I’ve never much cared for Stu Van Airsdale’s Oscar coverage – judging from his snide entries when worked for Vanity Fair — I’m sure he’s not snide in person but his writing comes off as such – he and I have fought privately over email so this won’t come as a big shock to him. However, he’s moved on. Or so we thought. Now he’s back – because like Michael Corleone, though he detests and despises Oscar season, he ends up pulled back into the muddy with the rest of us.
So this time he’s miffed that a couple of Academy members have contacted Pete Hammond for advice on which films to choose. Here is my experience with these kinds of one-offs – they are always, almost always, red herrings. They amount to nada. There are people who will write in and say “I went to an Academy screening and the reaction was ___” – okay, fine. But the ones who say they talked to so and so and he/she was voting for this person or that – they don’t matter that much because individuals don’t matter in Academy voting.
I’ve even heard of polls that turn out to be wrong – established folks query Academy members to find out what they’re voting for can reveal more about the films people think they SHOULD vote for than the films they will actually vote for. Many people might be embarrassed to admit their choices to someone they respect. On the other hand, sometimes the polls do turn out to be accurate. One such poll turned up last year that said Sean Penn would beat Mickey Rourke by just a hair. We’ll never know if it was just by a hair or not but Penn did indeed beat Rourke. By contrast, another poll was done that showed Into the Wild to be extremely popular with voting members — and yet when it came time to tally those votes, Into the Wild was nowhere to be found.
Let’s get into Stu going after Pete after the cut.
In a textbook case of the blind leading the blind, Oscar maven and noted critical pushover Pete Hammond reported Monday that he‚Äôs been advising Academy members having difficulty sorting through the early awards-season crop. It turns out that some voters are too bewildered by the Academy screenings currently on offer, especially with their new ballot demanding 10 Best Picture nominees. There‚Äôs just nothing big enough! For some reason they‚Äôve turned to Hammond, who, in fairness, has a point in suggesting that Jennifer‚Äôs Body (no matter how underrated) probably isn‚Äôt Best Picture material. But in doing so he takes down a few other perfectly fine smaller films that he hasn‚Äôt even seen, let alone heard of.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
On one hand it‚Äôs Oscar business as usual. On the other, there‚Äôs no reason we can‚Äôt break the cycle here at Movieline ‚Äî starting now.
Meaning…you’re going to start telling voting members what they should like and not like.¬† And then when they disappoint there will be the inevitable railing against them for not voting for what you liked. I guess Oscar bloggers, or bloggers who cover the Oscars, are no different from the birth/life/death cycle. The sun comes up, the sun goes down, nothing ever changes.
Here are Airsdale’s pitches:
I don‚Äôt know if I‚Äôve seen a more affecting documentary this year than We Live in Public, which is about so much more than simply ‚Äúthe Internet.‚Äù It‚Äôs about how the Internet created and destroyed one man who saw our new technological age coming ‚Äî and how it has the potential to both re-create and destroy us. It‚Äôs comprehensive, profound and quite entertaining, and anyway, even if the vast majority of the Academy has nothing to do with the Documentary Branch‚Äôs short-listing process [they don’t], justice would dictate that a body in charge of distributing qualitative awards every year should just see the stuff before calling up Pete Goddamn Hammond of all people to ask about what‚Äôs what.
Right, because they have nothing better to do than to watch 1,000 movies in a year. Well, then, they shouldn’t be Academy members! Yes, I know. I know. But they are, Blanche, they are.
Look at it this way, if awards creds are so important: Public won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize last January at Sundance. Two of this year likeliest Best Picture nominees ‚Äî Precious and An Education ‚Äî won that fest‚Äôs jury and audience awards respectively. Call it prestige, call it the benefit of the doubt, call it whatever you want, but by any rational standards, any Academy member with a clue should be calling Hammond to tell him that Public is worth seeing. Trust me, he wouldn‚Äôt know otherwise.
Let’s summarize. It’s okay to not see films but blindly seek advice as long as you are turning to Movieline and Stu Van Airsdale and not the Los Angeles Times and Pete Hammond. And anyway, neither of them mentions the little known fact about the Oscar race: it is all about the screeners, not the screenings.
You have to sort of feel for voters, though, around this time of year. It is not unlike walking in a touristy area of Paris or Rome where street vendors try to sell you their trinkets, constantly shoving them in your face.¬† It seems to me like it’s a losing battle. I do begrudgingly admire Van Airsdale for laying it on the line for We Live in Public. It certainly put that film on my radar.¬†And now I really want to see it. But I think there might be a better way to present his love for that movie without having to give Pete Hammond a wedgy.