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Susan Granger Picks The Winners – Mostly

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Syndicated entertainment critic Susan Granger publishes her Oscar predictions every year. She shared them with Y’s Men last Thursday, then Westport Sunrise Rotary on Friday.

Ms. Granger grew up in Beverly Hills and in the movies. “Movies are a family business.” Her father, S. Sylvan Simon, and adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, were directors and producers, as are her brother and her son today. As as a child she appeared in films with Abbott and Costello, Lucille Ball and Lassie.

She used what started as pieces of her daily life to build a career as an entertainment critic. She writes a regular column for the Hearst newspapers, she has appeared in magazines around the globe, and has been an on-air commentator and critic for over 25 years. And Ms. Granger is a widely sought after speaker.

She began by telling both groups that Oscar night is the “motion picture industry’s big night,” and is produced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to promote the film industry.

The Academy was founded in 1927 by 36 of “the most influential men and women in the motion picture industry” for the purpose of promoting the film industry. Today it counts over 6,000 members, each belonging to one of the 15 branches representing a piece of the industry – among them actors, directors, producers, writers, publicists and executives. Prospective members are invited by their peers and membership is a “high honor.”

The Academy is 94 percent white, 77 percent male and with an average age of 62, facts that often condition its selections.

The industry, Granger noted, “showed resilience” in 2012 – after a weak 2011. Domestic box office receipts were $10.8 billion, and, like admissions, rose by six percent – despite a meager 3D line up. These gains were propelled by commercially successful and well reviewed films such as The Avengers, The Hunger Games and Skyfall.

Then she called domestic receipts “only the tip of the iceberg.” There’s also foreign box office, DVDs, Netflix, Redbox, PPV and multiple other ways to enjoy the industry’s product. Is it difficult to see the theater release as simply the teaser for the revenue chain that follows it?

Important as the art of film making is, Granger emphasized that the industry is a business – it’s “the movie business, not the movie art.”

Moving on to the Oscars, she told the groups that nominations for Best Picture are made by the entire academy, all the others by their branch. The entire membership then votes for all the awards.

She introduced her predictions by saying “please, please don’t bet money.”

Nine films received nominations for Best Picture, only five for Best Director. Ben Affleck, despite having won the Golden Globe, was snubbed in the Oscar nominations for Argo, as was Katherine Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, and Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained. Newcomer Ben Zeitlin was also also overlooked for Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Argo, she correctly predicted, would win Best Picture. She called it “exciting, wonderful… if you read newspapers you know the ending, yet it makes you feel good about being an American.”

The “underappreciated” Steven Spielberg, Lincoln’s director, she predicted, would win that category for two reasons – he was not competing against Ben Affleck, and the award would be a “reward for his body of work.” Granger called Spielberg a ”genius of our age.” Unfortunately he did not win the statue. Ang Lee did, for Life of Pi.

Granger predicted Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of Abraham Lincoln would win Best Actor in a Leading Role. He “swept all the critics’ awards, in addition to the Screen Actors Guild award from his peers.” A win, she added, would make him the first to take home three Best Actor Oscars. He did and he is.

Jennifer Lawrence was Granger’s winning prediction for Best Actress in a Leading Role in Silver Linings Playbook. She, too won the SAG award and also “stars in the blockbuster action franchise The Hunger Games.”

Granger called Tommy Lee Jones the favorite for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his work in Lincoln. This was her other miss, as the Oscar went to Christoph Waltz for his role in Django Unchained.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role went to Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables. She lost 25 pounds for her part as the “doomed” Fantine. Granger commented that she “sings her heart out in ‘I Dreamed a Dream,’” and noted that Les Miz established a “new precedent,” having the actors sing live rather than lip synch to pre-recorded tracks.

Granger commented on the controversies about Argo, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty. Each came under fire for historical “inaccuracies.” The chase scene at the end of Argo was fabricated for dramatic effect, Tony Kushner, Lincoln’s screenwriter, “changed history” by having two representatives from Connecticut vote “no” on the 13th Amendment, when, in fact, they voted “yes,” and Zero Dark Thirty Director Katherine Bigelow was attacked for her use of torture.

Her response to all three was “these are movies… they may be based on actual events, but movies are stories… if you want truth, go see a documentary.”

She talked about violence, calling it a “huge controversy,” and cited Jack Reacher, a movie produced by her son, Don Granger. It premiered in London in early December, 2012, in Stockholm a few days later to “wonderful” critical reviews, then in Madrid.

It was scheduled to open in Pittsburgh, where it was shot, then at Lincoln Center, when the Newtown massacre took place. The movie was canceled and the ads pulled. But, she added, it recouped it costs – movie making is a business.

Among the questions she answered was one from a Y’s Man, whether she saw herself as objective or subjective. She called the question “very legitimate,” and responded that if there is something the reader should know that might affect her review, she puts a disclaimer in the first line – “My son was a producer of Jack Reacher.” She also tells the film’s target audience what they need to know to determine whether to see it or not rather than writing to a broad audience.

Susan Granger correctly predicted five of the seven major Oscar winners, she entertained both groups, and built up interest in movies (within two readily persuadable audiences) and in watching the Oscar ceremony.

If you’re interested in following Granger’s reviews visit her website: http://susangranger.com/.

Roy Fuchs

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