How meaningful is a Best Picture Oscar in the grand scheme of things? Well, obviously that’s going to depend on the point of view of each individual person considering the question. For the purposes of this article we’re going to assume that it’s a pretty big deal within the context of the awards themselves, but we’re going to have a look at the history of voting patterns in relation to other Oscars given out each year, its importance within the film business, and how these relate to long term relevance.
Let’s see how much I can find to say on this subject, shall we?
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Greetings lovely LeBlog readers! As a part of our Oscars coverage this year Lebeau and I decided to try a little conversation on the topic via traded typing. We’ll be discussing our personal favorite nominees, the current controversies surrounding the awards, our expectations of the televised event, and whatever else might just pop into our heads. I’m your Oscars coverage manager Daffystardust and obviously I’m an Oscars enthusiast. Lebeau is less so, but hey, his name’s on the joint so he’s gonna get his say. Hey there Lebeau! What stands out for you about this year’s nominated films and performances?
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This here is the big kahuna. Best Picture. The film that is held up as the best of the year and made to embody that year for the rest of all time. So why is the winner so often overshadowed by another nominee that gains with repeat watchings, or ages better, or simply is better? Why by my estimation are there more than forty nominated films over the years that have been better than the movie that ended up beating them for this honor? Well, group think is part of the explanation. A few of the right people start spreading an opinion and suddenly those around them start nodding along. It’s also fair to say that it’s not always easy to figure out what will age well or be seen as not just out of fashion, but downright corny or offensive by future generations. You can’t expect the voters to be soothsayers. The sooth is not simple to say. You’ll also have to look at it from the other point of view. More than forty of the Best Picture winners actually are tops among the nominated films of the year. By my estimation, at least.
Now let’s have a look at this year’s nominated films!
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This is quite often my favorite category of the night come Oscars time. These are the guys who give color and interest to a film and leave a real impression with only limited screen time. Although there have certainly been some actors who are usually thought of as leading men who ended up landing in this category, what we’ve normally got are more eccentric or edgy types. This is where you find villains like Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa of Inglorious Basterds or Ed Begley’s “Boss” Finley in Sweet Bird of Youth. It’s where you’ll see more comedic performances honored than anywhere else, like Jack Lemmon as Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts or Kevin Kline as Otto in A Fish Called Wanda. Sometimes when you think of the movie your mind first grabs an image of this guy, like with last year’s winner for Whiplash, J.K. Simmons or John Houseman in The Paper Chase. This category brings us men who are dangerous with their gun (Joe Pesci in Goodfellas) or with their tongue (George Sanders in All About Eve). This is where legends like Sean Connery, Christopher Walken, John Gielgud, and Michael Caine picked up their golden statuettes.
It can also be a dauntingly competitive category. In 2012 Waltz had to beat out Alan Arkin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Robert DeNiro. James Coburn earned a late career Oscar when sharing this category with Robert DuVall, Ed Harris, and Geoffrey Rush. I remember being very conflicted in 1994 when I realized Samuel L Jackson (Pulp Fiction), Gary Sinese (Forrest Gump) and Martin Landau (Ed Wood) could only produce one Oscar among them.
The same is true of this year’s group, even if they’re not quite as impressive as those mentioned above.
The supporting actor and actress Oscars were not given out by the Academy for the first eight years of the existence of the yearly film awards. Only lead actors were apparently deemed worthy of such plaudits at first. Is it any wonder supporting performers so often feel so undervalued?
It doesn’t help that two of this year’s five nominees for Best Supporting Actress are clear examples of “Category Fraud.” Both Alicia Vikander of The Danish Girl and Rooney Mara of Carol are undoubtedly actresses who played leads who are slumming in the supporting category in hopes of a win against competitors with less screen time. Of course, this isn’t really the actual actress’ decision in most cases, but the decision of somebody at the studio who is promoting the film and its artists for awards. Should there be some sort of objective criteria to identify what makes a lead performance? Maybe. But how? By billing? That backfired on Robert Shaw on The Sting. Number of lines? That could negatively effect a lead in a quiet film with little dialogue. Total time on screen or percentage of time on screen? Okay, but what if a character dies early in the story and their body hangs out in the background the rest of the way? Maybe a committee independent of the studios? Ugh-the committee hasn’t even been named yet and it’s already corrupt. I don’t really have the solution right now, but boy something should be done. It’s been a problem for a long time.
Okay so, with that out of the way, let’s take a quick look at each of the actresses in the Supporting Actress category this time around. You’ll find them listed in the order that the awards obsessives rank them based on their likelihood of winning.
While we have been concentrating on the Golden Raspberries, Hollywood types are more interested in this year’s Academy Award nominees. The 88th Annual Oscar nominations were announced this morning. Here’s a complete list. Discussion is encouraged.