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Oscar Bitchfest: 10 Things We'd Be Thankful For This Awards Season

Indiewire By Peter Knegt and Matthew Hammett Knott | Indiewire November 27, 2013 at 10:19AM

10 things we'd be thankful for this awards season
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Oprah Winfrey in the "Lee Daniels' The Butler."

In a special Thanksgiving-themed edition of this series, Indiewire senior writer Peter Knegt and regular columnist Matthew Hammett Knott face off about awards season.. 

It's almost Thanksgiving weekend, a perennial time for gratitude. Unless you're British or Canadian, as we are, and bound by no such tradition. So while we're happy to appropriate the Thanksgiving tradition of making wishes in this month's Oscar bitch fest, we regret to say we've given it our own, far-from-grateful twist.

November is about the last point where one can still get away with fantasizing wildly about Oscar possibilities. So long as there are still unseen contenders out there, it seems a legitimate exercise. Not that these wishes have any basis in reality, as you will rapidly see. It's just an excuse for imagining a few juicy ways of turning a traditionally conservative and predictable race firmly on its head. Par example:

"Monuments Men" is ready after all
Knegt: You hear all the time that George Clooney is such a trickster, and his greatest trick of all is that "The Monuments Men" is actually in the can and a complete and utter masterpiece. Just as "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" screen and we assume the race is all but called, Clooney holds surprise screenings of "Monuments Men" and then releases it in 3,000 theaters across America the next day. It wins every single Oscar it’s eligible for, and the game is forever re-written.

“The Butler” becomes the new front-runner
Knott: The game might be re-written, but you’d still have a classic ‘white men save the day’ narrative, as was ever thus. Now I know people are saying that both this year’s frontrunners ("Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave") challenge that norm, but I genuinely don't think either threaten white hegemony as much as "The Butler." People have compared it to "Forrest Gump," but that film has such a conservative approach, especially in regard to the art of protest. Everyone is calling "The Butler" gentle and bland, but I would say calm and fair-handed is a more generous description. It gives a lot of time to both sides of the great 20th century black dilemma of whether to assimilate or dissent. But its conclusion is clearly in favor of the latter, which sends a quiet message to its audience that although deferring to authority has its benefits, nothing really happens until you get rowdy. That’s nothing to be sniffed at, especially when you consider the risible racial insight of films like "Crash." I know "The Butler" is in other ways saccharine and bloated, but hello? We're talking about the Oscars.

All films with a triple digit running time are disqualified
Knegt: Yes, and the only problem with "The Butler" winning is that it still fits the Oscar tradition of rewarding films with insane running times. Do people really expect us to sit through all 114 minutes of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"? That's 14 minutes too many. I suggest the Academy does everyone a favor and draws up a last minute rule change that limits Oscar nominees to only films that run under 100 minutes. Then from here on in anybody who wants an Oscar (which is basically everyone except Joaquin Phoenix and Maggie Smith) will be forced to cut things down to lengths more suitable for the vast majority of us that suffer with severe internet-influenced ADD.  And even though it's sort of unfair this year's crop were not aware of the new rule before releasing their films, it will make for a much less bloated Oscar night as well. Ellen DeGeneres can just come on stage, tell a few jokes and then tell the entire cast and crew of "Gravity" to come up and accept their awards (except Sandra Bullock, who'd still lose to Cate Blanchett).

"All Is Lost"

“All is Lost” banned on a technicality
Knott: I like your strategy, but mostly because it removes from contention what I found to be one of the most overrated films of the year, "All Is Lost." It is supposedly this humanist ode to the survival instinct, or something, but those narrative restrictions (no dialogue! No cutaways! No CGI tigers!) seemed so wilfully imposed, and well, restrictive. Basically it felt like an exercise in showing off. And if you make people gather round to watch you wank into a cup for two hours, they will probably applaud at the end, but more through obligation than desire. Plus I genuinely wasn’t particularly impressed by Robert Redford, and I certainly don’t feel sad that he’s never won an acting Oscar. Put Annette Bening on that boat, then I’ll feel sad. I do think there’s something interesting to be said about the fact that all that wind-in-your-hair, being an adventurer on the high seas is ultimately an expensive and potentially selfish passion that tends to be the preserve of wealthy white men. And tearing away that privilege could be fascinating dramatically. But not in this case.

Stories of people in boats are banned from the Oscars altogether
Knegt: I'll admit I'm a much bigger fan of "All Is Lost" than you, Matt, but I for one am still totally sick of these movies about boats winning so many Oscars. How many times have you been on a boat? Seriously? I woke up on a gay cruise once but that's about it. But here we are again, with "All Is Lost" and "Captain Phillips" both in contention and the boating demographic totally overrepresented. Didn't they feel satisfied enough when "Titanic" swept? Or when "Life of Pi" won best director last year? No, they had to get greedy. And at whose expense? Ask the people behind "Rush." They were all but a sure thing for about 18 seconds back in September, and now yet again there will be no car-driven films being represented at the Oscars.

Emma Thompson in "Saving Mr. Banks"

Oprah steps up to the Best Actress category
Knott: Now we’re getting somewhere. But since you’ve ruled out my Best Picture win for “The Butler”, I’m going to have to get rowdy elsewhere. Oprah’s role in that film (I promise I’m not their publicist!) is easily substantial enough to run as lead, and she’d be the oldest black actress ever nominated in that category. The oldest currently is Viola Davis, aged 46, which highlights the shocking lack of leading roles for African American women in their fifties and beyond. And who better to make the point than Oprah? As it stands, all these white former winners are congregating nicely, polishing their Oscars and making room on the mantelpiece for another, and I just feel Winfrey needs to knock on the door and be like "Hey bitches, it's Oprah. Remember that time I wore an afro wig and flirted with Terrence Howard and took the piss out of Jackie Kennedy? Yeah, well now I want an Oscar." And Streep and Dench and Blanchett are like "Get back down to Supporting, it’s where we all started." But Oprah’s like “That Supporting trophy is going to Lupita." So Emma Thompson heroically volunteers to come back next year and try her luck in the screenwriting categories with the "Annie" remake.

Only Jay-Z and Beyonce are nominated in the best original song category
Knegt: That would be such an Emma Thompson thing to do.  But speaking of musicals and of Jay-Z (who is producing that "Annie" remake), how about we shake up the best original song category too. Sure, it was sorta fun last year to have Adele win for a song we'd actually heard of. But this year it seems almost certain to go to that song from "Frozen" that you'll probably only hear one time in your life (when it's sung at the ceremony). So let's just stop even taking this category seriously and use it to give Oscar night some much needed drama between real-life lovers. Remember how fun it was when ex-spouses Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron were competing against each other for best director? Well, let's up that ante and have two people that are still married compete for the prize. Jay-Z and his beloved Beyonce both have eligible original songs this year (his from "The Great Gatsby," hers from that animated movie about weird leaf people). So let's see how crazy in love they really are when one beats the other.

The best supporting actress category gets a reboot
Knott: I’d watch. And since that guarantees an African-American winner, I don’t feel so bad about dismantling the Best Supporting Actress race, which is currently looking at three black nominees for the first time in history with Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong’o and Octavia Spencer in contention alongside fellow frontrunners Margo Martindale and June Squibb. As seen above, I’ve promoted Oprah, which makes Lupita the guaranteed winner. But if the others are going to be also-rans, they may as well be interesting ones. Squibb needs to forget about winning anything for that dreadful Alexander Payne film and settle for an Emmy next year for whatever Lena Dunham has cooked up for her in Season 3 of "Girls." Let's keep Octavia Emmy-fresh for "Murder She Wrote" while we're at it. And sorry Margo, but we need to halt the terrifying trend of rewarding turgid stage adaptations in any form. Who to replace them? Obviously Scarlett Johansson’s voice work in "Her," for novelty factor alone. Then we need someone who's committing outrageous category fraud for the sake of a nomination, for which I suggest Paulina Garcia and her appearance in every single scene of "Gloria." Next, someone phenomenally random and undeserving, in keeping with tradition - I’m prepared to campaign for Quvenzhané Wallis in "12 Years a Slave," because I genuinely didn’t notice her appearance in that film. And finally, someone who's only there so we can see what she wears on the red carpet - with the only obvious choice being "Enough Said"'s Tavi Gevinson.

Is this our best supporting actor winner?

Best supporting actor goes to the monkey in "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Knegt: I'll take your reboot and raise it, Matt.  Let's not stop at a voice or a cameo.  Let's shake up the other supporting acting race and just give it to that monkey from "The Wolf of Wall Street." I haven't seen the film and given its running time probably never will, but that monkey looks hilarious in the trailer. Granted, I also don't even know if that monkey is male or female. Though even better if she's female.  Gender bending roles are so hot right now. Ask Jared Leto. All he had to do was walk in heels and put on some makeup and he's getting an Oscar nomination.

Ellen opens with hilarious musical number "We saw your Cocks"
Knott: Speaking of hilarious, here’s a foolproof plan for Ellen. I’m not advocating an eye-for-an-eye approach to feminism. I want Ellen’s phallocentric retort to be a furious satire on Seth MacFarlane’s song from last year, which topped its own general inappropriateness by making light of nudity in scenes of rape and assault among others. Consequently, I invite Ellen to compile every instance where male full frontals have been necessary features of say, a scene of torture or brutality, and jauntily remind us of each one while the A-list audience squirm in their seats. For example, I distinctly recall catching a glimpse of Michael Fassbender's testicles as he is dragged screaming through the prison in "Hunger," and I'm fondly chuckling to myself as I do. Go for it, Ellen! And if you don’t have the balls, Kate McKinnon can do it as an Ellen impression on SNL, and we won’t need to watch the Oscars at all.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Writer and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

Matthew Hammett Knott is a London-based filmmaker and writer who writes Indiewire's bi-weekly Heroines of Cinema column. Follow him on Twitter.

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This article is related to: Awards Season Roundup, Academy Awards, Oscar Bitchfest, Oprah Winfrey, The Wolf of Wall Street , Monuments Men, Ellen DeGeneres