As I’ve said for many, many years, the inspiration, tenacity and toil that go into winning any Oscar will always warrant honor and admiration, but it’s not the win-or-lose aspects of the Oscar race but the award-season arguments that provide the real pleasure and uplift. Community-wise, I mean. Because these arguments serve as a kind of communal therapy session or Socratic dialogue about who and what we are — as individuals, as a culture — and why. It was certainly a form of self-expression to say that you were a fan of The King’s Speech or even to predict in a wink-winking Dave Karger sort of way that it would win the Best Picture Oscar. If you went for The Kings Speech you were with the Soviets in an August 1968 kind of way, and if you stood with The Social Network guys you were more of a Prague Spring kind of guy.
So with award season about to commence with the start of the Telluride Film Festival six days hence, what will this year’s arguments be about?
In the case of Steve McQueen‘s 12 Years A Slave, there will be those who will jump all over anyone with the impudence to suggest that a movie that says “slavery was a terrible and horrific thing” is beating a moralistic and sociological dead horse. If this more or less comes to pass (i.e., Django Unchained without the revenge or the attitude) and I respond with ho-hums or general disinterest, I will almost certainly get beaten up by the p.c. bullies (i.e., Kenny and the rest) for being insensitive.
There will be dissatisfaction and condemnation, rest assured, if any noteworthy critic backhands J.C. Chandor‘s All Is Lost because it’s almost entirely dialogue-free, and there will certainly be hand-wringing and hair-pulling if the general public doesn’t respond with appropriate enthusiasm when it opens. I personally can’t wait to take Joe and Jane Popcorn to task if this happens — I’m literally salivating over the prospect — although I would much prefer if they would just simply go to see it. There’s no way to put this film down once you submit to it. The challenge will be getting the lowbrows to see it theatrically. Because as Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone recently said, All Is Lost is the kind of film that requires the kind of devout concentration that is almost inconceivable if you’re watching it at home with your flip-flop-wearing, backward-baseball-cap-wearing, chili-dog-eating homies.
There will be kvetching aplently if the Academy fails to show appropriate respect to Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Inside Llewyn Davis by way of nominations.
And we’ve only just begun to ask if a billionaire mega-mogul who dabbles in screen acting every decade or so really deserves to be Oscar-nominated just because she delivered a good performance.
There will be arguments galore having to do with some aspect or aspects (trust me) of American Hustle, August: Osage County, Wolf of Wall Street, Captain Phillips, Saving Mr. Banks, Her, Monuments Men, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Foxcatcher and Labor Day. Plus all kinds of side-tangent disputes. And at the end of this exercise we’ll all have a more complete idea of what and what we are and stand for in the year of our Lord 2013. In the case of some this will amount to something other than just the earning of revenue.
“The arguing part is the HE calling,” I wrote three and a half years ago. “This is the task. I am swallowed by it as surely as Gregory Peck was by his great 1956 obsession. Is Ahab Ahab? Is it I, God, or who that lifts this arm? I play these games because I must or should or need to. For if the great sun moves not of itself but as an errand boy in heaven, how then can this one small brain think thoughts unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I?”