Archive for January 2011
Of all the various trade unions in Hollywood, the four major unions that serve as precursors to the Academy Awards are the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild. The first three have handed out their annual awards, so I feel ready to go over some numbers.
First we have the Producers Guild. Of the past 10 films they’ve awarded as the best film of the year, 6 have gone on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. I wouldn’t place any bets based on their picks. This year the PGA went with “The King’s Speech”.
I would, however, make a wager based on the Directors Guild. They’ve been handing out annual awards for 63 years, and in the past 62 years their pick for best director has gone on to win the Oscar for Best Director 56 times (90.3%), including 8 times in the past 10 years. That’s pretty solid. The director who wins the DGA award will see his or her film win Best Picture 49 times out of 62 (79%), also 8 times in the past 10 years. This year the DGA also went with “TKS”.
Next is the Screen Actors Guild. In addition to lead acting and supporting acting awards, they hand out an ensemble cast award. This is something the Academy doesn’t do, and for some reason people like to interpret this award as the SAG’s vote for best picture. It’s only been an accurate barometer 5 times in the past 10 years, and 7 times since they began handing out this award in 1995. So it’s about as reliable as a coin toss. This year the SAG also went with “TKS”.
In the past 10 years 7 films have won awards from at least 3 of these 4 guilds. Of those 7 films, 5 won Best Picture (the two that didn’t were “Brokeback Mountain” and “Little Miss Sunshine”). So far this year “TKS” has won 3, and is expected to win one of the two screenplay awards handed out by the Writers Guild this Saturday. Only 2 films in the past decade won awards from all four guilds (“No Country for Old Men” and “Slumdog Millionaire”) and both of those won Best Picture.
The emerging consensus is that “TKS”, which I saw yesterday and considered to be nothing more than boilerplate Oscar bait, will win Best Picture. “The Social Network” was beloved by critics but may have run out of steam (the fact that it’s not a costume pageant about British royalty produced by the Weinsteins that appeals to older Academy members doesn’t help). However, I’m going to toss around some other statistics later this week before making any predictions.
I said I’d post a statistical analysis of this year’s Academy Award nominations this week. The data is still being compiled and I will break it up into installments. The first chunk will post tomorrow.
In the meantime, I will write about two Best Picture nominees I have seen this weekend — “The King’s Speech” and “The Fighter”. I initially did not have much interest in seeing either in the theater, after having watched the trailer for each. Nothing about them really interested me. But their numerous nominations have forced the issue, and I am now glad that I have, in so much that I can now render a verdict unto both films.
“The King’s Speech” is a good but not great film. Colin Firth does an excellent job as the stammering Prince-turn-King George VI and Geoffrey Rush is the calming, informal, effective speech therapist. The scenes of the therapy sessions are the highlight, especially when the therapist encourages the Prince to let loose with a long stream of invective. And I was impressed with the immense space of Westminster Abbey. But I can’t say it’s a movie I really want to see again. Once felt like enough.
“The Fighter”, on the other hand, is a wonderful movie. I admit, it has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood boxing movie: the come-from-behind aging boxer reaching at one last chance for a title shot, the dysfunctional family holding him back, the opponent in the Big Fight who is so tough he refuses to shake hands before the first round, etc. But the execution of the film makes it work, and the acting is first class. Christian Bale is Dicky Eklund, older brother and coach of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and crippled by a crack addiction. Bale absolutely deserves the Oscar he’s been nominated for. He steals every scene he’s in. Fellow nominees Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are excellent as the domineering mother and the sexy, quick-witted girlfriend, respectively.
So my updated recommendation for 2010 films is: “The Fighter” is an excellent film worth catching on the big screen, whereas “The King’s Speech” is worth renting when it comes out in a few months. Having now seen 9 or the 10 Best Picture nominees, I can confidently declare “The Social Network” as the best of the lot, and would be somewhat disappointed if “TKS” won.
For film addicts like myself, the morning Oscar nominations are announced is a second Christmas. This year’s nominations reveal a genuine race for Best Picture between “The King’s Speech”, a traditional period piece that will appeal to older Academy members, and “The Social Network”, the present-day tale of the founding of Facebook. “King’s Speech” leads with 12 nominations, followed by the Coen brother’s remake of “True Grit” with 10 and “Social Network” and “Inception with 8 each.
I want a few more days to compile statistics, but for now I want to make a point about the emerging claim that “The King’s Speech” will win because it has the most nominations. A statistic I’ve seen in more than one online article claims that 75% of the Best Picture nominees that receive the most nominations will win. This may be true historically, but it’s only been the case 5 times in the past 10 years. And while it was also the surprise winner of last weekend’s PGA award, that award has predicted the eventual Best Picture film 6 times in the past 10 years. Neither of these facts suggest “The King’s Speech” winning Best Picture is a sure thing.
I do not want to say more right now as I have not seen that movie yet, though it’s coming to the Cedar Valley this weekend. I also need to see “The Fighter”, which received 7 nominations, including 3 for its actors. “127 Hours” is the other Best Picture nominee that I haven’t yet seen, and I have no idea when it will come this way.
Random thoughts about the nominations:
The biggest surprise was the enormous support for “True Grit”, which had received zero nominations at the Golden Globes (perhaps due to its late release). Jeff Bridges was nominated for Lead Actor as Rooster Cogburn, the role that won John Wayne his Lead Actor award back in 1969. The film could play the role of spoiler in the Best Picture race if “King’s Speech” and “Social Network” split the vote.
The biggest loser was “Inception”, which was nominated for Best Picture but not for its director, Christopher Nolan, nor for any of its actors. “Blue Valentine”, a highly praised film, received a single nomination for Michelle Williams, and “The Town” received a single nomination for Jeremy Renner. “The Ghost Writer”, my favorite film of 2010, came up empty handed.
Disney’s “Tangled” was snubbed for Animated Feature Film, it’s expected nomination going instead to little-seen French film “The Illusionist”. Perhaps voters felt Disney, which now owns Pixar, only deserved one nomination in the category, which it received for “Toy Story 3” (also a Best Picture nominee). Pixar has won 5 of the 9 awards in this category since it was created, and “TS3” is expected to be its fourth-straight winner.
Other snubs — “Black Swan”, a film about ballet dancers, was left out of the Art Direction and Costume Design categories. “Waiting for Superman”, one of the best-reviewed documentaries, failed to be nominated in the Documentary Feature category. And “I Am Love” was very disappointingly passed over in the Foreign Language Film category.
One reason why the Academy expanded the race from 5 films to 10 last year was to bring in a greater mix of both commercial successes and small-budgeted independent films. This year’s nominees vary widely in their box office receipts, from the $415 million for “Toy Story 3” to the $6 million for “Winter’s Bone” and $11 million for “127 Hours”. Last year’s winner, “The Hurt Locker”, ended its theatrical run with a mere $17 million, one of the lowest of any Best Picture winner in nearly half a century.
James Franco, co-hosting this year’s ceremony with Ann Hathaway, is the 8th host to receive a nomination (for Lead Actor in “127 Hours”). Only 2 of the previous 7 hosts who were also nominees ended up as winners.
A statistical-heavy entry will come later this week.
An amendment to last night’s post — I do have several friends who use their blogs as a primary means of keeping people updated on their lives, and I do appreciate those efforts. Especially those who post on a daily or near-daily basis, as I did with my previous blog. My main gripe wasn’t so much with the method of communication as it was with the brevity that sites like Facebook and Twitter require for their users. Can you really convey anything significant about your life in 140 characters or less?
I deleted my Facebook account in part because I disliked how it made me feel like a stalker – you peruse someone’s profile, find out if they’re married or single, in college or in the workforce, where they’re living, how many kids they have, how their appearance has changed, their preferences in music, movies and politics, all while never actually engaging in any real-time conversation with the individual. It’s like having an FBI dossier on all of your friends and family at your fingertips, and they willingly supply the information.
I also deleted it because I disliked how it made people lazy. When you write a letter, you address it to a specific address. Phone calls require you to dial a number. Emails and instant messaging required a specific recipient. But Facebook status updates are just thrown out there into the nether. You post a little ditty about your day on the internet and you assume others will read it before it slips off the bottom of their main page. It’s the online equivalent of a bulletin board. And it is the requirement of the other person to obtain the information from you. It’s like playing a game of catch and throwing the ball only halfway and waiting for them to walk the remaining distance to pick it up.
I admit, blogging can be viewed the same way, but I try to make this blog less about my daily affairs and more content-oriented, and comments from readers are available to facilitate online conversation. So if people want to know what’s going on in my life, this blog isn’t going to do the legwork for them.
Since deleting my Facebook account 4 months ago, I find I hear from very few people anymore. If I don’t live within close enough proximity to engage in face-to-face conversation, then I am left out of the loop. I do my part by writing emails from time to time, something I should try to do more of. I haven’t received any comments on this blog yet, although I know I don’t have as many readers as I did on my previous venture.
Nowadays, if you don’t use Facebook, you pretty much don’t exist to other people. So I shrug my shoulders and accept that I am now out of the loop with most of my family and friends. I require too much of their time to stay current on each other’s affairs.
I make these observations as I just watched “The Social Network” tonight with Micah. We had a discussion about the disturbing trend of people to rely on Facebook as their sole means to their family and friends at the expense of other means of communications. I refuse to let a single website control the content of my communications — a third reason why I quit. And if you need a fourth, how about the fact that Facebook owns the content on your profile and can do with them whatever they see fit.