MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

20W2O: The Morning After Pillory

The Golden Globes were about as entertaining as they are capable of being last night.

There were strong hosts who didn’t force themselves into too much of the night. There were some surprises, some of which were even smarter than is expected from the HFPA members. And there a nice, solid energy throughout.

But it was still The Golden Globes. It is still a bottom-feeder—albeit now in a golden fish tank—and illegitimate as a measure of quality. I hate to harp on this fact, as many people I respect and quite like win awards there every year. And it matters to them.

All awards matter to the people who are receiving them or who are nominated for them. It is easy to be cynical when you, your work, and your self-esteem are not in play.

I believe in Amy Adams’ performance in American Hustle. I’ve written that I think she should win the Oscar for it. And last night was the first time—aside from a Critics Choice Awards in 2006—that she won an award where she shows up with a nomination and hears her name called after an envelope is opened. She was a 4-time bridesmaid to Oscar, the Globes, and BAFTA until last night. So I hope she celebrated. And I hope she gets nominated on Thursday morning.

However absurd the HFPA is—and they are arrogant monkeys in a diamond-encrusted pork barrel—how can I not be happy for Amy? Or for many of the others who absolutely deserved to win awards… any awards… last night?

The Globes are a progenitor of The Kardashian Effect. If there is enough money and attention coming your way, after a while, people just forget that your only claim to fame—fame that now encapsulates at least a dozen “real-life” characters—is that some rapper videotaped you being penetrated in 3 orifices and the tape leaked onto the internet.

Crude? Well it’s nothing compared to the industry lavishing millions on HFPA every year in a form of undefined bribery before stoking the fire of their TV show on one very expensive night to the tune of millions of dollars going into the HFPA coffers.

But this is the field of play on which we who cover the awards season now toil. We are a part of The Machine. I am part of The Machine. And The Machine could not care less about legitimacy or honor or respect for the work being celebrated. The Machine just grinds on, growing annually, fed by ambition and dreams and even real passion, until it’s too big to seriously examine, whether you are NBC News or The New York Times or some blogger idiot (or some blogger genius). The Machine abides.

So… here’s the deal with the Oscar season and all the awards and nominations that have been happening in the last few weeks.

Doesn’t matter.

December and early January is the month of awards carpetbagging. (And that is no reference to the NYT blog.) The season is pretty much up on the tee by Thanksgiving… whether it is the odd season like this, where nothing is 100% certain even at this late date, or a season where everyone has been pretty sure about who would win the supporting acting awards for months and have a pretty good idea of which two films will duke it out on Oscar night, perhaps even being able to call a winner.

I’ve written this before, but when The Gurus o’ Gold did a pre-festival chart last August, we already had almost the same list as we did when we last voted before the holiday break. The only exceptions are that The Monuments Men moved out of the season, Her moved up (6 of 15 saw it as a serious contender at the time), and Philomena was not mentioned by any Guru.

It is true that this season is uniquely flat in a way. Both late entries—American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street—delivered the goods, accumulating passionate responses both pro and con. Movies that were question marks at the box office pretty much delivered (at least as released up until now). Titles slid up and down the charts. But aside from some extravagant reaches that some writers made, as writers do in the quiet awards days of October and early November, the field has been set forever. This season more than any other in memory. What we do not know is the detail work.

And when the nominations are announced on Thursday morning, we will know more.

And then there will be a big scrum over Phase II (as the industry calls the post-nomination, pre-final-voting closing period) because almost everyone will legitimately think they have a chance at taking home the gold. 12 Years A Slave has long been the default… and it remains the default. It hasn’t made any strides in the last 6 weeks. But it also hasn’t taken on any negativity. It’s just there, respected, revered, important. But it is not a lock to win.

Lots of people are insistent about this person or that “IS getting nominated” and “probably winning.” But really, no one knows.

Could Leonardo DiCaprio and Amy Adams be nominated on Thursday morning? Absolutely!

Will Leonardo DiCaprio and Amy Adams be nominated on Thursday morning? We’ll know when we hear the names read.

All season long, starting all the way back at Cannes, there has been Robert Redford and Bruce Dern talk. Will both be nominated? One of them? Neither? It seems sure that at least one will get a nod. It feels like both of them will. But then, which 2 of these 5 don’t get nominated: Bale, DiCaprio, Ejiofor, Hanks, McConaughey? And should Oscar Isaacs or Joaquin Phoenix Forest Whitaker even bother thinking about whether their phone will ring just after 5:30am?

If Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Emma Thompson, and Judi Dench are mortal locks in Best Actress, does Meryl Streep gets ousted by Amy Adams?

Are we all comfortable that Spike Jonze, Alexander Payne, The Coen Bros, and Woody Allen are going to get jilted at the nomin-altar?

So here is what I know will happen on Thursday morning. When nominations are announced, most people talking or writing about the nominations will reflect on them through the prism of the most recent award shows. If anyone who won on Sunday doesn’t get nominated by The Academy, it will be a shock! (Few will pause to note that voting for Oscar nominations closed 4 days before The Globes and that there is no possible functional effect.)

Then there will The Counting Of The Black People, which is an unfortunate outcome from early overreaching about there being a good chance of having, for instance, three Best Actor nominees who are Black. Right now, two would surprise most awards watchers. At the moment, it looks like there will be 7 Black people nominated in the Top 8 categories (none in Original Screenplay or Lead Actress, 2 in Supporting Actress). If the count is any lower than that, it will become a story. And even with that count, it may become a story. If the number was to be 9, that would become a (positive) story.

Of course, it is absurd that it be any kind of story at all, really. It’s the movie, not the color of the movie (or the actor or the writer or the director). And for the record, the only producer of color on 12 Years is Steve McQueen, who as 1 of 7 listed producers may or may not get to collect a statue for Bast Picture win. (Also… apologies if “black’ offends anyone. “African-American” is inaccurate in this case and “of color” is too broad a range of ethnicity to make my point.)

What else?

A lot of news organizations will tout the film with the most nominations, which in the era of more-than-five nominees has become a non-issue. There is a very good chance that American Hustle will lead in nominations with 10 or more. This will be connected to the Globes win to claim some sort of frontrunner status. And indeed, it could win. But on Thursday morning, it will be putting the cart ahead of the horse.

On the other hand, a really big haul by The Wolf of Wall Street would turn a lot of heads (and make some of them curse). DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and my longest of long shots, Matthew McConaughey in Supporting Actor, are all question marks and could come in as a group or in piece or not at all. But the film could easily grab 4 -6 nominations without any of them getting in.

But all of this is a game on Thursday morning because what all of us who watch this stuff (too) closely are waiting for has not come… a big momentum shift. Some are out there claiming that one has happened, but I don’t see it.

I doubt that all of the films that are nominated for Best Picture really will have a shot at creating a big momentum swing in the next 3 or 4 weeks. But 3 or 4 or even 5 will. 12 Years will not be able to just sit on its glory and watch. It will have to make the case to Oscar voters again. It might even be able to do so well enough that it gets big mo. The case for Gravity, another October release, will have to be presented again with sophistication and its pride about changing cinema and making mega-bucks. American Hustle is the hottest title of the moment, but needs to regroup a little and make the affirmative case about why it should win Best Picture. And The Wolf of Wall Street has created a furor and and audience. Depending on how nominations go, it with either have the nominees to fuel a run… or not. (Jonah Hill is great in the movie, whether he is nominated or not… but it’s hard to push for Best Picture without at least a couple front people. If Scorsese gets “snubbed,” I don’t see an Affleck-ian snapback coming.)

I’m ready for nomination morning. There won’t be clear answers, but the horses will get into the gates, and there will be a race. And hopefully, that will be fun. As fun as the Golden Globes? For me, yeah… because this will really be about the movies.

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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