Tag Archives: Oscar snub

Olivia Wilde Got F*cked Over by Conservative Astroturfing

Have you seen “Don’t Worry Darling”? It’s a great film that had a lot of awards buzz before gossip rags got hold of director Olivia Wilde’s private life. It wouldn’t be the first film to heap up awards buzz only to fizzle out after premiering, but most of those movies didn’t have to deal with a media frenzy to dismantle and de-legitimize a woman director.

We can debate whether the film is good or not. I think it is. It should’ve gotten some nominations on the awards circuit, and possibly even a few nominations at the Oscars. The biggest criticism against the movie itself is that its “Matrix”-like twist is apparent from the start, but that overlooks that the movie’s intention is pretty clearly to make it apparent from the start.

We don’t look at “Inception” and say it did a bad job of hiding that some of the story takes place in people’s minds, mainly because the movie tells us in the opening scene that some of the story takes place in people’s minds. I don’t know why we would criticize “Don’t Worry Darling” for taking place outside reality when it makes this crystal clear early in the story through editing and visual effects. It’s not made to do the same thing as “The Matrix”, it’s made to speak to an audience that already knows how “The Matrix” and films like it operate. Escaping a world you know is fake from the beginning is an entire subgenre of cyberpunk, and I’ve never seen any other film or novel in that subgenre criticized for assuming its audience is already familiar with the genre basics.

Take it another way. We don’t criticize mysteries from “Columbo” to “Poker Face” for telling us who the murderer is at the opening. That’s the format. It’s the difference between a whodunnit and a howcatchem. It feels disingenuous to criticize the subgenre for letting us know we’re in a notional reality when that is the format of the subgenre. That’s the difference between a “Matrix” and a “Don’t Worry Darling”. It’s not an isthisreal, it’s a howescapeit.

That’s boring, Gabe, get to the juicy gossip bits! Fine, let’s talk about the dismantling of the public perception of Olivia Wilde. After all, her publicity work for the film started with getting served custody papers at CinemaCon, as she was speaking in front of a crowd of 3,000 that included producers, distributors, and journalists. What a horrible thing to have happen to h– I mean for her to have done somehow in a way that’s her fault I guess?

She was in a custody battle with Jason Sudeikis. His spokesperson insisted that serving custody papers to her at work in front of 3,000 people in a way that could have damaged both her reputation and the marketability of her film was an honest mistake. It required the person serving her to take a COVID test days in advance and be approved for an event badge. But you know what? Let’s try that reasoning out. Perhaps those tasked with serving Wilde the papers made a decision that Sudeikis had nothing to do with. His spokesperson said so and there’s no evidence to the contrary – please keep this sentence in mind.

But Wilde also had a spat with Shia LaBeouf. She said he was fired from the project in order to retain Pugh, and he presented evidence that Wilde had asked him to stay on. Now, it’s fully possible for a director to ask someone to stay on and then later fire them. Wouldn’t even be the first time it happened to LaBeouf, but this didn’t occur to just anyone. It happened to domestic abuser and serial plagiarist Shia LaBeouf. How could we ever doubt his wor….oh dear.

But Wilde also had a hysterical shouting match with Florence Pugh that left the two at odds. This was reported by culture magazine Vulture, dependent on a source they said spent significant time on set. This became a fact in many people’s heads despite no corroboration. Meanwhile, more than 40 crew members who were also on set during this time publicly called these assertions false. The claim is that Pugh was fed up with Olivia Wilde leaving the set with supporting actor Harry Styles and being a no-show to directing her own film. No other crew has corroborated this. I’ll repeat again: more than 40 have disputed it, and put their names to it. Perhaps more to the point, Pugh’s never said anything to this effect.

Ah ah ah! But Pugh posted about her movie “Oppenheimer” the day the first trailer for “Don’t Worry Darling” dropped! Ooh! Wow! This was a huge revelation on social media. A smoking gun if ever there was one! An actress posted about a film she’s in instead of another film she’s in! When does that happen!?! Who would post about being in a Christopher Nolan film? Clear evidence that Pugh was in a fight with Wilde!

Of course…Pugh also didn’t post about her other two 2022 films that day, “The Wonder” directed by Sebastian Lelio and “Puss in Boots” directed by Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado. Oh, and she chose 2023 film “Oppenheimer” over her 2023 films “A Good Person” directed by Zach Braff and “Dune: Part Two” directed by Denis Villeneuve.

If this is irrefutable evidence that Pugh hates Wilde, one has to ask why Pugh also hates Lelio, Crawford, Mercado, Braff, and Villeneuve. What did they do? After all, we have the overwhelming evidence of an actress not posting about their films the day she posted about “Oppenheimer”, something that proves Pugh hates Wilde. Real fucking lot of Dan Browns we’ve all become.

Now, Pugh’s spokesperson said that she was simply scheduled to post about “Oppenheimer” that day. But that’s just PR, right? I mean, who would believe a celebrity’s spokesperson even if there’s no evidence to the contrar – oh shit, it’s that sentence I told you to keep in mind!

“Perhaps those tasked with serving Wilde the papers made a decision that Sudeikis had nothing to do with. His spokesperson said so and there’s no evidence to the contrary – please keep this sentence in mind.”

Shit in a hat, it’s my previous words! Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t believe Sudeikis’ spokesperson about embarrassing an ex in front of 3,000 people at the biggest professional moment in her career. What I am saying is that if we believe Sudeikis’ spokesperson about that massive of a fuck-up yet refuse to believe Pugh’s about how a social media post is scheduled, then we’re really down the rabbit hole of double fucking standards.

Can I just insert real fast that I’m sick of psychoanalyzing people through social media posts? It’s neither news nor newsworthy, and in most cases the celebrity in question isn’t even the one making the social media posts. Their staff makes many of these and – big shock! – when they do, they’re not seeking to offer an accurate portrayal of the psychological state of their boss. They’re making posts according to schedules, sometimes by contract, and by SEO information about what keywords, image descriptions, and brand associations are trending at that moment.

As Raven Smith wrote in Vogue’s The Discourse Has Cheated Olivia Wilde: “Late-stage Twitter appears to be the frenzied analysis of a moment we’re all fairly certain is made up. We’re just jabbing at each other, jousting our hot takes. It feels harmless, but it’s not.”

I’d add that it’s also a waste of our fucking time. Your time, my time, all our fucking time – so why get into it? Why write a whole article about celebrity bullshit? Huh, wonder what media watchdog Media Matters has to say. Oh, they highlight that Wilde was targeted throughout the marketing campaign of “Don’t Worry Darling” by right-leaning pages, conservatives, and MRA-associated pages whose readers took it upon themselves to spread negative narratives across social media.

What do we call this now? Gamergated? Or astroturfed? Did she get Hillary Clintoned? Why I’m going on about this load of insulting fucking nonsense is that we look to the stories of yesterday – how 2000s gossip sites demolished the lives of women celebrities and enabled abusers to take advantage of them – and we shout “Free Britney” as we should. Then we turn around and gossip over the same misogynist shit done the same way to each other as if it’s entertainment. Let me repeat: none of the rumors or gossip about Wilde has been corroborated. Fucking none. None. Yet in the social media sphere where it’s most important to market her professional work going forward, her reputation is largely toast.

Bullshit just got shared across social media and the sharing itself became the news – not any actual evidence. Not any actual reporting. Yet when industry media breathlessly repeats the repetition of rumors about women as news, it becomes very difficult for you or me to discern what the fuck is actually going on.

We act like we beat this shit because we learned to recognize when we did nothing about it 15 years ago, as if that deserves a cookie. We act like we’re on the other side of it because Biden barely defeated Trump in an election, never mind how it got to that point in the first place. Then we turn around and slurp up the latest round of bullshit hot takes as if it won’t lead to the next ruined career, and as if our process addiction to conspiracy theories doesn’t normalize the next conspiracy theory-fed disaster. We increasingly live in a paradise of bullshit where reporting on rumors is news no one has to fact check, that we justify because the entertainment value supposedly outweighs our giving a shit. Hell, Johnny Depp successfully defended himself by saying he was so black out drunk he couldn’t remember committing domestic violence, therefore it couldn’t have happened. He’s on the Supreme Court when?

So what is the one thing we do know? The one thing we know Wilde actually did, and is corroborated. She started dating Harry Styles, the pop star who replaced LaBeouf in Wilde’s film. Now if we’re going to say this is unacceptable and should bar her from awards, should we bar her just like we barred this year’s Oscar nominee for Best Director Steven Spielberg, who met Kate Capshaw on “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. He’s had 18 Oscar nominations since, winning three and adding an honorary award. Or the director for this year’s Oscar nominee for Best Picture, James Cameron, who left his wife for Linda Hamilton? He’s had 7 nominations since, winning three. Or Martin Scorsese and Ileana Douglas? He’s had 12 nominations and one win since.

Or like Darren Aronofsky and Jennifer Lawrence? Or Joel Coen and Frances McDormand? He’s had 15 Oscar nominations since. Or Taylor Hackford and Helen Mirren, before Hackford won his Oscar? Or David Lynch and Isabella Rossellini? Lynch had two nominations and won an Honorary Award after that.

Or the Emmy winner from two years ago Thomas Kail and Michelle Williams? Or John Carpenter and Adrienne Barbeau? Or Judd Apatow who met Leslie Mann when he was producing “The Cable Guy”? Or Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor? Or Len Wiseman and Kate Beckinsale? Or Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter? You staying home from all their shit? Did I miss the meeting where we judge them and torpedo their films?

It’s like we treat this as simply dating a coworker when men do it, yet an abuse of power when women do it. I’m not going to arbitrate which is right and I’m sure it changes by situation, but I do think it should be the same standard for both.

In fact, most of what Wilde is accused of, the un-evidenced stuff that isn’t backed up in any way, many of the directors on this list have done in an evidenced, recorded way. Read the stories about some of what Scorsese has pulled on his actors. We don’t give a shit when men do it. It’s disqualifying when women probably didn’t, but maybe sorta could’ve it’s rumored.

Oh but depending on the timing, Olivia Wilde may have left Sudeikis for Styles! Or she may not have; she may have already been leaving her husband at the time. We don’t fucking know, but we’re in Psychoanalyzing Instagram Post Land, we can do what we want!

So let’s treat it just like we treat Spielberg and Cameron for leaving their wives for their actresses. Or Wiseman. Or probably a few others in this group but there’s only so much time in the day to research bullshit we only care about when a woman might have or might not have done it.

Nobody in the esteemed Academy that not too long ago gave Roman Polanski a standing ovation is turning their noses up at them. At a certain point, the question has to be asked: What the fuck are we even doing? This is absolute fucking bullshit. Sorry, that last part’s not a question. Let me rephrase. Is this absolute fucking bullshit?


Luckily, I know the perfect movie to address the obsession with treating women this way.

Have you seen “Don’t Worry Darling”?

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An Oscar Snub? “A Most Violent Year”

Jessica Chastain A Most Violent Year

by Gabriel Valdez

A Most Violent Year follows a virtuous man in a time of thieves and gangsters. Its style recalls 70s crime films like The Godfather and The French Connection.

Oscar Isaac plays Abel Morales, an immigrant in New York City who’s trying to expand his successful heating oil business. It’s 1981 and his fuel trucks are being hijacked at toll booths and on-ramps, his drivers beaten and left barely breathing in the middle of the road. His competitors, who are either gangsters or rely on gangsters, want to put him out of business.

What’s an honest businessman to do? Most modern Hollywood films would see him pick up a gun and start getting even. In the style of those 70s crime dramas, however, Abel chooses to respond to this as a businessman first. He knows arming his drivers will result in shoot-outs and all-out war. He knows staying the course will be more difficult and more painful, but he has a vision.

His wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain), is the daughter of a gangster, the one from whom Abel bought the company. She constantly threatens Abel that if he won’t rise to his aggressors, then she will. You’re given the feeling that she could end all this in one vicious heartbeat: a street war or a bloodbath. That’s not what Abel wants. He’s dedicated to taking the high road and earning his victory by outmaneuvering his opponents. And yet he trusts Anna enough that when she hides the ledgers from investigating police, he sits hidden along with them.

A Most Violent Year Isaac Chastain

Avoiding the violence in which everyone else partakes doesn’t mean the film is void of action and tense sequences. A Most Violent Year features a shoot-out and the best chase scene of the year, involving cars, trains, and a plain old footrace. There are strong shades of Dustin Hoffman classic The Marathon Man in these moments.

All that’s not to say that A Most Violent Year quite lives up to these films, but being a half-step away from greatness still means you’re very, very good.

It also carries a deliciously mixed message. Abel’s shadow is a gang lawyer named Andrew, played perfectly by Albert Brooks. While Abel’s marriage to Anna is contentious at times, his business marriage to Andrew is all too perfect. These two figures, Anna cooking the books on one end, Andrew treating Abel on a need-to-know basis on the other, means that Abel can take the honest and virtuous path, but only so long as he enables and ignores the actions of partners who don’t.

It offers a theory on American business that may not be popular, but is in keeping with the gang and crime movies of the 70s: that cheating is part of the game, that being an honest success is very possible, but it may require you to ignore all the dishonest things that have allowed your success. It may require you to sacrifice some of the people who worked so hard to get you there.

A Most Violent Year contains tragedy, but it doesn’t treat this concept as tragic, just inevitable. It leaves the viewer to pick up the pieces and draw his or her own conclusions. In that way, it’s a chilling portrayal of American business politics. I wouldn’t call its treatment especially conservative or liberal either. It has a strong enough story that it doesn’t need to make political metaphors. In fact, it’s thankfully drained of these, relying on its ideas, tension, and superb acting to play out the concepts according to the rules of this 1981 New York City we’re given.

The ensemble also includes David Oyelowo (Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma) as a District Attorney investigating Abel. Elyes Gabel is emotionally resonant as a driver whose truck is hijacked.

A Most Violent Year is a film that got overlooked at the Oscar nominations, not as Best Film, but certainly for its acting and writing successes. All its tension comes from not knowing what’s going to happen next, how characters will respond to the larger story and to each other. So many movies follow the same structures these days that being this “in the dark” as a story progresses is a refreshing reminder of one of classic cinema’s strengths. A Most Violent Year is able to feel tense by slowing down and making you think and learn about its characters.

Does it Pass the Bechdel Test?

This section helps us discuss one aspect of movies that we’d like to see improved – the representation of women. Read why we’re including this section here.

1. Does A Most Violent Year have more than one woman in it?

Yes. Jessica Chastain is incredible as Anna Morales. The underappreciated Catalina Sandino Moreno appears in one scene. Annie Funke plays Lorraine Lefkowitz, the owner of a competing heating oil company.

2. Do they talk to each other?

Unfortunately not.

3. About something other than a man?

This question is dependent on question 2, which it doesn’t pass, but when women do speak, it’s about business or escalating conflict. It’s always directed to men, but it’s never about men.

The Bechdel Test is a tool, not a hard and fast guide to a film’s worth. They could have featured more women – I’m not about to excuse it for that. The women they do feature, however, are all capable professionals. The dynamic between Abel and Anna is fascinating. In some ways, he’s the “rock” of the family only because Anna has decided he’s better suited to that guise.

They are both willful characters, but you get the sense he has no real control over her. Oscar Isaac might dress the part of The Godfather‘s Michael Corleone, but it’s Chastain who’s the real threat. Anna contains herself not because Abel makes her, but rather because you get the sense the conclusion is never in doubt for her. She is patient with him and it’s revealed in clever ways that, no matter how capable Abel is, he is in many ways her Lieutenant and not the other way around. It’s an important difference that manages to avoid the old Lady Macbeth route.

The Lady Macbeth route means that he’s powerful and she knows how to manipulate that power. It can be done well, but it’s all too often abused on film. Not so here – Anna is the more powerful, but she restrains herself because Abel is the more legitimate face for the business. There are moments where she seizes that power from him in other parts of their lives, and when she gives it back it isn’t because she’s a wilting flower, it’s because she’s done with the moment. She’s patient, and you get the sense her Plan B is so violent and terrifying that she can afford that patience.

The tagline for the movie doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue: “The result is never in question, just the path you take to get there.”

The fork in the road is the very definition of Abel and Anna’s marriage and business partnership. His path speaks to the struggles of legitimacy in a world that devalues such things. Her path speaks to doing what needs to be done, no matter the price. And yet, that marriage works because she could win every battle between the two, but relents on enough of them to allow him his continued belief in legitimacy and honesty. And, in that way, she is one of the most powerful characters on film this year.

A Most Violent Year could have done better on the Bechdel Test without changing the course of the rest of the film, but it does give us one of the most interesting, confident, and dynamic women of any film from 2014.