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David Poland

By David Poland

20W2O: 12 Days To Go – Season of Pudding

Is any prediction really safe?

Just when I think things are settling in, I am reminded of how little we all know about this season.

There is one season it does remind me of a bit… 2001.

Gladiator beat out Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Chocolat for Best Picture.

I said in the E! pre-show coverage, “With God as my witness, Gladiator will not win Best Picture.”

Obviously, I was dead wrong.

But while the most admired film (Traffic) and the more poppy Soderbergh cousin (Erin Brockovich) may have split the vote, that was not the case in the Director category. Traffic also won Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and Editing. Brockovich won Actress. Crouching Tiger took home 3 Oscars.

As I recall, Julia Roberts was the only one really considered a lock on Oscar night.

This year, it’s Jared Leto in that slot.

The only other seemingly sure bet is Alfonso Cuaron for directing Gravity. And sure enough, his work this year was a game-changer. The Picture/Director split is not terribly rare. Happens about a quarter of the time. But not a single case exists where a director won over the Best Picture director by being a game-changer. If you want a classic case, though not a split, think of Cameron vs Bigelow. Avatar was a true game-changer and the highest grosser in history. And they went with the person who made an intimate, emotional, low-budget war thriller.

I can make a serious argument for hundreds of combinations of outcomes on Oscar night this year.

Cate Blanchett has been considered a lock by some from the start. But it isn’t remotely challenging to imagine Judi Dench or even Amy Adams going up there to grab the golden boy instead. And some will tell you that Sandra Bullock is now pushing the front of the pack. Well… okay.

Matthew McConaughey has been all the rage in Actor lately… but there is also a lot of Leo talk… and the power of Chiwetel Eijofor is still emblazoned on memories, though not with as much current heat.

Lupita Nyong’o, Jennifer Lawrence, or June Squibb? You tell me. Princess, Young Queen, Queen Mother.

Screenplay? Good luck sorting that out.

Do I think that Emmanuel Lubezki will win for Cinematography? Yes. Am I sure. No. Not even close.

I think it’s great that Bad Grandpa is the flavor of the week for Best Make-up. But will it win? Are there enough LA Times articles in the world to make people who have probably never even heard of the nominated film, much less watched it, vote for it? Maybe.

It’s easy to imagine American Hustle taking home 6 Oscars. But it’s not that hard to imagine it going home empty-handed. Likewise, 12 Years A Slave.

And here is the problem for The Academy… I don’t think many people care much either way.

There are passionate supporters of each film, but big picture? There is still no great narrative about this season. Just hasn’t happened. The closest to having one is Lupita Nyong’o, but her’s has been about her sparkling personality, grace, and beauty, not really about that stunning performance.

“Movie X has to win because…”

Come on! Someone! Tell me a real reason other than you liked the movie the most.

The last 5 years… Ben got screwed. Old Hollywood. Old school storytelling. Bigelow & low-tech over Cameron & high-tech. Internationalism.

What is the story this year? The wave of Black-themed films crashed and voting 12 Years is the only way not to be seen as racists? I hate 3D but this is the best 3D yet? David O. Russell has it coming?

Not exactly bumper stickers.

Philomena is still the passion film out there… but it’s so tiny! How can that happen? Should it happen?

I have to say, I am pretty agnostic at this point. I have my favorites, but I know that a very good film will win Best Picture, great performances will win the acting categories, and so on. I can foresee very few opportunities for me to really feel that anyone is going to win an Oscar this year leaving me feeling like the result was bad.

There are three categories in which what would be shockers would make me jump out of my chair and slow clap. But they would be considered upsets by most. (Bad Grandpa doesn’t count because that upset has now been hyped to the degree of no longer being an shocker.)

Deep down… the one thing in this season I really care profoundly about right now is a New York Magazine article about “Oscar bloggers” which I have no real sense of and scares the crap out of me. I would rather the article not happen… even if it is generous to me (even less if it’s not). I just don’t want to deal with the call and response afterwards. I’m still pissed off about the last such article, 8 years ago.

The boldest campaign in these post-nomination weeks known as “Phase 2” has been The Wolf of Wall Street. And why the hell not? I wouldn’t mind seeing it work. It would be fun.

On the other hand, if 12 Years A Slave wins, a few moments that come anywhere close to the Harry Belafonte speech at the NY Film Critics Circle dinner would make that a true thrill.

But I’m okay with Gravity winning too. And I love American Hustle.

And Dallas Buyers Club is a truly remarkable seriously indie indie. I frickin’ LOVE Spike Jonze and Her. Philomena is an emotional delight. Nebraska is daring and smart and intimate. And no one can say that Captain Phillips is anything less than a very well-made, well-acted, compelling movie.

Nice year. Nice outfits. Nice host. You really couldn’t find a nicer, more talented group of nominees.

It won’t be the butterscotch budino at Mozza. It’s not a cup of excrement gelato.


There are worse things.

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10 Responses to “20W2O: 12 Days To Go – Season of Pudding”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    12 Years is an important film. the other eight aren’t.


    look forward to that New York Magazine article, although it will be half right at best….. sorta like the Oscar bloggers. If it’s by an entertainment writer it won’t be one-eighth right. And, no doubt, it will be saturated in that annoying print snittiness. Dish.

  2. Daniella Isaacs says:

    12 YEARS A SLAVE isn’t as important as people want to think. It looks at racism 150 years ago and shows an injustice against a black man rectified by a good-hearted white man played by a Hollywood star. FRUITVALE STATION was an important film about race in America and it was shut out. I do think 12 YEARS is remarkably well done and that McQueen is a true artist, but if it wins… well, in some ways, it’s the GANDHI of American slavery: A relatively safe movie that doesn’t challenge people all that much, IMHO.

  3. Glamourboy says:

    There are so many articles I am seeing that talk about this how wide open the Oscar race is…and I just don’t get it. Basically the same people and the same films keep winning over and over again. Yes, maybe there is a question of Gravity over 12 Years….but none of the other films would seem to have a chance in hell. And hasn’t Blanchett been a mortal lock for months now? Hasn’t Matthew McConaughey become a complete lock as well? (Personally, I’d love to see Bruce Dern walk away with it..but he seems to have no traction at all.)

    Are these articles from Oscar bloggers just to keep us interested in a derby that seems to have been decided upon for quite some time? To me that is the biggest uphill battle the Oscars face…by the time they have their show, everyone else has given out their awards and there are rarely any surprises.

  4. Marty says:

    Cate Blanchett isn’t a mortal lock? This is the most lopsided victory for a lead actor/actress since Colin Firth for the Kings Speech. McConaughey is walking up to the podium as well. The Supporting Actress is the only acting award that seems 50/50…

  5. Bob Burns says:

    at a dinner party the other night a friend said slavery wasn’t so bad because owners would take care of their property. this guy is a college educated professional, federal employee, from a family of college grads. as a southern white mail I hear such things regularly.

    Comments which state that 12 Years is about the past are naive. Will we have more or fewer slaves in 100 years?

    agree about Fruitville though. wish it had been nommed.

  6. Keil Shults says:

    I usually follow the race and these sites like a hawk during the home stretch, but I’m pretty aloof this year. Not exactly apathetic, but certainly unenthusiastic. The only nominee I’m truly rooting for is Before Midnight in the Adapted Screenplay category, even though I think it’s foolish to label it “adapted” – and yes, I know WHY they’re claiming it as such. Its questionable placement may hurt what little chance it had. But it was my favorite film of 2013 and I’ll be watching and hoping that Sunday evening in early March. That’s forgetfulness toward the date, not an attempt at poetry.

    Beyond that, there are a few areas where I could see being mildly annoyed if certain films or people won, but I doubt most races will swing that way. And while certain omissions were unfortunate, they didn’t happen to films or people who would have won anyway. It would have been nice to see Pacific Rim in the FX category, but “Gravity always wins,” to quote Mr. Yorke. Would Upstream Color’s appearance on the list of Editing, Directing, Cinematography, or Sound nominees have made my millennium? Possibly. Would such an event ever have a chance of actually happening? Not likely.

    So I’ll watch the ceremony, as I have ever since 1991, but I won’t be clenching my fists in anticipation or putting them through any walls like I almost did in 1998 when Paul Thomas Anderson failed to earned a Best Director nod for Boogie Nights. I’m a little wiser, and therefore a little less hopeful now.

  7. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Point taken, Bob. I do think a film could make a trenchant connection between the era of slavery in the US and today. I just don’t think 12 YEARS A SLAVE necessarily does that. I think it’s an enormously moving film, but one that people might be able to distance themselves from in a way that they couldn’t distance themselves from something else.

  8. MarkVH says:

    Wolf of Wall Street is an INCREDIBLY important film. But it’s funny, so it doesn’t seem like it.

  9. Stephen Holt says:

    There’s an upcoming article in New York magazine about Oscar Bloggers?? And they didn’t talk to ME???????

  10. Martin Pal says:

    I just read another blog article where David P. got his oscar facts wrong. Now I read this one and here’s another. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won 4 Dave, not three.

    MUSIC (Original Score)

    You write about the Oscars so much you’d think you’d get your information correct. They are so easy to check that I begin to wonder if whatever else you say might be factual.


    I hate when Oscar voters conflate “important” (like Gandhi) with really good filmmaking (like E.T.). I thought 12 Years a Slave was mediocre film making no matter what the important subject matter was. (You’re not supposed to say that, are you?) The personal story of Jackie Robinson told in -42- this year affected me more than anything in 12 Years a Slave. The emotional brutality I felt in that film was far more effective than the torturous physical brutality in McQueen’s film. There is so much varied acts of violence in films every year that we’re attuned to our comfort levels of it. Actual emotional connection is harder to come by and far more effective when achieved. That’s harder to attain. What McQueen did was not.

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