I’d love to read a longish, fully-sourced, deep-drill article about why Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln failed to win Best Picture, but Melena Ryzik‘s 2.27 Oscar aftermath piece in the N.Y. Times only scratches the surface.
Key passage: “This season, insiders said, the team behind Lincoln — executives at DreamWorks and Disney — overcampaigned, leaving voters with the unpleasant feeling that they were being force-fed a highly burnished history lesson. ‘It was a good movie, not sliced bread,’ one veteran awards watcher said.”
But in precisely what ways did D&D ostensibly over-sell it? The “insiders” might be partly referring to Bill Clinton‘s plug at the Golden Globes, but in what other ways? C’mon, let’s see the list and hear what various people have to say about whatever worked or didn’t work.
Grantland‘s Mark Harris, the husband of Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner, has tweeted the following about Ryzik’s article: “You can buy the ‘Lincoln overcampaigned’ theory or not, but the blanket granting of anonymity in this story is cheap.”
Another possible reason Lincoln didn’t make it , says Ryzik, is that it was “dimly illuminated, to replicate the lighting of the period, and stuffed with long passages of speechifying by waistcoated, bearded men,” and so “the film did not play well on DVD screeners.” She mentions cynical talk that Spielberg “was primed for a takedown — envy being as motivating a force as greed in this industry — and that voters were enthralled by the comeback story that [Argo‘s Ben] Affleck represented.”
I haven’t seen many March films, but the good ones seem few and far between. By my yardstick the two best will emerge at the end of the month. Wayne Blair‘s The Sapphires (Weinstein Co., 3.22) is a partial knockout, but entirely worth seeing for Chris Dowd‘s landmark performance as a road manager who’s also a major Motown fanatic. If you’re a fan of The Shining, Rodney Ascher‘s Room 237 (IFC Films, 3.29) is the shit, a hoot, a trip — the smartest and sharpest film of the month. And no, the trailers haven’t done it justice
3.1: Ixnay on Stoker and the reviews for Jack the Giant Slayer haven’t been good. I still haven’t seen The Sweeney. If anything, Kim Nguyen‘s War Witch is probably the one to see. Honestly? I’ve only watched half of the screener. That’s not a criticism — just an admission of laziness.
3.8: The only interesting thing I’ve noticed so far about Sam Raimi‘s Oz: The Great and Powerful (which I’ve only seen traielrs for) is the black-and-white beginning. Cristian Mungiu‘s Beyond the Hills is deliberately paced, austere, and in my book first-rate. David Riker‘s The Girl has a commendable Abbie Cornish performance but is otherwise a bit of a mixed bag. I still haven’t seen Michel Gondry‘s The We And The I. I’m sorry but I felt underwhelmed by Peter Webber‘s Emperor.
3.15: I caught Sally Potter‘s Ginger and Rosa at last September’s Telluride Film Festival — distinctive, intriguing, less than fully satisfying. I won’t see Harmony Korine‘s Spring Breakers until Thursday. < strong>3.22: I haven’t seen Paul Weitz‘s comedic Admission but it’s apparently quite slight.
In his swaggering party-boy period Colin Farrell played leads in glossy, well-funded mainstream films from ’03 to ’06 (Daredevil, Phone Booth, The Recruit, S.W.A.T., Alexander, the intelligent and historically atmospheric Terrence Malick flick The New World and Michael Mann‘s fumey, aromatic Miami Vice). Then he checked into rehab in December 2005 and switched to character roles in smaller, smarter, indie-ish films (Ask the Dust, Cassandra’s Dream, Pride and Glory, In Bruges, Ondine, Triage, Crazy Heart, The Way Back).
And then in ’10 Farrell changed course again and started doing violence-flavored material (London Boulevard, Horrible Bosses, Fright Night, Total Recall, Dead Man Down, Winter’s Tale along with the semi-violent satiric-attitude flick Seven Psychopaths).
One glance at the trailer for Dead Man Down (Film District, 3.8) tells you Farrell needs to get fawkin’ back to smarter, cooler films, yeah? Because the newbie looks like dogshit. Farrell’s most recently completed gig was playing a supporting role in John Lee Hancock‘s Savings Mr. Banks, which costars Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.
N.Y. Times political pulse-taker and numbers guy Nate Silver is reporting that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is on the outs with the wacked-out Republican right (i.e., the party of corporate elites, angry old white guys and Tea Party yokels) due to his being perceived as too moderate.
That right there tells you he has a better-than-decent shot at becoming the 2016 Republican candidate for president because — hello? — he could actually win. He’s a real-deal, hot-dog-eating man of the people and not a country-club phony like Mitt Romney.
But the metaphor that goes along with being dangerously obese means he can’t run if he doesn’t drop at least 100 pounds, or better yet 125. A little more than a year ago The New Republic‘s Timothy Noah offered a “crowd-sourced” estimate that Christie weighs around 334 pounds, give or take.
The great classical pianist Van Cliburn has passed at age 78. The man had a cavernous soul and miraculous fingers. He had a distinguished and fulfilling run, peaking at age 23 when he won a Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow and soon after landing on the cover of Time magazine on 5.19.58. So he peaked 55 years ago but at least he peaked. Very few of us get to the stand on top of the highest mountain.
From Joe Leydon‘s Moving Picture Blog: “I met the late, great Van Cliburn only once, decades ago, during my days at The Shreveport Times, when the famed pianist returned to his hometown to perform with local symphony. (Sorry, Time: He really was a Louisiana native.)
“But he told me something during our brief interview that has always stuck in my mind: ‘If I have talent,” he said, ‘it’s a gift from God. But if I have a career, it’s a gift from the audience. Because they don’t have to come see me, or buy my records.'”
I for one am totally past the traumatic 2012 Oscar battles and into the present, but to hear it from TheWrap‘s Steve Pond, the year-long “season” was interesting and certainly change-ridden at times, but altogether civil and mild-mannered. The Best Picture race was described six days ago by Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone in much more dramatic terms. She and Pond experienced the same basic saga on a story-by-story basis, and yet their impressions diverged.
I feel a greater kinship with Sasha’s version, no offense.
Consider Pond’s recap of the journey of Silver Linings Playbook, a film that will be getting to Average Joes and turning their spigots on long after Argo and Life of Pi have been relegated to “uh-huh…yeah, I saw those films…pretty good, well made.” Here’s Pond’s summary:
“David O. Russell‘s film did not come into Toronto with anywhere near the buzz of Argo or Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master or [even] Terrence Malick‘s To the Wonder; it came in quietly and under the radar, after months of tweaking by the director who was coming off the 2010 Best Picture nominee The Fighter.
“But its premiere at Roy Thomson Hall, which came one day after the Argo premiere in the same building, came as a delicious shock. “Silver Linings is a perfectly calibrated comedy that is also deeply moving,” I wrote after the screening. “[I]t’s another major step in Russell’s comeback from movie limbo, and a mainstream film with enough heart and clout to immediately figure into a number of Oscar races, definitely including Best Picture.”
“That night, Russell wasn’t so sure he wanted the acclaim. ‘I like being the underdog,’ he told TheWrap at the party that followed his premiere. ‘Now we just have to see if we can stay the underdog for the next two months.’ He didn’t exactly do that, with the film landing eight Oscar nominations and becoming the first movie since 1981’s Reds to score noms in all four acting categories.”
Pond doesn’t mention the vicious anti-SLP campaign that kicked in a few weeks after Toronto, but speaking as an infantryman in the Turkish Army as General Allenby’s shells exploded all around for weeks on end (“Pound them Charlie…pound them!”), I can tell you it was relentless. It was awful.
I’m past it and have moved on, as noted, but Pond’s piece brought it up again. A movie that so many loved and which has now crossed $100 million and which held to a 92% average on Rotten Tomatoes and 81% on Metacritic, and won four Spirit Awards and corralled eight Academy Award nominations (including noms in all four acting categories) along with JLaw’s Best Actress Oscar)…but God, the hate! A movie as perfect in its own way as a film of this type (a schizzy psycho-dramedy about meds, sports, superstition, love and denial) could be, and yet countered by currents of acidic blood and blocked from greater Oscar glory.
I got my first taste of the coming rancor on the evening of 9.28.12, which I described in “Incredulous Parking Garage Rage.” From that moment on the Toronto Silver Linings high was over. By the time SLP opened on 11.16 the Hate Brigade had been formed as surely as the Irish Republican Army had assembled in 1922.
I was so appalled and upset by this current that, meager as my pulpit might be, I wanted to fire back with my own British artillery, and I think on some gut emotional level I decided that the General Allenby counter-strike had to be aimed at Lincoln. In my mind and to its immense and lasting credit, SLP was in several ways everything that Lincoln was not. There was also my ongoing theory that Steven Spielberg has had his ass kissed too much over the last 35 years and that…well, that the somber reverence and historical portentousness of Lincoln represented a kind of polar-opposite aesthetic — “an Oscar-worthy film has to maintain a tone of importance and gasbaggery!” — and that this idea needed to be punctured or defeated or at least temporarily stopped in its tracks.
So basically the Lincoln “takedown campaign,” if you want to call it that (and I maintain to this date that I did nothing more than simply try to counter-balance the excessive Lincoln gush), was a kind of revenge hit on the SLP haters. I know that it didn’t actually work out that way in reality, but that’s how I was feeling it on some strategic or emotional level. I’m just being honest. It’s over now and on to 2013, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a certain satisfaction in the fact that Lincoln never really caught on during awards season except for Daniel Day Lewis‘s stellar performance and the many trophies that came his way.
Yesterday producer Glenn Zoller, an always thoughtful and generous fellow, sent me a short called Valibation, directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas) and produced by Ken Franchi.
“Valibation is pretty good — well acted and professionally produced with a certain visual discipline — and in some ways is very good, but it runs 21 minutes. Short films should not run longer than 14 minutes, and if you can bring them in at 10 or 12 minutes, so much the better. I was told this a long time ago. This could be trimmed down to 12 or 14 minutes and still make its points. Leaner is always better.
“It’s basically David Cronenberg‘s Videodrome with a tech update,” I went on. “I regret to admit the early part, before the gross stuff begins with the iPhone embedded in the guy’s hand and all, is a lot like me and my obsessive life. The CG messaging stuff is cool. I get it, it hits home. But the joke or the metaphor has more or less been delivered by the 11:00 mark, and after that you’re just waiting for it to end.
“And then towards the end the lead actor starts watching Singin’ in the Rain at 1.78 to 1? Stanley Donen shot it in 1952 at 1.33 and this bozo is watching it with the tops and bottoms chopped off? And then we get a close-up of his ass as he whacks off? The guy is a self-absorbed dick. This short is about basically about self-loathing. Ir’s basically really good for the first few minutes, then it’s pretty good until until the 10- or 11-minute mark and then it starts to slowly go downhill because we get it and can sense what’s coming.”
Chelsea Davison as Lena Dunham as Hanna Horvath riffing on “Maya” in a “sort of…uhm, feel my way into it?” improvisational audition for Zero Dark Thirty. Davidson (here’s her Twitter page) is a New York-based actress-comedian–copywriter with a Cleveland-area phone.