It’s that time of year again. Nathan (on your left) & Tyler (on your right) took their place behind the velvet rope and snapped away. By which we mean chatted on Facebook.
Nathan: So we left off with me talking a bit about the location shooting, the tightness of the writing in comparison to other Scorsese pictures, and the way I view AH as a sort of punk movie for MS.
Tyler: –wait, are we doing AH or are we doing the Oscars?
N: Oh…haahahahaha. Okay, we can do Oscars. Just make sure you put in your bits about AH. I have a few more things to say about that, but I think we can wrap it soon.
N: Okay, Oscars. Let’s start with the big hitter. Best Picture. Though I haven’t seen Philomena yet, this is probably the strongest BP field I’ve seen in ages. Wolf of Wall Street aside.
N: Wait, I haven’t seen Dallas Buyers Club either.
T: Philomena and Dallas Buyers are both excellent entertainment. In a pinch, Philomena‘s a more unified picture, but Dallas has a little more oomph to it. Man of the moment McConaughey is as good as advertised; Leto’s very, very effective, although I think his performance has raised eyebrows in certain observers for its somewhat yellow-face “gayness.” It didn’t bother me at all, but I’m not too familiar with that world in depth. Y’know, Texas transsexuals and so forth.
T: Those two are actually among my favorites of the nominees; what stood out for you?
N: My favorites are Her and Nebraska. I know that neither of them stand a chance in hell, but they were both thrilling for me. Nebraska was like being transported to an alien planet that I used to call home and Her, though set in the future, seemed as familiar as now.
N: The race seems to be between Gravity and 12 Yrs a Slave. Do you have a preference there?
T: Those are two terrific pictures.
N: I like both of them a lot, too.
T: Between those two, I still rank 12 Years higher, but I also rank it number one from all the films I saw this year.
N: This is going to be billed as a match-up between art-house seriousness (12 Years a Slave) v. popcorn entertainment (Gravity). I think it’s a stale argument, but I do like the fact that the race seems to be between those two extremes. Often the Academy gets justly accused of pandering to the middle or, in more recent years, not acknowledging more mainstream fare. Gravity is movie entertainment of the highest order and 12 Years is an art house movie that the mainstream can get behind.
T: It’s kind of funny, isn’t it–Best Picture races often come down to that dichotomy, High Art versus Commercial Appeal. Although I think Gravity, for all its lamented dialogue or backstory or whatever (not the point of the movie, haters), takes that popcorn heart a step beyond. Cuaron’s a craftsman. Of course, so very much too is McQueen, and I think 12 Years transcends your typical historical epic, for lack of a better word. Then again–you really think it’s between those two? My money’s still on Hustle.
N: Really? Hustle was probably the most fun I had with any of these nominees, and the Academy, whose largest bloc of voters is actors, might fall for the ensemble in Hustle. I know you’re not a fan of Hustle, but do you think the performances have merit? They were, for me, the first and foremost pleasure of the movie.
T: Yes. It’s complicated–
N: Ha! Well, at this point as long as Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t’ win, I’ll go to sleep happy.
T: Man, I’m seriously having a hard time articulating this. The characters in Hustle, I hate. And not the way I’m supposed to find them, I dunno, grating-but-interesting. I just fuckin’ hated them. But, Bale acquits himself well as always (even if the shot I always think of regarding his character is of his huge gut) and your girl Amy Adams wrings everything she can out of that ludicrous double-accented character. I swear, I’d have to go back and look, but the manner with which that accent was performed, directed and edited still doesn’t make any sense to me.
T: If Wolf wins there’s gonna be some furniture moving around.
N: The accent. I don’t think it was supposed to make sense!
T: I do plan on revisiting it. I really was in a strange headspace personally that week. But man do I not look forward to it. So much neurosis!
BEST DIRECTOR, NEBRASKA, BEST ACTOR & TV
N: But let’s talk about some of the other categories. I really like Cuaron for director. You have to be in a rare zone to pull off an exhausting movie like Gravity and he did it.
T: Hm. Yes he did. He did it before with Children Of Men, too. I would love to see him take it home, though I’m not sure what sense I’m getting from the Academy this year–I haven’t kept up with the politicking.
T: But you’re right. If someone’s gonna take —– years in preproduction between movies, especially after something like CoM, Gravity is reasoning why.
N: I’M PUTTING THIS IN BETWEEN THESE HASHES – Cuaron began principal photography in May 2011. Insane.
N: Yeah, all the others (Wolf excepted) are well-directed, but I think it takes a certain something to lock yourself in
that space for so long. And it’s not as if he was trying to hash out character backstories or location shooting, casting, etc. This was all about giving the viewer an experience like they’d never had before.
T: I can’t wait to see it in 3D. Cannot wait.
T: Never thought I’d say that.
N: While we’re talking about the director category, have you seen Nebraska? It’s probably my favorite of the BP nominees. It felt so much like pieces of my past. Things I’d seen, people I’d met, bars I’d been to. I know it won’t happen but I think Payne deserves as much credit as anyone else for his direction here. A droll regional comedy in black and white. Not an easy thing to pull off.
T: I sure have. I know it struck a real chord with you. It feels like Payne got back to what made him purr in the first place: the fascinating weird world of the Midwest. I didn’t dig it as much as others–I’m programmed to like his more traditional movies more–but I respect the hell out of it.
T: And Will Forte was great! I mean, I figured he would be because I trust Payne, but I still was pleasantly impressed.
N: Everyone I know has been hating on Will Forte, but I agree with you here. And though I don’t think he deserves to be alongside Dern in the acting category, he did pull it off. Speaking of Dern, I think it would be nice to see him win, both because he gives a fantastic performance, but also it would serve as representative award for a long, dazzling career.
N: But the buzz around McConneyhey seems to be strong.
T: I’m not a fan of representative awards, but maybe I’m still salty Peter O’Toole never got a real one. Holy fuck, you just butchered that spelling. I love it.
T: “McConneyhey” needs to be an Irish county that includes bluffs.
N: Yeah, I don’t like representative awards either, but since Dern’s performance really is an incredible piece of work, so I wouldn’t mind it here.
T: Dern’s performance is another I’d want to look at again. It’s so very quiet–almost statuesque. There are moments where I’d want to watch him just listen.
T: He just sits there while people talk about him. God love Payne for making such a character the center of a movie. Because they’re out there!
N: It is quiet. And I think that might be why he gets passed over for Ejiofor (more actorly, emotional) or McConneyhey (for the Method stuff).
T: Yeah, I was really hoping Ejiofor would be a lock, but I think that ship has sailed. I think McConaughey is a lock, and it’s pure timing. Voting closed this week, and–my own obsession aside–True Detective is very hot in industry circles right now.
T: The one-two punch of those stellar performances is gonna get him the statue, says me. On the other side, it’s looking like Cate Blanchett? I think? That’s a lukewarm race, I’ll tell you. Hollywood and its fine plethora of female roles.
N: Is TV officially taking over? This has to be the first time in which an actors chance at an Oscar is being bolstered by another performance being played out on HBO.
T: TV’s pulling even. Soderbergh and other directors are really starting to see how those outlets are much freer than the studio circus. Cinema will always be an old soldier and we’ll always have our Oscars (fuck, they still have the Grammys), but more and more, yeah, I think we’re gonna see that perception of artistic divide completely evaporate.
T: I mean, it’s a perfect storm with McConaughey–you can’t bank on that timing if you’re an actor angling for an award. (Which I don’t think he personally is.)
N: Yeah, it was interesting to see Behind the Candelabra (a decent movie, but nothing incredible) take the TV movie honors at the Emmy’s recently. It’s already happening, but I think we will see actors especially move back and fourth between the two formats. Notice, too, that Terence Winter, of Boardwalk Empire and Sopranos fame, is nominated in the adapted screenplay category for The Wolf of Wall Street.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY & BEFORE MIDNIGHT
T: Y’know, it just occurred to me. Who’s your dog in adapted screenplay? Yeah, this is a baited question based in our mutual interests.
N: Yeah, okay, I’m glad you brought this up. Like a lot of other people, I’m failing to understand how Before Midnight is an adapted screenplay. It’s original in every sense and would seem to have an upper hand over the other nominees for that reason. It should win and it’s my favorite of the bunch, but I’ll feel conflicted. I also really like the adaptation work they did on 12 Yrs. I haven’t read Northup’s autobiography, but my understanding is that they had to condense a number of different plantations into those two and they did an incredible job of streamlining his experience for the audience.
T: From what I understand, more dialogue than one would expect was taken from Northup’s book, and Ridley built that entire patois around it. I think he did a hell of a job–it’s a baroque dialect, but it sinks in and the only time the spell breaks for me is when the words are coming from Paul Giamatti and Brad Pitt, and that’s a casting issue. (No shade on those guys; that’s another discussion.) As for Midnight being adapted, that’s just the stupidity of the game. You don’t need me to tell you the Academy is facile up down and sideways 90% of the time. To be fair, it is a sequel, and I think it’d be pretty funny for Kim Krizan to get an Oscar for that story credit after these characters have come so far in the hands of Linklater, Delpy and Hawke. Man, I really need to see that movie again. It’s the first time in the Before… series that I DON’T want to, but I know I have to. That shit was a prickly pear. Brilliantly so, and I expected as much, but just as Sunrise makes you feel young and dreamy, and Sunset makes you feel wiser in love, Midnight makes you feel…ha, it reminds you “Yep, even the best relationships are hard, hard work, guys.”
T: What a sex scene. Right? That was next-level gut-punch French-cinema reality there. There are breastfeedings more erotic than that painful suckling.
N: When the hotel argument began I started to wonder if it was a documentary. I know that so much rides on the performances and the chemistry between Delpy and Hawke, but they created the only marital argument I’ve ever seen in the movies that I completely buy. All the tonal shifts, the power struggles, the ebb and flow, the sex. It’s raw, but man is it ever right.
T: Phew, yeah. At this point I hope for a fourth installment. It seems inevitable, as they’re in such an otherworldly groove. And maybe I want to see Jesse and Celine find a little more balance.
N: I think there will be a fourth installment. The films correspond chronologically with their own lives so well that in ten years they’ll start dealing with kids leaving for college, preparing for old age, empty nest, all that stuff. They’ll get on it and we’ll be thrilled. I hope that forty years from now we can see Celine and Jesse in old age. It better not look anything like Amour, though.
T: It would/will be interesting to see where Hawke wants to take Jesse. He has nonconventional views on monogamy and has not been afraid to discuss them.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY AND HER
N: In the original category, I’m rooting for Her. Jonze used believable sci-fi to make an extremely personal movie. It takes a lot to balance that sort of thing so that it doesn’t go fluttering off into all sorts of moronic directions.
T: Her, man. I was hoping you’d bring that up. As go deeply personal efforts, it was a stunner.
T: I think it was Glenn Kenny who noted that, yes, there are moments where it gets so close to too twee (that damn ukulele), but it never quite crosses the line. I like that. I’d rather hang out in Lost In Translation World. But Her Land is a fascinating, visceral place as well.
N: I’m not an avid fan of science fiction, but there is a sweet spot for me. The best science fiction is not about the future so much as it is about the ideas that the future embrace and the fact that no matter how technology evolves, we are still going to want the same things – human contact, love, understanding, relationship.
T: It uses science fiction like Children Of Men, or even Minority Report–smartly, “realistically,” folded into the narrative, not driving it.
T: And we’re talking about a movie where a computer is a real character! What an accomplishment. Samantha feels *so* real.
T: It is Samantha, right?
N: It is Samantha. Perhaps the greatest triumph of Her is that Jonze out Kaufmanns Kaufmann. He just ditches the self-reflexivity and creates something honest.
T: Now that, my friend, that is an Amy Adams performance about which I have no reservation.
N: Hahaha. I loved watching her develop that video game!
T: Silly wig and all, she makes that character so true. Everybody has at least one of those friends–that sweetheart bulldozed by a shitty romantic partner.
T: She’s a fuckin’ delight.
N: She is. Though I’m not sure that she and Theodore will make it.
T: I don’t even think they’ll hook up. I sort of hope they don’t. I’m still a little uncertain about Phoenix’s occupation. (Kenny also talked on this.) I forgive its presence, but it is a little much.
N: Oh, I thought his profession was perfect! It might be a little intrusive, but I imagine that is what Hallmark is going to have to do in the future to survive. Everyone is going to realize how impersonal e-cards are and no one is going to want to send anything in the mail on their own, so a company that writes letters for you is genius.
T: That’s a very good point.
T: So yeah, I’m with you. To quote a friend, Viva Her. Plus, a Jonze acceptance speech would be out of this world.
PRISONERS, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS & BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
N: Are there any other categories that pique your interest this year? I’d like to see Roger Deakins finally win a cinematography award, but I haven’t seen Prisoners, so have no idea if he deserves it or not.
T: I just said out loud “That is tough.” If Deakins wins…yeah, it’ll be an accrued-accomplishment award. Prisoners is quite good. But I didn’t know its pedigree going in and still pegged it as a non-American film (about America, of course) on visuals alone. Lots of long takes and wide frames. Deakins-by-numbers, really.
N: “Deakins-by-numbers.” Love it!
T: You catch Captain Phillips?
N: I did. And really liked it, too. Pleasantly surprised. United 93 aside, I’m not huge on Paul Greengrass (or Tom Hanks in dramatic roles), but Captain Philips is a nifty little action movie. And I think it very cleverly deals with some of the fundamental differences between first and third world cultures.
T: Couldn’t have put it better. Not big on Hanks in drama? That’s another another discussion, but interesting. If Leto somehow doesn’t win, I could see–yes, I’m checking the spelling here–Barkhad Abdi taking Supporting Actor.
N: It’ll be interesting to see where voters go on the Animated Feature category, too. Frozen was a huge popular hit, but I have to think they’ll give it to The Wind Rises (which I plan to see next week) as an honorary award to Miyazaki for lifetime achievement. It’s his final movie. There’ll be dozens of Disney animated whatevers in the future.
T: I saw an ad for that just yesterday! I still have yet to see any of his work. Man, the kids love that Frozen. My eldest niece has gone full princess thanks to that shit.
ELLEN, THE DEAD PEOPLE MONTAGE, BEST ORIGINAL SONG & PERSONAL PLANS
T: Any thoughts on Ellen as a host?
N: She’ll be good. She’s amiable, funny in a goofy, non-confrontational way, and she looks cute. She does a talk show for a living, so she knows how to MC.
T: Yeah, she’s kind of impossible not to like. It occurred to me earlier that I think Hoffman wins the morbid RIP Applause Game by a country mile.
N: Oh, definitely. Beloved actor, early death, heroin overdose. That’s a recipe for earth shattering applause at the Oscars. But maybe Shirley Temple will have something to say about that.
T: Ohhhhhh shit, yeah, you’re right. She wins, never mind. They’ll load him in there earlier. Then close out with her. Probably a big ol’ black-and-white glamour shot crossfaded into a musical number.
T: I got nothing on these best song candidates. Where’s Randy Newman??
N: Did he die, too?
T: Ha! That dude’ll find a way to get nominated from beyond the grave.
N: Yes, a Randy Newman Afterlife Achievement Award.
T: “It Ain’t So Bad (After Life)” from Up Part 2.
N: Are you watching with friends? I’ve decided that the ceremony is usually too boring and long to sit through by myself anymore. I tried to watch the Super Bowl by myself once (when it was Pitts v. Seattle) and it was one of the most depressing things I’ve ever done in my life. My TV was on the floor and I ordered chicken wings from Pizza Hut.
T: Oh dear. That sounds fucking dreadful. I’m working this year, but I’ve got plenty of TV access behind the bar. I’ll catch the last hour or so at home. I’d probably meet up with a buddy if that weren’t the case, though, and if not that at least be on Twitter. I say that seriously, because you ain’t kidding. There are gonna be long stretches of nothin’.
T: But, I will say: every year, without fail, they manage at least one montage or tribute that gets me enthralled.
N: Yeah, the clips are the best part. They remind us that the awards are just a nice way to say “thanks” for all the great work that we get to enjoy throughout the year.
N: 12 Yrs, McConneyhey, Blanchett, Abdi, Lawrence. The Wind Rises. Bruno Delbonell (cinematography), Cuaron (director).
T: Hustle, McConaughey, Blanchett, Leto, Nyong’o. Frozen gets a statue, as do Woody Allen and–in a surprise (?)–the dream team of Linklater, Delpy, Hawke and Krizan. Cinematography goes to Lubezki for Gravity, and Best Director, bum badabum, is David O. Russell.