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David Poland

By David Poland

The Premature Oscar Column

What films are in the running for Best Picture?
“Besides Francis Ford Coppola and Milos forman and Sofia Coppola and Marc Forster, there are ten more Oscar-space directors with eleven more films in play this fall. In alphabetical order, AlmodovarCondonEastwoodFieldGibsonHytnerMinghellaScorseseScottSoderbergh.
That’s fifteen films from Academy Award tested filmmakers. Fifteen!”
And my first Oscar Best Picture list…

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42 Responses to “The Premature Oscar Column”

  1. Crow T Robot says:

    And I say he’s the one
    He likes all our pretty songs
    And he likes to sing along
    And he likes to shoot his gun…
    …but he don’t know what it means.

  2. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    Yeah, not really much to talk about.
    I didn’t see All The King’s Men hitting big last season and I don’t see it again now. I think the Academy will not exactly have the warmest welcome to a remake of a movie that won best picture already. I also don’t think Flags of our Father will hit it that big. Surely they’ve gotta have a break from Eastwood and Haggis eventually. For some reason The Good German isn’t clicking with me as an Oscar film although I want to see it more than DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd. Scott’s A Good Year has Crowe and Cornish so I’m there.
    But the rest seems about right.
    I still really want Francis and Sofia to both be nominated in the same category. That’d be wonderful.

  3. jeffmcm says:

    ^^It would be a publicist’s dream.
    The trailer for All the King’s Men that was already released made it looked pretty bad. Like ‘I Am Sam Goes to Washington’. Pretty, though.

  4. adorian says:

    Matt Damon does not appear in “The Good German.”
    He’s in “The Good Shepherd.”
    Why do I fear that Academy voters will mark their ballots incorrectly because they won’t be able to tell the two movies apart?
    Just vote for “The Good German Shepherd.”

  5. Jedburgh says:

    That seems about as sensible a list as one could hope for given how early it is. Eastwood’s double whammy of war films does sound fascinating though. Has this ever been done before, two different movies on the same subject? Will the release pattern of Flags in October followed by Red Sun in December, help or hinder their Oscar chances?
    Will the critics be able to accept depictions of Japanese cruelty without accusing Eastwood of reviving old stereotypes? Will rightwing critics completely lose it when they see Red Sun, Black Sand & accuse Dirty Harry of ‘rubbishing our troops’?
    Btw, in response to Camel, I don’t think the Academy will blow off Flags/Red Sun just because Eastwood/Haggis won recently. That’s as silly an argument as the ‘Scorsese will win because Eastwood’s already been awarded for Unforgiven!’ schtick parroted by Martin’s supporters in early ’05. I just don’t see any evidence that the Academy functions that way. If the work is considered strong enough (e.g., Swank over Bening in ’05)) then the voters will reward it no matter how many times somebody’s won in the past.

  6. Cadavra says:

    Let me remind everyone that the big winner two years ago, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, hadn’t even begun production yet at this point in the year. Cripes, have we nothing better to discuss right now? Can’t this wait until at least August?

  7. RT says:

    It seems that The Fountain ought to be on that list as a possibility.

  8. Jeremy Smith says:

    Bad form, Poland. Left off SNAKES ON A PLANE.

  9. Wrecktum says:

    Why have you been blocking my posts, Poland?

  10. Eric says:

    I can appreciate the belief that the movies themselves matter at all in the Oscar race. I’d really like to believe that this time. But… come on.
    From the article: “…as we spend the next 40 weeks trying to decode what is going on, one key detail will be bigger than ever… the actual movies.”
    Can we please, please not spend the next forty weeks trying to decode what is going on?

  11. Jimmy the Gent says:

    I’d rather talk about the “what ifs” of the Oscars than the Box Office of every big movie.
    Here are my immeiate thoughts from a previous post.
    United 93 has to get some tech nominations. If it doesn’t get nominated for sound editing and film editing the Adacemy hasn’t a clue how to do its job.
    You can’t write an early Oscar column without NOT mentioning Oliver STone. He has to be taken seriously until the movie comes out. It seems if the movie is good–and a hit–it might be the kind of movie the voters eat up. I’m actually looking forward to it.
    Is Coppola really going to go head-to-head with his daughter? I seriously doubt it. What would be cool is if Coppola had the movie ready for Sundance. This would tie in nicely with him embracing new technology from the new genreation of filmmakers.
    Who else besides Diane Keaton has Meyers helped get a nomination? I think Winslet has a better chance at a nomination–and a possible wih–with Romance and Cigarettes.
    I think Gandolfini could be the one to get nominated from All the King’s Men. That would be sweet. An Oscar and an Emmy in the same year would be great.
    Gibson is out with the Academy. The wounds are still fresh from The Passion. To quote that popular phrase of our times, “It’s too soon.”
    I think it could be a repeat from 2004 with Eastwood and Scorsese going at each other’s throats. It would be a sad day if Eastwood ties with Ford by winning his third Best Director Oscar. Do we need another WWII drama? Three 6 Mafia 1, Scorsese 0.
    Al Gore will be giving an acceptance speech come Oscar night. Deal with it. Love it. I can’t wait.
    If Da Vinci Code hits expect at least a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination.

  12. palmtree says:

    In what sense is Nicholas Hytner an “Academy Award tested filmmaker?”

  13. jeffmcm says:

    Perhaps he meant “BAFTA tested”.

  14. mex says:

    Hey, if Crash won an Academy Award for the best picture of the year!!!… then Snakes on a Plane has a chance. Come on, lets talk about Cannes or box office or whatever that doesn’t remind me of the stupidness of the Oscars.

  15. David Poland says:

    The Madness of King George

  16. lazarus says:

    Actually, Jimmy the Gent, Eastwood will have to win two more directing Oscars to tie Ford. The legend won for The Informer, How Green Was My Valley, The Quiet Man, and The Grapes of Wrath. What’s amazing is that he arguably deserved another won, unless you feel that Victor Fleming actually could claim Gone With the Wind away from its 3 other directors (and I wouldn’t call it a better effort any way).
    The only year he probably didn’t deserve his Oscar was when he beat Orson Welles for Citizen Kane. I don’t feel that Hitchcock’s effort in Rebecca was stronger than Ford’s in Grapes of Wrath, and I wouldn’t have given it to Fred Zinneman for High Noon over Ford’s Quiet Man, despite how tensely effected the former is.
    It’s conceivable that either Spielberg or Eastwood could eventually match Ford’s four statues. Perhaps if Marty breaks his curse he could get on a roll; it’s not like he won’t have 4 more films with outstanding direction before his career’s through. As far as younger guys, I wouldn’t put it out of Soderbergh’s reach, as he’s proven to be a genre-hopper and can pitch an intelligent film right down the Academy’s palatable middle.

  17. JohnBritt says:

    I think you will see Jennifer Hudson up for best supporting actress come Oscar time.

  18. Hopscotch says:

    Spielberg is in his late 50’s, he’s very capable of getting two more statues.

  19. palmtree says:

    Okay…so in other words you meant their films were nominated for stuff, not they were themselves nominated for stuff.
    Oliver Stone doesn’t count?

  20. Jimmy the Gent says:

    Eastwood’s best direction wasn’t even nominated. He deserved a nomination for A Perfect World, a worth conpanion piece to Badlands.
    Scorsese should working on his fifth or sixth Oscar by now. He deserved the statue for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, and The Aviator. Ppeople can debate whether he deserved it for Aviator or Gangs of New York. The fact is this shouldn’t be a discussion at this point in his career. Hell, I’m willing to make casese for After Hours, Cape Fear, and Casino. Bringing Out the Dead will turn out to be his unsung masterpiece whenever they do that retrospective of his career in 20 years.
    Spielberg has deserved his two statues. The only thing is that he has probably deserved at least two more. One can wasily make a case for E.T., Close Encounter of the Third Kind, and Munich. He should’ve at lest been nominated for Jaws.
    High Noon is awful. Gary Cooper’s school of constipation acting is uncomfortable to watch.
    Hitchcock should’ve won for Vertigo or Psycho.
    Does Poland really think the new DePalma is Oscar bait? I love DePalma but I think he’s given up on gaining the approval from the Academy. Blow Out, Scarface, or Casualties of War should’ve brought him the recognition he deserved. Femme Fatale was a great return to form, but hardly anyone saw it. I think Armond White is the only one who’ll be taking his latest seriously. Also, Edelstein and Charles Taylor.

  21. oldman says:

    ^^ When Gary Cooper made High Noon he was severly ill and could barely move. The Producers knew that Cooper might not be able to finish the picture; but took the risk. I have always thought that Cooper’s performance worked and that his stiffness added to the pathos.

  22. jeffmcm says:

    I agree, High Noon has taken some knocks recently but I think it and Cooper still hold up very well today.
    I can’t imagine DePalma ever getting any Oscar respect again. He’ll have to be satisfied with being a cult figure.

  23. David Poland says:

    I’m hardly touting the DePalma.
    On the flip side, I remember being told that Eastwood was washed up after The Rookie and again after True Crime.
    If the movie is great and it’s not too cute, it is in contention. If only critics like it, like Femme Fatale, it’s not. If only audience like it, it’s not. And so it goes.
    It is more likely than a number of the other films on the loooong list.

  24. Jimmy the Gent says:

    Eastwood WAS washed up after The Rookie. He had to know it. That’s why he made Unforgiven after that. Unforgiven gave him a boost late in his career. For me, M$B was his true return to from. Mystic River might be one of the most overrated movies of the last decade. I hate when murder mysteries set up the evidence so that it can be read two separate ways. The evidence was set up in such a way that the Robbins character could actually be guilty. It isn’t until the last-minute revelation that we realize what really happened. Also, I can’t believe people fell for Linney’s bogus Lady Macbeth routine. There is no indication prior to her big scene that she’s that complicit in her husband’s actions. Bacon, Fishburne, and Robbins made the movie watchable. Penn, besides from his “operatic” breakdown at the crime scene, gave a good, but not great, performance. it was within his range. He hasn’t surprised me since the one-two punch of Thin Red Line and Hurlyburly.
    The first hour of Space Cowboys is fun, if a bit silly. Once they go into space the movie loses its momentum, especially in that lame attempt at tension by having one of the young astonauts disobey orders and take matters into his own hands.
    Blood Work is just awful. True Crime might Eastwood’s worst film as a serious director.
    His best movies as a director are: Play MIsty For Me, Josey Wales, Bronco Billy, White Hunter, Black Heart, Unforgiven, A Perfect World, Bridges of MAdison County, and Million Dollar Baby.
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is good, uf flawed.
    Heartbreak Ridge and Firefox are guilty pleasures.

  25. jeffmcm says:

    I love DePalma, but I have a really hard time imagining that he’ll make a movie with the right kind of middle-browness that Oscar voters would have any interest in.

  26. Crow T Robot says:

    I didn’t care for Mystic River or Million Dollar Baby at all. They’re both angry, godless films designed to frustrate the bighearted viewers who take a real interest in its characters. They tease us with mercy then offer us none. The craft is all there, just not much to like.
    Eastwood’s most engaging when he loosens up a bit, both in front and behind the lens. Training scenes in Space Cowboys… tater tots in A Perfect World… and best of all, his charismatic Oscar worthy performance in In The Line Of Fire.
    Quite possibly the only 70 year-old white guy who can deliver the line: “You have a rendezvous with my ass, motherfucker!”

  27. David Poland says:

    Gent, your idea that people make shitty movies and then say, “Oh, I am in trouble” and then end up making a classic like Unforgiven as a response is kinda wacky.
    None of the bad movies, except The Rookie, really pandered. They just weren’t good.
    But the real point is, serious people try to do serious work and often fail. “Washed up” is, for people who can get the next movie made, always ready to turn around… or not.

  28. Adam says:

    We need another WWII film like we need another crime film, but nobody’s complaining about the Departed because of its genre.
    …so the possibility, however unlikely, is Eastwood, Eastwood, Coppola, Coppola and Scorsese? 🙂
    So if Scorsese goes up against two time winner Eastwood, and Coppola (did he lose for godfather and win for part II on dir.? I can’t remember…) and Soderbergh who do you vote for to honor, when everyone is a legend of sorts?
    I wonder how the appeal between the two iwojima pictures will split, but I can see both garnering BP nods if they’re strong in different areas for different reasons. whether or not he gets two best director nods will probably just depend on how those third place ballots fall and if people put him twice on their own ballots.

  29. lazarus says:

    Surely you realize, Adam, that “crime film” is a hell of a lot more general than “WWII film”. If you want to say mob movie, fine, but Scorsese has really only made 2 films about organized crime–GoodFellas and Casino. Those two were much more different than people tend to acknowledge, and I’d imagine that The Departed will be even more so, as it’s less fact-based than the others. Of course, being a straight genre piece isn’t any indicator of its ultimate quality or standing.
    It does seem rather beside the point to make another WWII film right now, but Eastwood’s two-fer does have a fresh conceit, even if it seems like it’s just splitting Tora Tora Tora in half. I’m interested in seeing the Japanese part a hell of a lot more than another rah-rah U.S.A. film, and hope to god the latter doesn’t take the Oscar gold that some people (wrongly) feel was meant for Saving Private Ryan. I’ve had enough of Eastwood at that podium to last a lifetime.
    I’ll say it right now, as boldly as I can: There is no way in fucking hell Eastwood is getting double nommed for director for these films. Not in a year this stacked, no matter how many hopefuls fall by the wayside. You look at the year Soderbergh pulled that off, and it was an extremely light one. The fact that something as small as Traffic or Crouching Tiger made a run for the big one says a lot.
    Also, look for Marty to take a director slot even if The Departed misses best picture. Too many great actors and a potential for another Jack Nicholson nomination or win, Marty working in the element he knows best. The original isn’t known or loved enough by the mainstream press to incur any negative bias.
    I don’t think the Academy feels they owe Mel Gibson jack shit, and Apocalypto may just be too out there. It could be his New World–if the voters weren’t impressed enough by Malick’s transcendent imagery and themes, they won’t be taken with his either. I think Minghella will be rewarded for his scaling back, and you can expect the Weinsteins will push him for the same reasons.
    Right now I’d say it’s Eastwood, Scorsese, Minghella, Soderbergh, and someone new to the lineup like Inarritu, Zallian, Condon, etc.
    I think Almodovar already had his big year(s), and the efforts of both Coppolas may turn out to be too indie. But Youth Without Youth could gain mucho respect and pave the way for a real big time comeback…

  30. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    Scorsese? Do people not remember that he doesn’t get nominated for every film he makes? And The Departed is a remake of an action movie! What about that remotely screams BEST DIRECTOR?
    Won’t they release one of Eastwood’s films this year and another next year. That would make more sense since they’re obviously going after Oscar with Eastwood and Haggis involved.

  31. Jedburgh says:

    Eastwood’s best direction wasn’t even nominated. He deserved a nomination for A Perfect World…
    That was a good movie but I can think of at least two better ones; The Outlaw Josey Wales is the first & the other is the film William Goldman saw at Cannes in ’88 & which he described as:
    … by far the outstanding directorial work of the fortnight. The only stigma being Eastwood and our memories of all those action films. How dare he attempt a serious movie? And bring it off. I believe that if Francis Coppola had directed it, frame for frame, the critics would have put him back on top with Woody Allen. And if Allen had done it, they would have elevated him up alongside Welles.
    That movie was, of course, the Charlie Parker biopic Bird. A terrific bit of work by Eastwood for which his contribution was roundly ignored by the Academy. I don’t think either are as accomplished as Million Dollar Baby though, which for my money is clearly his best work as director even edging out the mighty Unforgiven.

  32. palmtree says:

    Infernal Affairs was not an action movie. It was a thriller/drama, and one that dealt with existential issues. Though Election is threatening the title, IA is the Godfather of HK movies (even right down to the crappy second sequel).

  33. Sam says:

    “Btw, in response to Camel, I don’t think the Academy will blow off Flags/Red Sun just because Eastwood/Haggis won recently. That’s as silly an argument as the ‘Scorsese will win because Eastwood’s already been awarded for Unforgiven!’ schtick…”
    I don’t know about that. There’s a big difference between two wins 12 years apart, and this year’s situation, which is a writer-director team responsible for the last TWO Best Picture winners. Even though Haggis didn’t direct M$B and Eastwood wasn’t involved with Crash, a Best Picture win of Flags of Our Fathers would be seen, not inaccurately, as the third in a row.
    Three wins over the course of a career is tough enough to pull off, but I just don’t see anybody ever pulling off three in a row. It is *especially* unlikely in light of the controversiality of Crash’s win over Brokeback Mountain, where some who might otherwise think well of a Flags win will consider Haggis already rewarded.
    Still, a *nomination* is far from out of the question. Lots of fresh winners get renominated — Tom Hanks did it the very year after back-to-back wins, in fact.

  34. Jake says:

    what about ‘children of men’? or todd haynes’ bob dylan movie?

  35. Cadavra says:

    “The Departed is a remake of an action movie!”
    Well, not really. There is some action in INFERNAL AFFAIRS, but it’s primarily a suspense thriller with a really convoluted (by Hong Kong standards) plot. Definitely not Michael Bay-type material at all.

  36. jeffmcm says:

    Here’s hoping for a Haggis-backlash.

  37. oldman says:

    If Da Vinci Code tanks, will: 1) they pull a Cinderella man and try a fall re-release? and 2) Will this mean that Howard’s next movie will be Mayberry RFD, The Movie?

  38. Cadavra says:

    Let’s do the math. 60 million copies have been sold. Assuming two readers per copy (and that’s probably low if you factor in libraries), that’s 120 million readers. If even one-third of them see the film only once, that’s 40 million times average-ticket-price-of-$7 equals $280 million.
    BTW, I saw it at the exhibitors’ screening last week, and can now break my own silence. Yes, it’s a bit glummer than the book, and yes, the third act is unduly protracted, but overall I thought it was just fine. About as faithful an adaptation of a novel as any I’ve seen in ages. The critics had their knives out when they walked into the theatre due to its staggering popularity, but at the end of the day, it ain’t GONE WITH THE WIND, just a solid, entertaining pot-boiler–which is all the book ever was in the first place.

  39. Jedburgh says:

    Sam, I really don’t think the Academy is as troubled by this as you or Camel are. You’re not likely to find members of AMPAS agonising over a vote for Eastwood or Haggis because they think it’s too soon. If they like the movies they’ll vote for them. The logic of your position is that if either of these movies turn out genuinely great – huge box office, overwhelming critical approval, massive straight to the heart component, etc, – then AMPAS would still brush them off for the reason you cited. Forget that. Won’t happen. There are all sorts of factors that can derail Eastwood’s war pics – failing to live up to expectations being perhaps the most obvious – but I’d respectfully suggest ‘but they won too recently!’ ain’t one of ’em.

  40. David Poland says:

    Cadavra – When did we get to 60 million copies? This week, it’s gone from 40 million to 50 million and now, 60 million. Busy week.
    How many people have read the Jack Clancey books?

  41. Cadavra says:

    I saw the 60 million figure in, I think, Variety, so take it for what it’s worth, but most previous figures are for just the hardcover, and I assume this one includes paperback sales, which I undestand have been pretty sizable.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon