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David Poland

By David Poland

Sweenie & The Plasma Factory

There is a freaky embargo on Sweeney Todd, given that it had a junket, unofficial reviews are all over the place, it was reviewed by Harry Knowles a month ago, and I (and most of my colleagues) already know what dozens of people think of the film

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64 Responses to “Sweenie & The Plasma Factory”

  1. Wrecktum says:

    “…the giant lump in Sasha Baron Cohen

  2. I actually think Day-Lewis has the Oscar in hand at this pioint. Depp’s Sweeney wasn’t as deep a character as he could have been due to a lack of creative bridging from stage to screen. It’s almost Phantom territory in its desire to simply be the production as a film…but I’ve only seen it once. Apparently you were given access before the hordes.

  3. Hopscotch says:

    On the “politics” side… I think DP is correct assuming Depp is the front-runner.
    Everyone seems to have a crush on him out here. Constantly speaking of his genius, everyone wants to work with him…I think it’ll be his year. (note: haven’t seen either film)

  4. Noah says:

    I wonder if Depp has an advantage because he never won before. The last time Day-Lewis was nominated, he was against Nicholson, Cage, and Caine who had all won before. The winner was Brody, the guy who had never even gotten nommed before. I mean, how else do you explain Meryl Streep not winning in twenty years despite having the most nominations? The Academy likes to spread it aroud. So if it comes down to Day-Lewis, Clooney and Depp, don’t be surprised if they go Depp.
    Also, if Depp wins, then DP called that almost a year ago and a lot of people chuckled at the thought, myself included. That’s some pretty impressive prognostication.

  5. Eric says:

    That’s an interesting thought. Has there ever been a movie before that went for both the Geek Boys and the Gay Men

  6. Dave Vernon says:

    yup. 300

  7. Nicol D says:

    The last fifteen minutes of Return of the King.

  8. TMJ says:

    Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies?

  9. TMJ says:

    Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies?

  10. TMJ says:

    Holy double posts, Batman!

  11. TMJ says:

    On a serious note, does it seem like this year’s race, more than any in recent memory, has been “Best (Fill in the Blank) We’ve Seen in the Last Week.” Why do Depp and DDL have to be frontrunners? Because their movies were seen in the past few days?
    Is Depp’s turn in “Sweeney” really the best performance of the year? If the Gurus had watched “Enchanted” in April, do we really think Amy Adams would be in the Best Actress race?! The same goes for “Juno,” a perfectly sweet film that has no business in the Oscar discussion (Indie Spirit? Sure.)

  12. Skyblade says:

    If the Gurus had watched “Enchanted” in April, do we really think Amy Adams would be in the Best Actress race?!
    Yes. Keep in mind, we’re predicitng her in the vein of summer movie performances that have been nominated.

  13. scooterzz says:

    i think i posted here last week that i thought this movie would sink like a stone…..i really should have waited until i saw it… the film is about as perfect as it could be and deserves noms for picture, director, actor and loads of tech categories….it is just stunning….

  14. Zimmergirl says:

    I will be stunned of Day-Lewis wins for this role, given the very last over-the-top scene. It could be he’s unstoppable, like Forest Whitaker last year but so far I don’t see it. But we’ll have to see how it plays out. Depp has a better chance, a la Anthony Hopkins. So I guess I agree with Poland but I have to see the movie first, which I intend to see with a real crowd and not a fake one.

  15. Zimmergirl says:

    I will be stunned of Day-Lewis wins for this role, given the very last over-the-top scene. It could be he’s unstoppable, like Forest Whitaker last year but so far I don’t see it. But we’ll have to see how it plays out. Depp has a better chance, a la Anthony Hopkins. So I guess I agree with Poland but I have to see the movie first, which I intend to see with a real crowd and not a fake one.

  16. snazzy says:

    With all the talk of too much blood and a conservative voting block, the thing that no one has talked about much is the pedigree issue. Sweeney Todd is widely considered the best musical of the greatest theater composer of the 20th century. Sondheim is clearly pleased with the movie beyond his own expectations, and it doesn’t feel like he’s just making nice as a favor to the producers.
    Tony voters certainly didn’t have problems with it 28 years ago when it was new and clearly edgy. Are people underestimating the work itself, against some theory that graphic violence renders a movie unviable for awards?
    If the movie does ultimately connect with both the mainstream and boutique crowd, it certainly won’t be lost on Academy voters.
    And if they laugh at the genius of the writing, and are moved by the tragic elements of the story, I can’t imagine body count getting in the way of their support.

  17. Zimmergirl says:

    I will be stunned of Day-Lewis wins for this role, given the very last over-the-top scene. It could be he’s unstoppable, like Forest Whitaker last year but so far I don’t see it. But we’ll have to see how it plays out. Depp has a better chance, a la Anthony Hopkins. So I guess I agree with Poland but I have to see the movie first, which I intend to see with a real crowd and not a fake one.

  18. Eric says:

    I can’t believe I didn’t think of 300 or Batman and Robin before I made my last post. You guys are awesome.

  19. Zimmergirl says:

    Good lord, sorry for the triple post – don’t know how that happened. Gee, did I make my point? APOLOGIES!!!

  20. movieman says:

    So Dave got his “Sweeney Todd” screener already and was able to watch it several times??? Damn, I wish I had that kind of free time this time of the year!
    They’re not even screening “ST” in NE Ohio until Wednesday afternoon. The Paramount publicist here pretty much guaranteed me that no screeners would be shipped to BFCA members until nominations are announced mid-December. (And only if it scores nods in “important,” i.e. Best Picture/Actor/Director/Actress, categories.)

  21. Me says:

    I had no interest in seeing this one when I first heard about it. But all the raves (Both Poland and Wells! Agreeing! On a single movie! #$%^!) are making me want to see it.
    It really sounds like this is a great year for movies again, after so many dissappointing ones. But man, is the theme of this Oscars likely to be blood (Sweeny, There Will be Blood, No Country, even Atonement [if it sticks to the book] has a good amount of death and injuries).

  22. Nicol D says:

    “…and a conservative voting block…”
    I am not trying to be contentious here, but I have always thought that this is a bit of a contemporary myth. I am sure there was a period when the WWII Hollywood generation turned over to the Baby Boomer generation that this would have been true. Where perhaps older members were not open to new or more graphic films. Nevertheless, who are the modern ‘elderstatesmen and women’ in the academy? The baby boomers. The Cary Grant/Jimmy Stewart generation has long passed on.
    Coppola is in his seveties. Nicholson has gotta be around 70, Susan Sarandon has got to be near 60 etc… Remember, bloody films like The Departed and over a decade ago Silence of the Lambs have won best picture, not to mention the slew over overtly ‘left-wing’ films that always get nominated in most categories.
    I am not trying to be contentious, but I must say, the myth of the ‘conservative’ academy voter is one that needs to be put to rest.
    If there is such a block, it is clearly so small as to wield no power whatsoever. Depp will be fine. And y’know what…many conservatives love him.

  23. What the fuck is a fake crowd and what does that comment have to do with the price of tea in China?

  24. Hopscotch says:

    in the last few years it’s become clear that more and more the Academy is taking it’s cues not from Golden Globes (if they ever did) or even the Guilds (many of the same members) but from the CRITICS groups.
    I think they will especially sway the tide this year. Forest and Helen last year were just unbeatable because of them. Dreamgirls seemed to falter from them (except Ms. Hudson).
    So if the critics all unanimously annoint Day-Lewis, I think it could carry the day. I also think, judging by reviews so far this year, you gotta say No Country for Old Men is the front-runner.

  25. jeffmcm says:

    Nicol, I think there’s a difference between being politically conservative and being artistically conservative. A film like In the Valley of Elah or Crash can be politically ‘liberal’ while being aesthetically mired in the styles of Stanley Kramer from 40+ years ago.

  26. L.B. says:

    I understand your point, Nicol, but I’m not sure the use of “conservative” was meant in a political sense. It’s fairly clear that the crowd as a whole goes for less than challenging material much of the time. There are always anomalies. The Academy had to be primarily from the “greatest generation” era when they gave MIDNIGHT COWBOY best picture. The conservative designation goes towards the crowd that chooses staid fare like OUT OF AFRICA, ENGLISH PATIENT, and so forth at the expense of edgier stuff.
    Added to which, people change as they get older. Coppolla, Lucas, and others from that time are hardly the rule-breaking rebels they were in their 20s. People get older and, often, their tastes get safer and less risky. It happens.
    Maybe there’s a better word to describe it.

  27. L.B. says:

    What jeff said. Only much wordier. (I need an editor.)

  28. Nicol D says:

    The problem is, that argument doesn’t even really wash. 40 years ago was 1967, the dawn of the new era of more ‘realistic’ films. Around the corner was Midnight Cowboy, Dirty Harry, Last Tango etc. These are not new films aesthetically. They are old. Hence, something like I’m Not Here, to me felt very old fashioned in both it’s subject matter and pseudo avant-guarde presentation of it. On an artistic level it felt…conservative. Been there done that.

  29. Nicol D says:

    I hear you, but on a long enough time line what’s old becomes new again and vice versa. I certainly felt The Departed was very ‘conservative’ and safe for Scorsese.

  30. jeffmcm says:

    Nicol, maybe ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are misleading terms to use in this discussion. I don’t want to get into a discussion of I’m Not There since I haven’t really decided what I think of it, but even though you see it as imitating a cinematic tradition from 40 years ago, show it to the average Academy member and chances are that they’ll be confused by it. Maybe ‘highbrow’ and ‘middlebrow’ are better. The Academy likes to give awards to movies that are challenging but comfortable at the same time, which is why a violent movie with a traditional narrative and characters like The Departed could get nominated and win while a violent movie with unconventional structure and no real ‘lead character’ like United 93 could only get a Best Director nomination. Am I making sense?

  31. Hopscotch says:

    I agree with Nicol’s last point completely. Add to the fact that The Departed was simply put Scorsese’s most “entertaining” film in a good 15 years.
    I’ve always pinned the Academy’s taste as very middle-of-the-road. Happy to award movie’s with good “morals” or “upbeat message”.

  32. Wrecktum says:

    “I’ve always pinned the Academy’s taste as very middle-of-the-road.”
    Hollywood and American filmgoers are are matched set.

  33. jeffmcm says:

    Yes, that’s the point. The Academy was too stodgy to give awards to crazy, groundbreaking movies like Taxi Driver when they could give it to an uplifting movie like Rocky; or a feel-bad drama like Raging Bull when they could give it to Ordinary People. But a couple of decades later and Scorsese is part of the establishment and when he makes a movie that’s really well-made and falls into his own personal genre, they have a chance to reward him.
    I don’t think that can be called bold or adventurous behavior.

  34. Zimmergirl says:

    “What the fuck is a fake crowd and what does that comment have to do with the price of tea in China?”
    It has to do with the Dreamgirls paradigm, and now the There Will be Blood paradigm where movies with a hyped up crowd play differently than they do with a regular crowd. I am curious to see how Sweeney is going to go over with non-industry crowds. Is that so hard a concept to understand? I don’t get where you think DDL is a lock for the WIN when you yourself said after seeing it that he was too over-the-top to win.

  35. Oh, I see what you mean.
    As for Day-Lewis, I didn’t say he was a lock, I’m just back on that side of things now. But things fall out. Charlie missed the mark. I think Depp’s performance in Sweeney, though good, isn’t broad enough (or deep enough) to win, but that could certainly change. A lot of people are liking this movie.
    But you’re right. When I saw There Will Be Blood, I thought it was too over the top. But that was before the revelations of this week. The season isn’t set in stone from the outset. It changes and morphs, and that’s what I’m responding to.
    Is THAT so hard a concept to understand?

  36. Nicol D says:

    The problem is…are all of these ‘higher-brow’ films worthy of “Best Picture”?
    I agree that United 93 should have been nominated but the reason it was not would be more complex than just style. Similarly, The Departed is hardly a feel good film. The ‘feel bad’ element of Raging Bull would be completely at home in the contemporary milleu.
    You are making sense, I just do not completely agree with your argument. “I’m Not Here” is ‘high brow’. Sure. It is also pretentious dreck.
    Let me be clear…most of the films that the modern academy nominates I rarely think are worthy of the distinction. I am hardly defending the Academy. I just think that much of what we now call ‘new’ or ‘rebellious’ is actually very tired and staid filmmaking. There are exceptions of course (No Country For Old Men).

  37. jeffmcm says:

    Nicol, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. I think we agree that the Academy voters often reward movies that aren’t the best of the year primarily because they fit into their ‘comfort zone’. My point is, you can be a well-meaning liberal (votes, gives money to Amnesty International, hates Bush) but still vote for mediocre, conservatively-made movies during awards season.
    Remember, everything is relative.

  38. Noah says:

    Nicol, I think the difference is the difference between what critics think and what the Academy thinks. Critics love films like I’m Not There because it is different from the hundreds of movies we see in any given year. Members of the Academy don’t see that many movies, and it doesn’t mean their standards are lower, but it means that what they consider to be a “good” movie isn’t necessarily the same as critics or people who comment here.
    I see almost two hundred movies every year and while I might not think I’m Not There is the best film of the year, I appreciate it for being willing to do something different and do it well. The average filmgoer might not agree with that and might see it as pretentious and elitist.
    So, while critics and cineastes might have seen United 93 as something more highbrow (although I was not such a big fan), the Academy probably didn’t get what all the fuss was about.

  39. L.B. says:

    THE DEPARTED isn’t “feel-good”, but it’s far from “feel-bad.” All the bad guys get it and the one with a lot of the best lines gets to put away the last one. It has a satisfying feeling. Not the kind of “take the moral quadaries back home with you” that Scorsese was so good at. But, true, what is once groundbreaking becomes staid after a while. Scorsese used a lot og his greatest-hits artistic tricks in that film, his number was up, and they rewarded it. (Though I think it won because it was a solid movie that many people looked back on fondly. In the end, it’s a standard cops-n-robbers movie, though.)
    Re: SWEENEY, it’s interesting to bring up the Tonys, which have always been a little more daring as far as subject matter that gets rewarded. There were no great controversies about its nominations, but when its film version is made almost thirty years later we still ask whether it will be too violent to garner noms.

  40. scooterzz says:

    lb — i think there were no great controversies surrounding the stage production because nothing in it was as graphic as what’s now in the film…. i really do think (but would love to be wrong) that the gore factor will keep some people away…

  41. L.B. says:

    Still, for a stage show it was pretty graphic. But if it’s a good movie I agree with you that I hope the blood doesn’t keep people away.

  42. Zimmergirl says:

    Kris, what “revelations” this week? I’m not sure I follow. You’re saying that had Depp been better he would be beating Day-Lewis but without a great performance on his end Day-Lewis now has a clear shot?
    I don’t think voters are even going to watch There Will Be Blood. I don’t see it as an easy win for him at all – it’s a tough movie; he’s an unlikable character. He is NOT that popular in Hollywood. Three strikes right there. He’s well respected but he’s already won. Someone else out there, I think, is the winner – I just don’t know who.

  43. Noah says:

    Zimmergirl, your hatred for TWBB has clouded your views. Daniel Day-Lewis is enormously popular with the actors (the largest branch of the Academy) who worship the ground he walks on. You’re insane if you think they’re not going to vote for him. Depp, though, is much loved by fellow actors, so I still think he has a shot.
    Unlikable characters have won Academy Awards before, you know. Hell, Roman Polanski won Best Director and he’s been accused of rape (and he wasn’t even ACTING, that’s really him), not to mention Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs or Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
    As for whether or not the Academy will watch a new movie from one of the greatest young talents starring the greatest actor of his generation that has drawn comparisons to films like Giant…well, I weep for anyone who wouldn’t put that disc in and I don’t think many of those people exist.

  44. Never said it was an easy win. But “anyone but Day-Lewis” is not a sound argument. You don’t know who beats him, but you seem convinced SOMEONE has to. I thought that person would be Johnny Depp. Now, I’m not so sure. But I certainly don’t know who else is in the running for the win other than these two and I haven’t for two months.

  45. Joe Straat says:

    Ah, Academy Awards season, where some thousands of people with tastes mostly unlike yours and mine select what is generally agreed upon as the best movie of the year at the time. It’s a helluva game.

  46. Joe Straat says:

    Ooops, sorry!

  47. mutinyco says:

    I hereby nominate this thread as the Best Use of Double and Triple Posts of 2007.

  48. Nicol D says:

    LB, Noah, Jeff
    The problem is you are starting at your conclusion and then re-tweaking the facts to fit it.
    The Academy nominates and rewards plenty of ‘downer’ or what you would consider not ‘conservatively’ aesthetic films. Are you going to tell me Million Dollar Baby is an upbeat film? Brokeback Mountain? The Silence of the Lambs? Unforgiven?
    How can you say The Departed is not really a down film? What kind of films do you think should be nominated? And this is coming from someone who dislikes the majority of nominated films in recent years.
    All of these were considered aesthetically revolutionary for one reason or another in thier day. I could list more.
    Having said that, I also reject the notion that ‘upbeat’ is pandering and facile while ‘dark’ is complex. That seems to be the assumption in many of these arguments. It is very hard to make a well done film that perhaps is more ‘conservative’ aesthetically because there is a standard to adhere to. With more avant guard films, the standard becomes arbitrary and the craft can (but not always) fall by the wayside.
    Todd Solondz is a very avant guarde as is Hal Hartly. Can you really say these two have mastered the craft of cinema to the point where they should be rewarded with Oscars? Howabout Harmony Korine?
    Taxi Driver and Rocky are two of my favourite films. I know them both by memory. But you know what…Rocky – is – the better film. What Rocky accomplishes is not simple. It is not easy to capture the formula of that film which is why so many people failed to replicate it while trying, including Stallone. Just because it makes you feel good as opposed to depressed does not make it any less relevant or lacking in artistic ‘truth’.
    I think you have to reconcile several points:
    1. The Academy is nowhere near as ‘conservative’ aesthetically as you like to think
    2. Making dour, dark or indie films does not automtically make one worthy of awards
    3. What you consider groundbreaking has become very passe for many of us. I’m Not There is such a perfect example. It is – not – a ground breaking film. It is a film marred in the pseudo intellectual, elite style of filmmaking from the 60’s. It even rips off Solondz. To not award such a film is not to be irrelevant. Quite the opposite actually. To many of us, that is the new ‘conservative’ aesthetic.

  49. jeffmcm says:

    Nicol, despite your lengthy and detailed post, I don’t think you are being nearly as clear as you think you are. You seem to be arguing against points that nobody is making and attacking I’m Not There, which nobody else in this discussion has talked about.
    My initial point, once again, is: The Academy is made of a lot of older, well-established voters. Older, well-established people do not tend to have radical tastes and when voting, they tend to choose what they are comfortable with. Forty years ago that was True Grit and Oliver!. Today that’s Crash or A Beautiful Mind. This is not totally a good thing or a bad thing. In 1966 A Man for All Seasons was a more deserving nominee over Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Return of the King is a better film (in my opinion) than Lost in Translation.
    I could address your other points but since they are, from my perspective, off-topic axe-grinding I’ll hold off until some other time.

  50. jeffmcm says:

    Except to say that in no way do I consider Rocky to be a better movie than Taxi Driver. To me, that’s like comparing Picasso’s Guernica with a Gasoline Alley comic strip.

  51. ManWithNoName says:

    I can understand wanting to defend one of Scorsese’s masterpieces, but you invalidate your point with the Gasoline Alley comic strip line. A valid argument can be made that Stallone diminished the impact and quality of the first film with the sequels, but taken alone, Rocky is every bit the character-driven masterpiece that Taxi Driver is.
    I see it more as comparing apples and oranges. They’re both great, and choosing one over the other just depends on your mood.

  52. ManWithNoName says:

    Completely agree on your assessment of Rocky. What Stallone and Avildsen did is *not* easy. I actually think it’s far easier artistically to make something dark and bleak. All of the uplifting moments in Rocky are earned. It’s quite different than just slapping a happy ending on something.

  53. Nicol D says:

    “Nicol, despite your lengthy and detailed post, I don’t think you are being nearly as clear as you think you are.”
    No Jeff; because in an earlier post I wrote this to you…
    “You are making sense, I just do not completely agree with your argument.”
    You now have to spend every post saying that I am – not – making sense or am not clear in an effort of one-upmanship.
    My points have been very clear. You just use this as a way of not having to defend your views.
    When I wrote that, I – knew – you would respond with something saying I was not clear. It would not matter what I wrote. And I was correct. That nobody else mentions I’m Not Here is irrelevant. I can still use it as an example of the type of film you refer to. Nobody mentioned Unforgiven either. Can we only mention the films Jeff allows now?
    And yes, your knee-jerk gross overstatement Gasoline Alley comment about Rocky seems to mask an insecurity in your knowledge of cinema. Feel free to not like it, but Gasoline Alley…please.
    Man With No Name,
    I agree. Thanks. Rocky is a masterpiece, the sequels aside. It is no more easy to make than a nihilistic film. The difference is one can get away with saying Taxi Driver is a masterpiece and not have to understand why because you won’t be challenged. Not so with Rocky. You – have – to understand proper story structure and narrative to defend it because you will be challenged.

  54. Zimmergirl says:

    “But I certainly don’t know who else is in the running for the win other than these two and I haven’t for two months”
    I agree with you but maybe it’s someone else we aren’t considering. It can happen that once the awards start coming down a new name rises to the top and becomes unstoppable. Just because he isn’t yet on our radar doesn’t mean he’s not out there. It’s possible Day Lewis could start winning everything and then he becomes the frontrunner to knock down and someone else is poised to take it. I’m just not as confident as you about Day Lewis – I don’t think TWBB is a watchable movie for all but 20% of the Academy. I could be wrong about that and probably am wrong. Depp is more well liked, though, and if that movie goes over well Day Lewis is beat. Remember Depp won the SAG for Pirates, which means actors clearly love the man.
    I reserve the right to be totally wrong about this as I’m almost always wrong about the actor category.

  55. L.B. says:

    I think things got off track with the “up ending/down ending” debate. The Academy has certainly awarded movies with sad endings (M$B, etc.), though they don’t tend to award BP to movies with bleak endings. (Even though Lecter gets away, SOTL ends with justice served and the girl saved.) And I’d agree that a bleak ending is not in and of itself a higher artistic achievement than a happy ending. In fact, one of the things I like about ROCKY is that he wins enough for himself, but doesn’t win EVERYTHING.
    I still think the case can be made that the Academy generally goes for safe choices for BP. And I think a case can be made that it could be in large part due to a largely, if not conservative then, risk-averse membership. I think the “middlebrow” argument is valid. I don’t begrudge ROCKY it’s win. I love that movie. I do begrudge CRASH, ENGLISH PATIENT, and some others and think JFK should have beat SOTL. (Despite LAMB’s gore, JFK was a much riskier film and a harder one to pull off, in my opinion.)

  56. jeffmcm says:

    Nicol, why should I bother to write anything else to you when you’re so much smarter and more knowledgeable about everything than I am? When you throw around phrases like “I knew you were going to…” and “mask an insecurity” that tells me that your personal feelings are getting in the way of the conversation and it’s no longer being productive. Good day.

  57. Noah says:

    Nicol, the movie is called “I’m Not There” not “I’m Not Here” but that is neither here nor there…zing!
    I don’t understand how you can say Rocky is a “better” movie. Sure, it might be more enjoyable and it an easier film to sit through, but it doesn’t say nearly as much on the surface or underneath the surface as Taxi Driver. It’s not easy to do what Rocky did, sure, but it’s also not particularly easy to create Taxi Driver. In fact, I think it’s a lot harder to make a film about a paranoid man who is slowly going insane and have him be a pretty likeable protagonist than to create a story about a down and out man that we can all relate to.

  58. jeffmcm says:

    Okay, now that I’m partially over my initial pissed-offedness about Nicol’s traditional condescension, I was of course being hyberbolic about Rocky. It’s a good movie. But it’s not, to my mind, a great movie, which Taxi Driver is, on multiple levels – it falls short on execution of craft, theme, ambition, social relevance, and complexity. If you think Rocky is better, fine. Agree to disagree.
    As for the rest of it, Nicol, I didn’t even remember that you had said “You are making sense, I just do not completely agree with your argument.” I said you were not making sense because I did not believe that you were making sense because your posts seem to be sprawling and responding to points that nobody here said. Talk about ‘starting from your conclusion.’
    Next, I’m Not Here is not relevant to this discussion. Sorry to break your bubble, but since it will not be nominated nor win for Best Picture, and since we’re talking about the Academy, I don’t see why you insist on bringing it up except that you want to find opportunities to rant against it. Which, again, is fine but let’s keep things clear.
    Now back to the main point: Yes, the Academy nominates and awards plenty of ‘downer’ films because that’s what they feel comfortable in doing. There is a profile of the Academy Award movie, and that’s the reason why people like David Poland are able to predict these movies even before they go into production. The Academy movie is serious without being depressingly dark, important without being completely pretentious, well-crafted but not experimental, and preferably comes with a pedigree. Take Clint Eastwood out of Unforgiven and it doesn’t get nominated for Best Picture. Take the happy ending out of Silence of the Lambs (and Lecter going to eat Dr. Chilton is part of the ‘happy ending’) and it doesn’t win. There’s a range the Academy is comfortable, and they don’t nominate or award movies too far outside of that range.
    To return to the gauntlet in your 7:30 post:
    1. I think your (Nicol’s) vision of how conservative the Academy is is radically different from mine.
    2. I never said that ‘dour, dark or indie’ films – based on those terms alone – were inherently more worthy of being awarded. Maybe somebody else did.
    3. This is arguable, but I guarantee that if you show I’m Not There to any random Academy member and ask them if they want to describe it as ‘avant-garde’ or ‘passe’ the odds are much better for the former than the latter. And that has nothing to do with the actual film itself as much as it does with the tastes of the Academy voters themselves, who aren’t as educated about film as most of us on this blog, and that lack of film education translates into risk-averse choices.
    Is this acceptable?

  59. About Rocky v Taxi Driver, while I reckon Taxi Driver is the far better film, I routinely say that it’s just as hard (if not harder) to make a “pop” film as it is to make a hard gritty depressing film. Just like music. Just because a song is 3 minutes and bright and happy and everything pop music is, doesn’t mean it’s not as worthy of praise as the latest song by someone who sits on a stool playing an acoustic guitar.

  60. L.B. says:

    While we’re stuck in 1976, that was a great BP nominee list, wasn’t it? Tossing in NETWORK, PRESIDENT’S MEN, and (though my memories of this are vague) BOUND FOR GLORY. Decent lineup. Personally I’d still vote for TD, but it’s in good company.

  61. Joe Leydon says:

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with Sylvester Stallone three years ago. On the subject of Rocky:

  62. THX5334 says:

    God, I really want a lunch with David starring JeffMCM and Nicol D. That discussion would be some real entertainment.
    Whose with me?

  63. Joe Leydon says:

    THX: I think the incendiary sexual tension between JeffMCM and Nicol D would be such that David’s psyche might be permanently scarred (and his eyebrows might be singed).

  64. Blackcloud says:

    Sexual tension between Jeff and Nicol? I don’t think that would appeal even to Waterbucket.

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