MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks To Oscar: SNUB!


A snub is a smile turned upside down.

That’s the First thing that always hits me when people scream, “SNUB!.” In order for some potential nominee who didn’t get nominated to be snubbed, someone who did get nominated has to have been undeserving in the eyes of the screamer(s).

Second thing I think of is that the screamers are presuming that the candidate that didn’t get nominated was, somehow, inevitable. No matter what the circumstance, this is based on ego, not logic. There are, occasionally, presumed nominees (or winners, btw) that have so many indicators of being locked in that failure to succeed could actually be seen a real shock. But most of what you read – meaning media, not civilians rooting for their personal favorites – are rationalizations of why the thing a writer was so sure would happen did not.

On the night at kinda-AFI at The Egyptian when Selma and American Sniper played back-to-back, there was a split amongst press. Much of the media in attendance decided right there that Selma was not only a sure-fire across-the-board nominee, but that it was a very possible winner. Then there was a nearly across-the-board dismissal of American Sniper. There were exceptions (I was an exception to both positions), but it was almost a surreal experience.

And of course, once journalists take a position, most will fight to the death to continue to maintain the same position. There could still be surprises, but it took weeks to see Unbroken or Interstellar or Into The Woods pried from the cold, whipped hands of some writers. And given the nature of this particular awards season – flat and wide – journos looking for something to champion ahead of movies like The Imitation Game or The Theory of Everything, found a cause in Selma.

Note that I am NOT saying that the journalists fighting for Selma (a phrase that should be oxymoronic) are doing it only because it is a cause or convenient. I am not questioning anyone’s personal taste. Love what you love… journalists included. But this is a different thing than projecting how Academy members (and other guilds) might vote.

The Third thing I think when I hear “SNUB!” being screamed is that it insults the field and especially other potential nominees who also did not get nominated. In the case of DGA and Selma, this includes David Fincher, James Marsh, Bennett Miller, Damian Chazelle, and Dan Gilroy, amongst others. I would not scream “SNUB!” were any of these directors nominated by DGA or The Academy alongside Ava DuVernay or not next to her. Fincher is a 3-time DGA nominee, 2-time Oscar nominee. Bennett Miller has been nominated by both groups. Eastwood, who got nominated, is a 4-time Academy directing and DGA nominee and 2-time winner. But we are, it seems SHOCKED by Ava Duvernay’s “snub” because… many of us decided it was going to happen.

Fourth, I think about this simple reality… maybe the voters just didn’t like the work of this person better than every other film released this year except for four (or fewer). I know, this is so unpopular an idea… that people might actually vote their true will and that their true will does not match the conventional wisdom of the moment.

No SAG. No PGA. No WGA (ineligible). No DGA. No ACE (editing). No CSA (cinematography). Yes CDGA (costumes). No BAFTA. No MUAHS (hair and make-up).

With due respect to Selma, anyone who does this for a living will tell you about how Academy nominations are built guild by guild. So given this record with nominations – forget about wins – with the many guilds, on what ground was the inevitability of Selma built?

Here is another indicator… box office. Selma had a very respectable $30k per-screen on 19 on opening weekend and $29k per on 22 the next. But the films of the five DGA nominated directors, while on fewer screens, all had openings of between $77k per screen and $158k per screen. The two directors who are considered, to whatever degree, surprises at DGA, have films that will generate substantially more revenue than Selma. And the two that Selma will likely pass at the box office, Boyhood and Birdman, have long been considered the two mortal locks for DGA nominations.

And the Fifth thing I think about “SNUBS!” is that in order to snub someone, you have to have intent or the ability to vote against someone/something or to organize against it. None of this is the case in awards voting. A snub would be if, say, Bill Cosby was up for an award like Most Popular TV Father, where he seemed inevitable, but almost no one voted for a man accused of 25+ acts of drugging and raping (or attempting to rape) women. That would be an earned snub, but indeed, a snub. If he came in sixth in a group with five announced nominees? Really hard to classify that as a snub, because he had support, but Michael Landon just beat him out.

Look… it’s all a horse race. People have favorites. I get it. We’re all just human. But for every claim of a snub, except in the rarest of circumstances, there is someone who actually did get the nomination or the win, who is being smacked in the face by the “SNUB!” shouter’s claim when they should be enjoying their earned good fortune. I’m sure that if Ava DuVernay had gotten a DGA nomination today, she would be made less happy if people were running around claiming that she only got in because she was black or that Clint Eastwood was snubbed because he was a Republican. And that would be unfortunate.

Final Note: If you claim to know the “actual reason” why Ava DuVernay didn’t win today, you are lying to yourself and, if a journalist, your readers.

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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