The whole idea of MCN’s Gurus of Gold and The Envelope prognosticators (who will be assembled in good time) trying to predict which films and filmmakers will be honored by Academy nominations next January is a waste of breath, space and influence. Or at least, it is at this stage of the game.
October and November should be set aside as ignore-the-Academy months. Or at least about downplaying suspected Academy beliefs, prejudices, allegiances and tea leaves. There’s plenty of time for that drool in December, January and February. And the repetition from stirring that drool over and over becomes sickening after the New Year. The nausea sets in every year around that time. Going to Sundance and getting away from the awards-prediction game is a huge relief in mid-January. Why? Because Oscar handicapping has been going on for three, three and a half months by this point.
I say delay the clock and inject a little nobility into the process. The next eight weeks should be about giving a little spotlight action to those films and filmmakers who truly and fully deserve to be honored (the Sam Riley‘s, the Once‘s, the Zodiac‘s) without considering the sentiments of a sometimes ignoble body that — no disputes, please — often gets things wrong, in part because of small, selfish, territorial factors.
Keep the Academy/industry predictions if you must, but at the very least they should be given minor attention until at least the passing of Thanksgiving. The Gurus and the Envelopers should spend the next seven or eight weeks primarily championing the right movies and the right stuff, and not in some elitist, off-in-their-own-realm Village Voice sense of that term. The Gurus and the Envelopers are fairly conscientious and grounded and not, as a rule, on the anal-obsessive side. (You know what I mean.)
I know the Gurus and the Envelopers, and I know they’re more particular, more impassioned and far less provincial than the Academy and the guilds about the best of the best. No brag, just fact. And it’s a sin –a dereliction of duty — to waste an opportunity to possibly influence the shape of things in favor of trying to predict or second-guess what the industry pack mentality (which each and every industry person feels and responds to, and sometimes goes along with) will be down the road.
This all started last night when one of MCN’s Gurus of Gold responded to my having written two days ago that the Gurus “should be ashamed of themselves” for blowing off Control‘s Sam Riley as a potential Best Actor candidate.
I suggested that “each and every Guru needs to go outside, light a cigarette (even if they don’t smoke), take a 20-minute walk and ask themselves why they failed to even mention one of the absolute finest performances of the year by an actor of either gender. For this oversight alone, this team needs to be regarded as the Gurus of Shame.”
The guy’s response was perfunctory. “Surely you can’t have forgotten, having been a Guru once yourself, that we’re not voting for who or what we personally think should get Oscar noms,” he said. “We’re trying to think the way an Oscar voter thinks and make our choices accordingly, and I suspect very few Oscar voters have heard of Joy Division or Ian Curtis or Sam Riley. [Predicting] is the whole purpose of the exercise. What critics think and what Academy members think are often two very different things, as you well know.”
“I strongly disagree,” I wrote back. “To hell with the Academy and the guilds at this stage. The Gurus and the Envelopers have a golden opportunity to put certain titles and names into the hat. You can play that dull, dispiriting ‘how the Academy dullards will vote’ game starting December 1st, or maybe after Thanksgiving. But October and November should be about history, callings and visions, and not industry politics.
“People have said time and again that Academy voting choices are sometimes a joke, and sometimes embarassing in hindsight. Let’s be honest — they sometimes have been. That’s because of persuasions, attitudes and prejudices that come out of a kind of laissez-faire corruption. Well, I believe the Gurus of Gold and The Envelopers are just as corrupt if they devote their time and energy entirely to predicting how these chowderheads will think, feel and vote.
“It’s banal and boring — the word is actually ‘destructive’ — to focus on this crap for four and a half months. Please, please — the basic format and the attitudes need to change.”
I realize that my “ignore the Academy and the guilds” will be laughed off by some. (Milquetoast mentalities always laugh off anything new or different.) So the compromise would be for the Gurus and the Envelopers to at least run two charts in each category — call one “pure” and the other one “political.” Go ahead — explain to me how this is a bad or unworkable idea. Because it’s not.