Punch Drunk Love collaborators Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam Sandler took questions in front of an Aero crowd early this evening (Sunday). It was a nice friendly chit-chat. Sandler began things by interviewing Anderson, but soon they were both taking questions and it stayed that way for 40 minutes. Anderson didn’t say squat about The Master and wore a great-looking pair of shoes. He conveyed a certain ambivalence about the length of Magnolia (1999), saying he’d love to be able to cut 15 minutes out of it. The film screened after they finished.
Greetings, Gurus & Goldies! Please read this piece I tapped out a while ago (“Oscar Predictions Are Always Muddled“) about the real-deal, deep-down deliberative process of Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby handicappers, and please, if you can (or if you’re allowed by our editors), address the central observation of the piece, which I’ve excerpted as follows:
“Once a Guru or Gold Derby-ite has decided that this or that film or filmmaker deserves award-season favor, he/she thereafter concludes that the entertainment community (Academy, guilds) has (a) almost surely come to this judgment on their own or (b) eventually will come to this judgment once they shake off their shallow or misguided attachments to other films or creative contributions that the Guru or Gold Derby-ite doesn’t approve of.”
Thanks & I hope to hear back from most if not all of you. Please keep your responses short & succinct, if possible.
From Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone: “I would argue that we all expose our biases — some just more obviously than others. I would also argue that there are too many so-called ‘objective’ Oscar writers, which is of course a pretense of being objective, but they aren’t all that interesting to read. It’s kind of like the difference between Wolf Blitzer and Rachel Maddow. But that’s just me.
“This isn’t an exact science, obviously. We read the race as we think it’s going to go. But for instance, Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that won the audience award at Toronto. Without that award I would not even be considering it in the Best Picture race because of my own personal feelings. But since I have to at least sort of be on target I include it knowing that (a) it won in Toronto (four films that have won there went on to win Best Picture for the past many decades, (b) it’s Harvey Weinstein and (c) Dave Karger and Steve Pond have it in the winning spot. Their names on it alone puts it in the race. Similarly, I take Life of Pi more seriously as a contender because Anne Thompson has it in the number spot. I loved Life of Pi, and hated (or mostly hated) Silver Linings. I can’t trust my own judgment on either of them. The point is, we all have our different ways of going about this.”
“Scott Feinberg puts Silver Linings at #4 because he is good at predicting Oscars. He is the most objective of all of the predictors, save perhaps Steve Pond. I personally love people like Anthony Breznican and Pete Howell who are courageous and predict off-the-wall things. I am personally interested in how little earthquakes can sometimes shakes things up. It’s a big world and the Oscars are very very small.”
From Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil: “Your suspicions are probably right — that Gold Derbyites or Gurus add a dash (or shovelful) of their own taste to their predictions, but, if so, they risk gagging on the gruel. At Gold Derby we keep strict scores and records and so your crazy predix can haunt you later. We’re SUPPOSED to be crystal-balling this derby, not campaigning for poor Bill Murray or Matthew McConaughey because they need the push. Still, when you look over some pundits’ predix, it’s obvious that that’s what they doing. If not, maybe they’re just Oscar idiots?”
From TheWrap‘s Steve Pond: “I’m not Nate Silver, with a foolproof way to accurately forecast this silly thing. (My thing is silly, not his.) And I’m pretty sure I’m not Karl Rove, forecasting based on what I want to happen. With limited, conflicting and biased information, and sometimes with my own likes and dislikes nudging in there, I try to figure out what 6,000 other people are going to do. As Clint Eastwood said and as Sasha used to say on her site, deserve’s got nothing to do with it.
“My top 5 currently has a film I love in the top spot, plus two I like very much and two I haven’t seen. I expect that one of those last two will actually win, but until I see them (and talk to voters about them) I’m not putting them at #1. The film I would most love to see win is down at #7, and it’s conceivable that the only reason it’s on the chart is that I want it to get a nomination. But I can also give you an argument about how it’s going to get in because of the way they count nominating ballots — and I think that argument carries far more weight than my personal feelings about the movie.
“As for the idea that a film at #4 is a film about which the Guru/Gold Derby-ers has significant reservations — well, I have Argo at #4, and it’s only that high because so many other people have it at #1. So I’ll plead guilty on that count.”
From Deadline‘s Pete Hammond: “Gurus and Derby are fun games but NO one should take them seriously , especially in the middle of November. On that subject I wish the campaign consultants, Oscar hopefuls and other readers would not hang to these little prediction pulpits as anything other than that, just a game. Any ranking I do is only based on buzz, Oscar pedigree of the movie, my sense of Oscar history, voter conversations, other award shows later on and a hunch, and certainly not movies I like or dislike or any film I am trying to help.”
From Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson: “What a waste of time to speculate and generalize about such a disparate group of people. We all have different goals and ways of approaching Oscar coverage. Some of us have print journalism backgrounds, others are edited and published in print publications, some are columnists, others post online with less oversight, etc. Some throw opinions around with abandon, others try to objectively report and analyze the race.
“I would argue that Sasha Stone and you, Jeff, wear your causes on your sleeve, championing your favorites, while others like Tom O’Neil create catchy headlines to draw readers to Oscar debates of varying relevance. Some people are chasing traffic, others are serving a perceived constituency, whether inside the industry beltway or film consumers.
“Why throw us all into the same basket? It’s foolish. Each has earned their own following. We all know which writers we respect and why.”
From Toronto Star critic Peter Howell: “Jeff, you are being wilfully obtuse. Either that, or you have missed your calling as a drafter of municipal bylaws or writer of assembly manuals for Scandinavian furniture.
“You know, or ought to know, that the drill for both Gurus o’ Gold and Gold Derby is based entirely on likelihood of Oscar success, NOT personal preference.
“At this stage of the game where not all of the films have been seen, we’re all proceeding on hunches and (hopefully) informed speculation. Once the guilds start weighing in, our predictions are very likely going to change, once again reflecting what we think will win over Academy voters, not what we personally prefer. This is what we’re supposed to do, at any rate.
“I have a suggestion. Why don’t you start your own panel, whereby participants rank only the films that they feel deserve Oscar attention? Make it based entirely on preference, rather than trying to pretend that the Gurus and Gold Derby are something that they’re not.”
More from Sasha Stone: “There are two ways of approaching Oscar predictions. You go by ‘wishful thinking’ or you go by reality. You have to combine several factors, audience satisfaction being just one of those.
“Silver Linings Playbook has less of a chance to win than these other films. That is just an opinion, of course, and you wait for the guilds to ring in to solidify it. Some years are easier to do this than others. Silver Linings Playbook is light in subject matter even compared to The Artist and The King’s Speech. Romantic comedies rarely win Best Picture. Can it win? Sure. It would be an unusual win. A more likely win is either Argo or Lincoln. The former has a newbie actor turned director who has just made his second $100 million movie. It is a crowdpleaser, though not perhaps of the Silver Linings type. And then Lincoln, Spielberg’s best film in years and currently the best reviewed of all the Oscar contenders.
“Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty will change the race possibly, though the later the entry the harder the chance to win. It is a guessing game. That’s all it is. Some are better at divorcing their personal feelings from that guessing game than others. But I’ll tell you this straight up: you are grossly, horribly misjudging Lincoln.”
Wells to Stone: I just heard from a friend who went to see Lincoln last night at the Arclight, and she said she found it slow and slogging, and that a few people walked out. You’re living in a Lincoln bubble. An industry-centric Lincoln bubble. Reality will filter in eventually. It’s a good film but forget the Best Picture Oscar.
MSN’s Glenn Kenny and I did another Oscar Poker today. Our first chat (Oscar Poker #97) posted on 10.14. We went over an hour so I broke the file into two installments — Kenny Poker #1 and Kenny Poker #2. Topics: (a) real-deal Oscar prognostication. (b) Lincoln, (c) Gen. David Patreaus, (d) whether or not Bob Furmanek can survive the hit to his 1.85 credibility occasioned by Criterion’s On The Waterfront multi-aspect-ratio decision, and (e) the Best Actor and Best Actress races. This is Oscar Poker #101, by the way.
A couple of days ago Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg asked why I had decided that his latest Gurus of Gold Best Picture predictions indicated that he is a Silver Linings Playbook naysayer “when I have it at #4? Just because I don’t think it’s going to win doesn’t mean I don’t hold it in a very high regard.” Fair enough. I re-phrased by stating that Feinberg is one of three “apparent modified frowners” (along with EW‘s Anthony Breznican and L.A. Times reporter Mark Olsen).
Every year I try and explain what Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby predictions are really about, and I guess it’s time to re-explain. One, they are never solely about predicting those movies or individual contributions (directing, performances, etc.) that a Guru or a Gold Derby person believes is likely to be nominated or to win based on an allegedly neutral assessment of what other people like. They are always partly if not significantly about what the Guru or Gold Derby-ite personally admires and would like to see nominated or win.
The process works as follows: (a) a Guru or Gold Derby-ite decides that he/she likes this or that film or performance or whatever, and then (b) takes the temperature of the room (i.e., licks his or her finger and raises it in the wind) and adapts himself or herself to an idea of how things are.
The adaptation is about this Guru or Gold Derby-ite, a film devotee who’s spent many years or decades in the movie journalist trenches, having decided that this or that film or filmmaker deserves award-season favor. He/she thereafter concludes that the entertainment community (Academy, guilds) has (a) almost surely come to this judgment on their own or (b) eventually will come to this judgment once they shake off their shallow or misguided attachments to other films or creative contributions that the Guru or Gold Derby-ite doesn’t approve of.
It follows then that if a Guru or Gold Derby-ite puts a presumed or potential Best Picture contender at #4, he/she is saying that while he/she respects or approves of this film to some degree, he/she isn’t really feeling it and, truth be told, is probably harboring some minor or modest reservations about the film.
To go by his Gurus of Gold predictions, Feinberg believes that Argo is the most likely Best Picture winner at this time, followed by Les Miserables at #2 and Lincoln at #3 and Silver Linings Playbook at #4. Let me explain something. Lincoln hasn’t a fucking chance in hell of winning the Best Picture Oscar — it’s too plodding, too slow, too reserved, too Kaminski-ized, too much of a dutiful procedural. But Feinberg personally loves it so he’s got it at #3. Argo is a very skillfully made and highly engrossing caper film, but it has really no subtext or undercurrent and there’s no way it wins — not unless Academy members decide to just give in out of laziness and vote for its chops or likableness. But at least part of Feinberg’s decision to rank it at #1, trust me, is because he personally likes and admires it and so does everyone else he’s been talking to and so he’s putting himself (his thoughts and experiences and whatever else) into the equation and putting Argo on top. He’s doing his job at an industry analyst, but he’s also listening to that little man in his chest.
In short, he is not Jimmy-the-Greek-ing his industry readings — he is Scott Feinberg-ing them.
Feelings about a film are finally inseparable from predictions about a film’s chances. Nobody is impartially looking at the field and saying “this is what my inner Jimmy-the-Greek is telling me about this film’s chances in the Best Picture race.” It is always to some extent about private personal preferences. Anybody who claims to be 100% impartial is a liar. Nobody ever predicts with genuine conviction that a film they truly hate will win the Best Picture Oscar, and nobody ever predicts with any emphasis or assurance that a film they truly love will fail to be nominated or will almost certainly lose. Feelings and private opinions are never not in the mix. Anyone who says they’ve completely removed their own preferences and persuasions from their deliberative attempts to predict award-winners is simply not being honest.
The one exception is when somebody like Pete Hammond says in the final stretch that he’s been talking to several Academy members and they really like or really don’t like this or that film. That I believe because it’s real reporting and not just pulling preferences out of your ass.
“You know, when I say impotent, I don’t mean merely limp. When I say impotent, I mean I’ve lost even my desire to work. That’s a hell of a lot more primal passion than sex. I’ve lost my reason for being…my purpose. The only thing I ever truly loved.” — George C. Scott‘s Herbert Bock in Paddy Chayefsky‘s The Hospital, which was efficiently but incidentally directed by Arthur Hiller.
Chayefksy bust outside the TV Academy in North Hollywood — Thursday, 11.8, 8:45 pm.
Two or three days ago an Elle interview with Silver Linings Playbook star Jennifer Lawrence surfaced, and two colorful quotes kicked up some eight-month-old dust. “In Hollywood, I’m obese,” Lawrence told Elle‘s Maggie Bullock. “I’m considered a fat actress. I’m Val Kilmer in that one picture on the beach.”
Nobody has even hinted at that, least of all myself.
In my 3.20 review of The Hunger Games, I said that Lawrence “seems too big” for costar Josh Hutcherson, and that “she’s a fairly tall, big-boned lady.” At the time N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis, Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy and Variety critic Justin Chang passed along vaguely similar observations.
On 3.28 I explained as follows: “I never said that Lawrence being ‘fairly tall’ and ‘big-boned’ was a problem of any kind. I said that in a romantic context she ‘seems too big‘ for her pint-sized costar Josh Hutcherson. (Which she is, comparably-speaking.) Columnist Nell Minow suggested that instead of saying Lawrence is too big for Hutcherson, I should have said Hutcherson ‘is too small for her.’ So I said that also.
“And that was it. I have no problem with tall. I’ve always chuckled at the catcall line ‘tall…and that’s not all!’ On her own semi-statuesque terms Lawrence is totally fine.
“I think the line about Lawrence being ‘too big’ for Hutcherson came from a line in The Big Sleep when Humphrey Bogart‘s Phillip Marlowe tells Elisha Cook Jr.’s Harry Jones that his girlfriend Agnes, played by Sonia Darrin, is “too big for ya.” To which Jones replies, “That’s a dirty crack, mister.”
the Val Kilmer shot alluded to by Lawrence.