Best Picture debate: Tim Appelo vs. Anne Thompson

Two of our top pundits — Tim Appelo (Hollywood Reporter) and Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood) — tangle over the Best Picture odds for “The Kids Are All Right.” Anne thinks that the so-called “steak eaters” in the academy will not go for this film while Tim says most of the other frontrunners are not tilted toward the testosterone tendencies of these voters either.

Anne defines this faction as “red-blooded males (not just American, Europeans and Aussies too), often directors, writers and craftspeople. They’re the guys who voted for ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ ‘Braveheart,’ ‘Gladiator,’ ‘Avatar’ and yes, ‘Crash’ over ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ ‘They vote for big movies that make big money, good solid moviemaking with great actors and good storytelling,’ says one veteran Oscar campaigner. ”True Grit’ is for them.’”

As such, she says that they won’t be won over by “The Kids Are All Right” because it is: 1. a women’s picture; 2. a gay movie; 3. written and directed by a woman; and 4. a small-scale $4-million contemporary film. And, as Anne explains, “academy voters are predominantly male, and so is the Academy directors branch. The dominant actors’ branch comes closest to a 50/50 male/female split.”

However, counters Tim, “balancing the Oscar menace of the ‘Steak Eaters’ are what I call the ‘Often Female Vegetarians’ — people who shy away from the artful, wonderfully red-blooded violence in ‘127 Hours,’ for instance. ‘My wife said, ‘I can’t watch this movie,” says longtime Academy member Murray Weissman, in the PR branch. ‘I’m seeing this great movie, and she said, ‘You’ll have to watch this by yourself.”

Tim says, “Weissman pooh-poohs the notion that AMPAS is dominated by Steak Eaters who crave red-meat movies. ‘I don’t buy any of that. I think they’re in pursuit of excellence, movies they’re touched by. I was involved in the ‘Crash’ campaign. It wasn’t a question of meat eaters.” He was also involved in ‘Shakespeare in Love’s upset victory over the positively steak-devouring (yet also soulful) ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ a contest that others have cited as precedent for ‘Kids’ possible Oscar victories. ‘I don’t buy that Steak stuff. It sounds like blog people trying to do something interesting.'”

Yesterday, Dave Karger and Sasha Stone discussed the merits of the two top Best Picture contenders — “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.” Expect more online wrangling in the weeks leading up to the nominations being announced on Jan. 25 and the winners being revealed on Feb. 27.

Photo: Annette Bening, Lisa Cholodenko and Julianne Moore on the set of “The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features)

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