What happens at the start of Academy season is that first we notice a bunch of innocuous-looking mail from the studios, checking our most recent address. Then come the early indie screeners from the classics distributors, or obscure ones—or movies that came out early in the year and want you to remember them, like March's Alice in Wonderland. This sets assistants upon each other, checking to see who has what, and if by any chance her producer may be alone or have a mailroom employee on the verge of a piracy felony. Each week the take gets better until by Thanksgiving, it's madness. Full Autumn.
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It's a local seasonal story, like you guys get the changing of the leaves on the Taconic. I swear, this is our version. It's a tradition, like taking that drive to check out the leaves: our Oscar season—each year perhaps a little redder, a littler greener, a little sweller or less swell, a little better (or in this year's case, worse) for women—but always worth a trip. It's where we live. We'll even go to a few nice wine tastings to take it in, check out the neighbors, see how they're "doing" this year. See who's hot. Ahem.
It has been a very adult fall—The Town, The Social Network, and you'd have to count the surprise success of Red—and promises to be an adult Academy season, what with Inception, The King's Speech, and The Fighter, from what we've heard so far.
Much of the early chit-chat about this season of course is on Social Network (which will be a late screener) and Inception, as those are the two clear Oscar contenders we have seen. The hands down lock nominee and winner is Aaron Sorkin for best adapted screenplay, and I said so to anyone who would listen as I left Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton's (and the producers') invited screening a few weeks before it opened. It was the most written movie I'd seen since Paddy Chayefsky's Network. Not that David Fincher didn't do a spectacular job directing it, just that it was a written movie.
Inception was a directed and not written movie, even though it was cleverly conceived. I had a little, shall we say, disagreement with an old studio head of mine outside the screening about this. "It was Fincher's movie," he said! "It would have been boring! Just words, a play!" Yes, that's true. And it was Fincher's most complete movie, his score and performances in perfect balance. But it was a virtuosic screenplay.