MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

7 Weeks To Oscar: And So, Phase One Ends…

The truth is, Phase One – the period before Oscar nomination voting closes – ended a little over a week ago. You could hear the hardening of the awards arteries if you listened carefully to the air currents on the west side of Los Angeles.

It’s been an unusual season already, as there has been more of an effort to be influential on the season by some and more of a willingness to be influenced by others. We can all choose to live in the delusion that there are five films that deserve to dominate at virtually every guild. Or we can deal with the not-so-thrilling reality that everyone, high and low, is now chasing Oscar’s coattails, even as Oscar sweats out their own place in the big TV picture in the future.

There wasn’t much of a change, so far, through the holidays, as it turns out. (Keep in mind, this is when Crash turned the corner slowly enough that it wasn’t noticed until the film was nominated, somewhat unexpectedly at that point.) True Grit surged with unexpected popularity… and then, was relegated to also-run (or also-nom’ed) status by the media after the New York Times made the argument. Black Swan got stronger and stronger with audiences – stronger than the media darling The Fighter, a movie that is looking more and more like this year’s The Wrestler – but is still fighting off rage in the senior circuit. (“What was with the thing and the other thing?!?! Junk!“)

The battle for the top slot seems to be The King’s Speech vs The Social Network.

But don’t be too sure.

Or too dismissive.

The Inception pitch is now that it’s Gladiator, a film that won versus what was, by consensus, better films, but a group without a clear frontrunner, sending the default to the biggest hit… which was also well-respected, etc.

True Grit would be your back door man, pulling a Crash or Million Dollar Baby, finding a stride amongst an Academy voting base that really, really didn’t want to vote for the frontrunner.

Black Swan is the darkest of horses, a passion movie, love or hate, that would hope to sneak in from the outside, while the big horses fought over position against the rail… the Marissa Tomei of Best Picture nominees… smokin’ hot, skillful, and profoundly unexpected.

But the money is still on The Journalists’ Choice, The Social Network or The Senior Movie Lovers’ Choice, The King’s Speech. And I have to say, I am still waiting to meet the first Academy member who offers up Social Network – a movie everyone respects enormously – as their first choice.

But that doesn’t make me “right” either.

What is both fascinating and apparently frustrating to many about the Oscar season is that anything really is possible. Alleged rules are broken all the time. But then again, things don’t change by that much. It’s not unlike the political system or Dorothy Parker’s take on Katherine Hepburn’s acting range… it runs the gamut from A to B.

This is, by the way, about the time that all those people who were shockedshocked by the idea of an Oscar award show just 2 weeks from today in future start complaining about how boring and predictable the whole thing is. And they aren’t wrong.

They were wrong earlier. Apparently we need six full weeks to determine whether Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Hailee Steinfeld, and David Fincher are going to go home with Oscars or if the person in the seat next to them will. Annette Bening, Geoffrey Rush, Melissa Leo, and Tom Hooper will be happy to talk about being honored just to be nominated while waving golden boy around.

Just wait until you read the story about the Scott Rudin vote being split! It will be so convincing and such utter mularkey!

No one’s changing their mind by too much in the next few weeks. Graciousness, charm, some well spoken words, and a well tailored outfit of six are all irrelevant to determining the best work of the year. But that’s about all that’s left.

And the funny thing is… it could matter. A lot.

Or we could just watch the coronation and hope that the new producers can come up with an entertaining show with limited jokes about co-host James Franco’s arm and a whole lot of Anne Hathaway’s limbs flouncing about.

It’s the old saw about Hollywood movies… audiences want something new… but not too new. I think that audiences will probably be pretty safe on Oscar night.

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7 Responses to “7 Weeks To Oscar: And So, Phase One Ends…”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    7 weeks between the last of the guild noms and the Oscar ceremony is nuts.

    What are the people who have to attend all these endless events saying?

  2. You’ve got to stop coloring “The Fighter”‘s success with your own negative opinion of the film. Maybe most aren’t catching it, but it’s showing.

    The film has been cited by the PGA, DGA, WGA, SAG, ADG and ACE to “The Wrestler”‘s SAG, WGA and CDG (though it likely would have been a PGA nominee with 10). It will win at least one Oscar. “The Wrestler” won none. It is not “more and more this year’s ‘The Wrestler,'” so don’t just state it if you’re not at least going to offer something tangible to back it up. It would clearly be one of five Best Picture nominees.

    It’s also not a “media darling” by any real stretch. That’s not computing for me. “The Social Network,” sure. “True Grit” even. But “The Fighter?” What’s out there besides the expected marketing anyway? Dargis writing a love letter to Bale and…?

    Oh, and it just won three Critics’ Choice awards.

    Meanwhile, the “rage in the senior circuit” must be just, what, the three guys playing chess at the Farmer’s Market you talk to every now and then? Because literally the only negative voter reaction to this film is coming from this blog. It doesn’t exist in anyone else’s reporting.

  3. And Haillee Steinfeld is the Supporting Actress front-runner why? Because certain blogs deem it so? She lost the BFCA and she isn’t even up for the GG. And there’s no way Actors are going to give her the SAG award over veteran Leo…so how is she the front-runner?

  4. Bob Burns says:

    Agree with Kris about The Fighter. It’s a lot easier for me to imagine a Crash scenario for it than for TG or TKS….. putting together a win at SAG with long shot WGA and ACE wins for a late surge. Unlikely, absolutely, but it’s getting great boosts from its supporting actor front runners and Wahlberg is coming off as a gritty filmmaker hero.

  5. moviegoer11 says:

    “The Fighter” is the best film of the year from what I sat and I have seen all the top ten featured as the best. I just don’t know what it is, this feeling I have after watching all these award shows for decades, but If there is a “Crash” on OSCAR night it will come from “The Fighter”.

  6. Robin says:

    Black Swan is a niche choice, and True Grit has NO momentum to win at all, time to let that one go. TKS had its shot early on, but its been losing steam progressively and the Globes were the final nail if you ask me. If it wins the BAFTA as we all expect, that won’t change anything, and if it doesn’t, then it definately won’t change anything. The only film with a shot at a strong phase two push is ‘The Fighter’ which will probably take the first serious award away from TSN at the SAG awards, and could contend at WGA and ACE. If this happens, and Wahlberg makes a surprise appearance in the best actor lineup we might have a ‘Crash’ coming.

  7. Stephen Holt says:

    Well, I’ve been saying, shouting,screaning since forever that “The King’s Speech” is the Best Film of the Year and now it seems that the Producer’s Guild backs me up on this. The PGA gave its’ Best Picture award to “The King’s Speech.” Milord, I rest my case.

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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