I'm not entirely sure what my most lasting memory of the 2012-13 awards season will be, but it's entirely possible it will feature Sasha Stone and Jeffrey Wells.
Throughout the season, the Awards Daily and Hollywood Elsewhere bloggers have thrown themselves so powerfully into advocating for specific movies to win Oscars that it made me, well, uncomfortable.
Which, of course, was interesting.
This is my first year specifically on the awards beat, but with all my years in entertainment as well as 10 previous years of baseball blogging under my belt, I'm not exactly a stranger to the potential the Internet offers for passion. And it's not like I don't get what it means to love a movie so much that any opposing view just kills you — look no further than my ongoing fight against the revisionist history dismissing "Shakespeare in Love."
Yet I was unprepared for how hard — or more to the point, how often — Stone and Wells would throw down on behalf of their causes.
Stone is rod of steel in the corner of "Lincoln," artfully posting multiple times each week about the film's greatness. My take is that while she understands that not everyone shares that opinion, she struggles to fathom how that could be. And though she is not without her praise for "Argo," its rise as a consensus awards pick galls her.
"The industry can argorfuckthemselves."
Wells takes it a step or 10 farther. He demonized "Lincoln" from the get-go, to the extent that a significant part of his awards campaign is as much about ensuring that the Steven Spielberg film loses as anything else. That being said, he is deeply in love with "Silver Linings Playbook" and finds anyone not completely carried away by the film to be nothing more than a hater.
As a backup plan, around the time it began to appear "Silver" might not have deep enough Oscar support for a best picture win, "Zero Dark Thirty" arrived and earned Wells' admiration (which I share). And when controversy came like a Jeff Gillooly tire iron to that film's picture hopes, Wells found himself tolerating the idea of "Argo" winning. Though that's not his ideal scenario, in his mind, it sure beats "Lincoln."
Like Stone, Wells has made his points over and over again, piling argument on top of argument.
In some ways, this is just a matter of style. When I have had an opinion in awards season, I've tended to make the argument once and then be done with it. Some issues, such as my complaint about the unreasonably early Oscar nominations deadline, I've returned to, but even then I've been concerned about overkill. I guess I feel that if your argument is strong enough, you shouldn't have to keep making it.
But reasonable minds can differ. There are always different nuances, along with people who haven't seen your original piece, so I get why one can revisit the same topic. And, of course, the passion can remain ongoing.
The bigger dilemma is that Stone and Wells have a way of treating as objective something that is clearly subjective. Movies are an intensely personal medium, and as much as you can dispassionately discuss the tools of the trade, it's the way a film affects you emotionally that by far governs how you'll rate it.
"Argo" could win best picture without being, in some people's eyes, the
best movie of the year. But I think it's safe to say it's the most
universally liked movie of the year, and like it or not, that's what the
Stone, as smart as her writing is, rarely concedes much (if at all) that "Lincoln" fails to stir the emotions of its entire audience. (Certainly, that was my reaction — I liked "Lincoln" and was never bored by it, but wasn't particularly moved either — and it's not because I don't worship the man.) As much as she understands that must be what has happened, I think she still can't quite believe it, or can't really buy into the idea that it's the filmmaker's fault and not the filmgoer's.
She thinks "Lincoln" will gain strength over time, joining the ranks of films that were underappreciated in their Oscar year. Maybe it will, but I wouldn't count on it — not because the movie isn't objectively good, but because for the masses, it isn't subjectively enthralling. (There's mass interest, as evidenced by its box office, but not mass adoration.)
Wells, meanwhile, has given an even more distinct impression that he thinks there's something wrong with you if you don't share his view on a given film. You get the sense that part of this might be for show, but nevertheless, I haven't liked how it's undermined the online conversation about the movies. At Hollywood Elsewhere, it never seemed possible to simply like "Silver Linings," as I did — if you didn't love it, you might as well have hated it. If you found elements too expository or the ending to be too tidy or what have you — if you didn’t think it was the absolute best — you not only were anti-cinema, you were life-challenged.
Zero Silver Linings recognition indicates (emphasis in the "i"
word) that the BOFCA membership is dweeb-heavy -- i.e., lonely/homely
guys (including a certain percentage of beefalos) who haven't been
especially lucky or fortunate in affairs of the heart. God has favored
them with brains, diligence and writing ability, but he hasn't smiled on
their sex lives. Slipshod as this may sound, this is HE's working
theory about the matter. Put another way, I have come to strongly
suspect over the past several weeks that if SLP has a problem with any particular group, it's with these guys.
I've been down this road before — for years and years, as I got up, get dressed, kissed my family goodbye and went to work, I heard people in the baseball world throw the old "blogging in his pajamas in his mother's basement" charge at anyone who had contrary viewpoints. It was deluded, it was demeaning, and it was desperate — a Hail Mary pass from someone who had nothing of substance left to offer.
Talking about what you believe should happen at the Oscars is all well and good, but there has to be some perspective. It's all opinion, every last bit of it. You thought that movie was great, I thought this one was — there's nothing more to it than that. There's no scorecard at the theater — neither Steven Spielberg and David O. Russell took the mound and threw a three-hit shutout, they directed movies. But though it might not have been intended, the cumulative effect of the writing of Stone and Wells gives the impression that they believe there's an objective leader in a subjective field — even beyond what the 6,000 members of the Academy come to decide. Ultimately, that nagged me.
At the same time, there's a part of me that wishes I had thrown down as passionately as they did for my own pet cause. There might be no one else in the world but me who thought "A Late Quartet" was the best movie of 2012, but I damn sure loved it and I damn sure think it deserved more awards recognition. Most of all, I damn sure wish more people had seen it.