Thursday, February 02, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Oscar

You know you want to read the conversation that goes with this picture, especially because our faces are reflecting in the table, which proves we really did conduct this exchange in the offices of MI6. It also proves I have not aged a day since turning 30.

If you're still here because you need further incentive, "Nathaniel" is Nathaniel Rogers the impresario of the most fun, most eclectic, most unabashedly personal, most list-addicted, and most graphically delicious of all the Web's many Oscar-obsessed websites. "Kurt" is Kurt Osenlund, the dapper managing editor of Slant Magazine's intimidatingly high-caliber film blog, The House Next Door. "Ali" is Ali Arikan, perhaps recently introduced to you as a "Far Flung Correspondent" for a TV show and website by some guy called Ebert, and highly regarded as a film critic in both the U.S. and Turkey. "Mark" is Mark Harris, whom you might have read in Entertainment Weekly over the years, and whose Grantland columns have constituted the most offhandedly erudite and trenchantly un-self-serious commentary that the Oscars have elicited anywhere on the Web. Mark's book Pictures at a Revolution, about the five films at the center of the 1967 Best Picture race, is the cornerstone for a course I've proposed for the 2012-13 year at Northwestern. Still time to re-start your education or transfer schools, folks!

In Episode 1 of this symposium, we decide which Best Picture nominees we would seduce or destroy at a cocktail party; craft a ditty called "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Best Original Song?" without fully harmonizing on a solution; debate which actors had to work the hardest to make their movies great, and whether that's a good or bad thing; and dispute whether certain movies have suffered more slings and arrows than is strictly fair this season, by overly-strict comparison to some of their stablemates.

In Episode 2, we break ranks about Viola Davis's classification as a lead actress; entertain some categories that multiply-nominated films weirdly couldn't get arrested in; debate on what basis you can ever judge a film's editing; discuss movies that may or may not be too in love with themselves for their own good; and debate the merits of various Screenplay nominees, especially Margin Call.

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