Friday, February 17, 2012

(Glenn) Close but No Cigar: When Stagnation Turns Ugly

By Alex "The Savant" Heisman

I figured it best that I at least chime in one more time on the Oscar race before my final prediction piece for the ceremony on February 26th. It seems unbelievable to me that a time usually so vibrant with life and ruthless campaigns can be so anticlimactic and droll as this year is playing out to be. It’s actually rather unfair more to our readership than myself as, instead of a month where I personally feel my writing can really take off in covering the race, I am forced to write monotonous pieces with a somber undertone of slightly morbid finality. I promise, readers, that The Savant will truly emerge and become as ruthless as some of the studio campaigns during next year’s Oscar coverage when I take sides, argue my points, and regain the understanding and love for the sport that has begun to falter this year.

I have no particular theme for this article, as, indeed, I am basically forcing myself to write it. There are a few things, however, that I wanted to touch upon so that one may be aware of them in leading up to the ceremony:

The Battle for Best Actress Heats Up
The only real tension this season does, in fact, lie in the one place destined to give me a heart attack. Close friends Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Viola Davis (The Help) are essentially tied 51/49- favoring Davis- for the win in the Best Actress category.  When Meryl Streep won the Screen Actors Guild award in 2008 for her role in Doubt, she begged the moviemakers in the room to please “give (co-star) Viola Davis a leading role soon!” Little did she know that “soon” meant just three years later in a role that would provide for her stiffest competition towards the Oscar. Both women are massively talented- and I promise I will actually compose the “Why I Love Meryl So Much” piece after the Oscars. If Paul can write his magnum opus on Crash, it’s time for mine- so a win for either would certainly not be a negative thing. The Help is better received than The Iron Lady, although The Help did miss extremely crucial Directing, Writing, and Editing nominations that can hurt Davis. The precursors also give us no discernable frontrunner as Streep hauled the Golden Globe and BAFTA awards whereas Davis took the SAG and Broadcast Film Critics Choice awards. Many factors including her age in a industry that values young ingĂ©nues, her previous two wins, and not being an African-American woman seem to signal that Streep must AGAIN sit this one out while voters progressively tick off the box next to Davis’ name. Either way, I will be anxiously awaiting this particular category all night!

Can Sound Mixer Greg P. Russell Finally Pull Off a Win?
An affable looking man, going off of his IMBD photos, Russell earns his fifteenth
nomination this year for his work in mixing aural elements for the flick Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Even though they aren’t household names, Russell and his friend and co-sound mixer Kevin O’Connell are actually pretty famous within the Academy…. for a disturbing reason. O’Connell has twenty Oscar nominations, with Russell now earning his fifteenth, without a win between them. They are the two most nominated individuals in the history of the Academy Awards without a win. While O’Connell is not nominated this year, Russell must face off competition from the mixing teams from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Moneyball, and War Horse. Shall we expect to see Greg P. Russell finally anoint the stage with his presence and thus be anointed by the golden man in the process? Smart money says unfortunately not. Hugo, with regards to the sounds emanating from the locomotives, and War Horse, for all the do-to about the war elements, stand a better chance here than the third entry in a stale, poorly received summer blockbuster franchise.

Terry George is Nominated WHERE?!
Famous Irish filmmaker Terry George earns his third career nomination with a placement in the Live Action Short category. With two previous failed nominations for writing In the Name of the Father and Hotel Rwanda, George, along with his daughter Oorlagh (there’s a name!), are in the running for their 29 minute film The Shore starring Ciaran Hinds, Conleth Hill, and Kerry Condon. Usually both being a named filmmaker and using big-name actors is enough in this category- famous directors and actors Walt Disney, Taylor Hackford, Christine Lahti, Peter Capaldi, Susan Seidelman, Kenneth Branagh, Ray McKinnon, JoBeth Williams, Jeff Goldblum, Andrea Arnold, David Frankel, and Martin McDonagh have all won or been nominated for Oscars in this category- is enough. In a simple maneuver, if voters tick off the right box in this instance, the world can add one more name to this stellar list and say Academy Award Winner Terry George. Most pundits agree that George will probably not win in this category, although shorts are somewhat harder to predict. I personally will be rooting for him and his daughter.

Will Woody and Terrence Actually Show Up?
No they will not. The skittish Woody Allen has never attended the Academy Awards, save once, a couple months after 9/11, when he told a few jokes and gave a speech pleading filmmakers to come back and make films in his beloved city before he introduced a package of film clips put together by Nora Ephron, quickly left the stage, and exited the auditorium altogether. This appearance, known only beforehand by host Whoopi Goldberg and the producers was one of the craziest things to ever happen at the Oscars. Allen has been quoted as saying immediately after he won two awards for Annie Hall, “I have no regard for that kind of ceremony. I just don’t think they know what they’re doing. When you see who wins those things- or who doesn’t win them- you can see how meaningless this Oscar thing is.” Allen has never collected any of the three Oscars he has been awarded over his career, instead electing to play his clarinet at his favorite jazz club into the wee hours of the morning.

Likewise, publicity shy and super-recluse Terrence Malick will also not be there. Malick has only made five films over the course of his thirty-nine year career, as he prefers to write hundreds of pages, and shoot and edit over a million feet of film in a massive and time-consuming process. Only one photograph of him is known to exist, as Mr. Malick is probably the shyest person in the world. He has it written into his contracts that no interview can be taken with him, no photo of his can be used in promoting the film, and that no one may speak on his behalf or about him. Often misunderstood as arrogance or indifference, Malick caused quite a stir when it was rumored that he was in the building when his film The Tree of Life won some big awards at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. While Malick did not, in fact, grace the stage, he was waiting backstage nonetheless. Rumor has it that he is actually somewhat thrilled at his nomination this year and maybe, perhaps, could be, pondering, weighing the pros and cons, thinking about attending. He might even be able to pull of a surprise win in Best Director, however, the only other time he was nominated (twice in the same year), and did not attend, he did not win. This may signal that the Academy wants to honor someone who will actually show up and act grateful for the honor of winning. Of course, Malick may not actually exist after all and could be a conspiracy orchestrated by the powers-that-be!

*It must be noted, however, that Malick’s longtime producers broke the cardinal rule last time around in promoting The Thin Red Line and spoke on his behalf in an interview about the Oscars. Malick was reportedly so incensed that he flat-out refused to attend and wanted invitations rescinded for the two men who were in error. Malick finally relented when the Academy agreed to place the men and their wives in the middle of a row at the very back of the theater. The information regarding his possible attendance this year comes from, you guessed it, these two men. So, take that with as large a grain of salt as you want. Either way, Malick ACTUALLY showing up would be tantamount to a Bigfoot sighting, if not even more elusive and radical.

Godspeed fellow Oscar watchers as we plunge into the abyss that is less than two weeks before the ceremony. By the time this article is posted my birthday will have passed (so I wanted to plug my own birthday- sue me) and there will be even less days till the shindig. See you around for my final prediction review!


  1. Alex, thanks for your musings on this year's Oscars and some of its history. Wanted also to send you belated birthday wishes!

  2. @ Mr. G,

    Thanks so much for reading our site and frequently commenting on the posts! And, of course, for the birthday wishes :)

    -The Savant

  3. You're an encyclopedia of film/actor knowlege! I love your sarcastic and charming wit that's intersperced with the facts! Can't wait for Oscar night!