To: Lynda Obst
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2008 9:08 AM
From: David Edelstein
Subject: RE: No Country for Good Cheer
Your evocative post of Tuesday last — which suggested that you and your Hollywood colleagues have not recovered emotionally from the writers’ strike — bodes well for No Country for Old Men, which in another year might only have been the first choice of suicidal depressives. You also shamed me. Having had my critical say on the nominated films in this magazine, I was eager to talk Oscar politics and to snigger at Academy voters’ middlebrow taste, while you — the big-studio producer — insisted on addressing many of the nominees’ artistic merits and reminding me that there is, in fact, little difference this year between the critics’ favorites and the industry’s. Sure, I thought Atonement was weak tea and would have liked a little Best Picture love for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. But even there the directing nod for Julian Schnabel suggests the votes were close. And Diving Bell is in French, and no one could tolerate a French picture (even with an American director and a Brit screenwriter) taking home the grand prize. (Has that ever happened?) I apologize for my condescension.
If I read you correctly, you think my scenario of No Country and There Will Be Blood splitting the nihilist-horror vote and the audaciously hopeful Juno slipping in is plausible but unlikely, because even with its grosses and almost universal critical acclaim, Juno doesn’t have the kind of following out there I thought it did. But what else has a consensus? Atonement is out of it and most voters seem to think Michael Clayton would make a good vice-Best Picture and too many people were bothered, as you were, by the final scene of There Will Be Blood (although I wouldn’t blame Paul Dano, who was trying so very hard to keep up with Daniel Day-Lewis, which is like trying to keep up with Keith Richards doing drugs). But it still rocks my world to think the Coens, whose pictures so many find cold and artsy and contemptuous, could win Best Picture anywhere but Cannes. (They’re practically honorary French). Even with Miley Cyrus presenting, the folks at home will surely think the Academy has lost touch with America. Perhaps Obama can bring us together.
We haven’t speculated about the show itself. My heart sank when I heard Gil Cates was back in the producer’s chair. Still, it’s possible that even under Cates’s iron grip, this year’s Oscars will have a Mardi Gras feel. My advice to people who plan to drink every time someone mentions the writers’ strike is stick to beer.
I trust you’ve had a chance to scope things out since your last post for your up-to-the-minute “I wouldn’t be surprised if ” predix. Mine are as follows and you’ll notice I’m playing it very safe. Picture: No Country. Actor: Day-Lewis. Actress: Christie. S. Actor: Bardem. S. Actress: Blanchett (too bad). Director: the Coens. Original screenplay: The Person Who Calls Herself Diablo. Adapted screenplay: PT Anderson (I think consolation prize). Cinematography: Deakins, No Country. Animation: Ratatouille. Documentary: No End in Sight. (I’m really not sure here, because Taxi to the Dark Side is so powerful and Michael Moore’s celebrity looms large.)
Whatever happens, let’s be thankful we have the Oscars this year to kick around. Have fun, pace yourself, talk to you Monday in the wee hours.