2023 Oscar Predictions: No Country for Old Wells

This episode was supposed to be a brief discussion on the Academy Awards and our 2023 Oscar Predictions. What no one could have predicted was our conversation on them would take up the majority of the podcast. Okay, if regular listeners of our show know anything, it doesn’t take much for Teal or myself to go down a rabbit hole. But honest, this episode was going to be about two films from the BFI 250 list of the Greatest films of all time. Last episode I gave Teal a challenge. He took on the challenge, and we were set to go boating with Celine and Julie by way of the Mother and the Whore. Soon! Soon, I promise.

Instead we turned our attentions to 2023 Oscar predictions, and most experts believe the big winner of the night will be Everything Everywhere All at Once. Not that everyone in Oscar blog land is happy about this, more on that in a moment. However, this weekend’s Academy Awards could do something rare, which is dole out a few surprises. There is a two-way race happening in the Best Actress category, and a three-way race in Best Actor. While Supporting Actor appears sewn up by a friendly fellow from the 80s, could there be an upset brewing in the Supporting Actress category?

But what set our episode down the long path was my issue with how certain Oscar bloggers are handling the race, and first on my hit list is critic Peter Travers. Travers’ recent 2023 Oscar Predictions piece on Good Morning America’s site angered me, not so much for what he was predicting, but the disingenuous lead-in Travers took to get there. I’m tired of critics, bloggers, and Oscar watchers framing every season in terms of who got left out and the perception of why. Often, they leave off whether or not the films and performances they want to trade off were worthy in the first place. Instead, they tend to frame the conversation on The Academy being some evil cabal bent on keeping this one or that one out of the running due to race, gender, or some other factor. Honestly? I don’t give the Academy that much credit. It’s a conversation, for sure, but I’m not sure how important that conversation it is in terms of a little gold statue. Still, I wonder, in Peter Travers case, does he feel left behind from all the younger ‘social justice warrior’ social media bloggers who seem to put real film discussion second to how reflective a film is of their holier than though belief systems that he deemed it necessary to jump on the bandwagon? It’s okay, Peter, A.O. Scott is reviewing books now, you don’t have to race to take his place. Or maybe Travers feels guilty about once belonging to that white male establishment boys club that he knocks in his GMA piece.

On the flip side of the coin we have notorious movie blogger bad boy, Jeffrey Wells. Wells staked his claim in the movie blogger game long before all the other noted film critics lost their newspaper jobs, and way before the new throng of woke stalinist social justice warrior movie kidz (I’m stealing a lot from Jeffrey here) came to spoil Jeff’s online film/life/festival-world party. For nearly twenty years, controversy abounds on his site, Hollywood Elsewhere.

Before starting HE, Wells wrote various columns and blogs on Kevin Smith’s Movie Poop Shoot, and reel.com before that. In the 90s Wells wrote for People, EW, the LA Times, and other syndications. The guy’s been around, and It’s understandable that longing for the good old days when a white male entertainment writer could be a king, is more than a part-time hobby.

The game is certainly not the same as it was in the 90’s, or even the early 2000s, when studio’s shelled out the dollars come Oscar season to throw banner ads on any movie-review sight getting hits. Wells would be the first to admit those days were grand, and lucrative.

Say anything you like about Jeffrey Wells, but you have to admit; the guy is a straight-shooter. He speaks his mind, and if that offends you, that’s your problem, not his. To say Jeffrey Wells is politically incorrect is putting things mildly. He’s definitely a personification of a certain type of white male of a particular age group. Change ain’t in him, and if the world is changing, they’re wrong and he’s right. His stick in the mud routine can amuse, at times, but at other times he feels a bit like a broken record.

Over the past several years Wells’ comments caught up with him. The new rules of the day don’t suit him, and his often frank way of writing have gotten him into trouble. Posts he made in 2021 got him banned from the Critics Choice Association. Friends turned their backs. Festivals which Jeffrey attended yearly, and touted many films months before they came out, made him persona non grata. Fellow critics lashed out and called him to task. Did any of this change Wells’ behavior? Far from it. Jefrey Wells tripled down, and turned his site into a one-man film crusade to take down what he views is a culture of Stalinist Wokesterism.

A little of that can go a long way to making a point, and as Teal mentions in a surprising defense of Wells on our episode, Wells does bring up some valid points in terms of a larger conversation going on today. But what turned me off of Wells, who I used to read religiously for a good 16 years or so, is that his posts have become almost one note. It’s all through the lens of some type of anti-woke agenda. It’s as if Wells sees himself as the one person standing up against an industry, and that he alone can make people see the light of day. And why he came up in today’s podcast was, I took as much offense with Wells’ non-stop brutal attacks against Everything Everywhere All at Once as I did to Peter Travers remarks on his Oscar post.

During this Oscar season there is no bigger target for Jeffrey Wells than Everything Everywhere All at Once. He hates this movie. Don’t believe me? He’s got like fifty different pieces on how much he hates it. I’m fine with someone in the film review/critic/discussion business not liking something. I’m fine with them even hating a film for valid reasons. But Jeffrey’s obsession with this film is unhealthy. Worst of all, his take on the movie and why it’s so bad is bizarrely aligned with his perceptions that the movie is caught up in a wave of wokester identity politics. There’s a lot about this movie Jeffrey misses, and in his bubble of supporters who feed Jeffrey like a troll, with their adulation, it’s not my place to try and tell him he’s wrong. I just think it does a disservice to him and the great writer I knew him to be.

So, this episode (beginning around the 23.30 mark) turns into more of a Jeffrey Wells discussion than Teal or I planned. And it isn’t something we normally do. I don’t like getting into what could be perceived as Jeffrey Wells bashing; he gets enough of that from others. So, in fairness to Jeffrey, should he happen to listen to this episode, and wants to discuss his side of things further, we would be happy to do an episode of the show with him. We take on all comers. He can hang his cowboy hat down on our bed and make a reservation on the show anytime. We’ll give him an all-access pass.

Oh, and after all that, we still had time to talk about how much we hate Knock at the Cabin. We’re thinking it won’t be making the rounds next awards season, so don’t expect multiple episodes of hatred.


And we can always be reached by email: jimandteal@stuffweveseen.com

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