Will Oscars Mirror The Spirits? I Fear Not

In the wake of 12 Years A Slave winning five Spirit Awards yesterday afternoon (Best Feature, Director, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Cinematography) and feeling all the audience love and the relief and joy from the filmmakers about having scored big-time, I began to think about what may happen this evening at the Oscars. About what I fear will happen. For in the minds of many millions the Academy will be revealing a self-portrait if they give the Best Picture Oscar to Gravity in this, the year of the greatest surge of top-quality African-American filmmaking in Hollywood history and especially this one masterful film — the first indisputably artful drama about 19th Century slavery in America, not so ironically directed by a Brit.


12 Years A Slave producer and costar Brad Pitt, costar and Best Supporting Actress winner Lupita Nyong’o in Spirit Awards press tent after their big win.

Because if the worst comes to pass the main impression won’t be that Gravity has won. The main impression, trust me, will be that the old-white-fart Academy has frowned upon one of the greatest, saddest and most compassionate films about human dignity and one man’s unquenchable desire to live and not just exist. In so doing the Academy’s epitaph will read as follows: “Okay, look, we know 12 Years A Slave is a very well made film but we’re the smug Academy and we just didn’t like it…okay? Too downish, too brutal and our wives wouldn’t even watch the screener. We don’t like thinking that the culture of Scarlett O’Hara was this cruel, this heartless. It brings us down. So we’d rather give the Best Picture Oscar to a beautifully composed space thriller with Sandra Bullock tumbling weightless and going ‘aahh! aahh!'”

“I think of that Academy member I encountered — so closed-minded to the way the world has changed, to the way film and the Oscar race has changed. They remain untouched, frozen in time and space, like the bodies in Pompeii. I know we call [the Spirit Awards] the ‘kiss of death’ for the Oscars. That phrase could take on new meaning tonight. This could be the moment things really turn around, perception-wise, if the Academy shuts out 12 Years A Slave.” — from Sasha Stone‘s Awards Daily piece about the Spirit Awards, posted today.

If 12 Years A Slave win Best Picture tonight, it’ll be the biggest surprise “whoa!” since Roman Polanski won the Best Director Oscar for The Pianist 11 years ago.

Congrats to Matthew McConaughey (“Aww right aww right aww right!”) and Cate Blanchett for winning Best Actor and Best Actress, and to the 20 Feet From Stardom gang for taking the Best Documentary award and to Ryan Coogler‘s Fruitvale Station for taking the Best First Feature trophy. And congratulations to the Southern California weather for holding back on the rain until the very end of the proceedings.

I humbly apologize for making the mistake of lying down on the couch for a five-minute nap at 5:30 pm and waking up seven hours later and going “aww, hell” and going back to sleep and waking up at 5:30 am. I thought the jetlag thing had been licked. Maybe it has been now, finally.


Selma director Ava Duvernay.

Chicago Tribune‘s Mark Caro, Christian Science Monitor critic and author Peter Rainer.

The great M. Emmet Walsh, whom I worked for in 1985 and early ’86 on a Best Supporting Actor campaign. As we were chatting yesterday he looked disapprovingly at my hair and said “I don’t think I need hair like that…I’m happy to have what I have.”

Actress Elizabeth Rohm (Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark, American Hustle)

20 Feet From Stardom director Morgan Neville.

12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen.

Telluride Film festival’s Julie Huntsinger (l.) and friend/colleague whose name I didn’t get…sorry.

  • dowhatyoudoyou

    The Jimmy Swaggart of Oscar hucksterism is mocking Darlene Love’s faith in God. That’s rich.

  • K. Bowen

    Metropolis. 2001 ASO. Solaris. The Empire Strikes Back. Blade Runner. They’re not really going to make the first sci-fi winner Gravity , are they?

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      If Gravity wins, it will be seen as partly a pro-Gravity, admiration-for-Cuaron-and-Lubeski vote but mostly the manifestation of an anti-Slave consensus. A good percentage of the smug farts who voted for Gravity this year could’t be bothered to see Children of Men (’06), by far the finest Cuaron-Lubezki collaboration thus far.

      • GigglesForGigli

        I look at Gravity winning as more of an anti-WOWS vote rather than an anti-Slave vote.

      • K. Bowen

        Children of Men is a much better film, IMO. This is one of those cases of the Academy doing the right thing one film late.

        • JoeS

          Naw. This has NOTHING to do with Children of Men. NOTHING. I agree COM is the better film, but, I doubt half the membership even remembers it now if they saw it at all in the first place…..

      • Schleppy

        One of us needs to watch COM again. I found it dull and pretentious, though it looked great. I’d rather see Gravity a second time (admittedly, I’d have to see it a first time too).

        • GigglesForGigli

          But “dull and pretentious” is Jeff’s wheelhouse.

          • Schleppy

            Nah. I feel like Jeff’s usually got a good nose for plodding artsy emptiness vs more earned artsy immersiveness (not a word?). I also disliked Children of God and The Lives of Others from around that time, so maybe I was just going through a contrary phase.

            • GigglesForGigli

              Well, I’m with you on COM, but I could never buy into the ridiculous plot. Maybe I’ll give it another shot.

  • Schleppy

    Steve McQueen isn’t American.

    • GigglesForGigli

      Plus, he stole Steve McQueen’s name. How can we expect the Academy to vote for someone with the audacity to do such a thing?

      • m_00_m

        How crazy would it have been if he had changed the title of Solomon Northrup’s story so it was “The Great Escape”?

        • Thom Phoolery

          Or Towering Inferno.

    • Thom Phoolery

      No shit.

      • Schleppy

        Don’t “no shit” me. Jeff’s the one suggesting he’s African American.

        • Thom Phoolery

          That’s why he called him “a Brit”. I see what you mean. You don’t know the name of the hot blonde chick in red do you?

  • JR

    Not too many years ago I would watch the Spirit Awards to learn the names of movies I knew next to nothing about. These days it is so similar to the Oscars in terms of nominations and winners it is less interesting to watch or to consider the results.

    Tighten the definition of “independent” film or something. How refreshing would a win for Brie Larson or someone else have been?

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      That’s what I was hoping for. A lot of people said that to me yesterday during the show.

    • Schleppy

      There should clearly be a max budget for eligibility.

      • JR

        Somebody here can verify this, but I think they raised the budget bar several years ago (to $20 mil??) to open the competition up to more films, and that has basically ruined the “spirit” of the focus on awarding independent films.

        • Diane_Chambers

          That is true, and they don’t even enforce it – for instance, I’m fairly certain that last year’s big winner, Silver Linings Playbook, had a budget exceeding $20M.

    • GigglesForGigli

      The Spirits are a studio driven joke these days and do nothing to promote independent cinema.

    • JoeS

      And they vote for 20 FEET FROM STARDOM over THE SQUARE or ACT OF KILLING??

      “Indie” my ass, they’re become star & studio f*ckers………..

      • m_00_m

        So true. Voting for “20 Feet From Stardom” turns out to be a perfect move, as it describes exactly what they desire (independent filmmaking be damned).

  • Pertwillaby

    There is no way 12 Years a Slave loses Best Picture. NO WAY.

    (Something else: Jeff, those tinted glasses you are wearing look terrible. I thought you are a serious fashionista…)

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      Tough shit. I like them and that’s that.

  • VicLaz2

    The great/sad part is that there’s no need to pull a “Crash” just for the sake of white guilt. 12 Years is simply the best nominated film. The only one that comes close is Wolf of Wall Street. It is a win win from a political, social and artistic standpoint.

  • Thom Phoolery

    And the name of the hottie in the red dress is …?

    • Carl LaFong

      She’s Elizabeth Röhm, star of “Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark”.

      • Thom Phoolery

        Thanks dude. I always like to know exactly who I’m masturbating to.

      • Terry McCarty

        And a few seasons of LAW AND ORDER.

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      More orange-y than red.

  • GigglesForGigli

    Gotta love Wells using his Twitter Spirit commentary to shit on a reference to God in an acceptance speech… which happens all the time at the these sorts of things, doesn’t it?

    • Schleppy

      Thanking their Agents is even worse, as they probably did even less than God to help land the award.

  • Big G

    12 Years winning Picture will be the biggest surprise since Polanski winning Director? Are you kidding? Aren’t 25 out of 30 “experts” at Gold Derby predicting it to win? Yes they are.

    And McConaughey is so much better in the backstage press conference than in his cringe worthy acceptance speeches.

    • Diane_Chambers

      Funnily enough, one of those “experts” is Jeff.

      • Big G

        Yeah, Jeff is consistently inconsistent.

  • JoeS

    And, why doesn’t IFC run this live any more? And, they edit the crap out it. Some of the speeches had noticeable edit pops, yet they let McConaughy go on for 10 minutes uncut. (enjoyable for the most part, but still)

    And, NO Foreign Film, Editing or Cinematography presentation on TV? WTF?!

    Is the 17th rerun of a Portlandia episode that important to cut the ceremony?

  • terry farthing

    When one of the producers thanked “Michael.. Sarah..” I thought “Holy crap, Michael Cera is in ’12 Years’?

  • Big G

    “This could be the moment things really turn around, perception-wise, if the Academy shuts out 12 Years a Slave.”

    So then Jeff and Sasha should be HOPING for a 12 Years shutout. Since maybe they’ll be shamed into changing their ways. Just a thought.

  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3769949/ thatpj

    ” the year of the greatest surge of top-quality African American filmmaking in Hollywood history and especially this one masterful film ”

    I find this statement ironic in the wake of Tyler Perry, the most financially successful black director of all time not getting his deal with Lionsgate renewed.

    Even more ironic that awards sites beating the Slave political drum did not pick up on it. But I guess Perry, isn’t right kind of black filmmaker.

    • Big G

      Only seen two of his movies, but “top-quality” and “Tyler Perry” don’t really go together.

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      You got that right.