Sunday’s Oscar Poker chat runs a fast 35 minutes. It began with Sasha Stone and I discussing Spotlight‘s big ensemble win at the conclusion of Saturday night’s SAG Awards. Before that happened The Big Short was looking like the hottest Best Picture winner. Not so much now. Until next weekend’s DGA awards Spotlight is a hot ticket again. “What kind of mind is this? An empty shell, a lonely cell. In which an empty heart must dwell. What kind of clown am I? What do I know of life?” Again, the mp3.
A day or two ago a Sundance-attending journalist friend who’d seen Deadpool told me he really liked it, etc. Me: “Really? But the tone is so arch…it’s obviously a huge meta thing.” Sundance-attending journalist friend: “That’s what all the superhero films are doing these days.” This trailer has convinced me that I’ll hate it no matter what, and so I’ve no concerns about missing Thursday’s Los Angeles all-media screening as I’ll be attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival starting on Wednesday. Maybe I’ll pay to see it up there.
The winners of last night’s jury and audience awards for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival bore only an incidental relationship to what the festival actually boiled down to for many if not most of the attendees.
The only serious home run was Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester-By-The-Sea, but it wasn’t award-eligible as it was shown in the premiere section.
Before anyone had even seen Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation it was all but assured an award from the jury or the audience or both. Everyone felt the clamor and knew that Birth was the movie to support in order to demonstrate their humanism and compassion, and to proclaim that they weren’t in league with the OscarsSoWhite crowd back in Los Angeles. Yes, Parker tried very hard and put his heart into every shot and frame, but at best it’s an okay, at times mediocre film, hindered by an idealized attitude about Nat Turner and too much paint on the canvas.
As BBC.com’s Owen Gleiberman noted a couple of days ago, The Birth of a Nation is basically an Ed Zwick or a Ron Howard film, but it wouldn’t have won at Sundance if Zwick or Howard had actually directed it.
“Honestly, this [film and this award] is not only for the survivors of this horrific situation, but for me personally this is for the disenfranchised everywhere…for every Flint, Michigan in the world. This is for the powerless, [and] this is for the powerful who take advantage of the powerless. And you can hang me for that and I don’t really care [but] I’m proud of this, [and] thank you very much. But it comes down to two things. There’s fair and there’s unfair. I’m always going to pull for the fair. I’m always going to pull for the good guys. Thanks for this. Means a lot.” — Michael Keaton‘s SAG acceptance speech after Spotlight won last night for Best Ensemble.
After The Big Short won last weekend’s PGA Daryl F. Zanuck award I had the following exchange with a director friend who’s been a Big Short praiser from the get-go:
Director friend: “Do you still think I steered you wrong?”
HE: “The Big Short is a good film but calm down.”
Director friend: “Bubba, you don’t get off that easy. After your initial viewing of The Big Short you shamed me, ridiculed me, questioned my Oscar predicting manhood. I told you it was a contender and I was banished to the Elba of your mind for saying so. On the other hand, when I told you to calm down about Truth, I was ridiculed the other way. You said it was on the level of All The President’s Men.”
HE: “Truth and All The President’s Men are analagous. One is a success story, the other is about failure. Truth is a complex tale of a journalistic disaster that is ironically compounded by the fact that the reporters, despite their failure to fully vet the Killian documents, were reporting the truth about George Bush‘s record in the National Guard. They were right but they got taken down anyway when the Karl Rove brigade went after the report and CBS corporates felt they had no choice but to wash their hands.
“Yes, I found The Big Short too dense and wonky after the first viewing, but I warmed up to it with a second viewing, and now I’d actually like to see it a third time with a friend.”
I wrote the director friend this morning after Spotlight won the SAG ensemble award, which of course meant a loss for The Big Short, which had been favored to win by certain blogaroonies (Sasha Stone, Kris Tapley, Glenn Whipp).
HE: “Like I said last weekend, ‘calm down.'”
Director friend: “Dude, just because The Big Short didn’t win an ensemble award doesn’t mean it’s not a player. I told you it was going to be in the mix. You told me that I was wrong and that I misled you. Do you still think that?”