Stab Me With A Pencil

I got a call earlier today from a smart movie guy, and he knows this phantom-like Oscar oddsmaker…a kind of consultant who sees everything and talks to a lot of Academy members and probably wears pricey suits but who shuns the spotlight and doesn’t give his phone number out. The guy funnels his information to…you tell me, maybe exhibitors or gambling operations or whomever. The point is that my movie pal says this guy, whom he’s known for years, has been “Nate Silver-like” and even “spookily accurate” in predicting Oscar winners. And this fucking guy (i.e., the phantom) is saying, believe it or not, that Saving Mr. Banks is going to take the Best Picture Oscar and that Emma Thompson, portrayer of P.L. Travers, is going to win for Best Actress.


I asked if I could speak to this guy and so my friend made the call right away, but the guy hasn’t responded so far. I laughed loudly and feigned shock when he dropped the bomb. “It’s the Driving Miss Daisy syndrome!,” I groaned. “Daisy, The King’s Speech, Argo…always the least offensive, most mild-mannered film with a poignant little emotional tug and the least amount of baggage. Plus it’s Hollywood factory-friendly. The sugarcoat syndrome wins out in the end and the artist goes home in frustration and the movie is a hit.”

My friend explained as follows: “This guy is not invested in Saving Mr. Banks. Not at all. He’s dispassionate. He agrees with you about Adele Exarchpoulos and says if Academy members would just watch Blue Is The Warmest Color they would at least nominate her. And he really likes Wolf of Wall Street. He says it’s like a string of firecrackers but way too much for the Academy. He’s just saying that Saving Mr. Banks is the right kind of middlebrow contender that your older Academy member (60s and 70s, rich, semi-complacent, living in a gated community) likes…it’s right in their middlebrow sweet spot. And he’s making this call because he’s talked to a lot of people and, like it or not, this is the kind of film that the Academy likes to get behind.

Gravity could pull it out but he thinks that the Academy will choose to give that film a couple of tech Oscars and give the Best Director to Alfonso Cuaron. Maybe. They won’t relate to the Scorsese, which they’ll find too lewd and abrasive, and the Russell…actually, he didn’t mention the Russell…but no way is 12 Years A Slave going to make it. No way. They respect 12 Years but they don’t like it. 12 Years A Slave may be this year’s The Color Purple — a long list of nominations, blanked on wins. Although 12 Years screenwriter John Ridley may the one nominee who actually wins. Maybe.

“This guy is basing his prediction on balloting, on relationships,” my friend says. “He’s very accurate, this guy. He’s Nate Silver. He called The Artist early on. He called The King’s Speech over The Social Network early on. Crash over Brokeback Mountain. I’ve know him and have been listening to him for years, and he knows what he’s talking about.

“Best Director is a toss-up between Alfonso Cuaron and Steve McQueen, with the latter perhaps in line for a consolation prize for 12 Years not getting the Best Picture Oscar,” the guy is allegedly saying. “But then McQueen has only just stepped into the ring and Cuaron has been around for a while. He made Children of Men and did a Harry Potter movie and Gravity has become a huge hit.

“Emma Thompson will take the Best Actress Oscar,” he says. “A Best Picture winner will always result in an acting award if anyone significant is nominated. If there’s a nomination to go with the Best Picture nom, that nominee tends to win. He’s the one who reminded me that if a movie is not up for Best Editing, it’s not going to win Best Picture.”

Best Actor-wise, the Phantom Handicapper is sensing that Robert Redford and Bruce Dern “might possibly split the old-guy vote and cancel each other out, leaving Matthew McConaughey as the winner. McConaughey’s weight-loss thing was Raging Bull in reverse, and the Academy may feel that they owe McConaughey because he was snubbed last year. Why don’t thjy feel they owe Redford, who is great respected? Because All Is Lost is done at the box-office…what’s it made so far?…and they don’t respect low grossers.

“If McConaughey gets the Best Actor Oscar, Jared Leto‘s not gonna win for Best Supporting. But if McConaughey doesn’t get it, Leto will probably win. The Academy’s history has always been to spread the wealth.”

For whatever reason we didn’t get into Best Supporting Actress, but I’m thinking all on my own that they have to give it to 12 Years A Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o. I just can’t seem them tumbling for a Jennifer Lawrence performance two years in a row.

If the Phantom Guy is right, the March 2014 Oscar show is going to deliver another Another Major Best Picture Embarassment, and across America and around the world tens of millions of film lovers are going to be rolling their eyes and throwing sandwich food and gobs of guacamole at the TV screen and looking at each other and saying, “This….they chose this generally agreeable but by no means historic film as the year’s best?”

I’ve suggested a measure that would reduce the influence of deadwood Academy members before, and here I am suggesting it again.

  • Joe Gillis

    I really don’t want Saving Mr. Banks to win either…mostly because it’s a damn good movie and it doesn’t deserve to have people like you crapping on it for the rest of existence just because it won over the movie you liked more.

    • Oh my God! It’s a relatively decent, not-great movie that suffers from a curiously farcical tone (it almost feels like Bringing Up Baby at times) and a VERY disappointing and meandering flashback backstory in Australia about a drunken father who invites very little sympathy.

      • Yeah, but it’ll give you a chance to send Kelly Marcel a note of congratulation.

        • It’s hard to explain but while I really liked her script I only sorta liked the film, and in fact the more I think about it the less appealing it seems. Hancock directed it with a kind of cranked-up, semi-farcical tone at times, and that didn’t work for me.

          • Joe Gillis

            You’re just upset that you had to eat the cost of your flight to London to see a movie that you could’ve easily waited a week or so to see in the States.

            • Glenn Kenny

              Apparently if you make alcoholism even a peripheral part of your cinematic narrative Wells closes the iron door on you. Good thing Llewyn Davis only drinks coffee.

              Anyway, I hope Jeff doesn’t fall off the wagon and start hanging around outside Kelly Marcel’s house. “C’mon! I loved your SCRIPT…schwas Hancock’s DIRECTION that shcrewed it up…I love you Kelly! Love ME! LOVE ME!”

      • Michael

        So…you write that you find Banks “a relatively decent, not-great movie that suffers from a curiously farcical tone”….sounds really mediocre, yet you put it at No. 22 of your Best of the Year list out of what? 300 plus films you’ve seen?
        In a nutshell this is why your tastes is decidedly middlebrow and ALL Best Picture Noms will also appear very high on your own list of favorites, most of them in the Top 10…So please: Stop bashing the terrible taste of Oscar voters, as your taste is virtually identical…

  • I really liked SAVING MR. BANKS and it took a sadder route than I expected BUT…it’s not even in my top 10 this year. I do think the seeming wealth-spreading is a good idea for 2013 in theory because (contrary to the “everyone but 12 YEARS A SLAVE can go home” clowns) there have been a number of terrific films that show strengths in different places.

    I guess the downside is that most of my favorites this year (Llewyn Davis, Blue Jasmine, Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, All is Lost…) work on a smaller, darker scale than broader academy faves. SLAVE has historical importance Gravity displays technical prowess that are easier sells than grim character studies.

  • Correcting Jeff

    God, now I hope Banks wins. I hope hope hope SOOOO much.

    The delicious tears will provide many of us with heartwarming schadenfreude for *years* to come.

  • lazarus

    If Blue Jasmine was from a different filmmaker, Thompson could take the Best Actress award. But the Academy respects Woody’s writing so much, and have nominated Blanchett for a variety of roles over her chameleon-like career, that I don’t think the juggernaut of this collaboration is going to be stopped by anyone, at least in this category. Certainly she’s received more hyperbolic praise than any other performer this year.

    • Short of saying Blanchett’s performance cures any and all forms of mental dysfunction for those lucky enough to see BLUE JASMINE, no level of praise directed toward her is undeserved.

      • Noiresque

        I hope Sally Hawkins wins, but given she was snubbed for Happy Go Lucky in favour of at least 2 lesser performances, here’s hoping she’s nominated. Also, there’s the Lawrence juggernaut to contend with.

  • Michael Gebert

    I can believe it. Since I said the same things here a month or two ago…

  • D.Z.

    Marty’s already got his win. Not sure why he needs it again.

    • Nobody NEEDS to win a first time. The “need/due/narrative/this movie gave me a warm tingle inside” game is what turns awards seasons into a giant clusterfuck.

      • D.Z.

        Oh, I think some people deserve it. But when they do get it, it’s time to move on, and let someone else have a shot at glory, instead of sulking about it, and/or trying to pointlessly top oneself. [*cough* Spielberg *cough*]

        • Joe Leydon

          Let me see if understand what you’re saying, DZ: After one accomplishes one great thing, one should never try to top that?

          • D.Z.

            No, I’m just saying when you reach a certain level, it’s kind of pointless to try to repeat the process.

            • Joe Leydon


              • D.Z.

                ‘Cus it’s going to seem like a crappy retread which will tarnish your credibility. For example, Avatar vs. Titanic. Yes, one made more money than the other, but the other at least isn’t a bad joke.

                • Joe Leydon

                  That’s quite a silly statement. I’m not an enormous fan of either movie, but James Cameron certainly didn’t try to repeat himself. He made a very successful period romantic drama, and then he made an even more popular futuristic sci-fi fantasy. How its one a “retread” of the other?

                  • D.Z.

                    It’s a reverse-gender version of Titanic’s love story.

        • pizan܍amore

          Complacency rules!

    • Same reason why Steven Spielberg “needed” to win for Saving Private Ryan five years after winning for Schindler’s List. Because it was a hell of a directing effort.

  • Steven Gaydos

    If Banks, Gravity, Slave, Nebraska, Phillips, Wolf, Philomena, Dallas, Lone, Her, August, Butler, Jasmine and Llewyn are theoretically the primary competitors for those ten best pic noms, Banks certainly deserves its seat at that table. It’s probably good for at least six Oscar noms including best pic. And so glad to see it’s already irritated the faux hipster contingent!

  • Saving Mr Banks winning seems to be everyones darkest timeline. But I rather liked it and wrote as soon as I saw that it could win BP.

  • Chris L.

    So this actually does happen. These people scan the weekend’s receipts, notice a title that isn’t doing so well, and – though they may have seen and admired it initially – give a rueful smirk and say, “Sorry ol’ Sundance, but you just dropped to fourth on my Best Actor list. My respect for your work has sprung a leak as gaping as the one that sank your boat.”

    This apparent “thought” “process” has bewildered me through the ages. It’s as though they’re not even able to love a movie for itself. Ebert once ventured a guess that “they’re afraid box office failure is contagious.” Yeah, whatever. “Deadwood” sounds about right. Worry about the median age of your membership and not of your TV audience.

    • Diane_Chambers

      The ridiculous thing is that All is Lost is an art film. It performed perfectly consistent with market expectations. But people seem to think that its box office should be comparable to 12 Years or Captain Phillips.

      • DukeSavoy

        All is Lost a great exercise in visual filmmaking. Redford and Chandor done good. But ultimately, you’re right, it’s an “art film” for most viewers — those who prefer their movies with the standard dB of yakety-yak.

  • pizan܍amore

    “These awards are so flawed and superficial. I sure hope the right film wins! Because I love art!”

    Next subject: Which music scene has the best prostitutes?

  • Awardsdaily

    Well if it’s Tom O’Neil’s friend he did call Argo last year. If he’s that other guy who’s been shopping his Oscar predictions around for ten years, forget it. But if Tom’s guy, okay fine. I’ll give the theory some serious thought. Btw, I like your Sidedoor thingy.

  • GigglesForGigli

    The Hustle embargo is off now, right? Can you please clarify why you went from the biggest proponent for this movie prior to seeing it to it not even being in your top 26 films of the year? Has DOR lost his glow?

    • I don’t have an explanation as to why I left Hustle off my recently posted list of HE’s 26 Best Films of 2013. No clue, no excuse. I’m fixing it now.

      • cinefan25

        You’ve called Hustle a “very good” film but your initial review of the film seemed less than glowing (especially compared with your review last year of SLP). Do you think Hustle is a lesser film than SLP?

  • Morpheos

    Steve McQueen aught to make a Holocaust movie if he wants to win. Apparently it isn’t enough to be highly acclaimed. Slavery is so off-putting.

  • Gabe_Toro

    This is a TERRIBLE movie. Normally if subpar films with the Oscar, I get a little bummed that a group of people could have such little taste in movies. But this? This would be HILARIOUS. Would they be leaving the voting to a small federation of golden girls?

  • RG2RG

    I’ve always thought Banks would be the winner for exactly the reasons stated here. And I’m great with that because I also love it.

  • Perfect Tommy

    As many have said before, just look at the last couple of years, “The Artist” and “Argo”. Hollywood likes films about Hollywood.

    • DukeSavoy

      Just a spoonful of sugar and all that. Fiddling while Rome burns. Re-arranging the deck chairs on a cold North Atlantic night. Banks has special appeal to stodgy AMPAS members in recalling an era before cable and the Internet, when film ruled the roost.

      • pretto

        Film was not “ruling the roost” in the mid 1960s. Tv was. Cinemas were shutting down all over the country.

  • moviewatcher

    The reason I don’t want Banks to happen is that it will probably be a pretty good, solid and entertaining movie that will forever be cursed and outcast if it wins BP. Everyone will forget they liked it (though of course, not enough to put it in their top 10) and say they hate it, when in fact, they hate AMPAS. Same thing happened with The King’s Speech.

  • SallyinChicago

    Yep, I can foresee this happening. Hollywood loves to reward Hollywood type movies (The Artist) and lighthearted, uplifting fare.
    If Streep is nominated again, she will lose. She’s done and over with with the awards. That leaves Blanchett (I predict will win) and Sandra Bullock (I want to win).
    As for actor, Chit SHOULD win, but won’t. He’s BRITISH Black, not American Black. None of the awards are voting for him yet and he’s going to lose out to the white guys — again!
    As for supporting, Lupica should get it. Depends on how hard she campaigns. Yes, I can see Jennifer getting a second nod. Hollywood loves her.

    • Ray Quick

      “Chit”? Hide under the couch.

      • cyanic

        I read it as “Clit” on initial glance.

  • brenkilco

    Hollywood is fond of Hollywood stories, at least if they uplift. But giving a best picture Oscar to a movie about the making of a movie that was never even nominated for best picture may be a little too meta even for AMPAS oldsters.

    • Charles Peligro

      Pretty sure Mary Poppins was nominated for best picture.

      • brenkilco

        You’re right. My error. At least you didn’t tell me to go fly a kite.

  • roland1824

    For being a super secret insider, these insights are fairly obvious.

    Real film lovers won’t be throwing sandwich food and gobs of guac (oddly specific image there) at their TVs when Mr. Banks takes it, because real film lovers don’t care that much about awards.

    • pizan܍amore

      I think Wells meant to say “real film haters.”

      Awards do not increase a love for movies. They increase hatred for movies. Witness this site’s Oscar coverage.

  • Mr. Buckles

    Stab me with a pencil in both eyes for having to endure this year long charade and vanity parade of who will win what bullsh*t award.
    I know it is smart business b/c people buy into this conversation, but I am sitting this one out. In fact, I am picketing this!

    • “I’m going to show how little I care about this topic by posting about how little I care about this topic!”

      Never understood the rationale behind this.

      • Mr. Buckles

        It is my protestation! This was my picketing.

        • Picketers usually picket about… you know… things they care about.

  • Christopher A. Otto

    Sadly, a lot of what this Secret Guy is saying makes sense, though I still think the door could be slightly open for something else to grab fresh steamrolling momentum, which sometimes overrides the old farts.

  • Mr. F.

    Next year, I hope the Academy breaks out of its current trend of honoring movies about the film industry, and starts to honor movies about the television industry.

  • hupto

    Wells, I’ve been saying for weeks that BANKS would win BP.


    Cadavra has spoken. Smoke if ya got ’em.

  • Mechanical Shark

    I don’t buy it. The King’s Speech and The Artist had rave reviews, and built up buzz really well. This guy seems to be ignoring the campaign aspect, and the fact that critics have been really, really lukewarm on it. This would be a tremendous embarrassment for the Academy to pick, given all the mainstream films that have been really well received. There are no shortage of Picture contenders with high esteem and good campaigns, why would a contender with none of that pull to the front of the pack?

  • Randy Matthews

    I completely agree with Wells on this. I am sick and tired of watching this happen.

    Jeffrey will probably repeat this many times throughout the season, as he did for “Lincoln” last year. This time I actually agree, and hope he has the courage to keep beating the drum on this one.

    If so, I wonder if he will ever be invited to a Disney publicity screening again?

  • AnnaZed

    Jeez; I could have told you that and I haven’t seen either Banks or Wolf yet.