Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sticking to My Guns: Why I'm Predicting Amy Adams

I don't fancy myself an Oscar savant of any kind. I realize that most of my high scores in prediction pools are largely because I pay very close attention to the opinions of others. So if I'm predicting something to be nominated or win, it's likely because I saw the prediction elsewhere, thought there was good logic behind it and decided to predict it myself.
"I like my life."
And yet this year, I'm making one screwball prediction that is almost destined to fall short: Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress. That's right: over her The Fighter co-star Melissa Leo, over BAFTA winner Helena Bonham Carter, over my former personal pick Jacki Weaver (my opinion's shifted a bit in recent weeks), and over wunderkind child actress Hailee Steinfeld. What gives me such faith in the three-time Oscar nominee who's never really come close to the gold before? What makes me think that Adams, who absolutely no one is predicting to win, is such a sure bet to win the gold?

In short, I have no idea. But I'm sticking to my guns.

In truth, I was never sure who would prevail in this year's supporting actress race. Leo seemed like a safe enough bet, but once I saw the performance, I was underwhelmed. Yes, good Oscarology never has anything to do with your personal opinion, but it's difficult to really feel for a performance's chances that you never quite understood. So no, Leo didn't really do anything for me in The Fighter, but Adams sure did.

She was by far my favorite part of the film, and probably my bronze medalist for my personal Best Supporting Actress race (got to get around to updating that--so many snap judgments and favorites I was unwilling to drop that I would probably switch my winner and runner-up in the same race, meaning Marion Cotillard would be the proud (?) owner of an Awkward). Upon repeat viewings of her big "Oscar scene," which I will subtitle 'I Like My Life,' I've grown to truly appreciate the quiet fury she brought to the performance, the layers of depth she gave the simple bar girl known as Charlene. She was more than just a supportive spouse--she was truly the light in Mickey Ward's life.

But what am I saying? My personal opinion is of no relevance here. Why do I stick with Adams to win Best Supporting Actress despite the fact that she has not picked up one major precursor prize? If I think the "Consider... Melissa Leo" PR hiccup was so disastrous, why not have Steinfeld or Bonham Carter as the recipient of the fallout's riches?

Well, if I had to formulate a complete theory, it would be broken up into three parts: the Marcia Gay Harden effect, the 3-in-5 effect, and the No Sweeps effect.

Marcia Gay Harden effect
The surprise win by Marcia Gay Harden.
An actress can easily swoop in and take the big prize in this race with little trouble--Marcia Gay Harden in Pollock, for instance. No one expected Harden, who was completely absent from all precursors, even for nominations, to win once she snagged the surprise nomination for Pollock. Yet win it she did, upsetting Golden Globe-winning favorite Kate Hudson for Almost Famous. Another example of this effect would be Juliette Binoche winning her Oscar for The English Patient over heavy favorite Lauren Bacall for The Mirror Has Two Faces. It's not like predicting an upset is the smart thing to do, but it's entirely possible that Adams could win without any precursor support.

3-in-5 effect
Getting nominated for three Oscars in five years and not even coming close to winning is very difficult to do. George Clooney won his Oscar for Syriana in 2005, then got nominated in 2007 and 2009 for Michael Clayton and Up in the Air, respectively. Phillip Seymour Hoffman won his Oscar the same year Clooney won his for Capote, then was nominated again in 2007 and 2008 for Charlie Wilson's War and Doubt. Penelope Cruz was first nominated for Volver in 2006, then won two years later for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She snagged a surprise nomination the following year for Nine. (Conversely, Meryl Streep has been nominated thrice in five years for The Devil Wears Prada in 2006, Doubt in 2008 and Julie & Julia in 2009 without winning once, but she came very close each time.) The idea that Adams is going to place third or fourth again (her performance in Junebug likely ran behind both winner Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams, while her peformance in Doubt ran behind her co-star Viola Davis and winner Cruz, as well as The Wrestler's Marisa Tomei) is a little hard to swallow. The Academy's love for her is growing, not staying static. I can't see her not at least coming close this time.

No Sweeps effect
This isn't going to be a year when one film sweeps everything--the biggest haul I'm expecting is six wins for The King's Speech, and that's a haul that does not include either supporting acting race. I'm not expecting any major haul for True Grit, either--I'm betting Cinematography is going to be their consolation prize. Sure, it's possible that The King's Speech could take every major prize in sight, but most are betting they'll miss Sound Mixing, Editing, Cinematography, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress, and I'm betting it'll miss Director on top of that. Since it's safe to assume it won't sweep everything, the assumption that Bonham Carter will win on the coattails of the film is irrational. Same for True Grit: the Academy does really like it, but I'm not sure it will love it. Steinfeld, Bonham Carter, and the too-unknown Weaver are all bad bets. Assuming that the For Your Consideration scandal is as damaging as I think it will be to Leo, I think Adams is going to be the beneficiary.

Now, you could poke major holes in my theory. No movie with two supporting actress nominees has won for either performance in the past few years (Up in the Air and Doubt are the two most recent examples) and the utter lack of traction for Adams' campaign is disheartening. Even more than that, there have been women who have been nominated more (and just as quickly) without winning: Glenn Close and Kate Winslet are the two most obvious examples. So Adams could still lose. And she probably will.

But I have a strange confidence in her chances. It's a dynamite performance and one I'm not sure the Academy will be able to ignore. I hope for the best.


Robert said...

I'm so glad you wrote this because I remember the first time I saw that Amy Adams was doing this movie I thought "well, that's the one she'll finally win her Oscar for." But I've kind of given up on that idea considering the lack of traction - but your post makes it all seem so possible! She was the best part of the Fighter and I'd love to see her win over Leo.

And even though it's impossible wouldn't it be amazing to see Jacki Weaver win...*sigh*

Kevin said...

You know, Robert, I'd *actually* prefer an Adams win. She was really phenomenal in the film, rising above the fray, and I think she really deserves the gold.

That being said, I'm really not such a huge fan that I'm allowing my opinion to color my prediction. It just so happens in this one case that my preference and prediction are aligned.