Today Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone posted a really nice summary of the dips and twists and cruel turns of the Best Picture race. It’s a real campfire story with good guys and villains (myself among them) and baah-ing lambs and hungry wolves and Sasha’s poor victimized Lincoln getting the worst of it. But it’s a good compelling yarn and I take my hat off…seriously. You can’t just tell the tale. You also have to throw in some irony, preferably bitter. Which Sasha does.
Here are four portions:
Great opener: “Starting as far back as October with the systemic and relentless takedown over at Hollywood Elsewhere, Lincoln could not catch a break. The top pundits in the field like Steve Pond and Dave Karger knew in their bones Lincoln was ‘too boring’ to win, that too many people ‘didn’t like it.’ It didn’t pass the ‘kitten in a cup’ test. Their predictions flew all over the map as the result. They knew what couldn’t win but they didn’t know what could. They’d seen Argo and written it off as a fairly bland choice to take Best Picture. It was good but not good enough. When Zero Dark Thirty came out it especially seemed to take away much of Argo‘s luster.
Plot Thickens: “But then Zero Dark Thirty was taken out by a continual debate, [and then] the blowback of continual debate. Kathryn Bigelow was called Leni Reifenstahl and took the kind of hard fall you can only really take now, with the news cycles in fast-motion and a hungry beast that needs continual news, preferably scandal, to keep it going at such high speed. We feed the beast because the beast must be fed and Zero Dark Thirty was the perfect sacrifice: not one, but two women set to take a fall, both the film’s director, headed for her second Best Director nomination in three years, and the film’s star, who was and is the only female lead in the Oscar race that isn’t defined by her male co-star.
Demonic Congressman, Obliging Canadian, Mean Columnist: “Add to this witch’s brew an October surprise by Affleck groupie/Congressman Joe Courtney out to really hit Lincoln as hard as possible on the one hand, and a tamped down Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor keeping mostly quiet about the “who really cares in America” detail that yeah, that whole Argo thing? It was kind of Canada, not really the US. But Courtney waited until the peak of Oscar season (as any good politician knows, timing is everything) to really try to shame that mean ol’ Spielberg who was attempting to paint Connecticut on the wrong side of history. [And then N.Y. Tmes columnist] Maureen Dowd piled on hard. Blood in water, sharks circling. Not just satisfied to be aiming at Spielberg she had to paint screenwriter Tony Kushner as defensive and arrogant. Her commenters picked after her crumbs happily. No one noticed because all it did was drive the ‘anything but Lincoln‘ meme further along.
ZD30‘s Fall Seals Deal for Affleck/Argo: “But it was only after Zero Dark Thirty‘s fall that the critics realigned behind Argo. And when Affleck was left off the Oscar Best Director list — it set into motion the one thing people will remember from Oscars 2012: the Affleck snub. From that point on, Argo could not be stopped. It seemed to be the perfect film that wasn’t Zero Dark Thirty — the CIA guys are good! They aw-shucks their way into Iran and aw-shucks their way into Hollywood and then Hollywood aw-shucks its way to saving the hostages. Funny, light, cute, nice. Everything turns out well in the end. Argo is satisfying enough to win the Oscar these days when satisfying and non-controversial is what matters most.”
One question: what’s a “kitten in a cup“?