And in this corner, weighing a lot more than 200 pounds and wearing black trunks, is the winner and still champion, Harvey Weinstein, heavyweight legend of Oscar mojo.
Once again, he did that voodoo that he does so well all over the competition. His film “Silver Linings Playbook” scored big in all major categories at the Oscar nominations announced Thursday, including – get this now – even Robert De Niro and, yes, Jackie Weaver for Supporting Actor and Actress.
Well, OK, you say. The movie is certainly entertaining and competent enough, with an ending stolen from “Dancing With the Stars” (just as the ending of “Slumdog Millionaire” stole its drama from the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”).
But in a field that also included “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Argo” and “The Master,” it was more than a bit of a travesty that “Playbook’s” director David O. Russell made the cutoff for final five in the Best Director category while the directors of those other films were nowhere to be found – not even Ben Affleck, whose “Argo” was the feel-good champ of 2012 (nor, on the side of the angels, was there any Oscar nomination for Tom Hooper, director of the failed Oscar-baiting “Les Misérables”).
Robert De Niro is always Robert De Niro. He’s awardable any time he steps in front of a camera. But that’s about all he did in “Playbook.” The way I see it, there was no way he deserved a Supporting Actor nomination for “Playbook,” and John Goodman didn’t for either of his hilarious and brilliant 2012 turns in “Flight” and “Argo.”
That, I submit, may be an eternal illustration of serious Oscar nomination mojo from a mogul desirous of all the golden box office attention Oscars and their attention can bring.
I don’t think Harvey Weinstein stands a chance of prevailing on Oscar night Feb. 24, but who knows how he’ll do on Sunday, when the first Oscar night warm-up – the Golden Globes – gives a decent glimpse of just where major showbiz community sentiment is flowing this year.
The next installment – the Screen Actors Guild Awards – will be seen Jan. 27 on the TNT and TBS cable networks – still almost a month before the Oscars.
Has anyone in history, ever psyched out the Oscar – indeed, the entire award season – the way Harvey Weinstein has? He’s so dandy with the Oscar warm-ups that “Django Unchained,” by Harvey’s boy Quentin Tarantino (in interviews, Tarantino sometimes affectionately refers to Weinstein as “my Pop”), is a contender for Best Picture Golden Globe, even though Oscar wouldn’t touch it in the Best Picture with a 10-foot bullwhip. “Django” did receive Oscar nomination nods for Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor, cinematographer Robert Richardson, and Tarantino himself for original screenplay. We’re talking major league Oscar nomination juice here.
These Oscar nominations are a grossly sentimentalized bunch compared with what was possible.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is an aged Oscar voter’s idea of an independent movie – enormously sentimental, jam-packed with colorful folk acting colorfully and topped off by the cherry of a pith and vinegar performance by an utterly adorable 9-year-old, Quvenzhané Wallis. She is now in the record books as the youngest person ever nominated for an Oscar (Best Actress).
Bradley Cooper, nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for “Playbook” over Richard Gere in “Arbitrage” and, especially, John Hawkes as the quadriplegic seeking to end his virginity in “The Sessions”?
There is some diabolical voodoo by Harvey Weinstein.
Then again, one never knows.
What it does do is take out of Best Picture competition almost entirely one of its nominees, Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” the New York Film Critics’ selection for Best Movie of the Year and many people’s selection as 2012’s most important film by far, if not necessarily its most enjoyable (a title I’d gladly hand over to Ang Li’s masterpiece of magic realism, “The Life of Pi”).
It is virtually impossible to win an Oscar for Best Picture if your director wasn’t even nominated.
All the controversy about “Zero Dark Thirty” – especially all those liberal politicians (and Weinstein friends) in Washington expressing dismay over its strenuously objective portrayals of Bush-era torture – clearly had a deleterious effect on the film’s Oscar nominations, which aren’t nearly as plentiful as they should have been, by many lights, including mine.
I’d submit that these award nominations may have been politicized in the worst way, as if those in nominating position took a look at Bigelow’s second film about war and the desert battles of our time and had the horrifying thought “OMG, what if she isn’t in our political corner at all?”
The idea that she could make her previous Oscar-winner “The Hurt Locker” and also “Zero Dark Thirty” and only be committed to rendering military experience seems to current Hollywood too unstable an idea to tinker with – a bottle full of nitro just waiting to explode in everyone’s face.
Look at this slate of Oscar nominees. It’s as fearful and unimaginative as it was in the bad old days of Hollywood when just about the last thing the community wanted to do at award time was to give anyone credit for being creative and truly different.
There are, God help us, all manner of nominations where Sunday’s Golden Globes are better – at the very least far more diverse and, because of the Globes’ splitting things into comedy on one hand and drama on the other, more representative of the movies that actually came out in 2012. Though, even there, poor John Goodman had to take an off-camera back seat to the Supporting Actor regulars – Alan Arkin, Christoph Waltz and Philip Seymour Hoffman, showing up in both Oscar and Golden Globe lists. Take a look at what Goodman does in “Flight,” for instance, and tell me it’s not one of the most entertaining things any actor did in a movie anywhere in 2012.
We are, it seems to me, being set up for a “Lincoln”-fest in awards season.
Welcome to 1956.