Obst Weighs In, Fond of ‘Sunshine’ and Pushing for ‘Babel’

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Oscar at the announcements this morning. Photo: Getty Images

From: Lynda Obst

Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 12:48 PM

To: David Edelstein

Subject: RE: 'Girls' Gone Bye-Bye

Dear David,

Amazing, isn't it, when the Academy defies the odds and seems to be saying something controversial? But what is it they're saying, exactly? Remember, we voted before the Golden Globes (not that the Academy would have been influenced by those 92 voters, who are themselves influenced by the charms of the various movie stars swept in front of them all season). The Academy seems to be saying, Dreamgirls is not Chicago — and there are some movies we like more.

Dreamgirls' buzz came about because of America's hunger for a true musical — and the expertise of the DreamWorks publicity department (best in the biz). But those factors don't heavily influence Academy voters. The sleeper nomination, which also might have been Little Children or Children of Men (or perhaps another title with the word "children" in it), was the breakthrough Letters From Iwo Jima. There we experienced the unique perspective of the defeated as they await being crushed by the Greatest Generation — but we were watching with eyes that have also witnessed Vietnam and Iraq.


Little Miss Sunshine may be the industry underdog favorite. That was a secret I was going to share with you — until yesterday, when it was voted best picture by the Producers Guild, which kind of tipped my hand. Why does the industry love it? Maybe because we are one big dysfunctional family. Or maybe it's because we're all individually nutty, and our real families are cuckoo. All I know is that it is NOT because it's the only movie we can agree on. (What does that mean, anyway? We certainly didn't all agree on Crash, and it won!) When I saw it the week it came out, I laughed, cried, never stopped thinking about it, and said, "This is the movie to beat." No other movies compared to it. It's about finding grace through helping someone else achieve an impossible goal; how through family, even non-functioning family, the slightest efforts to come together turn to joy. This is profound. And uplifting. I would like to remind you and your other critic friends that there is nothing wrong with uplifting if it is earned and real. It can change the world. Or one person. I am deeply envious of the producer who found this script. Works like that are why I make movies.

The Queen — your queen. Good flick. I find it fascinating that my Brit friends are dumbfounded by how we Yanks have embraced this film; they are so over E, Diana — the whole megillah. To me it was the best BBC movie ever. Helen Mirren here, Helen Mirren there, Helen Mirren everywhere. I say that as a true Kate Winslet fanatic. There are Queen fans staked out all over the Academy. Helen and Meryl are neck and neck. Yo, Nora! Over to you.

I agree that it is delightful and right that Leo should be nominated for his terrific performance in Blood Diamond. His accent was so perfect, I was reminded of Meryl doing Isak Dinesen in Out of Africa, and what a moment in acting that was. But his accent was a throwaway — not the centerpiece of the performance. What an actor. And yet it's Forest's year. I think. The range in his performance was operatic.

Babel: An Oscar picture for sure. But one with a problem — half the serious moviegoing audience refuses to see it. It's just too grim. It is the opposite of Little Miss Sunshine. Many people find it didactic and contrived, but that's the filmmaker's intent. The movie worked for me. The portrait of the U.S. border guard is horrific, and in general, America's efforts to be constructive are viewed with utter despair. But that's why we invite non-American filmmakers to make meaningful films. Babel needs an Oscar. The resistance to the film must be broken.

It's too early for the phone lines in my bedroom to be ringing off the hook — but I'm not so sure about the ones at Geffen's.

I think I'm in trouble already. And it's not even lunchtime.

Kiss kiss,

Lynda

Earlier:
Oscar Snubs 'Dreamgirls,' Astonishes Edelstein
Waiting for Obst, Edelstein Disclaims and Explains