Last night’s biggest shockaroo came when Precious scribe Geoffrey Fletcher won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, which no pulse-taker had even fantasized about as a remote possibility. It wasn’t in the cards, and yet it happened.
Fletcher got all sniffly as he conveyed his heartfelt thanks, and all I could think as I watched was, “This isn’t entirely about you, bro. This is obviously a ‘we love Geoffrey Fletcher and Precious‘ award’, okay, but only partly.”
It’s also…in fact, I suspect it was mainly a “we’re not going to give this award to Jason Reitman for regarding his Up In The Air co-writer Sheldon Turner as an irritant during much of the campaign season, particularly when Up In The Air won the Golden Globe Best Screenplay award, so we’re going to give it to Fletcher instead. We like his screenplay and the film, but this is mainly about not wanting to give the Oscar to Reitman.”
When Fletcher’s name was called out the reaction in the room (or in my room, at least, at 92Y Tribeca) was one of total surprise. We’re talking MAJOR SHOCK WAVES. Reitman and Turner were definitely seen as having been snubbed.
Up In The Air came out of Telluride and Tribeca with a serious Best Picture headwind, and yet the air started to hiss out of the balloon when The Hurt Locker began winning with all the critics and guilds, and particularly when Avatar stomped into the picture in mid December. But Up In The Air is/was still an excellent film. And so a sentiment seemed to grow that the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar should go to Up In The Air co-authors Reitman and Turner as a makeup award.
My immediate thinking was that Reitman did himself in with (a) that inelegant display he put on at the Golden Globes when he ignored Turner as he thanked the HFPA for the Up In The Air Golden Globe award for Best Screenplay, and (b) that slight air of entitlement that people seemed to get from him.
After the Globes debacle there was a slight judgment current I kept hearing and feeling to the effect of Reitman might be a bit of an ay-hole. I regret to say that I heard that word a lot. That and “dick.” I didn’t agree with it, just to be clear. Reitman probably shouldn’t have radiated a frosty vibe toward Turner, but it didn’t seem like any criminal offense to me.
Up In The Air is a beautifully made, very touching and (I think) profound film about America here-and-now and what we all need and want. Everyone knew or accepted that it was being regarded as one of the top two or three, and no one seemed to dispute — even as the Avatar steamroller began to happen in December — that while UITA had fallen back in the Best Picture race that Reitman & Turner would at least get a compensation Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay….at least that.
But no. Something happened. What I suspect is that “Reitman is a bit of an ay-hole” happened. Particularly Reitman’s look of glum concern when Avatar won at the Golden Globes — remember that photo? I’m saying all this, mind, as a sincere admirer of Reitman and Up In The Air. I have no problem with the guy. I accept that any willful creative person is going to exhibit a touch of assholery every now and then — it just goes with the territory and isn’t that big of a deal. I condemn him not.
In Contention‘s Kris Tapley, another admirer of Up In The Air who’s interviewed Reitman once or twice, says the following:
“I frankly don’t remember his ‘look of concern’ at the Globes (which could have just as easily been concern that The Hurt Locker didn’t win), and he didn’t ignore Turner on that stage, either. In fact, after they unfortunately played Turner off the stage at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, Reitman’s position was Turner should speak first from that point on.
“I think two things happened. First was the dust-up surrounding writing credits, which became so pronounced and overstated as to reflect a sheen of animosity, when there was none. That may have found its way into the overall Academy consciousness.
“Second, and most importantly, I think Reitman is getting put in his place after reaching a high level of success so early in his career. This has always been a notion in the ether, but it really rang true for me when I was watching the Best Director category. All of those clips of people talking about the respective nominees. He looked like an absolute baby in the midst of all of that, a true wunderkind.
“And I also think it’s clear the Academy had a level of admiration and respect for Precious. It seemed palpable in the room.”