About two thirds of the way through From Here To Eternity (’53), Burt Lancaster‘s Sgt. Warden says to Montgomery Clift‘s Private Prewitt, “I hear you’ve gone dippy over some dame down at the New Congress Club.” Well, Oscar season is about 85% or 90% finished with about two and a half weeks to go, and I’ve gone dippy with all the interview opportunities and articles about who might win and all the rest of the razmatazz. Everyone who lives off the award-season racket (myself included) is hammering away…bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. I was going really dippy last night during the two-and-a-half-hour Directors Panel at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. Hollywood Reporter award-season columnist Scott Feinberg did an excellent job of moderating but it just went on and on and on and on and on…I was playing it cool and professional in my front-row seat but I felt like I was drowning in quicksand. During Feinberg’s chat with Boyhood‘s Richard Linklater I noticed that the Austin-based filmmaker was blinking his eyes and steeling himself and looking at Feinberg as if to say, “You’re not going to quit, are you? You’re just going to keep coming, keep digging into my soul.”
And then Linklater suddenly became Alec Guinness in The Bridge on the River Kwai, damp and pale-faced and weak but determined not to collapse, as he sat in Sessue Hayakawa‘s bamboo residence. “You will not break me,” Linklater was saying silently to Feinberg, wearing an expression of what can only be described as profound determination mixed with spirit-sapping fatigue. He seemed even more existentially depleted than myself, and I’m starting to really tire of this shit. My heart went out to him. Feinberg took a sip of Sake, narrowed his eyes and said, “And so Colonel, I have decided that your officers will not have to do manual labor.” Linklater stiffened, stood up and walked out to the center of the stage. Foxcatcher‘s Bennett Miller, standing at stage right, widened his eyes and whispered to fellow directors Morten Tyldum (Imitation Game), Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) and Damian Chazelle (Whiplash), “He’s done it!” They all ran out and cheered and picked up Linklater and carried him off-stage on their shoulders. I have to say that Miller exuded the coolest vibe of all the directors. He had a throughly non-anxious, completely Zen attitude about this charade. Whatever was said or asked or joked about, Miller was serenity itself. He was the Dalai Lama.