Movies - The Oscars postsFriday February 20, 2009
Much Ado About Oscar — Days 2 & 3
Here are links to Days Two and Three of the Oscar Symposium over at Nathaniel R.'s place. At the end of Day 3 we also lay out our will win/should win list. Turns out we agree with each other a lot — perhaps too much — and those choices also agree with our perception of what the Academy will do. I can't remember a year when so much of what I thought should win was what I thought would win. Chalk it up to the limited choices? Whatever, just don't confuse the agreeableness with any kind of passion. These really are the ho-hum Oscars for me. I'm not hugely rooting for anything, I'm not hugely rooting against anything. But I'll still try to liveblog the sucker.
Meantime, my friend Tommy directed me to this neat little Oscar quiz. I got 24 of 31. Please someone do better.
Nat & Tim & Kris & Karina & Ed & Erik
I recently participated in a three-day symposium about the Oscars over at Nathaniel R’s excellent Film Experience Blog. Make sure you check out the "chatty moviegoer" comments at the end, too. In some ways they're having a livelier discussion than we had in the symposium. Probably because they aren’t saddled with the word “symposium."
Silver on Oscar Gold
One of the sites I turned to regularly, desperately, during the recent presidential campaign was Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com. In the run-up to the election, some friends felt that Silver leaned left too much, but, as it turned out, he didn’t lean left enough. He predicted 338 electoral votes for Obama, who wound up with 365.
Silver started out as a stats-head for one of my loves, baseball, and now he’s entering another: movies. Specifically: the Oscars. New York magazine asked for his predictions on the six major categories and he obliged:
Picture: Slumdog Millionaire (99% chance)
Director: Danny Boyle, SM (99.7%)
Actor: Mickey Rourke (71%)
Actress: Kate Winslet (67.6%)
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (85.8%)
Supporting Actress: Taraji P. Henson (51%)
For most of these, of course, you don’t exactly need to build statistical software and use logistics regression. But his choice, or his software’s choice, for supporting actress is intriguing. I read deeper but the rationale didn’t make much sense:
Penélope Cruz, who won the BAFTA for her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, would seem the logical default. But computer sez: Benjamin Button’s Taraji P. Henson! Button, which looks like a shutout everywhere else, is the only Best Picture nominee with a Supporting Actress nod, and Best Pic nominees tend to have an edge in the other categories.
Except we’re not talking about the other categories, we’re talking about this category. And in the last 10 years, say, how often has a supporting actress winner been the sole best-pic representative in her category? Once. Ten years ago, when Judi Dench won for “Shakespeare in Love” and none of the others had best-pic cred. And how often has the winner not come from a best-pic nominee when a best-pic representative was available? Five times: Angelina Jolie for “Girl, Interrupted” in 1999, Marcia Gay Harden for “Pollock” in 2000, Rene Zellwegger for “Cold Mountain” in 2003, Rachel Weisz for “The Constant Gardener” in 2005, and Jennifer Hudson for “Dreamgirls” in 2006.
So why is the best pic nomination for “Button” a trump card for Henson? I don’t get it. If anything, this category has always read as the “babe” category:
1999: Angelina Jolie, “Girl, Interrupted”
2000: Marcia Gay Harden, “Pollock”
2001: Jennifer Connelly, “A Beautiful Mind”
2002: Catherine Zeta-Jones, “Chicago”
2003: Renee Zellwegger, “Cold Mountain”
2004: Cate Blanchett, “The Aviator”
2005: Rachel Weisz, “The Constant Gardener”
2006: Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls”
2007: Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”
The question for this category isn’t “Who’s in a best picture nominee?” but “Who do the mostly old, mostly male members of the Academy want to fuck this year?” Talent aside, that’s why most of us are guessing Penelope Cruz.
Of course crunching fuckability into an algorithm may even be beyond the scope of the man who predicted such a sure victory for Obama.
The EW Fall Preview Issue: A Look Back
First, “Harry Potter” is on the cover, and of course that film got pushed ahead to a summer release date so no one's even seen it. Then, month to month, here’s the big movies they target and anticipate:
- September: “Miracle at St. Anna”; “Burn After Reading”; “Appaloosa”
- October: “High School Musical 3”; “Body of Lies”; “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”
- November: “Australia”; “The Road”; “The Soloist”
- December: “Revolutionary Road”; “Marley & Me”; “Doubt”
And what of the best picture nominees? “Milk” and “Button” and “Frost” get middling write-ups, while “The Reader” and front-runner “Slumdog” aren’t mentioned at all. It took a second to remember that, oh yes, “Slumdog” had distribution difficulties. From the August 31st New York Times:
“Slumdog Millionaire” was originally a Warner Independent Pictures release, but last May, Warner Brothers closed its two independent divisions, PictureHouse and Warner Independent, in an effort to cut costs. Now the company will work with Fox Searchlight Pictures to distribute Mr. Boyle’s film in North America. ... Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Brothers Pictures Group, said Warner was working with Fox Searchlight to release the film because of the studio’s crowded calendar. “With the recent additions to our slate, it became impossible for us to release ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ in this calendar year,” Mr. Robinov said. “Danny very much wanted to get it released this year,” said Peter Rice, president of Fox Searchlight, “and we have a long relationship with him.”It’s easy to forget how quickly a non-entity can become an inevitability. And vice-versa.
And the Award for Least-Seen Best Picture Nominee Goes To...
As I mentioned earlier, only two best picture nominees since 1980 haven’t wound up among the year’s top 100 box-office hits — “The Dresser” in 1983 and “Letters from Iwo Jima” in 2006 — and yet we have three this year alone. Amazing. The sad part is they’re not even great films. Maybe “Milk” but that’s it. I mean if the Academy is going for quality over popularity, as David Carr suggests, why not choose quality? Instead of a bland mediocrity that pleases neither moviegoers nor critics.
“Milk,” by the way, has the best shot of cracking the top 100. It’s currently at no. 104, only $1 million behind no. 101, “Street Kings,” a dirty-cop movie starring Keanu Reeves that opened in over 2,000 theaters in April. Yes, that sentence is sad in so many ways.