Scott Feinberg’s blunt-spoken Academy member from the publicist branch says the following about Birdman: “[It’s] a weird, quirky movie that Fox Searchlight did a really good job of selling. I never thought that it would make it all the way to the finish line like it has, but then I remember that it’s about a tortured actor, and when you think about who is doing the voting, at SAG and the Academy, it’s a lot of other tortured actors. I just don’t know how much it’s resonating out in the world. I mean, American Sniper made more in its third weekend in wide release than Birdman has made in its entirety.”
The long-adored Bringing Up Baby was not an out-and-out flop in 1938, but it sure as hell wasn’t a hit either. Joe and Jane Popcorn pretty much shrugged it to death.
Wells response: In other words, Joe and Jane Popcorn related more to the “veteran kicks ass in the Middle East but pays the emotional price when he returns to the heartland” narrative than the big-city tale about a neurotic actor trying to get beyond a ’90s superhero identity by redefining himself with a Raymond Carver play. Okay, understood. But Joe and Jane Popcorn caring less about Birdman and more about American Sniper doesn’t mean squat in the long run. Joe and Jane have never been and never will be at the forefront of perception and recognizing the finest and most lasting creations…ever. They like popular entertainments. When it comes to recognizing and celebrating films are up to something new and provocative, Joe and Jane are always lagging and more often than not at the rear of the herd.
“Yes, they eventually catch up, sometimes decades after the fact, but they’ll never recognize or support the new cool thing as it happens. Joe and Jane are fine on their own terms and on their own turf, but you can never point to their approvals or disapprovals as indicative of anything that matters. They merely respond to films that deliver the nourishing popular thing of the moment.
“In the ’30s they liked Shirley Temple and Andy Hardy films and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals and gangster films and Gone With The Wind, but they didn’t exactly go nuts for The Wizard of Oz and weren’t very enthusiastic about Bringing Up Baby. (Howard Hawks’ classic screwball comedy was pulled from the Radio City Music Hall after only one week.) In the ’40s they liked patriotic WWII films and musicals with Gene Kelly and kindly priest movies with Bing Crosby and fantasies about heavenly intervention, but they ignored It’s A Wonderful Life. In the ’50s and early ’60s they liked Biblical spectaculars and corny films produced by Mervyn LeRoy, but they blew off Elia Kazan‘s A Face in the Crowd (’57). And in the early ’60s and they couldn’t have cared less about Michelangelo Antonioni‘s masterpieces or Federico Fellini‘s 8 1/2. In the ’70s they loved The Godfather but not so much the artier sequel, and disaster flicks like The Towering Inferno and films like That’s Entertainment and all those Burt Reynolds shitkicker films, especially the Smokey and the Bandit series.
“Where were the French Joe and Jane when poor Vincent Van Gogh or Georges Seurat were living hand-to-mouth and going through the pains of creative hell? Snoozing out on the grass, playing with their kids, sipping wine and blissfully clueless. As they are today for the most part.