Tag Archives: Aaron Sorkin

Oscars: One of the Better ‘Best Pic’ Fields in Years

The Academy did a pretty damn good job this year. The only nominee that doesn’t align with my personal Top 10 was Bridge of Spies and even that still has Spielberg+Coen Bros+Hanks+Cold War+USA! USA! aka deserves its nom.

My projections were off a little bit. I had a total of 6 “LIKELY” nominations based on historical trends regarding guild accolades. All 6 were nominated. My next three (Compton, Carol, and Sicario) missed in favor of Room and Brooklyn, two films that were right on the cusp. I would guess that Sicario landed in place 3-5 on many tech-heavy ballots for a near-miss with something like 4.7% of the vote (when you need 5%). Similar story with CarolCompton took a nice guild ride but really wasn’t good enough all-around to have a place here (lowest Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics % score and point rating of my 13 real players).

The Good News

Despite favorable opinion of the picture itself, I had doubts about A24 being able to keep Room in the game against the deeper pockets of the major studios. This is a HUGE victory for independent film.

Brooklyn is equally wonderful. Boasting the highest Top Critic RT score of the year (the ultra-rare perfect 100 from 38 critics) Brooklyn lacked the resources its parent studio paid to campaign the larger Martian and Revenant. Further evidence of secondary attention? It’s the only Best Pic nominee without its own Twitter handle. #BrooklynMovie. Worthy of note: Brooklyn director John Crowley was originally attached to helm Carol. He dropped out because of scheduling conflicts between the two projects. How relieved is that guy today? Fox outbid Weinstein Co (Carol‘s distributor) for Brooklyn‘s rights at last year’s Sundance. It’s a huge day for the studio since they now hold 37.5% of the Best Pic field.

Mad Max actually made it! How awesome is that?


Aaron Sorkin was the heavy favorite to win Adapted Screenplay and didn’t even get nominated. That field’s now wide open. If Sorkin still manages to pull down the WGA win I’ll be extremely confused. Also worth mentioning is the exclusion of Ridley Scott in favor of Room‘s Lenny Abrahamson. This is less a case of Ridley being snubbed  and more that Abrahamson deserved the acknowledgement. Tom Hardy was probably the last man in for The RevenantInside Out deserves to be part of the overall convo but I wouldn’t really call it a “snub” as it never really had a chance to actually win the field.


Diversity. #OscarSoWhite will repeat as a hot convo this year. Again, this is a systemic problem and the Oscars are merely internal trade awards that reflect the current industry. A nom for Elba could have quelled this a bit but the Supporting Actor race is a feeding frenzy and any combo of 10 dudes could have made it. Netflix is also new to the game which put Elba at an immediate disadvantage. Will Smith was bested by 5 stronger performances. Compton’s not an all-around GREAT film. Creed‘s Michael B. Jordan remains too young to spar with the likes of Leo and Damon (in the eyes of the Academy).

Perhaps a further convo for a later date, but I think the Academy needs to combine the Actor and Actress categories as one. Why are actors the only branch that  segregates awards on the basis of gender? Aren’t we beyond that?

My Pre-Announcement Predictions: 2016 Best Pic Nominations:
Spotlight Spotlight
The Big Short The Big Short
The Revenant The Revenant
Bridge of Spies Bridge of Spies
The Martian The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road Mad Max: Fury Road
Carol Brooklyn
Straight Outta Compton Room

Is Donald Trump Intentionally Throwing the GOP’s Game?

Donald Trump is on an absolute tear. Love him or hate him, he’s making an absolute mockery of our political campaign system. But at some point you have to wonder, what more could The Don possibly do to tilt the electoral scale in Hillary Clinton’s favor? If one were to author an ideal liberal strategy, it’s hard to imagine what you could write to make the current situation more favorable for the Democrats. Trump’s current views are simply not aligned with anything close to moderate. His xenophobic rhetoric has become so extreme that he’s forced the party leader to publicly condemn his actions even as the left extends their vocal outrage. Less than hours later, Trump fired right back at the GOP through poll numbers suggesting a favorable third-party run. He’s holding the GOP in a hostage situation they were totally unprepared for.

But at what point do we acknowledge that his actions may be more than remarkably convenient circumstance for Democrats? Are we absolutely certain that Trump’s not doing all of this for the sake of entertainment value? Is he  perhaps playing the political version of Joaquin Phoenix’s I’m Still Here? If you were seeking an allegory that you might be more familiar with, I can also direct your attention to his past association with the WWE (including remarks about Rosie O’Donnell).

Our bipartisan political system is now played as a game of chess by those wealthy enough to move the pieces. This is not news. But which team is Donald Trump really playing for?

The Tea & Koch Party
We know about one side because Rupert Murdoch’s been in the limelight for decades. We know about the other players on his team because everyone from Rolling Stone to Bernie Sanders has made sure their names are heard loud and clear: David and Charles Koch. As proprietors of the Tea Party, or what Aaron Sorkin calls “the American Taliban,” the Kochs have hijacked the once honorable Republican Party dressed as a libertarian extension. They are Geppetto to player puppets like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Speaker Paul Ryan. They even have ties to Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia and fund think-tanks that promote the deregulation of government under the guise of “liberty.”

Yet Donald Trump hasn’t been allowed to play with this Party. Much has been made of his exclusion from the Kochs’ semi-annual meetings where ALL of the other GOP candidates have been in attendance (minus the recent exception of Rand Paul…curious). Yet they’ve never considered him a credible candidate because, let’s face it, none of us have. His party loyalty has been suspicious. He went indy from the GOP in 1999 before registering as a Dem in 2001. Yet in September 2009, he re-registered as a Republican with potential ambitions for a 2012 nomination. David Koch was vocally suspicious of the move in May of 2011 saying:

“Donald’s political positions over the last 10 years have been highly variable and unusual. He’s a wonderful guy, but I don’t think he should run for office.” And later, “At some point I think he’s going to drop out of the race when he realizes that he’s really not qualified to be President.”

While Donald had already jumped aboard the Birther Conspiracy Train at this point, The Koch Party had made it clear that they weren’t buying into his shenanigans. So Donald golfed his way back to his tower and waited.

Flash forward to 2015: Since announcing his candidacy, Donald Trump has stolen the GOP stage from the full arsenal of Dave and Chucky’s marionettes. Capitalizing on the party’s reluctance to promote one of their own pawns as a Queen, he has stepped onto the board for himself. Spouting nonsense consistent with his Birther ramblings dating back to 2011, he’s filled his truck with the GOP’s Koch-fattened evangelical livestock and driven them back to his farm. Since Murdoch’s Trump-specific opening question in the first debate, he’s forced the rest to fight for mere scraps of the attention he receives. If he manages to pull the GOP’s nomination, the evangelical right aren’t gonna be enough to win a general election while the lazy liberals are angered-out to the polls.

But Trump and camp has to already know this, right? Certainly. So why would he do knowingly push any resemblance of moderation away from him? There are only two likely reasons:

1) Trump and camp believe that publicity of any kind will produce name-recognition for poll support and, in-turn, primary votes. It seems naive, but it’s also unproven at this scale.

2) The Kochs were right, and Trump doesn’t actually care about the Republican party. He may even be doing all of this in opposition. If this were true, how would he best go about it, and what does he stand to gain?

Trump’s Clinton History
When Donald announced his candidacy by blasting immigration (an early grab for the bible belt), an idea floated around suggesting that Trump may be a Trojan Horse for the Clintons, with whom he has known ties. As his campaign surges forward, this notion deserves further examination.

Though his campaign contributions since 2008 suggest Trump aligns with the right, he was previously known as a bipartisan contributor with liberal tendencies. Following discussion at this year’s first debate regarding the Clintons’ attendance at Trump’s 2005 wedding, a Hillary spokesperson re-stated, “He invited her. They’re acquaintances. This is long, long established.”

So while it’s hard to gauge exactly how close Trump is with the Clintons, we do know that:

  • Trump supported Hillary’s prior campaigns (as well as The Clinton Foundation) on multiple occasions both financially as well as vocally.
  • Hillary sat front-row when the Clintons attended his 2005 wedding.
  • Chelsea and Ivanka are like BFFs (not real evidence, but funny)

(CNN Video interview from 2007)

But the Clintons aren’t the ones seated in opposition to the Kochs at America’s chess game. They, like Trump, are just key pieces.

So who’s wealthy enough to move the chess pieces that oppose the 5th and 6th wealthiest people in America? The common thought would be someone traditionally associated with the lobbying game like George Soros ($24.5bil), but he sits at the kids table compared with the Koch’s $82bil. So perhaps sociopolitical influence can be managed without obvious contribution through monetary lobbying. What else motivates the human condition? When you already have all of the money and power in the world, what do you do with it?

“Philanthropy is the gateway to power. There are few people who get to decide what will happen in our world. You have been invited to join them. Pull back the curtain, and take your seat.” -Bert Cooper, Mad Men.

The Giving Pledge: Trey Gates and The Wizard

To the top of the Forbes list we go! While our elected officials squabble over our progressive condition, Bill & Melinda Gates’ mighty Foundation has been out crusading against inequity. This isn’t some local charity that you throw spare change to. This is a $40bill heavy-hitting organization that crushes poverty and disease with tremendous results. Bill Gates’ legacy as the co-founder of Microsoft will stand meaningless next to his role in disease eradication. But while he may have some ability to influence a general population by non-conventional means, Gates has never really shown comprehensive interest in the political spectrum. So he’d need a partner. Someone with precognition enough to stay far ahead of domestic socioeconomic trends. He’d need The Wizard of Omaha.

Enter Giving Pledge co-founder Warren Buffett, our chief mastermind. Though quiet about it, we know Buffett stands with the left. Population control has always been of significant importance to him while The Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation has long supported women’s reproductive health. He’s also a known opponent of big money lobbying and its ability to prevent a more progressive tax system.

So just how far back do we need to go for Buffett to have recognized that our political system would be undermined?

I think that The Oracle has had his eye on the Kochs for a long time. With the acquisition of Georgia Pacific back in 2005, Koch Industries drew significant attention from the business world by becoming the largest privately-held company in the country. You better believe Buffett took notice, especially considering their notorious political background. We know that the Koch Party’s closed-door summits date back as far as 2005. And, while unlikely receiving an invitation himself, it’s very likely that Buffett had already received word of their Neocon uprising. But he needed a plan alternative to monetary lobbying.

The following June, Warren Buffett made a public spectacle of pledging-away his fortune to The Gates Foundation and his four family foundations. His gift to the Gates Foundation of 10 million shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock, to be paid in annual installments, was worth approximately $31 billion at the time. But the Kochs either didn’t pick up on the subtlety of Buffett’s message at this point, or simply didn’t care.

In ’08 Buffett (like everyone), thought Hillary would walk with the nomination. They weren’t expecting the youth of American, who’d been dicking around for the prior 10 years, to rally behind Obama. But following the era of Bush, everyone knew the Dems would take Washington regardless on the nominee.

Michael Bloomberg

Following the election, Gates and Buffet hosted a series of secret New York meetings starting  in May 2009. With the Citizens United vs FEC hearings underway in the Koch’d-up SCOTUS, they were able to recruit Michael Bloomberg aboard to advise on a new strategy. Gates and Bloomberg have old ties. In 1999 the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health was installed at The Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Partnering on initiatives like combating tobacco in 2008, Bloomberg’s continued support of The Foundation made him an easy shoe-in for what would become The Giving Pledge. Having  stood as the “Republican” mayor of NYC since 2001 Bloomberg abandoned the party back in 2007. His New York political ties and media assets were surely welcome additions. Expecting Obama’s popularity to retain incumbency, it was time to look forward to 2016 and an alternative method: False Flag Candidacy.

If one were to attempt to defame the opposition, how would you go about doing so from the inside? What would be the ideal situation for a false flag candidate?  You would need someone who could give you the following:

– Brand-name recognition (early easy polling)
– Financial means enough to combat Koch-handout candidates
– A history of voting Republican (recognizable conservatism)
– The ability to energize supporters to action (strong public speaking)
– Enough media attention to combat the inevitable dismissal by Fox News

Donald Trump not only qualifies for the above, but he’s also thrown the left two MASSIVE gifts by:

– Angering the opposition into vocal action beyond what the status quo candidates would normally push (even to an international level)
– Suggesting a 3rd-party run if the GOP continues to oppose him.

So how did Trump get involved? Despite acknowledgement of Trump’s base, Buffett’s direct ties to the candidate aren’t significant (though it’s great to hear his commentary on the entertainment value). Similar story with Gates. So if a connection to the Clintons seems too obvious, then maybe a casual golf companion like Michael Bloomberg seems more appropriate.

(Photo: July 14, 2008: Joe Torre’s Safe At Home Foundation Golf Classic


But why would Trump agree to run for The Giving Pledge + Clintons? Do we really need a reason beyond the attention? He’s now the star of the greatest reality television show ever!

Yet hidden beneath his recent inflammatory rhetoric and xenophobic bullshit lies a single principal: separation of big money from politics. Trump’s been steadfast with this idea since his announcement and his ability to self-finance stands as a monument to the power of one individual’s influence over political system. Perhaps Trump’s also realized that all of the money and attention in the world is meaningless if he does nothing remarkable with it.

“But what about his loyalty pledge to the RNC?” Pffffftt! You think that would stop The Don from doing whatever the hell he wants? Last week’s shots back at Paul Ryan speak volumes. His continued pledge during the last night’s debate really wasn’t very credible as he demands to still be treated fairly by Reince Priebus and GOP leadership.

Most likely scenario? I’m just totally wrong here. Trump really is just a rogue Republican who loves the popularity currently being showered upon him from the likes of Murdoch, Bloomberg, Ted Turner, and all of our social media.

Capitalist theory and physics both tell us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So for every move the Koch/Big Oil think tanks spends towards deregulated anarchy, The Giving Pledge counters with insurance policies like the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

And the chess game rages on.

Bold Prediction for 11/08/16: Democrats win in landslide following Trump exit’s causing the GOP split. Gives concession speech on behalf of the Great American Party (GAP). Trump invites special guest to say a few words. Ashton Kutcher can be seen pushing a very large sparkling cake to the stage. Taking the mic, “America…you just got PUNK’D!” Fireworks + 1812 overture. Bill Clinton pops out of the cake and gives Trump an ultimate high five. Helicopter carries them away. David and Charles Koch retreat back to their Technodrome to go about their fracking.

Some key events:
July 5th 1991: Buffett and Gates meet for first time.
August 2001: Donald Trump registers as a Dem.
-January 22, 2005: Trump wedding. Clintons attend. Hil sits up-front.
September 25, 2005: John Roberts appointed Supreme Court Justice
November 14, 2005: Koch Industries’ acquisition of Georgia-Pacific turns it into the largest privately held corporation in the United States with annual sales of $80bill.
June 25th, 2006: Buffett commits most of his fortune to The Gates Foundation.
December 16, 2007: Ron Paul fundraiser raises $6mil in 24hrs. The Tea Party is born.
June 07, 2008: Hillary Clinton ends Presidential bid. Supports Obama.
August 18, 2008: Citizens United vs FEC Case docketed w/ SCOTUS.
March 24, 2009: Citizens United vs FEC Argued
May 5, 2009: Buffett/Gates hold confidential New York meeting with 9 other billionaires to talk “philanthropy.”
September 2009: Donald Trump re-registers as a Republican.
September 9, 2009: Citizens United vs FEC Re-argued
January 21, 2010Citizens United vs FEC comes to close. Corporate contributions to PACs no longer have limits.
June 16, 2010: The Giving Pledge announced. Bloomberg joins 08/04.
November 2, 2010: Election Day.
March 23, 2011: Trump first speaks as birther.
April 30, 2011: Obama mocks Trump at White House Correspondents Dinner
November 06, 2011: Election Day. Kochs spend reported $60mil against Obama
June 16, 2015: Trump announces candidacy
November 29, 2015: Key Giving Pledge members announce the Breakthrough Energy Coalition to accelerate clean energy research/production.







The Season Hath Arrived (wait…which season?)

The Great Season is finally upon us! As summer’s warmth fades with the arrival of September, so too comes the irrational hope of so many devotees. Time for watercooler conversations about how one camp is FINALLY going to pull it together this year. Or how the performance of an individual player could be enough to carry the weight of relevancy as the weeks pass by. Until finally, with boisterous anticipation on a cold Sunday evening in February, we’ll all gather around our televisions to see one camp capture the season’s ultimate golden prize.

The field for contention may be more crowded than we’ve seen in recent seasons. Yet there are two organizations whose talent stands on a tier above the rest. Their peers will be left fighting for meager scraps of the same conversation.

This season’s two prime contenders will be… Steve Jobs and The Revenant.

These teams are talent juggernauts assembled from molds of victory. Directors? Boyle and Iñárritu are easy Top 5 living/working. Leads? Michael Fassbender (riding a heat check) and Leo (who need only be mentioned mononymously). Other casts members?A bundle of true A-Listers.

Each camp is also armed with the most renowned and powerful artistic weapons of their respective fields. X-factors. Off the top of your head, who’s the most renowned screenwriter in the biz? Chances are you’re thinking of Aaron Sorkin. What about the top DP? Off back-to-back wins, it’s clearly Emmanuel Lubezki. Each has contributed their strengths in an attempt to distinguish these pics from their now-formulaic biographical predecessors. With Jobs, Sorkin wrote three clearly defined scene-acts (filmed by Boyle/Küchler in three different formats). With Revenant, Iñárritu/Chivo opted for a difficult path with their au-natural photography and a grueling production schedule.

Many pics will find their way on the shortlist for various merits but the REAL heavyweight fighters always excel at the following: strength of release schedule, accessibility to SAG members, and delivering content that appeals to the crucial “OWMs” (Old White Males) who rep the majority of Academy voters.

With Steve Jobs, all three criteria are easily met. Universal has taken the early buzz-grab road of debuting Jobs through a festival before opening wide in October (the release month of the last 3 Best Pic winners), They will have plenty of time to host Q&As and mail screeners before SAG noms are due on December 7th. With continued positive buzz, $100mil by then doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable (one more thing to tout on “For Your Consideration” ads). “OWM” appeal? LOL! See film title.

Fox seems to have a bit more work cut out for them with The Revenant. The Christmas Day frame is VERY crowded  And while the limited release insures they meet the mandated one-week run in the calendar year, no Best Pic winner in 11 years has opened so late. This far out, it’s also hard to ignore even the most mild comparison to Malick’s The New World which will have opened exactly 10 years prior. But again, the track records of this team should be enough to make this thing really sparkle. While on-set tribulations feel reminiscent of something from Aguirre, the “no expense spared” attitude reflects a heavy level of confidence in the reigning Best Director. “OWM” appeal: 17th century westward trappers battling elements and BEARS. Oh and Grade A+ technical production. But if Fox can’t get Revenant to mature in time for this race, they may choose to instead run Ridley Scott’s The Martian as their Thoroughbred (though genre pics are generally viewed as box office Clydesdales instead of arthouse racers).

This season will certainly see a solid count of talent-laden prospects (Joy, The Hateful Eight, Spotlight, Brooklyn, Suffragette) and hot button dramas (The Danish GirlBeasts of No NationCarol, SnowdenFreeheld), But at the end of the day this game is all about appealing to one group: Hollywood’s Old White Men. Gazing forward, Steve Jobs and The Revenant seem best-positioned to greet them.