Grantland is an online magazine named after famed sportswriter Grantland Rice. Its founding father is sports journalist and ESPN commentator Bill Simmons who has a sharp, smart, often-edgy or alternative look at things. Sometimes he even writes about movies -- and while his articles in that field are generally given a lot of intelligent thought, it's not really a field he knows and so I generally find his conclusions far off-base.
Mark Harris -- a contributor to Grantland -- is another matter. Among other things, he's the author of a book on movies. And though I haven't read much by him, his latest article which Patrick Goldstein passed along to me is really smart and well done.
The topic is Oscar pundits who jump in incredibly early to make all sorts of pronouncements. At the heart of the piece are the rave predictions coming out of the Toronto Film Festival proclaiming 12 Years a Slave THE Oscar-winning Best Picture. What I like about Mr. Harris's article is not that says the movie will or won't, but that he addresses evenhandedly the problems such Pronouncements make. For instance, he writes --
This might be a good time to mention a few things: (1) It's September, for God's sake. (2) I haven't seen 12 Years a Slave. (3) You haven't seen 12 Years a Slave. (4) Oscar observers are not the same as critics, the paying public, or Academy members, all of whose verdicts will be more important to the fate of the movie than the thoughts of anybody who's talking about it today, and as of this writing, most of the people who will matter the most cannot spell Chiwetel Ejiofor without Google. (5) This whole discussion has not really been about the content or quality of 12 Years a Slave at all (when it opens, we can have a real conversation). All of which is to say that one should take shouty pronunciamentos delivered in a sweaty swivet after an emotional screening with a big grain of salt. (I made one once, about Antwone Fisher. I'm still living it down.) It's a long road to the Oscars, and even if 12 Years a Slave ends up crossing the finish line first, no movie makes it from September to February without hitting some speed bumps — other movies, backlash, op-ed page harrumphing, hype fatigue.
If you want to read the full article, which is quite good, just click here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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