The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Oscar whopper of the week: Clint Eastwood not arrow straight?

November 6, 2009 |  1:04 pm

I hope none of my editors will take this personally, but there's nothing scarier than seeing a newspaper editor write his own story without some kindly soul hovering nearby, making sure the editor, left to his own devices, doesn't fire off a few zany lightning bolts that should never make the page. I fear that's what happened to Variety editor Timothy Gray today, who offers up an otherwise perfectly serviceable preview of the oncoming Oscar season, reminding us of all the changes afoot -- top studio executive hirings and firings, the disappearance of first-dollar gross deals, and the expansion of the Oscar best picture nominees.

Oscar But in his quest to portray this season as marvelously different from all other seasons, he arrived at this whopper: "There are so many films from female, gay, minority and foreign-language helmers that seem to be worthy of consideration this year that it's possible the best-director noms might not include a single English-speaking, Caucasian, straight male."

Say what?

If you look at any one of the multitude of Oscar prognostication lists in the blogosphere, you'll find that among the obvious best picture favorites are movies directed by the likes of Clint Eastwood ("Invictus"), Quentin Tarantino ("Inglourious Basterds"), Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air"), Pete Docter ("Up"), the Coen brothers ("A Serious Man") and James Cameron ("Avatar"). All of the aforementioned are straight, white guys -- and frankly, from everything I know about the many-times-married Cameron, when it comes to being straight, you'd have to count him twice.

Mark Twain had a term for Gray's kind of wacky prediction -- he called it a "stretcher," as in a preposterous exaggeration. It would be wonderful to have a more diverse lineup of filmmakers in the best director race, since so few studios make an effort to hire minorities or women. But the revolution is still off on the horizon. You can bet that, as always, there will plenty of straight white guys at the Kodak Theatre this year, anxiously wondering if their name will be called oh-so-late in the evening when the best director nod comes around.

Photo of Oscar statuettes by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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