A Hidden Life
It’s one of the year’s best and most distinctive movies, though sure to be divisive, even alienating for some viewers, in the manner of nearly…
“Post coitum omni animal triste est.” That’s Latin for “all animals are sad after coitus,” which wisdom was derived from, according to Wikipedia, a Greek doctor names Galen, who exempted only human females and male roosters from his generalization. Make of that what you will.
Anyway, my 21st-century update on the adage is this: “Pre coitum omni Oscar Blogger triste est.” We are just a few days away from the 87th Academy Awards, and lovers of showbiz and cinema ought to be abuzz with anticipation or at least amused curiosity, and I presume most of them are. Except, as far as I can tell, for a fair number of people who make their living by covering and/or predicting them. This is one bunch of tired, shagged-out, bummed-out people, let me tell you.
This is particularly true of the Oscar bloggers who are also Oscar partisans. “The Industry’s Full Embrace of Birdman only a Matter of Time” reads the headline for a piece posted by Sasha Stone at her Awards Daily site on Monday. The first graf has all the hallmarks of a particular type of awards blogging, including the vaguely self-congratulatory citing of an anonymous “industry” source (“I don’t think of him as an Academy member but a smart, funny, engaged, curious filmmaker,” well okay then) who feeds the writer a blanket statement that’s intended to wrap up the whole damn situation, in this case, “I talked to my friends in the Academy and none of them are voting for ‘Boyhood.’” (Damn, I sure hope the smart, engaged, curious filmmaker wasn’t Rick Linklater, like, how awkward…) This news did not, um, sit well with Stone, who luuuves “Boyhood:” “I tried not to be an asshole about it but you know, some things really can’t be kept in.” Stone continues, rising to a pitch of disappointed world-weariness: People voting in an awards race, she concludes, “pick what they like best. It’s as simple as that. Everything else they characterize as ‘noise.’”
Hmm. And you’re just getting this now? How long has Awards Daily been a going concern, anyway? (Don’t answer that. No, I’m sure somebody will. I’m just saying right here, I don’t want it answered. Just registering a wish. Thanks.) In the meantime, over at Hollywood Elsewhere, in between bouts of not quite understanding that “candor” and “honesty” don’t really make your opinions on topics people aren’t interested in your opinions about interesting or valid, Jeffrey Wells—a passionate “Birdman” man (as his commentariat has figured out, there’s nothing he likes better than a movie which presents any midlife crisis he’d prefer to whatever his own was)—grumbles that “the Oscar blogoscenti keep insisting that the Academy membership is too hazy-minded to predict that ‘Boyhood’ and Linklater might pull off a surprise.” This notion presents a thorn in Wells’ side, which he tries to show some equanimity about: “Maybe. Both are striking first-rate achievements, and if the tide goes against ‘Birdman’…well, okay. The Godz won’t be happy but it won’t be a tragedy.” (“The Godz,” by the way, is short for “The Movie Godz,” which Wells calls the voices in his head that he thinks represent the higher forces of cinema; why they are named after a perhaps purposefully dreadful psychedelic rock group that was signed to ESP-Disk in the early ‘70s is beyond me.) Later, in his breakdown of predictions, he gives an “I don’t care” to three whole categories. Someone who actually gets off on betting in an Oscar pool that contains all the categories is likely to feel like Oscar Madison bursting into the living room with a bottle of champagne, bellowing “Is everybody HAPPY?” only to find Felix and the Pigeon sisters in sobbing hysterics.
Over at his Hot Blog at Movie City News, the almost-never-sanguine David Poland offers quasi-Zen koans along the lines of “So pick your poison. Do The Globes matter… or do they not?” and offering statistics that slice the odds this way and that, all with a not-atypical subtext of not just being fed up with the whole g-ddamn thing but also with you, and how you’re just wrong. Even the unfailingly smart and incisive Mark Harris, writing at Grantland, has shifted into resignation mode, sensing a “Birdman” win and not much liking it, despite his overall admiration for the movie: “Like Time magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year, the Best Picture winner is now always ‘You.’ Or, as the Academy thinks of itself, ‘Us.’” The only full-time online Oscar watchers not yielding to some form of distemper are In Contention’s Kris Tapley, who’s filing various guild award results with the machine-like efficiency of a minor character in “The Front Page,” and I suppose the intensity of the pace is helping him fend off malaise. Which isn’t to say he’s without opinions, even contrary ones (“So I'm just left sort of wondering aloud, outside of critics, whose movie is ‘Boyhood?’", God, CRITICS, amirite?) but at least he isn’t giving off too much of a feel-bad vibe. Similarly indefatigable is Tom O’Neil and his crew at Gold Derby, who are more than happy to throw your Oscar pool sheet into a sea of doubt by publishing all number of contradictory expert opinions, very cheerily disseminated.
What about me? You must have me confused with an Oscar prognosticator. Or maybe you have me pegged as someone with an axe to grind against all the writers cited above. Au contraire! It’s all about ethics in Oscar journalism, so I’ll do full disclosure: I’ve never met Sasha Stone but we’ve had several spirited exchanges on social media, and I think as of now we’re not speaking but I have to check; Jeffrey Wells and I are not personally unfriendly; nor am I unfriendly with Mssrs. Poland and Tapley; Mark Harris IS a pal; Mr. O’Neil and I are not unfriendly, but after he slagged Murnau a few years ago relations are rather cooler than they’d been. Oh, wait—you don’t care about that. You want MY Oscar predictions? All right. I’ll do the “Should Win”/”Will Win” thing.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Should Win: Michael Keaton for “Birdman”
Will Win: Eddie F**king Redmayne for “The Theory of Everything”
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Will Win: J.K. Simmons for “Buddy Rich? Really?” I like him so much in general I won’t hold it against him.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Should Win: Patricia Arquette for “Boyhood”
Will Win: Arquette. Yay me, I got one right! Oh wait.
Should Win: “The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya.”
Will Win: No idea.
Should Win: “Selma.” Although my favorite is “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Does that make sense to you? Me neither.
Will Win: “Boyhood.” Which also SHOULD win. Does that make sense to you?
Should AND Will: Lubezki for “Birdman.”
You tired and/or sad yet? Yeah, me too. You’re on your own for the rest of your Oscar pool ballot, but if you were gonna follow my advice you’re likely worse off than I am. See you Monday!
The best films of 2019, as chosen by the staff of RogerEbert.com.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A review of three premieres from Telluride.
The top 50 shows of the 2010s.