OK folks, I am going to write a non baseball post.
The Academy Award nominations were announced this week, and your good pal Sully believes a massive upset is going to happen on February 24 when the envelopes are opened.
With 12 nominations, a powerhouse performance, a weighty subject and a director some people have heard of, Lincoln looks like the film to beat.
What film can possibly top Steven Spielberg’s epic, Daniel Day-Lewis’ already iconic performance and an important movie about the great conflict of healing a nation?
Why a low key romantic comedy about mental illness, dancing and the Philadelphia Eagles, of course.
I believe Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell’s quirky and moving comedy will win Picture, Adapted Screenplay and possibly even best actor.
And bear with me. There is logic to my madness.
First of all, remember that Silver Linings Playbook was released by Harvey and Bob Weinstein. No two people in history have a better Academy Awards playbook than these two guys.
They dominated the Oscars in the 1990’s, helping make winners out of Quentin Tarantino, Matt Damon, Gwenyth Paltrow, Ben Affleck, Neil Jordan, Holly Hunter, Anna Paquin, Robin Williams and making films like The English Patient, The Crying Game and The Cider House Rules into surprising winners against bigger budget Hollywood fare.
And recently they had The Kings Speech and The Artist bring home the big prize against stiff competition.
They are the masters of playing the Oscar game. They find the perfect piece of Oscar bait. And usually they are films that feel more arty than standard Hollywood movies but have an entertaining quality that they essentially become crowd pleasers.
Films about racism, abortion, mental illness and powerful women are easier to sell when they are wrapped in the familiar structure of a romance or a comedy.
In other words they are the Oscar pictures that people like more than they respect. And they tend to have the films peak both in terms of box office and public awareness right around the time voters are filling out their ballots and the buzz over other films have died off.
And this strategy has resulted in some major Oscar upsets.
The Social Network looked like the front runner for Best Picture a few years ago. But The Kings Speech, a Weinstein Company Release, snuck up and won, mainly because voters enjoyed it more than the socially relevant Facebook saga.
The Descendants looked like the film to beat last year before audiences fell in love with a Weinstein film, The Artist and the cute little dog helped nab the big prize.
But remember the Weinsteins pulled off one of the most startling upsets in Oscar history with this strategy. And they did so against Steven Spielberg.
Saving Private Ryan was considered to be not only the best film of 1998 but one of Spielberg’s true masterpieces. It was a worthy companion to Schindler’s List, Spielberg’s previous Oscar winner and a classic movie that would survive the test of time.
As expected, Steven Spielberg won Best Director and its victory for Best Picture was so ensured that Harrison Ford was called upon to present the final award. Indiana Jones was going to hand his director his second Best Picture Award.
Instead he handed it to Harvey Weinstein (and four other producers) as Shakespeare in Love won the big prize.
So what happened?
Private Ryan may have peaked early, being a summer release as opposed to Shakespeare which came out in Christmas.
Maybe the weighty and brutal story of Private Ryan moved viewers. But they felt good about themselves and happy leaving Shakespeare, which while a fine film was essentially a breezy romantic comedy.
Or maybe voters were tired of being told how great Private Ryan was and cast a vote for entertainment.
Either way, the Weinsteins marketed Shakespeare as the film people fell in love with rather than saluted with respect.
Which brings us to Lincoln vs. Silver Linings Playbook.
The box office success of Lincoln peaked around Thanksgiving as audiences flocked to see Daniel Day-Lewis’ transformation in the charged post election divided America.
By now the buzz of the film has died slightly and many people are just now discovering the moving, funny and quirky Silver Linings Playbook.
Like Shakespeare, it is a romantic comedy disguised as something else. With all the talk of mental illness and dealing with death and loss, the film hinges on the audience wanting the two leads to fall in love.
Audience salute Lincoln and fall in love with Silver Linings Playbook. And voters love for Silver Linings will be fresher in their minds than their admiration for Lincoln.
Also working in the Weinstein’s favor is the narrowing of the field.
Before the announcements of the nominations, the biggest threats to Lincoln appeared to be Zero Dark Thirty, Argo and Les Miserables.
However, when none of those three films received a Best Director nomination, they fell out of the running for winning the award. Since 1932’s Grand Hotel, only one film won Best Picture without a Director nomination: 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy.
So now the Weinsteins do not need to deal with rescuing Iranian hostages, the killing of Osama Bin Laden or a beloved musical.
They just need to have voters love a romantic comedy more than a talky drama people saw months ago.
To the Weinsteins they must be thinking “That’s easy. Hell, we defeated the Normandy Invasion!”
Mind you, I am not writing what I think SHOULD happen but what will.
The Weinsteins will get audiences applauding the film more than DeNiro’s character cheered for the Eagles.
It already is the first movie since Warren Beatty’s Reds to get nominations in all four acting categories.
Don’t be surprised is Robert DeNiro wins Oscar number three. Don’t be stunned if Hunger Games star wins best actress (she was previously nominated for her great performance in the little seen Winter’s Bone.)
And while a long shot, Bradley Cooper’s leading performance, devoid of Day-Lewis’ prosthetic make up and Hugh Jackman’s singing, may sway voters as the gimmick free winner.
Steven Spielberg will almost certainly win Best Director. But the big prize is more up for grabs than people realize.
The Weinsteins do.
They have the playbook.
And in late February when people gasp that Lincoln did not win the big prize, remember that it was your pal Sully who told you why.