By David Poland email@example.com
9 Weeks To Oscar: Let The Narratives Begin!
Here we are… ballots are out… Phase One will be over in a couple of weeks… and the battle for The Big Win has begun. The primary weapon is in the process of changing from the movies themselves (central to The Great Settling™… c/o Mr Condon) to The Narratives.
The Narratives are the big perspective ideas, almost always instigated by someone with an ax to grind or a bonus to earn. Narratives should not be confused with Dirty Pool, which is when some personal or oddball issue comes to the forefront for no other reason than to tear this film or that film down. The media, of course, can come up with stupid ideas on its own as well… like the notion that Natalie Portman’s pregnancy is somehow a strategic event in support of her potential Oscar nomination and win.
The Narrative for The King’s Speech goes something like… “It’s a movie about humanity and humility… one of the most powerful men in the world is really just a broken child and with the help of a commoner, he can be healed… it’s about a woman who is so strong and wise that she can change her husband’s life and never lose her dignity… it’s about a commoner whose principles are strong enough to withstand the pressures of the monarchy, back when the monarchy meant something… so do you really want to vote for a movie about a rich jerk or some crazy mixed up girl or a violent western that the filmmakers admit they dumbed down to make more money… or do you want to vote for an epic story of courage and overcoming obstacles?”
The Social Network… “Mark Zuckerberg changed the world. You’ve seen him on the cover of Time Magazine. You’ve read about Facebook’s stock price. David Fincher, the genius who made Brad Pitt into an old man, bring his genius to the movie. Aaron Sorkin, the genius who wrote A Few Good Men and The American President, took his genius and changed the real story just enough to make it a metaphor for who we are and who we will be. Greed, power, broken relationships… he has billions of dollars and he wears a hooded sweatshirt. We need to understand guys like this… they will control our future. This is important stuff. Yeah, King’s Speech really gets you… we understand… and you like the John Wayne remake too, yeah… but King’s Speech is really about those great performances and that girl in True Grit is really special… but this is the important film. This one will be remembered when the others are forgotten.”
True Grit… “It’s the kind of movie they don’t make anymore. Have you ever seen a more beautiful Western? The Coens are two of our greatest filmmakers. They get it. The film has themes of courage and the relentless pursuit of what’s right, not just what’s convenient. And how about that little Hailee as The Girl? Amazing, right? They found her after looking at 17,000 girls. And this girl comes in, with that punim… you know, she’s Hailee SteinFELD, right?… and she gets it. Can you imagine a 13 year old learning all that dialogue and having to work with an all-male case of Academy Award talent like Jeff, Matt, and Josh? And speaking of Jeff… too bad he won last year because if not, he’d be a lock to win this year. And Damon… most underrated actor in the business… and what a good guy! You know, it’s one thing to shoot a movie in rooms on a college campus or on a palace set with a couple of great actors going at it… but our film is a true epic… the kind of movie that studios are afraid to make and may stop making if they don’t get enough support. Beautiful, right? And audiences love it… just look at the box office!”
The Fighter… “It’s Rocky meets Raging Bull meets On The Waterfront but with a modern edge they couldn’t show you in a movie back then… powerful, intimate stuff… could Christian Bale be any more like Dickey? Look at this footage of the real Dickey and tell me that you could tell these two guys apart. You can’t. And Amy Adams is sexy. You always thought she was sexy, but here, she’s really sexy. And Melissa Leo… no since Shelley Winters has such a mother been on the screen! This is raw stuff. Powerful emotion. The other movies are terrific… but they all keep you are arm’s length. In The Fighter, you can practically see every pimple… you can smell the crack pipe… you know who these people are. That’s what lasts… not dead Kings and obnoxious rich kids from the good part of Massachusetts and Mr. Eye Patch.”
Black Swan… ‘Have you seen the movie? And what did you… uh, hello? Hello? Are you there? I can’t believe he hung up on me!”
“Black Swan is… yes… yes… yes… uh-huh… yes… thank you, but we’re just publicizing the film, we didn’t make it… yes… thanks so much… uh-huh… yes… mostly Natalie herself… uh-huh… Darren really doesn’t want us answering that question… okay… thank you… uh-huh… well, thank you so much, I really learned a lot about the film talking to you… okay… thank you… uh-huh…
The short versions? Feel it, think it, make it traditional, or make it raw and real.
Obviously, other elements work differently for each film. Box office works for TSN and Grit. The Weinstein System is to have King’s Speech crest at the box office the week after nominations, so they can start pushing the box office as a part of the pitch. The Fighter will likely play on its role as an underdog and talk about The Hurt Locker’s box office a lot.
Age is a treacherous issue this year. All four of these films skew older… but how old? Pushing for awards requires an appeal to the vanity of the age of the voter, which includes making them feel like they are part of a bigger discussion than with just their direct contemporaries.
And each movie has some kind of Achilles tendon. We are notorious Anglophiles, though those films tend not to win… unless they are Harvey’s. Watch for more irrelevant smears about Bertie. Obnoxious college kids are the focus of TSN and there is plenty of sex and drugs, especially for geeks. Grit still carries the mark of John Wayne and it’s very violent for a PG-13 film. And drugs and violence are at the heart of Fighter.
One of these stories will start to get more and more traction over the next few weeks. Perhaps new variables will crop up. But the stories will be told. And Academy members will start to believe.
Maybe things will remain split up between one or two stories. In the end, voters seem to choose the story that best suits their taste. And then, in early February, the media starts explaining what happened and giving very detailed reasons… when in the end, the truth is, The They ends up preferring a movie in this smaller field and the rationalizations follow close behind.
So jump up on Uncle Harvey’s lap and let him tell you a story… once upon a time…