L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein echoed my own dismay when he criticized Envelope/Gold Derby columnist Tom O’Neil on 11.2 for posting an anonymous Oscar voter’s opinion that This Is It, the Michael Jackson documentary, will grab an Oscar Best Picture nomination.
Engaging as the film is, the voter’s claim is absurd given the obvious fact that This Is It (a) is first and foremost a cash-grab enterprise that (b) obviously has no theme or under-current due to its total lack of interest in portraying the Jackson back-story or any of the circumstances behind the “This Is It” rehearsal footage — it’s strictly a sizzle show. Best Picture contenders can and must be made of sterner stuff.
I also shook my head when O’Neil posted a forecast by World Entertainment News Network’s Kevin Lewin about Guy Ritchie‘s Sherlock Holmes looking like a Best Picture nominee, which Goldstein also made fun of. The Academy rulebook does not state that “humungously-budgeted, big-studio features directed by cravenly-on-the-make directors, especially such films that use florid CG compositions and cruise through their narratives with a smirking jocular tone, can be allowed the honor of a Best Picture nomination” — but such a rule does exist in the minds of most reasonable-minded Aademy members.
“Call me old-fashioned,” Goldstein wrote, “but these postings are another good reason why all of our nutty Oscar pundits should be required to actually watch a movie before being allowed to publicly predict its Oscar fortunes.”
On the other hand, O’Neil made a fair point earlier today when he said “this certainly wasn’t Goldstein’s policy back in the old days, before the recent proliferation of award pundits, when he still held this terrain largely to himself, issuing racetrack odds on Oscar front-runners long before even the National Board of Review kicked off the derby with its first award.
“In 2001, Goldstein issued his earliest odds on the best-picture race, betting on Ali in August — long before he saw it and seven months before the Oscar ceremony took place — with 4-to-1 odds. Ali wasn’t even nominated; A Beautiful Mind triumphed.
“In 2003, Goldstein issued his odds in early November — before he saw Cold Mountain or Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. His odds on best picture: Mystic River (6-1), Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (8-1), Cold Mountain (10-1), Finding Nemo (14-1) and House of Sand & Fog (15-1). Mystic River didn’t win, of course, and 60% of his picks for best-picture weren’t nominated.
The fact, says O’Neil, is that “Goldstein’s racetrack odds used to be an annual attraction. But now he refrains from making firm predix, preferring to take potshots at others who do. Last year he blasted me and cohorts as a ‘gang of daffy, clown-suit-clad Oscar bloggers’ who have ‘hijacked’ the Academy Awards. He thrills at taking aim at me personally. He’s written in the pages of the L.A. Times that reading Gold Derby is ‘a high camp experience,’ like watching a Joan Crawford movie (a compliment, actually, which he meant as insult, of course) and blasted me personally as ‘the poster boy for the trivialization of Oscar coverage.’
“The one person who seems to be safe from Goldstein’s public ridicule while Oscar blogging is Goldstein,” O’Neil concluded. “Two months ago, on Sept. 1, he fumed at me for commencing Oscar discussions too soon over movies none of us had seen yet. Then, just two days later, he announced at his blog that the Oscar hopes of The Road — which he hadn’t seen — had taken ‘a big dive’ after Variety‘s review came out. Seven days later, after a few more reviews surfaced, a headline at his blog advised readers to “Put The Road back on your Oscar contender ballot.”