Tuesday, December 11, 2007

San Francisco Film Critics Circle

I'm really not going to do this for every city that exists... but before the BFCA starts "predicting" (i.e. nominating) lets have won more cities awards...

Picture: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Whoa. People thinking for themselves
Director: The Coen Bros No Country For Old Men
Actor: George Clooney Michael Clayton
Actress: Julie Christie Away From Her
Foreign Language: The Diving Bell and Butterfly
Documentary: No End in Sight
Screenplay: Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Adapted Screenplay: Sarah Polley, Away From Her
Supporting Actress: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Quite obviously the greatest performance of all time he said with sarcasm. It's disappointing that critics orgs don't have more imagination.

and...
Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [emphasis mine and the films, you know]
Oh dear lord. I try to respect critics organizations... I really do. But they're all so embarassingly Oscar driven. There's a mini brouhaha about critical awards vs. Oscars that Awards Daily is defensive about in light of Scott Foundas' LAFCA related article but the truth, as I see it, is that everyone is guilty of kow-towing to the Oscars in some way shape or form. Anyone with any understanding of storytelling and dramatic principles -- and that ought to include critics I think --should recognize that this movie is the story of Robert Ford and how he feels about Jesse James. Robert Ford is played by Casey Affleck. I don't think it's a spoiler to tell you that Jesse James (Brad Pitt) gets assassinated and guess what? the film continues. Your protagonist is still alive and kicking. Is Norman Bates the supporting actor in Psycho. Jesus Christ!

P.S. I love the performance.

58 comments:

Kamikaze Camel said...

The Amy Ryan thing, while refreshing that it's not Cate Blanchett or whoever else (as good as they may be) but I am quite shocked that it's Ryan of all people who's gotten the sweep treatment more than anyone or any movie during the (early) season. She's not famous, the movie wasn't a hit and she's not (from what I've heard) a nice sympathetic character so it is refreshing in that aspect too.

Although I'm tending to think that these groups want to reward Gone Baby Gone somehow and Ryan is the most natural and obvious way how.

Anonymous said...

i could not possibly agree with you more on the casey affleck situation. it is such a joke that anyone could have seen that film and still call him "supporting actor." but despite what a sham it is, a part of me is still pleased since he at least is getting some recognition for a great performance.

Joe R. said...

Not to sound like a broken record -- or to interrupt the weeklong Amy Ryan bitchfest (she's really good! shut up all of you!) -- but I keep seeing Sarah Polley's name on these critics lists. Am I crazy to think she has a shot at Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars? I can certainly see the WGA throwing a nod her way.

Joe R. said...

...And I just now thought to check and see that you, Nathaniel, currently have Away From Her predicted in adapted screenplay. So at least one other person is crazy besides me. Good to know.

adam k. said...

Away From Her certainly does have a shot.

But yeah these critics awards are frustrating. First the strange Amy Ryan sweep (can't there just be some diversity? Tilda? Someone? come on) and now more awards for Casey Affleck in supporting. It's so hard to take any of this seriously anymore. No one cares. It's Jamie Foxx all over again.

Does the category really mean "best lead performance by an actor supporting a more famous star?" Please.

And the total lack of Atonement love is disheartening. The James and Keira BFCA snubs are the first real sign of worry.

amir_uk said...

You know I'm probably one of the few here that doesn't mind the "category fraud." As long as there's a consensus about where the performance goes, I'll go along with it. This is a recent thing, I used to get pissed off about it too. More recently I'm taking lead/supporting distinctions as indications of the character's relevance to the story they're in, or the protagonist they serve, rather than screentime.

If you look at it this way, Kidman would be lead and Moore supporting; Washington works as lead and Hawke supporting; Cruise makes sense leading and Foxx supporting; Ledger lead Gyllenhaal support, Dench lead Blanchett support, Pitt lead C Affleck support and so on...

NATHANIEL R said...

amir ---um, what?

screentime has nothing to do with it. it's about who the story is about. that story is about robert ford. collateral is ABOUT the jamie foxx character (tom cruise is the antagonist --though the way the story is structured, it's clearly a dual lead film)

adam --after seeing ATONEMENT i can tell you that it's not so worrisome that they were snubbed for leads. it's very much an ensemble experience with Joe Wright as the star ;)

Keira has not so much screentime and, really, Briony is the lead (it's just that she's divided up into three actors so...)

amir_uk said...

But the film is about Cruise foremost, no? Surely if it wasn't for his intervention there'd be no film, just a man driving a cab round LA. The protagonist of a piece can be the insitgator of the main action, s/he doesn't have to be a passive reactor to the secondary character's antagonistic actions.

And about screentime? Does/Did no-one else judge lead/support by this? That used to be my marker at least. Surprised you find that a bit strange, Nathaniel.

Anonymous said...

Casey Affleck is fine in supporting for "Jesse James", and I'm loving that he's getting some mentions for his acting. He's had a great year with this and "Gone Baby Gone", and hopefully Oscar will come calling with "Jesse James". It's looking like the five there are set in stone anyway -- Affleck, Bardem, Hoffman, Holbrook, and Wilkinson.

Anonymous said...

Casey Affleck is fine in supporting for "Jesse James", and I'm loving that he's getting some mentions for his acting. He's had a great year with this and "Gone Baby Gone", and hopefully Oscar will come calling with "Jesse James". It's looking like the five there are set in stone anyway -- Affleck, Bardem, Hoffman, Holbrook, and Wilkinson.

JS said...

"just a man driving a cab round LA"

I think someone named Martin Scorsese once had a similar movie and made it interesting.......

amir_uk said...

Not quite JS, you're being a bit facetious in skewing my point. Yeah sure De Niro's character's job was a taxi driver (like Foxx's in Collateral), but other things happened in that film too (like they do in Collateral).

PS. Nathaniel I'm loving your sharp comments in red under the picks for all the critics/guild awards. It's making up for no pretty charts this year.

NATHANIEL R said...

anon -i'm glad Affleck is getting recognition too. I just wish it wasn't under false pretenses.

anybody who can claim with a straight face that he's a supporting actor in that film hasn't seen the film

these arguments are all moot points anyway because like BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and COLLATERAL before it, it's a two lead film. The film entire about the relationship between two men.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the film twice and loved it, and I'm fine with Casey Affleck's supporting actor placement.

NATHANIEL R said...

you may be fine with it but that doesn't make it a supporting performance.

I'm done with arguing about category fraud though (Supporing actor is always the worst oscar category for it --second worst i'd say is "original screenplay" which has been letting more adapted piece in more regularly) i'm clearly on the losing side of the war

but at least i died on the battlefield with my integrity intact.

*this is very dramatic i know but in truth i'm feeling quite loopy. too much awardage in so few days. SLEEP! I need sleep.

Anonymous said...

They're considering it supporting across the board though. You don't have to like it, but it is what it is, and the argument can be made that Affleck is supporting in the film.

NATHANIEL R said...

ok what's the argument?

(ARGGGGH. I said i wasnt gonna do this)

CanadianKen said...

I'm surprised at the Amy Ryan consensus too. She's fine. But I still wouldn't even give her the "Best Supporting Actress in GONE BABY GONE" award. That belongs to Amy Madigan.

Anonymous said...

Affleck's position in the film is secondary to Pitt's. It's about Robert Ford's obsession with the larger-than-life figure of Jesse James going from adulation to disgust. Yes, Affleck has more screentime, but I still saw him as supporting Pitt. It looks like that's the way most groups are looking at it too, and I'm fine with that.

Anonymous said...

does that mean that James Stewart is "supporting" Kim Novak in Vertigo?

Anonymous said...

Look, I'm talking about this film and how the supporting placement could be made. You don't have to like it.

Robert said...

I agree with just about all of your points there Nathan. The Academy hasn't been able to figure out what a supporting performance is since that whole Barry Fitzgerald debacle. What's most disappointing isn't that AMPAS is considering Affleck supporting (that's to be expected and tolerated) is that these critics awards all cowtow to AMPAS's ridiculous tendancies in an attempt at... I dunno... uniformity? conformity?

As for Amy Ryan, I'm shocked that her strained, multiple personality disorder-ish performance is up for the sweep. To me the white trash and the concerned mother sides of her character never made a cohesive whole.

Anonymous said...

Sigh, while I am happy for Amy and her critic awards sweep this week, Cate Blanchett is the one who should be sweeping all the critics awards and not Amy. Cate's portrayal of Bob Dylan is admittedly one of the top 5 performances this year! Maybe the critics are "cate-d" out. That's too bad!

Ethan

steve said...

Amir,

I think you're confused. Just because Cruise is the source of the conflict does not make him the only, or "true", lead of Collateral. Think of Thelma & Louise (just to grab a random example... you can do this, really, with any movie or story). Is the guy who tried to rape Thelma the lead of that story? After all, if the girls had never met him, they would have just gone away for a relaxing weekend in the mountains.

Anon,

You've revealed the fundamental flaw in your logic through your own phrasing of the argument. Assassination... is about FORD's obsession with James. It is most specifically about one characters state of mind, about his point of view... it his about HIM.

Hasn't anyone here taken a literature course (post-high school)?

Anonymous said...

No, it's not a flaw. Many people can (and will) see the main character being Brad Pitt's character. He's the obsession, he's the focal point. It's not a stretch or a big deal that Affleck is supporting.

Anonymous said...

Cloris Leachman was nominated for Best actress in Fatal Attraction right? She was the stalker and Michael Douglas was the obsession.

Anonymous said...

Ugh I meant Glenn Close.

NATHANIEL R said...

still it's kind of fun to think about Cloris Leachman doing Fatal Attraction.

"I'm not going to be ignored"

steve said...

Yes, it is flawed, and continues to be flawed. An argument that Pitt is leading is not an argument that Affleck is supporting, since you're only establishing that Pitt is A lead. There can certainly be more than one. No realistic reading of the film, though, can establish Affleck as supporting.

Anonymous said...

No, it isn't flawed. Awards groups are going to see Affleck as supporting whether you like it or not. They'll see it as Pitt's story as the main character, and for placement purposes, Affleck will have to make due in supporting. That's the way that it goes, and it's fine.

amir_uk said...

Hey Steve, I never meant to get dragged into this whole category fraud debate, all I wanted to say was that I don't really mind it anymore. The attempted rapist in Thelma and Louise is quite obviously a supporting player, distinguished by his screentime in this respect. Disclaimer: when I said I don't go by screentime anymore, I meant in borderline co-lead situations like the examples I used in my original comment.

My preferred way of distinguishing between lead/supporting is to go with my gut feeling towards the film. Which character was the fulcrum? Whose role was the crux of the narrative rotating around? Which character had more gravitas in the film, and by that I just mean which character struck me as lead. There isn't anything more scientific or semiotic about it as far as I'm concerned. More formal narrative issues like antagonist/protagonist aren't actually that relevant here, perhaps only if used in their lay-incarnations.

I appreciate that your approach to category distinctions may be different, but that's the great thing about subjective responses to art. And why comment threads on filmblogs are fun to read and respond to.

PS. I indeed read Literature post-high school, graduating top of my class from Oxford this summer just gone. But that's by the by, doesn't have anything to do with this thread except for the fact that you were insinuating with your comment that your readings of film are superior to everyone else's here. I'd like to think we all bring something to the table, that's why I enjoy coming to the site and reading Nathaniel's work and then the debates and comments it inspires from others.

steve said...

amir,

I wasn't really targeting you with the literature course thing. That was more directed at the anonymous poster. No disrespect intended.

Anonymous said...

I know you all don't care about this, but I think it was mean to leave Evan Rachel Wood off the list of young performances female since they only had 4 chosen. After all, she did sing her own songs and there were some really good scenes in Across The Universe even though her character was badly written.

BUT, she was 17 turning 18 when she filmed the movie so.....that just seems like an over sight to me!

I mean, they nominated Emmy Rossum for Phantom for Christ's sake!

steve said...

Although, I do think there is a certain objectivity in determining who is lead and who is supporting. It's sort of a black-gray-white spectrum kind of thing. It's fine, when a character's role lies in that gray area, to place him wherever feels right (Clive Owen in Closer comes to mind), but many characters fall more obviously on either side of the divide.

For instance, Jamie Foxx is unquestionably a lead in Collateral. This does not necessarily mean that he is THE lead, or the the only lead. Although he's closer to the gray area, Tom Cruise is also, I think, a lead, but that doesn't mean Jamie Foxx is not. I can see that readings of the film may place Cruise in either category, but I can't imagine (or at least I have not seen) an intelligent or responsible reading of the film that places Jamie Foxx in supporting. It is not enough to argue that Cruise is a lead. That's fine, and I agree, but it does not follow from that reasoning that Foxx is supporting. Perhaps it's because his character is blander than Cruise's, so people think, "Well, this guy's not exciting, he can't be the lead?"

Anonymous,

Awards groups are going to do whatever they want to do, you're right. That does not mean the logic placing him in supporting his sound. I buy the reasoning that Pitt is also a lead. But that's an entirely separate point. You've done nothing to suggest that Affleck is supporting. If you can do that, great. I wish you luck, though - that's quite on the level of demonstrating that Nick Carraway is not the protagonist of The Great Gatsby.

amir_uk said...

No worries Steve, I actually feel like a bit of an arse leaving that last PS. in my comment. Wish that bit could be deleted (Nathaniel?). I agree that your idea of a blander character vs. a more exciting one, whether for right or wrong, does affect how I read lead/support. Not really sure though, I find it all so intangible.

Anonymous said...

And yes, I've had literature classes post-high school. It's a pretty a-hole assertion to suggest that someone hasn't just b/c they have a different point-of-view/frame of reference than you do.

Anonymous said...

I'm not bringing other examples into the debate -- only this one. People can see things as Affleck supporting Pitt's story in the film, and they're doing that now for awards purposes. It's not a foreign concept.

steve said...

Anon,

The point about the literature classes is that I imagine it helps to have a higher understanding of complex literature than one that boils down to "one lead, all others are supporting" (or, at least, that what it seems to boil down to).

You keep saying that awards groups are viewing Affleck as supporting Pitt's story. Obviously. The question is, where's the evidence that Affleck is truly supporting? I certainly can't find any.

They are using the same mistaken logic to place Affleck in supporting, so the fact that he is being placed there is not a sufficient argument to suggest that he is actually a supporting character.

Where is the evidence in the film itself? It's all about Affleck's perspective; admittedly, that perspective is almost laser-focused on Pitt - but that's why Pitt may be considered a co-lead. It suggests nothing about whether or not Affleck is supporting. The evidence further lies in the title itself: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The assassination of James is the main event of the film - and Ford is the active performer of that action, while James is the passive recipient of it.

I agree that Pitt is the emotional core of the movie, which is to be expected from a film in which the main character projects so much of himself towards another (ultimately less concerned with himself than with the object of his fascination). Heck, I even prefer Pitt's performance to Affleck's, so this isn't about trying to champion a spot for Affleck in the lead category at the expense of Pitt.

I just don't see how a reading of the film places Affleck as supporting. If you can explain the reasoning, I'd love to hear it, because there could be a legitimate way to justify it, but saying that the story is about James doesn't quite cut it. It is about James, true, but it is more specifically about Ford and his fascination with James. That's why both are leads. Establishing Pitt as a lead doesn't disestablish Affleck as one. I'm genuinely curious to hear an argument that goes that extra crucial step.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going into a damn thesis about it, but the film can be viewed as how the overarching persona of the lead character destroys the existence and rationality of supporting character. Don't make it seem like it's some foolish notion. It's not, and it's enough to justify Affleck's supporting placement for those groups that are going that route.

Anonymous said...

Referring to post-high school literature makes this whole thread irrelevant. You can't have an opinion about a SUBJECTIVE art form unless you've had post-high school literature classes? Or your opinion is superior or you can understand something better because you've had post-high school literature? I've graduated from Oxford blah blah blah. I hate this world, it's people like you that makes others feel bad about themselves.

NATHANIEL R said...

people remember to have fun with this. i hate when feelings get hurt.

i think the most appropriate way to diss the unnecessary lead/supporting confusion is just to imagine one character having the opposite sexes genitalia. if a woman had been playing the role of Robert Ford there's not one person on this earth who would claim it was a supporting role.

because it wasn't interfering with Brad Pitt's penis.

ugh. i hate this.

films about two characters and their relationship are usually two-lead films.

Keyshia said...

Anon 11:27

You don't need post-highschool literature classes to understand complex literature( or what is considered complex literature). They're not that different from Highschool literature classes, just more papers to write ( at least at my school they're not).

I can't speak on the film because I haven't seen it yet.

Keyshia said...

I agree Nathaniel, I would think they would be co-leads. I guess it would be easier for Casey to be nominated if he went supporting instead of lead.

Would you rather Casey take a chance and go lead or have a better chance at supporting? Personally, I could care less, but getting a nomination would acquire more attention to him.

NATHANIEL R said...

keyshia --and that's the thing exactly. i just wish people would be more honest about it.

i was glad that jake gyllenhaal got nominated for an oscar for brokeback. do i think it was supporting? hell, no. i just wish people would completely admit that's what this is always about and not bend themselves over backwards with complex reasonings that make little sense

am i glad someone is honoring casey? oh yes.

but my thing is this: he's a lead actor so why not nominate him for a lead if he's that good.

that's all. OMG. I lied so much in this thread saying i wasn't going to talk about this anymore.

HEELLLLLLLLLLP MEEEEEEEE

Brian said...

Is it time to break out the story of Luise Rainer? Category fraud between supporting and lead performace categories, 'twas ever thus. And though the heterocentrism issue Nat brings up is often relevant, it's usually about politicking and bet hedging. It's easy to see why critics could be just as susceptible to it for the same reason; we don't know the mechanics of the SFFCC voting, but for all we know it was common knowledge among this crowd that Clooney was a huge favorite going in for Michael Clayton. If so, and if there was still a strong contingent of Affleck supporters, they might easily have been convinced, consciously or unconsciously, to vote for him in the supporting category to ensure he got recognition even if he had no legitimate chance of winning Best Actor. And there are dozens of other scenarios in which something like this could happen.

I am acquainted with one of the members of the group, so perhaps if I find an opportune time I'll ask him about what actually happened. (Don't anyone hold their breath though).

Brian said...

Wow it took me at least twenty-one minutes to compose that? I guess I've been thinking about this too hard too. Sorry Nat for dragging this out a little longer with my last comment. Didn't see your last one.

Keyshia said...

Completely off topic, I'm sure Nathaniel won't mind, but there's a picture of Meryl Streep in her "Doubt" gear. OSCAH 2009!!! Kidding, I want Kate to win.

http://everythingoscarblogger.blogspot.com/

steve said...

For the record, I didn't intend to be insulting with the "literature courses" comment. It was supposed to be tongue-in-cheeck but maybe it came off the wrong way?

Obviously, you don't need to study literature to have intelligent or informed opinions on the subject, but, as with anything else, it certainly helps. Maybe like, "practice makes perfect," since you're so constantly exposed to such a wide variety of types of literature? I dunno.

But, anonymous, I'm not asking you to write a thesis (my own comments took maybe 5 minutes to write). I'm just wondering how you justify your position; I'm willing to be convinced. Art is obviously subjective, but that doesn't necessarily mean all opinions are created equal. In any kind of serious discussion, you have to support your argument, not just state your position and expect people to accept it.

For instance, you say, "the film can be viewed as how the overarching persona of the lead character destroys the existence and rationality of supporting character." I generally agree on the analysis, but that you still haven't shown any evidence that Ford is supporting. You simply state it as a given. What about the narrative and formal structure makes you think so? How do you justify that, given that the bulk of the film is concerned with Ford's perspective, and the entire final act is concerned with it exclusively?

I'm not trying to piss you off, or treat your opinion as idiotic, but I can't entirely respect it if it's not adequately defended. Although, I guess, why would you care if I respect it?

Sorry for keeping this thing going, Nathaniel, I'm genuinely trying to tease out a rationale for the "Affleck is Supporting" position, if there is indeed a rationale to tease out. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I agree about Affleck's supporting status, but I'm just glad he's getting some awards attention. He really, really deserves an Oscar nomnination for that role and to me it doesn't matter what category he's in.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I would've though some group would have given Affleck their lead actor award for both Jesse James and Gone Baby Gone at the same time.

In fact, no group seems to have done any double dipping except for Amy Ryan for Gone and Before the Devil...

Particularly surprised Laura Linney hasn't won anything for her three lead roles.

NATHANIEL R said...

as for amy's double dip? that's ludicrous. I mean before the devil knows you're dead the role is nothing. that's just critics being silly. even if i don't understand the consensus surrounding GBG the role itself is big and juicy. people who see BTDKYD can be forgiven for forgetting that she's actually in it.

Kamikaze Camel said...

It's a nice little token mention they can give to BTDKYD that can show up on IMDb's award page for the movie.

Anonymous said...

No one's "bending over backwards" with foolish notions trying to place Affleck in supporting. It can be viewed that way reasonably well, and yes, a lot of it has to do with the Oscars and wanting to see Casey Affleck acknowledged. He wouldn't have a prayer in lead. That's just Oscars reality. It is opportunistic and convenient -- I won't even try to carry on otherwise, but beyond that, his placement in supporting isn't far-fetched and can be understood, and I fully support it.

steve said...

Anonymous,

I guess you're right. You're not "bending over backwards" to justify anything. You're just saying it is what it is, and that's it's completely reasonable, with no supporting evidence. Which is fine, if hardly persuasive.

If it's about just wanting to see Affleck recognized in some way, that's fair enough, but own up to it, instead of pretending that the film allows a reading of Affleck as supporting.

Anonymous said...

It's both. Yes, I want to see him nominated, but yes, I can justify him being placed in supporting too.

steve said...

If you can justify it, then why don't you, instead of just saying so?

Anonymous said...

B/c nothing I say will change your mind on the subject, and you're not changing my opinion on the matter in any capacity. So it's no need to write some drawn-out explanation of it and waste my time when it will do no one any good.

steve said...

How do you know my opinion won't change? Or I might at least concede that such a position is defensible, even if I ultimately don't agree. That's what makes for invigorating discussion of art: people with different ideas. The ideas, though, should be based on something and supportable. That doesn't mean a long, drawn out analysis: Basic plot points like the one under discussion should be fairly easy to establish.

I suspect, though, that the reluctance to provide any evidence for your claims is, ultimately, the sign of an empty argument.

Although art is subjective, it's not infinitely elastic. I don't think you can attach any interpretation under the sun to a work of art. Some things are more or less given. The Mona Lisa isn't laughing, Daisy isn't secretly the protagonist of The Great Gatsby, and Robert Ford is certainly not supporting.