Monday, October 20, 2008

Giving Oscar His Due

I rarely bring Oscar up, but I have written about him before. Back then I warned against premature Oscar "buzz" for a certain performance.

Now, I am questioning the readers of this blog: which performances have sufficient "buzz" at this juncture to be considered as possible nominees come winter?

I primarily ask because it seems like this Oscar season has been the quietest, most barren in a long time. We still have more than two months, but on the whole, this seems like a rather weak year for speculative Oscar hype, especially in terms of destined-for-Oscar performances.

The only three probable "locks" I can think of at this time are Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (best supporting actor), Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona (best supporting actress) and, despite not having been seen by yours truly, Angelina Jolie for Changeling (best actress--it's Eastwood, many think she should have been nominated last year for A Mighty Heart, etceteras).

Possible contenders would include Melissa Leo for Frozen River, Richard Jenkins for The Visitor, Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married (unseen by yours truly yet again, so take this with an extra tiny grain of salt) and Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler as well as possibly Marisa Tomei for the same (again, unseen, so, please, do not take these glorified hunches particularly seriously).

I almost never bring Oscar up, but I am doing so now in the context of performances this year that were memorable, or Oscar-friendly. One of my favorite performances of the year was Andrew Garfield in Boy A, an ostensibly impossible long shot to be recognized.

It seems like no one is bringing up "Oscar" yet, and it's intriguing. Aside from the push to have The Dark Knight recognized, and a few of these aforementioned performances, it does not seem like there is much to fight over this year. Ironically, I will likely not bring Oscar up for a long time here, as others are able to follow the horse race with greater enthusiasm, passion and awards group-by-awards group coverage and analysis. It's seldom brought up here, and I tend to enjoy writing about it more as a reflection of the year, and the zeitgeist of that year.


Craig Kennedy said...

I agree that Oscar season is upon us, but I'm really not ready to think about it yet.

It wouldn't hurt to think back and some of the performances and films I've been entranced by so far this year, but I can't help feeling the best is yet to come.

Having said that, adding to what you have here I think Streep has a shot for Doubt. Could Pitt pull a nom for Button? I don't know about that film. I have a hard time believing the Academy will accept Fincher.

I like Hathaway's chances. And Cruz.

Coleman's Corner in Cinema... said...

Yes, I thought about bringing up more future performances like Pitt in Button or Streep in Doubt. Those are likely contenders.

I am greatly looking forward to Rachel Getting Married.

Anonymous said...

As Jenkins has given the best performance of the year by a leading actor, I would like to believe he is an absolute lock.

Like Craig, I also like Hathaways's chances, and both Rosemarie De Witt and Deborah Winger are in the mix as well.

BURN AFTER READING had some great supporting turns from John Malkovich, Brad Pitt and George Clooney. And I loved Sally Hawkins--annoyances and all--in HAPPY-GO-LUCKY.

If there was any real justice, there would be a bevy of foreign language performances eligible, starting with the lead in Sokurov's ALEXANDRE.

Having seen THE CHANGELING I would agree that Jolie will be among the final five come announcement time.

Matthew Lucas said...

I don't know if I would call Cruz a lock for VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA...but it's a possibility. I think the only absolute sure thing right now is Heath Ledger for THE DARK KNIGHT.

Maybe MAN ON WIRE for Best Documentary?

BENJAMIN BUTTON is definitely the front runner, at least on paper. But no one has seen it yet so that can change.

Coleman's Corner in Cinema... said...

Yes, those are some interesting choices to consider, Sam and Matthew. I agree that the lead in Alexandre should be considered; she was repeatedly breathtaking.

I suspect you will be proven right about Man on Wire for Best Documentary, Matthew. Unless there is some reason it cannot be nominated in that category--as we've seen with Oscar recently, many an obscure technicality can sabotage a deserving film (or score).

K. Bowen said...

Jolie - no. That's my first thought. It's not good enough, she gets talked up every year until she misses it, and even David Poland is down on her chances.

Even without her, the actress category has the potential to have the heaviest year in a long time. Imagine the likely field: Streep, Blanchett, Winslet, Hathaway, and Kristen Scott Thomas. Maybe sub in Jolie, Knightley, Blunt, or even Beckinsale. That's some serious acting talent and star power.

Compare it to last year .. the unknown French woman (Cotillard), the forgotten elder stateswoman (Christie), the teenage-ish unknown (Page), old reliable (Linney), and then a lesser Blanchett performance. A big step up in attractiveness.

All I can say is, poor Melissa Leo and Sally Hawkins. Last year they would have been strong contenders. This year there are so many big names to compete with. I can imagine waking up and seeing their names. But it's going to be tough. From the scuttlebutt, I'm guessing Winslet is probably the weak link. But then again, she has two shots, and there's a lot of sentiment that she's deserving.

I'll come back for more.

Coleman's Corner in Cinema... said...

Astute observations all around, KB. When it comes to Oscar, I need others to "light my fire" (a thematic carrying over from my W. thread, which has recently become about The Doors) and you have done precisely that.

I take it you have seen Changeling. Well, if Jolie doesn't make it, I see there will be a number of probably worthy (all sight unseen by me, except for Leo) contenders. You make an excellent point about Best Actress being almost uncharacteristically crowded. Even in more stellar Oscar years, the female lead category has often been weak. Not so this year, it appears.

K. Bowen said...

Well, I should say it wouldn't surprise me if Jolie gets a nom. But a lock? Definitely not. Every year, there's buildup about Jolie's chances, and every year she falls short. I would guess that's a sign of having a great PR machine. If she fell short last year, against that field, with what most consider a stronger performance, I find it hard to think she's a lock this year. But you never know. We haven't seen a lot of the other performances yet. I figure one of the favorites, at least, will fall by the wayside.

Changeling is about the most blatant case of a star trying to cry her way to an Oscar that you'll ever see.

Comparatively, the actor crop seems fairly weak in star power (Frank Langella? Richard Jenkins? Mickey Rourke?). At least Pitt will be there if Button's as good as rumored.

And I forgot to mention Kidman.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with K. Bowen on what he says about Jolie's prospective case of "crying her way to an Oscar." Her histrionics were the center of that film for sure.

Coleman's Corner in Cinema... said...

Most interesting. Yes, the best actor field does seem quite weak this year, probably even weaker than 2006.

I am not surprised by your terminology, KB--that Jolie's performance could push her into the nominees' circle by "crying her way to Oscar," as the trailer and ads have indicated all along. It seems like a natural Oscar performance, at least the kind that is nearly always nominated. Though that was true of her A Mighty Heart performance, too, but that film did have the disadvantages of being released in June (which didn't harm the unknown French lady) and was a movie loosely related to the war on terror that didn't find much of an audience. The Eastwood factor looms large, but that may not translate into success for Jolie.

You are correct, though, to reiterate, best actor is looking positively thin.

Coleman's Corner in Cinema... said...

Well, as I said over at LiC, it seems like we can pencil in Eastwood for a Best Actor nomination for Gran Torino.


Anonymous said...

Well, having seen The Duchess now, I would really like to see Keira Knightley get a nod again this year. She was really terrific.

And Brad Pitt needs to be nominated; right now he's looking good for Supporting Actor in Burn After Reading. We'll see what happens after Benjamin Button is released.

I think everyone is assuming that Heath Ledger will be nominated.

And I agree with Craig about Penelope Cruz's chances at getting nominated for one of her performances.

K. Bowen said...

You know, I like Keira in The Duchess. But it's one of those performances for which I think - she was better in Pride and Prejudice, and I expect her to be better in future films. I wouldn't be against it if she were to be nominated, though.

Alex, as far as the Eastwood ... I haven't watched the trailer, but everyone seems to like it and like his chances. I'm sure the Academy would be very happy with a nom.

Is Cruz that good in Elegy? I've studiously avoided the film. Ha!

Coleman's Corner in Cinema... said...

Very good thoughts, Alison.

The Duchess is one I'll probably have to catch up with on DVD. Maybe I can see it in theatres fairly soon.

Cruz is good in Elegy, KB, but the buzz is for her supporting turn in the Woody Allen picture, and that is where I believe she'll be recognized.

Judging by the trailer for Gran Torino, this may be the acting showcase that makes him a "serious threat" come Oscar night in the Best Actor category, especially with that field being so uncrowded this year.

Daniel said...

Great thoughts all around. (Can you tell I'm catching up?). I don't think I can think of any that haven't been brought up just yet, but I'm sure I'll have a solid list of "underrateds" by year end, starting with Andrew Garfield, continuing through the cast of Ballast (I'm waiting on reading reviews until I finish mine), and so on. I think Garfield is ineligible because Boy A played on Brit TV last year or something, but he's tops for the year for me for Best Actor, followed by far...