Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Sessions and Moonrise Kingdom might have a harder time standing out?

Brevet: I assume by studio you’re talking about the majors because I’ve come to look at Weinstein Co., Fox Searchlight and Focus as close to being majors as you can get, especially come Oscar time. I think Beasts, Sessions and Moonrise have very good chances at Best Picture noms, Beasts will get an acting nom and Sessions will likely get Actor, Actress and then some. Yet, your next question does pose some worries.

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Welcome to our annual roundtable, third year running.  We pose some questions to some of the writers and bloggers we know for insight.  The participants this time are Inside Oscar‘s Damien Bona; The Oscar Warrior at Coming Soon; Edward Douglas;  Deadline‘s Pete Hammond; Grantland‘s Hollywood Perspectus columnist, Mark Harris;  The Toronto Star‘s Oscar columnist, Pete Howell;  EW‘s Oscar-watch columnist, Dave Karger;  Living in Cinema‘s Craig Kennedy;  In Contention‘s Guy Lodge; Cinemablend‘s Oscar columnist, Katey Rich; Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil;  The Wrap‘s The Odds columnist Steve Pond; The Film Experience‘s Nathaniel Rogers.

1. It’s either a sign of our collective sanity or insanity that it is now normal procedure to predict films that haven’t yet been seen for Best Picture and performances that haven’t yet been seen. It’s one thing to think maybe they will be nominated, but to win? Do you think that this helps or hurts both our enjoyment of these films and their chances in the Oscar race?

Bona: This actually is not something new. I remember in late summer/early Autumn 1995 feeling dispirited about the Best Picture race and thinking it was not going to be any fun because everybody KNEW that “The American President” was a lock to win the top Academy Award. One thought sadly of the other movies opening that fall and holiday season and how those forlorn films needn’t even bother with Oscar campaigns; better the studios give ballyhoo money to charity. As it turned out, The American President received a total of one nomination, for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score. On the other hand, Paul Newman’s victory for “The Color of Money” was a foregone conclusion long before the picture opened. That one did pan out, even as the movie itself did turn out to be somewhat of a disappointment, so what seem possibly to be foolhardy pronouncements are not necessarily a sign of insanity. (Then again, four years earlier “The Verdict” had been seen as Newman’s pre-ordained Oscar winner, but that was before we were all blind-sided by “Gandhi.”)

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In light of the recent twist of this year’s race for Best Picture, I asked a few of the best and brightest in the biz for their input. The participants (in random order):

Damien Bona, Inside Oscar
Dave Karger, Entertainment Weekly
Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema
Ed Douglas, Coming Soon
Mark Harris, New York Magazine, and Pictures at a Revolution
Pete Howell, The Toronto Star
Katey Rich, Cinemablend
Guy Lodge, In Contention
Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today
Jeff Wells, Hollywood-Elsewhere

1. Do you think The King’s Speech was always going to be the film that appealed to the highest number of voters and that it was only a matter of time before it started winning the big awards? Or do you think it became the stronger pick as an anti-vote to the rest of the more challenging fare?

Bona: After the Toronto Film Festival and even before its Thanksgiving release, The King’s Speech was pegged by most Oscar observers as the movie to beat. In fact, in the last Round Table discussion, a number of us were foreseeing a redux of 1998, with little-known Tom Hooper in the role of Shakespeare’s John Madden watching his movie take Best Picture while he himself loses to this year’s Spielberg, David Fincher.

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Before we get to our roundtable, Nikki Finke’s post from today:

Summit through its flacks have asked LA Times blogger Pete Hammond to forward even one of the emails mentioned today, but the blogger has refused. His reason? It would “violate the confidentiality” of the recipient who is the producer’s personal acquaintance “so Chartier would know who it is” if¬†made public.¬†I have not seen¬†these personal emails myself. I do think, however, that¬†the Los Angeles Times should have explained in its posting that there was no other mass mailing to Oscar voters by Chartier.¬†It makes a difference. Because can you imagine¬†if Hollywood’s private correspondence about the Oscar pics were monitored by the Academy Awards rules police?

By the way, Summit expects that, if Chartier is to be disciplined by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for that February 19th mass mailing email, it won’t happen until after the voting period ends. (See my previous, Academy May Discipline ‘The Hurt Locker’)

I don’t think Pete should have to reveal his sources, but I do think everyone should be aware that someone gave him that information for maximum embarrassment.

Meanwhile, I sent out an email to our wise roundtable crew. I did extend one to Pete Hammond, but he has not responded yet. Here are the participants:

Damien Bona, Inside Oscar
Steve Pond, The Wrap

Anne Thompson, Indiewire, Thompson on Hollywood
Mark Harris, New York Magazine, Pictures at a Revolution
Jeff Wells, Hollywood-Elsewhere
Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today
Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema
Ryan Adams, Awards Daily

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It’s hard to believe we’ve done eight of these already. In this installment, the participants are:

Damien Bona, Inside Oscar
Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today
Pete Hammond, Notes on a Season, The Envelope
Mark Harris, New York Magazine, Pictures at a Revolution
Kris Tapley, In Contention
Michelle McCue, We are Movie Geeks
Ryan Adams, Awards Daily
Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema

1. As we head into the last weeks of Oscar balloting, do you think that it’s possible to turn around the position of a particular film with last-minute publicity pushes? Avatar is coming on strong here in the final weeks where it wasn’t really pushing hard to win before. Do you think that kind of thing works, or does it smack of desperation?

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The post nominations flurry has died down a bit. I felt less heat around these nominations than usual. Part of that was the smallish pool from which to choose this year, and part of it was that ten nominees for Best Picture turned out to be what we suspected it would be – the top ten, or thereabouts, that usually collect during the season. I wanted to hear the perspectives of others, however, so with no further ado. The seventh in a series of discussions about the Oscars with a variety of writers and thinkers around the web.

The participants:

Damien Bona, Inside Oscar
Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today
Pete Hammond, The Envelope
Tom O’Neil, Gold Derby
Moises Chiullan, Hollywood-Elsewhere
Melissa Silverstein, Women and Hollywood
Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema
Nathaniel Rogers, The Film Experience
Erik Childress, eFilm Critic, Cinematical

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Happy New Year Oscar Watchers! To give you a break from my prattling, here are few intelligent voices to shed light on the state of the Oscar race. The participants are:

Damien Bona, Inside Oscar
Pete Howell, The Toronto Star
Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today
Kris Tapley, In Contention
Pete Hammond, Notes on a Season, LA Times
Steve Pond, The Odds at Thewrap.com
Nathaniel Rogers, The Film Experience
Erik Childress, The Oscar Eye
Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema

1) Katharine Hepburn won Best Actress a record four times. She never once showed up at the Oscars to accept the award. But her multiple wins prove that, back then, if they thought you deserved it you won. Why do actors have to show up at awards and walk the line now? Why do they have to do so much publicity in order to win? Is it that there is more competition or that they don’t build stars the way they used to?

Bona: Katharine Hepburn could get away with it when she won Oscars number 2, 3 and 4, because she was already legendary for her independence, and her non-conformism was part of her appeal.  When the movie neophyte didn’t show up when she won for Morning Glory in 1934 (1932-33 Awards), however, she was roundly criticized by Hollywood and the press, especially since she didn’t send a telegraph to the Academy acknowledging the honor.

During the studio system days, it was implicit that nominees would attend, and the top brass was not pleased when their contractees did not comply. (All that free publicity!) Luise Rainer balked at going the night she won for The Great Ziegfeld because she was weary from a drive back down from San Francisco, but MGM publicists showed up at her house, gussied her up and dragged her to the Biltmore. When Paramount executives got wind that Bing Crosby had no intention of attending in 1944, they sent out minions to search his favorite haunts, finding him playing golf. He poo-pooed the thought of showing up at Grauman‚Äôs Chinese, and it was only when his mother called and insisted he attend that he reluctantly agreed. And he picked up a Best Actor Oscar. In the 1950s, when a good number of Hollywood movies were being filmed around the world, it was understood that some nominees wouldn‚Äôt be able to get to the ceremony so no-shows were not uncommon. Proxy acceptors used to be allowed (most infamously, Joan Crawford accepting for a stuck-on-Broadway Anne Bancroft, who beat Crawford‚Äôs What Ever Happened To Baby Jane co-star, Bette Davis), but Sacheen Littlefeather‚Äôs acceptance for Marlon Brando put an end to that practice. Numerous nominees didn‚Äôt show up in the late 1960s and 70s, a period when, to many people, the Academy Awards seemed hopelessly out-of-step with modern times. Old Hollywood did not look kindly upon such absences, which included at various times Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, Peter O‚ÄôToole, and, of course, Woody Allen. On the other hand, Jack Nicholson always showed up ‚Äì- even when he epitomized New Hollywood cool — and if he wasn‚Äôt a nominee, he still showed up as a presenter.

The Oscars started to regain their luster in the late 70s and the 80s, largely, I’ve always thought, because many of the people now in contention for Oscars, were of the generation who grew up watching the Academy Awards on TV. The Oscar, therefore, had a mythical quality to these nominees, and it was again cool to be there. But not so cool that Paul Newman didn’t stay away when he won Best Actor in 1986.
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In our fifth Oscar roundtable we had to split it into two posts. It’s well worth the read. The Oscar season has never been more wide open in many ways and hearing about it from so many different perspectives is always a way to see things with new eyes.

Damien Bona: Inside Oscar, 10th Anniversary Edition and Inside Oscar 2
Mark Harris: Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood
Susan Wloszczyna: USA Today
Erik Childress: The Oscar Eye, Cinematical
Edward Douglas: Coming Soon
Pete Hammond:, Notes on a Season, LA Times
Ryan Adams:, Awards Daily
Steve Pond: The Odds, The Wrap
Craig Kennedy: Living in Cinema
Peter Knegt:, Indiewire
Brad Brevet:, Rope of Silicon
Scott Feinberg:, And the Winner Is

1. There is no denying this is a unique year in America – the first term of the first African-American President. Of course, the studios couldn’t have known this was how the year was going to turn out. If you could go forward in time and look back at 2009, do you think any of the following films fit into the bigger picture?

Bona: There have been African-American presidents in movies since at least 1972’s The Man, so Hollywood was ahead of the curve on this one. (‚ÄúTreasure Chest,‚Äù a monthly comic book that we kids in Catholic schools subscribed to, actually featured a story about a black man being elected President in 1964. Other than that, it was mostly loony anti-Communist propaganda, with nuns being slaughtered trying to protect chalices.)

I suspect that years from now, when people look back on 2009, the presence of an African-American in the White House may not be as significant a signpost as the worldwide economic crisis, so Up In The Air could turn out to be the seminal movie of 2009. I don’t feel that any of these four pictures will be particularly seen as having captured the pulse of America in 2009. This quartet of movies can be seen as simply current examples of very well-worn genres or sub-genres.

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Part Two of the Oscar Roundtable:

Damien Bona: Inside Oscar, 10th Anniversary Edition and Inside Oscar 2
Mark Harris: Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood
Susan Wloszczyna: USA Today
Erik Childress: The Oscar Eye, Cinematical
Edward Douglas: Coming Soon
Pete Hammond:, Notes on a Season, LA Times
Ryan Adams:, Awards Daily
Steve Pond: The Odds, The Wrap
Craig Kennedy: Living in Cinema
Peter Knegt:, Indiewire
Brad Brevet:, Rope of Silicon
Scott Feinberg:, And the Winner Is

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round table

It’s always illuminating to hear from various smart folks around the web and I feel grateful that they indulge my needling questions week after week; after all, it isn’t like any of the have any time to spare. I figure, the more intelligence we can bring to the table the better. This week we’re pondering the Governors Awards, the bad economy on the Oscar race and getting a sneak peek into what might make a few of our contributors’ top ten lists.

The participants (in random order):

Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today
Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema
Damien Bona, Inside Oscar
Ryan Adams, Awards Daily
Pete Howell, The Toronto Star
Scott Foundas, Film Comment
(and newly appointed Associate Programmer, The Film Society of Lincoln Center
)
Kristopher Tapley, In Contention
Anne Thompson, Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire
Steve Pond, The Odds at The Wrap
Nathaniel Rogers, The Film Experience
Edward Douglas, Oscar Warrior at Coming Soon
Gregory Ellwood, Hitfix
Tom O’Neil, The Envelope
Scott Feinberg, And the Winner Is…

1. The Governors Awards are over. We’re now looking at an Oscars broadcast without them. How big of a mistake do you think this was, or do you think it is a good idea and that it will streamline a bloated telecast? On the other hand, The Oscars are now competing with shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. Is this the first sign of the “dumb and dumber” Oscars soon to come?

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Reaching out to the various journalists and bloggers who write up the awards race reveals wise minds, and love of cinema. The fact is, this isn’t an actual roundtable – it’s a q&a sent out to various people whose opinions I value. I don’t think any of these writers would be doing what they do if they didn’t love movies. This is really what drives the whole Oscar watching business. Sure, it is about money, too, and it’s about the allure of being right, but underneath it all it’s the movies, stupid.

The participants are:

Ryan Adams, Awards Daily
Damien Bona, Inside Oscar
Brad Brevet, Rope of Silicon
Edward Douglas, Coming Soon
Gregory Ellwood, Hitfix
Scott Feinberg, And The Winner is
Pete Hammond, LA Times Envelope
Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema
Tom O’Neil, The Envelope
Steve Pond, The Wrap
AJ Schnack, All These Wonderful Things
Kris Tapley, In Contention
Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today
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2bigelow
Bigelow Filming The Hurt Locker

For our second round, we have a few different voices. The aim this time around was to address the added tension this year of a great many women really in the game for the first time. There have been one here, another there before. But rarely have we had so many real contenders for Best Picture that were helmed by women, especially where it doesn’t even seem to be about whether they are women or not.

Also in discussion here the role of the Oscars in our culture now. Do they still matter?

The participants are:

Damien Bona, Inside Oscar
Edward Douglas, Coming Soon

Scott Feinberg, And The Winner Is
Pete Hammond, The Envelope
Pete Howell, The Toronto Star
Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema
Tom O’Neil, The Envelope
Kris Tapley, Incontention.com
Anne Thompson, Indiewire
Melissa Silverstein, Women & Hollywood
Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today

Q& A’s after the cut.

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THE HURT LOCKER

I sent out a few questions that have been running around in my head lately. I sent them to people whose ideas I value and who might offer something beyond what I can answer for myself. Every Oscar year is different. Some of them fly by, like last year when Slumdog Millionaire started winning and didn’t stop. Some of them linger on until the very last agonizing moment when it feels like the wrong movie just won. This year feels like there is either something waiting in the wings that will change everything or else we’ll have a replay of Toronto. That was the springboard to kick off our Virtual Oscars Roundtable. We will revisit different subjects as the season progresses.

The participants in this discussion are:

Edward Douglas, Coming Soon
Scott Feinberg, And the Winner Is…
Scott Foundas, The Village Voice
Pete Hammond, The Envelope
Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema (who wants to be referred to as a “self-professed Oscar outsider.”)
Peter Knegt, Indiewire
Kris Tapley, In Contention
Pete Howell, The Toronto Star
Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today

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