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January 24, 2009


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In my opinion, excellence is often achieved when taking risks that are often on the precipice of failure. The Oscars are all about rewarding the middlebrow, which is why Ron "Pitch It Down The Middle" Howard gets nominated often and why David Fincher neutered himself for one of his movies to finally receive a boatload of nominations. To claim those 5 films are the auterist ideal is sort of ridiculous.

And Courtney Hazlett is engaging in a practice that really pisses me off: Moviegoer Profiling. When I'm someone who sees different kinds of movies like "The Dark Knight", "Mad Detective", "A Christmas Tale", "Wall-E" and, yes, "Frozen River" all in one year, I would appreciate if one doesn't make assumptions about who I am based on liking one particular movie.

Then again, it doesn't surprise me that someone on cable news tries to reduce something complex into sweeping generalizations. That's their bread and butter.

Sam Adams

I think all that needs to be said about that clip is that MSNBC managed to misspell THREE of the five nominees' names. (Although I would like to place some investments with this "Merrill Streep.")

That said, Frozen River is pretty lousy.

Glenn Kenny

My irritation w/ Hazlett and MSNBC shouldn't be read as a commendation of "Frozen River," which, Melissa Leo aside, fails to escape the concern-troll taint so common in putatively socially conscious cinema of the day.


And I thought MSNBC was supposed to be the most liberal of the big three cable news outlets.

I can't believe this woman is still on the air after that remark about Spike Lee.

Tony Dayoub

It just amazes me that the Academy came SO down the middle this year. Hazlett's a f**kin' nitwit, but in arguing for it she inadvertently illustrates the following point. This year's Oscars seem to be compromised in order to boost their ratings, picking some audience favorites.

Of course, I didn't believe any of the following would be selected for a shitload of awards but to come out with zero nominations (!?) - where were the noms for "Burn After Reading"; "Che"; "A Christmas Tale"; "Gran Torino"; "Let the Right One In"; "Synechdoche, New York"?

Controversial movies, yes. But isn't lip service usually payed to at least one of those every year?


There seems to be a new c.w. starting to build around The Reader's wtf nominations, that rather than Harvey just muscling it into contention with his Harvey Voodoo, many Academy voters were feeling sentimental toward two of its recently-deceased, well-liked producers, Minghella and Pollack. Still, no one I'm aware of would make any cinephilic argument on behalf of it as a good film. We can't let this happen, oh the humanity, etc. Also, Frost/Nixon blows.

I keep thinking I want to go watch Frozen River just out of anger at Hazlett's outrageously moronic comments. But I can't seem to stop finding better things to do.

Peter Nellhaus

Has Ms. Hazlett's not heard of "The Peoples Choice Awards"? Is she incapable of getting a screener so she can find out for herself why Academy members might like Frozen River?

Thanks for sharing, Glenn. Another reason to be glad I don't have cable.


Sam Adams, "Merrill" Streep is what happens when you get all cavalier about editors.

Not to mention effing fact checkers.

Ryland Walker Knight

late addition to your late aside: wow, that's a lady i never want to see. ever. ever again.

the other day, my friend said, "it's like always. it's like 4 movies came out." yea, this trend will never stop, and the only way to get around it, it seems, is to just fucking QUIT. the only reason i'll watch is for mickey. especially now that sally ain't gonna be there. even typing this thing, and watching that minute of that dummmmmmmmmm broad (yup! used that word!) is a waste of my brain.

i saw a straub-huillet and an ophuls this weekend. and they were both REAL FUCKING MOVIES, REALLY GREAT ART. i'm'a go award them a shit ton of my brain. later!


Ryland, which Ophuls? **deep happy sigh at the very thought of Ophuls**

As a film-preservationist freak, I am developing my own beef with the Oscars, in that these films seem to crowd other, often much worthier ones off the shelf when it comes to choosing which movies get onto DVD or have any traction at all in the public mind. (Although even the Academy's imprimatur can't help some films from Hollywood's Stone Age, aka anything made before Gone with the Wind--I had to buy 1935 Best Picture nominee Ruggles of Red Gap in France.) There's just no reason for a lumbering kitschfest like The Greatest Show on Earth or earnest bore like Gentleman's Agreement to be so easy to find when I can't get Man's Castle on DVD -- or Caught, for that matter.

But I suppose if I brought this problem up with Ms Hazlett or her numerous ilk she would tell me not to be so effete.

Since we're all being grumpy anyway, may I take this opportunity to say how much I hate TCM's 30 Days of Oscar, aka 30 Days of Films We're Seen Enough Damn Times Already?

And yet I admit it, I will watch the Oscars, of course I will. I have to, it's the Ignatius J. Reilly in me.

bill r.

I just watched "The Earrings of Madame de..." this morning. Great film.

Tony, I doubt the Oscar nominations are as boring as they are because someone is trying to boost ratings for the show. How many people have seen any of these? Are they really doing that well? "Benjamin Button" is, I guess, but the rest? If they wanted to boost ratings, they would have nominated "The Dark Knight" (which I think they should have anyway, along with "Gran Torino", but that's neither here nor there).

Tony Dayoub

@Bill R.

Of course, you're right Bill. A) I don't believe the Academy votes for things as a block or group, and B) the nominated movies are not the most popular.

It was just the conspiracy freak in me giving a knee-jerk response. While I didn't think TDK was Oscar-worthy (even though I liked it), "Gran Torino" definitely was.

Eastwood wuz robbed!!!


"Since we're all being grumpy anyway, may I take this opportunity to say how much I hate TCM's 30 Days of Oscar, aka 30 Days of Films We're Seen Enough Damn Times Already?"

Gee, I really like the idea of watching those presented all together and all of the attendant trivia it brings along for the ride.


Eastwood WUZ robbed. I take consolation in the fact that I doubt he cares.


Tony, I've been dreadfully ill all weekend and so I really did know I was being grumpy. There are some unusual movies that show up from time to time but increasingly the whole month is given over to warhorses during any kind of prime time. From time to time they will show something unusual but it's often in the morning hours.

The best 30 Days of Oscar was the year they did it alphabetically. That made for some craaaazy scheduling.

Ryland Walker Knight

Hey, Siren, I saw _La Ronde_ at the Walter Reade. It was a blast. The print wasn't that great, but it's still just, you know, so smart and so hilarious it's ridiculous. Made a very odd double bill mate with _Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach_, but, well, that was more a tonal dissonance than a thematic one since they're both "about" music, or what music _can do_ in a film: link, document, communicate, joke, sing, build, waltz, praise, mourn, swirl, sit like a block, make love.


But the Siren, if she finds the time, should go check out the new print of Man's Castle Film Forum will be playing soon. It's pristine.

Aaron Aradillas

"does anyone want to make a case for The Reader as one of five best films of the year?"

No, then again, does anyone want to say that The Exorcist, The Sting or A Touch of Class were better than Mean Streets, The Long Doodbye or The Last Detail?

I've always thought part of loving movies is loving even the things that can drive you crazy. Almost from the beginning, Hollywood has been rewarding itself for exellence. I mean, the ceremony is over 80 years old!

Couldn't a case be made for Richard Jenkins getting nominated is not all that different than Jack Lemmon in Save the Tiger? (NOTE: I think Lemmon's Save the Tiger performance is one of his finest hours.)

The Oscars are a contest, but it's a fun one. It's a chance to get togehter and yell at the TV and act like you know why this person won instead of that person.

There's a long history of the Academy nominating a movie (or two) that are real head-scratchers. The Reader may be flawed, but I'll take it over Tender Mercies or The Dresser.

This sounds awfully close to people being irked because THEIR five favortie films didn't get love from the Academy.

P.S. Courtney Hazlett doesn't know shit about movies.

P.P.S. A snub of Synecdoche, NY proves the Academy will nominated a screenplay by The Great Charlie Kauffman when he writew a story with momentum. (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

P.P.P.S. Kent Jones' smart comment aside, Ron Howard is a far more interesting director at this moment than Clint Eastwood. His film version of Frost/Nixon is something really special. Put Oliver Stone's name on it and Mr. White would've loved it.

Tony Dayoub


What part of Ron Howard's contribution did you find so special about "Frost/Nixon"? The text and central performances were strong but they were also by veterans who had already garnered great acclaim in its original stage version.

Howard seemed to contribute the most in a serendipitous fashion, filming his standard medium close-up version of things which gave a different perspective on the actors' nuances that stage plays are unable to do.

Other than that, the silly framing device of some of the key players reminiscing about the interview from modern day seemed a little needless, and either should not have been included or should have been excised (I'm not sure if they were in the original play or not).

Herman Scobie

Word on the street is that Hazlett is up for a role in Alvin and Chipmunks II.


"Ron Howard is a far more interesting director at this moment than Clint Eastwood."

I'm not that big of an Eastwood fan, and I find this declaration perverse.

Ron Howard is THE poster boy for middlebrow Hollywood pap. He is the crank turner par excellence. He makes Zemeckis look like Kubrick.

And when are people going to finally realize that there is no LIBERAL media in this country? There are all conservative, leaning right. There never has been a liberal media in this country. If you are prepared to argue that there is a liberal media, then you better make a cogent argument that the corporations that own this so-called liberal media are liberal themselves. And I don't think you can make this argument.


These rabidly right-wing corporations do an awfully bad job of keeping all the anti-conservative material off TV and out of newspapers.


To be honest, I've viewed the Oscars as not the Best Picture of the year, but rather the Best Picture that Hollywood puts out in order to feel better about itself. Which makes the yearly absurdity go down more smoothly.

That said, failing to nominate TDK has probably cemented the Oscars in their downward spiral of irrelevance. If you're nominating your best, generally you put in the movie that touched a nerve with audiences and critics alike. Not doing so kind of tells the audience that you don't think they have much in the way of taste, which is probably true but not a good thing to admit.


Yeah, Bill. You're right and I'm wrong. Corporations are very anti-corporate and bastions of liberal ideology. You really made a very cogent argument there. You could also add that the advertising industry is extrememly anti-commercial and all for non-conformity. Because one of the key tenets of late capitalism isn't the absorption of adversarial viewpoints as a means of defanging said viewpoints. I agree with you. I turn on the television or listen to the radio or read the newspaper or go to the movies and I am simply inundated with left-wing propaganda. It's amazing. You've totally changed my mind. It's actually the right wingers who are marginalized, the socially and culturally conservative who lack a voice. Barack Obama is the Southside Hugo Chavez and the Cambridge Che Guevara. I was under the assumption that the USA, since 1980, had been under the influence of the Christian Right and the more right-leaning elements of society, but I must have been dreaming. Thanks for waking me up and letting me know that it's still 1970.


Simmer down, Mark. Did I insult you? And how many pro-Bush movies have you seen in the last eight years? Somewhere in the neighborhood of zero? You know, movies liked "Redacted", "Rendition", "Sicko", "Bowling for Columbine", "Fahrenheit 9/11", "In the Valley of Elah", "W.", "War, Inc.,", "No End in Sight", or general anti-US government/military films, like "The Bourne Supremacy", and so on and so on, none of which had, I'm sure, even a penny of corporate money behind them.

And what is this about? "Barack Obama is the Southside Hugo Chavez and the Cambridge Che Guevara." Are you arguing with a ghost or something, because I didn't say anything like that. In fact, I said nothing about most of the "arguments" you're making. You must be fun to hang out with.

SOMEONE WHO'S NOT ME: Mark, I'm hungry. Do you want pizza?

YOU: Oh, sure, right, Obama's a terrorist, you've convinced me! Nice argument, jag-off!

Ryan Kelly

I'm glad someone brought up TCM's inane month of oscar-bait. Te great thing about TCM is that it serves as a cable home for films that are under sung somewhat, or at least the non-prestige films. I've found a lot of gems just using TCM and my DVR, lots of films I may not have ever seen otherwise. LOTS of films that are unavailable on R1 DVD.

But the oscar month is just dull, full of the film's any movie lover should have seen by the time they were 12. The worst thing is that, since the oscars started in '29--- TCM is playing no silents in February. Which is utterly inexplicable (it annoys me enough that they can only show one silent movie a week, very late on Sunday night), considering that Sunrise, The Crowd, WINGS, could all be seen as Oscar films. But no, we need to stick to the banal and obvious, just like the Academy Awards themselves.

I look forward to resuming my TCM hounding in February.

Ryan Kelly

*March, I mean. A slip of the keyboard.


Ryan, you put all that so much more coherently than I did. Thanks very much. :)


Hazlett is yet another nincompoop who inexplicably seems to care more about the Oscar show's ratings than the quality of the honored films. Academy voters' tastes reflect, um, Academy voters' tastes. Fancy that. The argument seems to be that they should vote against their taste if it will make for a higher-rated show. I'm sure ABC and maybe the Academy board would be all for that. But it would make the awards even less meaningless than they already are.

Stephen Bowie

Ha, that's hilarious (and true) about TCM -- how many years have they been trotting out those damn Oscar warhorses now? And of course as a whole, like the modern nominations, they suck more than your average, random TCM selection of flicks. Usually, though, I've been burning through so many DVD-Rs (or tapes, back in the day) and DVD-recorder/VHS program settings that I sort of welcomed February (or March, back in the day) as a little vacation.

The Rake

You mean Spike Lee isn't "uppity"? It's America, people make stupid comments all the time, it is jsut sad that she has as large a platform as she does to make hers. Ignoramus.
The Rake

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