12 Angry Pundits

Recently TheWrap‘s Oscar columnist Steve Pond wrote that he was very close to switching his Gurus of Gold Best Picture prediction in favor of The Social Network. The latest Gurus of Gold chart shows that Pond has switched to TSN. And it struck me that the recent turnarounds by Pond and Deadline‘s Pete Hammond were coming in like the juror turnarounds in Sidney Lumet‘s 12 Angry Men.

So this morning I wrote certain Gurus and Oscar pundits about this analogy, stating that

“we’re all characters in an Oscar pundit version of 12 Angry Men. The jury votes favoring the Latino kid who may have stabbed his father — an initially guilty-seeming figure — gradually tipped in his favor in the same way that votes for The Social Network, which didn’t seem like a very likely Oscar winner because of the lack of empathy and heart and all that, is gradually winning over initial disbelievers.”

Question is, who’s Henry Fonda, who’s Lee J. Cobb, who’s the Old Man, who’s Martin Balsam, who’s Ed Begley, who’s E.G. Marshall and so on? I’m not saying that an Oscar pundit fits each and every character, but let’s kick it around and see what works. (Those who don’t know the film all that well should consult the Wiki page, which breaks down all the characters and their traits and various portrayers.)

It seems fair to describe Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone and myself and Scott Feinberg as a kind of communalized, six-legged Henry Fonda figure. But I don’t want to exclude so how many Fondas do we have here? To qualify you had to be a hardcore Social Network advocate from the get-go — no ifs, ands or buts.

David Poland is Lee J. Cobb or Ed Begley — I haven’t decided which yet. He’s clearly the big mouth who’s convinced the kid is guilty and won’t budge.

Wasn’t Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil a King’s Speech guy in the early rounds? He’s a man of character and guts and insight, so without any allusions to being older or younger let’s make him the Old Man, a tough bird who sides with Fonda early on.

If you know 12 Angry Men, you know that E.G. Marshall is the second-to-last guy to vote not guilty so Pond doesn’t fill those shoes. But who is he? Pond was initially against TSN but has shown himself to be reasonable and open. How about if we make him Edward Binns? Or the Latino guy with the moustache?

I’ve got it worked out that Pete Hammond is Jack Klugman — “Mr. Foreman? I’m changing my vote.”

Who’s the wishy-washy ad exec who veers from guilty to not guilty and back again, played by Robert Webber?

Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson is very logical and exacting and purely evidence-minded in her thinking — I think she’s E.G. Marshall.

Which 12 Angry Men character fits Dave Karger? Who can Anthony Breznican be?

Who’s Jack Warden? The guilty-voting Warden is obsessed with going to a baseball game and In Contention‘s Kris Tapley is always talking about football on Twitter so does he fit? No, he doesn’t. Warden’s character isn’t very thoughtful about guilt or innocence and Tapley is obviously the opposite so who is he? Martin Balsam? The little wimpy guy with the high voice?

Update: E.G. Marshall…sorry, Anne Thompson is calling the 12 Angry Men analogy “patently absurd. We’re a bunch of Oscar pundits reading the signs of how 5000 Academy members are going to vote. Predicting the Oscar win at this stage is also ridiculous, as is seeing critics, or worse, Golden Globe votes, as presaging the Oscar win. We don’t even know the nominations yet, which will tell us a great deal!

“The critics’ votes create momentum, make a movie a must-see, create perceived ‘winners. I have never said that The Social Network can’t win. I see a horse race with The King’s Speech in the lead because talking to Academy voters on the ground, viewing them in action, I see many folks who love The King’s Speech, which is the perfect actor-friendly, well-mounted period academy movie. Is it possible that voters will anoint Colin Firth the big win for that film? Yes.

“We also don’t yet know the DGA. The Guilds are far more predictive and overlapping with the Academy. Critics weren’t behind nominations for Crash, Chocolat, The Green Mile and Ciderhouse Rules, or the wins for Crash, Braveheart, Dances with Wolves, Patton and Gladiator. Critics are content-driven [and] are not as visually sophisticated as the academy. They are writers. Has there ever been a more writer-friendly movie than The Social Network? It’s safe to say that Aaron Sorkin will win best adapted screenplay and David Fincher will win best director.

“But best picture is another matter.”

Wells to Thompson: “Always with a little humor, Anne. Nothing like a nice laugh to lighten the burdens of our day. You have to admit that Oscar handicapping isn’t all about ‘evidence’ — it’s also about gut allegiance, instinct, intuition. Just like the jury in 12 Angry Men being swayed in this and that way, and not entirely by pure logic. Fonda himself votes not guilty at first out of pure liberal empathy, for example. Oscar predicting, I submit, is a much more personal process than some of us would like to admit. That’s all I’m saying. That and the changing of votes — one, and then another, and then another — as we get closer and closer to the climax. And you have to admit that it’s flattering to be called the E.G. Marshall of Oscar pundits.”

Update: “On my way back from Palm Springs Film Festival,” says Hammond, “but I am fine with being Jack Klugman..although I think I am closer to his Odd Couple character than 12 Angry Men. Does that film have someone who just keeps going back and forth based on whims?? That would be me.” In other words, Hammond identifies with Robert Webber’s ad guy.

4 thoughts on “12 Angry Pundits

  1. coxcable on said:

    The Academy has made it a point in the past few years to honor bad-boy(girl) directors in the hopes of maintaining their dwindling relevancy. Jackson. Scorsese. Coens. Boyle. Bigalow.

    The age of the polite drama winning Best Picture is over. “Polite cool” is the new key ingredient.

    So the opportunity to add badboy Fincher (director of the Polite Cool movie of the year) to their collection will be too much to resist.

    The Social Network has had it locked up for a while now. The “professionals” who say this is any kind of a race are flying too close to the sun. Or, like The Academy, doing what they can to stay relevant.

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