In anticipation of awards season, The Hollywood Reporter held its first Studio Executive Oscar roundtable discussion, and as if to highlight the gender disparity at the highest management levels of the major Hollywood studios, allowed one woman—Universal co-chairman Donna Langley—to occupy a seat. Langley was quick to point out, though, that making disastrous, artless, wrong-headed business decisions is not the sole providence of white men in their 60s.
“The single worst moment is the all-around failure of any movie. This year, to air my dirty laundry, it’s no secret that it was Battleship.”
No one else at the table—including Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker, 58, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairman Rob Friedman, 62, Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, 60, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, 61, and Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore, 50—wanted to talk specifically about unthinkably bad decisions that their studios had made, but Moore, who was wearing a suit made out of money feigned humility by saying, “[T]here are… times when you put all this time, energy and investment into something and nobody cares. That’s when it’s really hard.” Of course he was not referring to the Paranormal Activity franchise, which has grossed in excess of $1 trillion dollars to date on a cumulative 4-film budget of $800.
The executives were not at the table to discuss their previous successes and failures (I mean, they were; Gianopulos is still really bummed that The Hurt Locker beat Avatar), but rather their future successes and failures. When asked how much awards mean to him, Michael Barker of Sony Pictures Classics was quick to point out:
“Here’s the thing: The Academy Awards, as far as the nominations are concerned, they’ve had a lot of integrity. They don’t pay attention to commerce and so forth. Yes, there are many years when the best film doesn’t win, but it’s almost irrelevant.” Amongst the best films that didn’t win Best Picture include every movie Sony Classics has ever released.
That streak is almost certain to continue, since this year Sony Classics didn’t release any films in English (though its top contenders Rust and Bone and Amour are shoe-ins for Best Foreign nominations), but also because DreamWorks is releasing Lincoln—whose trailer, the AV Club pointed out, has already won an Academy Award. Mr. Katzenberg, who isn’t technically lobbying for Lincoln, campaigned slyly for the film by saying:
“Most of these executives here have been in business with Steven Spielberg over the years, and one of the things I’ve always respected enormously about Steven is that there is no such thing as campaigning, even during our DreamWorks phase. It was like: ‘Forget it. I don’t do this. This is not what the Academy is about. I don’t believe in it.’ He forbade us from campaigning.”
Everybody else at the table was like, “You don’t have to campaign for Lincoln! It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as fucking president Abraham Lincoln!”