Oscar Watch: Kids Are All Right Faces Academy Males

by Anne Thompson
December 28, 2010 9:15 AM
14 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood
Oscar campaigners call them the Steak Eaters. The Academy is full of them--they're red-blooded males (not just American--Europeans and Aussies too), often directors, writers and craftspeople. They're the guys who voted for The Silence of the Lambs, Braveheart, Gladiator, Avatar and yes, Crash over Brokeback Mountain. "They vote for big movies that make big money, good solid moviemaking with great actors and good storytelling," says one veteran Oscar campaigner. "True Grit is for them."

This faction of the Academy is also likely to vote for Ben Affleck's The Town and David O. Russell's The Fighter. One movie that is not likely to be inside their wheelhouse: Lisa Cholodenko's audience and critics' hit, The Kids Are All Right. For those who think that the Academy proved itself not sexist by voting for Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker last year, not so fast. Bigelow was one of the guys, a proven member of the big-budget studio club, who made a resolutely male war movie. No women were in it.

The Kids Are All Right faces several obstacles.

Thompson on Hollywood
1. It's a women's picture, not a drama, but a rambunctious, sexy, provocative relationship comedy. While this genre requires tremendous skill, the Academy tends to undervalue comedies.

2. It's a gay movie about two lesbian parents (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) of two teen kids who seek out their sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo). Women are trained from birth to learn to see things from the male point-of-view. Some men are able to look at things from a female perspective, but most men don't. Thus, I fear that the Steak Eaters in the Academy who were uncomfortable with the gay male love story in Brokeback Mountain may also shy away from the gay subject matter in The Kids Are All Right, from the butch Bening's taste for gay male porn to the way Ruffalo is treated. More than one male has complained that they do not like the movie's attitude toward Ruffalo. They think the movie is not kind to him. For one thing, he is not the central character; he's an attractive single male who likes women and enjoys meeting his kids but has never made a commitment in his life. The movie is about what happens to this family unit when he is introduced. He is an interloper, no question.

3. It's written and directed by a woman. Although Cholodenko lives in L.A., she comes from the indie world, and her prior films, High Art and Laurel Canyon, while well-reviewed, have not been widely seen. (She has been directing such TV series as Six Feet Under, Hung and The L Word.) Over the years, the Academy has embraced more women writers than directors. Bigelow can be seen as the exception that proves the rule: she was the fourth woman to win a directing Oscar nomination and the second American woman. She was the first woman to win the DGA award for best director and the Oscar for director or picture.

4. It's a small-scale $4-million contemporary film which grossed $20.8 million last summer. Focus Features turned its modest Sundance acquisition into a hit. But while Kids is well-made and good-looking, it isn't the sort of movie that will draw support across all the craft branches.

Academy voters are predominantly male, and so is the Academy directors branch. The dominant actors' branch comes closest to a 50/50 male/female split. Hence I predict that The Kids Are All Right will win best comedy and best actress in a comedy (Bening) at the Golden Globes, will get nominated for a best picture Oscar but not director, best actress (Bening) and supporting actor (Ruffalo), and best original screenplay, which Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg might have a shot at winning. Such are the vagaries of the Academy.

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14 Comments

  • A-K87 | January 7, 2011 2:18 AMReply

    I love this website but really don't see the point in this article.

    It points out the obvious as if it is a new found truth which should be exposed.

    I haven't seen the movie but I could have guessed that if it doesn't win big 'institutional sexism' or 'institutional homophobism' would be cited.

  • Eric | January 4, 2011 10:35 AMReply

    @BigTed - she's saying it will be nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Original Screenplay, but not Best Director. It could have been worded better.

    I don't see anything wrong with pointing out that the demographics of the Academy won't help this movie's chances. The article didn't come across like a whiny victimization rant to me, at all. However, I'm not sure that women like The Kids Are All Right significantly more than men do. A lot of lesbians have a problem with it because of the affair. Plus, a lot of the criticisms of the movie that I've read were written by women, who hated the way Ruffalo's character was treated.

    In the end, I agree with those who say that if it's nominated for everything Thompson is predicting for it (Best Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor, Screenplay) then there will be no reason for anyone to say it was screwed.

  • Thomas | January 1, 2011 9:15 AMReply

    I don't think movie was "provocative" at all. In fact, I thought it was kind of predictable. Predictable in a good way, but still predictable. There might have been a time 30 years ago when focusing on gay characters might have been provocative but gay characters, happily, populate all sorts of films and tv shows these days. In fact, this movie seems to be saying that gay couples can have as boring and unsatisfying a relationship as straight couples. That is not provocative, it is merely a sad statement on life going forward.

  • BigTed | December 29, 2010 10:44 AMReply

    Wait, so you're not predicting the film for anything other than a Best Picture nomination? I'm confused by "will get nominated for a best picture Oscar but not director, best actress (Bening) and supporting actor (Ruffalo), and best original screenplay, which Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg might have a shot at winning."

  • Jon | December 29, 2010 10:37 AMReply

    I totally agree with Jack Frost and J. The Kids Are All Right was a good movie, but in no way is it better than The Social Network, The King's Speech, True Grit, Black Swan, or even The Fighter. It's a feel good movie, and as I said it's pretty good, but in no way is it deserving of winning Best Picture or Best screenplay

  • SC | December 29, 2010 7:34 AMReply

    The first two acts make Ruffalo far too sympathetic for the third act to work. Though that's just one of my problems with the third act, the other being that the reconciliation of the parents isn't conveyed sufficiently (there really should be at least one scene between the two of them); and the kids' little sideplots ultimately amount to nothing.

  • SC | December 29, 2010 7:33 AMReply

    The first two acts make Ruffalo far too sympathetic for the third act to work. Though that's just one of my problems with the third act, the other being that the reconciliation of the parents isn't conveyed sufficiently (there really should be at least one scene between the two of them); and the kids' little sideplots ultimately amount to nothing.

  • Jackie | December 29, 2010 7:25 AMReply

    Because Inception's screenplay was SHIT. One of the worst of the year.

  • Christian | December 29, 2010 6:58 AMReply

    Agreeing with Jack Frost on this.

  • Jack Frost | December 29, 2010 6:38 AMReply

    This is such nonsense.
    It's like you're coming up with excuses for the film losing awards to better pictures, before it's even received a single nomination.
    If this "feel sorry for us, we're women" campaign has any effect at all, it's going to cost the movie votes, because if there's one thing the Academy doesn't like, it's whining about being overlooked.

    Good job. You've made me not want to see this film now, and I love both lead actresses... Sheesh.

    Also, if the Academy is such a group of males, what on earth makes you think this film has any chance of winning best original screenplay over Inception??

  • Chris | December 29, 2010 5:31 AMReply

    I don't disagree with J's sentiments, but it should be pointed out that Crash won Best Picture, not Brokeback Mountain.

  • Stephen Holt | December 29, 2010 3:59 AMReply

    Anne, I think that's exactly right. And carrying that logic a bit further...TKAAR might not even make it into Best Picture. People forget that males dominate and also they dominate the Actor's Branch, too. They're the majority. So this is also why Annette may lose to Natalie. The men want to **** her. This year.

  • J | December 29, 2010 3:35 AMReply

    Paul is treated badly in The Kids Are All Right. It's like the film is judging him, unlike everyone else in the film. It almost revels in his fuck ups. It feels almost mean-spirited, in a way. Jules gets a pass in comparison.

    He's not an intruder. The kids brought him in. He treats them kindly and pretty responsibly as well. He makes a bad decision because he is boneheaded and not ready to be a father, and the film REALLY goes far to point that out to make him look bad. Honestly, despite his horrible decision, I found him to be the most likable in the group. He's well intentioned. He's a good person who made a bad decision, the film (meanly) paints him as a bad guy at the end.

    In the end, the kids were left in the dust in the film. It became more about the adults, which is bothersome, especially when it's called "The Kids Are All Right." It became more about the couple.

    And there was a woman in The Hurt Locker, the end. And good example of a female oriented film winning over masculinity: Shakespeare in Love. Beat both Saving Private Ryan AND The Thin Red Line, far superior films. Titanic also beat L.A. Confidential and Good Will Hunting. And Brokeback Mountain won best picture.

    I feel like this article is very black and white. A lot of critics really liked The Kids All Right, but I don't see it ranking high on top 10 lists. There's better films this year, that's my viewpoint.

  • Darin | December 29, 2010 3:05 AMReply

    so you are saying they are going to get 4 Oscar nominations...and you are complaining they deserve more? heck no

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