With Birdman having just won SAG’s Best Ensemble award on top of snagging the PGA Zanuck trophy last night, it’s looking even more likely that it’ll take the Best Picture Oscar. Right, Sasha Stone, Scott Feinberg, Pete Hammond, Tom O’Neil and Steve Pond? It may not, of course, but if Boyhood wins instead (as an L.A.-based, Sundance-reporting journalist is still insisting will happen), it’ll be a huge shocker. And by the way, The Theory of Everything‘s Eddie Redmayne winning SAG’s Best Actor award means over-and-out for Michael Keaton?
Distracted this morning by Birdman euphoria and other matters, I now have 17 minutes to tap out something about Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig‘s Mistress America, a whipsmart, acrid, His Girl Friday-like comedy which I was entirely delighted with. Comedy is hard but making a fast, rat-a-tat-tat comedy is, I’m guessing, all the harder, especially when you’ve managed to fortify it with serious character shadings and a touch of pathos. I was also pleased and gratified by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden‘s Mississippi Grind, which has an assured, nicely textured, low-key ’70s quality, and is easily the best film that Ryan Reynolds (whose performance as a good-natured knockabout is completely centered and confident) has ever starred in. I was fairly charmed and definitely amused by Patrick Brice‘s The Overnight, which I caught last night at 11:30 pm. It’s a congenial sex-kink comedy about an innocent 30something couple being gently and lovingly manipulated into sexual receptivity to a mellow predatory couple looking for a little action. It really works all around, but I have to leave for Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead…later.
I guess I should say thanks to Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone for giving me some Birdman/PGA props and for not backhanding me too badly in the process. “Jeff has been a one-man champion for Birdman where others were mere admirers from afar,” she wrote. “Older women in the Academy won’t go for it, Jeff proclaimed, after he was told in Telluride that a fellow journalist’s wife didn’t like it. It’s too divisive to win, went the mantra. But Jeff was there. Day in and day out, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health — not just championing the film but predicting it to win when no one else did.” Except I wasn’t so much predicting a win (okay, I was in HE’s Oscar charts) as saying Birdman ought to win because it’s the only 2014 film with a swirling, magical, go-for-it feeling. Which the haters gave me a ton of shit for saying.
My only opportunity to see Doug Aitken‘s Station to Station is a 3 pm screening today at the Park City Library. I could make it, but that would mean blowing of Alex Gibney‘s Going Clear, the anti-Scientology doc which I feel obligated to catch as soon as possible. It’s also necessary, I’m being told, to catch tomorrow morning’s 11 am showing of Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope, a big acquisition title, along with tomorrow morning’s 8:30 am screening of Kim Farrant‘s Strangerland.
Joe Franklin, one of the great New York personalities and an indefatigable interviewer, has passed at age 88. Fare thee well to a hard-working New York institution who, according to a hilarious N.Y. times obit, “presided over one of the most compellingly low-rent television programs in history, one that even [Franklin] acknowledged was an oddly long-running parade of has-beens and yet-to-bes interrupted from time to time by surprisingly famous guests.” In 1993 Franklin reportedly claimed that he had interviewed than 300,000 guests during his show’s 40 year run. Yours truly sat on Joe’s couch in late ’79 or early ’80. I was plugging Sid Geffen‘s Thousand Eyes Cinema Guide, which I was the managing editor of. I remember that Joe suddenly asked me during our discussion what I thought of Akim Tamiroff. I was stunned. What the hell was I supposed to say? My response: “Uhhm…grizzled, unshaven Turkish guy, mannered, always with the bottle…Touch of Evil, Ocean’s Eleven…I don’t know, he’s okay.”
During a Saturday afternoon female writer’s panel at Park City’s Egyptian theatre (“Power of Story: Serious Ladies“), Girls creator Lena Dunham demonstrated a dogged anti-Woody Allen tenacity by lobbing a fresh grenade over the months-old Dylan Farrow accusations. But she was a little sloppy about it. “Woody Allen is proof that people don’t think everything he says in his films is stuff that he does,” Dunham said, “because all he was doing was making out with 17-year olds for years and we didn’t say anything about it.” Allen had a relationship with a 17 year-old, played by Mariel Hemingway, in 1979’s Manhattan, but that was a one-off. Dunham added a stunningly cynical remark when she suggested that Allen falling for Soon-Yi Previn in ’91 (and then marrying her in ’97) was p.r. theatre meant to deflect moral criticism. “No one went that Woody Allen is making out with a 17-year old in Manhattan and I guess he’s a real perv,” Dunham said. “And then lo and behold…” Co-panelist Kristen Wiig completed the thought with a reportedly sarcastic “he fell in love.” That’s fairly venal. Also on the panel were Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) and Orange Is The New Black creator Jenji Kohan.
All along I’ve been saying — insisting — that among 2014’s Best Picture contenders, Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s Birdman is the only ecstatic, drop-dead brilliant contender. And all along a majority of the online know-it-alls (Gold Derby, Gurus of Gold, Steve Pond, Sasha Stone, Mark Harris, et. al.) have been saying the Best Picture Oscar will nonetheless go to Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood. And all along I’ve said that would be (a) a personal disappointment but (b) a fine, supportable decision because Boyhood is an inspired, spirit-lifting landmark of sorts — a stunt film with soul, finesse and an engaging scheme.
And then last night the roof fell in with chunks of sheetrock and ceiling styrofoam on the floor and all the Boyhood supporters stumbling around and rubbing plaster dust out of their eyes and going “what happened?” For Birdman won the Producers Guild of America’s Best Picture equivalent trophy, i.e., the Darryl F. Zanuck Award. Boom.
All across Oscarland and particularly among the prognosticators, wise guys are figuring ways to spin this so it seems as if they half-knew and half-expected this to happen all along. Hilarious.
Needless to add there is nothing but joy and elation up in Park City. If I wasn’t a sober guy I would have bought a bottle of champagne and guzzled it. For the first time since the triumph of Kathryn Bigelow‘s The Hurt Locker, which I had pushed from its first screening at the ’09 Toronto Film Festival, HE’s personal Best Picture pony appears to be surging and within reach of a big win.
Maybe. Don’t count your chickens. There could always be a backlash. (Sasha Stone tweet: “When Birdman becomes the frontrunner people will start to hate it too. Like clockwork.” Did she say “start” to hate it?) But this feels awfully good, I must say.