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Branch by Branch: Debating Oscars for Moneyball, Girl with Dragon Tattoo, TOH vs. Awards Daily

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 14, 2011 at 7:43AM

Every so often New Yorker Thelma Adams (ex-critic of Us Magazine now at AMC's filmcritic.com) invites me to debate various Oscar topics with her and D.C.-based Susan Wloszczyna (USA Today), LA Oscar blogger Sasha Stone (Awards Daily) and Seattle's Kim Voynar (MovieCityNews). We toss things around--our latest debate over best picture yielded this reaction from me: In Hollywood, Moneyball is seen as an art movie that somehow made it through the studio system. The writers will go for Zaillian and Sorkin. The actors will go for Pitt and Hill. The directors will go for Bennett Miller. Wally Pfister–Chris Nolan’s DP–very respected. And so on. Trust me, it’s in the mix. How does a movie get to be a best picture contender? One branch at a time.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Every so often New Yorker Thelma Adams (ex-critic of Us Magazine now at AMC's filmcritic.com) invites me to debate various Oscar topics with her and D.C.-based Susan Wloszczyna (USA Today), LA Oscar blogger Sasha Stone (Awards Daily) and Seattle's Kim Voynar (MovieCityNews). We toss things around--our latest debate over best picture yielded this reaction from me:

In Hollywood, Moneyball is seen as an art movie that somehow made it through the studio system. The writers will go for Zaillian and Sorkin. The actors will go for Pitt and Hill. The directors will go for Bennett Miller. Wally Pfister–Chris Nolan’s DP–very respected. And so on. Trust me, it’s in the mix. How does a movie get to be a best picture contender? One branch at a time.

And every so often various folks give me a hard time on Twitter. Tuesday Stone took me on for suggesting that David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo could pick up many nominations without necessarily making it into best picture, which yielded a lively debate, below. I cleaned up our grammar and syntax and combined some tweets to make it a little more readable outside the twittersphere.

@AwardsDaily Sasha Stone: Did I read you right, that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo should have a shot at screenplay, director, but not picture? Huh?

@akstanwyck Anne Thompson: Sorry for being so conservative; I need to see Dragon Tattoo to find out if it rises above genre to land a best picture slot.

Stone: But if there's director, screenplay and star - picture is nearly a certainty. You can't get a director nod without #1 votes for best picture.

Thompson: With new rules this year, film has to be fave of many voters to get into best picture.

Stone: My point again is that if it's favorited enough to get director, script, actress, that equals a best picture nod. In other words, it makes no sense I don't think, since picture is the easiest get of all of them, except maybe script.

Thompson: The directors and writers will nominate higher-brow craftspeople; best picture is often more mainstream. The era of ten is over.

Stone: Those nominations in the other categories would indicate that the film was favorited by many important branches.

Thompson: Dragon Tattoo is a melodramatic crime meller; players should raise it to another level, but it's outside the Oscar box. That's why I must see it!

Stone: The directors branch is not going to: "oh, Fincher for director but some other movie for picture, et,." in other words, harder to land in directors five than to land in picture...

Thompson: It's violent, transgressive, could turn off mainstream Academy. Assuming the crafts will be on board. But it has to be first choice, Number One, for picture.

Stone: Believe me, I know. But do the math. It's still easier to land in picture. You've already got well over the magic number with directors, actors and writers. So it's in for the first round at least. Only saying, if you have the other branches represented...it's a near-certainty. The "branch by branch" theory will turn out to be the best indicator, I think, of finding best picture.

Thompson: You don't think the directors, of all branches, respect and admire Fincher?

Stone: Yes, agree totally, but if it hits those other branches, baby, it's in. Picture will be more inclusive than director. It has so many things in its favor -- the least of which, its director made the best film of last year. They will remember. If you said crafts only I'd agree with you. But you didn't. You named everything except picture, which is an impossible scenario or very near. If you get techs, all of the major branches and not picture? That would be total and complete insanity. It would have to suck. But if the movie is bad then it will only get techs, maybe actress.


This article is related to: Awards, Directors, Franchises, Genres, Headliners, Stuck In Love, Oscars, David Fincher, Girl with Dragon Tattoo, Thriller, Books, Screenwriters


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.