MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

17 Weeks To Oscar: Safe/Unsafe

This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting award seasons in memory…

Or not.

We saw it this week, as we went from the relatively unsafe choice of Brett Ratner as a producer of the Oscar telecast and Eddie Murphy as his host to Brian “I’ll be taking over the Gil Cates slot” Grazer and Billy Crystal.

As far as I can tell, The Academy did almost nothing to salvage Eddie Murphy’s hosting role. Why? Because one public drama a year is more than enough for The Oscars.

So now, we can all look forward to the opening song in which Shame and 3D are guaranteed to pop up… or out. And it will be fine. Everything will just be fine.

Here’s the Eddie Murphy line up for Best Picture: The Descendants, The Artist, Midnight In Paris, Shame, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Young Adult, The Tree of Life, Moneyball

And here’s the Billy Crystal line up for Best Picture: The Descendants, The Artist, Midnight In Paris, War Horse, The Help, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, J Edgar.

“And J Edgar was so repressed,
Not even Fassbender,
Got under that dress.”

I don’t know whether the return of Crystal really will signal Morning In America. But one must note that if Ronald Reagan was a spry 80-year-old again, he could mow down every wannabe Republican nominee in just one debate. And Billy is that Ronald Reagan for the Oscars. He’s back from the dead and he can’t miss. (And they’re going to have to get a bigger stage door for Bruce Villanch’s head now that he was dis-missed and they have to hire him back.)

I had high hopes for this season. Not because of Ratner (oy) or Murphy (who would have killed), but because it felt like the year in which a major studio arm, Searchlight, took on the NC-17 for a truly piece of accessible, human, brilliant art and a major is ready to land David Fincher’s potential third straight Best Picture nominee that will force audiences to deal with a brutal rape scene and a significant amount of personal violence that also happens to be a great story. What a wonderful opportunity for true film lovers to step up to bat for movies made for adults.

It’s not that I don’t love The Artist or am not thrilled with what I am sure Spielberg did with War Horse or that I have anything less than the highest level of movie respect for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I am happy for them to be there too… and fine with them winning. My taste and Academy taste do not have to match for me to believe in the sincerity of Academy voting.

But to include… not indies… but independent minded films for serious adults. This would be a great thing.

It’s somewhat how I felt about Javier Bardem’s nomination last year. My feelings about where that performance landed on the scale of actors work last year is one thing. But to the degree that one can be objective about art, for that performance not to have been nominated would have been a black mark on The Academy. Had film for people… small distributor… etc, etc, etc. But there are moments in which The Academy shows itself to be greater than the sum of its voters. And there are times when it does not.

Was Eddie Murphy the perfect symbol for this? Not perfect. But a great story of an enormous talent who has not been embraced by the community, who stopped embracing the community a decade ago, and was ready to come back and serve.

Instead, we have a perfect Oscar host who will draw in the lines, whose idea of raunchy is bawdy, and who will now move higher up the invitation lists around town again… and probably host again next year because he really doesn’t have much else to do. I’m not knocking Billy Crystal. He’s had an amazing run. The guy has been in the national spotlight for almost 40 years. But his style requires a softer cut of meat, if you know what I mean.

Will all this drama change things? Just because the most adventurous nominee choices rarely win doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. But will everyone stick closer to the playbook because we’ve already suffered this trauma. And on top of the Kardashian divorce, Brett Ratner being fired! (Thanks, Bruce.)

Will we see a lot of movie stars being nominated for being movie stars or putting on a lot of make-up? Or will The Academy step up to an undeniably brilliant performance like Michael Shannon’s in Take Shelter? Will they seriously consider Ezra Miller in We Need To Talk About Kevin? Or Woody Harrelson in Rampart? Can Elizabeth Olsen get real traction in a season with Meryl and Glenn and Viola seemingly cemented? And what about the wide, wide world of supporting actors this season? Are we really going to see Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock pushing out the new wave?

I like safe. I expect safe to win. But let’s not put our hair up in a librarian’s bun and get boring this year just because Little Daddy’s back.

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2 Responses to “17 Weeks To Oscar: Safe/Unsafe”

  1. Proman says:

    I am fine with Spielberg wiping the floor with other filmmakers, cinematically speaking, with two films this year and winning for it.

    I say this because War Horse is not *quite* the film you think it is. And Eddie Murphy could go town with it. You just don’t get it.

    Just as you really don’t get Crystal.

  2. jason says:

    Ezra Miller’s performance is all sneer and borders on camp. Love the movie but it’s just not Oscar friendly. Except for Tilda who digs deep and finds the real within the campy horror tropes of the film.

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