Argo just won the SAG Ensemble Award instead of Silver Linings Playbook, and I think that settles it, don’t you? Argo wins the Best Picture Oscar. Done, settled, finito, sealed. And Lincoln is…how did a journalist I spoke to put it last night? “I know the Academy,” this person said. “They vote for what they like, and not what a guild goes for”…or words to that effect. There’s a limit to ignoring the signs.
Michael Cieply‘s 1.28 N.Y. Times piece about Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Inside Llewyn Davis, based on a recent interview with Joel, states the following:
Oscar Isaac in Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis.
(a) The film will privately screen next week in Los Angeles for “some music industry insiders and perhaps a few potential buyers.” Hey, Joel or Scott Rudin, what about a friendly columnist or two attending?
(b) Inside Llewyn Davis will probably screen in Cannes, with or without a U.S. distributor.
(c) “There isn’t quite as much plot as is usual for the brothers,” but then you knew that if you read my 3.9.12 screenplay review. An excerpt: “The Coen’s script, typically sharp and well-honed with tasty characters and tart, tough dialogue, is about lethargy, really. And taking care of a friend’s cat. And seeing to an abortion and trying to get paid and figure out your next move and…whatever else, man. It’s about a guy who isn’t even close to getting his act together, who just shuffles around from one couch to the next, grasping at straws, doing a session recording one day and trying to land a performing gig the next, like a rolling stone, no direction home.”
(d) “For the record Llewyn Davis doesn’t really resemble, or sound like, Dave Van Ronk, whose posthumous 2005 memoir, ‘The Mayor of Macdougal Street,’ written with Elijah Wald, served as source material for the film.” But you also knew that, etc. An excerpt: “I can tell you that the character of Llewyn Davis bears no resemblance whatsover to the Dave Van Ronk I’ve read about over the years. He was always a relatively minor, small-time figure in terms of fame and record sales, but he was heavily committed to folk music, to the West Village musician community, to his troubadour way of life and certainly to everything that was starting to happen in the early ’60s. If nothing else a man who lived large. Llewyn Davis as created by the Coen bros. (and played by the relatively small-statured and Latin-looking Oscar Isaac) is a guy who lives and thinks small, and who’s no match for Van Ronk spiritually either. He’s glum, morose — a kick-around guy trying to make it as a folk musician but not much of a go-getter. He’s vaguely pissed-off, resentful, a bit dull. He can sing and play guitar and isn’t untalented, but he has no fire in the belly. And any way you want to slice it Llewyn Davis is not Van Ronk. Or at least, not in any way I was able to detect.”
Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake in Inside Llewyn Davis.
(e) Inside Llewyn Davis “promises to be quintessential Coen brothers fare — but different,”
(f) “It has a certain kinship with Les Miserables” with almost all the principal actors — Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake — singing and “lots of duets and trios.”
Possibly significant question: Cieply doesn’t mention whether the film is presented in black-and-white or not (the stills illustrating the piece obviously suggest this), but a monochrome Davis would be delicious. For guys like myself, I mean.
Three and a half months have passed since Criterion announced its decision to issue its On The Waterfront Bluray (streeting on 2.19, or about three weeks hence) in three separate aspect ratios — 1.33, 1.66 and 1.85. And I’m still trying to understand how this doesn’t undermine if not discredit Bob Furmanek‘s advocacy of 1.85 as a general cropping standard for Blurays and DVDs of all non-Scope films shot from April 1953 on.
There’s no disputing that non-Scope films began to be projected in U.S. theatres starting in mid to late ’53 and that this standard gathered momentum and was pretty much the across-the-board deal by the end of that year, or certainly by early ’54. Nor is anyone disputing that Elia Kazan‘s On The Waterfront, released in July 1954, was shot by Kazan with the understanding that it would be projected at 1.85. I’ve looked at the 1.85 version on iTunes and while I don’t find it comforting or pleasing, it’s very nicely framed. Kazan was no bum. He knew what he was doing.
Why, then, did Criterion chiefs decide to ignore Furmanek’s research and issue three different versions of Waterfront? Uhm, gee….I don’t know. Because the film breathes much better at 1.33 or 1.66? Because they see merit in my argument about headroom being a really nice and desirable thing? Because they decided that distributors and exhibitors wanting theatrical films to be presented at 1.85 from mid-1953 on so they would look wider than TV screens shouldn’t be the end-all and be-all of watching films on Bluray in the 21st Century?
In my book the Furmanek 1.85 theology went out the window when Criterion decided on this triple-aspect-ratio approach. Criterion is by far the most purist, dweeby, grain-monky home-video outfit in the United States, and if these guys decide that 1.85 isn’t the King Shit of aspect ratios for a classic 1954 film…well, that means something. It means “all bets are off” if a company renowned for cinematically pure standards is willing to accomodate the headroom values that I’ve been espousing for years. It means that the game is basically over for the 1.85 fascists.
From here on the shape of every 1950s and ’60s film being mastered for Bluray is negotiable. If Criterion can play it loose and tap-dancey with the aspect ratio of On The Waterfront, any aspect ratio on any non-Scope film can be fiddled with.
Here’s how I explained it last October in a piece called “Glorious Furmanek Setback“: “Directors and dps of the mid ’50s used and composed 1.85 framings starting in 1953 because they were ordered to and not because they wanted to. I also find it hard to believe that anyone with any sense of aesthetic balance and serenity would have freely chosen 1.85 framing a when the much more elegant 1.33 or 1.66 framings were an option. And so I’ve always felt a profound resentment toward absolutist 1.85 advocates when it comes to evaluating the proper proportion of films of this era.
“I genuinely feel there is something cramped and perverse in the aesthetic eye of anyone who would consider these options and say, ‘It is better to squeeze the action down into this severely cropped-off aspect ratio…it is better to have the action in this or that film confined within a lowered-ceiling aesthetic straight out of Orson Bean‘s cramped office floor in Being John Malkovich.’
“And it is also my belief — my allowance — that the 1950s TV box aspect ratio of 1.33 is somehow more calming than 1.66, that it agrees with and flows naturally from the framing aesthetic of Hollywood of the ‘early ’30s to mid ’50s, which was deeply ingrained at the beginning of the studio-mandated transition era that began in the spring of 1953, and that it conveys a certain naturalism, a freedom, an atmosphere of gloriously spacious headroom…aahh, why go on? You can’t explain this stuff. Either the eyes of the beholder get it or they don’t. Mine know the truth of it. The concept of removing visual information from a frame of film strikes me as wicked and almost evil, in a way.”
“It is different today, of course. Our aesthetic eye, our sense of visual rhyme and harmony adapted decades ago to seeing movies in 1.85, and it’s as natural as breathing now…but not then. NOT then. At the very, very least, if the research-fortified, Movie God-defiant Forces of Furmanek insist on 1.85 framings for Blurays of films from this era, they should at least follow the example of the Masters of Cinema Touch of Evil and now — hark the herald angels sing! — the upcoming Criterion Bluray of On The Waterfront and offer dual or triple aspect ratios.”
I own Criterion’s Sunday Bloody Sunday Bluray, and have watched it at least twice since getting my copy two or three months ago. And up until yesterday I never knew that Daniel Day Lewis is the tallish, dark-haired kid scratching cars. Lewis was born in April 1957, so he was 13 when the film was shot in late ’70. He’s not even recognizable. I was inspired to check this after Scott Feinberg asked DDL about this last night.
Daniel Day Lewis, the presumed winner of the 2012 Best Actor Oscar for his Lincoln performance, sat down last night in Santa Barbara for a fairly solemn and somewhat revealing interview with Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg. There was nothing playful, irreverent or spur-of-the-moment going on between them. It was strictly a “here’s a serious question” and “here’s my serious answer” type of discussion, and that was fine. I was into it. I felt on some level like I was studying for a final exam, and that it was important to listen carefully.
Daniel Day Lewis during last night’s conversation with Scott Feinberg at Santa Barbara’s Arlington theatre — Saturday, 1.26, 9:10 pm.
I found their talk absorbing because Lewis, it seemed, was being, in his mercurial way, as open and confessional as his personality allowed. He was “playing the game” as frankly as he knew how, and I respected that.
Before Ben Affleck‘s Argo won the Producers’ Guild Darryl F. Zanuck award last night, the blogger/columnist view was “the PGA winner won’t be a lock to win the Best Picture Oscar — we all remember Little Miss Sunshine — but a PGA triumph definitely ups the odds and makes an Oscar win very likely.”
After the Argo win (which happened as I was watching the Daniel Day Lewis tribute at Santa Barbara’s Arlington theatre, or a little after 10 pm), the blogger/columnist rumble became “well, uhm…it appears that Lincoln has some stiff competition! Could it be that the our very own, historically-fortified, Spielberg-default, Guru-endorsed Lincoln might actually lose? Well, one thing’s for sure…we have a horse race!”
Lincoln has won no significant Best Picture honors, Argo has won three (PGA, BFCA and Golden Globes), and Silver Linings Playbook is favored to win the Best Ensemble SAG Award at the Shrine Auditorium tonight…and certain blogger/columnists are concluding that Argo might win “but who knows…we have our doubts…the Academy is not the PGA…it has its own way of thinking…could Lincoln snag a win regardless? It’s possible!” (Last night in Santa Barbara a respected columnist conveyed this view in so many words.)
Take the needle out of your arm and listen to the sound of Oscar pollen blowing in the wind. As a Best Picture contender, Lincoln is dead, dead, deader than dead.
Argo is a soft contender, agreed. It doesn’t have anyone’s idea of a strong subtext or thematic undertow. Every since Telluride I’ve been calling it a very well-made caper film — a “secret CIA operation to put one over on the Islamic radicals” movie that is well written, very nicely acted and smoothly assured, that offers a few knowing cracks about film-industry phonies and delivers a satisfying finale in which the baddies are foiled…curses!
So yes, Argo‘s support is not as impassioned as it could be, but the support for Lincoln is even less impassioned. That’s obvious.
The Best Picture contender with the most ardent support is Silver Linings Playbook, or so it’s been observed, but the SLP Hate Brigade has colored the conversation on that film and the longstanding prejudice against Best Picture-ing a comedy or a romcom (despite the fact that SLP is more accurately described as a spirited meds-and-mental-illness dramedy) is as alive as ever.
In my humble view the other “secret CIA plot to put one over on the Islamic radicals and make them angry” film — Zero Dark Thirty — is a sturdier, more impressive achievement. It’s less “commercial,” more finely woven, a stronger dose and obviously more realistic. Compare Argo‘s pure-Hollywood finale at Tehran airport with the cars driving alongside the jet to ZD30‘s Seal attack on the Bin Laden compound in Abottobad. No contest. Three or four months from now Argo will be a Netflix favorite; Zero Dark Thirty will one day be a Criterion Bluray.
But the lazy brains have bought into the leftie-Stalinist bullshit that Kathryn Bigelow‘s film endorses torture, and that’s where the conversation has pretty much stopped.
In my heart of hearts and dream of dreams, Silver Linings Playbook — my emotional favorite of 2012 — pulls out a surprise win. But that’s a dream. Argo will win. It’s pretty much over.
Fair assessment: “Ben Affleck‘s Argo has sealed its comeback from Oscar-nomination disappointment to become the clear frontrunner in the Best Picture race. This year’s best-picture race has been wide open…but wins at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards gave Affleck’s CIA-meets-Hollywood thriller a boost, and the PGA win now edges it past Lincoln and suggests that Argo could well become only the third film to win the top Oscar without a Best Director nomination.” — Steve Pond at TheWrap.
Denial quote #1: “[The PGA win] was the latest triumph for Argo, which won the Golden Globes motion picture-drama earlier in the month. With the win, the film establishes itself firmly as a solid contender for the Best Picture Oscar after earlier being thought out of the running when Ben Affleck was snubbed for best director by the motion picture academy.” — Chris Lee, Julie Makinen, L.A. Times.
“Tentative” Semi-Denial Quote: “It’s starting to get serious. [The PGA] is the first guild to weigh in so we have a tentative frontrunner in Argo now for the Academy Awards’ Best Picture.” — Deadline‘s Pete Hammond.
Even-keeled assessment by Variety‘s Dave McNary: “The PGA winner has matched the Oscar Best Picture winner in the last five years with The Artist, The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire and No Country for Old Men. The PGA and AMPAS last diverged in 2006 when the Zanuck award went to Little Miss Sunshine and The Departed won the Oscar.
“The PGA uses the preferential balloting system employed for the Academy Awards and the PGA winner has matched the Oscar Best Picture in 16 of 23 years. There are 494 producers in the producers branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — about 8 percent of the AMPAS membership. “