Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar Nominations Trivia: Original Women

Now that some of the annoyance with a few key snubs has subsided, I've started taking a closer look at the nominations and what it all means, exactly, as well as a few fun facts here and there that I find worth discussing. But first, a discussion of what I consider the two most egregious acting snubs this morning: those of Mila Kunis and Andrew Garfield.
"Someone's hot for snubbing!"

I know, there are other snubs that could be considered more surprising, like the lack of love for Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine and Robert Duvall's exclusion for Get Low. But what I find so hideous about the Kunis and Garfield snubs is that they are effective statements that young actors in true supporting roles are unwelcome in the race.

Garfield was displaced by John Hawkes, certainly a good villain in Winter's Bone but lacking a certain heart. Other than Jennifer Lawrence, that movie lacked heart completely--it was a cold film without any emotional entry point, in my opinion. (Then again, I didn't really like Lawrence's performance, so that might have something to do with it.) I don't know why someone like Hawkes who, yes, does nomination-worthy work, should be considered a replacement for a truly authentic, relatable performance as Garfield's. (If I had my way, I would have removed the co-lead Christian Bale or Geoffrey Rush instead of Garfield, though Rush was actually my runner-up for the prize--then again, Garfield was my winner.)

Kunis I don't have the same personal passion for, but I consider a symbol of their half-hearted acceptance of Black Swan, which I resent. They love the film, they love the lead actress, they love the direction--what about the screenplay? The visual effects? The art direction? The costume design? The makeup? The supporting cast? If Kunis had made it in, or Hershey, or Ryder, I wouldn't be so upset. But no, Hailee Steinfeld made it in for her category-fraudulent performance in True Grit. It's irritating.

All right, I'm done venting. Onto the trivia!

The Best Actress Category: All Characters
I'm really fascinated by this--compare the Best Actress category to the Best Actor category. In the Best Actor category, you have the three frontrunning men playing famous figures (Colin Firth as King George VI, Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, and James Franco as hiker Aron Ralston) with a fourth playing a famous character (Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn). Javier Bardem, a surprise nominee for Biutiful as the miserable Uxbal, is the only actor playing an original character. The Best Actress race, however, is filled with women playing flawed, original characters--Annette Bening as Nic in The Kids Are All Right, Natalie Portman as soon-to-be-iconic Nina Sayers, Nicole Kidman as Becca Corbett, a role originated by Cynthia Nixon in the Broadway production of Rabbit Hole, Michelle Williams as Cindy in Blue Valentine, and Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly in Winter's Bone. It's an interesting distinction in two different ways: one, that there truly are great roles being written for women, and two, that movies about famous men are far more common.

Nolan's Snub: Three Strikes, He's Out?
There has been but one other director nominated thrice for the Directors' Guild of America Award without being nominated once for the equivalent Academy Award before Inception's Christopher Nolan: Rob Reiner, famed director of When Harry Met Sally... and A Few Good Men. Reiner remains, to this day, without an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. It seems like Nolan is going to be relegated to the same fate--they just don't like what he does, sadly.

The King's Comeback
The King's Speech didn't make it through the early phase of the awards season very well, but getting 12 nominations this morning is certainly a nice achievement. Most prognosticators have swapped their allegiance to TKS over The Social Network now--I'd urge them to remember that the movie with the most nominations doesn't always win (Slumdog Millionaire over The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). I'm sticking with The Social Network. But it seems like a real race now.

Obvious Winners
By now, everyone seems to wholeheartedly believe that Portman, Firth and Christian Bale have their Oscars locked up--I'd agree with them. A lot of bluster will be made over whether Bening can beat Portman--just remember the past two years how Meryl Streep couldn't overcome Kate Winslet or Sandra Bullock despite vastly better performances. Firth and Bale are completely locked, but I don't think that Melissa Leo is locked up in the same fashion. I'd say that she's probably in second or third place right now--I'd place better odds on Amy Adams and (possibly) Jacki Weaver to swoop in and take the prize. The Supporting Actress race just seems too loose and open to surprises.

White Oscars
Finally, and this isn't something I usually wax on about, but watching Mo'Nique deliver the nominations announcement this morning (eloquently and with poise, as always), it was really shocking how white all the faces of the acting nominees were. It just proves a reminder to Hollywood that there are so many wonderful women and men of color working today, like Forest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, Djimon Honsou, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Kerry Washington, Mo'Nique, Gabourey Sidibe, Halle Berry and Idris Elba. To waste them is a crying shame--even though five of the aforementioned are Oscar winners, their work since then just hasn't been the same, and it's not because of their abilities--it's because of the parts Hollywood gives them.

Any more bits of trivia I missed? What do you make of all the original parts for women? Take those thoughts to the comments!

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