erik lundegaard


Movies - The Oscars posts

Sunday March 10, 2024

Oscars: Michael Schulman's Deep Dive Into EnvelopeGate

Task No. 1, Billy: Don't let something like this happen.

Hey, it's the Oscars today! Remember those? Also Daylight Savings! I can't forget those. Not because I'm agin it but because of the neverending bitching. Maybe more on this later. I just know we have a big country, and the north ain't the south, and people in the north don't want the sun to come up at 4:30 AM nor have it pitch dark at 8 AM. So I don't mind. It's a ritual. Learn to set your clocks. Figure something else to bitch about.

Related (to the Oscars thing): I recently finished Michael Schulman's “Oscar Wars,” a book that delves into the history of the Academy Awards via eight or nine focal or pressure points, including:

  1. the creation of the Academy as an anti-unionization mechanism, when the awards were an afterthought
  2. the Robert Rich debacle, when the 1957 best story award was presented a guy who didn't exist (it was a pseudonym for blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo)
  3. Gregory Peck's 1969-70 attempt to add youth to the Academy membership while letting some of the older, less active members fall by the wayside (repeat every 10 years)
  4. the Allan Carr debacle
  5. how the Academy was unable to save “Private Ryan” from Harvey Weinstein
  6. #OscarSoWhite
  7. the envelope-gate debacle

Schulman goes deep into each topic. I mean, I've read a lot about the blacklist but he was providing context I'd never heard before. So too with recent history like EnvelopeGate. I knew there were two versions of each envelope, for stage right or stage left, but not some of this:

The Friday before the show, an Academy staffer showed Todd and De Luca a prototype of the winner cards, which for the first time weren't printed by the Academy's regular stationery company. Todd, who wears glasses, asked that they be reprinted in a bigger font, so that the presenters wouldn't have to squint. “But,” she recalls, “Mike and I never saw the outside of the envelope,” on which the categories were printed in a gold-on-maroon color scheme that was difficult to read. And instead of a faux-wax seal with an easy-to-pull ribbon, as in past years, the new envelope was sealed with a cumbersome piece of tape.

Gold on maroon! JFC, that's like a John Mulaney joke: “I hope that you can read pink on purple, as that is the layout that we have chosen.”

In the aftermath, everyone was trying to figure out what happened, and Warren Beatty was refusing to give up the card he'd been holding and that he knew was wrong because it was for best picture but read: EMMA STONE, LA LA LAND. Apparently Faye Dunaway just saw the LA LA LAND and blurted it out. In the rehearsal, Dunaway had initially said she wanted to read the nominees, then said no, she wanted to read the winner, for which Beatty teased her. And maybe she thought he was now letting her do just that.

(Here's my day-after take, defending Beatty from all the sharks in the water.) 

Backstage, everyone was trying to figure out the why of it, and it was director Glenn Weiss who zoomed in with his iPad and realized they'd been given the wrong envelope. And eventually a culprit was found: PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant Brian Cullinan:

Cullinan was concerned that the presenters would futz over the tape on the back of the envelope and was showing each person that it was easier to slip a finger under the flap and pop it open. After Emma Stone won, Cullinan had two envelopes left in his hand: Best Picture on top and the Best Actress duplicate on the bottom. He flipped them over to show Beatty the trick with the tape, which put the Best Actress duplicate on top. He then mistakenly handed the duplicate Best Actress envelope to Beatty and tossed the Best Picture envelope in his briefcase and forgot all about it. In the greenroom, Dawn Hudson turned to Cullinan. “Your one job was to give Warren the right envelope.” “No,” the accountant said, bewildered. Minutes before the screwup, he had tweeted a backstage photo of Emma Stone. “The lesson here is we're too celebrity-obsessed as a culture,” De Luca says. “It's even poisoned accountants.” Cullinan deleted the Emma Stone photo and was gone before anyone noticed. “He basically disappeared,” Kimmel says.

And now you know ... the rest of the story. I like that level of detail.

This year, for the first time since 2019, I've seen all the nominees, and even wrote about most of them, and yet I have no real dogs in the hunt. My sister's family asked me to rank my pics and I went with “The Holdovers” but I also like “Poor Things” and “American Fiction,” “Zone of Interest” and frontrunner “Oppenheimer.” Each has plusses and negatives. I'd vote for Paul Giamatii but I loved Cillian Murphy, too. (Actor is stacked.) I'd vote for Sandra Huller or Emma Stone but I'm resigned to Lily Gladstone. I'd vote for the Hulk but I'm fine with Iron Man.

Let the debacles begin. (Kidding, Billy.)

Posted at 11:00 AM on Sunday March 10, 2024 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Monday March 13, 2023

‘Everything Everywhere’ Wins Every Oscar Everywhere

Hollywood loves a comeback story. Here's four of them.

Several people asked us if we were hosting an Oscar party this year, and … Well, even if we were leaning in that direction, there was that Movie Night we hosted mid-January—six people arrived, five got COVID—and that leaned us in the other direction. And then Patricia got sick anyway. (She’s negative thus far; probably one of those “cold” things we keep hearing about.) So it was just the two of us and Jellybean. Plus a lot of texting.

It was fun, actually. I thought the show was great. Jimmy Kimmel did a great job, the Will Smith aftermath was dealt with handily and with humor, it was emotional and fun and you had big names singing: Lady Gaga, Rihanna, David Byrne. A lot of underdogs triumphed—particularly Brendan Fraser and Ke Huy Quan—and the whole thing didn’t feel overlong. My sister’s childhood friend Bill “Billy” Kramer is the new CEO of the Academy, and I’m not saying it went smoothly because of Billy, but it totally went smoothly because of Billy.

The post-Oscar coverage has been a little spotty, though. I don’t think enough has been written about how huge this win was for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

This is what it won:

  • Picture
  • Director
  • Screenplay
  • Actress
  • Supporting Actress
  • Supporting Actor
  • Editing

How many movies in the history of Hollywood have won Oscars for all of the above? None.

You could remove Editing, Screenplay and Director, and it would still be none. Only two other films have ever won three of the four acting awards—“A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Network,” and neither of those won picture or director. “Streetcar” and Elia Kazan lost out to “An American in Paris” and George Stevens (“A Place in the Sun”), while “Network” and Sidney Lumet lost out to “Rocky” and John G. Avildsen (“Rocky”). Those earlier films only won four Oscars total: plus art direction/set direction for “Streetcar” and plus original screenplay for “Network.” 

So this is unprecedented for “Everything Everywhere.” It’s not a Big Five win—picture, director, actor, actress, screenplay—which has just gone to “It Happened One Night,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Silence of the Lambs," but it may be deeper.

And does Brooks Barnes mention any of this in The New York Times? Of course not. He leads with the shift to “New Hollywood” in the late 1960s and how maybe we’re in the “New New Hollywood” era, which … I don’t get why exactly. What is that based on? Then he adds one of the oddest asides in the history of the paper of record:

The Daniels, the young filmmaking duo behind the racially diverse “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” won Oscars for their original screenplay and directing. (The Daniels is an oh-so-cool sobriquet for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. They are both 35.) 

As an editor, I would’ve struck “an oh-so-cool” and replaced it with “the.” Either say what you really mean in an Op-Ed or give us the news, Brooks. Stop hiding behind parentheses.

Sadly, there’s also been controversy about some of the names/faces that weren’t mentioned in the In Memoriam section, but I have to say—again—I thought that segment was handled well. John Travolta gave an emotional intro—for Olivia Newton-John, but one imagines he was also thinking of his wife Kelly Preston, who died in 2020—and the song Lenny Kravitz sang, “Calling All Angels” (his, not Jane Siberry’s), was quiet and powerful. Yes, some names were left off. And yes, I would’ve included Paul Sorvino, Tom Sizemore and Anne Heche. I would’ve given fewer seconds to Kravitz and more to the dead. But maybe that says something about my age. The telecast included a QR code/link for a more extensive list, and I checked it out, and holy shit, the names. And the faces. So many faces I instantly recognized that were not mentioned in the broadcast. Here. None of these people were mentioned:

  • Taurean Blacque, the coolest dude with the coolest name from “Hill Street Blues”
  • Robert Clary, who survived Nazi death camps to participate in a comedy about Nazi concentration camps
  • Charlbi Dean, the shockingly beautiful model/actress from the Oscar-nominated “Triangle of Sadness”
  • Melinda Dillon, the most put-upon comedic wife/mother in one of the best Christmas movies ever
  • Bert Fields, one of the biggest entertainment lawyers ever
  • Clarence Gilyard, Jr., who played the annoying computer-nerd terrorist in “Die Hard” (“Oh my God, the quarterback is TOAST!”)
  • Gilbert Gottfried
  • Clu Gulager
  • Philip Fucking Baker Hall
  • Estelle Harris, George’s mom
  • Mike Hodges
  • Bo Hopkins
  • L.Q. Jones
  • Burt Metcalfe, “M*A*S*H”
  • Robert Morse
  • James Olson, the put-up father in “Ragtime”
  • Henry Silva
  • Tony “Paulie Walnuts” Sirico
  • Stella Stevens
  • Larry Storch
  • Joe Turkel, the bartender in “The Shining”
  • Fred Fucking Ward
  • David Fucking Warner
  • Cindy Fucking Williams

I mean, these are the people they left off who meant something to me. And I don’t even work in the industry.

So I think we should all take a deep breath. In the end, the sadness is not how many people were left off but how many people have left us.


Posted at 07:39 PM on Monday March 13, 2023 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Sunday February 26, 2023

'Everything Everywhere' Gets Every Guild Award Everywhere

Last weekend, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won the DGA, or Directors Guild Award, and this weekend it won the PGA (Producers) and SAG (Screen Actors) cast award. (As well as actress for Michelle Yeoh, supporting actress for Jamie Lee Curtis, and supporting actor for Ke Huy Quan.) That's a lot of guild awards. So is the Oscar race over already?

Put it another way: Has any movie won all three guild awards and not won the Oscar for best picture?

We can only go back to '96, when SAG cast awards began, but these are the only movies that won all three guilds:

  • 1999: American Beauty
  • 2002: Chicago
  • 2003: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
  • 2007: No Country for Old Men
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
  • 2010: The King's Speech
  • 2012: Argo
  • 2014: Birdman

And yes, they all wound up winning the Oscar for best picture—though two directors did not win director. In 2002, best director didn't go to Rob Marshall for “Chicago” but Roman Polanski for “The Pianist” (a much better movie anyway), while in 2012 Ben Affleck wasn't even nom'ed so they went with Ang Li for “Life of Pi.” Interesting we went abroad both times. 

Point being: Don't pick against “Everything Everywhere” in your Oscar pool.

Another point worth mentioning is how divisive “EEAAO” is turning out to be. Some people love it, some hate hate hate it, while I'm more of a shrug. It went a few universes too far for me, and didn't know when to end, but ultimately I don't have a dog in the hunt so ... [shrug].

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Posted at 08:33 PM on Sunday February 26, 2023 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Tuesday January 24, 2023

Oscars Announce Nominations, IMDb Promotes 'Dungeons & Dragons'

This morning I remembered it was Oscar nomination day, so I went to IMDb to see what was what. This is the screen that greeted me. 

See the cat? See the cradle?

The Oscar nomination story, such as it is, is bottom left: Cruise and “Avatar” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” It's not even a story, it's a link to the Oscar nominations page, the one they put together every year. Everything everywhere all at once, but just this much Oscar coverage on IMDb. Someone should remind them that the M in IMDb stands for Movie, so they might want to play up their coverage more. They did that, once upon a time. They were better at this.

So was I. At least I used to get up early and follow along as the nominations were announced on television at like 5:30 AM, PST. I'd have a post up an hour later. Now I'm like, “Oh right, Oscars.”

So what's the big story this year? Nothing in particular, it seems. We're kind of spread out. “Everything Everywhere” leads with 11 noms, and both “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” nabbed nine each. But most of those frontrunners are divisive. Both “EEAAO” and “Banshees” have a finger fetish, while “Quiet” kind of came out of left field. It's German, Netflix, unpromoted. I didn't even know it existed until a conversation with my sister last weekend. She told me one of my nephews had watched “All Quiet” and I'm like “The 1930 film?” and she's like “No no, the remake on Netflix.” In my head it was a miniseries. I didn't even know. Oscars, I hardly knew ye.

Here are the 2022 best picture nominees:

  • All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Avatar: The Way of Water
  • The Banshees of Inisherin*
  • Elvis
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once*
  • The Fabelmans*
  • Tar*
  • Top Gun: Maverick
  • Triangle of Sadness*
  • Women Talking

* Also nominated for direction

Glad “Babylon” and “Empire of Light,” both once touted, aren't here, though I'm surprised Olivia Colman didn't make the actress cut. What might have I included? “Aftersun” and “The Batman,” for an odd pairing, in place of, say, “Elvis” and “Top Gun.” I've seen six of the 10, missing “Quiet,” “Tar,” “Sadness” and “Talking.” Hope to remedy all that. 

No idea how it's going to go down on March 12. I've no dogs in this hunt. I kind of miss those days, when it felt like life and death. Before life showed me what life and death was.

ADDENDUM: In his Oscar nom piece, Kyle Buchanan of the Times raises an interesting point: two of the 10 picture nominations are sequels. It's kind of a big deal since only seven sequels have ever been nominated for best picture before: “The Bells of St. Mary's,” “The Godfather II,” “The Godfather III,” “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Toy Story III” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Some sites list eight, but they consider “The Silence of the Lambs” a sequel to “Manhunter,” which ... no. And now that I think about it, isn't “Mad Max” more reboot than sequel? The sequels this year are “Avatar” and “Top Gun.” The latter might have a shot; doubt the former does. 

Posted at 10:16 AM on Tuesday January 24, 2023 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Sunday April 03, 2022

The Other Bad Stuff that Happened at the 94th Annual Academy Awards

Before I get into the other bad stuff at this year's Oscars, here's something my onetime hometown newspaper tweeted midshow:

Never. Tweet. Early. 

Oscar's producers were lucky in a way. The Will Smith thing obscured/obliterated any other conversation about the Oscars, and that conversation should've been brutal. The people running the show are making the same mistake as the people running Major League Baseball: They're trying to appeal to the people who don't like their product while alienating those who do.

Here are some of the lowlights from last Sunday's broadcast:

  • The “In Memoriam” segment: It was not somber. It was New Orleans. They had a choir onstage, and people dancing, and those dancing people often partially obscured the faces of those who died. And occasionally it would quiet down for a live person (Tyler Perry, Bill Murray, Jamie Lee Curtis) to talk briefly about one of those who passed (Sidney Poitier, Ivan Reitman, Betty White). And it was all wrong. Just give us the faces, and occasional clips, and some measure of respect. Please. Think of what Anthony Hopkins said before presenting lead actress: “Let's have peace and love and quiet.” That.
  • Twits: Apparently the Academy teamed up with Twitter on two polls: “Oscar fan favorites”  and “Most Cheer-Worthy Moment.” The former was for 2021 films, the latter for any moment in movie history. And shockingly, for that, there was a recency bias among the voters. We didn't get Gene Kelly in “Singin' in the Rain,” in other words, but it did go chronologically. No. 5 was the old one from the deep, dim past: Neo dodging bullets in “The Matrix” from 1999. No. 4 was Jennifer Hudson singing “I'm Telling You” from “Dreamgirls” in 2006. Those were the oldies. I mean, who knew they made movies way back then? No. 3: Avengers assembling against Thanos in “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) and No. 2 was the Spider-Men teaming up in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021). As for the most cheer-worthy moment in movie history? “The Flash enters speedforce” from Zack Snyder's retooled “Justice League,” which played on HBO in 2021. Of course. And that should be history for Oscar's Twitter polls. There's nothing democratic in it. It's dominated by those who dominate the platform, and who are organized, and the Zackflaks are certainly that on Twitter. They're better organized than his movies. So much so that he won the other poll, too, as his “Army of the Dead” was voted the Oscar fan favorite of 2021. So fucking embarrassing. Stop it. Just ... stop.
  • Regina Hall's sexual harassment extravaganza: Didn't she do it twice? With this group of hunks and that group of hunks? It wasn't funny the first time so I guess they tried it again. Reverse the genders and see how it flies. Seriously, the double standards in our modern world are out of control.
  • Jackson Schmackson. But overall the worst of it was what the producers thought worth our time and what wasn't. Lifetime achievements to Samuel L. Jackson and Elaine May? Nah. Kids don't want to see that. Pre-tape it. Oscars for film editing? And sound? And hair and makeup? What does all that matter anyway? Pre-tape. A clip segment of 60 years of James Bond films introduced by three extreme sports dudes who have nothing to do with movies? Hey, now that needs to be part of the show. So fucking embarrassing. Stop it. Just stop.

 I liked Amy Schumer. Bring her back. 

Posted at 10:55 AM on Sunday April 03, 2022 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Friday April 01, 2022

The Best Take on the Will Smith Thing

“The experience of seeing it live was just baffling. Like: What? What?? What the fuck just happened? 

”A few things in retrospect now that we've got a little distance from it. First off: It was wrong. There's no conversation about, 'Well, I don't know, Will had...' No. 'But Chris...' No. 'I mean, seriously, if it was his wife...“ No! It was fucking wrong. You don't go up and smack someone in the fucking face anywhere. It was wrong. I mean, there's no conversation about that.

”And that other idea that, 'Is this what happens when we tell jokes? Are we afraid to tell jokes?' No! It had nothing to do with the joke. ... 

“In that moment, all that happened in terms of the discussion, is: The guy who's spent the last 30 years of his career managing his personality to be one of the nicest guys in show business, and have everyone like him, lost his fucking mind. That's what happened. I don't know what's going on with him, how far back it goes, I don't know if it's relative to a past thing with Chris, or if it's relative to his marriage, to the pressure he's been under, what he exposed about himself in his memoir—I don't know what caused it. But in that moment that guy left reality, no longer had a context, and decided, impulsively, and without much reflection, to go onstage and hit a peer on national television. That's what happened. A guy fucking snapped. It could happen to anyone, I guess. Not great timing. But it's got nothing to do with 'Can you tell jokes anymore?' It's got nothing to do with whether it was virtuous or not, it's got nothing to do with any of that. 

”A guy snapped. And it was a bad time for it to happen. And it was wrong. That's it. ...

“When he went up and hit Chris, he was not at the Oscars. I don't know where he was. All he knew was he was following a red-hot rage impulse, and I think by the time he got up there to accept that Oscar, he was still sort of out-of-body, and he was still reckoning with I-don't-know-what. ... It was the most profound display of self-sabotage I've ever seen.” 

-- Marc Maron, on his WTF podcast, which dropped yesterday. Give it a listen. It starts at 3 1/2 minutes in.

Posted at 05:06 PM on Friday April 01, 2022 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Monday March 28, 2022

The Slap Seen 'Round the World

Will either man ever not be known for this? 

What should've been the pinnacle of Will Smith's professional life turned into its nadir. It was both in one night. That's why it felt so hard to function. It felt like we all got slapped.

It was jaw-dropping and shocking and vaguely nauseating—and at the same time, not any of those things given the state of the world—but oh god does it play into the racial and racist stereotypes. I could write the bits myself. “You know, when Oscars was so white, no one ever assaulted anyone onstage.” Seriously, I hate the way this is going to be dragged through the mud by the usual suspects, but it will, for a long, long time. Did Will Smith just rewrite his obit? ACTOR WILL SMITH DIES, SLAPPED CHRIS ROCK AT OSCARS. Did he rewrite Chris Rock's? 

It also obliterated, and I mean obliterated, all the other bad shit that happened last night, and there was a lot of it, which I'll get to in another post. First, this. Let's try to stick to the facts of it.

Chris Rock was onstage to present best documentary feature, which, by the way, went to “Summer of Soul.” He told some jokes about Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz: how both are nominated and “If she loses, he can't win. He is praying that Will Smith wins, like, please, lord.” (Rock's jokes, by the way, were not good. That's an opinion, not a fact, but it's worth stating.) At which point, Rock turned to that other front-row couple, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, saying  “Jada, I love you. 'G.I. Jane 2,' can't wait to see it, all right?” The joke, such as it was, played off her shaved head and the 1997 Demi Moore movie, in which Moore's head is shaved. Except Pinkett Smith has alopecia, which causes hair loss in different parts of the body. I have family members who have alopecia. It's a frustrating condition. And the joke did not go over. Jada rolled her eyes and glared. And Will Smith saw her roll her eyes and glare. And he stood up, walked slowly and purposefully up the runway to the stage, and slapped Chris Rock in the face in front of millions and millions of worldwide viewers.

Initially people thought it might be staged? Because we'd never seen anything like it before. Even as Will Smith was approaching, Rock made a joke, something like “Uh oh, Richard,” referring to Smith's Oscar-nominated performance as Richard Williams, the father/coach/martinet of Venus and Serena. After the slap, he fumblingly tried to continue by stating what had happened: “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.” But his eyes had already crumbled. He said “Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke.” Smith, furious, from his seat, yelled, “Keep my wife's name out your fucking mouth!” And that's when everyone knew it was not staged.

By the time Smith won the Oscar an hour later, he knew he'd lost. He apologized to the Academy, and to his fellow nominees, and hoped to be asked back. He invoked higher powers: love and the devil. He joked it was art imitating life, the Richard Williams in him getting out to protect his family. He kept tearing up. He was allowed to talk on and on.

I should have more empathy because I've been there. I've done the zero-to-60 thing, too, where my anger overwhelmed me, getting me to act foolishly, and 10 minutes later, after the adrenaline has worn off and abandoned me and left me exposed, I'm left with just the horror of it. I'm left with, “Well, I'll never live that down. I'll never repair that relationship. That's over forever.” After the worst incident a few years ago, involving verbal abuse not physical violence, I saw an anger management therapist for a time. So I should have more empathy for Will Smith here. Not sure why I don't. Maybe because I never have much sympathy for myself after my own incidents? And I was lucky, too, oddly, in not being rich and famous, and not going zero-to-60 in front of millions and millions of worldwide viewers. My soul searching—“Is this me? Is this who I really am?”—didn't involve my professional career. There was no video of it. It didn't wind up on YouTube and newscasts and radio broadcasts. It didn't become a cultural touchstone for others to rub against. It didn't become a meme.

That Oscar is always going to hurt him. If he's anything like me, he'll look at it and chastise himself. Goddamnit. It'll cause him pain. Every damn day for the rest of his life.

I guess I just talked myself into some empathy for him.

There's going to be so much noise over this. That's why I like what Anthony Hopkins said before presenting the award for best actress to Jessica Chastain. He walked on stage, 84 now, still a great actor, alluded to the evening's event, and said, “Let's have peace and love and quiet.” Amen. Let's make that the meme.

Posted at 10:14 AM on Monday March 28, 2022 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Tuesday April 27, 2021

Oscar's Great Depression

My wife and I watched the Oscars Sunday night and we were in the minority. According to the Nielsen company, the previous ratings low for an Oscars telecast was last year, right before the pandemic, when only 23.6 million Americans tuned in to see “Parasite” win best picture. This year, with “Nomadland” winning, it was less than half that: 9.85 million. We're basically at Game 3 of the World Series territory. Which I also watch. I'm becoming like William H. Macy's character in “The Cooler”: whatever I gravitate toward, it's on the way out. 

Not that I don't get it. We just went through a mostly movie theater-less year when we were all sheltering in place. And while we wound up watching a lot, it wasn't the movies that were nominated. To be honest, I was kind of with the mass on that one. My wife saw each of the nominated films but I kept begging off. I know: me. I'd see part of a movie (“Sound of Metal”) and think “Nah. Not now. Can't deal with this now.” In a year of great loss, it was a tough sell to get people to watch someone lose their hearing, or their home, or their mind. In the midst of the Great Depression, the movies gave us Cagney, Gable, Harlow, Astaire: rat-a-tat, romance, top hat and tails. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the movies gave us a great depression.

I did wind up seeing five of the eight (I still need “Promising Young Woman,” “Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Sound of Metal” to complete the set) and I'm glad “Nomadland” won. It's a beautiful film about a tough subject, and Frances McDormand rocks. I would've also been happy with “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which, of all the nominees, seems the most accessible. It's got punch, and it drives its story forward, and Daniel Kaluuya rocks. “Minari” is a slice-of-life about a Korean family in Reagan's America making a go of it in the Deep South. It's a gentle film, kinder than I thought it would be, although you're still waiting for disaster to happen, and it does, but the disaster isn't a disaster. It's a binding force. Nice thought for these times. “Mank” was a disappointment, while “The Father,” brutal to watch, intrigued with its unreliable narrator. And Anthony Hopkins rocks.

Whoever made the decision to put best actor last, perhaps anticipating a win for the late, great Chadwick Boseman, well, that was a bad call. Never make that kind of call on an unsure outcome. Boseman didn't win, Hopkins did, and the usual noise machine went at it on Twitter. Mark Harris gave the tweet of the night with this one: 


Hopkins is the oldest Oscar winner ever, at 83, and wasn't present, so the presenter, last year's winner Joaquin Phoenix, said the Academy accepted it in his absence and g'night. That also rubbed people the wrong way—the quick exit—but I didn't mind. I have a friend, Jim, who tends to end phone calls: “Are we done? We're done.” Rip that Band-Aid off. Be like Hitchcock, not Spielberg. But best picture should always go last. I don't care if the second coming of Jesus is up for best actor, put picture last. 

McDormand is now a three-time best actress winner, second only to the late great Kate Hepburn, and it's all so deserved. She is no bullshit, as John Mulaney said a few years back. Youn Yuh-jung is the second Asian woman to win an acting award, and her great, crazy riffs from the podium made everyone's night. (For more on Oscar trivia, see Nathaniel, the master on the topic.)

I wasn't a fan of the in-house trivia contest—which songs by Black artists were or weren't nominated for Oscars, and finishing up with Glenn Close doing “Da Butt” from the old Spike Lee joint “School Daze”—and overall I miss hosts. I miss comedians. I missed someone looking at the camera. Steven Soderbergh produced the Oscars this year and most presenters presented to the room, like we weren't there, and it was a little weird. As with most things in the world now, too many cooks are stirring the Oscar pot, saying it needs to be X, Y and Z, and you can't please everyone, and you wind up pleasing no one and getting less than half of the lowest rating ever, but a lot of it isn't the Academy's fault. In the past, there was a kind of popular, human-centered, middle-ground film that could get nominated, like “Jerry Maguire” or “Apollo 13” or “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and now that middle ground barely exists. Now it's either the Marvel Noise Machine or someone losing their hearing, or their home, or their mind. Even when a middle-ground movie gets made, like “Ford v. Ferrari” in 2019, and it gets nominated, well, it's not really part of the discussion, is it? For Oscar or box office. It had Batman, Bourne and cars, but people didn't flock to it the way they would to any of the “Fast & Furious” films. It wasn't dumb enough. It was too rooted in reality.

Is there a way out? Nominate something like “Avengers: Endgame” for best picture? Produce more story-driven indie films? Even that might not work. Hollywood keeps getting kicked every which way for crimes real or imagined. When the Star-Tribune tweeted about the bad Oscar ratings, commentators real or bottish blamed Hollywood for its longtime treatment of Blacks, gays, et al., and for not caring about “regular people.” No matter what Hollywood does, it's hated.

Well, not everywhere. I'm glad we watched. It was a nice evening. After a year away, it was nice seeing everyone again.

Posted at 09:10 AM on Tuesday April 27, 2021 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Tuesday April 13, 2021

Oh Right. The Oscars. II.

So the DGAs and the PGAs recently made their choices, and both went with “Nomadland” as the best picture of our shut-in, theaterless, pandemic year. The DGAs has been around since the late '40s, the PGAs since 1989, which means there have been 31 Oscar seasons before this one in which both have given their opinions. Of those, how often have these two guild bodies agreed? A lot: 22 times or 71%. And of those agreements, how often did the Oscar for best picture go to a different movie? Five times: 77%. So I'd still put money on “Nomadland.”

Have to say, the early years when Oscar went a different path doesn't speak well for Oscar. It feels like the Academy was overly influenced by something tawdry: Weinstein PR pushes (“Shakesepare in Love”), homophobia (“Crash”) and whatever the hell happened in '95 to elevate Mel Gibson and “Braveheart.” More recent years have been better. Feels like the Academy is rewarding artistry. That bodes well for “Nomadland,” too.  Although if Oscar had been rewarding diversity, going with “Moonlight” and “Parasite” over “La La Land” and “1917,” then we could get an upset: “Judas and the Black Priest,” for example.

April 25, FWIW.

When the DGAs and PGAs Agree

2020 Nomadland Nomadland ???
2019 1917 1917 Parasite
2017 The Shape of Water The Shape of Water The Shape of Water
2016 La La Land La La Land Moonlight
2014 Birdman Birdman Birdman
2012 Argo Argo Argo
2011 The Artist The Artist The Artist
2010 The King's Speech The King's Speech The King's Speech
2009 The Hurt Locker The Hurt Locker The Hurt Locker
2008 Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire
2007 No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men
2005 Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain Crash
2003 Lord of the Rings Lord of the Rings Lord of the Rings
2002 Chicago Chicago Chicago
1999 American Beauty American Beauty American Beauty
1998 Saving Private Ryan Saving Private Ryan Shakespeare in Love
1997 Titanic Titanic Titanic
1996 The English Patient The English Patient The English Patient
1995 Apollo 13 Apollo 13 Braveheart
1994 Forrest Gump Forrest Gump Forrest Gump
1993 Schindler's List Schindler's List Schindler's List
1991 Silence of the Lambs The Silence of the Lambs The Silence of the Lambs
1990 Dances with Wolves Dances with Wolves Dances with Wolves
Posted at 06:29 AM on Tuesday April 13, 2021 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Thursday March 18, 2021

Oh Right. The Oscars.

I've been focusing on other things this pandemic year besides Oscar hopefuls, which arrived anyway, and as always, late in the season. 

Among the eight best picture nominess announced on Monday, I've seen three: “Mank,” “Nomadland,” and “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and of those three, the one with the most nominations, “Mank” with 10, is the one I'd least like to win. So it goes. I'd vote “Nomadland” but would applaud “Judas.” Both are great. Here are the eight:

The Father Nomadland*
Judas the Black Messiah Promising Young Woman
Mank* Sound of Metal
Minari* Promising Young Woman*

The asterisks indicate a directing nod as well, usually a prereq to win, but who knows this year. We've got two women nom'ed for directing for the first time ever: Chloe Zhao for “Nomadland” and Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman.” I'd vote for Zhao. I believe Lee Isaac Chung for “Minari” is the first Asian-American directing nod, too. The fifth nomination went to Danish director Thomas Vinterberg for “Another Round,” which my wife watched (she's mad about Mads) but I didn't. Anyway, it's good to see that tightfisted directing group opening up. For most of its history, the winners have been exclusively white American men or white European men. Ang Lee finally broke through in 2005 and Kathryn Bigelow in 2009, and for the past decade it's gone: Brit, French, Taiwanese, Mexican, Mexican, Mexican, American, Mexican, Mexican, Korean. I'm hoping we'll add Chinese to that list, even if China may no longer be enamored of the idea. Well, screw those guys. Or trolls. 

The big acting controversy this year isn't of the #OscarSoWhite variety—six of the 10 actor nominees are people of color—but “category fraud,” since the co-leads in “Judas” are both nominated in supporting, meaning, to the Academy, there's no lead actor in “Judas.” I guess I'd need a rundown of screentime but off the top of my head I'd have gone Lakeith Stanfield for lead and Daniel Kaluuya in supporting. Anyway, the Academy has a long history of this. Al Pacino as supporting in “The Godfather” for starters.

Not sure who the favorites are. I'm guessing Chadwick Boseman (R.I.P.) for actor, Kaluuya for supporting (he's amazing), unless he and Lakeith split the vote, in which case ... Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman in “The Trial of the Chicago 7”? I'd go Francis McDormand or Viola Davis for actress but I don't know how that's going to shake out. And does Glenn Close finally get a statuette in supporting? 

Oscar telecast is April 25. Maybe my interest will be roused by then. 

Posted at 07:57 AM on Thursday March 18, 2021 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Saturday February 29, 2020

Next Year's Oscars?

He's just met a girl named Maria. Has a remake of a best picture winner ever won best picture? No. 

Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere is already handicapping next year's Oscars, and lays out his top 10 picks. Links go to trailers if available or IMDb and the lot if not. Scratch that. There are no trailers. There are barely stills. So the links just go to IMDb.

  • “Mank” (David Fincher): The creation of “Citizen Kane” from, one assumes, given the title, the perspective of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) rather than Orson Welles (Tom Burke of “The Souvenir”). Amanda Seyfried plays Marion “Rosebud” Davies. Netflix movie. Should be fun. 
  • “Trial of the Chicago 7” (Aaron Sorkin): I don't know if I‘ve seen better recent casting than Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, and Frank Langella will make a good, thunderous Judge Hoffman. Plus the rest of the cast (Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne, John Carroll Lynch)? Mmwa. But can Sorkin direct? This is his second effort, after the disappointing “Molly’s Game.” Except hyper-articulate speeches. Ambllin/Paramount.
  • “The Last Duel” (Ridley Scott), about the last official duel permitted by the King of France, in the 14th century. Read more here. From a screenplay by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Nicole Holofcener. It's the “Good Will Hunting” boys' first co-screenwriting credit since “Good Will Hunting.” Stars Matt Damon and Adam Driver as the duelists. Add it to the list of “last” titles: Samurai, Airbender, Action Hero, Knight, Blood, Tango in Paris, Picture Show. Everything dies. 20th Century Fox. 
  • “Stillwater” (Tom McCarthy): Has he made a bad movie? This will be his second in 2020, supposedly, after the interestingly titled “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.” “Stillwater” stars Matt Damon (again) about an Oklahoma father who travels to France, where his daughter has been charged with murder. Focus Features. 
  • “West Side Story” (Steven Spielberg): I think you know it. This time, Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler are the star-crossed lovers. 
  • “Macbeth” (Joel Coen): For once, Coen isn't collaborating with brother Ethan but with this Shakespeare dude. Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand play the Mr. and Mrs. of the title. Scott Rudin/A24.
  • “Blonde” (Andrew Dominik): The New Zealand director behind “Assassination of Jesse James,” etc., stars “Knives Out” hottie Ana de Armas as a fictionalized Marilyn Monroe, exploring her inner life.
  • “Annette” (Leos Carax): IMDb's description: “A stand-up comedian and his opera singer wife have a 2-year-old daughter with a surprising gift.” Starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Nice work if you can get it, Adam. What's the surprising gift? Who knows? Let's hope not super strength. Does anyone see Adam Driver as a stand-up comedian? Maybe the Lenny Bruce type? And can anyone see the director of “Holy Motors” coming close to an Oscar nomination? Oh, and it's a musical. CG Cinema/Arte France Cinema/Amazon. 
  • “News of the World” (Paul Greengrass): Reteams Greengrass and Tom Hanks from “Captain Phillips” in a story about a man who brings the news of the world to local townspeople in the Old West, and who “agrees to help rescue a young girl who was kidnapped.” From the writer of “Life,” “Lion,” and “Beautiful Boy,” all of which had buzz, all of which I didn't even see. Playtone/Universal. 
  • “The Last Planet” (Terrence Malick): My man! And another “Last”? And per the title, about environmental destruction? No. A retelling of several episodes in the life of Christ. With Geza Rohrig (“Son of Saul”) as Jesus, Matthias Schoenaerts as Peter, and Mark Rylance as Satan. Interesting. Will the Bible thumpers who continually complain about Hollywood come out for it? Nah. No doubt there will be doubt, and they don't pay for that. No distributor yet. 

So two Drivers, two Rylances, and two “Lasts.” And too auteur-driven? Reads like a critic's wishlist rather than Oscar‘s. Wells adds the caveat that “Carax is crazy” but “in a good way” and says he senses new possibilities in the post-“Parasite” world. Sure. Or reaction. People sensed new possibilities in a post-Obama world, but it turns out the people doing the sensing were fascists. 

Wells adds 15 more possibles: Chris Nolan’s “Tenet,” Charlie Kaufman's “I'm Thinking Of Ending Things,” Wes Anderson's “The French Dispatch,” Guillermo del Toro's “Nightmare Alley,” Sofia Coppola's “On the Rocks,” Denis Villenueve's “Dune,” Spike Lee's “Da 5 Bloods,” Edgar Wright's “Last Night In Soho,” Steven Soderbergh's “Let Them All Talk,” Adrian Lyne's Deep Water,“ Liesl Tommy's ”Respect,“ Paul Verhoeven's ”Benedetta,“ Apichatpong Weerasethakul's ”Memoria,“ Chloe Zhao's ”Nomadland“ and Mia Hansen-Løve's Bergman ”Island."

We'll revisit down the line.

Posted at 10:25 AM on Saturday February 29, 2020 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Tuesday February 11, 2020

Final Thoughts on the 92nd Oscars

OK, now that we got that out of the way...

When we began this century, a few things were obvious when it came to Oscar predictions. No. 1: Winning the DGA generally meant your movie won best picture. From 1969 to the end of the century—wait, let's go until 2012, a total of 43 years—the line between DGA and Oscar's best picture was broken only six times:

  • 1981 when Warren Beatty won the DGA for “Reds” but “Chariots of Fire” won the Oscar for best picture
  • 1985 when Steven Spielberg won the DGA for “The Color Purple” but “Out of Africa won best picture (that's when my friend Scott gave up on the Academy)
  • 1989 when Oliver Stone won the DGA for ”Born on the Fourth of July“ but ”Driving Miss Daisy“ won best picture
  • 1995 when Ron Howard won the DGA for ”Apollo 13“ but ”Braveheart“ won best picture
  • 1998 when Steven Spielberg won the DGA for ”Saving Private Ryan“ but ”Shakespeare in Love“ won best picture
  • 2005 when Ang Lee won the DGA for ”Brokeback Mountain“ but ”Crash“ won best picture (that's when I gave up on the Academy)

(Gotta say, DGA rocks on these; Oscar's choice is either subpar or downright embarassing.)

Six misses out of 43 tries: 87%. That's a good free-throw percentage. 

Well, that line is no more. In just the last seven years, it's been broken five times. It's now less likely than more likely:

  • Alfonso Cuaron DGA (and Oscar) for ”Gravity“ but best pic went to ”12 Years a Slave“
  • Alejandro Innaritu DGA (and Oscar) for ”Revenant“ but best pic went to ”Spotlight“
  • Damien Chazelle DGA (and Oscar) for ”La La Land“ but best pic to ”Moonlight“
  • Alfonso Cuaron DGA (and Oscar) for ”Roma“ but best pic to ”Green Book“
  • Sam Mendes DGA for ”1917“ but Oscar/best pic went to ”Parasite“

What else did we know? At the start of the decade, if you won the SAG award for actor, actress or the two supportings you had about a 60% chance (24 out of 40 from 2000 to 2010) of holding the Oscar. This past decade, that chance went way up to 85%: 34 out of 40, including sweeps in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.

If you‘re using the guilds as Oscar predictor, in other words, DGA is down while SAG is soaring. 

Oh, and for a while there, it seemed like Oscar and BAFTA were in tune. For six years, from 2008 to 2013, the two never disagreed on best picture. In the six years since, they’ve never agreed:

Year BAFTA Oscar
2019 1917 Parasite
2018 Roma Green Book
2017 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri The Shape of Water
2016 La La Land Moonlight
2015 The Revenant Spotlight
2014 Boyhood Birdman

This year, we hosted the usual party, a bit smaller, kind of fun for that. I liked Steve Martin and Chris Rock's bit. I still think Oscar is better with hosts, particularly funny ones. I loved Joaquin Phoenix's speech and hated the way the usual snarky folks on Twitter immediately reduced it to a joke. Jesus, people, listen. Didn't see Eminem. Loved the different singers who dubbed ”Frozen II“ in other countries joining Idina Menzel's Elsa on stage. Truly an international movie moment. Don't know why Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph don't host. It's just sitting there, people. Half the standing o's seemed to be for politically correct reasons now. Hildur Guðnadottir gets an Oscar for best score for ”Joker" and everyone stands? For her? No, not for her. She's the first woman to win best score, so they stood for what she represented. Essentially the Academy was giving itself the standing o for being woke. Stop that. Embarrassing. 

See you next year, Oscar. When, hopefully, you have hosts. And sit on your asses a little more. 

Posted at 07:29 AM on Tuesday February 11, 2020 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Monday February 10, 2020

‘Parasite’ Fans Slam Oscars for Doing Marginally What Other Film Awards Don't Do At All

Immediate thought last night: Bummer for Quentin but at least it wasn't “1917.”

Second thoughts, this morning: Damn, this victory lap by “Parasite” fans is annoying. 

It's the lack of perspective that bugs me most.

Last night, at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards, Oscar voters gave best original screenplay, director and picture to “Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho's movie about the Korean class system and its discontents. (Full disclosure: I'm so-so on “Parasite.”) It's the sixth time original screenplay has gone to a non-English language film (“Marie-Louise,” “The Red Balloon,” “Divorce Italian Style,” “A Man and a Woman,” and “Talk to Her”), and the second time, I believe, director has gone to a non-English language film (“Roma”).

Most important, it's the first time a foreign-language film, not to mention a foreign film, has won the Oscar for best picture.

Great. Chance to celebrate. But for some, it's also a chance to retroactively slam the Academy for not doing more. 

Here‘s a column from Justin Chang, film critic at the LA Times. After doing his own victory lap (“They gave the Oscar for best picture of the year to—wait for it—the actual best picture of the year”), and after saying he’s not going to slam the Academy (“But today is not a day to spend dwelling on the regressive missteps and missed opportunities of Oscar past”), he kinda does that:

“Parasite” has dealt a much-needed slap to the American film industry's narcissism, its long-standing love affair with itself, its own product and its own image. It has startled the academy into recognizing that no country's cinema has a monopoly on greatness...

First, did “Parasite” deal the American film industry a slap or did some part of the American film industry do that to itself? And if it did, was it a slap? I'm having trouble even unpacking this quote. I guess he's saying “Parasite” startled the Academy so much with its quality that it left it no choice? But it always had a choice. On Oscar ballots, it had eight other ones. Hell, not recognizing quality is one of the things the Academy does best.

Overall, it feels like Chang is slamming the Academy for doing something marginally that other countries don't do at all. Most countries' film awards actually are monopolies, in that they tend to exclude foreign films from even being nominated. The Goya is about the best Spanish movies, the Guldbagge Swedish movies; the Golden Horse is for Chinese language films, the Blue Dragon for South Korean films. Not that that doesn't make sense. Most countries struggle to keep their own film industry afloat amid the Hollywood deluge, and awarding its own, and excluding others, is one way to do that. But at least acknowledge this difference.

Just look at best director. This past decade, the Academy Award has gone to directors from Britain, France, Taiwan, Mexico, Mexico, Mexico, America, Mexico, Mexico, and now South Korea. Kind of international. In the same timeframe, the Blue Dragon, South Korea's film award, has gone to directors from South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, and of course South Korea. They were the only ones eligible.

The Academy has made a lot of mistakes over the years, and broken my heart so often that I've really stopped caring, but it is among the most international of film awards. It might be good to recognize that.

Posted at 01:48 PM on Monday February 10, 2020 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Thursday January 16, 2020

The 2019 Oscar Nominations: Thelma and the First-Timers, That '90s Show, and Bringing a Rock to a Bomb Fight

Oh right. The Oscar nominations.

Remember when I used to get up early on those Tuesday mornings—wasn't it always Tuesday mornings?—to be ready when whichever supporting star or stars strode to the podium to announce the year's nominees? Good times. Remember when I used to be outraged by Oscars' choices? Better times. Now I'm just bored with those who are.

The outrage today almost completely revolves around identity politics—#OscarsSoWhite, #OscarsSoMale—but you also got your hipster film fans who trash longtime character actors like Rami Malek because they don't want them to win in a particular year. And sure, Rami probably shouldn't have for “Bohemian Rhapsody”; but don't trash the man. I remember when he sprang off the screen in 2010 in “The Pacific.” His career is more than your petty animosity.  

This year's Rami seems to be Joaquin Phoenix, which is even more insane to me, because he's fucking amazing in “Joker.” Plus he has the longer, more storied career. Still, idiots/trolls keep trashing his performance. Not sure who they‘re pulling for at this point. Antonio maybe? Anyway I’m tired of it all. I'm tired of the Twitter of it all. It feels like Bernie bros all over again. 

Stephen King had the temerity to weigh in the day after. Here's what he said over two tweets: 

As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay. For me, the diversity issue—as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway—did not come up. That said...

...I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.

Of course the knives came out. He was attacked, maligned; his name trended. Two hours later, he tried to clarify:

The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation. Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts.

Howls. It was as if he'd killed MLK rather than stated a version of judging people not by the color of their skin but by the conscience of their character.

I suppose it's in the general that this conversation doesn't interest me. In the specific, I'm fine with it. 

Example: Some thought J Lo should‘ve gotten nominated for “Hustlers,” which they think a great movie. I think she was fine in a lousy movie so don’t see it as a big loss. But not nominating Zhao Shuzhen from “The Farewell”? 不好意思!

Some thought Awkwafina was a cinch for lead actress in “The Farewell.” Again, eh. But Lupita Nyong'o in “Us”? C‘mon, Academy. That shit blazed. 

The main thing I was disappointed in was the complete lack of anything for LuLu Wang’s “The Farewell,” which I think one of the best movies of the year. But I didn't even have time to get that complaint out. I picked up my rock only to see everyone around me tossing bombs. Classic Erik: bringing a rock to a bomb fight. 

Here are the nominees. With thoughts/factoids. Some of the latter come from Nathaniel.


  • Ford v Ferrari <— If you'd told me when this opened it would get nominated, I would‘ve shaken my head. Need to see it. Mangold has about as solid a track record as a director can have (“Logan,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “Walk the Line”) without ever blowing me away.
  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker <— The most nominations this year, 11, making it the most-nominated film to ever come out of the superhero realm. But of course it’s not really a superhero film. It's “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy” with clown makeup. “From the director who brought you ‘The Hangover Part III’”
  • Little Women <— Sixth time this has been made into a feature film. Previous: 1918, 1933, 1949, 1994, and last year. Oprah lists all the other versions, too. It's the second time the film has been nominated best picture. The first was the ‘33 with Katherine Hepburn; it lost to “Cavalcade.”
  • Marriage Story
  • 1917
  • Once upon a Hollywood <— My early pick to win: a Hollywood movie about Hollywood movies. Generally, Hollywood can’t resist. Plus it's the most poignant movie from a long-time celebrated auteur whose films have never won best picture.
  • Parasite <— It's the 10th foreign film to be nominated for best picture, and the first from Korea. The others: Grand Illusion (1938), Z (1969), The Emigrants (1972), Cries and Whispers (1973), Il Postino (1995), Life is Beautiful (1998), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Amour (2012), Roma (2018). None won. Oddly unsatisfying list, isn't it? I mean, considering all the great foreign films that could‘ve been nominated? Nary a Kurosawa, to begin.

DIRECTING <— Though attacked for leaving off Greta Gerwig, the directing award, in terms of winners, has gone from least diverse (always white men) to most (always with the Mexicans). Among the last 10 winners: one woman (American), and then this veritable UN of men: France, Britain, Taiwan, U.S., and three Mexicans sharing five awards. The last American man to win the award was Damien Chazelle for “La La Land.” Before him? The Coen Brothers for “No Country.” 

  • Bong Joon-ho, Parasite <— First Korean ever in this category
  • Sam Mendes, 1917 <— His first nomination since he won for “American Beauty” 20 years ago. That’s right: 20 years ago.
  • Todd Phillips, Joker <— Some are trying to Rami Malek him, but I was impressed.
  • Martin Scorsese, The Irishman <— His 9th directing nomination. What was his first? Nope, not that. It was “Raging Bull.” Interesting what was passed over when he was young.  
  • Quentin Tarantino, Once upon a Hollywood <— His year? Or do they keep the UN going and choose Bong?


  • Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory < The indie choice; the gay film Twitter choice. His first nom, btw. He's had five Golden Globe noms and six Goyas. Zorro lives. 
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Once upon a Hollywood <— Not enough people are talking about how good he was in this.
  • Adam Driver, Marriage Story 
  • Joaquin Phoenix, Joker <— His speech will be magnificent.
  • Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes <— His first! And least memorable! Maybe. I still need to see it. Or do I?


  • Cynthia Erivo, Harriet <— She goes from never nominated to twice nominated: here, and in original song (“Stand Up” from “Harriet”)
  • Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story <— Her, too! She goes from never nom‘ed to two in one year: here and supporting (“JoJo”). Of course she’s been attacked for taking up all those acting spots. It's like there's shame in it now. 
  • Saoirse Ronan, Little Women <— She's 25 and this is her fourth acting nomination (“Atonement,” “Brooklyn,” “Lady Bird”). Only Jennifer Lawrence got to four faster—also at age 25. Fastest to five is Kate Winslet, who was 31. 
  • Charlize Theron, Bombshell <— I'd have gone Lupita. She should‘ve gotten nom’ed for “Young Adult” seven years ago. 
  • Renée Zellweger, Judy <— Welcome back. Stop messing with your face. Do I have to see this movie? Do I hafta?


  • Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood <— I still think of him getting nominated every year but this is his first since “Castaway” in 2000. Also his first in a supporting role. Way to go, Kip!
  • Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes <— Another ’90s perennial (“Silence,” “Remains,” “Nixon,” “Amistad”). His first since ‘97.
  • Al Pacino, The Irishman <— His ninth nomination and first since he won for lead in “Scent of a Woman” in ’93. It's ‘90s reunion week. 
  • Joe Pesci, The Irishman <— And again! Third overall, first since he won for “Goodfellas” in ’90.
  • Brad Pitt, Once upon a Hollywood <— First nominated in ‘95 (“Twelve Monkeys”) and last nominated in acting in 2012 (“Moneyball”), he’s apparently the shoo-in. He's also the youngest of the five: My age, 56. He's about eight months younger than me. 


  • Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell <— Fourth overall, first since “About Schmidt” in 2002. Won't see this unless I need to do a piece on later Eastwood. He's increasingly problematic. 
  • Laura Dern, Marriage Story <— Third nom, no wins. Likely winner here. 
  • Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
  • Florence Pugh, Little Women <— Still need to see “Midsommar.”
  • Margot Robbie, Bombshell <— Her second nom after “I, Tonya.” She‘ll win soon. She’s too good and too hot not to. 


  • Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story <— Second screenplay nom. The other was also about divorce (“Squid”).
  • Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin Won, Parasite
  • Rian Johnson, Knives Out <— QT spoiler? Only nom for a popular film that adults can enjoy. Particulary Trump-hating adults. 
  • Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, 1917
  • Quentin Tarantino, Once upon a Hollywood <— His fourth screenwriting nom; he's won twice (“Pulp”; “Django”). Didn't win for killing Hitler. 


  • Greta Gerwig, Little Women <— Her third nom, second in screenplay
  • Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes <— He's the one I know least about in this category. Turns out he's written some of the flattest British biopics of the last 10 years that keep getting honored: “Theory of Everything,” “Darkest Hour” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And this. 
  • Todd Phillips & Scott Silver, Joker
  • Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
  • Steven Zaillian, The Irishman <— The Old Hand. Fifth nomination. Won for “Schindler's List.” 


  • Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse <— First timer. Did “The Witch” in 2015.
  • Roger Deakins, 1917 <— 15th nom in 25 years! I still think of him as the guy who never wins, but he won last time out, for, of all things, “Blade Runner 2049.” So never with Scorsese (“Kundun”), or the Coens (“Fargo,” “O Brother,” “No Country,” “True Grit”), or stellar work like “The Assassination of Jesse James...” 
  • Rodrigo Prieto, The Irishman <— Storied career, third nom (“Brokeback,” “Silence”).
  • Robert Richardson, Once upon a Hollywood <— With Deakins, the other Old Hand: 10th nom, 2 wins. Was Oliver Stone's guy (“Platoon,” “JFK”), sometime Scorsese (“Aviator,” “Hugo”), now QT‘s.
  • Lawrence Sher, Joker <— “From the DP of ’The Chumscrubber.'” His first. Other 2019 credit: “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” 

FILM EDITING —> AKA Thelma and the First Timers

  • Tom Eagles, Jojo Rabbit <— His first. He's still editing TV shows in NZ. 
  • Jeff Groth, Joker <— His first.
  • Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland, Ford v Ferrari <— Buckland's first, McCusker's second (“Walk the Line”). Only the second film Buckland has been editor on, after 2016's abyssmal “The Girl on the Train.”
  • Thelma Schoonmaker, The Irishman <— Longtime Scorsese collaborator with her 8th nom. Three wins: “Raging Bull,” “Aviator,” “The Departed.” How her editing of “Goodfellas” lost to the editing in “Dances with Wolves” is a true crime that needs investigating.
  • Yang Jinmo, Parasite <— His first. Only Hollywood credit: “Assistant to Mr. Kim,” the director of the 2013 Schwarzenegger flick “The Last Stand.” 

PRODUCTION DESIGN <— Is there a good doc about production design? Would love to see it.

  • Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales, 1917
  • Ra Vincent and Nora Sopková, JoJo Rabbit
  • Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
  • Ha-jun Lee and Won-Woo Cho, Parasite
  • Bob Shaw and Regina Graves, The Irishman


  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  • I Lost My Body
  • Klaus
  • Missing Link
  • Toy Story 4 <— Saw  this one

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE <— Saw none of them, but many are now streaming on the usual suspects (Neflix, Hulu). 

  • American Factory
  • The Cave
  • The Edge of Democracy
  • For Sama
  • Honeyland


  • Corpus Christi, Poland
  • Honeyland, North Macedonia
  • Les Misérables, France
  • Pain and Glory, Spain
  • Parasite, South Korea <— Saw this one.

The rest of the categories are here. The broadcast is early this year: Sunday, Feb. 9, 5 PM PST. BYOP. Popcorn. Kidding. We pop. But no bombs allowed. 

Posted at 12:34 PM on Thursday January 16, 2020 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  

Saturday March 23, 2019

The Oscars and Box Office: This Again, Again

If you‘re a best picture nominee that did well at the box office, you used to have a good shot at winning. No longer.

I’ve been busy since the Oscars—mostly being sick with the neverending crud—but I did want to post on this phenomenon since it's still holding true. 

For the 20 years before 2009, when the Academy widened its best picture nominees from five to 10, the eventual Oscar winner was almost always the first- or second-biggest box-office draw among the nominees:

Year  First Second Third Fourth Fifth Best Picture
1990 2 3 17 23 26 Dances with Wolves
 1991  3  4 16 17 25 Silence of the Lambs
 1992  5 11 19 20 48 Unforgiven
 1993  3  9 38 61 66 Schindler's List
 1994  1  10 21 51 56 Forrest Gump
 1995  3  18  28 39 77 Braveheart
 1996  4  19 41 67 108 The English Patient
 1997  1   6 7 24 44 Titanic
 1998  1  18  35 59 65 Shakespeare in Love
 1999  2  12 13 41 69 American Beauty
 2000  4  12 13 15 32 Gladiator
 2001  2  11 43 59 68 A Beautiful Mind
 2002  2  10 35 56 80 Chicago
 2003  1  17 31 33 67 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
 2004  22  24 37 40 61 Million Dollar Baby
 2005  22  49 62 88 95 Crash
 2006  15  51 57 92 138 The Departed
 2007  15 36 50 55 66 No Country for Old Men
2008  16 20 82 89 120 Slumdog Millionaire

Since the Academy expanded to 10 nominees in 2009 (and then up to 10 starting in 2011), and implemented the preferential ballot in 2009, the winner is never from the top three box-office draws among the nominees. At best, it's fourth; it could be as low as eighth:

Year  First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth Ninth Tenth Best Picture
2009 1 5 8 25 27 38 65 116 132 145 The Hurt Locker
2010 1 6 13 18 25 32 35 114 119 143 The King's Speech
2011 13 39 41 47 49 59 71 97 132   The Artist
2012 13 15 18 22 23 27 32 130 145   Argo
2013 6 17 28 32 62 80 95 100 117   12 Years a Slave
2014 1 36 54 61 78 85 100 125     Birdman
2015 8 13 21 42 44 62 70 111     Spotlight
2016 14 19 29 46 57 66 69 92 95   Moonlight
2017 14 15 39 46 51 52 56 105 112   The Shape of Water
2018 1 10 11 37 59 60 81 n/a     Green Book

What to make of this? Some guesses:

  • Under the old rules, the top three nominees in terms of box office would never have been nominated in the first place: Movies like “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Get Out,” “The Martian,” “Toy Story 3,” “Inception,” etc. So they‘re certainly not going to win. You can dismiss those three columns entirely. It’s all a show.
    • Follow up: Mostly true. But I think movies like “Avatar” (top draw in 2009) and “Gravity” (tops in 2013) would‘ve gotten nominated under the old rules; certainly “Lincoln” (top draw in 2012). All of those movies were also presumed to be best picture winners. They were frontrunners. Then poof. 
  • Merely nominating the boffo box office pictures frees Academy members to choose the picture they actually like rather than the one that’s popular. It's like [wiping hands], “Well, we‘ve done our duty.” 
  • In the past, once a movie won best picture, moviegoers flocked to it to see what the hubub was about; now they don’t. Now, at best, they wait for it to be available for home viewing.
  • It's a fluke.

Other thoughts?

Not sure how the preferential ballot factors into all of this. It supposedly pushes concensus choices to the top, like “Green Book,” but this has been one of our artier decades in terms of best picture winners. 

Speaking of: “Green Book” has been doing OK business since the Oscars but it still won't gross more than $100 million. This will be the sixth year in a row without a $100-million best picture winner. This used to be a regular thing (every bp winner between 1997 and 2004 grossed north of $100 mil) and now it's a nowhere thing. The 1980s had five best pictures that grossed more than $100 million—and that's unadjusted. This decade, with one year to go, has two: “The King's Speech” and “Argo.” 

A quick tabulation of $100-million best picture winners, via Box Office Mojo:

  • 1980s: 5
  • 1990s: 7
  • 2000s: 7
  • 2010s: 2

Again: that's unadjusted.

I don't see how this trend will change, either. The Academy wants to be a distinguished body, honoring prestigious work, but they‘re living in a country that’s more and more infantilized—often, ironically, by the work of its own industry. 

Posted at 09:16 AM on Saturday March 23, 2019 in category Movies - The Oscars   |   Permalink  
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