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David Poland

By David Poland

Why Critics Have Become Less & Less Relevant

I feel I have to start out columns like this reminding people that I believe that no one is ever going to be embarrassed that they chose The Social Network as their film of the year or Colin Firth or Fincher or pretty much anyone whose name I have seen being awarded or nominated for year-end awards in the last week. No doubt, HFPA will mess that streak up tomorrow… but the exception proves the rule, right?

But this is my thinking… could NYFCC and LAFCA pay any less heed to the idea of critical thinking than they have this year?

I mean, LAFCA proves its critical thinking by embracing a performance from last year’s Sony Classics foreign language masterpiece, A Prophet, another from Mother, which was on last year’s festival circuit then got a March release by Magnolia, and Carlos, a great made-for-TV mini-series, also released by IFC.

I must have been so distracted by the weirdness of these choices… since obviously the current landscape much be horrible if they are digging into these cobwebbed corners for awards candidates… that it didn’t occur to me to post the DP/30s with all three filmmakers. Terrific films, but WHAT?!?!

But don’t worry, like NYFCC, they laid down and did the heavy lifting for the mainstream.

This is what film critics have become in this country. Either they are chasing the obscure, followed by a small but loyal band of like minded folks who put their money where their effete taste is or they are getting their sense of the world out of Entertainment Weekly. (No offense to EW or the fine folks who make a magazine that rarely pretends to be anything other than what it is.)

People get upset with me at this time of year when I dismiss The Precursors because, they scream, it’s not all about Oscar.


It’s all about Oscar. It’s all about Oscar for every person who believes they can win that prize, until they don’t. And then, the precursors they won become much more valued.

But more to the point, the notion that the film year is so homogeneous or that there is one performance or film that is so clearly head and shoulders over the others… are you serious?

What does The Social Network winning both coasts do for The Social Network? Aside from some lovely ego play, nothing. The film has been in position to be nominated across much of the board since the first screening in September. Come February, no Academy member is going to vote for anything based on what awards groups said.

What does The Social Network winning both coasts do for film lovers? Nothing. Anyone who is going to see a movie because of the critics groups has seen this film… and 80% of them already have it on DVD in their house (two copies in many).

(Perhaps the greatest irony is that Jesse Eisenberg and the double-dip of Supporting Actor candidates are the ones that needed help from these groups with The Academy and didn’t get any.)

I can already hear the yelling… “We don’t care what the other group does!” “We voted by our rules and this is just the way it happened!” “We’re not influenced by the Oscar race!”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Tell it to Miss Daisy.

I’ll tell you exactly what I got out of these two groups this year… vanilla pudding… sweet… delicious even… but not remotely nutritious… not even interesting. Maybe that’s not the job of film critics… but ya know, in 2010, with everyone losing their jobs left and right, you think maybe a critics group or two might get serious about how to do something more than going along to get along. Maybe?

P.S. I think Colin Firth is the cat’s pajamas. He probably should have won last year for a performance that was complex, to say the least. But he’s going to win this year for a more technical, but very high quality performance. I am at peace with that. That said, if you saw Bardem’s performance in Biutiful and you think that any of the other performances, including Firth’s, is even aiming for the kind of depth Bardem goes to there, you are an idiot. And I don’t think Colin or any of the others who are in the race would disagree. You can dislike the movie or you can not like that kind of film or performance… that is your personal prerogative. But the lack of any nods to Bardem, in a performance that makes the overlooked turn in The Sea Inside looks like a cake walk, from LAFCA, NYFCC, or BFCA is an embarrassment. I loved him and “Friendo” too. But this is how critics have become marginalized. It can’t stop handing awards to great, fun, movie-movie performances and disconnects from the tough stuff.

There are exceptions. Melissa Leo and Amy Adams got in for the first time with great, small, intimate indie performances. And they may both be nominated this year for much more traditional work. If you think Christian Bale is doing something interesting in The Fighter, maybe you should have seen The Machinist or American Psycho, which were much more complex turns, by design of the overall films. But those performances weren’t obscure in the right way.

I toil in this garden. I am not opposed to the nature of it. But the hypocrisy… and I can’t see Kim Hye-ja and Colin Firth at LAFCA as anything less than a freaky combination of an overreach and an underreach… just gets to me sometimes.

P.S.S. The Social Network still isn’t going to win Best Picture from The Academy… unless they are starting a Media branch.

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47 Responses to “Why Critics Have Become Less & Less Relevant”

  1. James says:

    Mother was Magnolia not IFC

  2. Mark F. says:

    “P.S.S. The Social Network still isn’t going to win Best Picture from The Academy… unless they are starting a Media branch.”

    David, we will make sure you never forget this prediction as long as you live–if it is wrong. How can you be so sure of yourself?

  3. David Poland says:

    Thanks, James… fixing.

    And Mark F… because I talk to Academy members every day… and have since October.

    There needs to be an angle for a film to win. And I don’t see one that puts Social Network in the winner’s circle.

    I haven’t heard from a single member who doesn’t admire the film… nor one who thinks it’s The Best Picture.

    And it needs to get past other pictures that deliver what it wants to be The Film to deliver. The King’s Speech for the block. Or True Grit, perhaps. Or if there is a passion movie, it will be part of the late wave, not the $90m October grosser.

    If regular people were half as impassioned by the film as the mainstream media is – mostly because, in my opinion, they see it as a takedown of the internet – it would have done double the box office and been a lock to win by now. Never happened.

    But yes… they could find that magical angle… Peter Travers could become the voice of reason for a generation… I always say that Phase 2 is a different race. I just don’t see how Social Network finds new life next month. And if I feel that happening, I will write about it with the same dispassion as the pronouncement above.

  4. Anthony says:

    Your theory neglects history, Dave.

    The critics went similarly wowza for Titanic in
    1997 and Sideways in 2004.

    Were they becoming irrelevant back then, too?

    Every once in a while, the stars align and so do
    the critics.

  5. David Poland says:

    Not sure how the fact that they hit on Titanic and Sideways and Schindler’s List (oh my) has anything to do with my take or history.

    I don’t care whether the groups both vote for the same movie. Not my beef, whether its the obvious (Titanic) or the needy (Sideways)… nor about Social Network. It’s the entire list of the same old, same old.

    Put 3 critics in a room and you get a fight. Put 40 critics in a room and you get vanilla.

    Has it always been this way? Perhaps. But everyone in that room used to have an actual job as a critic and they weren’t being lost in the tidal wave of stuff out there. Not a good time for the same old shit, which I do think has become worse as the Precursor thing has become more and more of an issue.

  6. LexG says:

    I sure as shit don’t know any Academy members, and I’ve been screaming David’s P.S.S. theory from the rafters for two months:

    Social Network IS ABOUT journalism. It is ABOUT MOVIE CRITICS and ethics and NEW MEDIA vs OLD JOURNALISM ETHICS. It is catnip, fucking MANNA FROM THE HEAVENS to film critics. IT IS ABOUT THEM. It is a movie FOR AND ABOUT, say, Poland or any of his peers on the online side of entertainment coverage. It is a movie FOR AND ABOUT a guy like Ken Turan, who’s old guard and sees competition from some whippersnappers on the Internet.

    SOCIAL NETWORK *flatters* journalists and smart critics, who do all the “Oscar prognostication.”

    But does it flatter Bel Air millionaires whose week consists of reading scripts, hiring new gardners, and shopping at The Grove? Does it speak to Mickey Rooney and Lou Gossett? Does Jack Nicholson, does Tom Cruise, does Michael Bay, spend hours on end ON FACEBOOK hitting refresh while pondering the relevance and resonance of electronic media and codes of ethics and the way human interaction is transforming in the cyber era?

    You couldn’t make a movie more specifically catering to the wants and desires of film critics if it was called “A.O., WELLS, TURAN AND MALTIN GO TO THE JUNKET AND MEET AMY ADAMS.” For the rest of the world, it’s a solid movie and, yes, while it may be “saying things” about their current reality, I don’t know that it resonates as deeply with actual industry people like it does with the critic groups.

  7. Nathaniel R says:

    OMG make up your mind. They’re overreaching if they vote with their hearts (A Prophet / Mother) but they’re underreaching when they don’t vote with *your* heart (Biutiful) for the non-obvious Oscar stuff?

    I’m sorry but this just reads so hypocritically; Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

  8. Hopscotch says:

    Small point, but I don’t think Bale’s work in The Machinist is that complex GIVEN ASIDE the weight loss aspect, which basically consumes the whole film. His work in Rescue Dawn is pretty remarkable.

    I don’t think The Social Network is out of it, as DP knows more than anybody, the members who’ve been admitted to the Academy have gotten younger and younger in the last few years, and if it is indeed a three-way race they could push it over the edge.

    I’m still waiting to see True Grit. I’m hoping it’ll catch fire and get this race going.

  9. lujoc says:

    LexG nails it, and I’ll go one step further — film critics (over)identify with TSN because it’s about them — about the socially awkward, white, male, heterosexual brainiac who has trouble getting the girl no matter how smart he is — and what happens in the movie? He triumphs! So no surprise that a bunch of aging, increasingly irrelevant, mostly white male heterosexuals prefer it to a story about a young female ballet dancer or two middle-aged lesbians or what have you.

  10. Hopscotch says:

    The Social Network has a great opening scene and a great concluding scene that references the opening scene.

    I’m being 100% honest when I say the fact that opens and ends on high notes resonates with movie goers of all stripes.

  11. jim emerson says:

    David: I’m not sure I understand. For whom is it “all about Oscar”? Are you saying the crickets who belong to these organizations cast their ballots in order to “help” individuals and films in the Oscar race, rather than to reflect their personal critical preferences? Or that they should? Or that they shouldn’t?

  12. Proman says:

    Judging the relevancy of critics based on how unshocking their picks are… the dumbest trick in the book for dumbasses.

  13. David Poland says:

    Hops… the movie plays better with the younger group (under 50) than the older group.

    And Nathaniel, not sure where hypocrisy comes in, but you fall into my unintended trap pretty easily, lamely making it all about my personal preferences. This is the way of the web… always personal… never just logical. It doesn’t really matter how detailed my explanation, apparently.

    You have made a determination of their thoughts as well as mine. The Prophet/Mother votes are heart votes and the other are… what?

    I’m not saying that any of it is not, to whatever degree, from the heart. But I am saying that there is clearly a degree of compromise and then a hat tip to obscurity. And the obscure is not just not Biutiful or Bardem, but it’s three movies that barely make sense in a 2010 year ended.

    Hell, give a special award to Carlos and everyone involved. Great!!! Home run! I am a fan.

    I’m not even saying I have a definitive answer. I’m just saying… it’s weird… it doesn’t help/support cinema, as I know that many LACMA members are 100% committed to doing… and in combination with NYFCC, it starts feeling silly after a while.

    And you have it backwards on the underreach… that was the typical Oscar choice. If the width and breadth of your choices are The Social Network, True Grit, and The King’s Speech, I understand the voting completely… especially when the only alternative is stuff that feels like it’s from last year or from European TV.

  14. David Poland says:

    Too simplistic, Proman. But you know that, right?

  15. David Poland says:

    I’m saying, Jim, that these things are profoundly political internally, LA more so than NY, and that as years have gone by, the breadth and width of things that are seriously considered has become narrower and narrower so we now get down to The Favorites and The Unknowns and very little with any chance of being rewarded in between.

    Of course, no group of 20 or more is going to reflect every member’s personal taste. So there is something futile about it.

    But this also goes back to my bitching that the biggest critics groups in the country – save NSFC – are handing out year-end awards in the first half of December. Why? So they can book the dinner party.

    And of course, like Sundance, votes happen for reasons that are not just “this is my favorite film.” The film that wins at Sundance is almost always “the favorite one that’s isn’t getting sold so fast.” That doesn’t make the film bad, but it makes the award odd.

    At Cannes, the nature of those juries is always a part of the conversation… as it should be.

    We have come to a moment where everything is equivalent. But this is a false reality. BFCA gave Winter’s Bone four nominations… proud moment… Jennifer Lawrence is nominated twice, for Best Actress and Best Young Star. Oy. And Screenplay and Picture. It’s good… but it’s by the book with what Oscar is expected to do. Why isn’t Damon nominated for Sppt Actor? Because there wasn’t enough time to get that idea to sink into the skulls of the membership, some of whom are very, very smart. But if it’s not in the Zeitgeist, it ain’t happening at BFCA.

    If you get indieWIRE alerts, can you tell the difference between NY Online Film Critics and NYFCC? Look Closely! Both are very important alerts!

    The form of settling that happens in these groups diminish both the groups and those who win awards.

    And I guess my point is, if film critics can’t come up with a single original thought – aside from thoughts so original as to be meaningless to “civilians” – what chance does cinema have?

    As out obstetrician said when we told him we were considering a home birth, “You can do what the hell you want!” And we could. (Didn’t) And these groups can.

    But does it come down to “personal critical preferences?” Really?

    And did they really need screeners to see all the movies?

  16. “…if film critics can’t come up with a single original thought – aside from thoughts so original as to be meaningless to “civilians” – what chance does cinema have?”

    This is the thesis here, I think. Tough to build on, which is why I understand some are missing it, but anyway.

  17. john says:

    The fact that most critics point out The social Network as the best film of the year just shows clearly who this people are and which are their priorities in life. First of all this film doesn’t have any cinema at all. This is a talking heads film without any cinematic language. Rich white kids from the east coast talking cool, smart and fast good written dialogue (as nobody speaks in real world )without any soul of emotion at all.Is this TV film ( no doubt TV it’s invading film or film it is imitating TV ) really the most ” Urgent ” film the people should see ?
    This is embarrassing and I agree with David. Beside the fact that it is about Facebook, this is just another greed story about people who betray each other because of money. And ?

    This film clearly represent where we are now culturally and intellectually. Complete decadence and blindness. Being the world in the state it is now, the planet offer us so many rich, complex, unique and original stories who can really shake up us and put us in the inestable territory to fully understand where we are and who we are and what we are doing. It is not just the suffering and the injustice but the humanity of people that live and feel and talk as we all do and not as a computer geek which it is COOL !! The fact that this old white “educated “male guys has point out so loud this films just exposed their lack of life ( locked and being intoxicated in a dark room watching shitty films all year ) and lack of sensitivity ( they are just play the intellectual police sitting with their asses in front of the computer ). The social network it’s their world, and this is virtual and really narrow…so wake up and live a little.

  18. shillfor alanhorn says:

    A wise man — the great David Lee Roth — once said: “Music critics like Elvis Costello because they all LOOK like Elvis Costello.”

  19. IOv3 says:

    So a revenge western is more important? A typical brit film with standard great but typical brit performances is more important? Seriously a fight club ballet flick is more important? I could go on but lets be honest here: David knows some really fucking lame academy members, who think Inception is too loud and TSN confuses them. If these people are Dave’s barometer for good filmmaking and have a say of whats an OSCAR PICTURE, then we are all fucked.

  20. IOv3 says:

    Yeah the above is snarky to the max but come on, if true grit moves these people its because they are old and love a form of movie that people under 30 are no into these days. What does that say about the academy? God forbid the critics on the coast tried to be current with tsn. God forbid.

  21. Jason S. says:

    What IOv3 said. Both times.

  22. Princess of Peace says:

    Well, Dave, those critics don’t mean much to me. I did not like The Social Network and I know many people who felt the same way. I even know people who have no interest in seeing the film. I guess all of the critics want to feel young and hip.

    As for Bardem, I am still holding out hope that he will get a nod from the Globes, SAG and maybe even the Academy. Otherwise, if he wants another Oscar (or even a nomination) he will have to be in a popular English language film. And I say this as someone who loves NCFOM. But as much as I love his performance in that film I love his performances in Before Night Falls and The Sea Inside more (and I am sure I will feel the same about him in Biutiful when I see it).

  23. Mark F. says:

    “Music critics like Elvis Costello because they all LOOK like Elvis Costello.”

    Well, of course, it couldn’t possibly be because they like his music.

  24. Mark F. says:

    TSN, like all good films, is not something which is good because it is “relevant for our times” or some other B.S. explanation. Good art is always relevent for the times. Shakespeare has never dated in 400 years and Casablanca and Citizen Kane are still great films. To say TSN is mainly about Facebook and “the new media” shows a real denseness. This is not a PBS documentary, for fuck’s sake.

  25. David Poland says:

    I didn’t mean to start a wave of Social Network negativity. I don’t think the movie deserves it. But I do think the “reported” mania for it is overstated.

    And IO… didn’t make it up… and the idea that Oscar = Right is silly. It’s a specific group with specific, fairly narrow tastes… and “good” is not the first issue with them. On the other hand, how you feel about a movie doesn’t necessarily equal “right” either. Nor my opinion.

    And be fair, people under 30 have their movie taste ass-licked 52 weeks a year. Is it really so tragic that the adults get a say once in a while. After all, we have the perspective of all the trendy, visceral excitement of youth as well as remembering how often one looks back at that with regret. This is hardly to say that I can stomach Driving Miss Daisy as a BP winner… the winner is very rarely my idea of the Best Picture or in my Top 5 for the year (more often lately… guess we’re all getting older)… but pandering to under-30s is a full time job in this town. Try something new.

  26. sdp says:

    I think you’ve got a great point here that’s being obscured by an inflammatory headline and the gut reactions of the people who devote time to the silly business of awards prognostication. NYFCC and LAFCA (along with NSFC) are the “good guys,” and you’re in part bitch slapping them for the behavior that has ingratiated them with so many awards watchers – the left field picks. I used to love the left field picks, and as a recovering awards junkie that still follows this crap (no matter how far off consensus I am in a given year), I still get excited to see an unexpected favorite pop up every now and then. Then I remember it’s bullshit – the nods to Mother or A Prophet are just tokens, ways for an awards body to appear to set itself apart when it’s really just following the script. LAFCA is particularly bad about this. It’s like they want to prove they’ve got the knowledge and the critical chops, that they’ve seen and appreciate Mother and Carlos and Seraphine and Down to the Bone, but they don’t have the balls to go all out and pick a full slate of unique choices irrelevant to the awards season horse race.

    You lose me once you start suggesting Mother and A Prophet are irrelevant to a discussion of the 2010 year in film, though. They’re totally relevant, and I’d like to see more picks like that. Fill those slots up with the foreign and the obscure. If critics awards are ultimately irrelevant to the Oscars anyway, then let them get increasingly esoteric. Freed from precursor status, the choices might be a bit more varied and interesting.

  27. LexG says:

    I’m sure Turan tried stuffing the ballot box at LAFCA over 900 times for his personal savior Clint and HEREAFTER.

  28. Krillian says:

    Ditto about Bale in Rescue Dawn, but if The Fighter finally gets him the nomination and possible win, great.

  29. Don R. Lewis says:

    This post confuses me because I was pissed about the vanilla picks of the “Guru’s of Gold,” particularly how not ONE SINGLE PERSON went out on a “limb” for John Hawkes in “Winters Bone.” All these Guru’s/prognasticator lists are B.S. They all fall in line out of some internet-esque sense of being RIGHT(!) or FIRST(!) rather than vote from their heart.

    I guess I just don’t get the point of guessing if everyones guessing the same shit in various differing ranks. Is it to win? What’s the contest? What’s the prize?

  30. David Poland says:

    Don… there is no instruction to the Gurus, but I don’t see the chart as a place for voting from the heart – except when you’re making marginal calls – but for guessing where the season it at the time.

    We usually do a passion chart at least once a season… and we probably will next week after all the critics groups have done their nominations.

  31. Joe Leydon says:

    Don: For once, I have to side with David. What the Gurus do — or at least are expected to do — is predict likely winners. If I were picking my favorites, I would be picking Gareth Edwards as Best Director for “Monsters,” and Lena Dunham as Best Actress for “Tiny Furniture.” And I would be mocked unmercifully. But I would not care.

  32. David Poland says:

    Why would you be mocked unmercifully? There are plenty of people who love those performances. Exactly my point.

    Don’t expect me to scoff at the indieWIRE poll… because it is what it claims to be… a very specific slice. The Academy is a different slice. Etc.

    San Francisco announced tonight and it seems perfectly reasonable to me. Social Network, Fincher/Aronofsky split, Firth, Michelle Williams, John Hawkes, and Jacki Weaver. Tillman Story for doc, Mother in foreign, and Toy Story 3 for animation.

    It’s not all that different… but it doesn’t feel like it came out of an awards blender. I disagree with many of the choices personally, but so what? It’s not about me. And it’s not about any one movie or performance.

    And I’m not saying that no one should feel differently. Just that this is how the two big coastal critics groups struck me.

  33. Krillian says:

    If the GOLDEN GLOBES have never jumped the shark before, they have now.

    The Tourist?! Are you kidding? Nominating Depp & Jolie when universal consensus is they have no chemistry whatsoever? In a movie with a RotTom ranking of 20%?

    Side note not near as egregious: am I the only one who thinks when parks & Recreation comes back, 30 Rock will be the fourth best NBC comedy on Thursday?

  34. Joe Leydon says:

    Worse: The Globes overlooked Gareth Edwards and Lena Dunham. Damn.

  35. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Parks and Rec is the funniest show on TV. Ron Swanson is one of the greatest characters currently on TV. The Office is pretty terrible though, and I haven’t been all that impressed with the little I’ve seen of Community, so for me 30 Rock will be the second best NBC comedy on Thursday.

  36. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Also happy to see Michael C. Hall receive more love, even if it’s from the Golden Globes. He does truly exceptional work in Dexter, just like he did on Six Feet Under.

  37. IOv3 says:

    Krillian, uh yeah. Outsourced is an abomination. Seriously… out to lunch on that one.

    That aside, David, Oscar is right. Sure thats all subjective but, if all humanity in the future had is that list of the supposed BEST FILMS. Those would indeed be the best films ever no matter what you or I think about them.

    This means that you giving shit to your fellow critics for praising tsn while not giving shit to an Oscar race composed of films for old folks is just hokey, because the praise of the old foggies is a lot more enduring and shitty than that of the critics. That both parties are or will ignoring Inception remains something uptight pris assholes and old farts seem to have in common :).

  38. IOv3 says:

    Oh I forgot that parks and rec is taking over for outsourced. This means I am out of it and owe you an apology Krillian. Sorry.

    Now readdressing your comment: Im with Paul on this one. Tina Fey also makes me feel funny so thats something!

  39. shillfor alanhorn says:

    So much for the debate about the relatively limited appeal of SOCIAL NETWORK.

    From Variety: “The Social Network” continues to rack up awards as the African-American Film Critics Assn. honored the pic with both the best feature film prize and the top spot on its list of best films of 2010.

    What say you, LEX?

  40. Rob says:

    The “two Black Swans” joke on last week’s 30 Rock was one for the ages. I love P&R as much as the next guy, but nothing on TV is as funny as 30 Rock, even in it’s fifth season.

  41. mysteryperfecta says:

    I think that last two episodes of The Office have been two of the best in a while. Community swings for the fences, so you take the whiffs with the dingers. 30 Rock is, for me, like a non-animated Family Guy– the volume of jokes is so high, I end up laughing quite a bit. But many jokes fall flat.

    Parks & Rec got seriously funny last season– I’m disappointed that its ratings are so bad.

  42. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    I heard the Xmas Office episode is funny, but most of this season has been abysmal. I’m glad Carell is leaving. I hope his departure breathes new life into the show. And you’re right about the pace of 30 Rock’s jokes. Fast and furious. Hopefully Parks and Recs starts winning new fans. It is hysterical. “Pull up a mouth. This buffet is unstoppable.” “Can you guarantee fridge space?” I wish Nick Swardson received more attention for his absolutely brilliant work.

  43. hcat says:

    NBC is keeping Outsourced, they are just going for a 3 hour comedy block. Either 30 Rock or Parks and Rec will be on at 10 PM. Which means I will have to choose between one of them and the new season of Archer.

  44. Don R. Lewis says:

    I guess my point is- I’d rather see people put their honest opinion for what moved them or spoke to them rather than fall in line with what ends up looking like groupthink. Not saying it totally IS, but it certainly looks that way.

    And Joe, you kind of prove my point; why NOT put out there who you really loved this year or feel are worthy? I know I’m being idealistic and sentimental and all, but I still enjoy the Oscars and have since I was a kid. If more predictors would float braver ideas, it might make for a better nomination period or at least, one worthy of fighting over.

    As it is now, it’s 5-7 of the same people and movies in varying degrees of placement. It’s no fun debating if THE SOCIAL NETWORK is the *best* film or the 3rd best. It’s all the same bag of apples. I want some oranges thrown in.

    I do look forward to the passion list from the guru’s and also, I really enjoy the work you put into Oscar season, David. Didn’t want to demean it. I just wish more fresh and original ideas came out of it.

  45. LexG says:

    “…the African-American Film Critics Assn. honored the pic with both the best feature film prize and the top spot on its list of best films of 2010.

    What say you, LEX?”

    What can I say, black dudes love Justin Timberlake. It’s kinda like when he blows into the Source Awards, affects a put-on blaccent, does his dance moves, does a duet with African-American icon Janet Jackson, oozes all over Rihanna… and an audience of 500 hard-as-nails black guys look on at this cracker from Memphis with a shrug and go, “Eh, sounds about right.”

  46. Joe Leydon says:

    Don and David: I fear I did not make myself clear. I meant to say that if I were writing a piece handicapping the Oscars — that is, seriously trying to predict what choices the Academy would make — I would do so assuming that anyone reading such a piece wanted me to do precisely that: Predict what would happen, not state what should happen. (As a far wiser man than me once noted: There is only what is. What could be or should be is a lie.) I wouldn’t dream of including personal favorites like Monsters or Tiny Furniture in the mix because, well, that would be silly. And I would deserve to be mocked. Why? Because, again, the point of such a piece would be to handicap the race, not push my favorites. At least, that’s how I see it. For me, it would be like my sitting down to write a review of, say, a Larry the Cable Guy comedy, and spending most of the piece complaining that Larry ain’t Jacques Tati.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon