On Tuesday, Anne Thompson reasoned out why “The Kids Are All Right” will likely get nominated for best picture, but not director. The Academy, she explains, is full of “Steak Eaters”:
They’re red-blooded males (not just American–Europeans and Aussies too), often directors, writers and craftspeople. They’re the guys who voted for The Silence of the Lambs, Braveheart, Gladiator, Avatar and yes, Crash over Brokeback Mountain. “They vote for big movies that make big money, good solid moviemaking with great actors and good storytelling,” says one veteran Oscar campaigner. “True Grit is for them.”
“The Kids Are All Right,” on the other hand, is implied to be a salad of a movie — female-centric, relationship-driven, an intimate comedy that doesn’t sport any flashier instances of craft, effects or attention-getting cinematography, all obstacles to winning Oscars in the categories of picture and director. At the Hollywood Reporter, Tim Appelo counters Thompson’s point by noting that a film like “127 Hours” is equally held back by its beefy violent qualities, which have scared a portion of the audience away. He adds:
But lots of frontrunners aren’t really all that steaklike. “How steak-eating is The King’s Speech?” asks one veteran of the Oscar wars. Tea-sipping, more like. If The Social Network isn’t vegan, at most it eats takeout sushi. Yes, it’s got some bachelor-party Steak Eater action in the Justin Timberlake scenes, but even though he’s got charisma, he’s not the one getting the Oscar-prediction action.
Metaphor run amuck! But I do think Appelo is oversimplifying Thompson’s division here, which isn’t really one of men are from planet sex and violence, women are from planet pages of dialog. Of course “The King’s Speech” is a steak movie — it’s about manning up, overcoming your fears and demonstrating a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity, World War II and that dreaded microphone. And “The Social Network” is a film about destroying personal relationships for the sake of success and power — how filet mignon is that?
Really, the issue here is less one of steak than (cough) stakes — there’s technically no reason why a relationship dramedy couldn’t be considered the best film of the year by the Academy, but when it comes down to Oscar night, the statuettes more often go to films about conflict and suffering, about “important” topics, preferable involving people dying.