A short while ago Film Experience‘s Nathaniel R. asked what would be the Best Picture lineup if there were only five slots. The knee-jerk answer is that The Social Network, The King’s Speech, True Grit, Black Swan and The Fighter would be the nominees. Right?
I need to clarify something for those who don’t read the comment threads, or didn’t read them yesterday. I was criticized last night for failing to accurately read the significance of The King’s Speech getting 12 nominations vs. The Social Network getting 8. I’m aware that The Social Network couldn’t hope to compete in certain below-the-line realms (including Best Supporting Actress, production design, etc.) that The King’s Speech, being a British period piece about the royals with a strong supporting female, would probably be recognized for.
So yeah, I got that. Take away those smaller categories and the nomination tallies for the two films are roughly even.
What I also know is that the mice scurried and the world tumbled yesterday morning when people considered the difference between 12 nominations for TKS and 8 nominations for TSN. Nobody thought it through — they just fled like fools over to TKS. The TSN-favoring Gurus of Gold roster, made up of pros who are supposed to have a veneer of sophistication about this game, took one look and folded for TKS, to a man. Not one of them held their ground. And that’s what I was responding to yesterday, why I felt so effin’ gloomy. One minute I was savoring a clear blue sky and a morning cappucino with my hot Czech girlfriend in an outdoor cafe in Wenceslas Square, and the next minute….Soviet tanks!
The winds will shift again when TSN director David Fincher wins (as expected) his DGA award on 1.29, and when TSN screenwriter Aaron Sorkin picks up his adapted screenplay WGA award on 2.5. And if the Sorkin or Fincher wins don’t happen, then the game will be pretty much over.
I was invited last week to sip Bloody Marys with Hobo With A Shotgun star Rutger Hauer. The twist is that the meeting & drinking will begin this morning starting at 9:30 or 10 am, and then, mildly lit, myself and others will head up to the Egyptian to see the film at 11:30 am. I never touch beer or wine until 9 pm or later and I never go near hard stuff, so this will be an experience.
I missed an 11:30 pm Hobo screening last weekend due to a venue change, and I decided not to attend last night’s press screening in order to catch Rashaad Ernesto Green‘s Gun Hill Road — a mistake.
A few hours ago Sasha Stone, Scott Feinberg and I recorded a special Oscar Poker (#18) about this morning’s Oscar nominations. I’d been in a funk all day about the 12 nominations handed to Tom Hooper‘s The King’s Speech, and the meaning of that number. Our discussion was basically about raising the spirits of those who, like myself, felt grief-struck about the “wrong” film suddenly seeming to become (emphasis on the “s” word) the leading Best Picture contender.
To me (and to most of the world) the 12 TKS nominations indicated a return to the old Oscar mentality of the ’90s, to notions of Anglo-Saxon safety and familiarity and upscale formula, to Merchant-Ivory/Masterpiece Theatre brand of royal British cinema. I felt deeply bummed by this because, to me, The Social Network almost represented a kind of Prague Spring movie — youthful, buzzy, fresh, GenY, 21st Century, etc. So to me this morning’s King’s Speech power-surge felt like repression, like Soviet tanks rumbling into Prague in August ’68. I stood on the street and wept.
But you know what? Our conversation raised my spirits somewhat. Here’s a stand-alone link,
Every last MCN Guru of Gold voter who changed his/her Best Picture prediction in favor of The Social Network over the last three or four weeks reversed course this morning after the Oscar nominations were announced, and now they’re all King’s Speech supporters again. (Except for Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, who abstained.) It was almost the same deal at Gold Derby’s prediction chart except for five journalists who have, it would seem, at least a semblance of faith in previous perceptions and/or a backbone — Cinematical‘s Erik Davis, Village Voice‘s Michael Musto, Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil, NextMovie‘s Kevin Polowy and myself.
From the wise and reputable Lewis Beale, via CNN.com: “Oscar has proven, once again, that it just doesn’t get it. By ‘it’ I mean that the Academy voters seem to be stuck in some sort of time warp where solid, dependable, well-crafted, but utterly non-innovative films like The King’s Speech get a bushel of nominations –12 in all, leading the pack — while a cutting edge, brilliantly directed and written, this-is-what-life-is-about-today film like The Social Network is relegated to third place, behind True Grit, in the nominations total.
“By relegating The Social Network to also-ran status, the Academy is sending a very strong message: ‘We like traditional filmmaking. We don’t want to think too hard. We want our lead characters to be sympathetic or, at the very least, colorful. This year contemporary issue films aren’t necessarily our cup of tea.’
“They’re also saying, last but not least, ‘What century is this, anyway?'”
Christopher Hitchens‘ 1.24 Slate piece about The King’s Speech is not some rash smear job. It’s a sensible and researched argument that deserves a read by every Oscar blogger and Academy member. He’s a Brit who knows his British history — he’s Christopher effin’ Hitchens — and he’s explaining quite simply and clearly 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. So’s what’s with all the pride and glory at the end of The King’s Speech?
“It is suggested [in The King’s Speech] that, once some political road bumps have been surmounted and some impediments in the new young monarch’s psyche have been likewise overcome, Britain is herself again, with Winston Churchill and the king at Buckingham Palace and a speech of unity and resistance being readied for delivery.
“Here again, the airbrush and the Vaseline are partners. When Chamberlain managed to outpoint the coalition of the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, and the Churchillian Tories and to hand to his friend Hitler the majority of the Czechoslovak people, along with all that country’s vast munitions factories, he received an unheard-of political favor. Landing at Heston Airport on his return from Munich, he was greeted by a royal escort in full uniform and invited to drive straight to Buckingham Palace. A written message from King George VI urged his attendance ‘so that I can express to you personally my most heartfelt congratulations…[T]his letter brings the warmest of welcomes to one who, by his patience and determination, has earned the lasting gratitude of his fellow countrymen throughout the Empire.’
“Chamberlain was then paraded on the palace balcony, saluted by royalty in front of cheering crowds. Thus the Munich sell-out had received the royal assent before the prime minister was obliged to go to Parliament and justify what he had done. The opposition forces were checkmated before the game had begun.
“Britain does not have a written Constitution, but by ancient custom the royal assent is given to measures after they have passed through both houses of Parliament. So Tory historian Andrew Roberts, in his definitively damning essay ‘The House of Windsor and the Politics of Appeasement,’ is quite correct to cite fellow scholar John Grigg in support of his view that by acting as they did to grant pre-emptive favor to Chamberlain, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter to you) ‘committed the most unconstitutional act by a British Sovereign in the present century.’
“The private letters and diaries of the royal family demonstrate a continued, consistent allegiance to the policy of appeasement and to the personality of Chamberlain. King George’s forbidding mother wrote to him, exasperated that more people in the House of Commons had not cheered the sellout. The king himself, even after the Nazi armies had struck deep north into Scandinavia and clear across the low countries to France, did not wish to accept Chamberlain’s resignation. He ‘told him how grossly unfairly he had been treated, and that I was genuinely sorry.’
“Discussing a successor, the king wrote that ‘I, of course, suggested [Lord] Halifax.’ It was explained to him that this arch-appeaser would not do and that anyway a wartime coalition could hardly be led by an unelected member of the House of Lords. Unimpressed, the king told his diary that he couldn’t get used to the idea of Churchill as prime minister and had greeted the defeated Halifax to tell him that he wished he had been chosen instead. All this can easily be known by anybody willing to do some elementary research.
“In a few months, the British royal family will be yet again rebranded and relaunched in the panoply of a wedding. Terms like ‘national unity’ and ‘people’s monarchy’ will be freely flung around. Almost the entire moral capital of this rather odd little German dynasty is invested in the post-fabricated myth of its participation in ‘Britain’s finest hour.’
“In fact, had it been up to them, the finest hour would never have taken place. So this is not a detail but a major desecration of the historical record — now apparently gliding unopposed toward a baptism by Oscar.”
Jacob Aron Estes‘ The Details, which I saw this morning, is about things going badly for a Seattle-residing doctor and family man (Tobey Maguire), in part due to his own poor decisions but also because of horrible pre-ordained luck — fate or God or some overpowering force simply being against him. A similar theme drove the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man — God doesn’t care, and He might even be messing with you because He’s a perverse mofo possessed of a sick sense of humor.
Cosmic disfavor is clearly indicated in The Details in the very first scene. Maguire is shown sitting alone in front of an office building during the day when all of a sudden a large piano falls from above, flattening him. We all know what it means when anything falls from the sky in a movie (like the frogs in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Magnolia) — i.e., someone up there is displeased. So this morning I asked Estes if he could express what his film is saying theologically, in 25 words or less. He said that God isn’t really in his film and that we all create our fate or destiny with our choices and our character. That struck me as blatantly dishonest given his use of the falling piano, but maybe I’m being too strict about this.
Happy Happy director Anne Sewitsky (l.), star Agnes Kittelsen (r.) at Sundance party for Norweigan entries the night before last.
Flip-flops, shorts, baseball caps and pork-pie hats, etc. Basic, fundamental components of a generic 20something
pseudo-hip dork wardrobe.
Eugene Jarecki following Park City debut of Reagan, a doc that turned out to be, for my taste, a little too fair and balanced. You could even call it soft-pedally. The reputation of the man who did next to nothing for the middle class and who brought us the deregulation that led to the 2008 economic collapse needs to be ripped to shreds. Jarecki’s doc is very scrupulous and thorough and exacting — all the facts are there — but it feels altogether too mild.
A Fandango poll is reporting that the biggest surprise, according to the majority (34%) of respondents, was the nomination of John Hawkes for Best Supporting Actor in Winter’s Bone. There was also a “Top 10 Oscar Nomination Snubs of 2011” poll, and the results are as follows: (1) Christopher Nolan, Best Director, Inception (48%); (2) Tangled – Best Animated Feature (9%); (3) Mila Kunis — Best Supporting Actress, Black Swan (8%); (4) Despicable Me – Best Animated Feature (6%); (5) Ryan Gosling — Best Actor, Blue Valentine (6%); (6) Waiting for Superman – Best Documentary (5%); (7) Black Swan – Best Original Screenplay (5%); (8) Andrew Garfield – Best Supporting Actor, The Social Network (5%); Julianne Moore – Best Actress, The Kids are All Right (4%), and (10) Inception — Best Editing (3%).
“There are two interesting stats to keep in mind when considering the Best Picture race between The King’s Speech with its 12 nominations, and The Social Network with its 8 nominations,” writes columnist Scott Feinberg. “The last time that the Academy had 10 nominees prior to last year’s awards was 1943. That year The Song of Bernadette, which had 12 nods, lost Best Picture to Casablanca, which had 8 nods. (Casablanca‘s ultimately won 3 Oscars compared to The Song of Bernadette‘s 4 Oscars.)
“Conversely, in 1942, Mrs. Miniver, which had 12 nods and is a film in which “everyone displays strength of character in the face of tragedy and destruction,” won best picture over The Magnificent Ambersons, which had fewer nods and is a film about the impact of a major technological advance on American society.”