Only members of the Academy can determine Oscar winners, but if tweets were votes, “Selma” would take best picture. That’s going by the numbers crunched by Twitter, which analyzed discussions surrounding contenders in select categories since Jan. 15, when the nominations were unveiled.
While “American Sniper” was the most-discussed film on the best-picture slate, Twitter looked further at the context of the conversations, zeroing in on Academy Awards-related messages. By that measure, “Selma” was the front-runner.
In the acting categories, Julianne Moore has been picking up prizes all season for her performance in “Still Alice,” and Twitter found that its users were in agreement with that choice. But after that they departed from conventional wisdom: based on the service’s analysis, the tweeting contingent wants Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”) to get best actor, and Meryl Streep (“Into the Woods”) and Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher) to win in the supporting categories.
Twitter also took a state-by-state look at the popularity of Oscar-nominated films among its users and found “Selma” support biggest in, yes, Alabama.
Updated, 3:07 p.m. | LOS ANGELES — Sixty hours till the Oscars are behind us – hurrah! – and if you think the Bagger has been counting this down for weeks now, you’re absolutely right.
In the interim, Hollywood is prepping by throwing as many parties as it can. Well-meaning, random and baffling, invariably peopled by folks endowed with money, and/or looks and/or, it must be said, talent, the parties are easy to spot from the outside – by huddles of professional autograph seekers, fans, a few paparazzi, and valet lines clogged with Jaguars, Ferraris, Mercedes — and yours truly’s rented Chevy.
Starting Wednesday night, the Bagger dipped into the fray, braving standstill traffic created by the street closure near the Dolby Theater, the site of the Academy Awards, to get to the envirosustainability nonprofit Global Green USA’s pre-Oscar fête in Hollywood. Along with serving up kale, naturally, and paper (not plastic) straws, the party also drew an almost touching array of actors and celebrities from the ’90s and before: Billy Zane, Daphne Zuniga from “Melrose Place,” Cheryl Tiegs and … Marla Maples (!).
The Bagger had to miss Common’s performance of “Glory,” his Oscar-nominated song from “Selma,” as she set off for West Hollywood, where the Irish folks connected to the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Song of the Sea” were making merry in a cozy little pub, the towering and ever-funny Chris O’Dowd among them. This is the second film that the Cartoon Saloon, based in Kilkenny, Ireland, has had nominated, but those involved were clearly still over the moon about it. Even so, though the film has been released most elsewhere in the world, it has yet to open in Ireland, but will do so in July.
On Thursday, Essence threw its annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, with the level of energy, glamor and sizzle in the room leaving no doubt that this is where the beautiful people were, among them Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Lupita Nyong’o. The cast of “Orange Is the New Black” drew one of the heartiest standing ovations, with Danielle Brooks, who plays Tasha Jefferson, accepting a Vanguard Award for the cast. “I want to thank all you chocolate goddesses out there,” she said to hoots and applause, “It’s really a challenge being a blacktress.”
Common and Legend were set to perform “Glory” at that luncheon too, but again the Bagger had to split early again: a full night was ahead.
Over in West Hollywood, Vanity Fair threw a bustling smallish party for “Boyhood,” where the film’s stars tried to calm their jitters about its Oscar prospects – it’s considered neck and neck with “Birdman” in the race for best picture.
The Bagger also learned that Patricia Arquette’s recent Los Angeles-transplant artist boyfriend, Eric White, is still, charmingly, a member of the Park Slope Food Coop.
After failing to find the director, Richard Linklater, the Bagger was off again, to the Hollywood Domino event at the Sunset Tower Hotel, which she had mistakenly assumed was being thrown by the style magazine Domino. But no, this was something different altogether – a quick email check revealed that the event described itself as a gathering of “Hollywood’s elite to help support a number of nonprofit organizations around the world by playing a fun new glamorous version of dominoes for a great cause.” In this case, the “elite” included Gina Gershon, Adrien Brody and Russell Simmons, and the very glitzy fund-raiser, partly overseen by Ms. Arquette, was for Artists for Justice and Peace (a nonprofit group working in Haiti), to which rather young donors were pledging tens of thousands of dollars in support a year.
Correction: Feb. 22, 2015 An earlier version of this post misidentified a guest at the Essence luncheon as Tasha Jefferson. The guest was Danielle Brooks, who plays that character on “Orange Is the New Black.”
“Amadeus,” a 1984 adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s stage play, presented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a genius who undermined authority with his art. Again, Oscars for best director and best picture were among its many honors.
Still, Mr. Forman, by then a United States citizen, said one of his greatest pleasures from the film — which was shot in the Czech Republic — was the chance to return in triumph to his homeland.
“I’ve always done everything in my life to win,” Mr. Forman said of himself in a 1994 biography, which was entitled “Turnaround: A Memoir,” and was written with Jan Novak.
Mr. Forman was caught up in the turmoil of German occupation not many years after his birth, in Caslav, on Feb. 18, 1932. Both his mother, born Anna Suabova, and the man he believed to be his father, a teacher named Rudolf Forman, had been separately seized by the Germans and killed in death camps.
For years, Mr. Forman vaguely told interviewers that he believed himself to be half-Jewish, though both parents attended a Protestant church. It was Mr. Novak, in researching “Turnaround,” who ended the mystery.
After the 1964 release of his first feature film, “Black Peter” — about the misadventures of a teenager beginning his work life — Mr. Forman was contacted by a woman who had been with his mother in Auschwitz, Mr. Novak learned and eventually reported. The woman explained that Mr. Forman was actually the son of a Jewish architect with whom Mr. Forman’s mother had an affair. In time, Mr. Forman found his biological father, who survived the war and was living in Peru.
Raised by foster parents, Mr. Forman attended film school in Prague, and first made his mark with his work on a film and theater presentation at the 1958 Brussels World Exhibition. An early feature, “The Loves of a Blonde,” won attention on the international festival circuit in 1965. Another, “The Firemen’s Ball,” two years later, rubbed Czech officials the wrong way with its spoof of the firefighting bureaucracy, though Mr. Forman was already turning his attention to opportunities abroad.
When the Soviets invaded in August of 1968, Mr. Forman was in Paris negotiating to make a Hollywood film. His first American feature, a youth comedy called “Taking Off,” was released by Universal Pictures in 1971. It did so poorly, Mr. Forman later said, that he wound up owing the studio $500.
Continue reading the main story
Through the early 1970s, Mr. Forman — a hearty bon vivant without means for the good life — went through a period of self-described depression. For much of that time, he holed up in New York’s Chelsea Hotel, sleeping through the days and communicating with émigré friends.
By then, he had been married twice, first to an actress, Jana Brejchova, then to another performer, Vera Kresadlova, who had remained in Czechoslovakia with their two sons, Petr and Matej.
In his memoir, Mr. Forman said the producers of “Cuckoo’s Nest,” Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz, sought him out because “I seemed to be in their price range.” In fact, they had made a perfect match between filmmaker and material, in this case a cult novel by Ken Kesey.
Jack Nicholson was the movie’s star. But Mr. Forman — who liked to coax star performances out of lesser-known actors — did exactly that with Louise Fletcher, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the dictatorial Nurse Ratched.
“Hair” and “Ragtime,” which came next, left less impression, but kept Mr. Forman on the list of directors whom executives were willing to trust with their more sophisticated projects. In 1978, meanwhile, Mr. Forman joined Frantisek Daniel, another Czech, as co-director of the film program at Columbia University’s school of the arts.
It was for Mr. Zaentz that Mr. Forman next struck gold, with “Amadeus.” The film won eight Oscars, and Mr. Forman later wrote, left him with a bittersweet, and ultimately correct, sense that his career had peaked.
“Valmont,” based on an 18th-century novel by Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos, was overshadowed in 1989 by the previous year’s release of “Dangerous Liaisons,” a film by the director Stephen Frears, which used the same underlying material.
Continue reading the main story
Mr. Forman next made a series of films each of which pushed Hollywood out of its comfort zone.
“The People vs. Larry Flynt” pressed the limits of tolerance for an antihero with its sympathetic portrait of the Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt. Released by Columbia Pictures in 1996, it was a box-office bust, with domestic ticket sales of only about $20 million.
In 1999, “Man on the Moon,” Mr. Forman’s complex portrait of the comic Andy Kaufman and his alter-ego Tony Clifton, did only a little better for Universal Pictures. Yet the film left a mark on Mr. Forman’s personal life. Shortly before its release, he married Martina Zborilova, who had worked with him earlier as a production assistant. He became the father of twin sons, whom the couple named Andrew, for Mr. Kaufman, and James, for Jim Carrey, the movie’s star.
Mr. Forman’s next film, “Goya’s Ghosts,” for Samuel Goldwyn Films, was an intricate examination of persecution in Spain in the era of religious persecution and Napoleonic conquest. The film found a minuscule audience when it was released on American screens in 2007.
But it appeared to play out themes from Mr. Forman’s life, as its heroine, an artist’s model, was imprisoned and tortured because of what were claimed to be her hidden Jewish habits and roots.
In an interview with a writer for The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Mr. Forman talked of Goya’s vacillation between unfettered expression and a desire to please in terms that recalled a tension between his own artistic urges and the lure of success.
“Torn between protest and preservation,” Mr. Forman said of Goya, “he is the most courageous coward.”
It’s predictions day at the Carpetbagger blog and as you pore over your Oscar ballot, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:
— The Bagger’s predictions are here. In the neck-and-neck race between “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” she’s choosing the former.
— Her colleague David Leonhardt at The Upshot has already explained why the Oscars make such a good subject for prediction markets. And now, for those who’d like a little help, he has a ballot marked with odds-on favorites that may give you a head start on your office Oscar pool.
— For the contrarian view of the best picture race, Deadline.com reports that Senzari, described as “a big-data company specializing in movies and music,” says that “American Sniper” has the best chance of winning best picture, followed by “The Imitation Game.” The argument hinges on box office performance and an analysis of the movie’s elements, rather than the usual prognosticator benchmarks of precursor prizes and the like.
— For the cineaste view, Kevin B. Lee at Fandor asks not who will win, but who deserves to win, in his annual video essay examining each of the nominees here.
What if regular film fans, not Academy members, could vote on the Oscars? Twitter’s answer, based on tweets and the context of the messages, was “Selma.” But according to a survey conducted for The Upshot using Google Consumer Surveys, it’s “American Sniper.” Reporting on the survey, Mr. Leonhardt writes, “42 percent of respondents cited ‘American Sniper,’ while no other movie received more than 12 percent.
Finally, for those tired of odds and predictions and the guesses surrounding best picture, here’s a sure thing: Vocativ took a look at who gets thanked in acceptance speeches here and found that “the Academy” has been name-checked in 43 percent of all speeches (or at least the ones archived by the Academy here), followed by Mom and Dad (28 percent of speeches).
And the individual most often thanked? Harvey Weinstein beat out God (winners mentioned the producer 34 times; the Almighty, 19). But the Oscar thank-you award goes to: Steven Spielberg, name-dropped 42 times.
Well, there you go. With the Academy Awards, sometimes you just never know. Or, rather you do, if you know where to look.
The victory lap for “Birdman” at the Oscars on Sunday night, scooping best picture and director, presumably away from “Boyhood,” made sense to people well versed in the Academy’s ways. The organization often is deaf, even resistant, to the inclinations of critics, many of whom crowned “Boyhood” the year’s best. Entertainment Weekly’s January cover story anointing the film as “this year’s Oscar front-runner” probably didn’t help the film’s cause (or, since we’re on the topic, a not-so-flattering piece in The New York Times the weekend voting opened).
“Birdman” had so many elements for actors and below-the-line craftspeople to chew on: the ballyhooed long shots, which won the cinematographer an Oscar; the actors having to work with clockwork precision; the storyline itself. Seasoned Oscar watchers said they knew it was over for “Boyhood” when “Whiplash” took the editing award: the Academy’s respect for how Richard Linklater’s film was sewn together by the editor would have to be paramount in order for the picture to win. There was some surprise that Mr. Linklater didn’t collect best director, but as others have noted, the Directors Guild Award – which went this year to Alejandro G. Iñárritu – is often the bellwether of where that Oscar will land.
But it was clearly the night for “Birdman” – to the great joy of the folks at New Regency and Fox Searchlight, who were behind last year’s winner, too, “12 Years a Slave.” “Birdman” even won best original screenplay, a surprise, since Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” had a story line that was at once more sweeping and more delicate, and collected a Writers Guild Award. Yet every film that had been nominated for best picture collected some kind of award, a nice outcome.
And, hurrah, Alexandre Desplat finally won an Oscar for best original soundtrack, for his yodeler-laced compositions for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” this after getting nominated eight times. (Mind you, two of those nominations were from this year; even he was worried they’d cancel each other out.)
It’s good to note, for those still mourning the losses of “Boyhood,” that a small independent film about the passing of time wouldn’t have had a chance in many other years, something Mr. Linklater noted on the red carpet.
“I think if ‘Birdman’ and ‘Boyhood’ are duking it out,” he said, “that’s pretty amazing.”
One of the perks of being on the West Coast for an awards show is that it’s beholden to East Coast time. Which means when things finally wrap up after dragging on for far too long, it’s only, like, 9 p.m. Delighted to have a first awards season behind her, and having endured a surprise red carpet rainfall (the tent sprang massive leaks), the Bagger was torn between a determination to head home, stat – what else is there to say to people after three months of nonstop talking about the same thing, for heaven’s sakes? — and wanting to let off some steam.
So, it was on to the Governors Ball, which is in a red-velvet-lined ballroom in the same complex as the Dolby Theater and involved cutting through a chilly and puddly outdoor mall, gown trailing a snail-like wet streak. Waiters passed by with mini chicken pot pies, caviar and crème-fraîche-daubed baked potatoes, and smoked-salmon toasts cut into Oscar shapes.
The winners and a few also-rans were there: Ethan Hawke split early, giving a curt “hello.” Patricia Arquette was huddled around a table with her people – her daughter, her sister Rosanna, and her boyfriend, the artist Eric White. Felicity Jones, glorious in her Alexander McQueen dress (no, the Bagger, in the spirit of #AskHerMore, didn’t ask what she was wearing – the Bagger just happened to overhear) was toting one of the Lego Oscars that had been floating around the show. Laura Dern, who walked the red carpet earlier with her father, Bruce Dern (they did the same for his Oscar nomination last year), was there with her two children. “Don’t you think your mom is the best actress ever?” an enthusiast asked her son. “Um, yeah,” the pretty-much-cornered kid replied.
The presence of the higher octane belles and beaux of the ball was signaled by a scrum of people and camera operators. One such crowd formed at the back of the ballroom as the night’s big winner, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, arrived with his family and writers and producers.
Eddie Redmayne zipped by, heading to get his statue engraved; so did Julianne Moore, dancing a little to the live music — led by will.i.am yet evocative of easy listening – arm-in-arm with her husband, Bart Freundlich. Michael Keaton was floating around, too. “I wish you had won,” Mr. Keaton was told by a passer-by. “So do I!” he replied. Yet if disappointment ran deep, it didn’t show.
Others were off to the très exclusive Vanity Fair party in Beverly Hills, but not the Bagger (they didn’t extend an invite), who hopped into a limo with a few Fox executives on their way to the Fox Searchlight party. The studio, whose films won eight Oscars on Sunday, celebrated in a West Hollywood bar-restaurant and had all the dancing and merrymaking one would expect from a celebration of winners.
But back to the limo waiting area of the Oscars, which is a scene in itself: valets read the numbers of arriving rides through a megaphone to match car with customer, like an auctioneer. There are chaises and heat lamps and cappuccinos served from a gleaming four-foot-high machine.
Mr. Iñárritu asked the Bagger if she would mind snapping a photo of him and his wife and two children, which she did, to the auteur’s apparent satisfaction.