Kick It Around

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?

  • BoulderKid

    Theron is going to get nominated. Bill Simmons mentioned that he saw an advanced screening of the film in his last podcast and said that the film really showcased Theron’s star qualities (beauty, acting chops, etc.). He compared it to Cruise in Jerry Maguire, a movie star showing us why they’re a movie star, and that said that the film overall was really good. Theron hasn’t had a role like this where she’s both in a good film and not playing a downtrodden character like in North Country or Monster. Simmons may be a sports columnist and not an Oscar pundit, but he knows a good mainstream film when he sees one and his tastes are probably similar to a lot of the younger Academy members.

  • BBBerlin

    “But Malick doesn’t make Academy movies and he’s never kowtowed to or schmoozed with the Academy membership, so forget it.”

    And yet Malick WAS nominated for directing and writing Thin Red Line in 99 which collected 7 Oscar noms. And he WILL get attention this Awards season again. Anything else would be ridiculous.

  • LexG

    Let’s get to the pressing issues here:

    Their logo looks like the Toluca Lake Bob’s Big Boy sign, only in gold.

    How come nobody ever offers me a PAID JOB to do this movie-blogging-prognostication shooting the shit kind of deal? I am more interesting than Anne Thompson.

    Charlize: What is this new thing where people “don’t like” characters that are “mean”? Everyone in this fucking world is a STONE ASSHOLE, especially everyone in LA, everyone who reviews movies, and everyone who makes movies. Then when they make a Bad Teacher or Greenberg or Young Adult, these people who are WITHOUT A DOUBT the most unpleasant people in the WORLD turn around and say, ‘Ew, I don’t want to SPEND TIME with someone THAT mean and miserable.’ Like the people saying this are fucking Gandhi or something, and not Westside assholes who wouldn’t give anyone the time of fucking day. But a little movie about a misanthrope somehow “offends” them.

    That said, Reitman better put a little QC on unrestrained Cody Camp, because if it’s anything like the vomitous camp-hen mugging on “United States of Tara” with some shrew chick wearing trucker hats and making stupid faces, you can kiss that Oscar nomination good-bye.

  • eddie mars attacks

    Diablo Cody sure gets mentioned a lot on this blog since Jeff went to that screenwriting Q.&A. He obviously has a little crush on her. It’s sweet in a cringe inducing sycophantic kinda way.

  • paul_kolas

    Tapley spends half the time muttering how he hasn’t seen the movie Thompson is talking about, and needs to get around to doing it. Very professional. They both give “Midnight in Paris” mucho love, and I’d have to say that at the halfway point of the year, it may be the one true shoe-in for a nomination. Rightly or wrongly. That “Super 8″ section is a ridiculous waste of time. Anne is trying SO hard to justify a “Tree of Life” nod, it’s almost endearingly, pathetically funny. More blah blah blah blah about “Hugo”. I have to admit, though – sorry Lex – I do like Anne’s sniffy, sexy articulation. She sure seems a lot less taken with “Drive” than you are, Jeff…”a near silent genre film”. Does that mean it’s a guy flick that women won’t relate to, even though it’s Gosling’s “breakout role”? Still, I enjoyed listening to some of the mental masturbation.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Wells to Boulder kid: Great news about Simmmons having allegedly seen and liked/admired Young Adult but where ‘s the link for Simmons’ comments? If it’s on, I can’t find it. And a Google search brings up nothing.

  • Rashad
  • Kristopher Tapley

    So on one hand you get why “The Tree of Life” could be in trouble, AMPAS-speaking, because it isn’t the Academy’s cup of tea. But on the other hand you DON’T get why something like “Young Adult” (still unseen, mind you, with little to go on but what’s in the ether), with its own brand of potential AMPAS repellent, would be talked about in what you call an “uh-oh” fashion.

    Fabulously contradictory, Jeff. And so fascinating to see your opinion of the former film and the latter’s script weaving its way into all of that.

    (I do think Theron is a definite possibility, though, regardless of whether the film finds room elsewhere.)

    “Super 8″ was discussed, by the way, because we were talking about contenders from the first half of the year, as was stated, you know, clearly.

    paul: Are you REALLY that bothered that I mentioned I hadn’t seen a movie yet? Tough crowd. That’s “shoo-in,” by the way.

    I’m just glad Lex caught the logo’s inspiration.

  • Kristopher Tapley

    By the way, am I missing something with your brilliant dissection of GenX vs. Gen Boomer? Let’s say you were a freshman in college when Star Wars and Close Encounters hit in 1977. That’d put you at what, 18? Plus the 34 years in between equals 52 years old. Give or take the four years between that and E.T., I mean, still the same basic thing.

    In any case, the point being made there is that the Academy is beginning to fill up with the sort who worshiped at the Spielberg altar when they were trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Whatever label you want to put on that sect, have at it, but there’s a lot of industry love for “Super 8″ (a film I really, really didn’t like), so it’s worth talking about (particularly vis a vis a first-half-of-the-year assessment).

  • LexG

    They need to nominate Little Elle!!!!

  • Storm Serge

    Theron is rad but why are we citing Simmons? Did anyone actually read that famed Who Is A Star article? Travesty. That and he can’t pronounce Theroux.

  • Rashad

    So apparently Shia punched Hardy on the Wettest County set. This guy is gold.

  • BoulderKid

    @StormSerge: What’s wrong with Simmons? I wouldn’t trust his opinion on everything film related but he’s a media player in LA who does have access to a lot of key players, case in point his podcast with William Goldman a few months ago. I thought his “Who is a Star” article was pretty dead on I thought. Other than maybe questioning a few of his supposed ‘stars’ (always a highly subjective argument given that people use different determinations for what qualifies as starpower) what was really wrong with it?

  • Storm Serge

    @boulderkid: most of it is comprised of unnecessary and illogical sport analogies?

    It contains his umpteenth Cocktail reference.

    Goldman’s last credited movie was Dreamcatcher.

    Understand I generally like Simmons, and really like his basketball work, but these Hollywood and pop-culture gambols of his break the unintentional comedy meter.

  • BoulderKid

    Too much of the blogosphere falls within the Aint It Cool News realm of obsessing over Comic-con crap or Oscar Punditry where writers react to a film through the lens of the Academy’s percieved politics. Simmons at least calls a spade a spade and writes about movies in a way that feels like the authentic reaction of someone who goes to the movies to be entertained in a not completely mindless kind of way (he walked out of Transformers 3). The sports analogies are cliche, but always feel right on (many use them to far less effect). When I heard him say Cruise was throwing 98 in Jerry Maguire I knew exactly what he meant and it would have taken many a few hundred words to echo the same sentiment. [i]Jerry Maguire may not be Hamlet, but Cruise is killing it right now and there is no one else on the planet who could do it in this film this well.[/i]

  • BobbyLupo

    “How come nobody ever offers me a PAID JOB to do this movie-blogging-prognostication shooting the shit kind of deal?”

    Lex – it’s because you consistently publicly reject people for offering you *any* sort of film discussion job, and mock the idea of doing it. You have to do it for free for a time before anybody’s going to pay you to do it; that’s just a fact of life.

  • BobbyLupo

    And ‘Tree of Life’ might sneak in because it’s an especially weak year. Most of the people I’ve spoken to who live in LA are fairly reverential towards it even though they didn’t really enjoy watching it, a lot of “I’m just glad that movie exists in the multiplex” talk.

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