During this week's Oscar Talk (on the jump), Kris Tapley and I debate the Hailee Steinfeld category issue for True Grit. He thinks she's best actress material, while I argue that she's a rookie who belongs in supporting. At Thursday night's The Social Network DVD party at Spago, producer Scott Rudin was all smiles (True Grit is also vying for best picture). He opted to compete in the supporting category, he said, because it would seem "brazen" to put a newcomer up for best actress. Besides, he argued, Mattie Ross is the instigator of the plot, not the protagonist. The movie is about Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges); he is the character that changes. (Here's my Rudin interview.)
As I thought about the end of the movie, when Cogburn goes the extra mile for the 14-year-old he loves like a daughter, I choked up. Uh-oh. Is True Grit the late-breaking movie with heart, like Million Dollar Baby, the one that draws wells of emotion? Are the Coens like Clint Eastwood, respected and admired by all? But wait, the Coens have already won! Let's put it this way. I don't see this year as a sweep. There's a horse race. The King's Speech and The Fighter are in there too. Tapley and I both think the popular Fighter is ahead of True Grit. But The Fighter doesn't bring a catch to your throat.
Winter's Bone does, though. At another Beverly Hills Oscar fete up the hill at the home of Nancy Olson-Livingston, a gaggle of Academy males thronged around the party's Scarlet O'Hara, tall-drink-of-water Jennifer Lawrence (who's shooting second unit stunts on X-Men: First Class). They were marveling at how different she was from her role in the movie. Writer-director Debra Granik credited the cold, rough Ozark locations, working with children and dogs and veteran actors like John Hawkes, with pushing Lawrence into the reality of the film. "She had to do all those things," says Granik. "And she had real respect for the more experienced actors." Granik was inspired by Kathryn Bigelow, who hosted a Winter's Bone screening for Academy members. Granik was impressed with how tough Bigelow was when she made all the decisions that turned out to be right for The Hurt Locker--casting, independence, mideast locations. She made it her way.
The Social Network Spago party was intense. I walked in and said "hi" to Jesse Eisenberg; Sony's Jeff Blake introduced me to David Fincher, who said he had "wrapped" The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Blake and I were stunned. "Don't you have to go back to Stockholm?" I asked, knowing it was a long shooting schedule. "For the day," he said before he was whisked off for a group photo with Rudin, Eisenberg and Aaron Sorkin. Sony's diminutive co-chairman Amy Pascal hugged the very tall Armie Hammer. Andrew Garfield, another tall, lanky actor, pulled into the party late.