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David Poland

By David Poland

PGA Nominates…

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

PGA is, as it turns out, a near lock to get 4 of 5 Academy nominees for Best Picture. So as great as it is for all 5 to be nominated, someone has to be nervous and Cynthia Swartz & Scott Rudin have to be a little pleased.
And not much of a history of matching Oscar Best Picture winners….
No Country for Old Men (won)
Michael Clayton
Le Scaphandre et le papillon
There Will Be Blood
Little Miss Sunshine (won)
The Departed
The Queen
Brokeback Mountain (won)
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Walk the Line
The Aviator (won)
Finding Neverland
The Incredibles
Million Dollar Baby
AND – With due love and respect to Disney and its minders, the reason why Wall-E is out of the Best Picture race is that they didn’t fight hard enough for it. Another $20 million or so would have done the trick. They got a great start with ads and a big NYT story… and then, left it to voters and their screeners, while The Dark Knight beat the drum from dusk until dawn. The movie is one of the best… and occassionally miracles happen. But Disney felt like it politely withdrew in December. TDK is not a lock, but if one mega-movie is in, it’s that one.

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46 Responses to “PGA Nominates…”

  1. Jeez, if you’re gonna break news, ease up on the typos. Slow down. Breathe.

  2. Hopscotch says:

    Our likely Best Pic nominees. Which is not a surprise at all.
    Except for Doubt. Which people are seeing AND liking. That’ll sneak in. Another will sneak out. Right now, shockingly, I think it’ll be Frost / Nixon. No one seems to be loving it or even spawning much discussion which is a shame, it’s a good one.

  3. Aladdin Sane says:

    I agree that Frost/Nixon will not make it to Oscar. Entertaining, but yeah, not very love worthy.
    And do people really love Doubt that much? Great acting for sure, but it sorta fell short of being the TKO that it should have been.

  4. Sam says:

    Just because historically PGA matches Oscar 4/5 doesn’t mean that this will happen every year. If any given PGA nominee has an 80% chance of being an Oscar nominee, then, statistically speaking, PGA and Oscar will match 5/5 about 32.8% of the time.
    In 2007, Dreamgirls missing Oscar was a surprise. But in 2005, The Incredibles was sure to fall in the animation ghetto. In 2006 and 2008, the fifth slots had several strong contenders. My point is, some rotation in the fifth slot was expected.
    This year, the five PGA nominees were all clear leaders in the Oscar race weeks ago, and now the PGA announcement suggests that this is still the case. I’m not saying WALL*E or Doubt won’t sneak in in the end, but their chances don’t look good. Missing the PGA list weakens, not strengthens, their chances.
    To say that Swartz and Rudin are *happy* about the PGA announcement defies both mathematics *and* common sense.

  5. David Poland says:

    Well, Sam… they are working from behind.
    What this doesn’t do is to close the door and it gives them another argument to make.
    I can tell you that the most active team on any movie over the holiday was the Doubt team. And though “it’s all about the movies,” that counts. They are still making arguments while others have become complacent.
    Doesn’t mean they will get in. But we’ll see. I am beginning to think it is more likely than not, but not by a major margin.

  6. Geoff says:

    I would be very happy if this list made it – I have actually seen (and really liked) four of them, except for Benjamin Button.
    I DO think that Frost/Nixon is likely the odd man out – interest seems to have waned and the box office is just not there.
    I honestly don’t think Wall-E ever had a shot – the box office was actually disappointing, by recent Pixar standards (yes, it did more than Ratatouillie, but nothing else) and I think that with a separate category (just like doc’s – all that hype about Farenheit a few years ago was just that, hype), it will take a massive upheaval for an animated film to break out of the ghetto. If Wall-E had actually did Nemo-like numbers, which is what I expected, then it would have a shot.
    Doubt seems to be the surest one to sneak in, but I have a sneaking suspiction that Gran Turino could get in there….I know, ugh, enough wtih Eastwood, already! But in a year where you have the new generation from the ’90’s like Boyle, Nolan, and Fincher dominating, I can see the Academy saving a slot for the old hat veteran they can never give enough to. I would not be shocked at all.
    Is The Dark Knight really a shoo-in at this point? Who’s to say it could not be upendeded by The Reader? It would be typical, but we all know it could happen….

  7. a_loco says:

    With the reviews that The Reader’s been getting, it’s probably more likely that In Bruges will get nominated (which will make my day)
    Anyhow, it’s too bad WALL-E probably won’t get a nod. Just imagine if three of the Best Pic nominees (TDK, BB, WALL-E) had over $100 million in the bank before nominations rolled in. When was the last time that happened?

  8. IOIOIOI says:

    Geoff: you should have learned by now to never underestimate the Bat. This is a good step in the right director for the Bat. Here’s hoping The Wrestler flips with Frost/Nixo just to piss Vince McMahon off.

  9. jeffmcm says:

    The Wrestler is aiming itself at a Best Actor and maybe Supporting Actress nomination, it has virtually no chance to get a Best Picture nom, it seems to me.
    I’m guessing the PGA are going to go 5-for-5 with the Oscar noms this year.

  10. RudyV says:

    The animation ghetto has been working as planned–the nomination of Beauty and the Beast so shocked and horrified the Academy that Something Had To Be Done. So they created the Animation category, and just how many have been nominated for Best Picture ever since? None?

  11. a_loco says:

    To be fair, Rudy, No animated has been nominated for BP before or since B & B. I’d much rather animated pictures get some recognition than none at all. That said, the academy does a good job off nominating crap (Brother Bear, Shark Tale, Surf’s Up).

  12. waterbucket says:

    I just saw Slumdog Millionaire and I LOVED it. The love story was heartbreaking. Either Slumdog or Milk needs to win.

  13. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Disney “didn’t fight hard enough” for “Wall-E”? When Disney released its own upmarket titles and Oscar Bait it let them languish as far as awards go while letting Miramax — a wholly owned subsidiary — buy up nominations.

  14. jeffmcm says:

    Chucky, nothing you just said contradicts what DP said earlier. What point are you trying to make?

  15. Chucky in Jersey says:

    I wasn’t contradicting DP, I was raising a valid point. If every nuance has to be spelled out then whoever’s baiting me is incredibly dumb.

  16. jeffmcm says:

    Who’s baiting you? I’m not. You write in a confusing manner. For example, your 6:49 post carries a confrontational, “Statement X? Actually, Statement Y” tone with it. Wall-E has nothing to do with Miramax’s activities in years past.

  17. RudyV says:

    And so now the DGA may also snub Andrew Stanton merely because Wall-E is animated ( Insert your own quip about how cartoons are therefore unworthy of being directed, using your favorite herding cats analogy, I suppose…I initially considered sausage extrusion but then discarded the idea.
    The Vulture writer, Lane Brown, sees this as a hopeful sign, since this might force the Academy to nominate Wall-E for BP just to make up for these egregious omissions.

  18. David Poland says:

    Curious as to why we would think NY Mag has any insight at all into Oscar season?
    Oh… now I looked at the piece…
    Why would anyone think Tom O’Neill has any insight at all into Oscar season?
    In the 60 years of DGA awards for specific movies, there have been a grand total of ZERO animation nominations… unless you count Mary Poppins and/or Who Framed Roger Rabbit?… which you can’t.
    DGA noms went wild in the 60s, with as many as 21 nominees in a year. Disney got their hat tip with films like The Absent-Minded Professor and The Shaggy Dog. But not animation.
    This game of pretending DGA matters to Wall-E’s chances is an(other) idiotic effort to make noise while saying nothing real.
    Move along… nothing to see here…

  19. David Poland says:

    And by the way… why is everyone failing to note that PGA has an animation category, like The Academy, where Wall-E lives with Bolt and Kung-Fu Panda?

  20. Wall-E won’t be nominated at the DGA because it’s ineligible outside of the animated category. Nothing particularly sinister about it.

  21. yancyskancy says:

    Something off-topic I’ve always wondered about: Are animated films ineligible for the Academy’s Art Direction and Costume Design categories? None have ever been nominated. Do the rules specify that physical sets and costumes have to be built/made in order to qualify? If so, it seems a shame that so much incredible design has no specific categories in which to be honored.

  22. I think it’s more a matter of the branch members probably not thinking they deserve it, but you’re right. Because of the prejudice they’ve missed some great chances. The Incredibles for art direction springs to mind randomly.

  23. leahnz says:

    a couple things come to mind on this topic, if i understand the idea in question:
    costume design in animation would only encompass two aspects of the design process: envisioning and drawing the costumes, missing out the third crucial – and most arduous – step of actually constructing each costume with the aim of authenticity to the film, which is the most painstaking aspect of the costuming process.
    in the same vein, art direction in an animated feature is pretty much just art, whereas art direction in live-action film makes that extra leap into the real world, an enormous undertaking so crucial to the film-making process that designing the look of an animated film and drawing the settings – no matter how beautiful and time-consuming – can’t realistically be measured against the skill and endeavour required to actually design, build and decorate the specific world in which a film exists.
    i guess i’m trying to say that drawing something and actually creating it in real life aren’t really comparable; maybe i’m just being a curmudgeon!

  24. RudyV says:

    So if the PGA, DGA and the Academy had a separate category for, say comedy, which effectively prevented them from ever being nominated for BP, that wouldn’t really be a problem? It’s not like comedies get that much respect anyway, so why not throw them a bone?

  25. RudyV says:

    (And if you’re wondering from where the animus comes on my part, it’s because this whole affair shares the familiar stink of the World Fantasy Convention changing their rules after the surprise win of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman to ensure that no comic could ever again win a “real” award, tho they can be eligible in the “Special Award Professional” category.)

  26. Sam says:

    RudyV: Seems to me like you’re trying too hard to make the shoe fit. Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture in 1992. The Best Animated Feature category didn’t show up until the 2002. If one caused the other, it was a heck of a long turnaround time.
    More likely, the Best Animated Feature category was created because great animated movies kept MISSING Best Picture nominations. Remember, at the time Beauty and the Beast was nominated, it was only the second great, high-profile animated film since the early 1960s (the first being The Little Mermaid). Anime was too niche for the Academy to react (positively or negatively) to it, and Disney was still the only studio doing what it does.
    Between 1992 and 2002, the business of animated feature films exploded. Disney kept cranking out great films (Aladdin, The Lion King, etc). Pixar rocked the world with great films in a new kind of animation. And other studios started opening up their own animation divisions and turning out stuff like The Iron Giant and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Princess Mononoke caught arthouse attention and started the spread of anime beyond the niches of kids and geeks.
    And time after time after time, all these works missed Best Picture nominations at the Oscars. These omissions were egregious in many cases.
    The creation of the Best Animated Feature category sure feels a whole lot more like a reaction to address THIS problem, than some kind of delayed and inexplicable outrage that ONE animated feature got in TEN years prior.
    In other words, the category came along about when the need for it was first becoming apparent. Makes sense to me.

  27. yancyskancy says:

    I think you’re probably right, leah. But I wonder if the increasing use of CGI in creating sets for live action films might eventually spur a re-think by the Academy, if only to add a new category, such as Animated/Computer-Generated Production Design? Even most of the live action designers probably do their preliminary work with computer models. I do agree that building actual size or forced perspective sets in 3 dimensions is a different animal with different challenges.

  28. a_loco says:

    Rudy, it’s the same problem with foreign films too, but sometimes, foreign films get nominated for BP. By your logic, there shouldn’t be a category for Foreign Language, Animated, or Documentary.
    Unlike your example with the WFC, animated films are still eligible for the BP award, AND the Academy often nominates animated films for screenplay. Eventually, another animated film will be nominated for BP, but it took damn near 70 years for the first one, so be patient. WALL-E has a better chance than anything that’s come before since B & B (possible excepting Nemo).
    And your argument about comedy is flawed, however, because comedy is a separate genre than drama, not a different type of film, like animation. The academy realizes, unlike the HFPA, that it is nearly impossible to determine whether some movies are dramas or comedies. But the main point is, you can’t change the way academy members vote, so making an effort to see animated/documentary/foreign films recognized is admirable in its own way.

  29. leahnz says:

    ‘But I wonder if the increasing use of CGI in creating sets for live action films might eventually spur a re-think by the Academy, if only to add a new category, such as Animated/Computer-Generated Production Design?’
    that’s an interesting point, yancy. currently such imagery in live-action film falls under the vis. effects category, but if cgi production design continues to progress, a separate category in the future might be warranted, and could indeed overlap with live action and animated features (tho it’s sort of depressing to think about the industry moving so far away from practical ‘in camera’ production design to cg sets that such an award would be warranted, but maybe that’s just me, i’m a bit of an old-school fuddy duddy)

  30. IOIOIOI says:

    Leah: go watch one of your kids Pixar DVDs, and check out the supplementals. It’s almost as hard to take a tool such as a super computer, and create what Pixar has created with their films. The time and effort put into this — by teams of people — is astonishing. The create hair that flows right, fabric that drapes right, and sets that remain for posterity. If any group deserve to be nominated for that award. It should be the animation teams for some of these Pixar films. I would imagine that the awards criteria has something to do with the sets being TANGIBLE. Thus making this entirely pointless, but those folks needed some dap. So there!

  31. “WALL-E has a better chance than anything that’s come before since B & B (possible excepting Nemo).”
    I remember Shrek made a play for Best Picture bigger than Nemo‘s. Some said it could’ve made it but the Animated Feature category debuted that year. Thank god for that.

  32. leahnz says:

    that may be true, io, but animated production design/art direction is still just extremely detailed artwork, whereas live-action film art direction involves a myriad of skills and endeavours from conceptual design through to interior/exterior set construction and decoration, miniatures, etc, a mammoth undertaking, particularly on a big picture. it’s apples and oranges, really, and i would argue they’re just not comparable. but like yancyk suggested, there may come a day of reckoning when the the mediums do overlap and a realignment of the planets will be in order.

  33. leahnz says:

    actually, ‘avatar’ may provide a bit of a litmus test on the art direction front…live-action or animation? live-action motion-capture which has been 3D animated…hmmmm, quite the conundrum

  34. RudyV says:

    A slight update ( Turns out Stanton can’t win the DGA award simply because he’s not a member of the union. The article does not make clear, however, whether animation directors are excluded from the union or whether their membership is not mandatory.

  35. yancyskancy says:

    Haven’t read that nymag link yet, but do you really have to be a DGA member to get a nomination? And if so, has it always been that way? Off the top of my head, I think Giuseppe Tornatore got a DGA nod for Cinema Paradiso, and I’m assuming he wasn’t in the guild. Ditto Jiri Menzel in the 60s for Closely Watched Trains. There have probably been others.

  36. RudyV says:

    So Tom O’Neil is ready to wrap up the BP noms now that the PGA & WGA have reported in ( And yet nothing for Wall-E, which is odd considering last week’s MCN graph showing it leading by a considerable margin on nationwide top-10 lists.
    Sounds to me like Wall-E has become the Tiger Woods of movies: Everyone is eager to praise him in public–up until the moment he decides to play at their country club.
    “He’s a really great guy, for a cartoon.”
    “I hear there’s some live-action in him.”
    “Yeah, but not enough to matter.”
    “Why does he have to come here? Don’t they have a perfectly good club on the other side of town?”
    “Don’t let him in here–can’t you see he’s not one of us?”

  37. David Poland says:

    You know, Rudy, what people forget in covering this Wall-E issue is that The Academy actually thinks ALL of its awards have value.
    So yes, there is a “they have an award for animation” mindset that comes into play.
    But many Academy people would be earnestly insulted by the idea that a Best Animated Feature noination and/or win is not enough for a movie.
    There is also this problem for Pixar… I love Wall-E, but is it better than Finding Nemo or Toy Story? They have already set the standard, so saying that any one of their masterworks deserves higher praise is a hard argument to make.

  38. RudyV says:

    But none of them have ever won. Might as well argue that since Miramax won last year they should be happy with what they’ve got and not even bother The Academy for a while.
    So what will Wall-E’s competition be? Kung-Fu Panda? Madagascar 2? Yeah, I’d feel great about beating them, like the way Sean Penn might feel if his fellow nominees included Dane Cook and Mike Myers.

  39. RudyV says:

    …and the comparison of Wall-E to Fahrenheit 9/11 in your “6 Weeks” column merely reinforces my thesis that ghetto categories, whether Animation or Documentary, were created to derail any non-dramas that may have been chugging toward BP.

  40. yancyskancy says:

    leah: a propos of our above conversation, I see that the Art Directors Guild has nominated Wall-E. Don’t know if they’ve routinely been nominating animated stuff or if the winds of change are blowing, but it caught my eye.

  41. leahnz says:

    i heard that, yancy, and meant to comment when i visited here late last night but i totally spaced it after commenting in another thread, so thanks for bringing it up. just as well, as i needed to gather my thoughts and i was done in last night.
    looking back over the recent ADG awards, a few animated noms have crept into the ‘fantasy’ category over the past few years (‘incredibles’ and ‘ratatouille’, and now ‘wall-e’), quite contentious. perhaps the Guild should address the subject, because animation – no matter how terrifically done – does not fit the traditional criteria or parameters of production design and art direction (visual conception through design and CONSTRUCTION, actioned by the art director). the skills required to complete a project are completely different, and the finished product is not comparable.
    the beauty of animation, much like storytelling in a novel, is that there are no limits, absolutely ANYTHING can be achieved on-screen, imagination is the only limitation. with the current crop of talented cgi designers and animators, anything that can be imagined can be put to screen with amazing detail and realism by an army of talented artists, able to create it over pretty much as much time as necessary.
    traditional art direction is far more limited by time, budgets, locations, crew, materials (and gravity), tho with the blending of traditional sets and cg imagery becoming more and more commonplace, fantastical settings can be more easily achieved. if animated production design is to be judged alongside traditional ‘in camera’ production design/art direction when awards for excellence are handed out, given the already superb and constantly improving state of cgi, and with animated settings relatively easy to achieve in comparison to traditional film-making, how long before animated production design pushes aside tradition art direction all-together? never mind a category for ‘animated/computer generated production design’, if there is no delineation between the mediums, dazzling cg art direction may eventually overwhelm traditional ‘in camera’ techniques and traditional art direction will struggle for recognition.
    i’m not a memeber of the ADG so i don’t know the criteria for nomination in the ‘fantasy’ category, but imho this is a dangerous, slippery slope. if the lines are being blurred with the two mediums judged side by side, that does concern me a good deal.

  42. leahnz says:

    wow, i didn’t realise how long-winded that was, i’m obviously and gasbag on the subject

  43. leahnz says:

    that would be ‘a’ gasbag

  44. yancyskancy says:

    It was long, but gas-free, leah. A good summary of what should be (or perhaps already is being) debated among professionals in this field.

  45. leahnz says:

    thanks yancyk, nice of you to say. (i work in the field here – no guild memberships required – so i’m a one-eyed pontificater, no doubt)
    our tiny industry seems to have a good synergy of practical and digital, but the meeting of minds on high is an on-going process; i have the occasional ding-dong discussion with my mates in digital, the somewhat gormless screen-staring, darkness-dwelling computer geeks that they are, but they’re undeniably talented and onto it; the general consensus is that we need each other, but this idea of pure cgi production design in direct competition with live-action work makes me a nervous nelly!)
    also, i don’t get this: why does the greater subject of the changing balance between practical vs computer generated production design & visual effects, which really go hand in hand, appear largely ignored by ‘film commentators’? the ramifications for the future of the film industry are huge, and yet the issue seems to get brief mention and only after flicks like the ‘star wars’ prequels are released and film commentators are critical of the prevalence of digital sets and green screen work at the expense of more realistic in-camera action, so it’s in vogue for five minutes and then fizzles.
    film commentators love talking and arguing about movies (and themselves – who is right, who sucks, who’s an asshole, who’s getting shitcanned, etc. -and fair enough i suppose), so how about some real scrutiny of this rapidly changing aspect of the industry? i believe it warrants more mainstream scrutiny than it currently gets, which is next to none as far as i can tell.
    (good grief, did i happen to mention my penchant for one-eyed pontificating?! 😀 good thing i’m a nifty typist)

  46. RudyV says:

    This brings to mind how strenuously Coppola worked to keep all the FX in Dracula in-camera, and yet I suspect that 99.9% of the audience had no idea what he was doing and could not have cared less.
    You are right, though, that in-camera effects look so much better than CGI–none of the work Lucas did on the prequels holds a candle to the action sequence inside Stromberg’s supertanker at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me. Why? Because it was one big enormous real-world set, and you had the feeling you could take over the camera to look wherever you wanted and still find something new and interesting, whereas CGI continues to be so stiff and cramped and flat and utterly controlled.
    I suspect, though, that with the possible exception of Spielberg’s The Terminal, big sets have gone the way of the dodo, and real sets will go soon after, seen only in “independent” films (i.e., no budget).

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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