Fox released this photo of Ben Affleck speaking to the public in hopes of finding his missing wife. That is, incidentally, a perfect rendering of the photo described in the book.
In 2009, the Academy decided to change their voting rules for Best Picture. They did this to be able to include more than five contenders after The Dark Knight was shut out in 2008. While preferential balloting has always been used to find the nominees in most categories, only in 2009 did the preferential ballot come into play to pick the winner of Best Picture.
But there was another change that impacts the nominees. In 2009 and 2010, Academy members were asked to pick ten and not five Best Picture contenders. That gave them a lot more freedom in what they might choose, from big movies to small movies, foreign films to domestic, critically acclaimed or popular. But members complained that they didn’t want to be bothered with ten, that they far preferred choosing only five. In 2011, the Academy changed their rule again so that Academy members would choose only five. They would pick the winners the same way, with a complicated voting procedure that essentially means a film needs a good number of number one votes to get in, but they would extend the cut-off so that if there were films that came close to making it in could still get in. So far, we’ve had two years with nine nominees. I expect this year, with so many great films in the race, to also have nine. Apparently it’s mathematically difficult to get ten. Preferential balloting rewards films that are passionately loved, even if they are also passionately hated.
It is once again time for our For Your Consideration post to the members of the Academy. Online voting begins December 27th. The Academy has fortified its methods this year, making it easier for members to vote.
This is your chance to make the best case for contenders you think might not otherwise get recognized. I am going to make my case right now for one contender in each major category. These are contenders I feel passionately about. I’m going to skip Best Actress because it is my hope that all five of the leading contenders — Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Emma Thompson and the frontrunner, Cate Blanchett are all nominated because they fucking deserve it.
But other than that, here we go. Dear Academy, hear my plea!
#2 JC Chandor’s All is Lost. The spirit of cinema is about reinventing it year after year. How can do that when there is nothing new under the sun? You do i thy taking a leap of faith. Chandor could have done anything after he gained an Oscar nod and notoriety for Margin Call. He could have easily failed upwards by selling out, by doing what most young talented up and coming directors in Hollywood do – they go for the big paycheck. But he did the opposite. He made a moving meditation, a cinematic poem about life. Our time here is so limited. Life is an endurance test, as are most things worthwhile – love, parenting, artistic ambition. All is Lost gives you an hour and a half of silent contemplation, watching Robert Redford do what’s necessary to survive. It will stay with me long after this year has come to a close. It deserves to be named as one of the year’s best.
Martin Scorsese for the Wolf of Wall Street - it’s not for everyone. It is weird and wild and deliberately offensive. It is also bravura filmmaking of the first order. It is absolutely deserving of being recognized, as the AFI and Critics Choice and HFPA already have done. At 71 years old, Martin Scorsese should be slowing down, mellowing out and losing his fire. He has proven what a schooled director can REALLY do. It’s astonishing. In many ways movie are never about the darker aspects of human nature. They are about idealized versions of ourselves. Scorsese will always stand out for his refusal to adhere to something that easy. His films are about cockroaches. They are about failures, damaged souls, flawed antiheroes. Those stories are worth telling too, especially when you have his ability to really go there.
In a recent Twitter debate — an never-ending Twitter debate it seems — Gregory Ellwood is nearly certain that Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street won’t make the Best Picture. But preferential balloting helps a film get nominated – as in, passionate love for it almost equal to passionate hatred against it. When it comes time to pick a winner, however, polarizing films fall away and the bland middle often takes the prize.
Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir’s top ten reflects what an interesting and diverse slate of films released in 2013:
1. “Stories We Tell” Canadian actress-turned-director Sarah Polley has sneakily become one of the best young filmmakers in North America, and this subtle, heartbreaking documentary proves it. Masquerading as a straightforward family memoir about Polley’s long-dead mother, “Stories We Tell” gradually becomes something else, an inquiry into the nature of memory and reality, a love letter to Polley’s English-born dad (who narrates the film), a puzzle box with unanswerable questions about how we become who we are at its center.
2. “12 Years a Slave” Unsettling and formally rigorous, Steve McQueen’s fact-based tale of a free black man sold into slavery in the 1850s puts America’s darkest secrets on screen for the first time. Yes, it’s sometimes a difficult film to watch, and lacks the blood-drenched fantasy retribution of Quentin Tarantino’s ludicrous “Django Unchained.” But the performances of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch and the rest of the stellar cast are so strong, the created 19th-century world so compelling and the filmmaking so confident and complicated that the experience is completely worth it.
When looking for Best Picture, you’re usually looking for a five key factors:
1) it’s a likable, celebratory film filled with lots of (sometimes popular) actors (Chicago, Argo)
2) it’s historically too important to ignore (Schindler’s List, The Hurt Locker)
3) it’s rewarding an overdue director who is motivated to win, film is likable enough. (The Departed, No Country)
4) The heart wants what it wants (The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire).
5) It really is THAT good (The Godfather).
Let’s face it, we may never see a Godfather type win again. The Godfather seems better now when we remember it back. When it was up for Best Picture it was doing battle with Cabaret it only won three Oscars, in fact. Most of the time, the Oscar race is driven by buzz — not Miss Right necessarily, but rather, Miss Right Now. The Godfather was Miss Right Now then, and it’s Miss Right in 2013. But you can’t really know at the time whether a film is great or just a passing fancy. The way filmmaking and Hollywood changes impacts how we view our past. Movies like The Godfather aren’t made much anymore and when they are there are simply too many voices there to oppose them. Movies have to come without baggage now, without major “flaws,” and have to run a fierce gauntlet between September and December, flying under radar, avoiding bullets. Think of them as the cast of Lone Survivor.
I was in line at the Whole Foods the other day and people were talking about movies. The cashier was saying how he gets screeners so now he’s seeing everything. The grocery bagger asked him what is the best movie he’s seen, what is the one everyone should see — said “Captain Phillips.” I then asked him what film he thought would win Best Picture and he smirked and said, “August: Osage County.” You see, to him that looks like an Oscars movie. If he only knew. I told them both 12 Years a Slave would win. But I don’t know if that’s true or not. Wouldn’t that be wild if the impossible became possible?
If you’re paying attention to the buzz of late you’ll know that one major cloud of it is swirling around David O. Russell’s American Hustle. You can’t really buy that kind of buzz, manufacture it or force it. It is either there or it isn’t and this film, for whatever reason, has it. It is competing with two films that captured the early buzz — 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Both have their own strengths heading into the race but if Best Picture is determined by actors the Hustle ensemble could prove the deciding factor in a tight race.
Steve Pond reports that a few Academy members were shocked and horrified by Wolf of Wall Street’s official Academy screening, leading one to even say, “Shame on you.” It occurs to me that this is really why the Academy will never evolve past where they were twenty years ago. The last great era of daring was in the 1970s. All of those members have either aged into complacency or out of the Academy. The remainders are such milquetoast softies they are destined to keep rewarding the same kinds of films — safe, easy to understand, comforting, entertaining, somewhat forgettable — over and over again.
Sure, there was an all too brief moment where The Hurt Locker, No Country for Old Men and The Departed were rewarded. But it was short lived. Since then, it has been the usual — the film that wins is one that bathes us in the safety of nostalgia and shines a light on the goodness in humanity. It is as though the Oscars have become one long Stanley Kramer award.
Welcome to Episode 3 of Awards Daily’s Statsgasm. Last week I led a descent into deeper statistical madness by introducing regression analysis; hopefully I wasn’t Darryl Revok and didn’t induce too many Scanners-style exploding heads among you all. Today we’re going to make our furthest probe into the statistical singularity of regression. Yes, that means more math, but we will also see for the first time the primary method that forms the basis of AD’s Oscar prediction models.
Note: before you venture past this point, I do invite you to take the time to read and/or review my first two Statsgasm posts. I of course try to make each post self-contained, but advanced stats (and math in general) does snowball from basic concepts and terminology. Revisiting the first two episodes of Statsgasm may be useful in ensuring that you don’t get too lost today, as I believe this will be the longest and most technical episode in the entire series.
The simple linear regression (SLR) model I introduced in Episode 2 is a very powerful tool, but it’s appropriate for only a certain type of data, specifically, when the response variable is continuous (i.e. the response can assume *any* value on the real number line). Many things can be represented by continuous variables, but not everything. For instance, if something only has two possible outcomes (e.g. whether a student passes or fails a course), it makes much more sense to use a binary (0 for failure, 1 for pass) variable to model it.
So what do binary variables have to do with us? Hmm, lets see… oh yeah, the Oscars are a textbook example of something that can be coded as a binary variable!! Each category only has one winner – the rest of the nominees don’t win. So we simply assign a 1 to a winner and a 0 to the rest.
Kris Tapley talks to Scorsese’s longtime editor, Thelma Schoomaker.
Movie City News’ Laura Rooney has begun compiling the big list of the top tens. So far, it’s looking a lot like the Oscar contenders for Best Picture:
Meet the real Wolf of Wall Street, “”The greed’s good to a point until it reverses on you and makes you into a monster. You know, there were times I look back at the way I acted and some of the things I did — I was a monster.”
Glenn Whipp reports that the first film sent out to the 100K SAG membership is Dallas Buyers Club.
John Ridley’s The Toughest Scene I wrote in New York Mag.
Foreign Language Film
Live Action Short