Slate‘s Amanda Hess has posted an article about what Cate Blanchett should say (or not say) when she wins the Best Actress Oscar Sunday night. Hess suggests that Blanchett might be damned if she thanks director-writer Woody Allen and damned if she doesn’t. I’ll tell you what won’t work, and that’s what Blanchett said when she collected her Outstanding Performer of the Year award at the Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival. She confined herself at that moment to thanking her Blue Jasmine costars, almost certainly because Blanchett and her publicist had calculated that mentioning Allen that night (only hours after Dylan Farrow’s letter had appeared in Nicholas Kristof‘s N.Y. Times column) would be unwise. It would obviously be ungracious to not mention Allen tomorrow night. On top of which the Dylan-Mia-Ronan brouhaha has been losing steam for two or three weeks now. (It peaked when Allen responded to the charges in a N.Y. Times-published letter.) Blanchett’s Oscar is about what she did with an Allen-created character. It’s finally about her craft but on the other hand she can’t imply that her performance just happened on its own.
A wealthy friend recently asked me to try to help her score tickets to the Oscars and to the Vanity Fair after-party. I asked around and quickly learned it’s a dicey thing to even ask about. Nobody wants to go there. It’s obviously declasse to attempt to buy tickets to events that are for invitees only. I was about to give up and tell my friend “sorry”, but then I checked Craigslist. I found a guy who claimed to be selling legitimate tickets to the Oscars for $38K a pop and to the Vanity Fair after-party for $40K each. I was astonished at these prices (don’t the Oscar security guys require ID?), and so was my friend. She backed off. The Craigslist scalper called this morning and confirmed the above prices. I don’t know if he’s actually in a position to deliver legitimate tickets or not, but he claimed there are buyers out there who would pay such amounts. He also claimed there are three or four brokers besides himself who are selling tickets to these events at similar prices.
Best Picture: It pains me to predict this but Gravity will probably win, despite the lame-ness and the wrongness of such a choice. Should win: Wolf of Wall Street or 12 Years a Slave. I know I’ve predicted 12 Years to win but…I don’t know what’s going to happen. But a gut feeling is telling me to prepare for the worst.
Best Director: Like everyone else, I’m expecting Alfonso Cuaron to come out on top. Not for directing one of the boldest and finest films of the 21st Century, Children of Men, but for directing a technically dazzling “Sandra Bullock in a haunted house but the haunted house is space” movie. Should win: Martin Scorsese for Wolf or Steve McQueen for Slave.
Best Actor: Dallas Buyers Club‘s Matthew McConaughey, of course, but Leonardo DiCaprio‘s balls-out performance in The Wolf of Wall Street is more deserving.
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, of course, for her work in Blue Jasmine. Should win save for the fact that she wasn’t nominated: Blue is The Warmest Color‘s Adele Exarchopoulos.
Best Supporting Actor: Dallas Buyers Club‘s Jared Leto, although there’s no question in my mind that WoWS‘s Jonah Hill gave the richer and more vivid performance.
Best Supporting Actress: The most deserving nominee is 12 Years A Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o but I fear that American Hustle‘s Jennifer Lawrence will take it nonetheless. The Academy that gave Christoph Waltz two Oscars for playing more or less the same kind of character twice in two Quentin Tarantino movies is more than capable of blowing off Nyong’o.
I was 14 or 15 when I first saw Howard Hawks‘ Only Angels Have Wings (’39). I liked it right away. I’ve probably seen it ten or fifteen times since. And the older I get the better this film seems. I think it’s because the classic themes — the Hawksian code of professionalism, “Who’s Joe?”, “He just wasn’t good enough” — mean more now that I’ve learned first-hand what “good enough” and “not good enough” are. I’ve been up and down and through it all. I’ve been used, pursued, abused, subdued, sued and tattoed. I’ve climbed rocky cliffs at night in the rain and have passed muster. Now I know what the movie is really saying.
I’m so sick of the Oscar race (and particularly of reading Oscar nominee suck-up pieces on Hitfix.com) that I’m not even going to post the winners in the Oscar Balloon, as I’ve done in the past. I’ll just post them as a story and that’ll be that. Instead I’ll be re-posting HE’s Projected/Likely 2014 Highlights roster. Before it goes up I’m asking once again for additions and suggestions. Which films belong under the Presumed High-Pedigree, Respectable Second Tier and Third-Tier Megaplex categories? I’ve obviously made my determinations but maybe I’ve got a few wrong.
Presumed High-Pedigree: Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, Ridley Scott‘s Exodus, Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher, David Fincher‘s Gone Girl, Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar, J.C. Chandor‘s A Very Violent Year, Jean Marc Vallee‘s Wild (i.e., the Reese Witherspoon hiking drama), Noah Baumbach‘s While We’re Young, Terrence Malick‘s Knight of Cups (or the other “intersecting love triangles” Austin-based film that still doesn’t have a title…or both), Matt Reeves‘ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Jeff Nichols‘ Midnight Special, Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes, Noah Baumbach‘s Untitled Public School Project, Phillip Noyce‘s The Giver, Mike Leigh‘s Mr. Turner, Todd Haynes‘ Carol, Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth, Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken. (20).
I don’t know what Charlie Kaufman‘s Anomalisa will be about, but I’m presuming it’ll have something to do with Kaufmanland, which is to say glum, sardonic humor mixed with morose, middle-aged loneliness and ennui and being haunted by death and looking at pink piss in the toilet bowl, etc. Kaufman is one of our greatest, most original-thinking screenwriters (I will worship Being John Malkovich and Adaptation for the rest of my life) but as a director he seems to have a strange longing for obscurity if not self-obliteration. How else would you describe a guy who titles his films Synecdoche and Anomalisa? Rule #1 in deciding on a movie title is “make it easy to remember.” Rule #2 is “don’t choose a one-word, five-syllable title that nobody on the planet earth has ever heard before…that doesn’t exist in Webster’s dictionary.” I’m posting this out of genuine concern.
No more Hollywood Elsewhere Oscar Ballot submissions after midnight tomorrow night so this it — fill out your ballot today or tomorrow. Drop-down menu, check predictions, send it in. The highest-scoring balloter can, if he/she chooses, sit for an interview/lunch with yours truly, or I’ll just fork over $125 or so…whatever works. Honest admission: Right now I don’t know how to determine winners except by manually reading the hundreds of submissions. I’ve been told there’s a nice easy way to determine accuracy with software, but I can be a little slow with this stuff. So please keep tabs and let me know if you ended up with an exceptionally high score. (Explanation: I know Hill’s film was actually titled 48 HRS. but I always hated that awful abbreviation gimmick — stank of odious hucksterism.)
Early last fall certain award-season pundits began to elbow aside Blue Is The Warmest Color‘s Adele Exarchopoulos as a Best Actress contender. Not because her performance isn’t wonderfully skillful and alive, but because award-season hoopla is almost always about celebrating familiar brand-name actresses who are already in the game and have established p.r. veterans orchestrating their interviews and whatnot. Exarchopoulos was deep-sixed for not being famous enough and because IFC Films/Sundance Selects didn’t have a big enough bankroll behind her campaign. Cate Blanchett has the Best Actress Oscar in the bag, but her Blue Jasmine performance seems narrow and shrill and “theatrical” when you compare it to Adele’s au natural-ism, her breathtakingly open and vulnerable and aching…I don’t know what to call it but it was more than just a “performance,” and it damn well should have been a knockout punch. It certainly was for me.
It’s time once again to ask the Universal Home Video guys why we still can’t buy, rent or stream Frank Perry, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne‘s Play It As It Lays (’72). Every two or three years I re-post an article that I wrote in 2003 about its absence. It played years ago on the Sundance Channel but right now it’s not on Amazon, Hulu, Vudu or Netflix The last I checked Universal had the home video rights, and as far as I know the ball is still in their court. How many years or decades is this negligence going to continue?
A half-hour ago Sao Paolo entertainment journalist Guilherme Genestreti asked me the following question: “The 2014 Academy Awards seem to be the most disputed in the decade if we consider that five of the nine best Picture nominees have been awarded by the guilds (SAG, DGA, PGA, WGA). In your opinion, why is there a lack of a clear consensus for a Best Picture winner this year?”
My answer: “There was only one grandslam, socially-reflective auteurist super-flick that will be watched and pondered decades hence, and which clearly deserves to win the Best Picture Oscar, and that’s The Wolf of Wall Street. But the old, calcified and conservative Academy membership is too smug and reactionary to get this. They basically like to give awards to movies that make them feel emotionally comforted and which validate their own feelings of self-worth (like Crash) or echo their core emotional feelings, and no Best Picture nominee has movie has really done that this year.
Sasha Stone slapped me around yesterday for not posting that Lee and Low chart showing the lack of diversity among members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I just figured it was old news that the Academy membership is primarily old (or oldish), white, clubby and liver-spotted. Two years ago an L.A.Times survey reported by John Horn, Nicole Sperling and Doug Smith informed that Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, have a median age of 62.
Here’s the real problem, as the Times survey informed: “People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of [AMPAS] membership.” The over-50s run the show, I realize, but the under-50s should constitute at least 1/3 of the membership, if not a greater percentage.
I also feel it’s not necessarily a profound loss to world culture that, as the chart states, “over the last 10 years no winners of acting Oscar have been of Latino, Asian or Native American descent.” To that I say, “Really? Well, keep trying!” Honestly…why should I give a damn if a politically correct Utopian vision of demographic equality hasn’t been reflected by acting Oscar winners since 2004? It’s a Darwinian world out there, my friends. Scramble or be scrambled upon. Dog eat dog. Dog doesn’t return the other dog’s phone calls.