As an addendum to Sasha’s terrific post above, I’d like to say in defense of Oscar blogs that so-called professional reporters are guilty of perpetrating their share of clumsy buzz-kills and thick-headed opinyawns. Two recent examples appear in The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times. HR published a totally unfounded rumor that Focus Features was holding back Milk from the festival circuit for fear of political backlash about the subject, and punctuates their idiotic contention with this terrifying tale:
At a recent Vegas test-screening for a middle-class, straight audience, several senior citizens tried to leave after a gay love scene in the early moments but couldn’t because they were trapped in the middle of a row (near Focus production chief John Lyons, in fact). The seniors eventually said they were happy that they stayed, but, like independent voters in an election contest, these are the viewers Focus must woo.
Just as the religious right suspected! The Hollywood librul plan is to forcefully indoctrinate the elderly into spending their remaining years dabbling in gay sin! THR continues its drooly navel-gazing (but not in a gay way):
A win for John McCain or Prop 8 may drive voters to cast a ballot for Penn (a lock for an Oscar nom) or best picture. (This on top of voter sympathy because they didn’t support “Brokeback.”) Awards love will further put it in pundits’ crosshairs, which will further draw awards voters.
Yeah, because that’s a fair trade-off, right? An Obama loss for a Sean Penn nomination. Screw gay marriage so long as robbing gay people of their right helps Milk gets a Best Picture nomination. Big shout out to Ozcar-nozzle Steven Zeitchik as the frontrunner contender for Ass-Hat Analysis of the Year. After all, why should Obama’s inevitable win and Milk’s success be mutually exclusive? Maybe one is a harbinger of tolerance for the other.
Producer James Schamus lays into THR after the jump.
Schamus was not amused, and here’s part of his letter to The Hollywood
RumorMill Reporter via Indiewire:
Schamus Defends “Milk” Plan; Criticizes Hollywood Reporter
To the Editor:
Slow news day, eh? As the CEO of Focus Features, I read with interest your October 28 front page article “Politics? Focus won’t ‘Milk’ it,” about our marketing of director Gus Van Sant’s film about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to major public office in America. The author’s thesis is simple: because the film was not, like ‚ÄúBrokeback Mountain,‚Äù screened at festivals, Focus is somehow hiding the film and is thus avoiding openly presenting its political content. That’s a pretty serious charge, especially made by a reporter who did not call us to get his facts, so to speak, straight.
First of all, to the charge of “hiding” the film (for which, given its post-production schedule, we have only had finished prints at hand for a couple of weeks – a fact conveniently missed by your reporter), I can only say that I happen to be writing this while on my way to the airport for a flight to San Francisco, where we shall world-premiere the film tonight at the Castro Theatre, across the street from the storefront where Harvey began his political career. We determined early on that the only appropriate place for the world premiere of ‚ÄúMilk‚Äù was San Francisco. The event is a benefit for four LGBT youth groups; our benefit committee is chaired by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and includes every major LGBT leader in Northern California and virtually every major statewide elected official, including Senator Barbara Boxer, Assemblyman Mark Leno, and Treasurer Jos√© Cisneros. The premiere is timed to the final week before a crucial election, one which includes an anti-gay state proposition much like the one Harvey Milk vanquished 30 years ago. The after-screening gathering will be held at San Francisco’s City Hall, and today has been proclaimed “Focus Features Day” by the Mayor ‚Äì who clearly didn’t get The Hollywood Reporter in time to understand our underhanded, apolitical approach to marketing the film.
There’s more, but you get the idea: Dear Hollywood Reporter, Eat my ass. (but not in a gay way.)
Deep-thinkers at The New York Times don’t fare much better at Oscar debuzzing, as they oversimplify the state of the race, and end up completely missing the point about how the year is shaking out so far:
LOS ANGELES ‚Äî Walt Disney is in. This week the studio will break new ground by starting a campaign that boldly offers its ‚ÄúWall-E‚Äù as a contender for the best picture Oscar, an honor never yet won by an animated film.
Warner Brothers is in, too. That studio recently telegraphed plans for a multifront Oscar campaign for its Batman blockbuster ‚ÄúThe Dark Knight‚Äù by sending awards voters a query about their preferred format for promotional DVDs.
Welcome to the pop Oscars.
And welcome to the sloppy Oscar pigeon-holing.
Studio Oscar campaigners are largely reluctant to discuss their reasoning and strategies publicly for fear of overreaching with the academy‚Äôs finicky voters. However, several noted a belief that audiences ‚Äî weary of economic crisis and political strife ‚Äî are ready for a dose of fun from the entertainment industry.
The NYTimes’ Michael Cieply has it all figured out. Give us fun! Give us blockbusters! Give us cartoons and comic books cos the economy is sooooo boring!
No clue at all from Cieply that his article might have been more accurately titled: “Studios Are Pushing The Best-Reviewed Movies of the Year as Oscar Contenders” No, that wouldn’t have a clever hook, would it? Who cares about the quality of the movies when the esteemed NYTimes can psychoanalyze the audience and attempt a Vulcan mindmeld with “finicky voters” to assume they’re ready to reward box-office this year — because, um, TV ratings need a boost. yeah, that’s the ticket. It’s not about the movies anymore. It’s all about the Oscar broadcast.
So yeah, no. Oscar bloggers do what we do because we love movies and awards are as good a reason as any to spark a discussion and feed our mutally-shared obsessions. The film world is just like the rest of the world inasmuch as the internet provides a new platform for more voices to be heard, with the dynamic spontaneous opinions and instant feedback that create actual enthusiasm instead of hollow media echos from a vacuum sealed oracle.
Traditional media have let us down for way too long, and its shallow dumbing-down is a creeping sickness that only seems to get worse as the number of sources shrink.
We’re here to provide an antidote, a treatment, and maybe a cure. Until mainstream media gets its shit together (which I suspect will be never), bloggers and the readers who enhance our understanding with actual passion don’t have anything to apologize for. We’re not crashing the party; we’re filling a void.