Academy Awards behind-the-scenes chatter: Will ‘Argo’ or ‘Lincoln’ win? (+video)
The talk in Hollywood has gone beyond the single efforts of ‘Argo’ and ‘Lincoln’ to an evaluation of the careers of their directors, Ben Affleck and Steven Spielberg.
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But voters do not like to be told what to do, says University of Nebraska film professor Wheeler Winston Dixon, who has many former students in Hollywood. Efforts to sway votes have become particularly aggressive – a phenomenon that seriously ratcheted up in 1999 when producer Harvey Weinstein reportedly shelled out more than $15 million in support of “Shakespeare in Love.”Skip to next paragraph
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The academy has since cracked down on splashy spending, banning swanky screening soirees for the roughly 5,800 academy members who vote.
Voting for this year’s Oscars closed Tuesday night. Steven Spielberg, director of “Lincoln,” was reported to have sent handwritten notes to voters, while a commemorative DVD of “Argo” was delivered to academy members.
Although he leans toward “Argo” winning Best Picture, Professor Dixon says “Lincoln” has a good chance, “because of this pushback” against influence peddling.
Mr. Spielberg himself has been in Affleck’s position, notes Dixon, pointing to the “Jaws” Best Picture nod in 1976, when the director was not nominated. “A lot of people said, who do they think directed the film, the shark?” Dixon quips.
Spielberg’s own narrative can work for and against him, points out Lester Friedman, film professor and chair of the media and society department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. His work redefined filmmaking. After “Jaws,” studios began to focus on the “blockbuster,” films costing $100 million and more. This has significantly reduced the money left for smaller, more-independent projects, Professor Friedman notes.
Yet Spielberg has also made a career of serious, historical pictures such as “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” He received Oscars for both films.
While some may feel that “Lincoln” belongs in that pantheon, Friedman suggests that the tale of the 16th president’s struggle to pass the 13th Amendment “should be remembered as one of his good, but not great films.”
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