Monday, December 21, 2009

Regarding Mo'Nique... What Nick Said

I am sad to report that my frequent partner in movie gabbing, Nick, has opted out of future Oscar podcasts this year. He's soured on the season already because he only likes two of the twentyish movies in play. I've had my own Way Off Consensus years and it's true that they ain't much fun. They're very nearly its opposite. If you're feeling underwhelmed by this year's prestige crop, I suggest you read his brutal but razor sharp takedown of nearly every Oscar contender.

I do want to quote this bit on Mo'Nique because it's exactly what I've been feeling but was unable to vocalize.
...Mo'Nique's refusal to play the campaigning game, at least not in a straightforward way, which if/when she wins for Precious has the potential to set an inspiring precedent for letting quality of work, rather than vehemence of desire and scale of self-advertising, determine the eventual Oscar winner. This would entail a huge victory for actors, who ought to be able to prioritize their creative work over their own grossly expensive and almost inevitably canned gabbing about it, and also a victory for us, since the ubiquitous obsessions with horse-racing and self-perpetuating publicity are threatening to overwhelm what almost anyone has to say about the actual movies. And yet people have been giving her shit about it for months! For God's sake, why?
Hear! Hear!

I wish the Oscar bloggers/journalists who are doing this (you know who you are) would cease and desist immediately. Think about what you're doing! It's not good for the cinema or even for the Oscars cred to demonize an actor for not caring about it in the way that we expect them to care about and beg for it. In the end it should be about the work or, rather, it should be as much about the work as it can be given everything else that goes on. I'm not hopelessly delusional.

I think it's worth noting that refusing to take the Oscars seriously should not and does not (historically speaking) automatically cost you the statue if its obvious to a huge swath of the population, Academy and otherwise, that you've given a performance for the ages. One that people will be talking about for years. Plenty of actors before Mo'Nique have resisted the game or not played entirely by its rules. You may have heard of some of their names: Katharine Hepburn, George C Scott, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman... Oscar winners all. Kate actually won four.

a photo I snapped of Hepburn's Oscars. She never attended any of
the twelve ceremonies in which she was nominated.

Allow me to misquote another four time Oscar winner...
Deserve's got something to do with it.


Anonymous said...

Harvey Weinstein wants to destroy Mo'Nique... but it won't happen, she will win the Oscar and he will be slapped in his face.

adam k. said...

I find myself totally on consensus this year. Up in the Air, Hurt Locker, Basterds, Precious, Avatar... all greats. I think this year is great.

Since Nick really likes Hurt Locker and doesn't so much like its competitors, wouldn't he find it fun to revel in the competition? It has a good chance to take several statues, maybe even best pic. I'd think that having a pony would make it more fun.

Agreed on Mo'Nique, also.

adam k. said...

Mo'Nique's actually really lucky in that there isn't really a clear second choice this year. Who are the anti-Mo'Nique crowd going to rally behind? Anna Kendrick? Doubtful. Either of the Up in the Air girls would pose a big threat individually... except that there are two of them. Don't see either one beating the other. And Moore will be lucky just go hold on to the 5th spot at this point. So I think Mo'Nique's got it in the bag.

But who will be the last two nominees? That could change things (though probably not). I have a strong feeling we'll see at least one of the wildcards pop up on nomination morning: Melanie Laurent, Marion Cotillard, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

It was STUPID of Weinstein and whoever else to put them in lead until now. They'd have been on some supporting shortlists for sure.


or another way to look at it: it was stupid of these precursor bodies to not vote however they felt rather than accepting the stupid studio categorizations. that way some of these people could have had momentum without the campaign getting it right.

*if it's about the work *

i can't believe the BFCA actually did this with Marion Cotillard (still in shock about that because they aren't known for rocking the boat)

joe burns said...

I agree. I like the campaignings but it gets too much after a while.

Babs Johnson said...

I am completely head over heels for Mo'Nique, and I love most of what her unorthodox Oscar season positions signify (on a sidenote, I love how I unintentionally jumped to the word "position", because it is totally like these people are running for office or something! She pointed that out herself on her show).

I guess I have to play devil's advocate though, because when Mo'Nique asked Taraji P. Henson on her show why she needed to "campaign" for an Oscar, Taraji said that it was all about bringing exposure to the film (especially if it's something that arguably faces an uphill battle like "Precious", even with the good reviews and Oprah's holy blessing).

So I am curious-- what exactly isn't Mo'Nique "doing", according to the haters? Guild Q &A's, or something? She had the cast on her show, she went on a bunch of high-profile talk shows to promote the movie...I don't get it. She doesn't seem MIA at all to me.

Would more of an involvement in the campaign game ultimately help the movie, and possibly, considering her charisma, encourage people to get over their qualms about watching it?

I mean, if it was a Clint Eastwood movie, she would be COMPLETELY justified in staying out of the game. People would see the movie regardless, and then her performance could safely stand on its own merits.

But with Precious it's a little more tricky.

Cinesnatch said...

Supposedly, she's not campaigning, because she wants to be paid for making appearances at awards shows. Don't know if that's true, but it's been put out there.

Cinesnatch said...

... something about her not showing up for NY Film Critics Circle award .... ???

If she wanted to help promote the film, I guess that would include showing up for an award.

But, I'm probably just fueling rumors.

adam k. said...

Nat, did you vote for Cotillard in supporting on your BFCA ballot? If so, it made a difference!

adam k. said...

Also, the thing about awards bodies voting "how they feel" is that it's tricky, because usually some voters will feel one way and some will feel another, if there's really any doubt about where a particular role falls (and there is, if this becomes at issue).

So campaigns serve a legitimate purpose in that they herd all the votes into one category to assure the person a chance of recognition. EXCEPT when it's blatantly fraudulent and people start rebelling.

So basically, I do blame the fraudulent/misleading/mismanaged campaigns, not the voters themselves.

Dorothy Spornak said...

I don't understand where the rumor about wanting to get paid for appearances comes from. I mean was this caught on video or something because some people (not talking about anyone here) have taken this rumor as gospel. This hoopla is obviously a smear campaign and is only happening because Mo'Nique is the one to beat.

RJ said...

I kind of agree about the prestige pictures this year. Not terribly exciting for me for some reason...

Not too split hairs but The Great Kate did actually attend one ceremony to present an honorary Oscar. I read Inside Oscar way too many times.

Bryan said...

It doesn't really seem like her lack of campaigning has hurt her, and Nat's right-- this could be revolutionary. But I wonder, if Mo'Nique hadn't been the frontrunner for so long, would her lack of campaigning be hurting her more? Like, for example, in a year where there are many, many wonderful supporting actress performances, and they're all held in about the same regard, maybe the actresses who don't campaign would be forgotten. I guess I'm just saying that though her choices could mean a game-changer for the Oscars, we can't discount that it has been a unique year.

And, a question: what does campaigning mean, truly? Does it refer only to press conferences and premieres, and things of that nature? I guess I never really understood what they're actually DOING.

Rob T. said...

I remember, when Spirited Away was up for the Oscar, seeing a report on a press conference by director Hayao Miyazaki and the film's producer (whose name escapes me, alas). At one point, when Miyazaki said he didn't really much care whether his film won the Oscar or not, the producer chimed in: "But I do!"

It struck me then, and strikes me now, that this was the way it should be. It's the job of the producer to see that the film gets made, and once it's made that it gets in front of as many sympathetic eyes and brains as possible. This may well entail winning an Oscar or other awards.

On the other hand, it is (or should be) the job of the director and other "talent" (most certainly including actors/actresses) to make the very best movie they can. Worrying about whether it's going to win any awards doesn't really help here, and may actually interfere with making a good movie.

Paul Outlaw said...

RE: Nick's takedown.

I'll have what he's having.

Ashley said...

I'm with Nick 100% on this. I'm done with this Oscar season. The same actors and films are getting recognized and it's become extremely sickening. What really makes me angry and sad about this season is this negativity against Mo'nique. I hate to say this but I really feel that there is some racism going on. I mean think about it, if Carey Mulligan,Emily Blunt,Anna Kendrick or any other actress in that nature chose the path that Mo'nique has chosen,would they really be receiving the hate that Mo'nique has been receiving?

It's really sad to see that these great awards and honors are turning into political campaigns. You would think that Mo'nique was ruining for a seat in the Senate with all this talk. I really long for the days where actors and films were honored without all the campaigning and FYC junk. It's really sad.

O. Andrew D said...

I agree with his point of Mo'Nique, but being a critic entails realizing that not everyone will like your opinion. So just because you hated Avatar does not mean it should not be nominated for an Oscar, it only means that you did not like Avatar.

In the end critics are only one of millions of opinions and Nick's article reads as if he is sour that the academy has gone against his grades. Just let people like what they want and stop being so negative about people's work.

Glenn said...

O Andrew, I don't think it's Nick being bitter that people aren't agreeing with him, but that it's no fun when you're in the minority on so many films that are constantly being rewarded. I wouldn't want to be involved either if I hated everything (it's bad enough when it's just one film, like Slumdog Millionaire).

I agree with Nick re Mo'Nique. So true. And I love that it is MO'NIQUE that is the one doing it. It's one thing for Katherine Hepburn or Marlon Brando to not do it, but Mo'Nique? Astonishing! And I love her even more for it. If she doesn't win? There will definitely an argument to be made.

The thing about not going to the NYFCC awards? I believe that's because she has to film her chat show in Atlanta before then jetting to Los Angeles to attend the Golden Globes and several other award shows.

It's Cold Outside said...

Nathaniel, you are missing the main point. The sticking point:
that she wants to get PAID for it.

No one gets paid for campaigning for an Oscar, or for showing up for promotional duties. No one. Especially not for a small art film.

So it is seen as being GREEDY. For putting money before art. THAT's why she is getting flack for it.

Even though it is just a rumor at this point; it is seen as outrageous enough therefore it has become fact.

The truth may be that she simply does not have room for promotional duties. Doing a talk show is extremely time consuming (she has a new talk show on BET).

Or maybe she really couldn't care less (I agree, Hurah!, Change!).

But what most critics are focusing on is that she is demanding cash to show up for these awards/promotions.

Loly said...

The thing with Mo'Nique is... she's getting obnoxious. She could just be gracious and acknowledge the buzz, but say that the film's message is more important than awards and be done with it.

Am I the only one who is annoyed by her diva-esque attitude?

Philip said...

Can I just be frank here and go against the grain here? While I agree wholeheartedly about Monique, I don't agree wholeheartedly with Nick's total disgust. Maybe I am not a consumate moviegoer who analyses movies to the minutest details, but I did enjoy some of the movies that this "Nick" seems to hate. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I don't mind it. I hate this pessimistic viewpoint.

bbats said...

Brando campaigned hard for his oscar win for waterfront. He even ran up smiling to collect it. Why? Because he wanted to beat Humphrey Bogart as revenge for his loss to the african queen when streecar was a hit.

Anonymous said...

I have said this before on this blog ... I am sick sick sick to death of Mo'Nique and Precious.

Another Oprah Winfrey marketing device.

Believe it or not ... there were other actors and actresses who gave award-worthy performances this year.

I am not even looking forward to the nominations this year - I don't care.

Anonymous said...

Look I agree that actors should not have to do endless interviews and all that. But showing up to places that honor you like the New York Film Critics is a must. It also helps raise awareness if you're in a small movie like Mo'Nique is. At this point, if it's true that she wants to be paid--then she needs to go somewhere that is not The Oscars.

She gave the best performance but you know what...Julianne Moore could easily get rewarded for the fact that in a year she will actually be back on the screen.

Unknown said...

If Mo'Nique were white and male in this situation, would this still be AS MUCH of an issue? I have the distinct impression that much of the backlash, such as it is, is rooted in some degree of racism and sexism. Thus, this notion that she should be grateful that anyone is even considering -- much less favoring -- her for an ward (her being a comedienne with heretofore unseen dramatic talents also factors in). We have to remember that it has only been recently that ethnic and racial minorities have been this consistently honored during awards seasons, so most people will, and are expected to, play the game in order to maintain the new status quo (at least one minority performer cited per year).

Cinesnatch said...

Mo'Nique has a long history of being difficult to get along with. Personally, I never liked her. But, I'd still give her the stupid Oscar this year.

Dorian said...

No more Nick in the podcasts? That's taking a key element of you guys' mojo out of the equation, but I respect his decision nevertheless.

Kate Hepburn did show up to one Oscar ceremony to present an honorary Oscar to someone.

The Mo'Nique stuff is really interesting, b/c you'd think based on her persona that she would be eating all of this attention up hook, line, and sinker. I know I would! Not gonna even lie. I mean, come on! But if this is how she wants to play the Oscar game, then more power to her. She's winning either way, so it shouldn't matter how she gets there, and I'd agree that making it all about the hype does overshadow the performance in many cases. The work should always speak for itself. I won't be so quick to call this a Harvey smear campaign (I'm not that cynical about these things yet), but it's sounding more and more like that with each of these silly stories. She wants money to appear at festivals, she doesn't want to promote "Precious" (which couldn't be farther from the truth -- but she does have her talk show to think about too), animosity on the set with the cast (again, a lie, and they constantly claim otherwise in all of the interviews the cast gives), etc. It's all quite sad really, but what can you do in the end?

IJ said...

That's sad that Nick couldn't find worth in any of those 12 films. He wasted a lot of his damn time then. Whatever. I loved most of those films he trashed, and I'll miss him on the podcasts, but onto next year for him I guess.

John T said...

I think that if anyone does end up taking out Mo'Nique, and personally, I don't think anyone can, it has to be Moore. Farmiga and Kendrick will split, Cotillard & Cruz have recently won, and Morton isn't deemed "due" yet. Moore, on the other hand, has been nominated four times, and is a household name that no one is going to really complain about having an Oscar. It all depends on if the media makes this a two-horse race, ala Bening vs. Swank both times.

Pf_Iggy said...

Great loss for the podcasts, indeed. No offense to the rest of you :), but for me he delivers the funniest comments.

Ian said...

Julianne will struggle to even get nominated. There really has to be an alternate candidate to take down Mo'Nique, and there isn't one. It would need to be one of the "Up in the Air" ladies, and they'll split all through the season.

John T said...

Ian-while I agree that she'll struggle to get nominated, if she does get in, she's the candidate to beat. Think 2000, where Harden probably got fifth place amongst the nominees, but managed to win because the Academy didn't want to honor Kate Hudson.

This isn't to say that I don't think that Mo'Nique should win (of the candidates I've seen thusfar, she's the best), but I do think that if the want is strong enough, someone will make it a two-legged race.

And also, I want to echo the calls of how much I like Nick in the podcasts-hopefully he'll be back once the gold man insanity diminishes and we get back to the important issues of the day, like discussing the many reasons to love Tilda Swinton!

Ian said...

She's barely in the film too. I don't think Moore's win would be looked at too well either no matter how overdue she's perceived to be. They'd be better off deciding between the "Up in the Air" ladies if there must be an anti-Mo'Nique choice.

ShoNuff Lives said...

i haven't seen enough of the "competition" to have a yes-or-no consensus status, but i agree that the whole "she's not campaigning" thing is nuts.

a few years ago (during the 2001-2 season), ian mckellan was chastised for campaigning too much and being too overt about his desire to win.

monique's been upfront about her lack of interest in campaigning. the telling clip of her talking to terrance howard & taraji henson showed what she was interested in. while i do think the campaign can help develop a larger career, she's already at a certain age & point in her career that she's not going to be much more developed, either as a casting choice or as a name.

all that being said, as everyone's pointed out its about the performance. i'm not interested in hearing the shilling, i'm interested in the work, the effort and the performances.

Rick said...

Movies should be fun and enjoyable...
Some you bloggers need to ease up and not take everything so seriously .. after all, we are not talkiing rocket science here.

OtherRobert said...

I can't disagree with many of Nick's assessments. Even when he slammed films I loved (like District 9), he acknowledged what I loved about them then pointed out what was so awful. It's sad to loose his coverage for the season but I know how awful it is to try and stay interested in something that you don't care about.

Billy Held An Oscar said...

I am voting for Maureen Stapleton this year. Oh wait ... it isn't 1981.


Rick -- movies ARE fun. and we take our fun with them very seriously ;)

Anonymous said...

The only reason Katherine Hepburn never showed up to accept her awards is because she was trying to be Greta Garbo. Garbo's biography by Barry Paris even said that Katherine changed her whole look after seeing a picture of Greta.

gabrieloak said...

Although I admit that hardly any of the contenders for Best Picture this year are movies I thought were great or even that good, I didn't agree with most of Nick's evaluations of the films. His dismissal of Fantastic Mr. Fox was so off-base that it made me question if I should continue reading his evaluations on his web site.

I see that he loves The Hurt Locker like so many other critics. I am not a critic but I've seen many, many films in my lifetime. The Hurt Locker is a good film but it's not the greatest film ever made and it so overrated it isn't funny. I went into it with very high expectations which it never met.

I hate the idea of giving "best" awards, particularly in the acting categories in which there is such good work being done.

But I do know I don't think The Hurt Locker is the best picture of the year.

Michael W. said...

And I bet you, that if Mo'Nique wins, she will be overwhelmed with joy. NO ONE can resist Oscar. No, just one can do it. Only George C. Scott has done it.

All the rest who were reluctant, warmed up once they won it!

Don't forget, that when Brando won for On the Waterfront he was very happy to win it. The Godfather thing was more a political statement than a snub of Oscar.

In recent years we have seen it with Sean Penn and Bill Murray who refused to play the game for many years. But still, it was very obvious that Murray was very dissapointed when he lost to Penn, who was very happy to win ;)

I'm at the moment reading Anthony Holdens book "The Secret History of Hollywood's Academy Awards", and even Katharine Hepburn must have some joy over actually winning an Oscar, as she once said this as to why she had never been there when nominated: "It has to be because I'm afraid I'm not going to win"... and continues: "If I were an honest person, which obviously I'm not, I would refuse to compete". "But I do say to myself - I wonder if I'm going to win".

And yes, as someone here pointed out, she has actually appeared at the Oscars. I 1974 when she presented the Thalberg Award to Lawrence Weingarten.

At the end of the day, nobody can refuse Oscar. Not even Mo'Nique... :D

Bryan said...

It's not like Nick's pony (The Hurt Locker) is out of the race or something... in my mind, it's a serious contender in quite a few categories. It would be worse if his favorite of the year were, say, the horribly overlooked (500) Days of Summer, which has no chance of winning much of anything.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Just to avoid acting as though I'm not reading this:

* thanks to everyone who said nice stuff or expressed commiseration, though I do also appreciate when people push back with sharp disagreement;

* I am very aware of having written an angry screed, based in equal part on my dislike of those movies (even the ones that did ingratiate themselves in some ways before ultimately disappointing me, like Fox and District) and on the kind of publicity they can bank on from now until March, but I promise I am not a pessimist overall, and still less do I think that only my opinion counts, though I can understand why my pouting and shouting on this occasion sounded that way to some readers;

* I think there were plenty of mainstream movies that are better than most of the increasingly designated "Oscar crop," so I'm not about denigrating popular art so much as I am about being miffed that these are the films that have survived that cut, in many cases because the studios have advertised them and scheduled their releases to make them, by default, look like "the best"... even though, again, I realize many people agree whole-heartedly that they really are the best;

* my opinion on the "Mo'Nique wants to get paid" thing, if it's even true, is that if I gave a galvanic performance on a movie made for peanuts, virtually guaranteeing that my paycheck was almost nil, and then I was asked to donate loads of free and extra behind-the-scenes dish-time and baby-kissing for a prize I don't even necessarily want, and to spend months doing it when I'm already busy, I would expect to be paid, too; and if most actors in this position aren't paid, maybe they should be, or maybe their $5 or $10 or $20 million upfront paychecks have already sufficed to compensate them;

* and lastly, I'll be completely, completely thrilled if Hurt Locker wins, but having a "pony" in the race that easily could win isn't enough reason for me to go to the race, when I'm this put out by so many of the other contenders, and still kind of exhausted by last year's embittering race, and the increasing protocols of The Race, period. I'm not saying it's a reason for other people to drop it or to come 'round to where I am on these movies, I'm just dropping out. Or maybe, just like a watched pot never boils, I'm hoping that if I walk away from the Oscar coverage, my fave will somehow get lucky? I'll try anything.

Glenn Dunks said...

Anon @8.00 - Mo'Nique was winning acting awards for Precious before Oprah came on board (she won at Sundance) so your Oprah criticism is a moot point.

Anon @8.18 - You really think Mo'Nique showing up to the New York critics awards is "a must"? What exactly is doing that going to accomplish for the film? Trust me, nobody outside of Oscar-watching circles gives two hoots about all these critics groups and those people already know enough about Precious.

The Golden Globes, definitely. SAG, for sure. Oscar, she better show! Other than that? Nobody, I repeat NOBODY, cares except for Oscar obsessives. You never hear about the Detroit Film Critics Assosciation on the nightly news. Winners from the Dallas Fort Worth critics or whatever never get mentioned on CNN. Years in the future people will see that Mo'Nique won an Oscar for Precious (most likely) and not care that she didn't show up for a lousy boring award show that nobody cares about.

bbats, he also sent a fake native American to accept his Godfather Oscar. By that stage I don't think he gave a damn. George C Scott refused to accept his statue!

Maybe, just maybe, Mo'Nique wants money to show up because she knows that the American film industry is not only inherently racist and sexist, but especially so when it comes to comedians. And can you really expect directors like Ron Howard and Clint Eastwood to go about casting Mo'Nique in their Oscar bait dramas? I highly doubt it. And movies based around female comedians are rare. She probably knows her time is now and she won't get another chance like it before she's being relegated to making movies like Phat Girlz.

Peggy Sue said...

I don't live in the US so I've never heard of Mo'Nique before "Precious". I know she has her own TV Show but is she a star? Rosie/Ellen/Oprah type?

Generally speaking, I don't like the idea of an actor campaigning for an Oscar. I also dislike when actresses cry or jump on stage after winning. So not cool...

Paul Outlaw said...

@ Peggy Sue:

Prior to Precious, Mo'Nique was more like a female Bernie Mac or an African-American Roseanne Arnold, if that says anything to you. Stand-up comic, star of a television comedy series, host of various award shows and (ugh) reality series. For the past few months she has had her own talk show. She's been in about a dozen feature films, most of them cheap, raunchy comedies. Inklings of her present triumph were there to be seen in 2005's Domino and Shadowboxer (Lee Daniels' first film).

gabrieloak said...

Nick, I think your comments on Fox particularly bothered me because although the film was well-received by most critics (and I loved it), the film is not finding the large audience it deserves. I know Anderson can be an acquired taste (though I can't see why anyone wouldn't be charmed by Rushmore), but if people won't take their kids to see Fox but instead take them to The Blind Side (yes, this is a family film), I can only wonder why, why, why.

Peggy Sue said...

Thanks Paul!