In today’s N.Y. Times, A.O. Scott has lamented with good reason “the peculiar and growing irrelevance of world cinema in American movie culture, which the Academy Awards help to perpetuate.” Diminishing education standards have surely fed into this. American backwater types have long regarded foreign-language films as too challenging or not comforting enough, but I’ve been sensing gradually lessening interest levels even among urbans over the last 20 or 25 years.
“There are certainly examples from the last decade of subtitled films, Oscar-nominated or not, that have achieved some measure of popularity,” Scott writes. “But these successes seem more and more like outliers. A modest American box office gross of around $1 million is out of the reach of even prizewinners from Cannes and masterworks by internationally acclaimed auteurs, most of whose names remain unknown even to movie buffs.
“This is less a sea change than the continuation of a 30-year trend. As fashion, gaming, pop music, social media and just about everything else have combined to shrink the world and bridge gaps of culture and taste, American movie audiences seem to cling to a cautious, isolationist approach to entertainment.”
No one cares about Henry Cavill being handed the big role in Zack Snyder‘s Superman: Man of Steel — nobody. The film will sell tickets when it opens and the Comic-Con fools will do their usual-usual and not a bird will stir in the trees. I agree with Rope of Silicon‘s Brad Brevet that Snyder’s statement (“I am honored to be a part of [Superman’s] return…I also join Warner Bros., Legendary and the producers in saying how excited we are” about this) indicates that hiring Cavill wasn’t entirely his decision.
Last night’s James Franco tribute at the Santa Barbara Film Festival started out badly due to Franco arriving on stage almost exactly an hour late, apparently due to an Oscar rehearsal session running late. But after he finally sat down with interviewer Leonard Maltin, Franco was so Zen and relaxed and articulate in a kind of shoulder-shrugging way that he wound up seeming like the coolest, most spiritually together guest this festival has ever hosted.
He just didn’t try to “turn on the charm” or project or win anyone over. He just sat there and smiled or smirked when the mood struck and just let it all happen, man…whatever. Well, not “whatever” but a kind of “I’m easy, I’ll talk, sure…no worries.”
The above clip is of Franco describing his process of realizing that he had to leave all the weird dramas behind and get back to his Freaks & Geeks roots and being a loose-shoe stoner again in Pineapple Express.
And then Seth Rogen came on at the finale to present the award. He was really on it with his usual rascally energy mixed with a kind of roast-riff attitude. Just watch the clip — he was perfect.
I still say Franco should have made a bigger effort to be on time. Saying that a rehearsal went on too long is the same as saying “my car ran out of gas” or “I had to drive down to the pound and get my dog” or “my girlfriend threw all my clothes out of the second story window and I had to pick them all up and take the nice ones down to the cleaners” or “I was in the shower and it felt so good to just stand there with all that wonderful steaming hot water covering me that I stayed in the shower for about an hour and subsequently lost track of time.”
The Santa Barbara News-Press website is apparently too lame to link to its own front-page stories, so I’ll just summarize a portion of Ted Mills‘ 1.30 article about yesterday’s SBIFF screenwriters panel at the Lobero theatre. Mills mis-characterizes a question I asked of The King’s Speech screenwriter David Seidler and mis-leads about the facts behind it, so I need to straighten this out.
Mills reports that my “stunner” of a question “asked Seidler to respond to charges from from Christopher Hitchens [in a 1.24 Slate article] that The King’s Speech glorifies a monarch who was anti-Semitic.”
All right, stop right there. I never uttered the term “anti-Semitic” and most importantly neither did Hitchens. In fact, no one to my knowledge has ever alluded to King George VI having been precisely “anti-Semitic,” quote unquote.
Mills got it wrong, apparently, because he couldn’t be bothered to read Hitchens’ article, but also because Seidler hadn’t read it either, or so it seemed. His defiant answer at the panel was apparently a response to an 11.28 “Vulture” article by Claude Brodesser-Akner that linked to an eight-year-old Guardian article about Hitler-kowtowing on the part of Colin Firth‘s King George character. But even that article sugggested not so much an anti-Semitic attitude as an indifference to the plight of European Jewry at the start of World War II.
As I explained on 1.24, the gist of Hitchens’ Slate piece was simply that King George VI (a.k.a. “Bertie”), former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain and the Windsors all leaned toward appeasement at a crucial time in British history, which is to say the late 1930s and early ’40s. “If it had been up to the Windsors, [Britain’s] finest hour would never have taken place,” Hitchens wrote, “so this is not a detail but a major desecration of the historical record.”
In light of Seidler and Mills’ misunderstanding and mis-referencing, Seidler’s response at yesterday’s screenwriters’ panel was almost moot, but here’s Mills’ description of it:
“Mr. Seidler rose to the occasion, and in a long defense tempered with restrained anger and peppered with much historical data, refuted Hitchens point by point. As someone who lost his paternal grandparents to the Holocaust, he said ‘the suggestion that I would then dedicate this much of my life to somebody I knew to be anti-Semitic I find vile.'”
Seidler also used the term “big lie.” But in the context of his answer, of Mills’ misleading article and Hitchens’ Slate piece, the use of the term “anti-Semitic” was also a big lie. All right, call it a medium-level lie. All to emphasize that it always helps if reporters and panelists take the time to read the pertinent materials before sounding off.
I’m of two minds about this afternoon’s Irish Wake at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, otherwise known as the Santa Barbara Film Festival Blogger’s Panel (4 to 5:30 pm, 1130 State Street). On one hand I’d like as many people as possible to come because it’ll feel like a less miserable thing with friends offering hugs. On the other hand the only way to get through it might be to bring a quart of Jack Daniels and pass it around. Either way you don’t want the panelists to outnumber the audience.
Because the only thing anyone will want to talk about is last night’s impact grenade — i.e., The King’s Speech‘s Tom Hooper winning the DGA award for feature directing, and thereby all but settling the Best Picture race. It’ll basically be an occasion for whimpering, howling and lamenting on the part of myself, Scott Feinberg and Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, plus the usual dry, perceptive, mild-mannered analysis from Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson, the beat-reporting, up-with-movies-and-the-people -who-make-them positivism of Deadline‘s Pete Hammond, and the avuncular wit and wisdom of moderator Peter Rainer, critic for the Christian Science Monitor.
I’m thinking that the last time SNL presented this kind of prince-and-the-pauper, Real McCoy-meets-doppleganger thing was when John Belushi and Joe Cocker sang side by side. I’ve looked for the clip for over 20 minutes and can’t find the clip anywhere. Anyone?
Here are some quotes I’ve read over the last 12 or 13 hours since the news broke that Tom Hooper has won the DGA award for best feature directing, and thus more or less confirming a forthcoming Best Picture Oscar win by The King’s Speech.
(l. to r.) DGA nominees Tom Hooper, David O. Russell, Darren Aronofsky, Chris Nolan and David Fincher at last night’s event.
“Being in the room last night for the DGA Awards, I can tell you the audience was stunned over the Hooper win…Kathryn Bigelow (who read the winner) was visibly shocked…one of the other directors (not Fincher) couldn’t contain himself and let out a howl of laughter. Having been to a lot of these award shows this season a bit…I’m sure all of the directors want to win themselves, but get the feeling they don’t mind losing to Fincher, but I think they do mind losing to Hooper.” — HE commenter “julieW.”
“I have enormous respect and admiration for Tom Hooper. I like the guy. And unlike other directors in the race, he has been generous with his time and thoughts. [But] the inherent ambition of at least 3 of the other 4 nominees is simply on another level. I have no problem when people vote for a movie they like or love, but this is directors voting for achievement in direction. When I see Hooper this week, I will pat him on the back and honestly say, ‘Good on ya.’ But for Fincher and Aronofsky and Nolan and Russell, they have to feel a little brutalized, but should realize that it’s not about pushing for new levels, but a movie popularity contest amongst a narrow base of movie lovers.” — David Poland, “The Hot Blog,” 1.30.11.
“Forgive me but with Oscar analysis it helps to be observant, receptive, objective — and not prescriptive.”– a tweet from Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson. Yes, yes…and to hell with that. This is a moment of terrible shock — a cultural-spiritual tragedy that will be looked back upon with disdain and shudders and embarassment for decades to come.
“So what shit sandwich are we going to have to eat tonight regarding the SAG awards?” — tweet from Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone.
“We shoulda known Oscar would go gaga. The King’s Speech is the only nominee with Nazis in it.” — The Film Experience‘s Nathaniel R.
“The King’s Speech wins DGA? Wow, I’m gonna have to look at the movie again. Everybody loves it except me. Blows whistle I cannot hear Look at it this way: The King’s Speech is as much about how new media changes way people connect as The Social Network. TKS is all about finding a new way to speak when there’s new way to be spoken to. Academy fogies & guild voters relate subconsciously.” — tweets from N.Y. Times media columnist David Carr.
“Hey, it’s not over yet. Maybe now everyone starts switching to King’s Speech and Social Network wins anyway. I’m sorry but winning every single critics group, NBR and the Golden Globes is a big deal. I still can’t figure out how the PGA and the DGA both can think The King’s Speech is a better or worthy movie. Baffles me.” — non-attrib.
“And to think [that] the odds to bet Tom Hooper for Best Director yesterday were 6-1 while Fincher you had to be $1600 to make $100. Yeah, a pretty stunning development. And it feels like just yesterday I was being shouted down early in the season for saying The King’s Speech had a great chance. I think we all assumed that at the very least Fincher and Sorkin were going to be locks. And I had a stat on the radio the other night where going back to 1980, there have been 18 films that won director and one of the screenplay categories. 16 of those won Best Picture. The only two that did not were Brokeback Mountain and Traffic.” — anonymous.
Devotees of eternal cinematic Movie Godz justice are tonight contemplating the drinking of hemlock, the inhaling of lethal gas and leaping from high cliffs. For Tom Hooper, a highly talented, handsome, intelligent and quite likable fellow who directed a very commendable 1993 film called The King’s Speech, has won the DGA award for feature film directing…and when I heard this news about 80 minutes ago, I folded. My face turned ashen gray and I died a little inside. Because I knew then and there that the Best Picture Oscar race was all but over. The King’s Speech will almost certainly win and The Social Network will lose.
As satisfying and well-wrought as The King’s Speech is in the realm of old-fashioned, emotionally reassuring cinema, this is an Oscar night that will live in infamy. The Academy’s fudge-pudge mentality has prevailed. Hooper’s DGA win echoes the triumph of Crash over Brokeback Mountain, Chicago over The Pianist, Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas, Ordinary People over Raging Bull and How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane. And the Best Picture Oscar wins of Driving Miss Daisy, Around the World in 80 Days and The Greatest Show on Earth.
Comfort, contentment and middle-class Masterpiece Theatre milquetoast values have prevailed. They “liked” The King’s Speech better, so there. Kick me, shoot me, run me over with a double-decker bus.
Early tomorrow morning the henchmen of Soviet Colonel Dimitri Ilyavich Karger will kick my door in and put me on a train to a Siberian gulag, and I’ll go willingly because I know when the jig is up. My spirit is spent. I’m feeling so downhearted I’m wondering if I can even sleep tonight. This is a very deflating moment for those who know the final truth of things vs. those who chose their little comfort blankies. We’ve suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. But there’s no choice but to be fair and gracious and respectful to the film that has won and….no! No! I am John Foster Dulles refusing to shake the hand of Chou En-lai.
A friend feels awful about this. I told her we all have an opportunity to be big about it, to be gracious and deferential…and to remind the world that ONLY IN THE TINY LITTLE CULTURAL POCKET OF THE LOS ANGELES FILM INDUSTRY (and among the even more fragmentary Academy member circles in New York City and London) DOES THIS KIND OF SHIT PLAY IN A PLURALISTIC VOTING-BODY SENSE. History will not look kindly. The under-35 generation will distance itself that much more from this bastion of backward-gazing, old-fart status-quo centrist values. The Social Network has swept the critics groups, is a far, far better film in the minds of the Movie Godz, and it will gleam for decades to come. What happened last night is a ensemble backslide move for the ages.
Lee J. Cobb has swung the jury in favor of guilty, and Henry Fonda is the one slowly walking down the steps in the early-morning light, his head hung in dejection.