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I didn’t file last night about the SAG winners because (a) I genuinely love and worship great filmmaking and revel in the celebration of same, and therefore (b) I don’t care at all whether Pleasing But Overpraised Movie #1 (i.e., The Artist) now has a slight chance of losing the Best Picture Oscar to Pleasing but Overpraised Movie #2 (i.e., The Help).

The Spirit of 2011 (as represented by the final Oscar favorites) is virulently opposed to the Spirit of 1999 — I know that much. The two-headed Artist/Help shrek gollum isn’t fit to shine the boots of Election, Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, The Insider, American Beauty, The Matrix, etc.

The final indignity came when SAG gave its Best Actor prize to The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin over The DescendantsGeorge Clooney. Lord knows it’s not easy to smile and grin and tapdance like Dujardin did in The Artist, and then turn on a dime and exude anguish and depression and grow a seven-day beard as his character’s movie career goes downhill. What are Clooney’s expressions of 21st Century grief, uncertainty, vulnerability and fear in the face of death compared to that?

None of my faves are in play here, and we are in the last throes of one of the weakest, shallowest and most profoundly embarassing Oscar years in motion picture history. Did last night’s SAG wins by Cecil B. DeMille‘s The Greatest Show on Earth indicate a real possibility of it beating Mike Todd‘s Around The World in Eighty Days for the Big Prize, or is this just a fool’s dream? Either way you can bet your boots that Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil is keeping track of every last shift in intuition and sentiment among key prognosticators.

I just want to find a nice bucket at a nearby hardware store and keep it with me just in case.

This morning Movieline‘s Stu Van Airsdale posted the following: “I don’t have much outrage left about this year’s Oscar class, but just watching another goddamn tired Albert Nobbs clip and seeing Tilda Swinton‘s gracious recognition of her own SAG nomination and thinking about Swinton and Charlize Theron and Kirsten Dunst and Elizabeth Olsen and at least three or four other actresses more worthy of Close’s Oscar nomination and what could have been had me so irretrievably embittered all over again. What a bunch of bozos we’ve built this beat around. Or maybe we’re the bozos. Either way, it’s a waste.”

  • FlashDust

    Sorry, it can never be “one of the weakest, shallowest and most profoundly embarassing Oscar years in motion picture history” when Terrence Malick is up for Best Director and Best Picture.

    But, feel free to try again.

  • Gabriel

    Yep. There are three films in this Best Picture field (Tree of Life, Moneyball, Hugo) that are significantly better than anything that was nominated for BP last year.

  • DiscoNap

    What Dujardin did was actually harder. For one thing, Clooney couldn’t have done it. And if The Descendants were a French film set in Martinique, I have a feeling Dujardin would have made it work. How can you rant about obeisance to power and then jizz over every B+ Clooney performance? Save it for when he really stretches himself, like in The American.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Sasha Stone was unable to post the following due to Movable Type’s peculiarities:

    “Sorry Stu — we may be bozos (a given) and the industry is as well a bunch of bozos perhaps but it still comes down to a matter of opinion and who we are defines how we respond. For instance, only Theron seems mildly deserving to upset Close and not even her. Olsen and Dunst — good, not great. I get why people respond to their performances but come on, give me a break.

    “Close was great in that part — no, she isn’t a hottie anymore with big great tits but this was a well studied, hard-earned accolade.

    “I do agree about Tilda Swinton, whom I believe gave the best performance of the year. Glad Viola Davis is winning. She deserves it.

    “Monitoring and writing about the Oscar race will eventually discourage the best of them, particularly if you care about who wins. If you can possibly do it without having any emotional investment you will survive longer perhaps but you will be a duller read. So, Stu, take it all with a grain of salt and realize that the Oscar race isn’t so much about deserving as it is about popularity and power….if you’re talking about a majority vote, some 100,000 people voting, take heart in the notion that you’d rather disagree with them than agree with them, right? Because what would that then make you? Just another cog in the majority.

    “I for one hate having to watch people who cover this beat display the disillusionment that comes with covering it. It is a thankless job — no respect from your peers, no respect from the industry and you very rarely get what you want and everyone thinks you’re a whore for somebody. So why do it? Why indeed.”

    Wells to Stone: Because the quality of life of even a fairly successful (i.e., well read, ad-supported) Hollywood awards-season commentator and critic is quite rich and bountiful and rewarding, despite all the negatives.

  • Soma

    The Best Actress race really is the most offensive…the majority of those women moving forward are in such weak films.

  • FlashDust

    “I was one of the people you hated watching cover the beat with so much disillusionment.”

    – Sasha Stone’s epitaph

  • Abbey Normal

    Wait a minute…does this mean The Help has officially supplanted Descendants as the official runner-up?

  • FlashDust
  • JustPassingThrough

    Billie Holiday: “There’s no damn business like show business — you have to smile to keep from throwing up.”

  • Robert Cashill

    Clooney’s good in THE DESCENDANTS but it seemed more like a repurposing of his outstanding UP IN THE AIR performance than something new. Three cheers for a comedy winner–one we may never have to see again, if Roberto Beningni, under the radar here in the US since 1998, is any indication.

  • Rashad

    Clooney gave another ho-hum performance. The man doesn’t do anything there anymore. You want to see a man have a real troubled relationship with his daughters, just watch the final scene of Rampart, where Woody doesn’t say anything but just slightly waves to his eldest.

    Dujardin was great in his role, and completely sold the movie.

    And while Jeff lists a couple of movies from ’99, he must realize, that aside from AB and The Insider, The Green Mile was nominated over the rest of them.

  • MarkVH

    I’d argue that Clooney was a good three or four shades better in The Descendants than he was in Up in the Air – more rounded, more vulnerable. The movie, on the other hand, is about a thousand times better.

  • MechanicalShark

    The Descendants is kind of lousy, and although I know exactly how it’s Wells catnip, I wish you’d look past the obvious “serious adult” nonsense and see that it’s poor craftsmanship, and Clooney gives one of the least lived-in performances of his career. Dujardin winning here is great and right, even if the film is sort of trifle-ish. What he did was not easy, and doesn’t boil down to simply dancing and turning on the charm. His George Valentine is a self-destructive egomaniac, and Dujardin gets at that really well. if The Artist is about anything, it’s about male hubris. Besides, how many fucking awards does Clooney need? It’s too fucking early in his no doubt lengthy career for him to win a SECOND OSCAR. I happen to think his work in Syriana was top-shelf stuff, and way more “real” and authentic than his work in The Descendants.

  • Andrea

    I was rooting for Brad Pitt but seeing he has no shot, I am 100% on Team Jean Dujardin. The Descendants was awful and Clooney was his usual dull self. Dujardin was delightful.

    And if you didn’t feel slightly moved by Viola Davis last night you might want to check your pulse. That was a great moment for so many reasons. No more important than it will drive the Streep fan boys crazy as they cry bloody murder that she is entitled to win for any film she is nominated won, even one as reprehensibly bad as The Iron Lady (which oh yeah BTW has tanked at the box office).

    Atleast we have some SUSPENSE in the top races this year. Davis vs Streep will go down to the wire esp if Streep wins BAFTA. As will Dejardin vs Clooney with maybe even Gary Oldman making a push?

    Based on who it’s down I would LOVE for Jean and Viola to repeat their wins at Oscar. Clooney and Streep have it all as it is and don’t need to win for such forgettable performances and films.

  • Andrea

    And Sasha is 100% responding to Stu.

    Whine whine whine. People like Stu know what their getting into. Many of these art house films are lucky to even be in the conversation.

  • Andrea

    I will say the biggest BS of the season is Plummer sweeping so easily. I doubt most have even seen that film. I saw it this week and I wish I hadn’t. Bad forgettable film. Plummer is winning cause he’s old, gay, and died. Nick Nolte was far superior in the underrated Warrior if we will want to hand out career achievements.

  • FlashDust

    Oh, and fuck the “spirit of 1999″ bullshit as the final Oscar favorites of that year were American Beauty, The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, and The Sixth Sense (you only mentioned two of those films).

    Lets not get delusional and suggest the Academy gave its rightful due to Being John Malkovich, Fight Club, Election, Buena Vista Social Club…etc.

  • Ray

    “Plummer is winning cause he’s old, gay, and died.”

    Hahaha….. Hollywood in a nutshell.

  • Cerulean

    Jean Dujardin, Michael Shannon, Michael Fassbender, Demian Bichir. ALL gave much better performances than George Clooney. Clooney simply stretched himself further than his usual acting but that doesn’t mean he gave the best performance out of the group. The media spends way too much time kissing Clooney’s ass for giving average performances while overlooking truly worthy performances. So yeah good on the SAGS for rewarding the best performance instead of “George Clooney’s best”. Viva Dujardin.

  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    There’s such a backlog of brilliant un-nominated performances this year. I would rather talk about them than discuss Dujardin’s charismatic soft-shoe softball crap or Clooney’s Seasonal Dignified Grief, whomever else is filling the dying/old/gay/Nazi/realperson slot.

  • FlashDust

    For evidence of this see Sasha Stone’s sycophantic swoon when she merely breathed the same air as Clooney late last year.

  • MechanicalShark

    Andrea, that’s monumentally stupid. I hate when people dislike a performance and decide that nobody else really likes it either, they’re just awarding it for some other factor. Fuck, that’s egotistical. People legit love Plummer’s performance, AND the movie. It’s okay that you don’t, but it’s not okay to truck out that nonsense about voting for Plummer because he’s old and plays a gay guy that dies. Plummer is a great actor, and I think he gave a great performance in Beginners. And the people that voted for him probably believe that, too.

  • Raising_Kaned

    “it will drive the Streep fan boys crazy”

    Who??? Oh, you mean, “the gays?” Listen, we really need to stop using “fanboys” shorthand a) in general; b) more importantly, when it’s not at all applicable.

    My Mom likes Meryl Streep. I’m not really sure what under-30, (straight) guy is in a rush to go out and see ANY of her movies just “for her.”

    In summation, “Streep fanboys” do not exist in this dojo.

  • Scylax

    I don’t get people over the age of 17 who still get upset about the Oscars. Every once in a while they actually give it to something that deserves it, but most of the time they don’t. Get over it.

  • HJV

    I couldn’t agree more so thank you for voicing my exact opinions of this ridiculous race. The Around the World analogy is dead-on. None of these names recognized this year’s best films and honestly, I blame the critics for not championing a more diverse group of films. They heaped praise on Oscar-pandering ones while failing to utilize any of their power to promote the quality ones staring them right in the face. Disheartening

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  • Sam

    The Descendants was awful and Clooney was his usual dull self. Dujardin was delightful.

    And if you didn’t feel slightly moved by Viola Davis last night you might want to check your pulse. That was a great moment for so many reasons. No more important than it will drive the Streep fan boys crazy as they cry bloody murder that she is entitled to win for any film she is nominated won, even one as reprehensibly bad as The Iron Lady (which oh yeah BTW has tanked at the box office).

    Atleast we have some SUSPENSE in the top races this year. Davis vs Streep will go down to the wire esp if Streep wins BAFTA. As will Dejardin vs Clooney with maybe even Gary Oldman making a push?

    Based on who it’s down I would LOVE for Jean and Viola to repeat their wins at Oscar. Clooney and Streep have it all as it is and don’t need to win for such forgettable performances and films. slano

  • updaterr

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  • Moara

    Dujardin didn’t just exude depression and grow a beard though. His entire face and body transformed: heavier, slower, solemn sloth. That matinee idol joy gave way to craggy lines of passive stewing in stubbornness and hubris – which is remarkable given his character still appeared to be generous and understanding to others, yet is so petty on himself internally. I don’t think it’s as technically complex as Oldman’s Tinker performance, but remember technique only goes so far before that’s all you marvel and focus on. In silent film, people want to pull back and just see the ENTIRE character as integrated, fluid piece. Dujardin makes a good compromise between modern ideas and how it used to be done (which varied greatly.) And you even feel the character took you through early 20s programmer, to early 30s baby steps of dramatic realism, and even the early 30s hoofers (though all are “mediocre” jobbing performers, not top 1~2 icons history prefers to remember.) The only gimmick I see is that no actor in the sound movie era convinced so much as 1920s~30s worker before the camera.

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