Seth MacFarlane did not look happy as he nursed a strong drink at the HBO party following the Golden Globes Sunday night. Would you? The first-time Oscar host has to follow hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who nabbed the best reviews in recent memory for their performance at the Golden Globes on NBC, which hit a six-year high in overnight ratings (averaging a 13.1 household rating/28 Nielsen share), a sweet ten percent boost over last year and the best Globes score since 2007. At 40 minutes into the show, Twitter reported reaching over 2 million #GoldenGlobes-related Tweets in the preceding 24 hours. (Globes winners here, highlights videos, here.)
In fact, while the Oscars were trying to get ahead of all the Golden Globes hoopla, they probably boosted interest in the rival show, as it followed fast on the heels of the Thursday Oscar nominations. On the other hand, with a hotly contested Oscar race covering a wide range of commercially successful movies, this could be one of the best-viewed Oscar telecasts in years.
Who came out ahead and behind over the course of this jampacked awards party weekend? (From here on there are no more Oscar parties, except for the always-lovely Oscar nominations lunch. Now it’s all about blitz advertising.) What was the real impact on the Oscars? Here’s what I learned.
1. Team “Lincoln” is nervous. That they pulled the Bill Clinton card, having the ex-president introduce pal Steven Spielberg’s film at the Golden Globes, is a sign that they are not resting on their supposed frontrunner status. Everyone recognizes that “Lincoln” has the right stuff to win the best picture Oscar, with 12 nominations across the categories and support from the actors’ branch. Globes winner Daniel Day-Lewis can’t lose best actor, and Critics Choice adapted screenplay winner Tony Kushner is a clear favorite, along with octogenarian composer John Williams. The movie is at the head of the pack now, but where it winds up at the end of Oscar Campaign Phase Two is what matters.
2. “Silver Linings Playbook” has momentum. The Weinsteins’ late-surging “Silver Linings Playbook” is coming on strong, with eight nominations (including director David O. Russell). That was always the plan, says TWC COO David Glasser, who supervises distribution and marketing. They held the movie back from wide release until next weekend, when as much Oscar and Globes buzz as possible would fuel an expansion that has never had strong awareness tracking behind it. This is not unusual for a word-of-mouth Oscar entry.
Young “Silver Linings” charmer and comedy Globes winner Jennifer Lawrence (or JLa) is now the fave for the Best Actress Oscar, with some competition from “Amour” star Emmanuelle Riva–who turns 86 on Oscar day and would receive the award from countryman Jean Dujardin– and Globes drama-winner Jessica Chastain, who has the most juice right now for a “Zero Dark Thirty” Oscar win. (Her feminist speeches –“Bigelow has done more for women in cinema than she takes credit for”–at the Critics Choice and Globes may not play so well for the Academy steakeaters.) Industry insiders expect a fierce Weinstein vs. DreamWorks battle to compare with the one between “Shakespeare in Love” and “Saving Private Ryan.”
But “Silver Linings” is an edgy small-scale talking heads comedy that is not universally beloved. Nor does it have support from all the craft and tech categories. It’s primarily an actor’s play. Even “Shakespeare in Love,” which finally bested Spielberg’s “Ryan,” was a period romance with costumes, production design and some scope in its favor. And it was the later entry with momentum.
3. “Life of Pi” is in the mix. Eleven nominations is not insignificant for a movie that compares more to “Avatar” and “”Lord of the Rings” on the cinematic achievement side than 3-D “Hugo.” Ang Lee survived the brutal directors derby that left Kathyrn Bigelow, Ben Affleck and Tom Hooper hanging, and he commands serious respect inside the Academy, which gave him the Oscar for “Brokeback Mountain.” Remember, these 5700 voters are people who know what goes into making movies and this gorgeously executed heart-tugger with worldwide appeal ($400 million and counting) had a high degree of difficulty. The movie could win director, visual effects, and cinematography among other technical nods. Picture? It’s open. Fox has to believe, and while Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler is a fighter, I’m not sure the studio is on board for the win.
4. “Les Miserables” has one likely Oscar win, for Anne Hathaway (who gave a classily gracious speech) along with a few technical categories. Universal and Working Title enjoyed their three-Globe win Sunday, but they are unlikely to be as happy on Oscar night, as the film is simply too divisive. But Hathaway is unbeatable.
5. “Django Unchained” could go home from the Oscars empty-handed. Its best shot at a win is a screenwriting award, which Tarantino won at the Globes. But the supporting actor race is wide open and Christoph Waltz could prevail, as he did at the Globes.
6. Adele will take home Best Song for “Skyfall.” No way that’s not going to happen.
7. The Oscar animation race is wide open, with Globe-winner “Brave” vs. “Frankenweenie” and “Wreck-It-Ralph.”
8. More Oscar voters than ever participated in the nominations, AMPAS president Hawk Koch told Deadline’s Pete Hammond, despite electronic voting issues.
9. Complaints about the foreign Oscar selection process continue, as “Rust and Bone” was in the running at the Globes, but wasn’t submitted for the Oscar by its country, France, which went with Weinstein’s “The Intouchables,” which did not land in the final Oscar five. With the documentary rule changes and screeners being sent to the entire Academy in more categories, the relatively hidebound foreign branch remains tangled in arcane committees and demands further reform. Sony Pictures Classsics chief Michael Barker, who celebrated more wins for “Amour” at the LA Film Critics Saturday and at the Globes Sunday night, assures me that many smart people have examined this issue over the years, and there is no better way.
10. No one film is going to dominate the Oscars; the gold statues will be spread around, as the Broadcast Film Critics and Golden Globes have shown. But “Argo” is not in the strong position that its recent wins at the Critics Choice And Golden Globes Awards would suggest; both groups have more mainstream taste than the Oscars, and the Globes especially favor the movie stars they interview, year in and year out. “Argo” is a popular film, but many Academy folks don’t accord it the gravitas that goes with a Best Picture winner. Sure, it gets a boost for its Oscar push. But it’s 90 idiosyncratic foreign press vs. 5700 Oscar voters. And Affleck not landing an Academy director’s nom was a blow.
At the start of the weekend Friday, at the classy and calm AFI Awards Lunch honoring the ten best motion pictures and television programs of 2012, Affleck and Bigelow commiserated with each other, as theories abounded as to why each was robbed. And nominee Benh Zeitlin talked to two other directors who were left out of the running, Chris Nolan and Tom Hooper.
Clearly, the Academy directors went for the perceived underdogs, but I don’t buy the idea that Affleck, 40, was deemed too young and callow by some 300 older directors. Actors Kevin Costner, Robert Redford, George Clooney, Kenneth Branagh, Mel Gibson and Warren Beatty were rewarded with directing nominations in the past–but that was when there were only five picture contenders. The math of nine slots vs. five directors is unforgiving. Many agree with me that the Academy should return to five best pictures. Warners doesn’t buy the suggestion that Affleck lost votes because he was overhyped. Affleck was front and center as director and star, so he was promoting his film. And he will continue to do so, he told me.
At the hot-ticket sit-down AFI Lunch at the Four Seasons, no one has to accept a prize or give a speech. Everyone mingles and then sits down to watch and applaud clips for the ten best films and TV series, which served as a reminder of how strong and varied both the TV and film material was last year. Studio heads sit at tables with their winning creative teams –many of them in the race for Golden Globes and Oscars, natch–as everyone works the room, which has few press on hand.
I get a kick out of the way that TV and movies collide at the AFI lunch –as they do more than ever in the real world. Where else do you get Judd Apatow talking with Daniel Day-Lewis, Tony Kushner wanting to meet Lena Dunham, or Bryan Cranston hanging with Hugh Jackman? Ex-Fox chairman Tom Rothman was proud that his studio, with its investment in “Lincoln,” boasted 31 Oscar nominations. He’s producing “Robopocalypse” with Steven Spielberg, which has been pushed back because the script isn’t ready. “I have other things in the works,” he promised.
I enthusiastically told “Game of Thrones” exec producer David Benioff, with wife Amanda Peet, that he should direct the movie version of his book “City of Thieves”; he sounds scared of the challenges posed for a rookie filmmaker by the World War II snow-bound Leningrad setting. I suggested that he shoot it on location with Russian money.
Much-lauded filmmaker Norman Jewison (“Moonstruck,” “Fiddler on the Roof”) was the keynote speaker. “You people are crazy,” he said, “but that’s Ok, because here’s how I see it. We need you, because we need you to entertain us, yes, but also to give us a little insight into ourselves, our nation, our society, a little insight into the other guy’s point-of-view, in the end, to remind us that we’re all in this together… When things are tough, that’s when we need to tell stories the most. In the weeks to come you’re going to walk a mile of red carpets. Some of you will win something and some you will not. Believe me, none of that really matters. Just remember these stories and how lucky we are to be in this crazy mixed up family.”
Saturday brought the Independent Spirit Awards brunch at BOA on Sunset, with another subset of the movie world. Jeremy Renner and “Silver Linings Playbook”‘s David O. Russell and Chris Tucker networked, along with “The Invisible War” director Kirby Dick, Focus Features’ James Schamus (“Moonrise Kingdom”) and Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley and her “The Sound of My Voice” filmmaker Zal Batmanglij, who’s debuting his follow-up “The East” at Sundance, and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” director Benh Zeitlin and star Quvenzhane Wallis. As soon as the awards season is over Zeitlin will head back to New Orleans to start the long, laborious process of finding the locations and building the script for his next in-the-works film, which will be made the same way as his last. He is reading no scripts. And Searchlight has the first-look.
Ava DuVernay told me that she had only enough money to release her Sundance-director-prize-winner “Middle of Nowhere” on 50 screens, that was it. The movie cost $200,000 and she came out ahead. Next up: pushing another indie film up the financing mountain, and a 30-minute doc segment for ESPN about Venus Williams’ fight for equality at Wimbleton.
At the BAFTA Tea at the Four Seasons, old-time Oscar rivals, “Lincoln” producer Kathleen Kennedy and “Silver Linings” producer Bruce Cohen, recalled that they have competed twice before, when “American Beauty” beat “The Sixth Sense,” and “Milk” went against “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” “Lincoln” star Sally Field joined us to complain about the Critics Choice Awards.
Two other rivals were at BAFTA: “Silver Linings” backer Harvey Weinstein and Sony Pictures Classics’ co-president Michael Barker, who’s happy with his Oscar chances for “Amour,” which is up for five awards, and docs “The Gatekeepers” and “Searching for Sugar Man.”
When I asked Kathryn Bigelow if she thought that Sony had presented “Zero Dark Thirty” as too much true story and too little fiction, she looked me in the eye and said, “I would not change a thing.”
On Golden Globes Sunday, my daughter Nora and I went from the chilly tented Fox viewing party, packed with Globes and Oscar nominees from “Life of Pi,” “Hitchcock,” “Homeland,” “Lincoln,” and “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (where “Life of Pi” composer Mychael Danna’s score marked the big win of the night) across the parking lot toward the Beverly Hilton and its slew of parties. On our way to the Weinstein party at Trader Vic’s, we passed Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber and Damian Lewis heading toward Fox, and followed “Skyfall” star Daniel Craig and wife Rachel Weisz down winding narrow stairs and corridors to the hopping party, where Harvey Weinstein hobnobbed with Sony’s Howard Stringer and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, and Quentin Tarantino accepted our congrats on his way to join producer Stacey Sher and Leonardo DiCaprio in the “Django” area, where the tall star had given his tuxedo jacket to his shivering lady friend.
Jubilant Globes host Tina Fey attended the 4th floor NBC Universal fete, along with “Les Mis” winners Jackman and Hathaway, Universal’s Ron Meyer, Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley, Working Title’s Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Liza Chasin, and co-stars Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne and “Hyde Park on Hudson” star Bill Murray, Saturday Night Live’s Seth Myers and 50 Cent.
Getting into the HBO Party was a 40-minute wait, but inside was MacFarlane, Mel Gibson, super-tall Kobe Bryant, and Lena Dunham (sitting with “Girls” crew Adam Driver, Allison Williams and Judd Apatow). And class-act Jason Isaacs played along with our Globes photo series of Nora in the foreground and oblivious celebs behind.
At our last party of the night, Warners/Instyle, Affleck was long gone, but there were still mountains of Godiva chocolate and a pounding disco beat.