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Oscar Symposium Day 3: Farewells and Futures

On Day 1 of the symposium we partied with the Best Picture field and considered Star Vehicles. On Day 2 we discussed movies that are hopelessly in love with themselves (to good and bad effect), the forever contentious Lead vs Support debate, the invisible arts of editing and screenwriting. We pick up there. Nathaniel was admitting he wasn't entirely comfortable falling for Margaret.... 

Nader & Simin: A SeparationNATHANIEL ROGERS:  I've scraped my knees up on cold hard pavement. I too was caught up in #TeamMargaret excitement. I love it when critics remember that part of their job is to advocate for buried treasure rather than merely rubber stamping the critical darlings over and over again (Did Michelle Williams really need to hog the majority of critics awards for My Week With Marilyn, which is straight down the middle awards bait? They didn't see anything off the golden path that was worthy of praise?). But when I finally saw Margaret, I left somewhat dejected. There's a lot to love. But there is also just an awful lot. It plays, to me, like a series of brilliant pieces that haven't quite been shaped to fit the genius-level mosaic they're intended for. Or maybe I was just thrown by the length and those phone calls to daddy. Lonergan is a brilliant writer but a brilliant actor not so much.

And maybe I was still just high on A Separation (my choice for Best of the Year) which illuminates a bit of the same ground in terms of personal actions creating ripples that we can't possibly grasp the full reach of. And they both show us how flawed people (i.e. all of us) can get tangled up in very difficult moral, social, religious, political and ethical webs they probably helped spin.

KURT OSENLUND: I'm glad you brought up that comparison between A Separation and Margaret, because it's definitely something I was thinking about while watching the latter (in between all the reveling in how Lisa initiates an allegorical, post-9/11 war that's ultimately futile and only reaps money for people who don't deserve it). Though vastly different in structure (one drum-tight, one manic and sprawling), these two scripts hold a lot of similarities, and are, in my opinion, at the tip-top of the year's best.

I'm also glad that Mark brought up Margin Call and Tinker Tailor in the same thought bubble because I found myself linking those two in my head a lot as well. Both films are essentially corporate dramas with power players coping with crisis, and both teem with a kind of impenetrable language you really have to crack. I hail from the team that doesn't really buy all the "Speak to Me Like a Golden Retriever" crap, because A) I don't believe those folks would actually expositionally coddle each other, or need coddling, in that way, and B), as mentioned, the movie keeps promising through dialogue that it's clearing things up, when it's really just thickening its fog of jargon. I do believe Chandor took a highly commendable crack at presenting this world, and I don't know if I've seen anyone do it better in terms of writing (Oliver Stone certainly didn't), but there's a lot of pretense about those scenes that irks me. (I prefer his small details, like the gross arrogance the company shows by firing Tucci's head risk manager, and little shots like the one of Demi and Simon Baker in the elevator with the cleaning lady.)

...and we've reentered MI6 where we began!

As for Tinker Tailor, there isn't a lick of coddling, just a glimpse into a radically rarefied world, filled with so much code talk, names and lingo it's like Tolkien does MI6.

Symposium Wraps with Bridesmaids, eye candy and film futures after the jump.

KURT: (cont'd) I LOVE that Tinker Tailor has this whole existence outside of itself, and that you need to be aware of that existence, either pre-screening or post-screening, to fully grasp and appreciate the film. The movie/story is just a piece of Le Carre's universe. What I also love is that it merges that business setting with the theme of home invasion that was everywhere in 2011. I see it as the ultimate home invasion thriller, and I read its paranoia of flushing out the invader as a motif that repeated through Alfredson's character-building visuals, like the bee that weasels its way into the three men's car, and the owl that flies violently into the classroom.

NICK DAVIS: You guys are bringing so much back to me about Tinker Tailor that I'd already forgotten, and making me really intrigued to see it again.  I don't foresee revisiting Margin Call, though I think it's interesting that the two charges being leveled at it are that it's too expository ("Talk to me like I'm a six-year-old") and insufficiently expository (where's my copy of Hedge Funds for Dummies?).  I didn't mind that the diluted explanations never felt that diluted, because I think it's the nature of the beast that even "simplified" unpacking of this whole mess still sounds like a foreign language.  I actually felt much more "spoken to like a six year old" during that very on-the-nose elevator shot with the cleaning lady and wished Margin Call had relieved itself of visual expectations and been a play (though I agree with Mark that it handled the corporate-glass aesthetic better than Shame did).  In fairness, a lot fewer would have seen it as a play, and I appreciate the film's sober integrity and its intents.

Speaking of foreign languages, if I were to make an Oscar-bait movie about the poignant lure of the past, I might make an amber-tinted, tenderly scored ode to the lost days of the 60s and 70s when occasionally three or even four of the writing in nominees in a single category might be in a language other than English.  I would be very leery of marketing it to eight-year-olds, or building it around two pre-teens.  But as I was saying, as duly elated as I am with the Separation nod in Original Screenplay, I wish it had more polyglot company.  I feel like the writing categories show the biggest discrepancy between the upper median of American achievements and the level of the writing in admittedly cherry-picked titles from abroad, even the ones in English: Poetry, Certified Copy, Tuesday After Christmas, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Weekend, even Melancholia, which doesn't even feel like a writer's movie per se but still represents a really daring effort and a dramaturgical step forward for Oscar-nominated songwriter Lars von Trier.

Is it just this personal peccadillo, then, that's making me think Farhadi could come from behind and win this Screenplay prize?  Am I as big a nut as von Trier?  Is anyone else nursing a suspicion about a possible spoiler of a winner that you're both eager and embarrassed to admit?

MARK HARRIS: Nick, my possible spoiler of a winner is Melissa McCarthy (and I'm only eager, not embarrassed). I think she could be the Marisa Tomei/My Cousin Vinny of this year--meaning that she's to be a terrific actress who gives an expert comic performance in a very popular movie belonging to a consistently denigrated genre. (Plus, this gives me the chance to remind everyone that when Tomei won, there was a great deal of sneery rumormongering that ancient presenter Jack Palance had misread her name, the argument being that Tomei could not possibly have beaten Judy Davis, Vanessa Redgrave, Miranda Richardson and Joan Plowright. Since then, Tomei has gotten two more nominations, and her four competitors have combined for exactly one. Just saying.)

And Nathaniel, I won't pick a fight with you about Margaret, I promise! I don't share your ambivalence but I get it. This long and winding exchange has helped me to examine not only my tastes, but, more painfully, my biases. The biggest of which is, I've come to realize in the last few days is that I fall hard for a particular kind of movie: If I feel I'm in the presence of genuine greatness, it's not that I fail to see the flaws, but somehow they stop mattering. The Texas childhood scenes in The Tree of Life were at once so real and so unearthly to me (how did Malick do that? 3D without glasses!) that the Sean Penn stuff couldn't begin to tarnish my estimation of the movie. Kenneth Lonergan's savage understanding of family dynamics among the bright, interesting, overeducated, self-conscious people who fill my neighborhood -- that astounding sense of how to write a mother-daughter fight, a classroom power grab, a woman losing her temper -- was so pitch-perfect to me that I could tolerate any amount of --what's the opposite of "seamlessness"?-- in the last hour. I had some trouble with planet-as-metaphor combined with planet-as-thing-that's-going-to-smush-you in Melancholia, but the singularity and beauty of Von Trier's vision mowed over my objections. Every one of the few movies I loved in 2011 had some indefensible flaw--and still, I loved them more than certain hermetically sealed jewel boxes of nostalgia which I now resolve to stop beating up forever.

It's a lot of... energy.

NICK: I've been hawking that McCarthy-as-Tomei theory since November, before anybody was nominated for anything.  Now, I don't see how Spencer can be stopped, but I've hated letting go of my pet cause.  I really hope you're right!  From that field, McCarthy deserves it.

And I only say "embarrassing" because my dark-horse hunches are usually painfully obvious admissions of my own preferences, and they never come through.  Like that Wiig nomination I felt certain was coming, in a Bridget Jones-y way.  Shows you what spinning predictions out of Oscar precedent will get you, which is why I now worry about the Tomei logic.  But again, McCarthy's got my vote.

NATHANIEL: I can't imagine that happening but I completely understand the dark horse as preference thing because as soon as I heard 'Could A Separation win?' I IMMEDIATELY saw it happening. But there's no way it'll be able to work around the widespread love for Woody's charming hit.

As for Margaret, Mark, I wouldn't fight back anyway. I love that people love Margaret. I wish that I did because it feels worth loving, unlike some of this year's critical darlings which just strike me as incredibly easy and thus disposable. I can't imagine several of this year's nominees lasting for decades as film touchstones but I can imagine, say, Melancholia and The Tree of Life lasting forever. They can't be replaced next year by the next softball of their particular kind because who makes movies like those? Only Von Trier and Malick as it turns out.

I value movie discussions like this so much because I have to reconsider my feelings when someone makes an interesting point so I thank you all for joining me. Like Mark says, it helps you see your own biases. One of mine is the hermetically sealed jewelboxes I think (ha!) because I love stylized movies that want to be beautiful. It is a visual medium.

I know we should wrap soon but given my last confession, I must ask for a quick rundown of your preferences in those often ignored categories. Costumes? Art Direction? Cinematography? I'm assuming everyone is backing Lubezki in the latter (speaking of movies that want to be beautiful) but I actually have no idea who you'd all vote for in the other two fields.

MARK: Put me on #teamlubezki (though that's really too hard to type) for Cinematography. Put me on #teamclueless for Costume Design, since I haven't yet seen one of the nominees, W.E., and was too appalled to make it all the way through another, Anonymous (many 2011 movies treated writers like crap, but none more intentionally). Of the three nominees I did see, I'd go for Michael O'Connor's work on Jane Eyre. (Although I wish Tinker, Tailor were nominated.) And for Art Direction, I'd pick Hugo (which I suspect will win in a walk), but I honestly can't tell how much of what I'm looking at is CG!. So I'll go for Rick Carter's excellent, allusive work on War Horse.

KURT: Nathaniel, my heart sank a bit when you asked about preferences in Costume Design, what with the tragic recent demise of Eiko Ishioka. If I had my way, she would have surely been recognized for her incredible work in Tarsem's Immortals, a gorgeous movie -- barring the 3D post-conversion -- that took a wrongful, albeit inevitable, beating (my review). And I know you wouldn't object to my wish that her threads be honored alongside those in The Skin I Live In.

But I know you're talking actual nominees, and of those, while I adore what Sandy Powell cooked up for Hugo (every element in that film's aesthetic is helping the other), I, too, am going with Jane Eyre's Michael O'Connor. That's such a beautifully executed film (cinematography?), and like The Princess of Montpensier, its period garb doesn't gleam like it just came off the rack. (I also haven't seen W.E.)

As for Art Direction, for the reason mentioned above and more, I'm going to go with Hugo and all its Franco-steampunk eye candy. For Cinematography, I'm on #teamlubezki, too; however, the films I wish were in the running here are Tinker Tailor, Mysteries of Lisbon, and Melancholia, which for me is the most beautiful movie of 2011.

I want to add, though, in the wake of offering another superlative, that I'm also really liking the topic of re-evaluating biases thanks to this discussion. There are a lot of really thoughtful insights I already want to revisit here, and plenty of them are counterpoints. I've been loving this. 

NICK: I can't answer yet on Cinematography or Art Direction, since I'm literally a half-hour from finally finding out if Joey looks good in orange.  I'm very partial to that color myself, entirely care of my Honorary Clementine Kruczynski Orange Hoodie, but you know it's a hue not everyone can pull off.  I can't pull it off, either, but nothing stands between me and my H.C.K.O.H.

I shouldn't answer yet on Costume Design, since I'm an English professor and cannot handle the prospect of Anonymous until it's finally on DVD and my esteemed colleagues in Early Modern lit can enjoy it with me as a drinking game. (Knock one back every time someone's teeth are black!  Knock one back every time a historical whopper makes you want to die!)  Weinstein hasn't had the temerity to open W.E. in Chicago yet, either.  But I'm completely for Jane Eyre, for reasons Kurt perfectly described - and I wish that film had made a showing in Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, and maybe Score, to say the least.

ALI ARIKAN: This is what happens when there's a seven-hour time difference between one of the participants and the rest!  You've been busy boys.

As far as I'm concerned, Anonymous was one of the three worst films of the year, an affront to civilisation and everything humanity holds dear.  I might be exaggerating, but only a tad.  So I can't get behind it on any level.  For Costume Design, I'd back Sandy Powell's work for Hugo, which  was inventive and colourful and fully in line with the art direction.  I, too, haven't seen W.E. though I doubt my appreciation of Powell's work would be altered in comparison to Arianne Phillips' in the Madge flick.

For similar reasons, I think Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo's art direction in Hugo was ace, though I am partial to Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan's work in HP7:II -- if you compare the first film and the final installment, it truly is something else (I know we shouldn't judge this stuff on a curve but there we go).

As for cinematography, I am sorry but I can't get on Team Lubezki, and I will have to return the jacket.  I felt a certain disconnect with The Tree of Life's narrative, and this had certain things to do with the ethereal quality of Lubezki's photography: the entire film has a dream-like quality, a stream of consciousness that needed grounding somewhere.  And I thought cinematography should have been that: a more exacting eye could have been fittingly antithetical to the narrative and the themes of the movie.  As such, it pushes me away even further. 

No, I am firmly on Team Jeff Cronenweth for The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.  He makes the scenery into a character, holding the family's secrets tight in its wintery grip.  His almost sedate constructions contrast with the thump-thump-thumping of the soundtrack, creating a chilling (no pun intended) atmosphere.  And the bizarrely undulating colour scheme during the climax, both outside and inside of the killer's lair, mirror the psyche of the rapist/murderer.  Great stuff.

We haven't talked about the animated feature race, btw.  I am a firm supporter of Rango, but I have yet to see  A Cat in Paris and Chico and Rita.  I thought Rango found the beauty in utterly miserable and ugly looking characters.  It was also a wonderful homage to spaghetti westerns as well as immense fun to watch.  One for the pantheon, surely.  Thoughts?  Feelings?

Nathaniel RogersNATHANIEL: I have thoughts but not neccessarily feelings. What is their to feel about that sorry category? As I've said repeatedly, its a ridiculously coddled one. If  they voted proportionately in the big race we would have had 82 Best Picture nominees. No exaggeration! The animated category requires only 16 entries for a 5-wide shortlist. 31% of the submissions can be nominated in other words. If they went that easy on Best Song, we would have had 12 nominees this year instead of 2. Can you imagine trying to squeeze in 12 song performances on Oscar night? I'd only be okay with that if Bret McKenzie sang them all with 12 separate Muppets throughout the night: Kermit gets "The Living Proof", Sam The Eagle gets "Star Spangled Man", and Miss Piggy gets whatever she wants.

Okay, the party is running late. Well past Midnight in Paris New York now.  Soon we'll be back with our bitchy fiancee and her cartoonishly rightwing parents worrying about our lame screenplays instead of having these magical conversations with iconic characters and writers we admire. So let's make the most of it before we head back to our drab present.

Let's end on a high note! Pick one nominee (or two if you'd like a duet) and suggest a new direction, role, or collaboration for them that would unlock something magical. Maybe you saw some new aspect of their gift this year or maybe you just can't get enough. Who? What? Why?

And please fold a few chairs and throw out some stray plastic cups on your way out the door. I'm not cleaning up on my own.

Mark HarrisMARK: I'm bad at speculative casting and, unfortunately, I think Hollywood is too. (Why do I suspect that Demian Bichir's big post-nomination "opportunity" is going to be to play a Columbia drug lord in Fast Seven? If that's the door that opens, I sincerely hope he holds up whoever opens it for every penny he can get.) My Oscar wish isn't for a particular collaboration. It's that ten years from now, we look back at the career of Viola Davis and say, wow, The Help was the beginning of an amazing run for her, not the high point of her film career.

And, okay, that Jessica Chastain either gets to make a movie with Meryl Streep, or have a conversation with her the theme of which is "Where Do I Go From Here?"

NATHANIEL: I would pay good money to see that conversation filmed as a one-shot two hour film. Hell I'd sit through a three hour director's cut of that. Thanks for coming to the party, Mark!

Kurt OsenlundKURT: I was going to say: Apart from the bajillion things I want to see Jessica Chastain do? (And god, Mark is so tragically right about Demian Bichir. Just you wait.)

I'll say that Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman's polar opposite approaches to a scarily authoritative figure make me curious to see what those two could do together, if I wasn't curious already (I don't believe they've shared the screen...?)

Ever since the Supporting Actor category started to whittle down, with the veterans taking over, I began imagining a Space Cowboys sequel, with Plummer, Von Sydow, Nolte, and maybe even Albert Brooks heading to Mars. Eastwood's not busy, right?

But I'll close on an especially fun note, with what immediately leapt to mind after reading Nathaniel's question. Screw the sequel; give me a spinoff of Best Original Screenplay nominee Bridesmaids, wherein the gals played by Wendi McClendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper make good on that mile-high kiss and take off an angry, yet sugary, lesbian road trip, swearing off domestic duties while kicking it with Disney princesses. It'd be like Bound for Tweens. Get crackin', Wiig/Mumolo.

And with that, if these are our farewells, let me say again that this has been a really awesome pleasure. I truly have a whole lot of respect and admiration for all you guys, and it was great to chat. 'Til next time.

Ali ArikanALI: Corey Stoll's Ernest Hemingway finds the way to travel in time, meeting his literary heroes, and daring them to wrestle.  Now that's something I would like to see!

I hope Jean Dujardin gets more work.  He is a gifted actor (and this is coming from me, the personification of The Artist-backlash), and he's recently been picked up by WME.  His English seems slightly inadequate, but nothing a few months of classes could not fix.  There is an aura of old school movie stardom to him, something that was obvious in the OSS films, too.  The same could not be said of Roberto Benigni.  I hope he follows the lead of Marion Cotillard, and makes interesting Hollywood films with interesting Hollywood directors.

I would also like to see films of the further two chapters of John Le Carre's Karla trilogy, "The Honourable Schoolboy" and "Smiley's People," once again with Tomas Alfredson at the helm, and starring Gary Oldman and The Cumberbatch. 

And, with that, I, too, would like to bid everyone adieu.  It has been an honour and a pleasure to take part in this with all of you, and particular thanks to our host, Nathaniel.  Lots of love, gentlemen,

Nick DavisNICK: So much to wrap up!  On the topic of Animated Feature: for the reasons Nathaniel specified, I can't make myself care too much. The delightful if slightly strained Rango earns it, though I've seen none of its competitors.  I feel only a little guilty about this, because...

...on the subject of Cinematography and Art Direction, and on the subject of overcoming biases: War Horse not only defied the prejudices I'd imported from the trailer, the play (which I disliked), and a lot of online commentary, it even overcame my heavy misgivings from the first, shakiest half-hour.  As it unfolded, the rotation of early 20th-cenutry British, Irish, French, American, and German film styles is both a tremendous technical achievement and a stunningly generous way to honor so many of the cultures most heavily involved in that war (and in the early decades of filmmaking).  From the Hiddleston raid and ever after, I was totally impressed, constantly surprised, and very moved.  It's immediately my favorite Best Picture contender after The Tree of Life, admittedly by some distance.  No way I'm ever leaving Team Lubezki, but I'd love to see War Horse cop that Art Direction trophy.  I'm so glad I didn't answer these questions last night, and let that be a lesson to you AMPAS voters!

As for Nathaniel's final query, I'm entirely with Mark on the Viola idea. I want at least two August Wilson movies by 2020, and her in both. (Can one be Joe Turner, and can Kasi Lemmons direct it?)  I wondered if we'd ever hear about Javier Bardem again in the States after the Before Night Falls breakthrough, and based on how well that's gone, I'll hold out hope on Bichir.  I hope Mark Bridges converts his first Costume Design nod into momentum toward several more... including for contemporary work.  Otherwise, I couldn't help thinking about this question in the sense Nathaniel has asked it in the past: what nominees would you like to see in each other's roles?  Everything I want for Michelle Williams has to do with my wish that she'd gotten the Dragon Tattoo part.  Withholding comes as naturally to her as to Lisbeth. Her face is such an odd fist; she expresses through clench and through tentative release, while trying quite earnestly not to be noticed.  The combo doesn't always work for me, but I'd love to see her push herself in Lisbeth's gutsy directions of genre, tone, and forceful catharsis.  Lastly, when Hollywood comes re-calling on Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman, I hope the offers include roles like The Descendants lead.  Post-Sirius, post-Batman Gary can be surprisingly tender, though he wouldn't have run from Matt's likability problem and might have curried our sympathy while still acting like someone a wife might have found extremely frustrating, even alienating.  I get chills thinking him playing the "Goodbye, my love" scene at the hospital bed, and not the chill, singular, I got from Clooney's refusal of all intimacy.

ALI: I get a chill imagining Gary Oldman playing the "Goodbye, my love" scene in Dumb and Dumber! Kisskiss, all.

NICK: Goodbye, my loves!  It's been a trip and a joy.  And I'm so buying a ticket to Kurt's Bridesmaids spinoff.

NATHANIEL: I'm buying a ticket to every single one of those imaginary movies! Let me know if any of you have any secret screenplays lying around. I'll help you with the casting. 


Nathaniel would like to thank this year's participants: Ebert's "Far Flung Correspondent" Ali Arikan, the chief film critic for Dipnot TV [Follow Ali on Twitter]; Mark Harris, author of Pictures at a Revolution and "Oscarmetrics" columnist for Grantland [Follow Mark on Twitter]; Nick Davis of Nick's Flick Picks and Assistant Professor of English and Gender Studies at Northwestern University [Follow Nick on Twitter]; Kurt Osenlund Managing Editor at Slant Magazine's The House Next Door [Follow Kurt on Twitter].

And we'd like to collectively thank all of you out there in the dark for reading and for your rich continuations of these conversations in the comments.

• What's your takeaway from the Symposium?
• What would you like to see key Oscar nominees doing next?
• And where would your votes go on all the eye candy categories? 

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Reader Comments (26)

I didn't like Margin Call all that much. But I agree it showed that world really well. It through me off how many times someone said 'Fuck Me'. I hope Melissa McCarthy wins. She and Octavia have alot in common. Either way they both win because they're besties <3.

February 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLola

I'm thrilled to see the McCarthy love in this conversation. I was a huge fan of her work in Gilmore Girls, and, though I'm not a fan of the show, am happy for her success with Mike and Molly. I was so happy when she won the Emmy this year (honestly, that had to be the most glorious awards-show moment since... I don't know when--even trumping Davis's tearjerker moment at SAG), and I thought, at that moment, "Holy cow, she's going to get nominated for an Oscar!" How exciting that my hunch was correct, and even more exciting that she's my top choice of the five. Sookie done good!

I should also add that I'm so, so glad Bridesmaids has managed to (mostly) shake off the yoke of " it's The Hangover for girls!" that it's been burdened with. And that McCarthy transcended the early, reductive labels tossed at her performance: "She's the Zach Galifianakis character!" Nothing against Galifianakis, though, whom I appreciate as a comic/celebrity, even if not as an actor, really.

I'd love to see her win. Still, Octavia's such a delightful lady, and she's really fun in The Help so I can't possibly begrudge her that inevitable Oscar win. And you know McCarthy's just thrilled to be there, cheering for her friend. Why can't all we Oscarwatchers be as generous as these ladies are to each other (see also, Viola/Meryl).

February 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I've heard people mention the McCarthy/Tomei parallels and I do wonder, and one probably shouldn't over think these things but other than the comedy parallels I don't think I can get behind the comparisons. BRIDESMAIDS is too loved, McCarthy isn't the single superlative thing in her vehicle (neither is her film as in love with her) and she's shown up too often at precursors and won stuff for her to be a Tomei sort of win - but, I fear I am over thinking the equation.

Glad to see Ali throwing some love to HP7.2 which I feel is getting a bad rep as some sort of coattails nod. Sure, the nomination for the last film was just this side of bizarre but this film is all about production design/visual effects. And Kurt makes ME want to see TINKER TAILOR again too, and I saw it just yesterday. I just love its density, and it's strangely one of the most gorgeous films of the year (strange, considering its dun, dun, dun colours.)

I loved the collaboration question because I've been thinking about it since day one (day one being nomination day) so pulling from those thoughts - one thing I'd love is nominees Davis and Branagh to team up for a big behind-the-scenes theatrical film. Davis is a theatre actress, I'd love to see her riff along the lines of Bening in BEING JULIA (which, alas, I know Nick is not fond of but a performance I simply adore). Okay, two things, for Duardin to get more work if he's danger of being forgotten team up with Meryl and let them play lovers. Who'd say no to that? I'm not even that big a Meryl fan and that'd make me excited.

February 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Hopes for nominees...

1. That Jessica Chastain works with Jane Campion.

2. What Nick said re: August Wilson and Viola Davis (though I'm more partial to Seven Guitars than Joe Turner), but Viola Davis in Lynn Nottage's RUINED would be amazing, if unimaginative casting.

3. That Meryl Streep works with Pedro Almodovar and Francois Ozon. Doesn't have to be for the same movie.

4. That Michael Fassbender works with David Cronenberg again. I don't care if he doesn't count as a nominee.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Speaking of Viola, the Scott Rudin connection to the Broadway revival of Fences just made me assume that there was going to be a movie version. And that Octavia Spencer is going to be in the new Bong Joon-ho movie, in itself the most fascination collaboration in the next two years or so. I have no idea why I'm bringing those up except that we might live in an alternate universe where Octavia will have more work than Viola, and I'm really curious as to what things she and both actresses will do with the Oscar (nominations) push.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

Is it really over? Can't this go on for another week? Sigh.

I will take inspiration from you fine fellows and Examine My Biases -- a radical notion in this time of post-nomination digging-in-the-heels, when we spend far too much time exclaiming in increasingly loud and preposterously firm tones our Absolute Convictions about performances and technical achievements in films that we very likely have not seen in weeks or even months.

Hopes for nominees.... Have you seen Jean Dujardin in OSS-117? He's basically doing all the same facial expressions and gestures as in The Artist, but with more speech and fewer clothes. (I'm not complaining about the latter.) I'd love to see him in something completely different—villainous, in a Coen Brothers/Bardem or Tarantino/Waltz type of pairing; or paranoid ala Tom Hardy in Tinker Tailor (with tight pants to match).

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Just so I don't sound quite so needy, I meant to ask for two August Wilson adaptations by 2020, not 2012. And I agree with you, Arkaan that Seven Guitars is near the top of Wilson's best... for me, second only to Joe Turner. Though I bet they'd spring faster for Fences or even for a proper, non-TV version of The Piano Lesson, even if Alfre Woodard already worked that role hard in the TV version.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

While I hope Viola's career takes off from this, I also hope the wealth gets spread around to other black actresses. Like, if there actually were two August Wilson plays being made into films, I wouldn't actually want her in both of them. I want to see other black actresses get good roles too! That's how things will change. Otherwise Hollywood will go "Oh, black actress? Go with Viola!" and while that's awesome, it doesn't leave much for others. Kind of when Whoopi was at her height, yes they disregarded her color to an extent, but it seemed to only be for her since they loved her so much.

I also hope this does Octavia Spencer well, which I think it will...she's already signed on to some good stuff.

I hope Rooney Mara never gets nominated again. LOL.

I hope this does well for Melissa McCarthy, too. I'm also a lover of her and that performance. :D

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Viola's career post awards season does not look that good. Both movies she recently signed up for are clearly supporting, even with Oscar buzz.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

But these are not the only things she's signed up for - the project with Dee Rees (Pariah) has been coming together for months, and she'd be the clear center of that one. Plus, why not pull down some paychecks taking supporting roles that won't take much time, while you wait to be choosy with leading material? Didn't it get reported that she's started her own production company? The money'll have to come from somewhere.

And Philip, I agree with you, as I have in other comment threads, that the wealth—however much wealth that winds up being—will hopefully spread to lots of actresses of color. I also hope it pulls down some leads that amount to "race-blind" casting, as well as projects that speak unabashedly to race-related themes. By all means, let's see Viola (or Alfre, or Kimberly, or Kerry, or Khandi, or Debbi, or Aunjanue, or Audra, or Anika...) have a crack at those Changeling and Frozen River and Rabbit Hole and August: Osage roles, too. The Sister Aloysius parts and not just the Mrs. Millers.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Nick...yes. Yes. I live for the day. That would make my life.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

I was very disappointed with Tinker Tailor. The BBC tv series starring Alec Guinness remains the best & I would say that a 2 hour film isn't long enough to really appreciate the characters & plot. Having said that Oldman was good in the film.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersuzy sue

@Nick: Well, an African-American would be even less right to say the phrase "they're not more native than me" in regard to the Native Americans. ;)

But one thought I had some time ago, and it's not an earth-shattering one, is that people who create (roles, movies etc) will create something they can, on some level, aidentify with.
When you have close to zero black female filmmakers, don't expect many black female leading roles. You know, unless Claire Denis moves to Hollywood.

For example, I'm interested in writing plays but I wouldn't write something about race or even, probably, a big role for a race minority because I wouldn't know how to be accurate on the specifics of the role.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

Um, yeah, forgot.
Obviously, a big thanks to everyone who participated in the symposium! One of the best features on the site!

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

Philip: Why do you not want Rooney Mara nominated again? She seems like she has talent and is balancing prestige projects like The Side Effects (Soderbergh) and Lawless (Malick) and her commitment to her star making role, even if I'm not really interested in it. Unless this is purely a personality thing, in which case SHAME ON YOU.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Oh Mark Harris! Reminding us the whole Tomei thing was unnecessary. Still fresh in our minds. I love Marisa too, but as an actressexual I resent your comment about her competitors. I don't care if they've never been nominated since then, they're still marvelous performers.

Regarding Viola and Octavia, I wish I could be as optimist as some of you, but I'm not.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

@James T: I'm not sure why an American-born black person would be "less right" than an American-born white person to say "not more native than me." You know, lots of black families have longer roots in this country than lots of white families.

In the spirit of Nick's race-blind casting wish, I'd offer a simple way to write a character of a different race: write a character of your own race and then, once you're done, change the character's race and nothing else. Sure, you're not going to capture the entire depth and breadth of that ethnicity's experience, but I don't see why that's a problem, particularly if the work isn't "about race." I suspect your initially white character wouldn't represent the entire depth and breadth of your own race's experience.

I hope I don't sound too harsh or anything, but your response strikes me as a bit of a cop-out, especially when English and American literature alone are full of examples of authors creating memorable and, in some cases, classic characters of races different from their own.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

When I post things like that (ie my previous comment) I runb the risk of ampbarrasing myself and maybe I did.

I don't know much about American history and, even if I was not entirely sure, Imade the assumption that all blacks in the USA came (I mean, their ancestors) from other places after the European whites had travelled over there and killed most of the native populations.
Sorry if I was wrong about that.

Re: how to write a character of a different race than my own, I could do what you suggest, but that would mean that
1) I'm writing a play in which I don't care to say anything about what it means to be of a different race than most of the people that surround you.
2) I'm creating a character who has grown up exactly like his/her average neighbor, even if their races are different. Which is fine, but I wasn't talking about that kind of thing.

But thanks for your comment which was helpful and not as harsh as I might deserve.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I run the same risk when I use "embarrass" as though I trust my spelling skills :p

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

@James T: Ah, gotcha. I didn't realize you're not a Yankee. So there's no reason to expect you to be familiar with our society's particular constellation of racial issues. In the same way, I have only a limited grasp of, say, London's immigrant/racial experience, or Bogota's, or Hong Kong's, or.... you get the idea. :)

Thanks for explaining... sounds like I just misunderstood what you were getting at.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

And by "limited grasp of" I mean, basically, "no idea about."

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Has my English become that tolerable?! ;)
Yeah, no, I'm from Greece.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

It's so funny to be a fan of Octavia spencer because of a show she did called "halfway home" a couple of years ago and now seeing her being close to winning an oscar. I remember months ago thinking how cool it'd be if she was even nominated. People I discover like that never usually go on to have their big breaks. Other people that randomly caught my heart by watching them in something and have had me rooting ever since are Mo'Nique, Brittany Murphy, and Kathy Griffin. Whats gonna happen to Kathy?!?!

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy

@James T: Ha, I wasn't entirely sure (not that I'd have guessed you weren't English (or whatever)... after all, a cursory glance at the internet will show you that plenty of native English speakers are terrible writers--God knows I have my moments!) I just picked London as an example (because of it's obviously rich immigrant experience), but I was thisclose to listing the Balkans! (again, famous for its ethnic diversity, but the dynamics of which I know very little). Almost nailed it!

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

@James T - yes, your English is much more than "tolerable". ;)

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

I know I'm coming to this late - and I'm so glad I did, it was really wonderful to read - but I had to say this about nominees and future projects:

Remember how great Meryl was on A Prairie Home Companion? How open and loose and unshowy? Wouldn't it be amazing to see her do a film with Malick? To see her just be a character instead of act a character?

Barring that, put her and Melissa McCarthy in a stoner buddy comedy co-written by Kristen Wiig and Diablo Cody (WHY did Young Adult have to be blanked?!?!?!) and call it a day.

February 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny
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