“What this year was greatly missing was any kind of strong critical voices. Stu Van Airsdale left his post at Movieline and Mark Harris left Grantland for the year and that left us with objective Oscar coverage and advocacy. We still have the Carpetbagger [and] David Poland, but Jeff Wells has turned into a one-man take-down machine which has rendered his voice as useless as my own.” — from Sasha Stone’s latest Awards Daily Oscar-race-assessment piece, dated 2.15.
Response: I reviewed all the major films last year with as much soul and passion and exactitude as I was able to find or bring, and I was very pro-Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Anna Karenina and No, of course, and also, after my initial encounter in Cannes, Amour. Not to mention dozens of other films I liked or found worthy in this or that way. I got into everything and what I ended up really liking, I ended up really liking. I respected Lincoln after a fashion but I found it laborious and tiresome in some respects and certainly over-praised, and while I felt very strongly, as always, about Spielberg industry kowtowing manifesting as Best Picture hoo-hah…ahh, I’ve said all this before.
But I am hardly “a one-man takedown machine.” That is grossly unfair. I try to absorb and wrestle with the whole realm, with everything, every day and doubly on weekends. Awful movies, cool movies, classics, Blurays…all of it. Not to mention every film festival I can squeeze in or afford to visit. Every significant or semi-significant or interesting looking film that comes out (including those on HBO, AMC, Netflix and Showtime), I see and settle into and grapple with. You really have to get off my case and stop bashing me just because everyone (apart from people like myself and David Carr) liked or respected poor Lincoln but didn’t sincerely love it. Your dream dog made money but it didn’t have the stamina or the horses to score in the awards race. Let it go and stop slapping me around for this.
I wanted the portentous Lincoln to lose, yes. The idea of another Spielberg coronation with films like War Horse, Tintin, Always, Amistad and The Color Purple under his belt seemed intolerable. And yes, I pushed this viewpoint with a compulsive vigor but that shouldn’t be a damning or libelous offense. What about the haters (of which you were one) who ganged up on poor Silver Linings Playbook like African wild dogs tackling an antelope? And what about the Soviet apparatchik assassins of Zero Dark Thirty? Now, those were takedown campaigns!
SLP is one of the most nimble witted and emotionally rooted romantic dramedies ever made, obviously not a film of epic scope or classic dramatic gravitas but a confection of real beauty and a kind of transcendence even, and look what happened — elbowed out of consideration as a possible winner by the handicappers and now even poor Jennifer Lawrence is on the ropes. You and yours (and the relentless commentariat on HE and elsewhere) helped to kill its Best Picture chances as surely as you’re reading this letter, and you’re calling me a takedown machine?
Sasha is nonetheless spot-on with this: “The Oscar race is all over but the shouting. History will be made one way or another. [But] history had already been made once the Academy pushed their [nomination] ballot deadline to occur before the big guilds announced. That one little move forever altered the race, throwing it into complete chaos.”