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Tom O'Neil: Is secret homophobia fueling a possible 'Crash' upset?

Tom O'Neil of the LA Times penned this column which I just read. It's not designed to be directly linked to, so here it is:

"I don't think he's right, but there's some of it. I think Brokeback will win because it's got too many mainstream A-List Hollywood people behind it. But we'll see.


Is secret homophobia fueling a possible 'Crash' upset?

Something weird is going on among Oscar voters — and it's also going unspoken. "Crash" and "Good Night, and Good Luck" have their passionate supporters who gush with their honest love of those best picture nominees, but most non-"Brokeback" votes I hear from Oscar voters are really anti-"Brokeback."

Scads of academy members fume to me when they tattle on how they're inking their ballots, "I'm not voting for 'Brokeback'!" Then they calm down a bit and add, "I'm voting for (fill in the blank)" and give a positive reason to justify their decision for picking an alternative. In most cases I hear contrary votes for "Crash," but there's also surprising strength for "Good Night, and Good Luck." So far I've heard equal numbers of votes for "Brokeback" as "Crash," with "Good Night" not far behind. The best picture race is really thisclose.



It's the fury that voters express when mentioning "Brokeback" that's so odd and suspicious. In some cases I believe they're people who think the film is overrated. Or they're just weary of gay cowboy jokes. But in the majority of cases I suspect it's something else and something bad that they feel they can't utter out loud, so they're holding it in. You can see it on their faces.

Could it be secret homophobia? Perhaps. The academy is comprised mostly of straight white guys with white hair who know it's intolerable to bash gays in lavender-friendly, liberal Hollywood. But I really don't think it's that in any large way. Instead, I think it's the same frustration non-Jews feel when there's a glut of Holocaust films leading the Oscar pack in Jewish-friendly Hollywood. They want to exclaim, "Enough already with the Holocaust films!" This time I suspect many straight Hollywooders — who are totally cool with gay people in general — are fighting the urge to shriek, "Enough already with the gay persecution films!"

This Oscar year there really is a glut of them and, if I'm right in my predictions, we'll see the all-gay Oscars on March 5 with victories in the top categories by "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote" and "Transamerica."

How widespread is this anti-"Brokeback" tide? It's hard to say because it's mostly unspoken, but it's very real and it makes predicting the best picture race a crapshoot. It's quite possible that we could see another one of those best picture/director splits that used to be so rare, but are now commonplace with "Chicago," "Shakespeare in Love" and "Gladiator" winning best picture while the director laurels went to, respectively, Roman Polanski ("The Pianist"), Steven Spielberg ("Saving Private Ryan") and Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic"). Whatever happens this year, it's clear that Ang Lee has the best director trophy in the bag.

In the end, I believe "Brokeback" will win because there's a clear voting pattern in the top category recently: academy members want to be on the winning team. Front-runners tend to win even when there's a growing surge against them. Backlash against "The English Patient" was so widespread that "Seinfeld" did a whole episode about it, but it still won. Even though "A Beautiful Mind" was under attack on all fronts a few years ago, it nonetheless prevailed. "Chicago" pulled off its best picture victory even though late-breaking momentum for "The Pianist" was so strong that it won the top prizes for director, actor and screenplay. That bodes well for the gay cowboys remaining tall in the saddle on Oscar night.

Crash Cost $6.5 Million to Make; It's Oscar Campaign Was $4 Million - A Look at The High Cost of Gaining an Oscar

Oscar Economics 101
Lions Gate opens the books on 'Crash's' academy campaign.
James Bates - LA Times
February 12, 2006

It's appropriate that Oscars are gold, since winning one can make a fortune for talent or a studio. This column will look at the business of Hollywood's awards season, and what all that money being spent really buys. Send your ideas, comments, criticisms, tips and pontifications to James.Bates@latimes.com

______________________________________________

Thanks to Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and federal laws requiring companies to disclose meaningful developments to investors, we can all get a "Crash" course in Oscar economics.

Last week, Lions Gate (which recently decided to save space by referring to itself as Lionsgate) publicly disclosed to Wall Street that its profits will be crimped in 2006. One reason: the company is spending "an additional $2 million" to promote director Paul Haggis' "Crash" during the stretch run of the best picture race, which ends March 5 with the Academy Awards.

The operative word here is "additional." That's because it's double what the company had already spent to promote the movie for various awards. All told, Lions Gate is expected to spend $4 million to campaign for a film that only cost $6.5 million to make.

What's interesting about last week's corporate disclosure is that it may be the only time anyone has had to publicly own up to how much cash is being thrown around to buy Oscar votes.

Ang Lee Runaway Favorite for "Best Director" Oscar for Brokeback Mountain


This I saw result at an LA Times poll. Lee scored 61 percent over his competitors, including Steven Speilberg for "Munich." Lee -- who takes chances with daring work like "The Hulk" and the current "Brokeback Mountain" -- is certainly deserving of the Oscar.

Heath Ledger's "Silly" SAG Speech Blown Out of Proportion - But Could Cost Him Best Actor

The flap's a small one, but remember that Russell Crow's front-runner status in the 2002 race for Best Actor took a nose-dive after it was revealed he beat up the band director at the BAFTA awards that year. The eventual winner was Denzel Washington for "Training Day." So, from that perspective, the following may have sealed Heath's fate.

http://www.oscarwatch.com/

Much Ado About...Heath at the SAG

Apparently, there was some sort of commentary buzzing about Heath and Jake's awkward, giggly intro for Brokeback at the SAGs. People were left shaking their heads - Heath called in to the LA Times to explain why. But for some reason, the whole thing might been better off left alone. Nonetheless, OH NO THEY DIDN'T is running, so there you go.

Heath Ledger is in Oscar damage control after his bizarre giggling behaviour at the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The Australian Oscar nominee raised eyebrows when he appeared on stage during the January 29 ceremony at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium with Jake Gyllenhaal to introduce their nominated film, Brokeback Mountain.

The job was simple.

Ledger and Gyllenhaal had to read a blurb from an autocue about Brokeback Mountain, just as actors from the four other nominees for the Outstanding Performance by a Cast SAG category - Crash, Capote, Hustle & Flow and Good Night, and Good Luck - were called on to do.

Ledger's behaviour, with Hollywood's A-List crowd sitting before him and a worldwide audience watching on TV, was odd.

Some wondered if, as the Los Angeles Times described it, he was performing "some kind of gay spoof".

Ledger was giggling, his body was slumped and his left hand was on his hip in a "teacup" position.

It is not the kind of behaviour that would impress the 5,798 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who will decide on March 5 if Ledger should be honoured with the best actor Oscar, ahead of the distinguished Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Ledger was apparently so horrified about the reaction to his SAG performance he called the LA Times to set the record straight.

"I am so sorry and I apologise for my nervousness," Ledger told the newspaper.

"I would be absolutely horrified if my stage fright was misinterpreted as a lack of respect for the film, the topic and for the amazing filmmakers."

Ledger blamed his behaviour on a mix-up.

He said he was sitting with his Brokeback Mountain castmates at the ceremony when he asked Gyllenhaal who would be introducing their film.

"I leaned over and asked Jake and he said, 'We are. Didn't you get the script?' I said, 'What?' I thought it was a script for the Directors Guild Awards a few nights earlier," Ledger said.

There was no time to rehearse as they were soon called on stage.

"I am not a public speaker and never will be ... I'm just not one of those naturally funny, relaxed actors who enjoy the spotlight and are so good at it," Ledger said.

"And this was really weird because we were basically introducing ourselves, like here's this brilliant cast and guess what, it's us."

That's why he acted like a giggly kid.

"How can you say all that stuff - 'two brave cowboys' - with a straight face", he said.

"It was just so surreal."

Ledger also explained what he described as his "teacup hand" position.

"I've stood like that since I was a kid," Ledger said.

"You can ask me mum. It's nerves I guess."

Ledger's apology came at a crucial time in his Oscar campaign.

Last Wednesday the Academy mailed the final ballots to the Oscar voters. Ledger's apology appeared in Friday's LA Times, the day most voters would have received their ballots.

It is a well known rule in Hollywood that Oscar nominees need to be on their best behaviour in the lead-up to the Academy Awards.

Russell Crowe's infamous confrontation with the TV producer of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) telecast in 2002 is part of Hollywood folklore.

Crowe was the favourite for the best actor Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, but after he blasted the producer for cutting short a poem he wanted to recite in his BAFTA acceptance speech, the New Zealand-born actor was snubbed by Oscar voters.

Crowe's blow-up that year also came at the worst time - when the Oscar voters received their final ballots.

Paramount's Pres Gail Berman The Target of Hollywood's Backstabbers -- And She Just Got There. Is Hollywood Too Sexist?


Paramount Pictures new President Gail Berman is described as tough, directive, well-spoken, and assertive -- and Hollywood apparently can't stand women like that. The person who brought many of our most-watched shows is being skewered for nothing having to do with the bottom line. It's a sign of how far we still have to go in America, but it's also a tale of a successful woman in a place that seems to elevate good business women, as much as it despises them.

Here's part of the story. For the rest, click on the title of this post.


Rough transition to film for TV veteran Berman

By Anne Thompson
In Hollywood, a rumor is like a hurricane: It starts from a small nugget of truth and can build into a disruptive force. Even when the person at the eye of the storm knows it's all bollocks, it's no fun.

Ever since Paramount Pictures president Gail Berman, the former Fox Broadcasting entertainment president, arrived on the Melrose Avenue studio lot, gossips have been predicting an end to her tenure even though it has barely begun.

That's because there is always an awkward period for a studio in transition, when the town still hasn't figured out the new rules of engagement. Which producers and directors are in or out? What kinds of movies does this new production chief like? A career TV executive like Berman -- while she brought TV watchers everything from "Arrested Development" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to "American Idol" -- is coming into the movie business with neither a track record of produced movies nor established relationships with filmmakers and stars. Hollywood is notoriously tough on outsiders. And women. Berman is both.