Hot Snub Time Machine

AMPAS Proposes; The Ankler Disposes

First thing that jumps out – and consider this a place-setter for all that is to follow because so much of Oscar fussbudgetry springs out of social media – but no film this year encountered a bigger blowback than The Joker.  For a thousand different reasons, up to and including predictions of mass murder that follow it’s release, the social media mobs all but demanded Warners burn the film before inflicting it on a fragile world, In These Troubled Times (ITTT).

Actually it wasn’t just social media on this one.  The flames burn highest on social of course and without it, the Joker wars wouldn’t have gone far. But traditional media did their part to egg on or amplify (depending on your perspective) the social media outcry. 

A release so problematic, Warners was called insane not to cancel it entirely. And the result: the highest-grossing R-Rated release of all time and the most Oscar nominations of any film this year.

As ever, Hollywood listens to ignore social media at its own risk.

• Fear a Netflix on the ropes. Forget about the nominations by company number.  That’s wonderful for your corporate boilerplate, but apart from that, who cares or remembers that ten seconds from now?  As with the 2019 Dodgers, after all the money and time spent, nothing short of victory is going to count as victory. 

I don’t know the final outcome, but after tens or hundreds of millions spent, Netflix is staring into the void of losing in the final stretch once again. It certainly feels like that’s the way it’s going. And you’ve got to wonder, if that happens, with growth finally stalled, whether they are going to be able to come back to this well in this way again.

• As I noted post-Globes, if you run into OUATIH or 1917 on the sidewalk, watch your head for falling pianos.  There’s a lot of money riding on this race and the specter of it all slipping away is going to start to make some folks out there very antsy.

And no sooner than this morning, did this little piece of home furnishing come tumbling down on Sony’s head:

Which not only recaps QT’s long relationship with Harvey but throws in for good measure:

Weinstein aside, Tarantino’s also been accused of being creepy to women in the industry and risking Thurman’s life during the making of Kill Bill.

And: 

Then there’s Brad Pitt. When his former fiancée Gwyneth Paltrow came forward to accuse Weinstein of trying to assault her, Pitt confessed to the Times that he knew of the attack, and had gotten in the predatory producer’s face over it.

I have no idea what instigated this catalog of OUATIH’s Harvey ties past, but this is  dangerous ground for Hollywood. If we’re going to start going through all the past ties everyone involved with all the nominees has to Harvey (not a terrible idea, and don’t forget to include the agencies while you’re at it), it’s going to be a very quiet Oscar race before we’re done.

• Then there’s the snubocracy that rules nomination days.

The madness starts with the insane notion of a snub:  when Oscar fails to agree with the critics it is a snub. . . Not a snub of the critics, but of the film itself. Because the fact that it has made so many top ten lists and won critics circle awards proves that it is one of the best movies or performances of the year. Scientifically.

If the Oscars fail to honor such consensus certified film, it couldn’t be because they have a different opinion of what was good or just like something else or woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. Because it has been scientifically proven to them – by critics! who scientifically know – that this was the best movie or performance of the year out of the hundreds of releases.  So if they go in another direction, it can only be because they have chosen to ignore, that is to demean snub, something that they know is the great. That essentially is the logic of “snubs.”

And there’s no possibility here that the critics are working with other agendas apart from artistic accomplishment: axes to grind, political hobbyhorses, pack mentalities, chumminess with the candidates, payoffs or anything like that for instance.

• Oscars works a particular way,  Campaign, play the stupid game., spend a fortune, work the precursor groups – whatever the merits of any film, no one, and I mean No. One. wins without the game.

There might be 1000 minority-helmed Citizen Kanes this year but none of them count if they aren’t working the buffet circuit – and the studios aren’t spending for it. 

Which is why pundits can predict just about all of it, with the few exceptions of the stand out snubs.

You might Oscar should overlook that…Oscars should be wise and pure and above the chaos.  Might as well say Monster Truck rallies should focus on contestants’ penmanship.

• Which is also why the notion that these are the Real Awards and others are the Fake Awards is ridiculous.  They are the real sentiments of a group of people who have a lot of time to come get free buffets courtesy of some poor distributor and vote on the basis of how the aspiring nominee reacted when the voter in question tried to force a script into their hand.

And also on the basis of what everyone else at the reception said they are voting for, and what the general drift of things indicated was what they were supposed to vote for. Because why waste your vote on something that's not the thing everyone else is voting for!

• Which brings us to the Elephant of the Day in the Room.  Oscars still so white!

It’s that most wonderful time of the year, when social media (and now regular unsocial media) relive the eternal misconception that the Oscars are the problem with Hollywood and changing the Oscars will fix the industry…Which would be like if we ignored Presidential elections and devoted all our attention and energy instead to whom was invited to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, thinking if there were better speakers at the dinner, the Presidency would be instantly transformed.

There should indeed be more diverse Oscar nominees, and a healthy Hollywood would have more. But the problem isn’t per se that the Oscar electorate is ignoring great nominees that it would otherwise nominate.  Oscar is behaving as Oscar behaves, as dumbly and predictably as it does on all films.

The problem is that Hollywood isn’t telling more diverse stories by a more diverse group of people.  There were a lot of very good films by women this year, but as has been noted, they were still a tiny percent of the total films released. The number of Oscary (serious dramas) helmed by minorities telling non-white male stories remains, despite strides, a tiny sliver.

And this is not now just an Oscars problem, but an existential industry problem. At a moment when it’s an open question whether people will still be seeng movies in 10 years, Hollywood should be desperately racing to bring in any under-served audiences it can. New customers, imagine that! Instead of dragging our feet, still. In 2020.

When you look at these movies considered snubs - Hustlers, Farewell, Dolamite - all movies I enjoyed myself, but what in recent history is the Oscar comp for any of them? Hustlers is too genrey, Farewell too small. Dolamite feels like a HBO movie. Yes, movies with those issues sometimes slip through, but usually they don’t.

So when you’ve only got a couple minority-centric movies in the Oscar range, it doesn’t take much for them to fall short, if neither of them is a knockout. Likewise for female-helmed movies.

• All that said, it’s time to declare martial law on the directing branch and strip the current membership of its voting rights. In the vast herd of bovine pack mentality that is AMPAS, the directing branch still distinguishes itself in its insularity. There is no group of people more likely to be threatened by anyone new, anyone who doesn’t seem like one of them. 

Going further, as a general principle, if you had to decide which group in Hollywood was the greatest set of insecure psychopaths, I think you’d have to go with directors. Executives at least have normal hours, bosses to report to, HR reps to keep their homicidal urges somewhat in check. Until they make it to the very top at least. Producers need to make friends, raise money, turn on the charm.. Actors are nuts but in the end are pawns in other people’s games.  Writers are too committed to seeing themselves as downtrodden wretched of the earth to unleash the tyrants within.

But directors!

And every year, they manage to confirm these worst suspicions at nomination time.  Again, it being 2020 and all, it’s time to break them up, shut them down and try again.

• AMPAS tried to transform by doubling its membership but the fact is that, again, the Academy being the symptom not the cause, Hollywood didn’t employ enough experienced people of diverse backgrounds to let them do that. So they went abroad looking to diversify.  Not a bad goal in itself, to internationalize the Academy in these times.

But those folks on foreign shores aren’t necessarily going to be able to keep abreast of social media demands and know that Jennifer Lopez’s turn in Hustle has been declared a serious performance by a serious actress and not a star turn in a frothy quasi-thriller (nothing wrong with that).

• When all’s said and done, however, if you put aside the shortcomings, we ended up with a pretty good mix of broadly popular and smaller artistic pieces nominated this year.  I don’t think it’s any kind of epic year for film, but it’s an interesting, worthy bunch that made it.  There’s nothing on the list that you would say snuck in because of a devious consultant or anything like that.

There’s also movies with real movie stars, whom got nominated for their roles.  Lest we forget its still stars smiles that sell so much of this whole enterprise and are why there’s still two percent of the world that leaves their homes and plunks down their hard-earned money for the movies instead of staying in and watching unwrapping videos on YouTube.

• That said, with all these stars, they still can’t find a host?  Or have given up trying?

• In the end, and in keeping with the bovine nature of this race, thanks to preferential voting, the winner will be not the movie most people like, but the movie the least people hate. 

Which is going to make the coming bombshells particularly interesting to see what sticks.

Problem for the Social Justice in Oscar Nominations forces is that there are too many films they are declared against already.  Joker, Hollywood, 1917 have all been declared anathema at various points, and somewhat The Irishman. At least last year, they could focus the ire on Green Book, ineffectively as it turned out.  But this year, it’s hard to see anyone of them standing out as beyond the pale.  

Share your thoughts! Did the Academy blow it again!? Who’s to blame? Check out the action in the comments.

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The Anklets Preview: The Last Awards of 2019

Honoring the best of an historic year in trainwrecks, self-sabotage, and myopia!

We may be done with 2019, but 2019 isn’t done with us.

The year may have limped out of our lives but the wreckage remains. The turn of the calendar, as anyone in the industry knows, means the work has just begun. There are awards to be handed out. Modest, questionable, and even catastrophic achievements still remain to be celebrated, and here at the Ankler, we wouldn’t let a proud and mighty year like 2019 fade into the night without a proper sprinkling of trophies over its corpse.

So here then is The Ankler’s First Annual Gala Super-Festival Achievement Awards, aka, The Anklets, celebrating those who went the extra mile backward in 2019. Grab your plates: The buffet is now open!

The Correction of the Year Award!

To Los Angeles Magazine for: "Previously, this post also erroneously indicated that Netflix sent pillows to voters rather than journalists."

The Netflix Drunken Sailor Era (DSE) Award!

For Special Achievement in Personal Indulgence by a Streaming App Award.

A crowded category this year! The nominees are:

  • The Netflix Oscar industrial complex (including magazine, theater, and $200 million-plus for The Irishman)

  • Netflix’s Benioff/Weiss Deal

  • AT&T’s J.J. Abrams Deal

  • A documentary on Ted Sarandos’ father-in-law

  • Amazon's Sundance shopping spree

  • Amazon’s billion-dollar Tolkien project

  • Apple's All A-list public debut

And The Anklet goes to. . .The Netflix Oscar industrial complex!!

The Legacy Moneypit  "Spending It Because It's Something We Spend On" Gold-Plated Boondoggle Awards

The nominees are: 

  • Warners, Universal, and Paramount's CinemaCon cast of thousands line-up in Vegas

  • The International Festival Junket Circuit

  • Executive Golden Parachutes into Producing Deals

  • The Trades Award Luncheon/Summit/Banquet Circuit of backslapping and self-congratulation

And The Anklet goes to. . .The Trades Award Luncheon/Banquet Circuit!

The Special Achievement in Backpedaling Corporate Excuses Award!

To Sony Entertainment!  For its on background claim that MIB Int'l was ruined by Walter Parkes running amok on the production, which couldn't be prevented because, thanks to departures, no exec was available to stop him.

The Stupid Internet/Media Debate Award:

The nominees are:

  • Marvel vs. Scorsese

  • Is Rocketman gay enough?

  • Who is allowed to tell Don Shirley's story? 

  • Will Joker cause mass outbreaks of violence?

And The Anket goes to. . .Marvel vs. Martin Scorsese!

The Abject Humiliation Award:

The nominees are:

  • Oscar being unable to convince anyone to stand in as host after a very public search

  • Sony crawling back to Marvel after their public split

  • AT&T letting Kevin Tsujihara go one week after renewing his contract

And The Anket goes to. . .Oscar failing to convince anyone to host!

The Nice Place to Work Award

To the Sony Exit List (incomplete) including Lauren Abrahams, Matt Milam, David Beaubaire, Tamara Hunter, Damon Wolfe, Jean Guerin, Dan Kagan, Eric Fineman, Aimee Rivera, and Brian Smiley.

The Hollywood Corpo-speak of the Year Award:

The nominees are:

  • "The spending was appropriate" – Netflix's Kelly Bennett when asked about Roma's Oscar budget at the Variety Marketing Summit

  • “Disney was kind of like about half of the content of what we have at half the price. We’re twice the content of what we currently have at the same price."  Warner Media CEO John Stankey

  • “We are all better advocates for creativity when we work together. Both theatrical and home grew together And that’s good because we need to grow strongly together.” - Charles Rivkin on why his new stakeholder Netflix is no longer a threat to theatrical

And The Anket goes to. . . John Stankey!

Special Achievement in the Death of Media Primal Scream Award

To Helen Mirren's cry of "Fuck Netflix!" to the jubilation of an arena full of theater owners at CinemaCon, after hours of hearing the MPA's about-face on the threat of streaming competition

The Dumbest Media Narrative Award

The nominees are:

  • Sequelitis

  • Franchise Fatigue

  • The Death of Comedy

  • The Death of Stars

And The Anket goes to. . .Sequelitis!

The Performative Boot-Licking of the Year Award

The nominees are….

  • “I tortured my friend, WARNER BROS MOTION PICTURE GROUP Chairman TOBY EMMERICH, for a screening. He set me up on the lot this week and let me escape for two hours. These are my friends. I want them to do well. But I'm always honest about my media thoughts. This film is a masterpiece." – Jason Hirschhorn

  • “Another friend I've met on the interwebs, this time via REDEF, is legendary television and film producer BRIAN GRAZER. He gives me a good run for my money on the most curious person in the world status. He reads this newsletter every day. Even told OPRAH that on her show. And so does his partner, Director RON HOWARD. Brian wrote a best-selling book on curiosity, "A CURIOUS MIND: THE SECRET TO A BIGGER LIFE," a few years back. Yesterday, he released his newest tome, "FACE TO FACE: THE ART OF HUMAN CONNECTION." Success in business. Success in life. Happiness. They have a common through-line. human connection. Especially, in the digital age where we interact more and more in less personal ways. Without eye contact. With less empathy. The more that happens, the more we lose what is essential. Brian is someone who has lunch with someone (mostly new) every day. He wants to learn. He wants to get out of his shell. He enjoys being uncomfortable. He enjoys learning. He craves that connection. As we all should.” - Jason Hirschhorn

  • "Moreover, it was not a coincidence that distributors Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment wanted the film to play on this screen, which is sandwiched by two giant Oscars — stand-ins, perhaps, for the best supporting actress Oscar that Zellweger won for 2003's Cold Mountain and the best actress Oscar that she is poised to win for this film.” - Scott Feinberg

And The Anklet goes to. . .Yashar Ali!

The Profile in Hollywood Courage Award

  • To Steven Spielberg for crawling away from his harrumphs about Netflix's awards campaigns at the first sign of pushback

  • Olivia Wilde for throwing Richard Jewell under the bus, declaring she was just the actor, a week after praising her complex and multi-layered character

  • Adele Lim for turning her pay dispute over a polish on Crazy Rich Asians 2 into a racial issue, tarnishing the film and implying that the project an adaptation of a best-selling novel, was her personal story and property

  • Netflix for censoring an episode of Patriot Act in Saudi Arabia

  • The many grandees who assembled to kiss the Saudi Crown Prince’s ring when his human rights abuses were safely anonymous who quietly crept away after his more celebrated murder of a journalist

  • Everyone doing business in China who took pains to avoid the touchy topic of the Hong Kong crackdowns

And The Anket goes to…Everyone doing business in China!

This has been a preview from today’s edition of The Ankler, the industry’s secret newsletter. To read it all, subscribe today for just $10 a month.

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