Yesterday morning In Contention‘s Kris Tapley and Indiewire columnist Anne Thompson briefly revived their Oscar Talk podcast. But it was just a one-off. They announce at the conclusion that they’re going on hiatus again and will return on 8.26.
Tapley and Thompson share some intriguing calls here and there. But Thompson, in my judgment, passes along what feels like contradictory sentiments.
Early on Tapley asks Thompson about the Best Picture and/or Oscar-nomination potential for Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life. Thompson mulls it over, hesitates, decides what to say. “I have to tell you that I’m assuming….that Terrence Malick is taken seriously by many of the crafts people in the Academy,” she finally says. “Because [The Tree of Life] is a work of considerable achievement…it’s very hard to call, very hard to tell…[but] the Academy will recognize the craftmanship involved.”
In other words, The Tree of LIfe hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of being Best Picture nominated.
Fox Searchlight will presumably push for this honor, and in a better world a movie that swirls around so imaginatively in the oceans of the past and present, like Life, deserves industry-wide praise. But Malick doesn’t make “Academy movies” and he’s never kowtowed to or schmoozed with the Academy membership, so forget it. Especially with mainstream boomer critics like Kenneth Turan and Marshall Fine being foursquare against his latest. The Tree of Life might have a shot at a Best Picture nomination if the ten-nomination standard was still in effect, but with the current system? No way.
The contradiction, it seems to me, comes when Thompson applauds the Academy’s recent Best Picture rule change, which declared that for a film to be Best Picture nominated 5% of Academy membership must put it at the top of their nomination list. She says she’s “thrilled” with this new rule because the ten-nominee experiment of ’09 and ’10 was “a big mistake” because “Academy members were stretching to fill in those ten slots and putting in movies they didn’t love.”
The 10-nomination idea, of course, was to offer some seasonal nomination love to the widely admired also-rans (indie quality faves plus popular audience pics like The Dark Knight) that didn’t have a serious chance of winning. It was an equation that a mentally-challenged person could comprehend — five nominations for movies that members genuinely love, and five nominations for movies they seriously like. How difficult is that? At the end of every year I compose a list of excellent, very good and very respectable achievers, and it always comes to at least 20 if not 25 films. And Academy members couldn’t think of ten?
Thompson acknowledges that it’ll now be “tougher for independent films to get into the top five…consensus and mainstream titles will win the day.” And she’s “thrilled” with that? Yet she’s reluctant to call a spade a spade by declaring that The Tree of Life is exactly the kind of film that is out of the Best Picture race because of the new rules.
Tapley ask Thompson if Super 8 is an Oscar contender? What? Super 8 is a highly enjoyable, quality-calibre, Spielberg-referencing summer monster flick that was never expected to compete in this realm. And yet they go on and on. Tapley: “Could it get nominated?” Thompson: “I don’t think for Best Picture.” And yaddah yaddah.
Thompson also calls it “the ultimate boomer movie” No — Super 8 is the ultimate GenX movie. Apart from those who enjoy the revisiting-the-Spielberg-glory-days aspect, it’s primarily connecting with people who were tweeners and teens and early-college age in the late ’70s or early ’80s…people in their early to late 40s. Only the youngest boomers (a.k.a., the generational tweeners born between boomer and Genx, like President Obama) fit this demo. Most boomers started popping out in ’46 and throughout the ’50s, and are mostly aged 50 to 65.
Tapley asks about Lars von Trier‘s Melancholia, which Thompson calls her “favorite film at Cannes,” and whether Kirsten Dunst, winner of that festival’s Best Actress award, will get any awards action. Short answer: Nope — Von Trier killed Academy interest with his flippant Nazi remarks.
Right after the Melancholia discussion Tapley says that “we’ve got ComicCon coming” in a week and a half and Thompson replies, “From the sublime to the ridiculous!” Good one.
Jason Reitman‘s Young Adult is mentioned, and I don’t agree with their downbeat “uh-oh” tone. Tapley: “I’ve heard Margot at the Wedding comparisons.” (So have I.) Thompson: “That’s not good.” Tapley: “[Charlize Theron is playing] a character you don’t necessarily empathize with like characters in [Reitman's] other films.”
Wait a minute — a troubled, somewhat curmudgeonly but (to go by the Diablo Cody script I read) highly unusual and interesting female character is “not good”? Why is that? Why can’t we sink into characters who are a little bit thornier than the usual-usual? Isn’t life-reflecting honesty what finally matters in a film? Shouldn’t our ultimate criteria be the quality of writing and directing and acting?