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David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks To Oscar: 3 Weeks To Go

D. It Is Written
The great irony of this year

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39 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar: 3 Weeks To Go”

  1. I’m really getting tired of all this Slumdog Millionaire backlash. Enough already.

  2. a_loco says:

    DP, I don’t mean to be a jackass, but do you really think that Slumdog is in the same league as Titanic, and not something like, say, Brokeback Mountain?
    I know it’s the frontrunner and everything, but you sound a bit sure of yourself.

  3. Geoff says:

    Beautifully worded declaration about why Slumdog is the front-runner and why it deserves it.
    Hey, every film has a backlash – last year, a strong one was mounted against Juno and it probably kept at least Ellen Paige from winning. But….
    I don’t think the Academy will be able to stomach pouring cold water on this one. I still can’t get over the fact that Danny freaking Boyle will get his Oscar before Ken Loach or Mike Leigh. Amen to that!

  4. IOIOIOI says:

    Deaf: he makes a good point, and this award is apparently a reflection of the Academy. Can the Academy see them reflected in Mumbai? Can they? That’s the question.
    While I have been all sorts of militant towards the film. I get carried away. I’ve got a lot of a emotion.
    Nevertheless; it’s an interesting time for this film. Will the Academy go with it? Will they? I’m not sure. It does seem a bit much for the Academy to award a film celebrating their competition.

  5. Geoff says:

    I’ll say it again – Slumdog is one of the few truly exceptional “feel good” films of the past decade, which is really saying something. Wonder Boys, Eternal Sunshine, The Incredibles, Once, Juno, that’s about it for me.
    It is a shame about Milk – I love that film, despite years of pentup resentment building towards Penn and Van Sant. Just a truly emotional experience to watch it, regardless of politics. If it came out last year, it probably would have won.

  6. Gus Petch says:

    I enjoyed the column, but I’m not sure I buy the argument that Slumdog will win because it’s the underdog story. After all, all three nominees with a non-zero chance of winning this year — Slumdog, Button, and Milk — surely qualify as underdog stories. (At least, as much as the BP winners mentioned in the column.) For that matter, about three-quarters of all movies ever released are underdog stories.

    Similarly, I don’t get the reviewers who promote Slumdog as Oscar-worthy because it’s a “crowd pleaser.” Being a hokey crowd pleaser makes a movie special? I must have missed the gold statues for Rudy and Mr Holland’s Opus.

    Whatever people see in this movie, it isn’t the plot, which is as corny and generic as they come.

  7. IOIOIOI says:

    Mr. Holland got Dreyfus a nomination, and I think Rudy got a nomination or two. So… there?
    Geoff: You see Wonder Boys as a feel good story? It depresses the hell out of me.

  8. It’s just a shame that the only film that ever had a chance that I could have gotten behind truly was Milk or the two Summer releases (Wall-E and Dark Knight). Other than that the main contenders this year have been so vanilla.
    Geoff chose some really strange “feel good” titles there, I must say. But, then again, the same people who thought Slumdog Millionaire was the feeliest goodiest movie ever made probably would see Eternal Sunshine as a story about love conquering all (or whatever).
    DeafBrown, is it backlash if you never particularly liked it in the first place? I don’t hate it or anything, I just thought it was derivative, cynical and confused. I’m not backlashing against the film, but merely this idea that it’s a feel good hymn to life, which seems to be misplaced when the film seems hardly heartwarming at all (You go you poverty-stricken stalker!!! woohoo!!)

  9. The Pope says:

    On a lighter note, I just want to say that I like what you have done with the nominations’ page. It is much better and easier to see them all on the one, instead of having to click back and forth.
    The year overall may have been weak, but I think each of the films and their talents are certainly there on merit. I enjoyed them all for differnt reasons, but the film that startled me most was, by far, Slumdog. It did things that worked on film, but must surely have caused concern when still only on the page.
    Can you imagine pitching a story to ANYONE in which you detail a sequence where a child is smothered with morphine and then acid is poured on his eyes. Surely, most if not all financiers would simply walk from the room. But once on screen, it works.
    Is it not a sign of a talented director that he or she can do things that others can’t? Danny Boyle, the trans-national humanist, found a way of showing something truly shocking and potentially debasing for audiences and yet somehow the context of the story and the truth of the reality remain intact.

  10. Also, “Van Sant, who obviously has no fear of making films with gay themes in them, hired straight actors for almost all of the lead roles here

  11. jeffmcm says:

    I am very happy that a movie mostly in a foreign language, with no stars, highlighting the poverty and desperation of millions of people, is probably about to win Best Picture.
    I just wish it was a movie that I liked, from a director who was something other than an opportunistic hipster.
    Sorry to rant, but I just finally saw the movie on Tuesday night.

  12. jeffmcm says:

    Oh, and:
    “It is Written”? Blechh. So it was written for the other billion people in the country to remain poor, terrorized by crimelords, and begging in the filthy streets? Sucks for them.

  13. An opportunistic hipster? You REALLY have no idea what you’re talking about on that front, jeff.

  14. jeffmcm says:

    Kris, in the last few weeks I’ve watched or re-watched 28 Days Later, Millions, and Slumdog, and I have fresh memories of Sunshine, Shallow Grave, and Trainspotting. And that’s the conclusion that I’ve reached – that Boyle is primarily a slick entertainer with no particularly coherent ideology or worldview beyond what he thinks is hip at any given moment. Granted, ‘hipness’ includes environmentalism, skepticism of authority, and a certain interest in non-Western cultures, but I feel that in each of these areas he walks in the footsteps of other, much stronger earlier filmmakers.

  15. jeffmcm says:

    I should add that I’m not out on some kind of vendetta – the multicultural, progressive, crowd-pleasing aspects of Slumdog are definitely enough for me to not begrudge its apparently inevitable win, even though I personally dislike it.
    It’s not like this is three years ago, where a clearly superior movie was up against something lame, because none of the other four nominees are movies that I’m super crazy about (Milk and Benjamin Button are my favorites of the five, but each of them is pretty flawed as well).

  16. Geoff says:

    Look, with regards to the “feel good” argument, there are LOTS of films who claim to be in that realm that I don’t think reach the stratosphere of great cinema – Mamma Mia is probably an extreme example, but these films try to make you feel good, but they don’t really take you on a compelling journey to get there IMHO.
    Eternal Sunshine has been hotly debated and no, it’s not a simple “Love conquers all” message – I just love the simple cynicism that works in that ending. “So what?” Love is never perfect for any one, that’s the point. Just ends on a great note – them running on the beach on a loop, with that fantastic Beck song. You have no doubt that they will go through all of the same crap again and again, but you just don’t care….it’s honest and it just worked for me, because you never doubt they have genuine chemistry and complement each other.
    Wonder Boys? Grady Trip basicaly finds his redemption – giving up pot, finally hooking up with a woman his old age, realizing that he just can’t keep writing his way out of “choices,” and James Leer gets recognition for his brilliance at a young enough age that he might just have a chance to not let it destroy him. Sure, it’s a bit of a cliched ending, but the journey there makes you buy it.
    I know there are some who still think Once has a bummer ending, because they don’t end up together, but…..they both do what’s best for them (it makes sense for the guitarist to move to London to see the woman he has really pined for and probably kickstart his music career AND of course, the pianist should try to stay with her husband for her little girl’s sake) – the gesture of buying that piano is just about as romantic a thing I have seen in any film in years.
    This is all open to intrepretation, but these films made me feel good about life – not just put a smile on my face like Mama Mia or make me laugh like Role Models. Genuinely moving films that left me feeling positive at the end.
    I still get a kick of Wonder Boys – Downey, Douglas, and Maguire just click together. “I guess I just don’t fit the new corporate profile….” “What’s that?” “Competence??” (Just love how Downey delivers that line)
    One of the best lines in recent movie history.

  17. Geoff says:

    And just establish a key difference: Memento, City of God, and The Departed are probably among my favorite films of the decade – just dazzling cinema that I walked out of each wih a goofy grin on my face. But they did not make me “feel good” about life, that’s a rarity.

  18. MarkVH says:

    God I love Wonder Boys. Need to watch that shit again.

  19. lazarus says:

    Gotta agree with Jeff re: Boyle. I don’t know why all these people are coming out of the woodwork acting like some major artist is finally getting his due.
    He makes some enjoyable, pulpy stuff, but I haven’t seen anything from him even approaching masterpiece status.

  20. Geoff says:

    I happen to think that both Trainspotting approaches masterpiece status – he actually has you rooting for and emphasizing with some pretty despicable characters.
    Millions is not far off – it’s on IFC all of the time and just a beautifully done film. It’s right up there with Babe and Toy Story in the modern fairy tail realm.
    I think what truly sets Boyle apart is his use of music to drive the story – I’m not talking about ham-handed period showtunes in the vein of Robert Zemeckis or Nora Ephron, or the distracting irony that Tarantino likes to display with the ’45’s he inserts into scenes. I’m talking about using modern music (mostly) to really help drive a story – outside of Scorcese, he is probably the best out there. Think about the “Perfect Day” scene in Trainspotting or the use of “Born Slippy” as an inspirational tune at the end – Boyle is very canny at picking the right sound for the right moment.
    ….I know people out there are going to point out Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs as shining examples and I agree. I’m referring to more recent Tarantino – was there any need to put an instrumental version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” during the climactic fight scene of Kill Bill other than to draw attention to itself?
    I’m glad that the music that A.R. Rahman did for Slumdog is getting some recognition – it’s a great soundtrack and the MIA song is beyond catchy.

  21. berg says:

    Wonder Boys … the dog dies … Boyle and music cues … Shallow Grave and “Happy Heart” … priceless

  22. Triple Option says:

    RE: The Pope

  23. Hopscotch says:

    I just recently saw The Wrestler and I’m pretty sure Penn’s got a lock on it. Not that Rourke is bad, I quite enjoyed it for what it was, but that’s a movie about physical torture and I didn’t buy the meat-grinder scene at all. And the story about Rourke going on WWE, sort of seals it for Penn.
    My main disagreement with DP is Supporting Actress, I think Viola Davis has a real shot there.

  24. polarbear2 says:

    How is “Slumdog millionaire” multicultural? It has an Indian cast playing Indian characters in a story set in India. Is it because it had an English director? So did ‘American Gangster’. I agree its a very universal story, and should appeal to audiences worldwide; but it is still pretty unicultural.

  25. jeffmcm says:

    It’s multicultural if you’re an American audience member. Sort of like how Indian food is ‘exotic’ if all you eat is hamburgers.

  26. It’s exotic to foreigners, not multicultural. There’s no other culture in there.

  27. jeffmcm says:

    Okay, this is what I meant:
    When there’s one culture on the screen, and another culture in the audience, that’s multicultural.

  28. Hallick says:

    Of course “Slumdog Millionaire” is multicultural.
    They’re just all Indian cultures.

  29. IOIOIOI says:

    Hop: the Wrestler is not about physical torture. It’s pretty much Michael Clayton set in a ring. This is a man whose craft has given him no equity, no family, and no one who really gives a crap about him. All he has is the ring. This is why he makes the decision that he does at the end of the film, and looks up to see before applying his finisher. After all is said and done, he has the fans, and he has the ring. That’s all he has.
    Also, really, the Academy award Penn again is unlikely because he’s Sean Penn. Mickey paid his dues, and his essentially playing himself in the Wrestler to a certain degree. While Harvey Milk is an inspirational person, that spawn a great performance. The Ram is a special sort of character, and the Academy usually awards these kinds of characters.
    Oh yeah: it’s called “CUTTING A PROMO.” The Ram doing what he does to his finger, is nothing more than him cutting a promo to exit the store. He’s a performer, he needed an out, and he gave himself an out.
    If you have never watched wrestling, or understand the dynamics of a wrestler. You would not buy that scene. However, if you have any clue as to how wrestling works, that scene is ridiculously funny.
    Finally, Kam, that was good shit. People do like buying into Eternal Sunshine as LOVE CONQUERS ALL story, and that’s fucking silly. It’s a movie about six assholes and how each one of them deals with love. If anything; the movie is more cynical about true love than most films. Gondry at least did make a love story, and it’s called BE KIND REWIND!

  30. IOIOIOI says:

    Also, really, the Academy giving Penn an Oscar again seems unlikely because he’s Sean Penn. If David Fincher is an alleged ASSHOLE. What does that make Penn?
    Mickey paid his dues, and he’s essentially playing himself in the Wrestler to a certain degree. While Harvey Milk is an inspirational person, that spawned a great performance. The Ram is a special sort of character, and the Academy usually awards these kinds of characters.
    Oh yeah: multi-cultural has nothing to do with the people sitting in the fucking theatre. If you are going to give me crap all the time over DEFINITIONS. I will not let you slide on stating a film set in the east but shot in the WESTERN style is a MULTI-CULTURAL film. When it’s not. It’s an English film with Indian people in it.

  31. jeffmcm says:

    If the audience is American and the movie isn’t, then between the two groups it’s a multicultural experience.
    And all of that is meant semi-ironically.
    It’s a chore to explain things to you, IOI.

  32. IOIOIOI says:

    Jeff: I actually went to college for anthropology. So please do not act as if you are smarter than me in this area. It would be a multi-cultural experience. If it were not a WESTERN MOVIE. It’s a western movie you arrogant ass. So you are wrong like you are wrong about countless fucking things… you fucking ginger :D!

  33. jeffmcm says:

    Yeah, I know. And I was an English major, and this is a discussion about semantics, and you’re wrong.

  34. IOIOIOI says:

    Jeff: only someone like yourself would think, that viewing another culture on film. Would make that viewing experience MULTI-CULTURAL. It’s so ponderous to think this way, that it’s pretty much ethnocentric. Once again Captain Fail… you have failed.

  35. polarbear2 says:

    So when “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” gets released in South America, it will become multicultural too?

  36. IOIOIOI says:


  37. jeffmcm says:

    The movie is not the ‘multicultural’ part. The interaction between the movie and the audience – i.e., between the culture represented in the movie, and the culture of the audience – means that there’s more than one culture involved.
    More than one = “multi”.
    Do I think this is an enlightened way to view the world? No. I’m just explaining how to understand what David Poland originally wrote (which he has since edited, I think).
    You have a tiny brain, IOI.

  38. IOIOIOI says:

    Jeff: why are you such a piece of shit to me? Seriously people: the guy is attacking me, and I am a scumbag? How is he not labelled as the grandiose scumbag in the history of this blog?
    Again Jeff: you are defending an improper use of the word MULTI-CULTURAL! If David meant it that way. He used it wrong.
    It’s not a multi-cultural experience to see a bunch of Indians in an English movie. It’s a WESTERN MOVIE. If it were an Indian movie, spoken in what ever language they use in Mumbai, then you might be experiencing a MULTI-CULTURAL EXPERIENCE. Instead you are not. You are simply watching a film shot in the Western Style.
    If I have a tiny brain. You must be epically stupid to state what you have in this thread.
    You are a mean, vindictive, and spiteful ass of a man. Who should pray that Lex never finds you, and gives you an atomic belly-bump. Seriously man… you are 43. Stop acting like an asshole online, or at least get better at it.

  39. jeffmcm says:

    IOI, this is what I think of when I think of you:

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