The State of the Race: What Does “Too Dark” for “The Academy” Really Mean?

http://www.awardsdaily.com/blog/state-of-the-race-what-does-too-dark-for-the-academy-really-mean/

This question shadows the Oscar race from the beginning of the year onward. It stood upright when No Country for Old Men was in the race and it loomed large when The Departed was in the race. “Too dark” translates this way: The Academy is made up of senior citizens, it is assumed, who spend their days in retirement, for the most part, locked up in a giant mansion in Beverly Hills or Bel Air, or Encino or London or New York whilst the rest of the world evolves. Think: the card game in Sunset Boulevard. The theory is reinforced by the notion that voters have just the holiday season to figure out which film they vote on for Best Picture. Holiday season equals good cheer which equals a reluctance to go dark.

That might be true for films that can win over five to six thousand voters on a preferential ballot for the win but does it have any place in the discussion leading up to the final ballots? No. All it serves to do is close doors that desperately need to be pushed and held wide open.

The thing is, it’s no one’s job to say no. It’s no blogger nor critic nor journalist’s job to declare something “too dark” before Academy voters have a chance to see the film. It is their job, perhaps, to say whether the film is good or not. Second guessing the Academy’s lack of nerve, or soft stomach is really the job of Oscar strategists, studio heads and publicists. Not critics, not bloggers. The second I start hearing things like “that movie is too dark for Academy voters” something somewhere on my body puckers. There are no such limitations, generally speaking, upon the Academy. They will respond to a dark film if it’s good enough. When we say stuff like “they” won’t go for an effects-driven film like Godzilla, that’s probably right. Although under the right circumstances they HAVE – District 9, for instance. We can say they won’t go for horror but in some circumstances they HAVE: Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist. We can say they won’t go for comedy when, in fact, in some instances they HAVE: Annie Hall, The Artist.

The movies just have to be GOOD enough, not Oscar genre-y enough. “Too dark” usually means you are trying to do the thinking for your dear old grandparents, whom you are trying to protect from being offended. But these are the same people who came of age under Altman, Kubrick, Ken Russell — they voted for Fargo and The Piano. They voted for Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. They voted for Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Departed and Wolf of Wall Street. A Clockwork Orange, Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver! They voted for Godfather II! You want to talk about dark, try having Fredo bumped off in a boat to the Hail Marys while Michael sits quietly, stoically on a bench.

You want to talk about dark? Let’s talk about Sunset Boulevard. Let’s talk about Billy Wilder. What if he had never made that movie, or The Lost Weekend for that matter. What if he always had to make a feel-good period piece Oscar movie just to make it under the wire to appeal to Academy voters? Would the tastemakers then have said it was “too dark” for the Academy? They would have been fools to do so, fools to overlook something so brilliant.

Of course, the preferential ballot makes that much harder than it used to be but not impossible. Take Black Swan, for instance. Take Amour. The more imaginative and open to possibilities critics, bloggers and journalists are, the better the chances that the voting will be much more diverse. Wouldn’t you, as someone who writes about or watches the Oscars want to chase after the GOOD movies, whether or not they are “took dark” or too effects-driven or too horrific? Each year, each film I myself never say no if the film is good enough and if the film is good enough you are required to ask why not? There are simply too many people who act as tastemakers and sheepherders who are doing the limited thinking FOR the Academy before the Academy has a chance to do it for themselves.

And here’s why. Let’s call it the Inside Llewyn Davis rule. Or we could call it the Dragon Tattoo rule. But Dragon Tatoo got zotzed by the Academy, not the industry, specifically because of the preferential ballot. Inside Llewyn Davis never did well with the industry overall. Let’s look closer at why and whether or not we were “right” or “wrong” to assume it would, or hope it would, or champion it until the last gasp.

But first, let’s look at the bigger picture. Will Inside Llewyn Davis be remembered beyond this year? Yes. Will some of the films actually nominated for Best Picture be remembered? Probably not. So the bigger picture continues to reinforce the notion that the Oscars don’t matter. They don’t. We know this already from looking at film and film history. They matter in the right now. They matter for career-making, for the good for the ego, the satisfaction of victory and they can also upset the power balance in Hollywood on occasion; an Oscar can sometimes make the difference between getting jobs and not getting jobs out of the gate (Lupita Nyong’o).

But let’s go back to the very beginning. Inside Llewyn Davis hits big at Cannes. It completely wows the critics. It ends up with a 92 Metacritic rating. Wow. It’s made by the Coen brothers, two of the most beloved artists in the entertainment community and within the Academy. It stars a relative unknown, Oscar Isaac. The film hits the sweet spot of boomer voting demographic — taking them right back to their peace loving, folk singing, Greenwich Village, war protesting, health food roots. So far, so good. There’s just one problem. Well, two if you count the absence of Roger Deakins’ cinematography, which gave Llewyn Davis a different look than usual Coen fare. The first problem is that the film is dark. It is so dark, in fact, that it really does bleat out the Nietzschean phrase “when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back at you.” It is about a folk singer who hates the industry he’s in. It is about a failed artist spitting in the wind. It is about a futile man whose only true moment comes the night before Bob Dylan blows it out of the park and changes the music industry and the world. Bob Fucking Dylan. As if things weren’t bad enough. There is no upside to Llewyn’s life. There is only another possible road not taken that he never took — the road to happiness which would have included giving up on that silly dream to become a folk singer at all costs. He could have raised a son. He could have fallen in love. He could have built something. Instead, he’s kicked in the gut and left for dead in an ally for being a major asshole.

Pure genius. Beautiful insight into the human condition. Brilliantly written, acted and directed. A perfect 10 of a movie. Surely the industry voters would embrace such a film. They did not. And here is the reason why:

When it came time to promote the film for Oscar, Llweyn Davis went on your typical Oscar run. Stops at Telluride, where the Coens were feted with tributes alongside T Bone Burnett. They did all of the publicity you could imagine to help this film and to help T Bone and Oscar Isaac, a relative unknown. They held concerts in New York and Los Angeles celebrating the roots of folk music. They did charity events. They celebrated the soundtrack and suddenly the campaign for Llewyn Davis became about one guy singing a beautiful folk song, the genius of T Bone Burnett’s contribution to American music overall. The problem? That wasn’t what the movie was about.

So when people hear that beautiful singing and they take a bath in the glory that is Burnett and folk music they then sit down to a movie about an asshole who hates folk music. You see where I’m going with this? In many ways, their campaign, as wonderful as well intentioned as it was, undermined the whole point of that movie, the deeper meaning of that film about futility.

Compare that with Wolf of Wall Street, which was slammed for being a celebration of all ungodly things in our society rather than a comment on it. That message was broadcasted loud and clear what that movie was supposed to be about. Scorsese talked it up. Audiences knew what to expect. With Llewyn Davis they did not. They thought they were going to see something celebratory. These are clearly people unfamiliar with the work of Joel and Ethan Coen but that’s another story.

So you can look at last year and you can say the bloggers, critics and journalists were wrong. And from there you can kick yourself for thinking that movie had a chance. It was “too dark,” you will conclude. The truth is probably somewhere in between. But you will never be wrong for supposing a movie that good could or would go all the way. If you do not stand behind such great things the heart inside you will die. You might as well be betting on the horse races. Except those are cruel to animals so go to Vegas. Wait, the environment. Nevermind Vegas. Okay, how about online poker. But the Oscar race is still and always will be about finding the best, no matter the genre, no matter how “dark” or funny or absurd. The best, period. That is the path back to the 1970s. It starts with the sheepherders.

Best Picture does the preferential ballot and that is what makes the difference between admiration and passionate love. That system seems to punish films that really do deserve recognition but don’t necessarily hit voters passionately, as in, right to the heart. So when people say it’s “too dark” for voters, what they should be thinking/saying is whether the film will invoke passion or whether it won’t. Darkness is really beside the point.

Did Inside Llewyn Davis earn passionate support? No, it did not. In the end, it was hurt by the bait and switch. It was also not embraced by the industry. When you have a film like Dragon Tattoo embraced by the industry but not the Academy on a preferential ballot you can kind of see how passionate support is needed there. The film ended up winning Best Editing anyway, without a Best Picture nod, something not done since the mid 1960s. So that tells you how much they admired the film. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, passionate support will tend to squeeze out the films that are “too dark,” and embrace films that might have passionate support, like Dallas Buyers Club.

But it isn’t our job to decide that — not at the beginning of the year. Good film, bad film. That’s all ye need know. When you make the goal the punt up the middle instead of the grand slam, when you soften things way too early you incentivize the desire to aim low, to never challenge yourself as an artist so as to appeal to a dumbed down, milquetoast status quo. Who really wants that to continue to the Academy’s legacy? They surely don’t. I’ve gone to screenings with them. I know how old they are. But that is still no reason to second guess their choices this early in the game.

If people say Gone Girl is too dark or Maps to the Stars is too dark. That might be true but that is no reason not to champion those films or presume they will or might go all the way. We welcome darkness so that we may see deeper into ourselves. Often without darkness we can’t ever really get to the light.

Now, if it were me, it would be an easy call about Maps to the Stars but that’s because what I love about it is how good it is. It is so good, in fact, that its goodness, its greatness would trump my own passionate feelings about the plot or the characters. In other words, I don’t watch a movie and think “I liked her.” My liking the characters falls way behind my love for the genius behind the work. I realize that most people do not think this way and thus, the sappy, soft-hearted “Oscar Movie” thrives.

I also realize that opening doors can lead to heartbreak, as it did last year with Inside Llewyn Davis. But all that means is that you get to write an impassioned essay about how wrong they were. If predicting that movie to get in was wrong who would want to be right.

Nonetheless, though I probably would not predict Maps to the Stars to get a Best Picture or Best Director nomination (though it should), it’s a slam dunk for Screenplay. If it doesn’t get that nomination, voters truly have packed up their balls and put them in storage. Just saying.

1970
Patton
Airport
Five Easy Pieces
Love Story
MASH

1971
The French Connection
A Clockwork Orange
Fiddler on the Roof
The Last Picture Show
Nicholas and Alexandra

1972
The Godfather
Cabaret
Deliverance
The Emigrants
Sounder

1973
The Sing
American Graffiti
Cries and Whispers
The Exorcist
A Touch of Class

1974
The Godfather Park II
Chinatown
The Conversation
Lenny
The Towering Inferno

1975
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nes
Barry Lyndon
Dog Day Afternoon
Jaws
Nashville

1976
Rocky
All the President’s Men
Bound for Glory
Network
Taxi Driver

1977
Annie Hall
The Goodbye Girl
Julia
Star Wars
The Turning Point

1978
The Deer Hunter
Coming Home
Heaven Can Wait
Midnight Express
An Unmarried Woman

1979
Kramer vs. Kramer
All that Jazz
Apocalypse Now
Breaking Away
Norma Rae

43 Comment

  1. “The second I start hearing things like “that movie is too dark for Academy voters” something somewhere on my body puckers. There are no such limitations, generally speaking, upon the Academy. They will respond to a dark film if it’s good enough.”

    You’ve said the exact same things when “dark” films are being considered for the Academy and then you’d lambast them on how much they like their happy endings. On the whole, I agree with the arguments you present here and Inside Llewyn Davis was definitely overlooked for some more industry love.

    Regarding Maps to the Stars and the screenplay, “If it doesn’t get that nomination, voters truly have packed up their balls and put them in storage.” I’ve said this once before, it’s so early in the season to be making a call like this! It’s one thing to say the script should be heavily considered because it’s well written, but to come out and say this script IS in the top 5 of the category between now and the end of December, without having seen a lot of the other heavyweights, is such a stretch. What if 5 other movies come out with better original scripts, what of the their balls then?

  2. A quibble: Several films without Best Picture nominations have won Editing since the 60s. The Bourne Ultimatum, Black Hawk Down, The Matrix, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit all managed it.

    But no, I totally agree with you. To insist that Inside Llewyn Davis was snubbed because it was “too dark” in the same year that Best Picture went ti 12 Years a Slave is farcical. It was snubbed because it was already a hard-to-like film and it was campaigned terribly.

  3. UBourgeois, while it’s great other films have won editing without a best picture nomination, I think Sasha meant Dragon Tattoo is the first film since the 60s to win editing and nothing else.

  4. *nothing else as well as without a best pic nod

  5. Bullitt, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Matrix, Black Hawk Down and The Bourne Ultimatum – all examples of films which won Best Editing since the mid-1960s without Best Picture nominations.

  6. Wow Sasha you’re on a roll with your essays :)

  7. Off topic: I got this off another website. If true, it would be fascinating wouldn’t it:

    Robert Pattinson Rumored To Be New Indiana Jones
    Yes, Robert Pattinson. According to a Los Angeles insider, “Rob is top of the initial list because he has showed his acting stripes away from Twilight. But the competition will be stiff.”

  8. “Dark” is such an umbrella term though. Like ‘thriller’, it can mean dozens of different types of movies. Last year, for instance, I’d be comfortable saying TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, and depending on the angle you approach it, even HER might be considered different degrees of dark. What came down to for INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, in my view, is that it wasn’t too dark (though it is), but that it was too quirky and singular, and that 2013 happened to be a rather strong year among movies viable for a Best Picture nomination. I believe it would have made it -given the expanded field- on a number of lesser years over the last decade (the year of THE ARTIST?). Admittedly, there are three titles in last year’s line up I can *easily* do without, but even I have to grant that they didn’t make any majorly embarrassing choice. Take also into account that the numbers of BLACK SWAN-lovers in the Academy has be significant, but limited overall — there just weren’t enough votes for yet *another* brilliant movie. I mean they muscled in 12 YEARS, WOLF, *and* HER. NEBRASKA, AMERICAN HUSTLE, and GRAVITY, as brilliant as they were, you have to assume, were loved across the board among most -if not all- types within AMPAS. Honestly, I think HER took LLEWYN DAVIS’ place. Reason? I don’t know…it is more emotional and wrenching? When you think about it, those three films devoured the lion’s share of high-minded vote — the AMOUR, TREE OF LIFE, SOUTHERN WILD contingent. And as you said, Sasha, the new system doesn’t help. I doubt AN EDUCATION would get in these days, or WINTER’S BONE for that matter.

    Now regarding 2007 (Where’s that podcast, by the way?) Though yeah, NO COUNTRY is uncompromisingly grizzly at times (many times), the ending and some of its most superficial themes which comes back strong in the end too is rather life-affirming and you can bear it up. Tommy Lee Jones’ monologue in the end (in by the way, one of the strongest performances of the decade) gives you sense that this ‘old man’ is, despite every horror he has witnessed, at peace given his illumination. Not exactly a happy ending, but when you compare it to the endings of both THERE WILL BE BLOOD *and* ATONEMENT — remember those endings? See.

  9. When people say it’s “too dark” for the Academy I always assume they mean SHAME or WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN or the like. If it got a goddamn Best Picture nomination then it *never* was “too dark” for the Academy. For instance, can we agree not to say FOXCATCHER might be “too dark” for the Academy while at the same time predict it for eight nominations?

  10. Bryce, TWBB’s ending was grim but sarcastic. Atonement’s was sad because of the regret one character had and could never go back. NCFOM’s ending was bleak. I would say TWBB’s ending was the “happiest” because Plainview did what he wanted to do for decades. But saying which one was the happiest is like taking a banana, an apple and a blueberry and trying to find out which one is most like a vegetable :P

  11. I knoww and they are so heart-felt and metaphysical -yes- and inconclusive and ambivalent *and* kind of spaced out and removed, especially the two American films, that it’s a highly personal position how you feel and what you take from each them. For me though, I felt I achieved certain peace at the end of NO COUNTRY, yes it might come from resignation and exhaustion which isn’t an entirely good thing lol, but peace nonetheless. Though you’re right, both look at the future, our future, in damn bleak terms. What a year.

    THE DEPARTED which was also cited in the piece, and as much as I love it and I think it’s a masterful exhibition in all departments, I think it’s in a slight lower-tier than either NCFOM or TWWB. Thing is very violent and nihilist up until the end, but when Marky Mark shoots Matt Damon who was the biggest asshole during the movie, and effectively didn’t let him get away with none of it, *that’s* was when everyone got ‘satisfaction’. Imagine he’d gotten away with it. Shit. It would have NEVER won Best Picture.

  12. And not awards related, but going back full circle, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS has a similar haunting ending. Actually that ending, OMG.

  13. Paddy,

    But Dragon Tattoo was the first film since Bullitt to win Editing and have that be its only win.

  14. To me, “too dark” for AMPAS translates to films that they are scared of, period. If it makes them emote in anyway that makes them uncomfortable, nervous, ‘think outside of the box’, female protagonist is unconventional, male protagonist is naked, very bold creative liberties or cold bold truths with history, plots too close to the bone to something tragic and reality based, anything too abstract, films that challenge the audience and forces them to think, agonizing realistic deaths from realistic consequences, taboo topics they are too immature to handle,… shit, the list goes on!

    “Too dark” simply means something AMPAS does not have the self confidence and group maturity to assess a film or its performer’s artistic expression responsibly and with respect. A “Too dark” stamp is synonymous to an automatic dismissal from further consideration. Too dark is much more easy and PC to say than to be honest and admit that something is too overwhelming and heavy for AMPAS to deal with.

  15. Interesting read, Sasha! However, I didn’t take ILD as being the story of a guy who hated being a folk singer; I saw it as being the story of a guy who failed at being a good/successful folk singer. (He might have ended up hating it by the end, but if he’d been a success, he wouldn’t have hated it.)

    That story of a failure may have cut a bit too close to home with the Academy voters, if you ask me, which might well explain its lack of success at the Oscars.

  16. We cannot read minds.

    There is little as fatuous as predicting film awards. Awards matter. Very much. But being right about Best Blah Blah does not. At all.

  17. (sorry if this rambles on, but I’ve been waiting soo loooong – thanks for the topic, Sasha!)

    “Dark” is OK for BP if one can feel noble voting for it (Schindler’s List, 12 Years) and the protagonist is someone the audience can hang on to. NCFOM and Silence of the Lambs almost – almost – become the exceptions, but dark as they are, you’ve still got somebody onscreen you can relate to while dealing with, you have to admit, pretty amusing villains.

    “Dark” can also substitute for “demanding”. Tree of Life, Life of Pi, all the way back to 2001:A Space Odyssey, you will not win Best Picture if you don’t clearly resolve the story and explain everything to the audience’s satisfaction. Making them work for it won’t land you an Oscar, and ambiguity will really get their goats.

    Even with all its darkness, Midnight Cowboy had the mutual devotion of the two main characters to rally around. The Hurt Locker is probably the least likely winner and a worthy surprise.

    This year, the Academy choosing 12 Years a Slave was their greatest move in many years, if not since the beginning – whatever their motivation – and that film will stand as a landmark in film history. When the most exciting director takes on the perfect material, executes it with a flawless team and cast, and manages to bring down some sacred cows along the way, you can’t ask for more.

    But, Inside Llewyn Davis is equally worthy of a BP designation and given its status among certain groups outside of the entertainment industry’s elite inner circle, it will have very long legs as far as its place in film history is concerned.

    I’ve re-watched the film several times, now, increasingly appreciating the its unique and sneaky structure with all of its Homeric undertones and the wonderfully drawn characters. Sight and sound translate to other senses, where we feel the cold and insecurity of the highway at night, feel the thick 60s NYC street air on our skin and smell the smoky closeness of desperation and intimacy inside the clubs. All is unfolded with the Coens acute, no-nonsense and spare style of storytelling.

    The real anchor (or irritant to some) is the main character and the understated way he’s played by Oscar Isaac. He comes off as a shit, but he’s not a shit, at least that’s not his intention – he just makes kneejerk decisions (constantly) based on short-term need, always to the detriment to himself and the most innocent around him. His relationships are tenuous, at best, not because of any fault on either side, just a matter of mismatched agendas and lousy timing. Isaac’s face reflects disappointment and, sometimes, guilt as the emotional burdens pile on while poor Llewyn makes his way round and round one of Hell’s inner circles.

    We don’t know or need to know the finer details of Llewyn’s three biggest regrets – Mike’s suicide, the abandoned mother and child in Akron or the definitive fate of the unlucky stray cat – but we can be certain that those situations were mostly a result of Llewyn making selfish choices in the quest to achieve his dream as a folk singer. Could there be three more damning events in the audience’s eyes? The karmic result, of course, is his getting pounded in an ally outside the club by the husband of his heckling victim while newcomer Bob Dylan crosses the sky like a meteor inside.

    Llewyn Davis is not the noble hero, he’s just somebody stuck inside a societal delusion. He’s bought into the lie that one can succeed at attaining one’s bliss if one tries hard enough. Llewyn attempts to live his dream and continues to fumble his way, yet somehow finds the drive, feistiness and humor to go on, oblivious to the changes happening around him (including the ascension of Dylan during his back alley dust-up). It’s an indictment against all we’re taught and it’s very much the norm… and that hits home. The “good” guy just isn’t good enough to win, not in any sense.

    A downtrodden Llewyn, in a moment of wishful delusion, hesitates in front of a movie poster, we think The Incredible Journey, indeed. That’s what makes Inside Llewyn Davis a great film, but it’s not the message Oscar wants to endorse or the kind of movie that wins votes from the Dream Factory.

  18. I thought Llewyn Davis was the most overrated film of last year. It took the nihilism a little too far. An audience needs to be able to like or identify with the lead character at least a little bit.

  19. updates for y’all:

    1) New “The Giver” trailer – black & white is EVIDENTLY in there:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwN_HusyoH0

    2) “Suffragette” has been moved to a 2014 release

    => With 4 spicy projects we can again expect a Streep domination this year!

  20. steve50,

    The dilemma one has after reading what you wrote about Llewyn Davis, is whether they’ll agree with you or not. I for one do, but that’s because I really really liked the movie. I liked it the first time I saw it. But if someone saw it and didn’t like it, I think no matter how well writen your comment was (and it was), it won’t matter to them. It’s hard to change people’s minds. And I’m pretty sure that would go double for the AMPAS voters.

    The one thing I will say myself about a “dark” film like Inside Llewyn Davis, is that I think it’s a “light-dark” film, in that it definitely has humor.

  21. Fantastic thoughts, Steve. A classic indeed, evidenced by its inclusion in my top 10 (no less). I’ve only seen it a twice -on the big screen- and admire every nuance and detail you point out, but Carey Mulligan shouting expletives hasn’t worked for me so far. Maybe it will in the future, hey, maybe it’s because *I like* Llewyn, maybe this is working on some level, but I usually need more. I own the Blu-ray, haven’t unpacked it yet. I suspect it’ll be tempting to fast forward her scenes — such a minor quibble though for one of the Coens very best, and that’s something.

  22. Yeah, Bryce,

    Not only did Carey Mulligan yell, but to me it was practically ear-piercing.

    “That’s because you’re an ASSHOLE!”
    “Everything you touch turns to SHIT!”.

    LOL :-)

  23. But if someone saw it and didn’t like it, I think no matter how well writen your comment was (and it was), it won’t matter to them.

    How about this. If someone saw Inside Llewyn Davis and didn’t like it that’s fine, but nothing they say can ever make me stop loving it.

    Lucky for all of us, comments are not intended to convince people to like the same things we like or hate the same things we hate.

    No secret that Inside Llewyn Davis is my #1 favorite movie of 2014. Not just my favorite — it mean more to me and touched me more deeply than any other movie last year. I wouldn’t care if I was the only person on Earth who liked Inside Llewyn Davis, but I’m glad that I’m not. I’m glad and proud to count people like steve50 as my friends. People who can communicate their insight and articulate sensitive feelings — feelings deeper than saying they couldn’t identify with the main character.

    Maybe large numbers of people in mass audiences need to be able to identify with a character before they’re “entertained.” I’m glad I don’t. And besides, if people feel nothing for the crisis Llewyn Davis faces then I’m really very troubled to know that so many people have lost the ability to care about characters who aren’t adorably huggable heroes.

  24. “Lucky for all of us, comments are not intended to convince people to like the same things we like or hate the same things we hate.”

    That is a good point Ryan. Of course, you know that my comment wasn’t to say either way that someone should or should not be swayed one way or another because of what someone else thinks, I was just equating it back to the idea that some people might read what we say here, and take it as gospel. Of course, I don’t think anyone would read my comments and think that. More the commenters who’s ideas are better expressed than mine. I was just thinking the other day, that as a writer and thinker, I’ve gotten very lazy, and expressionless in my stated opinions. They as I think you guys were talking about on the last Oscar Podcast, have gotten too Twitter-ish. Short, and sometimes missing the point.

  25. BTW, thanks for challenging what I said. It makes me think harder and better. :-)
    (And I mean that sincerely.)

  26. Some people might read what we say here, and take it as gospel.

    yesssss! go forth Sir Al, my disciple, deliver those people unto me, that we may reign over them (mostly benevolently), bring them hither so they may gather ’round, and they shall call me Rionysus, lord of wine, weed, bedazzled chaos, drunken revelry, and somewhat tawdry ecstasy festivities, and they shall also celebrate and fondle us as the Almighty Tycoons of stubborn movie opinions.

  27. HA HA HA HA HA!!!! LOL.

    Right away Lord Rionysus: lord of wine, weed, bedazzled chaos, drunken revelry, and somewhat tawdry ecstasy festivities, and they shall also celebrate and fondle us as the Almighty Tycoons of stubborn movie opinions.

    I could be Algor. Or as some people know him, Al Gore. ;-)

  28. Sally,

    Robert Pattinson as Indina Jones? Words cannot express how terrible that sounds. I hope Lee pace gets cast. He would make an amazing Indy

  29. “Llewyn Davis”‘s major stumbling block, I believe, was the distribution outfit. CBS films was never going to get a best picture nomination. Same problem is likely to plague “Maps to the Stars” – a film distributed by eOne will face an uphill battle to grab the attention of AMPAS voters…

  30. …an uphill battle to grab the attention of AMPAS voters…

    Sad commentary. “Hi, We’re Academy Members. We might recognize a great movie but first you have to shove it down our throats.”

  31. The term “too dark for the Academy” is now, for those of us that talk about or listen to this awards banter, something of a cliche. It is branded about with the likes of “Amy Adams is due / owed a win” or “the Academy love a character with a disability / beard” or the classic “12 Years A Slave can’t win Best Picture”. :-)

    I think the horror or comedy movies that have won {including those mentioned in the article} are those with substance, intelligence, and a degree of a credibility. No offense to those movies that I’m sidelining there, but Your Majesty, There’s Something About Mary, The Hills Have Eyes or Saw IV were never going to get Best Picture nominations, never mind win. Not even Bridesmaids got in – just remember this again!

    Anyway, this is a fascinating subject, one in which I am in danger of going overboard and writing ten thousand words. I will restrain myself.

    Here, then, are some of the movies I have really, really liked over the past few years. Some of my absolute favorites actually. And I know I am not alone when I say many of these are better than many of the movies that were nominated for Best Picture:

    Blue is the Warmest Color
    Melancholia
    Looper
    Drive
    Moonrise Kingdom
    Short Term 12
    The Dark Knight
    The Town
    Martha Marcy May Marlene
    The Ghost Writer
    50/50
    Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
    Frances Ha
    Shame
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    Kick-Ass

    None of those were nominated for Best Picture. Of course they weren’t! In my opinion, looking over that list, I think that’s fucking bollocks. In fact, I have made myself angry now.

    With regard to the Inside Llweyn Davis scenario, and as much as I don’t love the movie like some do, it does illustrate an overwhelming longing we have for the Academy to just vote for movies because they like them, because they are damn good movies, and not because they might say bad things about the industry, or have an opinion different to theirs. Academy, stop being, well, big babies, and grow some balls.

    And lastly, the 1970s. Wow. I mean, “dark” films did not just win Best Picture, others were nominated too. Imagine if this was the actual Best Picture winner list from that decade:

    1970 – Five Easy Pieces
    1971 – A Clockwork Orange
    1972 – Cabaret
    1973 – The Exorcist
    1974 – Chinatown
    1975 – Nashville
    1976 – Network
    1977 – Star Wars
    1978 – Coming Home
    1979 – Apocalypse Now

    Then, of course, Raging Bull won in 1980. My my, I like that reality… :-)

  32. I just posted a huge comment on here. Where is it please?

  33. “Will some of the films actually nominated for Best Picture be remembered? Probably not.”

    I’m 95% sure that this comment is directed at Philomena, as it should be.

  34. Robin Write, your nice long comment went into the spam filter for some reason. I never would’ve known to go look for it if you hadn’t asked.

    Everybody please always ask if a comment disappears. It can almost always be found and rescued.

  35. Maybe the F word. Naughty me.

  36. Much of the same could be said about the strong bias toward drama among awards bodies, critics… and here. These’s a big world beyond the iron laws of character development and narrative structure, dark or otherwise. The machines under our fingers care not for any of these rules….. I can walk down the street and view paintings that say much more about the world than actors and the various manifestations of redbud.

  37. so…explain the Oscar fate of UNITED 93.

  38. I haven’t got the energy at present to engage with Steve 50′s comment on Inside Llewyn Davis. I just wanted to say I appreciated it a lot, and like Ryan, I too thought of the Coens’ latest as the true masterpiece of American cinema in 2013. For me, the only 10 out of 10 movie of last year (though Her came close).

  39. My taste in movies, music, video games, television and travel destinations.

    The Trilogies:
    1. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring-The Two Towers-The Return of the King
    2. Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark-The Temple of Doom-The Last Crusade
    3. Star Wars: Original Trilogy: A New Hope-The Empire Strikes Back-Return of the Jedi
    4. The Hobbit Trilogy- An Unexcepted Journey-The Desolation of Smaug-The Battle of the Five Armies
    5. Batman Trilogy(Christopher Nolan)- Batman Begins-The Dark Knight-The Dark Knight Rises
    6. Jurassic Park Trilogy
    7. Jack Ryan Trilogy- The Hunt for Red October-The Patriot Games-Clear and Present Danger
    8. Back to the Future Trilogy
    9. Godzilla Trilogy- Godzilla 1954-Godzilla 1985-Godzilla 2000
    10. Free Willy Trilogy- Free Willy 1993 Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home Free Willy 3: The Rescue

    The Oscar Winning Movies
    1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
    2. Braveheart
    3. Casablanca
    4. 12 Years a Slave
    5. The Godfather Part 1
    6. The Godfather Part 2
    7. American Beauty
    8. Rocky
    9. It Happened One Night
    10. The Artist

    The Worst Movies of All Time
    1. The Saw Series
    2. Death to Smoochy
    3. Hobo with a Shotgun
    4. The Legend of Hercules
    5. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie
    6. Surviving Christmas
    7. V/H/S
    8. The Stupids
    9. Jack and Jill
    10. Grown Ups 1 and 2

    The Singular Movies
    1. The Goonies
    2. Dick Tracy
    3. Footloose
    4. Gravity
    5. Fantastic Voyage
    6. Titanic
    7. Rain Man
    8. Big
    9. Heavenly Creatures
    10. The Frighteners

    The Disappointing Movies
    1. Star Wars: The Clone Wars Movie(2008)
    2. A Beautiful Mind
    3. Argo
    4. Gandhi
    5. Daredevil
    6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2
    7. Freddy vs. Jason
    8. North
    9. The Day After Tommorrow
    10. The Ring Two

    The Best Animated Movies:
    1. The Incredibles
    2. How to Train Your Dragon
    3. Toy Story
    4. Frozen
    5. The Princess and the Frog
    6. Ratatouille
    7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
    8. Super Mario Bros.
    9. Sailor Moon
    10. Ice Age

    The Best Comedy Movies:
    1. This is The End
    2. The World’s End
    3. Dumb and Dumber
    4. Home Alone
    5. A Christmas Story
    6. Mallrats
    7. National Lampoon’s Animal House
    8. The Wedding Singer
    9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
    10. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

    The Best Documentary Features:
    1. Life Itself
    2. Side by Side
    3. The Bully Project
    4. Roger and Me
    5. Autism is a World
    6. Oceans
    7. 20,000 Feet from Stardom
    8. Volleyball Holiday
    9. Cosmos: Carl Sagan
    10. The Origin of the Rings

    The Best Dramatic Films:
    1. The Wolf of Wall Street
    2. The Shawshank Redemption
    3, The Insider
    4. Chariots of Fire
    5. 2001: A Space Odyssey
    6. Forbidden Planet
    7. Lawrence of Arabia
    8. Philomena
    9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    10. Saving Private Ryan

    The Best Creature Films
    1. Godzilla 2014
    2. Super 8
    3. E.T.: The Extra Terrestial
    4. Plan 9 From Outer Space
    5. Rodan
    6. Cloverfield
    7. Starship Troopers
    8. Mac and Me
    9. Masters of the Universe
    10. King Kong 1933

    The Best Comic Book Movies
    1. Batman 1989
    2. X2: X-Men United
    3. Iron Man 3
    4. Superman: The Movie
    5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
    6. Iron Man
    7. The Avengers
    8. Superman 2
    9. Beowulf
    10. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

    Top Ten Movie Actors
    1. Andy Serkis
    2. Harrison Ford
    3. Al Pacino
    4. Ian Mckellen
    5. Elijah Wood
    6. Tom Cruise
    7. Tommy Lee Jones
    8. Christopher Lee
    9. Svengoolie
    10. Sean Astin

    Top Ten Movie Actresses
    1. Cate Blanchett
    2. Evangeline Tilly
    3. Mary Kate Olsen
    4. Halle Berry
    5. Melissa McCarthy
    6. Margo Martindale
    7. Noami Watts
    8. Julia Roberts
    9. Jodie Foster
    10. Julie Andrews

    MY TOP TWENTY FIVE FAVORITE SONGS
    1. BEAT IT BY MICHEAL JACKSON
    2. THE GOONIES R’ GOOD ENOUGH BY CYNDI LAUPER
    3. INTO THE WEST BY ANNIE LENNOX
    4. MISTY MOUNTAIN HOP BY LED ZEPPELIN
    5. GOOD TIMES, BAD TIMES BY LED ZEPPELIN
    6. MAN IN THE MIRROR BY MICHEAL JACKSON
    7. TAKE ON ME BY A-H-A
    8. SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT BY NIRVANA
    9. HIT THE ROAD JACK BY RAY CHARLES
    10. WHEN I COME AROUND BY GREEN DAY
    11. MATERIAL GIRL BY MADONNA
    12. DRESS YOU UP BY MADONNA
    13. SAFE AND SOUND BY CAPITOL CITIES
    14. RADIOACTIVE BY IMAGINE DRAGONS
    15. SHE BOP BY CYNDI LAUPER
    16. ALL MY LOVIN BY THE BEATLES
    17. FOOTLOOSE BY KENNY LOGGINS
    18. I’M FREE(HEAVEN HELPS THE MAN) BY KENNY LOGGINS
    19. SHAKE YOUR LOVE BY DEBBIE GIBSON
    20. VOGUE BY MADONNA
    21. MAY IT BE BY ENYA
    22. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE BY BO DONALDSON
    23. THUNDER ISLAND
    24. DON’T WORRY BABY BY THE BEACH BOYS
    25. U CANT TOUCH THIS BY MC HAMMER
    26. THE BATTLE OF EVERMORE BY LED ZEPPELIN
    27. LET’S IT HEAR IT FOR THE BOY BY DENICE WILLIAMS
    28. HAPPY BY PHARRELL WILLIAMS
    29. WHEN I RULE THE WORLD BY COLDPLAY
    30. GIRLS TALK BY JEREMY REYMOND

    BEST VIDEOGAMES
    1. THE GOONIES 2 FOR NINTENDO
    2. SUPER MARIO BROS. FOR NINTENDO
    3. CASTLEVANIA FOR NINTENDO
    4. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST FOR SUPER NINTENDO
    5. LORD OF THE RINGS CONQUEST FOR PC
    6. MADDEN 95 FOR SUPER NINTENDO
    7. RAD RACER FOR NINTENDO
    8. F-ZERO FOR SUPER NINTENDO
    9. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME FOR NINTENDO 64
    10. GOLDENEYE FOR NINTENDO 64

    TOP TEN FAVORITE T.V SHOWS
    1. HUNTER
    2, MIAMI VICE
    3. FAMILY GUY
    4. FULL HOUSE
    5. THE ACADEMY AWARDS
    6. SISKEL AND EBERT
    7. THE GOLDEN GLOBES
    8. THE GOLDBERGS
    9. SEINFELD
    10. JURASSIC FIGHT CLUB
    11. HE-MAN: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
    12. L.A LAW

    THE BEST PLACES TO GO TO TRAVEL
    1. LOS ANGELES-HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA
    2. SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
    3. NEW ZEALAND
    4. CEDAR POINT AMUSEMENT PARK
    5. SIX FLAGS THEME PARKS
    6. ASTORIA, OREGON
    7. ROME, ITALY
    8. HONG KONG, CHINA
    9. PARIS, FRANCE
    10. THE CONGO RIVER

    THE TOP TEN FAVORITE SPORTS TEAMS
    1. WASHINGTON WIZARDS
    2. CHICAGO BEARS
    3. CHICAGO FIRE
    4. AUTO RACING
    5. CHICAGO BULLS
    6. LOS ANGELES DODGERS
    7. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
    8. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
    9. ANAHEIM DUCKS
    10. NEW YORK YANKEES

  40. Joe, that is QUITE the list of lists. WOW!!

    I’ll keep it simple:

    Favorite All-Time TV Show: Lost
    Favorite Current TV Show: Homeland

    Favorite All-Time Movie: Titanic
    Favorite Current Movie (we’ll say that’s come out in theaters within the last year): The Wolf of Wall Street

    Favorite All-Time Album: Metallica – Metallica (1991)
    Favorite All-Time Song: Bob Dylan – Tangled Up in Blue (1975)
    Favorite Current Musician:
    Rock – Coldplay
    Metal – Five Finger Death Punch
    Pop – Katy Perry
    Country – Taylor Swift
    Rap – Eminem

    Current Favorite Guilty-Pleasure: Glee. I even own a ton of the songs on iTunes.

    Favorite Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio
    Favorite Actress: Rachel Bilson (Big fan of Hart of Dixie)

    Favorite Sport: Baseball
    Favorite Sports Team: Los Angeles Dodgers (Currently anyway)

    Favorite Vacation Spot: Seattle. (Although, I’ve never been to New York City, and I would LOVE to see it).

  41. BTW, I love how you classified The Academy Awards as a T.V. show. I guess The Super Bowl would be a T.V. show too. (just razzing ya.) :-)

  42. Oh, and probably the WORST movie I have ever seen is Say It Isn’t So. Although, Tomcats was pretty fucking bad too. Especially when Jake Busey is chasing his testicles down the hallway. WTF??!!!!

  43. And how about this one:

    How I would describe myself based on t.v. character(s):
    I’m a cross between Seth Cohen from The O.C. and Turtle from Entourage.
    (Only I don’t play video games anymore, like both of them do (a LOT)).

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