If I’m not mistaken, six years ago original Brokeback Mountain author Annie Proulx said something equally frank and snippy about Paul Haggis‘s Crash, the film that snatched away the Best Picture Oscar from Ang Lee‘s adaptation. It’s
always usually the writers who let go with the barbs.
I never rank very high in predicting Oscar winners because I’m psychologically unable to separate or compartmentalize my feelings about the contenders from what I’ve been told or otherwise led to expect will happen. Every year about two-thirds of my predictions are on the money and roughly a third are not. I could have done a little better than 63% (i.e., last night’s final score) if I’d listened to Ben Zauzmer and predicted Meryl Streep to win Best Actress, but I couldn’t push myself off the Viola Davis boat.
The Oscar prediction game is fundamentally naught but simple shit.
This aside, congratulations to Gold Derby reader “snuggle4” (whomever he or she may be) for scoring 88% correct. Ten other Gold Derby users scored 84%. But credit where due, Snuggle4 was way ahead of the top three Gold Derby “experts” who got 80% right — Deadline‘s Pete Hammond, Fox News’ Tariq Khan and Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone.
Who is Snuggle4? I’m asking. Why doesn’t he/she have his/her own awards season column?
EW‘s “Safe Dave” Karger, Net Movie’s Kevin Polowy, TheWrap‘s Steve Pond, Gold Derby‘s Paul Sheehan and USA Today‘s Susan Wloszczyna got 75% correct last night.
The 71% Solution team: Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan, Coming Soon‘s Edward Douglas, L.A. Times‘ Elena Howe, Gold Derby honcho Tom O’Neil, Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers and Fandango’s Chuck Walton.
The 67% Crowd included were Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg, WENN’s Kevin Lewin, In Contention‘s Guy Lodge and the Village Voice‘s Michael Musto.
At 63% were Yahoo Movies’ Matt McDaniel, Hollywood News’ Sean O’Connell, Moviefone‘s Chris Rosen, Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson and myself.
For what it’s worth, Harvard Oscar-odds cruncher Ben Zauzmer, whose predictions I briefly summarized on 2.22, got 75% of these predictions correct, which is pretty good. (75% of the 20 categories he made predictions on, that is — he abstained in four categories.) Among the top eight categories he batted 100%, obviously partly due to his somewhat surprising five-day-old prediction that Meryl Streep would beat Viola Davis in the Best Actress race.
“By the time of Waterworld in 1996, the press’s sonar for the thrashings of a production in trouble — in this case, a prolonged location shoot, on water, with an unfinished script and a quarrelsome star — were so fine-tuned that reporters were virtually camped on the Hawaiian docks where Kevin Costner‘s post-apocalyptic extravaganza was shooting, sharpening their knives and forks.
“Here, though, was the twist: Waterworld wound up making $264 million, thanks to foreign markets, DVD sales, pay-per-view and all the other ancillary revenues with which the studios sought to insulate themselves from risk in the mid-1990s.
“With Last Action Hero (’93) and Godzilla (’98) — two more Flops That Weren’t — Waterworld marked the birth of a new breed of ‘presold’ movie, neither a hit nor a flop, just there, circling the Earth like a blimp, sucking rental revenues from Abu Dhabi, Helsinki, Bangkok.” — from Tom Shone‘s Wall Street Journal review of Ben Taylor‘s “Apocalypse on the Set,” a review of nine “disastrous productions.”
I distinctly recall that the original “it doesn’t suck” quote about Waterworld came from an early reviewer who either caught it at a recruited research screening or (more likely) at a press junket screening.
“Movies, I’ve seen hundreds of them. How many of them stay with you? Shane, Red River, On the Waterfront, Freaks? Maybe a handful of others… I saw one the other night, as soon as it was over, I couldn’t remember a thing about it. Seemed real important at the time though.” — Bob Dylan talking to Cameron Crowe, 1985.
In other words Dylan, born in 1941, had his movie-watching pores open the widest when he was young. If he caught the above in theatres he was 7 when he saw Red River in ’48, 12 when he saw Shane in ’53, and 13 when he saw On The Waterfront. He presumably saw Freaks on the tube or at the Bleecker Street Cinema in the early ’60s.
There is endless, infinite value in great, very good or at least noteworthy creativity. Quality cinema will ebb and flow, but it happens constantly to varying degrees. So the filmmakers with talent are covering their end. It is the responsibility of the viewer to keep him or herself sufficiently attuned and receptive to the good stuff. Same with music, books, fine art, etc.
One of the few surprises came before the ceremony began, when Sacha Baron Cohen approached the E! host Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet,” writes N.Y. Times “Tv Watch” critic Alessandra Stanley. “The comedian was in character from his new movie, The Dictator, and carried an urn filled with what he described as the ashes of Kim Jong-il, the deceased leader of North Korea.
“The comedian spilled the ashes all over a shocked Mr. Seacrest, saying, as he was hustled off by security guards, ‘When someone asks you what you are wearing, you will say Kim Jong-il.’ Mr. Seacrest was not amused.”
At the Artist after-party I was told by a Paramount publicist that there was definitely blowback from Seacrest after-the fact.
The Weinstein Co.’s post-Oscar victory party happened…well, actually it’s still happening (as of 12:05 am) at the Mondrian Hotel’s SkyBar. Nice gathering, nice people. Artist costar Uggie and Harvey Weinstein showed up; I left before the stars arrived. The Mondrian is just down the street (i.e., Sunset) from the Sunset Tower hotel, where the Vanity Fair party was happening simultaneously.
Uggie arrived with trainer and entourage, went right to special booth, etc.
Cigarettes were going for $15 a pack — no lie.
8:35 pm: Tom Cruise presenting the Best Picture Oscar to The Artist. And to all a good night. I don’t get Hazanavicius saying thanks to Billy Wilder three times. Not that Wilder’s example isn’t always worth pointing to. I’m sure there’s an explanation.
8:24 pm: Colin Firth is presenting the Best Actress award with the same tributes and clips. (Rooney Mara looks so much more alluring and intriguing as Lisbeth Salander, studs, punctures and all, than the way she does tonight with those bangs….no offense.) And the Oscar goes to Meryl Streep!! Sasha Stone freaks out! The over-62 crowd says no to Viola Davis. This is the shock-surprise we’ve been waiting for. Wasn’t in the cards, or at least the cards that many (most?) were consulting.
8:15 pm: Each Best Actor nominee is getting a “you went, guy” tribute from Natalie Portman plus a clip. And of course, the Oscar goes to Jean Dujardin. So The Artist will win only five Oscars, right? Best Costume Design, Best Musical Score, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Picture. THR’s Scott Feinberg had predicted seven, no?
8:03 pm: It’s kind of nice to run the death reel so late in the show (i.e. after the Best Director Oscar). It shows a greater degree of respect, I think, than to run it, say, at the halfway mark. The “Wonderful World” accompaniment is very nice also.
7:50 pm: We’re in the final moments, and Michael Douglas is about to hand the Best Director Oscar to Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist. The envelope opens and the Oscar goes to “the happiest director in the world right now…sometimes life is wonderful.”
7:42 pm: Terry George‘s The Shore wins the Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action. The Oscar for Best Documentary Short goes to Saving Face. (Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone predicted that the Japanese tsunami & cherry blossom film would win…what happened?) The Oscar for Best Animated Short goes to The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
7:32 pm: Reese Witherspoon‘s favorite movie is Overboard, the Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell comedy? I’m sorry but that’s really lame. And it explains a lot.
7:16 pm: Angelina Jolie presenting the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar to what I presume will be The Descendants. And it does. Good call. And the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, tipped for Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris, goes to Woody Allen.
7:18 pm: Cymbal-smashing Will Ferrell and Zach Galifinakis present the Best Song Oscar to “Man or Muppet.” Retire this category forever…please.
7:13 pm: And the Oscar for Best Motion Picture Score…uh-oh, here comes another Artist win, right? Yep. Kim Novak has just made a gagging sound (or pantomined it) and fallen on the floor.
7:09 pm: Crystal’s “I know what they’re thinking in their seats right now” bit…hmmm, not bad. Much better: “Thank you, Tom [Sherak] and thank you for whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Mr. Excitement.”
6:59 pm: Melissa Leo announces the winner of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, which of course has been owned by Christopher Plummer for a long, long time. And it’s his now. The oldest actor to win an Oscar…ever. Plummer saying to his fellow nominees that “I’m so proud to be in your company”…nice.
6:55 pm: Emma Stone isn’t funny. Ben Stiller: “Perky gets old fast.” The Best Visual Effects Oscar goes to…let me, guess, Hugo again? No — it should go to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Throw ’em a bone! Apes! Apes! Naah…Hugo. Its fifth Oscar so far. Hugo is the bone. The bone collector.
6:47 pm: Best Feature Animation Oscar, presented by Chris Rock, will go to Rango, of course. And it does. Director Gore Verbinski comes up on stage and says “this is crazy.” Nope — completely in the cards.
6:42 pm: The sound sounded wrong during Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow‘s little routine (which I didn’t get). And Undefeated win the Best Documentary Oscar! Which I felt was probably in the cards. Did they Oscar show producers cut the sound off on the Undefeated guys?
6:40 pm: I despise my internet service provider, which slows down every Oscar night without fail. (You guys really suck!) And I loved that Cirque du Soleil routine…who didn’t? Awesome, brilliant, etc.
6:24 pm: The Best Editing Oscar goes to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo…great! No issues! Although I wouldn’t have minded a win by the Moneyball guy. And the Best Sound Editing Oscar goes to Hugo, which now has three.
6:20 pm: The Wizard of Oz focus-group bit is pretty good, I must say. “Cut the Rainbow song…the flying monkeys,” etc. Very agreeable.
6:12 pm: Octavia Spencer — no surprise — wins Best Supporting Actress Oscar. I remember that very first press gathering at the Beverly Wilshire with Octavia last July, etc. With no air conditioning.
6:08 pm: A Separation wins Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar — naturally, deservedly. Never a question about this in my head. From that first Telluride screening onward.
5:59 pm: Various movie stars talking about various seminal movie experiences — meaning, metaphor, aspiration — is easily the best thing on the show thus far. “Can I please do that?”
5:55 pm: Best Costume Design Oscar goes to…The Artist. Okay, it had to win something sooner or later. Suck it up, be a man. The Iron Lady wins Best Makeup Oscar! That’s fine…well deserved.
5:46 pm: The Artist stopped twice! Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction goes to Hugo‘s Robert Richardson and Dante Ferreti. The little people are happy and dancing! Two bones have been tossed!
5:41 pm: Billy Crystal‘s CG movie-visitation montage + cornball Milton-Berle-Bob Hope Friar’s Club song-medley is the same routine, basically, that he performed in ’97 or whenever it was when Jerry Maguire was in the running.
5:27 pm: At the very least the ads should be good. In fact, the ads need to be to counterbalance what we all know is likely to happen. Please, God, give us a surprise, an upset, a shocker…anything.
In a 2.24 posting that appeared in today’s N.Y. Times print edition, columnist Frank Bruni compares the disappointing Oscar contenders with the season’s stunningly wacko Republican presidential contenders (excepting Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul):
“Perhaps because the 84th Academy Awards fall smack in the middle of an unusually dizzying stretch of the presidential campaign, the parallels between our cinematic and political sweepstakes have come into bold relief. And though Hollywood often sees itself — and is regarded — as a bastion of liberalism, the kinship of the Oscars with the Republican primaries is particularly striking.
“Both pointlessly bloated, the two contests showcase a slew of options without a single one that inspires outsize passion or commands any real consensus. The Republican field also began with a bevy of possibilities. Remember Rick Perry? Herman Cain? Such a sprawling buffet, so many empty calories.
“This year, the movie and political spheres are in peculiarly felicitous alignment. Whether evaluating Oscar contenders or presidential ones, many of us are asking the same plaintive question — is this really the best we have? — and gripped by the same sense that the selection process somehow winnows out or wards off many better alternatives.”
The only way to keep The Artist down to six or seven wins (or less) is if the “let’s be charitable and throw this or that nominee a bone” instinct has kicked in. Right? With the Big Winner locked, the compassionate voter decides that the show won’t be any good it if’s too one-sided so spread the love around…at least a bit.
In tribute to the late Erland Josephson, the great Swedish actor who worked with Ingmar Bergman (Hour of the Wolf. The Passion of Anna, Cries and Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage, Fanny and Alexander) and Andrei Tarkovsky (Nostalghia) before passing yesterday at age 88, I’m re-running a 2007 article about a Manhattan encounter I had with Josephson and some other Swedish actors (Harriet Andersson in particular) about 30 years ago:
Erland Josephson — 6.15.23 to to 2.25.12
“The closest contact I ever had with Ingmar Bergman, so to speak, was a night in 1981 or ’82 when I talked for a long while with Harriet Andersson, who had a relationship with Bergman in the ’50s and starred in various Bergman films of that general period (including Summer With Monika, Sawdust and Tinsel, Through a Glass Darkly) and later costarred in Fanny and Alexander.
“There was actually a little more than talking going on. There was enough of an attraction that after 90 minutes or so Andersson suggested that we could perhaps leave the party (some invitational soiree on behalf of Swedish filmmakers that was happening in some cavernous space in Soho or Tribeca) and head uptown and…who knew?
“I knew one thing: an attractive middle-aged woman (she was nudging 50 but looked a good ten or twelve years younger) who had once been entwined with the great Ingmar Bergman was now somewhat interested in me. I was certainly flattered. If you believe that lovers pass along certain particles and auras to each other and that these are somehow absorbed and become part of who and what they are for the rest of their lives, I was thinking that on some ethereal level I might absorb a little residual Ingmar.
“But instead of grabbing a cab, Andersson arranged for us to ride uptown in a limo with a group of her Swedish film industry friends, including actor Erland Josephson, who had starred in several Bergman films himself including Hour of the Wolf, The Touch, Cries and Whispers and Scenes from a Marriage. There were five or six of us crammed into the back seat, and it was only a matter of ten or twelve seconds before they all realized what was going on and starting making joke after joke. In Swedish, of course, but translations were unnecessary.
“The mockery and the giggling and the howling went for two or three minutes, but to me it felt like a non-stop barrage. I tried to smile and be a good sport at first, but after a minute or so my eyes froze over. I distinctly remember Josephson being the worst of them. He was slightly in his cups and looking at me with a certain fiendish glee as he let go with one derisive snort after another. The import, more or less, was ‘Hah!…you worthless nobody!…you think you are good enough to lie down with Harriet?…think again!’
“By the time we were let off at Andersson’s hotel at 59th Street and 7th Avenue, I was on the verge of vomiting. It was all I could do to say ‘very nice meeting you’ to Andersson before turning and walking off. She’d been howling along with the rest of them, after all. Nice.”
In short, Josephson was a major talent and legendary actor who, like many people who live on the creative edge, was capable of brutal judgment and, if he’d had a few, casual cruelty. I’ve never forgotten that night so off you go, Erland…off you go, escorted by an army of dark horned angels, ya prick ya. The next time an older woman friend hooks up with an attractive young guy and wants to take him home, I’ll remember to be nice and friendly if we share a cab uptown.
Josephson was director of the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm from 1966 to 1975. He also directed a 1980 film called Marmalade Revolution.