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David Poland

By David Poland

Will The Academy Kill Lars

Word is that the AMPAS committee that sets official screenings has taken a pass on Lars & The Real Girl, the Toronto Film Fest phenom starring Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling. This call could well be the beginning of the end for any Best Picture Oscar hopes for this film, which gets a great reaction from audiences who see it and real resistance to the premise from people who have not. A poorly attended official Academy screening can be as bad as none at all… but for a small indie-level release, that foot in the door means a lot.
Of course, good box office momentum, starting with this weekend

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45 Responses to “Will The Academy Kill Lars”

  1. Noah says:

    I’m noticing a weird backlash for this movie. David Fear panned it horribly in Time Out NY, giving it one star out of six. But then again, he’s usually very snobbish and elitist. I think it was him (or maybe it was Joshua Rothkopf) who gave The 400 Blows five out of six, saying it was flawed.

  2. How this AMPAS committee just decide not to screen it? Not sure how the procedure works, but that’s seems incredibly unfair that they can play with a film’s fate so easily, right?
    Unless I’m misunderstanding you…

  3. lazarus says:

    Hurting its Best Picture Oscar hopes?! Are you kidding, DP?
    If there’s anything the academy isn’t going to get behind, it’s a film about a guy in a relationship with a doll. Sorry.
    Perhaps this is something that would make it into the more welcoming screenplay category, but no way in hell it gets anywhere near a BP nomination.

  4. LexG says:

    A very “real” question that will probably seem smarmy, baiting, or condescending, but it’s true:
    Aren’t many, many, maaaaany people freaked out by dolls?
    I had a conversation about this movie with a very intelligent, accomplished Academy member the other day, and she claimed that no matter how great the acclaim, she could not bear to watch this film because the sight of the Real Doll was so unsettling and disturbing to her.
    PG-13 rating, critical acclaim or not, a HUGE portion of the audience will find this as unsettling and disturbing as a feature film starring the SHINING Grady twins in geometrically-precise center-vision giggling into the lens.

  5. EDouglas says:

    I love this movie as much if not more than you do, David, but I always thought your Best Picture suggestion was a bit nutty. Yes, Gosling is great as is the script but unless SAG got behind it and gave it an ensemble nomination, it wouldn’t stand a chance. Really, it’s about the script and Gosling (not to take anything away from Craig Gillespie or the rest of the cast).
    I have a feeling it’s not going to do very well this weekend… surely MGM could have done better than the vanity site for their lead quote.

  6. IOIOIOI says:

    Hold the fuck on (Yes I am going to get foul-mouthed. My apologies to any who are offended). This freakin Academy can select a film as Best Picture like CRASH or like SILENCE WITH THE LAMBS, but they cannot give this quirky flick a shot at some love? Get the fuck out of here.
    If these same people — to varying degrees — can appreciate motherfucking Return of the King with it’s 15 endings. It can give a shot to one hell of an actor portraying a guy in love with a real doll. Those motherfuckers got problems. Like that family from Little Miss Sunshine who drove in an UNAIRCONDITIONED VW BUS without FUCKING AC with a DEAD BODY IN THE BACK! A stolen dead body of a family member — who had a heroin problem — in that cramped space. So… yeah… that’s the good kind of quirky. Yeah.

  7. IOIOIOI says:

    For all of those who did not understand the above: the Academy most likely screened Little Miss Sunshine last year. A movie with a considerable amount of quirk that makes a guy sleeping with a real-doll… a lot less quirky. Yet the Ampas committee cannot screen this movie with one of the better actors of this or any other generation? Really? That seems a bit daft to me.

  8. hanimal says:

    people are pushing it!
    it would be great to see ryan got his second nomination!

  9. LexG, if there were a movie about clowns that won best picture I would still not see it. I can deal with clowns in Quick Change and I can barely deal with them in Short Cuts but that’s about it.

  10. I heard most of them left at the 45 minute mark.
    I keed…I keed.

  11. Fishermansfriend says:

    I read somewhere that the screening for SAG memebers was a success last week. I hope that will make some impact.

  12. David Poland says:

    Pretty much every screening has been a success.
    And Laz’s attitude, which suggests he hasn’t seen the film, is the problem… it is not about it’s surface. But how do you get that message through when people just obsess on the doll?

  13. lazarus says:

    DP, I wasn’t trying to say that this is something too weird for myself or the average art house crowd. But are you really thinking this film, aside from Gosling and maybe a supporting performer, is something likely to show up in BP slate? When you look at the daring choices often found in the screenplay categories, it’s very easy to see where the line is drawn. Even something slightly kooky like Eternal Sunshine was good enough for a Best Actress nom and a screenplay win, but was never going to appear on a BP slate.
    The comparison to Little Miss Sunshine is way off. First, the roster of actors was much better known beyond the indie scene. And LMS was played much more for laughs, the characters more caricatures than anything humanist, even if the actors brought them into 3D. Lars seems to be going for something much more grounded, and I think attempting to take the whole thing seriously is what’s going to lose a lot of the stodgier voters. It’s much more oddball than something like The Crying Game, for example. You’re talking about something with the production values of Sideways (which was a pretty flukey BP nom to begin with), plus a more-bizarre subject matter.
    Just for laughs, DP, name me the strangest 5 BP nominees in recent memory, and tell me how Lars fits into that equation. I certainly can’t find anything that suggests it would be welcome.

  14. Armin Tamzarian says:

    The single most unsatisfying aspect of LARS is its almost complete lack of conflict. That, coupled with its tendency to fall back and hit the same joke over and over again, makes for kind of a dull film. Great cast, all giving strong performances, don’t compensate for a thin story. Also, the ending wasn’t entirely earned, IMHO. Wanted to like this film, especially after hearing all the Toronto love, but I didn’t.

  15. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Love to see Poland pushing this film! Can’t wait to see it, but it sounds like a film to be loved.
    Has there ever been a case of a filmmaker’s first two films coming out this close together, and getting such diametrically opposed critical responses?

  16. Moniker Jones says:

    Whoever derided the Academy for awarding Silence of the Lambs Best Picture is not only an elitist snob, but a moronic one at that. Crash? Sure, who cares. Mediocre, manipulative, unoriginal pap. But Silence? No way. Great movie, modern classic, end of story. In fact, that’s one of the few times the Academy deserved some real kudos for making a ballsy decision rather than fingerbanging Roland Joffe and Ismail Merchant’s latest lovechild.
    As for the comments about a NY critic who gave Lars 1 of 6 and 400 Blows a 5 of 6, all I can say is this: who cares about any critic who uses a #1-#6 rating system? The guy’s obviously got some physiological misfires at work.
    And finally, I have not seen Lars or even read much about it, but all this hullabaloo has me curious. Not curious enough to sift through my old toy chest for a My Buddy doll to manhandle, but curious nevertheless.

  17. Moniker Jones says:

    Also, if you’re really going to get this worked up over a blatantly unusual film being potentially ignored by the Academy, you’re either living in a dream world or you need to immediately shift your attention away from awards shows.
    Still, my favorite films have been burned time and time again by the Academy, but I keep watching them because I live for those rare moments when a film, filmmaker, or performer I admire actually achieves the credit they deserve. It is for such reasons that I continue hoping that There Will Be Blood will be as wonderful as I’ve been hoping for the past two years. I would absolutely love to see P.T. Anderson be honored by the same organization that outright dismissed him nearly ten years ago.
    And another thing..for all those who still complain about the Oscars not getting it right, or voters not sitting through all the films, I have but one word for you: CRUMB.

  18. bmcintire says:

    I just saw this one yesterday, and after the multiple conversations I participated in discussing the films obviously strong potential for awards nominations, it is truly disheartening to hear about this move by AMPAS. LARS, above any other film I have seen this year (granted, there are a handful of potentially strong ones like THERE WILL BE BLOOD that I have yet to see) this is one I would be willing to get behind.

  19. IOIOIOI says:

    Laz… I brought up Little Miss Sunshine in terms of the “QUIRKINESS” factour. If you want to drop a discertation on my head, at least drop it on my head for the right reasons :)! Oh yeah… the Academy should have screened this film because of Gosling alone.

  20. Glamourboy says:

    So much fun hearing the comments of people who haven’t seen the film. I was in the same boat till I saw the movie. And I haven’t loved a movie so much in a long time.
    What you can’t understand until seeing it is that the movie works BECAUSE of how unlikely the premise is…and how completely against the odds it is that the film could work at all. You assume it’s going to go for the cheap laughs, the sexual innuenendos, the smirk…that the world is going to be broad and urealistic.
    Then you sit back and watch this delicate little movie. It wins you over so completely because it is so unexpected. It doesn’t go where you think it will go. When I saw it, you could hear lots of sniffling and tears from the audience. Then applause filled with gratitude. My group left feeling that we had never been in this world before…and that it was one of the best love stories in recent memory.
    Think more Harvey (the invisible rabbit), and less a blow up doll, and you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

  21. David Poland says:

    Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Patricia Clarkson. A woman screenwriter better known than Sunshine’s. A commercial director who waited for years to make this movie.
    And most importantly, a warm heart at the end of this picture.
    What’s the big difference… especially when the swearing, heroin-taking old guy won the Oscar? How much odder is this once you see the film?
    Again… resistance to seeing it at all is their biggest problem before being run over by advertising and hype that they may or may not be ready to match.
    And she is NOT a blow up doll, a phrase used by David Carr today, which I don’t blame him for… they need to be turning this corner already.

  22. lazarus says:

    And you’re telling me that MGM is going to be able to work this one as well as Fox Searchlight worked LMS?
    The heroin-taking old guy isn’t the tagline, Dave. It’s not “pervy, drug-addicted, foul-mouthed granddad goes on road trip with family and dies”. It’s “crazy family takes road trip to get little girl into beauty pageant”.
    I don’t care how sweet and heartwarming Lars is, the tagline is still “socially retarded guy orders doll to be his girlfriend and small town tries to help him become a real man”. Or however you want to phrase it. It’s still too much of an eyebrow-raiser to me to vie for the big prize.
    Of course, if it doesn’t get nominated, you’ll be able to say that it wasn’t given a chance, but you’re still not giving me any precedent here. Little Miss Sunshine doesn’t have anything more crass in it than what was in The Departed. What neither of them was is weird, which is what Lars is going to be perceived as.
    No way in hell.

  23. hanimal says:

    the tagline for Lars and the Real Girl is:
    The search for true love begins outside the box.
    you smart ass.
    and abigail breslin’s final dance is a lot more weirder than bianca the missionary, trust me.

  24. bmcintire says:

    Well, MGM certainly doesn’t have much else to focus on. It’s this and LIONS FOR LAMBS, which UA will be toiling for overtime. And the vibe at MGM over LARS right now is frigging huge. I shudder to think of this thing dying on the vine.

  25. Jack Walsh says:

    Nancy Oliver, the writer, is well known? I was confused with Dave’s comment so I went to imdb. Seven episodes of “Six Feet Under” and she is more popular than Dayton and Faris? I must be missing something…
    Either way, this looks like a film that could catch on. Lazarus-I don’t know about Oscar BP nominations, but from the previews I’ve seen, it looks like it could be this years “Napoleon Dynamite”, where people just have to see it. If it has a huge heart as Dave has pointed it, maybe it takes a step to a higher level with enough of an audience.

  26. Jack Walsh says:

    Nancy Oliver, the writer, is well known? I was confused with Dave’s comment so I went to imdb. Seven episodes of “Six Feet Under” and she is more popular than Dayton and Faris? I must be missing something…
    Either way, this looks like a film that could catch on. Lazarus-I don’t know about Oscar BP nominations, but from the previews I’ve seen, it looks like it could be this years “Napoleon Dynamite”, where people just have to see it. If it has a huge heart as Dave has pointed it, maybe it takes a step to a higher level with enough of an audience.

  27. Jack Walsh says:

    And I didn’t mean to imply that Dayton and Faris wrote ‘Sunshine’, just that Dayton and Faris at least had more industry clout from their music video work. Just pointing out that both screenwriters were unknowns.

  28. juligen says:

    After Crash, I really dont expect much from the Academy.Just hope they dont become uselles like The Emmys

  29. scooterzz says:

    this is a very sweet little film with a few very sweet performances but it hardly qualifies for academy consideration…and anyone who’s seen the documentary, ‘love me, love my doll’ (bbc america is running it quite a bit) won’t be inclined to see the ‘sweet’….

  30. “A commercial director who waited for years to make this movie.”
    I doubt much is going to be made of Mr Woodcock in the campaign for Lars.
    One thing Little Miss Sunshine had that I doubt LatRG is going to get. Momentum. LMS opened in July (limited, August wider) and grew and grew. Lars, from a studio that can’t promote movies at all it would seem, opening in October?

  31. Rothchild says:

    It’s easily my favorite film of the year so far. Highly recommended.

  32. doug r says:

    Saw a trailer for Lars in front of The Heartbreak Kid. Looks intriguing.

  33. djk813 says:

    The real question is whether the doll is eligible for a Best Supporting Actress nomination. I’d like to see that FYC ad.

  34. Jack Walsh says:

    This is exactly how I see academy members look at LATRG:

  35. Fishermansfriend says:

    Some of the hateful reviews towards this movie is really puzzling to me. Maybe they’re expecting something else.

  36. Rothchild says:

    The Slate review is awful. The film couldn’t be more clear about how Lars never has sex with the doll. He only kisses it once. They create the great gimmick to get out of that possibly creepy element by establishing her as very religious.

  37. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Oh give us a break! You know Lars hit that!

  38. jeffmcm says:

    Sounds like a cop-out.

  39. Rothchild says:

    Only because you haven’t seen the film. You’ll love it.

  40. jeffmcm says:

    I hope to, but it sounds like a cop-out nonetheless. A way of tiptoeing around the elephant in the room.

  41. Rothchild says:

    But Lars doesn’t know she’s not a real person and he’s a guy that’s clearly a virgin and clearly afraid of sex. Being that in his head he doesn’t view her as something that he can just use if he feels like it, it makes perfect sense. It’s consistent with his character and arc. She’s a safe figment of his imagination, an idealized woman that will make everything as conflict and stress free as possible for him. They begin to fight and have arguments as he’s becoming close to something resembling normal.
    As odd as this may sound, and it really does sound odd, even if Bianca was willing to have sex with Lars, he still wouldn’t do anything. Once he’s willing to do that, his delusional mindset would be over with.
    That is the weirdest thing I’ve ever typed.

  42. jeffmcm says:

    I really can’t comment until I’ve seen the movie, which will happen when? December?

  43. Rothchild says:

    It’s in LA.

  44. David Poland says:

    I think the anger about the film from certain critics is classically what happens when a film plays warm instead of cynical. Those who see it that way all start whining about being manipulated while singing rhapsodic about some European who made a mess and called it art.
    I would guess that Academy members will see it more like Morgenstern and Ebert… but we’ll see.
    “Nancy Oliver’s original script for “Lars and the Real Girl” is her feature debut; some writers spend whole careers learning to write as concisely and evocatively — and hilariously — as she’s done the first time out.”
    Joe Morgenstern

  45. jeffmcm says:

    Well how about that.

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