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WLA’S Completely Unschooled & Unjustified Oscar Predictions -UPDATED


UPDATE: NOW THAT THE Oscars are over,
and in honor of the…um…spirited discussion that’s taken place on this thread, it seemed only right to make sure you all have had a chance to see the following post-Oscar video. (My favorite moment was at 4:45 minutes. J.G., all is forgiven.)

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An extremely intellectual friend of mine who lives in DC and is not overly given to popular culture,
told me he might break down and watch the Academy awards this year. I was stunned that Academy viewing was a new thing for him and told him so. (I think I also might have mentioned that NOT watching the Oscars means that you hate America.)

I tried to explain that that one could skip the Super Bowl, and still be a good citizen. But not the Oscar broadcast. “And TiVo-ing doesn’t count,” I said. “You have to watch it in real time. And you have to comment on the dresses.”

The dress thing unnerved my friend and he attempted to change the subject
by mentioning the new article about China by James Fallows that’s in the most recent Atlantic Monthly. I sensed some dark implication about the Chinese pulling ahead of us economically because we watch stupid awards broadcasts instead of keeping our eyes on the economic ball.

“The Chinese watch the Oscars,” I said.
“Hell, they’ve probably found a way to trade Oscar film futures on the Shanghai stock market.” And speaking of futures, I mentioned that this years awards show featured the added frisson of wondering if Jon Stewart’s going to do or say anything unscripted and extremely political that will freak out the conservative members of the audience. “Oscar audiences like funny but they don’t like edgy funny,” I said. “Plus, because of the writer’s strike, Stewart’s had only three days (or may 10 days, but not long) to prepare for his host gig, whereas when Billy Crystal hosts, he prepares for nearly six months.” (No, I’m not kidding. Crystal once told me this in an interview.) “So anything could happen.”

“But I haven’t seen most of the movies,” my friend wailed. “Doesn’t matter,” I said. “Picking winners when you have no solid basis for your opinions is a time honored Hollywood tradition. It’s how studio heads decide which pictures to green light.”

Which brings us to…..


(I’ll show you mine, then you have to show me yours.)

Okay, here they are….


No Country For Old Men

I got into a discussion with one of my journalism classes about this category and a lot them thought it ought to be Juno, No chance, I said. Juno, which was far too impressed with its own cleverness, will get best original screenplay. But not best picture.

There Will Be Blood could get it and surprise us. But No Country is the better all round package. Wonderful acting. Great directing. A script that’s based (very skillfully) on the work of one of the true masters of American prose writing, Cormac McCarthy. There’s not a false move in this film. Whereas, There Will Be Blood, as good as it was, made me curl up in a fetal position toward the end. Not that this a bad thing, artistically speaking. But, as a rule, Oscar voters don’t give their top prize to a film that induces in its viewers either PTSD or noticeable twitches.


Duh....! Daniel Day-Lewis. Yeah, I suppose there could be an upset and Tommy Lee Jones could get it because he arguably deserves it for both No Country and the Valley of Elah. And Mike Huckabee could theoretically still get the Republican nomination. But neither one is likely to happen. Lewis gave the kind of unforgettable, barn burner of a performance that haunts your psyche for years after. In the end, no real competition. He’s the guy.

For the record, Viggo Mortensen’s steam bath scene in Eastern Promises was pretty damn good. And someday we’ve got to give Johnny Depp the award. (But it’s probably not going to be for a role in either a musical or a movie based on a theme park ride.)


Julie Christie in Away From her
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Lots of people like the that smart little Ellen Page from Juno.. But it’s gonna be Julie Christie’s year.)


Tough one.

Cate Blanchette was fabulous in her crossing-dressing take on the one, the only Robert Zimmerman, but she already got an Oscar, like, recently.

Ruby Dee (American Gangster) wasn’t on screen long enough, although it’d be great to see her get it.

If the Oscar voters want to give Michel Clayton an award for something, which many do, Tilda Swinton’s their best shot…so the smart money might be on her.

But, hey, screw it. I’m going with Blanchette.


Javier Bardim (Like there’s a question???)

(original), No Country (adapted from another medium)


The Coens.
No Country For Old men


Okay, your turn.


  • The only thing that could screw your predictions up very much is that “No Country” and “Blood” appeal to the same people for much the same reasons. I think there’s a good chance that this could be one of those weird years when the best picture and best director prizes are split – probably with “Blood” taking Best Picture and “No Country” taking Best Director if they split. A split would reflect some sort of cosmic fairness, because IMHO “Blood” was the more audaciously great – and flawed – film. (The Grand Guignol finale was so implausibly over-the-top and awful it was almost good.)

    “No Country” was a better movie but, for the brilliant Coens, not a particularly risky venture. There was – despite Javier Bardim – little of that feeling of “I’ve never seen anything quite like this” that I felt when I left “Blood.” (Except for that air compressor thing – which actually gets Bardim docked a couple of points for having the acting advantage of a weird weapon. He still takes the prize.) And though both were adapted, “Blood” was clearly the singular vision of Paul Thomas Anderson – which should at least get him the writer’s award since for me his project invokes adjectives like “biblical” and “shakespearean.”

    I’ve not seen any of the Best Actress movies and won’t likely. Will probably watch Juno on DVD. But on the Cate Blanchett supporting deal, I’d like to see Ruby Dee get the award as some kind of “lifetime recognition” moment. I can’t remember whether I saw her first in “Raisin in the Sun” or “The Balcony”, but she’s one of the class acts of American film and theater. Cate Blanchett’s “Dylan” was hilarious but if you’ve seen “Don’t Look Back” it was totally pointless and too reminiscent of Blanchett’s other Oscar for doing a Katherine Hepburn imitation that was only a bit better than Martin Short’s. (Actually, I enjoy Short doing Hepburn more than I enjoyed much of anything about “The Aviator.”) Blanchett is a great actress, but let’s not give her awards for her periodic impersonations. Blanchett’s performance in “I’m Not There” was the best of the “biopic” Dylans (far more fascinating than the ridiculous “Mighty Wind” section with that guy from “3:10 to Yuma” or Heath Ledger’s vapid Woodstock version) but it only underscored the flaws of the film. The only parts I thought worked in what was admittedly a brilliant, daring concept were the ones that were most surreal – the little black “Woody” kid and the “Basement Tapes Album Cover” segments. (I’d like to hear what any of the 117 other people who saw the movie think, despite it having only a tangential relationship to the Oscars.) So I’m for Ruby Dee on the general principle that these awards are pretty dumb but probably seem especially important if you’ve been around forever doing important work yet have never gotten one. So I think she’ll get it. Blanchett’s already gotten one for the same trick and will undoubtedly get at least one more for better stuff.

    On supporting actor, a case can be made for Phillip Seymour Hoffman because he’s had two great performances this year, but his Capote statue has barely collected any dust and he’s always terrific, so fuck him.

  • Call me a commie, but I don’t make a point of watching the Academy Awards. Oh, I might catch some of it switching channels between FOX and ESPN, but I don’t care for a bunch of left-wing Hollywood types giving each other awards. I’d just as soon go to an accounting meeting.

    Also, I rarely watch movies, but I’m always suspicious if a movie won “Best Picture,” which means that it must be dull and “intellectual” and/or with left-wing political implications.

  • Speaking of accountants and the Oscars….

    LINK: Films ‘robbed’ of an Oscar

    Shawshank Redemption has topped a poll of films that should have won an Oscar – but never did.

    :: Top 10 films that should have won an Oscar

    1. The Shawshank Redemption
    2. The Sixth Sense
    3. Fight Club
    4. Blade Runner
    5= It’s a Wonderful Life
    5= The Great Escape
    7= Taxi Driver
    7= Psycho
    9. Singin’ in the Rain
    10. Dr Strangelove

    The Academy hates accountants.

  • As I was watching “There Will Be Blood”, when ever I saw Daniel Day-Lewis on screen, my mind kept having flash-backs to his meat-cleaver slinging character in the movie “Gangs of New York”, so I was never sure whether I was watching “There will be Blood” or “Gangs of New York”, so a NO vote from me.

    The movie “No Country for John McCain” is my pick for best movie and Tommy Lee Jones for best actor. Tommy Lee is more deserving for all his great work, such as Coal Miners Daughter, The Executioner’s Song, Under Siege, The Fugitive, JFK and a few other movies I probably forgot.

    I use the site below before wasting time and money at the movies, “full previews” are available.

  • Sorry for one more, but you really should check out this poll of America’s true patriots:

    Watching the Oscars? (Still in progress at this point.)
    Yes – 2% (10 votes)
    No – 98% (556 votes)


    ♦ What value is there in watching this Hollywood freak show?
    ♦ If I want to see rampant anti-Americanism, I’ll just tune in to JTV (Jihad TV). At least they are not elite, egotistical snobs.
    ♦ And I wonder how many of them will take the time to laud and praise good old Fidel?
    ♦ … I never did get any sort of need or thrill in watching someone else’s practice of “self-gratification” …
    ♦ where’s the ‘not even if you paid me’ option?
    ♦ If the weather clears in CA, I’ll be watching the NASACR races both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series. After that there is drag racing.
    ♦ I don’t care to watch a bunch of super rich america hating liberals tell me how bad a person I am in their acceptance speech for a quite frankly some mundane pedestrian acomplishment. These people aren’t important to the real world, so why are they exhaulted to a near godlike position?
    ♦ I have a long standing tradition of watching them with a friend and she was upset when I was going to start boycotting a few years ago. I told her that I would only watch if she promised to make fun of the asinine things they said with me.
    ♦ I will be watching Pride and Prejudice on PBS Masterpiece Theater. You know real actors with talent unlike Hollywood actors there because they were sodomized by perverted studio heads.

    I didn’t know that NASCAR was on. But, I was planning on watching bowling, instead–much better than Hollywood political babble.

  • “I’m always suspicious if a movie won “Best Picture,” which means that it must be dull and “intellectual” and/or with left-wing political implications.”

    Right, Woody. That’s what Titantic, Shakespeare in Love, American Beauty, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, Lord of the Rings, Million Dollar Baby, Crash and The Departed all had in common. Get back to me about “Hollywood political babble” when you quit adulating Reagan, the GOP stops throwing mediocrity like Fred Thompson at us and Arnold leaves Sacramento. You’ve got a point, but you’re severely irony-impaired.

  • Reg, I want Ruby Dee too, and I’m thinking of changing my prediction to go with my heart rather than the fun stunt performance.

    LA Res, Tommy Lee Jones definite deserves it. That’d be the upset…and a very cool one.

    Good Should’a Won list, Woody, but if you’re not watching the actual show, I’m sorry, but your patriotism is really open for question.

  • PS: Philip Seymour Hoffman simply can’t made a false move, but the thing about his too recent Oscar will I think preclude him getting it. Plus Bardim was too fabulously creepy to deny.

    The same “oscar still warm” may preclude Blanchette.

  • Amy Ryan will win for Best Supporting Actress – and she should. I agree with the rest of your predictions, but don’t count out Marion Cotillard.

    No End in Sight will win best documentary feature, but I’m pulling for Taxi to the Dark Side, Janusz Kaminski will win his third Oscar for Best Cinematography in keeping that tradition of fine Polish cinematographers for the Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Bourne Ultimatum will win best film editing and best sound editing, I’m pulling for Freeheld to win Best Documentary short and I believe The Counterfeiters will win for Best Foreign Language Film, although I would be thrilled to see Andrezej Wajda finally win for Katyn.

  • RP, Agree about No End In Sight, and pulling for Taxi to the Dark Side, too. It’s as skillful yet riskier.

    Yeah, BSA…very wide open. Amy Ryan could do it. But for Actress, I stand firm on Julie Christie.

    Good tech predictions!

  • The “Should Have Won List” could add Blues Brothers, Animal House, Patton, Airplane, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and Ferris Bueler’s Day Off.

    Out of reg’s list of winners, I saw A Beautiful Mind at the theater, Titanic on television, and none of the others. The first was good, Titanic was not because they ruined A Night to Remember by turning it into a love story, and the rest didn’t interest me.

    I also liked ESPN’s 50 Greatest Catches. They don’t nominate good sports shows.

    But, reg, no political talk that I have can match the nonsense from Hollywood celebrities.

    Anyway, I hope that you guys enjoy the show.

  • I haven’t seen “Taxi” although I will, but I have to say that “No End” was an utterly conventional documentary that any intelligent, motivated person with enough money and the necessary access could have produced. Nothing that couldn’t have been done on a Frontline. I’d be disappointed if this won “best documentary”, not the least because it reminded me of a George Packer piece – probably indispensable in it’s medium for it’s “insider” insights into the war and occupation but the lingering sense that most of the folks associated – including the director – thought that the biggest problem with the Iraq war was that the wrong people were in charge of it. It’s been some weeks since I’ve seen it so this might be overstatement, but I had the sense that there was little information or analysis that I wasn’t – in essence – already painfully aware of. My assumption is – based on “Smartest Guys in the Room” – that “Taxi” is far the better film. Personally, I think “Sicko” is a much better film – although by now it could be criticized as more Moore schtick. But there’s not a chance in hell that Moore will get the prize because of his, admittedly, boorish personality and compulsion to overreach. I’m pretty critical of his stuff, but I have to admit that I’m in awe of his ability – much of it via shameless self-promotion – to create surprisingly popular “entertainment” from challenging – even critical – issues. He’s easy to criticize but what he’s done is quite an achievement and we more sober types should give credit while we’re also being annoyed by the big, cunning lug.

  • When I see a movie with the family, no one is allowed to leave until the credits finally show the accountants. (True.) There should be an Academy Award for the Hollywoood accountants, who can make the movie show whatever profit or loss the producers want so that they can screw the actors on residuals and hide all the personal expenses from the IRS–creativity unmatched by the director and actors.

    Add Field of Dreams to my list of movies that deserve to be on the “Should of Won List.”

    Does anyone other than me think that the President of the Academy looks like and might really be Foster Brooks?

  • Good calls, RP. You’re definitely ahead in the Oscar pool. Best Actress was a cool upset (although I’m sad for Julie Christie.) We’ve stopped filling out our ballots at my house. The pinto noir and the food have put us into a happy awards-watching stupor.

    Okay, song. Enchantment songs suck. Cool, the right one won! “Once”—Glen Hansard with the old Gibson guitar with holes in it. Very cool. “Make art! Make art!”

    Best moment of the night so far.

  • Titanic was not because they ruined A Night to Remember by turning it into a love story,

    Omigod, more common ground. Titanic may have been the worst film to win best picture ever. so badly scripted, the screenplay didn’t even get a nomination.

    Freeheld wins as does Taxi to the Dark Side!

  • Daniel Day Lewis is brilliant and deserved to win. He’s played so many completely different characters, from My Beautiful Laundrette (wonderful little film), Age of Innocence to period pieces and this… But it sure was a dark bunch of nominees, as Jon Stewart said, when a film about a 16-year-old girl getting knocked up is the most upbeat of the group. Ellen Page was great (but her first breakout role a couple of years ago in a creepy indie film in which she played a sadist, and I won’t even name it).

    Woody, the best version of Pride & Prejudice is the recent film starting Keira Knightley, not so much because of her (although she’s fine) but Brenda Blethyn and Donald Sutherland as her parents. Blethyn is brilliantly awful in that uniquely English way, as the crassly social-climbing mother whose transparent attempts to claw a foothold for her daughters into the monied class, make them want to crawl into a hole in the ground, yet hug her at the same time. (“Keeping Up Appearances,” the BBC series starring “Hyacinth” and her poor trash family she tries to hide in vain, plus the trophy and never-seen sister “with a pool and Mercedes,” are in the same vein and highly recommended.)

    And Woody, as for your accountant comment: I once had to go to the Philharmonic on one of those awful obligatory evenings with an accountant and his wife, and after seeing him fidget with his tie and look bored all night, he was finally deeply engrossed, so I thought hopefully that the music was finally reaching him. “How much do they pay all those musicians way in the back, do you suppose?” he asked. “Do they pay them by the note? Because they really should. The lead violinist, and those people up front, they do all the work, but the ones in the back and cymbol player can’t be earning their keep. Someone has to audit these people, there’s way too much waste going on.” Composers take note.

  • Celeste: “Woody, I’m glad to see you’re watching.”

    It turned out that there wasn’t any bowling on ESPN. My daughter said that she wished that she had a tape recorder on the table in front of me during the Oscars. It was a constant stream of ridicule and comments about commies. I know that they showed Barbra Streisand and Jane Fonda just to upset conservatives. I did laugh at two of Jon Stewart’s jokes–both non-political and off the cuff rather than scripted. One where he interpreted the Spanish and the other where I don’t remember.

    Did any of those dancers in tuxedos remind you of the scene near the end of Blazing Saddles–which also deserved an Academy Award but didn’t receive one. Honestly, those dancers last night looked more gay than the guys who were trying to act that way in the movie.

    – – –

    WBC: “How much do they pay all those musicians way in the back, do you suppose?”

    Good question. Well, did you find out? Accountants of the world want to know.

    The thing about the violinists is that one can miss a note or be off on timing slightly with no one knowing or, at least, knowing who it was. If the cymbols guy messes up, everyone knows it was him and the tomatoes are thrown in his direction.

    I’ve often calculated how much a baseball pitcher gets paid for every pitch or how much a coach got paid for every loss. Some pitchers blow out early and earn more for one pitch than I do in a year. If it’s bad throwing that they want, I’ll go out there and match that for half the price. And, economically, how could the Atlanta Falcons have done worse with me than with Michael Vick?

    – – –

    I knew nothing about No Country For Old Men. I skip right over R rated movies on those once-a-year occasions when I agree to go to the movie theater. However, I will see it in all its edited glory when it comes to television–plus, the refreshments will be cheaper.

  • I will say this in deference to Woody – whoever wrote the songs from “Enchanted” hates America. (I didn’t think the other two songs were very good either, but I loved the little girl.)

  • Okay, Woody, here’s a snark-free comment for you: if you liked The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, then you will like No Country for Old Men. Both movies are excellent, for similar reasons. And what’s with this “edited glory” nonsense? Again, if you like violent, action-packed Clint Eastwood movies, you’re going to like No Country. Not gratuitous violence, but violence that tells a compelling story.

  • And kudos to Javier Bardem for bringing Mom as his “date” (even given that she’s a celebrated actress and he’s known as her son back home.)

  • Daniel Day-Lewis is lucky I am not a voting member of the Academy, I thought he re-played the same crazy character from “Gangs of New York” as a crazy oilman. I was sure Daniel Plainview the oilman, was going to pull out a meat cleaver and kill the young preacher (Eli). And the music/soundtrack from “There Will Be Blood” was just plain annoying.

    My favorite “Blood” movies are “Brave Heart”, “Saving Private Ryan” and “Full Metal Jacket” the blood/violence was an integral part of the story.

    This year’s Oscar Movies, are not movies I will be seeing a few times.

    Woody – Is lucky there were not the usual cast of gay men, reporting on what the women were wearing on the red carpet.

  • You’re wrong about “Titanic” Randy. Awful as it is it can’t come close to such clunkers as “The Greatest Show on Earth” C.B.DeMille’s circus film fearuring Jimmy Stewart as a fugitive doc (pre Dave Jansen) who hides out by wearing clown make-up 24/7! And let us not forget that “Dances with Wolves” beat out “GoodFellas” for god’s sake! I mean, at least when “ordinary People” beat out “Raging Bull” (the film later cited as the best of the decade) it was watchable – dare you to rent Coster’s “Masterpiece” today!

    I find myself in partial agreement with Woody. I WILL NOT see a film like “No Country” and not just because I’ve found the Coen’s pretentious and boring since “Blood Simple” but because of its gratutious violence and gore. Sorry but its not needed and simply nserves to slake the depraved taste for violence in teenage boys and adult sadists the world over.Finally, when it comes to “Pride and Predjudice” my favorite is the 1940 MGM version with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson and a secreenplay by Aldous Huxley. But then I’m a sucker for the grand old style of filmaking – they sure don’t know how tom do that these days!

  • You’re wrong about “Titanic” Randy. Awful as it is it can’t come close to such clunkers as “The Greatest Show on Earth” C.B.DeMille’s circus film fearuring Jimmy Stewart as a fugitive doc (pre Dave Jansen) who hides out by wearing clown make-up 24/7! And let us not forget that “Dances with Wolves” beat out “GoodFellas” for god’s sake! I mean, at least when “ordinary People” beat out “Raging Bull” (the film later cited as the best of the decade) it was watchable – dare you to rent Coster’s “Masterpiece” today!

    I find myself in partial agreement with Woody. I WILL NOT see a film like “No Country” and not just because I’ve found the Coen’s pretentious and boring since “Blood Simple” but because of its gratutious violence and gore. Sorry but its not needed and simply serves to slake the depraved taste for violence in teenage boys and adult sadists the world over.

    Finally, when it comes to “Pride and Predjudice” my favorite is the 1940 MGM version with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson and a secreenplay by Aldous Huxley. But then I’m a sucker for the grand old style of filmaking – they sure don’t know how tom do that these days!

  • LA Resident – these things are subjective judgements and/or apples/oranges comparisons but as much as I love Tommy Lee and found “In the Valley of Elah” more affecting – although not a more impressive artistic achievement – than any of the nominated films, his role – like his role in “Old Men” – was very much a “Tommy Lee Jones thing.” They fit him like an old pair of boots. And Lewis’s Plainvew was exactly how I’d imagine DDL would play him. I thought any problems with the character were problems of the script as it progressed toward that crazy ending. But for Tommy Lee, with that face alone he’s starting with a huge advantage over most other folks in the room – sort of like Javier Bardem carrying that bizarre air-compressor gun. I think he did a great job – but imagine the same role with the guy simply strapped with a pistol and you don’t have quite the same volume of over-the-top, other-worldly creepiness that set the character apart from most movie psychopaths.

  • The Greatest Show on Earth was obviously one of the worst pictures ever awarded an Oscar for anything, but the real scandal wasn’t how bad the winner was but that it beat High Noon. I hated Titanic and enjoyed LA Confidential, but I don’t think it was quite as egregious that Cameron’s box-office receipts won the day on the scale of things. And while Ordinary People was a decent little film, the notion of it beating Raging Bull offends me as much as John Ford’s quite good How Green Was My Valley beating Citizen Kane. There are other years like this that make the Oscars the bizarre industry-fest that they most often are – Rocky beating Taxi Driver and Ben Hur beating Room at the Top – but I think that the Oscars passing over Citizen Kane and Raging Bull in particular stand as some sort of monument to moviedom’s trending to mediocrity when it comes to Institutional Self-Congratulation. That said, Show beating High Noon is probably the most glaring offense in terms of absolute disparity between unique awfulness of the winner and the evident greatness of a loser.

  • “whoever wrote the songs from “Enchanted” hates America.” Yeah, no kidding. Geeze. And freaking THREE of them were nominated. They were definitely the UN-crowd pleasers at our house. I liked the “Once” people, though.

    Roger, the Eastwood films are the perfect analogue for those resistant to No Country. Also, speaking of Eastwood, Woody if you saw and liked Unforgiven, you’d likely appreciate No County for Old Men.

  • Come on Reg! You know why “Kane” lost! There was NO Chance it would get Best Picture and the fact that it won for screenplay had to be a minor miracle. Given that fact Ford’s little pic wasn’t a bad choice.

    Incidently, that was one of the three years (1939-40-41) that critics argue over as the greatest ever for American film. If you go back to ’38 (films like “Bringing Up Baby and “Snow White”) and forward to ’42 (“Casablanca”, Yankee Doodle Dandy”) you have the most remarkable five year run of all time. I know some tout the early seventies (“Taxi Driver”, Godfather I and II”, The Conversation” “Chinatown”)as the apex but I’ll go with the acme of the studio system.

  • Sorry Celeste I saw “Unforgiven” and the violence is spare and never gratutious. Eastwood has made a series of great films on this meme (“Mystic River”, “Million Dollar Baby”) and is probably our best film maker. Certainly light years ahead of the overrated Coens.

    (Did sort of like “Raising Arizona” and the music in “Brother thou Art” is, of course , great but since it refers to Sturges All it does for me is remind me of what great filmmaking is all about.)

  • I know why Kane lost, but it’s evidence of what the Oscars most often have been and what they haven’t. The “Greatest Show” bizness was undoubtedly a similiar deal because of High Noon’s Carl Foreman script and the theme of cowardice at a time when Hollywood nurtured more than its share.

  • RLC, Don’t agree that the violence in “No Country” was gratuitous (although, at book length it was very grating, much as I like McCarthy’s prose), and obviously one can see from my earlier comments that I really liked the movie and am fans of the Coens, but in truth I agree that Unforgiven is in a different class.

  • I love the old films and the old stars but I also believe that moviemaking is as vital and artful as ever. On the question of the old stars, I’ll defer to George Clooney perspective. I read that Regis Philbin told him that “Everybody used to want to be Cary Grant and now they want to be George Clooney.” Clooney deadpanned, “That’s because Cary Grant’s dead.”

  • It was okay that foreigners won. They don’t hate the U.S. like Hollywood.

    Here’s the tv ratings for the Oscars–clearly liberal stongholds. These people live in fantasy worlds, like socialist utopians.
    The top five highest-rated markets were New York (30.6 rating/44 share), Chicago (29.1/43), San Francisco (27.2/47), West Palm (26.1/39) and Los Angeles (25.6/41).

  • By the way, my DC friend, whom I used as a foil for the intro to this post, emailed me before the Oscars. Turn-about being fair play, here’s an excerpt:

    I see I’m going to have to be more careful what I say to and around you!

    You forgot to mention though my expectation that the Chinese may soon be big-time cloning “The Oscars”, especially if they decide to buy one or more of those titanic Hollywood Studios as I will be encouraging them to do!

    Meanwhile, just in case you think this is fanciful… just what do you think they are going to do with all those big bucks piling up in the Red treasury? Which by the way you
    can read all about and ponder a wee bit while multitasking “The Oscars” by reading the Jim Fallows article titled “The $1.4 Trillion Question — The Chinese are subsidizing the American way of life. Are we playing them for suckers—or are they playing us?” [NOTE: evidently I linked to the wrong article. Here’s the right one.]

    OK…confession time! With your chastisement weighing heavy on my patriotic conscience I now have pop-culture beer and popcorn all ready for the big night tonight!


  • Woody – you have the cause/effect thing totally wrong. High Oscar ratings are not about the degree to which places like New York are socialist utopias (although they obviously are.) It’s all about the number of resident homosexuals. I’m kind of disappointed at your shallow, knee-jerk analysis when the correct answer is so obvious.

  • I’ll bet there is not one single adult female on the planet who did not see and enjoy “Titanic” and think it’s one of the best love stories. I was on vacation, in the remote jungles of South American and “Titanic” was playing on a gas-generator power T.V. and VCR. in a small village, quite a scene.

    Reg didn’t like Sylvester Stallone as Rocky?
    Best movies soundtracks ever #2-“Survivor-Eye of the Tiger” and of course #1-“Gonna Fly Now”
    Best movie lines ever “Yo Adrian” and “I Pity the Fool” (Mr. “T” as Clubber Lang).
    Best movie scene ever – Rocky Running up the he Steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art …

  • When it comes to handicapping the Oscars, you have to keep in mind the geriatric age of the average voting member and their attention spans. That largely accounts for Marion Cotillard’s win channelling Edith Piaf, whom many of these voters remember and why anything too complicated just loses them. If you attend any Academy screenings, you are struck by how these people are the opposite of the sought-after movie demographic, and many don’t venture out to the theatres at all even though the screenings are free, but watch the DVD screeners.

    Woody is also right about politics entering into it, given that some of them also remember first-hand the McCarthyist 50’s and are uniformly one-minded abuot that era. (Look how they vilified Elia Kazan, despite On the Waterfront being one of the best films ever made, and Brando’s performance so raw and powerful. Kazan experienced Communism first-hand and is of the generation that saw these Hollywood writers as self-pitying whiners, crying into their glasses of Chardonnay about persecution while people were being murdered in the name of Communism. Brando’s dilemma and the Mafia were also a political paradigm for him.) There are two sides to that era, but as long as the current generation holds sway, there is only one “right” way to look at that, or any of the major issues of our time.

    Daniel Day-Lewis’s over-the-top performance as the oil barron Doheny is akin to John Huston’s as Mulholland in Chinatown — an exaggeration but not far from raw truth. Anyone visiting L A should check out Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, one of their former estates, used for years as the campus of the American Film Institute Conservatory, now open to the public, a piece of history and a great walk.

  • LAR – I liked Stallone’s first Rocky – but no way was it a better film than Taxi Driver IMHO.

    Also, I don’t think that I’d call time served in the leftist “Group Theater” and a brief stint in a cultural branch of the CP in New York city in the early ’30s “experiencing communism first hand.” Certainly not in the sense that Nikolai Bukharin, Solzenhytsin, Imre Nagy or millions of nameless victims of the Gulag did. I don’t know about folks “crying into their Chardonnay” during those years (it strikes me as too contemporary a locution) but there was surely a lot of crying into beer, bourbon and, no doubt, glasses of expensive Burgundy on all sides. Not the least by guys like Kazin, Schulberg and Dymitrik who made calculated, complex and (in the case of Dymitrik) convoluted career choices in the face of the blacklist. I don’t demonize any of them (and I love “On The Waterfront”), but neither were these guys heroes of democracy. And the blacklist and forced “star chamber testimony” about other people’s legal political activities or opinions – sometimes decades before – under threat of losing one’s livlihood were indefensible. Dalton Trumbo – who made a different choice than Kazan and paid dearly – had the most measured judgement on all of those caught in the net of the blacklist: “neither heroes nor villains.” I also am not sure who this unidifferentiated “they” are with “only one right way” to look back at that era that holds sway over Hollywood, allegedly to this day. I remember Hollywood liberals like Warren Beatty, Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese rising to participate in a standing ovation for Kazan when he was given the Lifetime Achievement award.

  • Big mistake to post that last comment, but I’ll condense the point as “there aren’t simply ‘two sides’ that are still locked in battle over who came out of that era deserving sympathy and respect.” Nor is it the rosetta stone for deciphering how and why folks react to “the major issues of our time.” (The blacklist shouldn’t be confused with more resonant and immediate questions revolving around Che Guevara teeshirts.)

  • Reg I like that line by Clooney but Regis is on to something. George Clooney could be the new Cary Grant – just as Tom Hanks has a lot of Jimmy Stewart in him. Im thought of VANITY FAIR’s cover with those actresses dressed up at Hitchcock heroines. I noted that Marc’s daughter didn’t like the covers by Annie Liebowitz. We;;. all I;ll say is the “rear Window” pastiche was just fine with Scarlett Johannson – made a fine sub for Grace Kelly. But the man was all wrong. Same with the crop duster sequence. Put Clooney and Hanks there in those two and – yes – I’m a believer.

    The subject of Kazin and other “friendlies” would take too long. Elia was nominated five times and won twice for director. Hitch never won. But what I think about is Abe Polonsky. He never had the chance to develop because of HUAC. And he made a great film with John Garfield that Scorcese cites as one of his key influences. What might have been?

  • When Kazan picked up the Hon Oscar in 99, after heated debate about his body of work vs. the correctness of his politics and what he did, he was treated with overt hostility and as persona non grata all over town then and until he died. Anyone who wanted to prove their stripes or pretend they were politically “aware” condemned and cut him at every turn, and he was the talk from cocktail party circuits to the Hollywood beauty salons for months. You’d have to have been in town to know what you’re talking about, but even reading about the fallout, you can get a good sense. Schickel blamed him for not throwing himself at the mercy of Hollywood in a grand mea culpa, but he’d felt he was doing the right thing at the time and until he died. (Who are “they?” Who aren’t? That would be a short list I”d like to see.)

    You are right that he didn’t live under fascism, but emigrated from Turkey as an Armenian minority as a child, and explored his family history in “America, America,” where fascism there brought home to him the Communist/Stalinist era he’d come to learn more about after becoming associated with the Party here as a young man. He spoke for all those who couldn’t, or who’d suffered and died under Stalinism while his peers were sipping wine and decrying persecution here. Yes, we have different standards here about what constitutes “freedom” than they do and did abroad — and there are definitely more shades of victimhood than outright villains. But we were fighting a very real “cold war” as the surviving peers of Imre Nagy (it chills me to have his name even drop off your pen), Solzhenhitsin will tell you.

    People playing at being Communists and sympathizers while millions of people were being murdered and their nations destroyed in the name of that goal, left little sympathy for their self-pity from their victims. The excesses and crass buffooneries of McCarthy and his cronies unfortunately made the whole premise seem unfounded. This is something Kazan came to understand and so of course he never apologized. His researching own family history along parallel lines started around this time, and gave him deeper understanding, — it’s significant he only told that story in the 60’s.

    Vilmos Zsigmond/Laszlo Kovacs were fellow photographers and buddies who escaped Hungary in ’56, bringing with them footage of the crushed Revolution, and a New Wave of cinema to Hollywood. I’ve met and talked with these guys and their peers, and can tell you that although they’ve kept their noses to their cameras and not been overtly political, they’re not hoisting a lot of champagne glasses in honor of those who sat idly by here in self-pity while their country went down. As the children and grandchildren of survivors like them (myself included), can tell you, there IS another side to that era that needs to be told and understood. But not as long as the very name Elia Kazan is met with sneering contempt in Hollywood. Now that there’s a younger generation with historical amnesia (for better and worse), that day should come. (Ironically, now that we’re reaching that time here in America, there’s a revisionism in Eastern Europe among the young who grew up under Communism, in the other direction — reactions and counterreactions still again. Enough. This all requires a whole book.)

    Just don’t “preach” to me about the Cold War/ Communist era and frankly, you know zero about Hollywood, either. (If you can dig up that list of people applauding Kazan’s legacy despite his political views, though, I’d like to see it.)

    So enough, stick to what you know, “Completely Unschooled and Unjustified” Oscar pontifications, justifications and bloviations.

  • Note how I refrained from similarly slimy epithets at reg, the vile babbling little insect who knows nothing and denigrates everything. That this little worm should presume to twist the names of my personal history off his forked tongue in defense of his own rantings that they would condemn was as predictable as it is vile. I have far more respect for actual Communists who are the products of their history, and in my experience invariably polite, than for this little cockroach.

  • WBC,

    Warren Beatty gave Kazan a standing ovation when he got his honorary Oscar as did some others.

    Laszlo Kovacs is not hoisting glasses of champagne to anyone these days. He died last July.

  • WBC – You asked for a “list” and I actually had given you names – I should have added Arthur Miller’s – in response to an absurdly insinuated “they” in your original comment. You come back with idiocy about the gossip in beauty parlors. But your screed is so disjointed, incoherent and bizarrely ad hominem, I won’t bother to engage it at length. The sad fact is that you come across as a deeply disturbed individual. And for someone who fancies their “excellent education”, you are prone not only to nonsensical generalizations but have failed to master even an elementary ability to make an incisive argument or respond coherently to any critical comments. You’re a bundle of neuroses – bile-ridden really – and, as I said earlier, it was serious mistake to point out superficialities and inconsistencies streaming out of anyone as intellectually and psychologically murky as you unfortunately happen to be. Put simply, faced with anything more complex than assent to your feeble self-stroking, you can’t cope.

  • Randy, someone I know (another cinematographer) is editing a doc called “Directing Vilmos and Laszlo” based on interviews completed before he died (obviously). It should be out late this year or next. I knew them and others, some like Dezso Magyar who work here and back in Europe, via the fairly small emigre and filmmaking communities. Along with many other “regular” survivors of the era. As for the ignorant babblings of reg, I have neither the time nor inclination to devote any time to them. Mentioning Warren Beatty as someone who recommended and supported Kazan’s award has no bearing on anything I said — yes, Kazan was nominated by a few courageous individuals (where’s the rest of that list?) and vilified by virtually everyone else. (Beatty is a good guy in general, by the way, a down-to-earth person who isn’t concerned about what others think.) Yes, I speak from first- hand experience, you moron, unlike you with your ignorant links and opinions based on G-d knows what, blowing smoke out of your b–. If you limited yourself to babbling about what you know, your diatribes would be short indeed. If only we were so lucky.

  • Just for the record, most people applauded Kazan, although some (Nick Nolte, Ed Harris, and Sir Ian McKellen) did not, and not all stood. Among those who did stand, in addition to Beatty (Kazan directed his first film, the wonderful “Splendor in the Grass”), and Scorsese and Di Nero who presented the award, were Karl Malden (whom he directed in “Streetcar”), Meryl Streep, Kathy Bates, and Lynn Redgrave, sister of the very lefty Vanessa.

    Politics notwithstanding, I’m grateful he existed because of “On the Waterfront,” of course, and “East of Eden,” and “Viva Zapata”….but mostly because of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Admittedly, with the latter, he had the words of a genius to work with….plus…those, you know, actors he managed to snatch from the Broadway production (all but Vivian Leigh, who replaced Jessica Tandy). But I can’t imagine anyone else pulling it off.

  • “As for the ignorant babblings of reg, I have neither the time nor inclination to devote any time to them.”

    Would that it were true. You seem to think that telling people how much you know is the same as showing some evidence that you actually can communicate coherent thoughts convincingly. You started out with some shallow generalizations. That was the “good stuff.” It’s been downhill from there and, frankly, more than a little embarrassing.

  • Thanks for that moderating tone, Celeste, and I really am late and have to leave it at that. But overall Kazan was abandoned even by many of his erstwhile friends, and much maligned in my experience — thank goodness for those who could see the man apart from the work, even when they didn’t agree with him. Although many who escaped Communism of that era applauded him because they actually felt he acted out of courage. == That’s all I’ll say on this, I’m afraid I”ll be at a signing or event somewhere and reg will show up picketing and disrupting it…
    Gee, this was supposed to be about the trivial nature of film, no?

  • It’s telling that the entirety of my original comment acknowledged my own enormous appreciation of Kazan’s work, noted approvingly that reasonable liberal folk like DeNiro, Beatty and Scorsese applauded him and that even Dalton Trumbo didn’t demonize him but saw the entirety of that era as complex and tragic, and I clearly took the side of those who did indeed “experience communism” far more harshly than Kazan’s sitting through boring meetings and getting picketed at 90 for rescuing his extremely impressive career by cooperating with HUAC and the McCarthyites. But I committed the sin of suggesting that there was some shame in the star chambers, the recklessness of “investigators” and compilers of blacklists, the predictable acquiesence of industry executives and the railroading of “informants” to proffer useless anecdotes and identify associates regarding a manufactured “internal threat” to democracy (in the form of a handful of scripts that were more notable for their mediocrity and idealization of a wartime alliance than anything remotely “revolutionary”) – all of this concocted with the intent of creating calculated hysteria and partisan political advantage more than “national security.”. To say that Kazan acted out of “courage” is not borne out by the trajectory of his testimony nor his own subsequent defense. Courage is not generally wrenched out of a man by threats. (Or in another sense, perhaps it is.) When first called before the committee, Kazan was willing to discuss his own activities but refused to “name names” or speak to the beliefs or actions of others. For the rest of it – and a last word – I’ll defer to Jacob Weisberg who wrote well on this in Slate when the mini-controversy (Kazan’s Oscar was awarded by the Academy unanimously) erupted :

    JW, 1/31/99: The first time he testified, in January, Kazan took a principled position: He would discuss his own involvement in the party but not the others who had been in it with him. So the committee called him back to Washington and put him under oath. Under pressure from the FBI and the movie studios, he reversed himself. Since the committee already knew the names it wanted, “naming names” was a loyalty test and humiliation ritual, not part of a real investigation. There is a chilling, Darkness at Noon quality to Kazan’s questioning by Frank Tavenner Jr., a lawyer for the committee:

    Tavenner: I understand that you have voluntarily requested the committee to reopen your hearing, and give you an opportunity to explain fully the participation of others known to you at the time to have been members of the Communist Party.

    Kazan: That is correct. I want to make a full and complete statement. I want to tell you everything I know about it.

    Kazan’s prepared statement offered up the names of the eight others who were members of his Group Theater cell… But many others who named names did so under ostensible protest, or later castigated themselves publicly for crawling before the committee. Kazan embraced his inquisitors. Soon after he testified, he took out an ad in the New York Times to defend himself. “I believe that any American who is in possession of such facts has the obligation to make them known, either to the public or to the appropriate Government agency,” he wrote. “Whatever hysteria exists–and there is some, particularly in Hollywood–is inflamed by mystery, suspicion and secrecy. Hard and exact facts will cool it.” (snip)

    For years afterward, Kazan kept his silence about the episode. “I don’t think there’s anything in my life toward which I have more ambivalence, because, obviously, there’s something disgusting about giving other people’s names,” he acknowledged in a 1971 interview. But he also refused to apologize and defended his choice. In his fascinating autobiography, published in 1988, Kazan expresses a range of justifications. He wasn’t telling the committee any names it didn’t know; as an immigrant, he was eager to demonstrate his patriotism; he was faced with a choice of two evils.

    Did he do wrong? The first question to ask is what the right thing would have been. Kazan might have stood by his original policy, asserting that while he hated Communism, he would not assist in a violation of civil liberties…(This) would almost certainly have meant a contempt citation and time in jail. Kazan would not have made films for many years, if ever again. For a great artist like Kazan to immolate himself to protect the rights of lesser artists, or more precisely in a quixotic attempt to protect those rights, would have been heroic. But failing to be a hero did not make him a villain. The villains were the blacklisters. Kazan was one of their victims… Where Kazan did go wrong was in casting an evil he couldn’t avoid as a good. His statement that the “facts” about Communism were the cure for anti-Communist hysteria was disingenuous. The real cure for anti-Communist hysteria was a courage that Kazan, like most people, did not possess. But this bit of gratuitous groveling pales next to the sins of others–both those who remained Stalinists into the 1950s and those who did not just acquiesce in, but advocated, McCarthyism. For the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which actually enforced the blacklist, to reject Kazan for his comparatively minor offenses would have been the sheerest hypocrisy. (snip)

    Murray Kempton got this story right in 1955, in his book Part of Our Time. The Hollywood Communists, most of them screenwriters, were overpaid hacks, not dangerous revolutionaries. The examples of “propaganda” they slipped into scripts are few and laughable. The high point of Kempton’s essay on the Hollywood 10 is a list of the folderol the blacklisted screenwriters actually produced–with excerpts from the glowing reviews they received from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

    Elia Kazan wasn’t a hack, and he didn’t try to be a hero. He deserves an Oscar as much as anyone living–for best director, not for best human being. Who in the movie industry qualifies for that second one anyway? (end JW/Slate piece)

  • It should also be noted that, according to Weisberg, Kazan resigned the Communist Party in the mid-30s (although he remained a sympathizer for years after) over the question of whether the Group Theater should be taken over as a pure party organ and turned into an “actors collective.” This was his quibble with the “commissars” while the Moscow trials were on.

  • Reg pretty much said all that I would have about Elia Kazin but I’ll add this. I’ve always seen the awarding of honorary Oscars as a way for the academy to rectify oversights – that is recognize people wh, for some reason or another, never got a golden statue. Like Hitchcock for Best Director which seems amazing nowadays. But Kazan can’t make that claim. Five times he was nominated for direction. He won twice. The Academy had recognized his undeniable brilliance.

    But Kazin raatted out people and then – as Reg wrote – bragged about it in the papers and still does. Meanwhile let us consider Abe Polonsky who led the protests at Kazin’s Award. Polonsky directed and wrote “Force of Evil” which Martin Scorcese – no less – cites as one of his most important influences. After being blacklisted he never got the chance to direct a major Hollywood film again. Just what did the art lose as a result?

    And Kazin was in a much better position than people like Dmytric. If he told the committee to go to hell he could have gone back to Broadway where a blacklist never existed and resumed his position as one of the great stage directors of our time. AA sacrifice? Yes. But he would have still worked and been creativer in his field.

    Sorry but the Hollywood Reds were silly pathetic types but enemies of the state?

    Not any state I’d know.

    (BTW funny isn’t it that all the poobahs on HUAC were either raving anti-semites, racists, or both. Read the comments of such lovely people as Rankin (D-MS) to get the flavor of these nitwits.)

  • I read the slate thing too. It was quite good.

    Now, away from Kazan, I hope you all have checked into the Jimmy Kimmel video (which includes both his and his paramour Silverman’s) that I posted yesterday afternoon as an update on this post. Most people saw it yesterday, but just in case you haven’t…it is a cultural/artistic must.

  • Regarding Laszlo Kovacs, one of history’s greatest ironies is the fact that out of so much brutal repression came such great works of art. Istvan Szabo, Marta Meszaros and Miklos Jancso made some great films in Cold War Hungary. Meszaros was one of the best for making intimate films about everyday life, no one used the anamorphic frame better than Jancso and Szabo’s films are brilliant on both the grand scale (Hanussen and Mephisto) and on the more intimate scale (Confidence). Confidence, btw, may be one of the best photographed films in my memory. Lajos Koltai is another gifted cinematographer in the Hungarian tradition.

  • I left off “The Jerk” as another deserving but overlooked movie.

    I’d go to more shows if they left off the unnecessary profanity and such. That’s why I catch so many movies later on television, which edits them. Jimmy Stewart didn’t need to cuss to make a good movie.

  • Guess you didn’t like “Patton” then Woody. My mother and Aunt went to see it and they hadn’t been to the movies in while. They were shocked at George C. Scott’s opening monolog – you know the one that Nixon creamed over before he invaded Cambodia!

  • I’m just doing a quick check after two days deliberately away from this blog, unwilling and unable to see what reg rambled on since. It’s just not possible to deny that Kazan was a persona non grata in Hollywood, even though some people stood up at that awards show to honor his body of work as separate from the man. You couldn’t go anywhere in Hollywood without it being a topic of conversation, with a unilateral POV, too. (As for reg somehow even rambling about the irrelevance of what they say at hairdressers — it would be impossible for a bald hippie in Oakland to know this, but celebrity stylist shops are one of the best places in town to get the scoop on what’s what — the gossip about divorces, deals and awards is known way before this ever hits the trade gossip columns. What do you think people talk about when they’re getting done for an Awards show or big evening? Or just lunch… It’s no less the pulse of the town than the black barbership is in the hood.) Anyway, it’s just too enervating to be crudely “corrected” by reg on anything to do with L A, whether it’s schools or Hollywood. (Not to mention on international relations and first-hand experiences, the kind which distinguish field reporting from third-hand reference reading…) I’m sure we’ll be hearing many more of his expert epiphanies on every subject anyway.

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