MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

14 Weeks To Oscar: Down To The Real Nitty Gritty

After the speed bumps of NYFCC, NBR, and the two coasts of indie prematurity, we’re a week away from the start and end of the first serious wave of awards that will continue to define a fairly well-defined season to date.

There are two major battles underway. The first is for the number of Best Picture nominees, as well as which films will fill the slots. Because of the restructuring of the Academy voting procedure, being #1 in the hearts and minds of at least 10% of Academy voters is more important than ever. If you don’t have 550 #1 votes coming your way, you just don’t know what might happen.

Looking at the Gurus o’ Gold charts, only 2 films have been voted into the Top 5 by every voter in the group, The Artist and The Descendants. War Horse has one non-5 voter, who places the film in the 7 slot. And it gets more slippery from there. Hugo, which is tied for #6 on this week’s chart, has only 2 Gurus putting it in the Top 5 and 7 of 13 voters have it placed at #9 or worse, making it an unlikely nominee in their minds at this time.

I’m not just trying to promote Gurus here… I think that the ambivalence fits the season so far.

The Tree of Life
has a lot of love out there and is in our Top 10… but only 4 gurus put it in the Top 7. Everyone voted for The Help… all within the 3 – 7 range. At 7, it might not be getting in. At 3, it’s a lock.

I would say that we’re down to 14 possible Best Picture nominees. And past the Top 3, there is room for movement. If you ask embargoed members of NYFCC and HFPA, two of the three groups to see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo first, you will hear that the film is already dead. True? Not true? Won’t know until later this week (aka tomorrow). Is holding Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close the best idea ever, allowing it to take a strong position amongst the contenders before anyone has a chance to grow disenchanted with it… as almost all of these films have suffered over time? Don’t know. Still need to see the movie. (Next week.)

And what of “The Angelina Jolie Movie,” which currently has not a single vote on the Gurus chart? Premieres next week. And it will be almost impossible for the film to make an Oscar dent outside of the below-the-line categories. It may be a great film… but a first-time director will be more than hard pressed to overcome the arrogance of throwing the movie into the ring at the very end of the process… even if almost every journalist wants to sit at the director’s feet and purr. Unknown actors and the Bosnian War are trouble. The film would have to be twice as good (whatever that means) as any previously released film to overcome the handicaps… even if HFPA will nominate her film just so they can have her on the red carpet in a blood red dress.

I expect that the lack of intense, singular passion at the top of the group – Artist/Descendants – will end up making the nomination count lower than not. Probably 7. Why? Because in order for #2s (and possibly #3s) to be counted, those movies at the top need to have at least 19% of the vote. Will one of them make that? Will two? Not sure either is there at this point.

And same at the bottom of the vote, where they go to the #2s for ballots whose $1 choices represent less than 1% of the vote. It seems to me that even longshot films like Drive and Beginners and J Edgar might well put together 55 or more #1 votes out of 5500+ potential voters… almost on directly connected voters alone.

The way I see this season, a lot of the films that won’t make the cut will have more than 1% of the vote. So I would argue that fewer “recounted” ballots will happen this season because things are so evenly spread out.

The second big battle is for a Best Actress slot.

Every acting category is, as always, competitive. But usually, it’s Best Actor or Supporting Actor where the big fight is. This year, it feels like some big chances can still happen in all the acting categories, but one… Best Actress.

There are, basically, eight deadly serious potential nominees for Actress this year. Three of them are going to be left out. And it will really feel like that… left out.

Can The Academy possibly leave Meryl Streep without a nomination?

Glenn Close is well respected, a previous nominee, and someone who spent decades trying to get her film made, delivering a remarkable performance. Can she miss with that story?

Viola Davis is the soul of The Help. Many have already pegged her as the winner.

Michelle Williams hits an out-of-the-park home run as Marilyn Monroe, not only brilliant, but combining everything The Academy wets its pants over when it comes to nominations… make-up, bringing a historic figure to life, glamorous, serious.

Are those four all in? Maybe.

And that last slot?

Well… you have two Oscar winners in Charlize Theron and Tilda Swinton, both brilliant in their new films. Charlize is shockingly funny, while Tilda is as intense as people expect.

And then, there are the two newcomers, Lizzie Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene, mesmerizing audiences for a year now, and Rooney Mara, who has, perhaps, the role of the year in Dragon Tattoo…. brazen, smart, raped, surviving, overcoming, stronger than all the men.

I can hear you, already arguing in your heads. Some of you will think the choice of 5 is obvious. Others, impossible. Some will argue that they’ve had enough of Streep in make-up stunts. Others that Michelle Williams isn’t sexy enough. Others that Viola Davis being the salt of the earth is not Oscar worthy. Are enough people seeing the Glenn Close movie… or that MMMMMMMM thing? Why give an Oscar nod to a newcomer for a role that is so controlled by the director? We’ve seen Tilda do this? Charlize’s movie isn’t heavy enough.


I kind of agree with a couple of those negative arguments. But not enough to say that these are not deserving performances, because, you know, it’s not all about me. It’s about the amazing work. And it is all wonderful work.

Sorry… but you won’t see a better dramatic performance this year than the one given by Charlize Theron in the midst of what is mostly a comedy. Why punish Streep for continuing to challenge herself? Lizzie Olsen controls the screen every second she is on that screen. Viola IS a rock and she is one of the great actors of her generation. Glenn Close getting this movie made is a major achievement and her performance is a remarkable piece of understated acting, every bit on par with Hopkins in Remains of the Day. Tilda rocks and should be nominated annually, if only to celebrate her attitude about the work. The balls on Rooney Mara taking on this role, already done well, with a director who would push her to the very edge of her soul is a mighty thing. And not only is Michelle Williams sexy enough to outdo Marilyn, but she goes so far beyond the stereotypes of that beauty that she deserves a feminist of the year award too.


Anyone who gets left out – and there are others who some will argue should also be on this list and are being left out as it is – is really getting screwed… in the way that not being honored enough for your work can be considered being screwed.

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14 Responses to “14 Weeks To Oscar: Down To The Real Nitty Gritty”

  1. movielocke says:

    In other words, this year is the perfect year for ten nominees. Dammit, Academy, the best decision you made in decades (going to ten nominees) was circumvented too soon. 🙁

  2. Patryk says:

    Glenn Close is not a previous winner.

  3. David Poland says:

    Thanks, Patryk… my error… now fixed.

  4. Tod Williams says:

    Keira Knightley in A Dangerous Method!!!!!!

  5. Molly's Dad says:

    David. Great article, as usual. We disagree about some of the women, though. Theron WAS spectacular, and finally convinced me she can act. (not a fan of her work in MONSTER, Oscar or not). But I thought Close was about as interesting as a wet mop in NOBBS. There is not one single memorable thing she does, the film is a dull mess, and Janet McTeer wipes her off the screen. McTeer playing that role would have been an Oscar no-brainer. (At a NYC screening/talkback, Close was asked what the film – which she wrote and produced – was about. Close look mystified and said she didn’t know. Maybe that’s why NOBBS is a big bore). Michelle Williams is lovely in the role, and she is sexy, but she’s just not Marilyn. Particularly in the musical sequences, which were so clumsy I had to look away. Viola Davis is a goddess, and deserves an Oscar, but in the supporting actress category. (That didn’t seem to stop Nicole Kidman from getting a Best Actress Oscar, though.). As for Streep, all jokes aside, I’m still astonished she wasn’t nominated for PLENTY, THE HOURS and THE RIVER WILD. And should have won for ADAPTATION, CRY IN THE DARK, SILKWOOD, OUT OF AFRICA, DEVIL WEARS PRADA and JULIE AND JULIE, brilliant and utterly iconic performances all.

  6. movielocke says:

    Only a complete moron would believe Viola Davis is supporting in the Help. That movie revolves around her. It opens on a shot of her. It closes on a shot of her. It opens with her narration. It closes with her narration. Her story is always the A storyline. The white chicks are just a Macguffin to let Viola tell her story and comic relief. Viola is the lead and it’s hideous to suggest otherwise.

  7. So many possibilities this year. It’s shaping up to be an exciting race.

  8. jerry says:

    I’ll be rooting for a lonshot, a Lizzie Olsen nomination.

  9. Tom says:

    If Dragon Tattoo is a Best Picture nominee I can’t see them ignoring Rooney Mara. We Need to Talk about Kevin and MarMarMayMar aren’t getting a ton of attention right now (although the NYFCC award certainly helped Swinton) to knock off the actress with the juiciest part in a Best Picture nominee. If Close continues to falter, I could see her losing her spot, and I think Theron, as a previous winner and the only contender in a comedy, could steal it.

    And yes, Davis was definitely a co-lead with Stone. She was one of the most important characters in the film and had her own storyline. That makes a lead in my book.

  10. manrico1967 says:

    If Tilda doesn’t make this year, it would be three years in a row that she gets robbed.

    She should have been nominated in 2009 for JULIA and last year for I AM LOVE.

    Not to mention a few years back for THE DEEP END.

  11. Mark F. says:

    Don’t feel too bad for Tilda. She has alrweady won an Oscar, unlike many fine actors.

  12. JJ Sim says:

    Charlize is most definitely the strongest female performance of the year. I don’t care what Mara brings to that film, she can’t and won’t outdo Theron. Also, Close really shouldn’t even be in the running. Albert Nobbs is such a snoozefest and Close isn’t even the best thing about it.

  13. BenG says:

    Mia Wasikowsa delivered two amazing performances this year – in Jane Eyre and Albert Noobs. How is it that she is being left off all these lists?

  14. JP Olivas says:

    Are we forgetting Kristen Dunst in Melancholia ? If you put Von Trier’s politics aside, you have to include her in this list.

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