Best Supporting Actress: A Look Back

Today begins a new blog series where I’m looking back at five of the major Oscar categories from 1990 to the present: the four acting races and Best Picture. This is essentially the time period where I’ve closely watched and analyzed. My charge? Picking the three largest upsets in each said category and the three least surprising winners… a film or performer where it truly would have been a shock if they didn’t emerge victorious.

We begin with Best Supporting Actress and this is one in which there have been some genuine upsets over the past quarter century plus. Unlike some other races we’ll get to later, it was not a challenge to pick three unexpected winners.

The other agenda item here is I’m picking my personal selections for strongest and weakest overall field among the five nominees in the acting derby’s and five-ten for Best Picture.

For starters, here’s the list of women that won gold statues in the supporting race from 1990 to now:

1990 – Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost

1991 – Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King

1992 – Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny

1993 – Anna Paquin, The Piano

1994 – Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway

1995 – Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite

1996 – Juliette Binoche, The English Patient

1997 – Kim Basinger, L.A. Confidential

1998 – Judi Dench, Shakespeare in Love

1999 – Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted

2000 – Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock

2001 – Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago

2003 – Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain

2004 – Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

2005 – Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardner

2006 – Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

2007 – Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

2008 – Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona

2009 – Mo’Nique, Precious

2010 – Melissa Leo, The Fighter

2011 – Octavia Spencer, The Help

2012 – Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

2013 – Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

2014 – Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

2015 – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

2016 – Viola Davis, Fences

2017 – Allison Janney, I, Tonya

I’ll begin with the least surprising winners. Truthfully, there are plenty of selections (and will be in each race) to pick from here. It’s normal procedure for the front runner to actually win. Here’s three that did just that:

3. Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway

Of the 28 recipients to choose from, note that 3 of them were under the direction of Woody Allen. None were surprise winners. That’s most evident with Wiest’s showcase work as an aging diva here. Her win here came just eight years following her Oscar winning role in another Allen pic, Hannah and Her Sisters.

2. Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Fans of the Broadway play this is based upon knew Ms. Hudson could have a legitimate breakthrough part here. She nailed it and her win was never in much doubt.

1. Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Similar to Hudson’s victory, Hathaway’s casting as Fantine and her “I Dreamed a Dream” dramatic solo made her the odds-on favorite from the moment the project was announced. That never changed.

Now we get to the upsets and there were four to choose from. I could easily include Anna Paquin in The Piano, who became the second youngest winner when she beat out favorite Winona Ryder for The Age of Innocence. Here’s 3 I rank as even more surprising:

3. Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock

Harden had won no significant precursors and Kate Hudson was expected to have her name called for Almost Famous. She wasn’t even nominated for a Golden Globe or SAG.

2. Juliette Binoche, The English Patient

While the film itself was the anticipated winner for Picture (which it did), the Oscars were expected to select the legendary Lauren Bacall for her work in Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces. Yet it was Binoche’s performance that was unexpectedly honored.

1. Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny

For starters, comedic roles are rarely nominated and wins are even more unheard of. Tomei was a newcomer in a picture that wasn’t a factor in any other category. Her competition was a list of venerable actresses: Judy Davis (Husbands and Wives), Joan Plowright (Enchanted April), Vanessa Redgrave (Howards End), and Miranda Richardson (Damages). The victory here was so shocking that conspiracy theories emerged that presenter Jack Palance had accidentally read the wrong name. That’s been debunked, but Tomei’s trip to the stage remains one of Oscar’s largest jaw droppers.

As for the fields, I’m going with 1991 for the weakest link in the chain. I probably would have given the award to Juliette Lewis in Cape Fear. However, the group was not particularly strong:

Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King (Winner)

Diane Ladd, Rambling Rose

Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear

Kate Nelligan, The Prince of Tides

Jessica Tandy, Fried Green Tomatoes

For the strongest field overall, I went with 2004 when Cate Blanchett won for her portrayal of Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. The other nominees:

Laura Linney, Kinsey

Virginia Madsen, Sideways

Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda

Natalie Portman, Closer

And there you have it! I’ll have Supporting Actor up soon…

Gotham Awards Reaction 2018

It’s only mid-October, but the first significant precursor of awards season rolled out nominations today in the form of the Gotham Awards. If you’re not familiar, the Gothams honor independent film in a limited number of categories.

While not as prolific as the Golden Globes or SAG nominations, there has been a correlation with movies and performers nominated here getting Oscar attention. Let’s take a look at the past five Gotham awards nominees and how they matched up with the Academy:

In 2013, 12 Years a Slave was nominated for Best Feature and went on to win the Oscar. In the Best Actor race, eventual Academy winner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) was victorious here and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Slave) also was nominated for both. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) was nominated here and went on to win the gold statue. It’s worth noting that the Gothams do not have supporting acting categories (we’ll get to that in a minute).

In 2014, three movies that got Best Picture nods were honored here: Birdman (Oscar winner), Boyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. In the acting races, Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Oscar/Gotham winner Julianne Moore (Still Alice) were included.

For 2015, no Best Actor nominees for the Gothams correlated to Oscars. However, there were actress match-ups with Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room) and Cate Blanchett (Carol). Also – the Gotham and Oscar Best Picture winners were the same – Spotlight.

That happened once again in 2016 as Moonlight won the Oscar and the Gotham. Manchester by the Sea was also nominated for both. Casey Affleck’s work in that film won Best Actor at both ceremonies. For Actress, Natalie Portman as Jackie got double nods.

Last year, two Gotham Film nominees got Best Picture recognition: Call Me by Your Name and Get Out. In Actor, it was Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out as a double recipient. In Actress, same goes for Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya). And coming back to the fact that there’s no supporting races, Willem Dafoe received an Actor nomination at the Gothams for The Florida Project while being recognized for Supporting Actor at the Oscars.

So, as you can see, there’s usually some overlap for the two ceremonies. And that brings us to today’s nominees and how I think that overlap will occur this year:

In the Gotham Best Feature race, the nominees are:

The Favourite

First Reformed

If Beale Street Could Talk

Madeline’s Madeline

The River

The average number of Gotham/Oscar film nominees lately has been two and that likely holds true here with The Favourite and If Beale Street Could Talk. The other three are highly unlikely to get Academy recognition.

In the Best Actor race, the nominees are:

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Ben Foster, Leave No Trace

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

LaKeith Stanfield, Sorry to Bother You

Grant is probably this year’s Willem Dafoe and will be recognized by the Academy in Supporting Actor. Adam Driver falls in the same category, but is more of a long shot. Stanfield is out of the running for Actor at the Oscars, while Foster and Hawke remain possibilities. That said – like 2015 – this could well be a year where there’s no matches.

That is not the case with Actress and the nominees are:

Glenn Close, The Wife

Toni Collette, Hereditary

Kathryn Hahn, Private Life

Regina Hall, Support the Girls

Michelle Pfeiffer, Where is Kyra?

Collette is a possible nominee, but it’s Close that seems a near lock for Oscar attention and a possible win. The others? Not so much.

Finally, a Special Jury prize was initiated that honors the three actresses from The Favourite. That would be Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz and all three could find themselves in the mix at Oscar time. The Gothams did the same jury designation for 2014’s Foxcatcher and 2015’s Spotlight. 

So there you have it! My take on how the Gotham Awards will relate to the biggest awards show of all…

 

The Best Picture Wouldn’t Have Been Contenders: 2009-2017

A couple of days back on the blog, I speculated about what films in the 21st century would have been nominated for Best Picture prior to a rule change in 2009. As a refresher, nearly a decade ago, the Academy changed its Best Picture Nominees from a finite five to anywhere between five to ten. In that time frame, the magic number most years has been nine (it was actually a finite 10 for 2009 and 2010 before the fluctuation change). My recent post selected two pictures from 1990-2008 that I believe would have been nominated. You can find that post here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/08/03/the-best-picture-coulda-been-contenders-1990-2008/

Today comes the inverse of that column. What if the rule had never been altered? What if the last nine Oscar ceremonies honored just five features?

In making these picks, there’s obviously one extremely easy selection – the movie that won. In naming the other four, I’m looking at factors such as number of other nods it received. For instance, if a Director won that award for their work and the Picture went to something else, that director’s film is in.

So let’s get to it in this alternative Oscar universe. I’ll be reminding you all the pictures recognized and then showing my final five.

2009

The Actual Nominees:

The Hurt Locker (Winner), Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

Had It Been Five:

The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air

2010

The Actual Nominees:

The King’s Speech (W), 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Had It Been Five:

The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, True Grit

2011

The Actual Nominees:

The Artist (W), The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Had It Been Five:

The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris

2012

The Actual Nominees:

Argo (W), Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Had It Been Five:

Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

2013

The Actual Nominees:

12 Years a Slave (W), American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street

Had It Been Five:

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street

2014

The Actual Nominees:

Birdman (W), American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

Had It Been Five:

Birdman, American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game

2015

The Actual Nominees:

Spotlight (W), The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room

Had It Been Five:

Spotlight, The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

2016

The Actual Nominees:

Moonlight (W), Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

Had It Been Five:

Moonlight, Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea

2017

The Actual Nominees:

The Shape of Water (W), Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Had It Been Five:

The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And there you have it with my posts on the “what if” Best Picture happenings in Oscar world!

Oscar Watch: Last Flag Flying

A major piece of the awards season puzzle came into focus today as Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying has screened at the New York Film Festival. The pic casts Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne as Vietnam vets brought together decades later by a tragedy.

Flying opened the festival and has been seen as a serious Oscar contender for some time. Three years ago, Linklater’s Boyhood was nominated for six Academy Awards and the subject matter here made this an immediate curiousity item in the season ahead. Early reaction has been mixed. It stands at 79% currently on Rotten Tomatoes and there has been some reviews calling it a disappointment.

For a while, it’s been unclear how the three leads would be campaigned for. It appears Amazon Studios will tout Carell in Lead Actor with Cranston and Fishburne in Supporting. Cicely Tyson is said to have a one scene role that is a highlight according to some notices. It’ll be interesting to see if Amazon mounts a campaign for her. It’s entirely feasible none of them make the dance and Carell will even be competing against himself in Battle of the Sexes (unless he’s switched to Supporting there).

The mixed buzz will likely mean a downgrade in my next projections where I’ve had Flag planted at 8th and getting in the Best Picture race. Right now, Adapted Screenplay is looking lighter than Original Screenplay so that could perhaps be the best chance at any nod.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Meoh1dAfFAk

 

Oscar Watch: Everybody Wants Some!!

This past week, Richard Linklater’s latest pic Everybody Wants Some!! came out in limited release and critical reaction has been strong. This has become typical for its director, who previous effort Boyhood received much Oscar attention (eventually losing in 2014 to Birdman).

His new effort is described as a “spiritual sequel” to his 1993 acclaimed cult classic Dazed and Confused. The 1980s set comedy features a cast of unknowns, though that might not be for long. You’ll recall that the “unknowns” from the aforementioned Dazed included Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovovich, and Parker Posey. Everybody currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90%.

So what does this all mean for its Oscar prospects? I would say this stands at outside shot at Best Picture and Director attention, though it’s probably unlikely. Where Some!! could shine is in the Original Screenplay category for Linklater. If so, it would mark his fourth nomination in the writing races (for Boyhood and Before Sunset and Before Midnight). That would appear to be its best chance at Academy attention several months down the road and it’d be foolish to count this celebrated director out.

Oscar Recap 2014

Well it’s been nearly 24 hours since the 87th edition of the Academy Awards reached its conclusion and somewhere Neil Patrick Harris is still trying to make that “secret Oscar ballot” gag work. The show was, as usual, a mixed bag that went on far too long. It featured some solid musical numbers (Common and John Legend, Tim McGraw) and a truly memorable one with Lady Gaga paying tribute to the 50 year old Sound of Music, complete with a Julie Andrews cameo at the end.

Being the host is largely a thankless job but NPH did OK. I don’t think his performance was strong enough to warrant a return engagement, but you never know. I still say let Fallon and Timberlake do it or bring in Louis C.K. to really make things unpredictable.

There were some genuinely humorous bits like John Travolta making nice with Idina Menzel after butchering her name last year, but not close to enough to justify its laborious length which ran past midnight.

It was a mediocre ceremony that was truly made fascinating only by the real suspense generated with the top awards. OK, it was a given that Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette would take home acting trophies and they did. I admittedly let my heart and not mind pick Michael Keaton over Eddie Redmayne and was unsurprisingly proved wrong.

The genuine suspense came with Best Picture and Director where there was a real coin flip between Birdman and Boyhood. It got even more confusing when both The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash started winning in categories they weren’t expected to. Could a massive upset be brewing with one of them?

Yet when Birdman took the Original Screenplay award over expected winner Budapest, it started to look like a good night for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s movie. He would win the Director prize and the film would win the biggest race of all.

This left Boyhood as the evening’s loser, picking up only Supporting Actress for Arquette. Birdman and Budapest won four awards with Whiplash at three. Interestingly, this Oscars had the rare occasion of all eight nominated features winning at least one race. My predictions were as uneven as the show… 12 for 20 and that is on the low end for this humble blogger.

So, all in all, a ho hum affair with some solid moments sprinkled throughout. By the end of the show, however, it wasn’t only Octavia Spencer that appeared exasperated by that flat NPH ballot gag.

Boyhood Movie Review

Much has been ballyhooed about the method in which Richard Linklater’s Boyhood was filmed and with legitimate reason. The 11 year period chronicling the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his family was indeed shot during that same period of time. From a visual standpoint, it’s remarkable to witness our actors aging in real time. This especially holds true for our central character who we follow from age 6 through his entrance to college.

Boyhood is grand and innovative in its shooting schedule approach and yet small and intimate and simple in the approach of the storytelling. We see Mason grow over time from a kid mostly disinterested in school to a lover of photography who may someday figure out a way to use his talents wisely. There’s a lot of the items young men (and women) may recognize from their own time in those pre-teen and teenage years. Embellishing your sexual history before having one. Experimenting with drugs and alcohol. There’s a scene in which Dad attempts the birds and bees talk with his children and it is probably the most realistic one committed to film. Since our tale takes us from 2002 to 2013, we also see the progression of video games and Apple products and also music. Mason’s sister Samantha (Lorelai Linklater) starts out singing hits by Britney Spears, but as our characters mature – Wilco and mixed tapes featuring Beatles members factor in. As a side note, there’s an amusing discussion at one point about whether another Star Wars would be made long before Linklater and company could have known there would be one. And I’ll be damned if little Ellar Coltrane doesn’t grow up to kind of look like Hayden Christensen.

In some ways, Boyhood is as much about Mason’s family. His parents had their two children young and they didn’t stay together. Mom is played by Patricia Arquette and Dad is Ethan Hawke. Like Mason, we see them grow. Hot rod vehicles become minivans. We see their screw ups too including bad relationships. What is notable about the screenplay is that we see it through the lens of Mason at the age he happens to be in. For instance, we don’t know what Mom does for a living until Mason would be at an age when he would care.

The picture is strongest in the first half of its deliberate two hour and forty five minute running time. One reason: the performances of Coltrane and Linklater work best at that juncture. They are kids acting like real kids and written that way. You don’t always have that in movies and it is refreshing here. We see them competing for their Dad’s affection because they only see him every once in a while. The groundwork that’s layed in the early stages here pave the way for understanding how the principal actors interact with one another later. Much credit is due to the performers. Arquette and Hawke do fine work here and a scene towards the end with Arquette in particular justifies the Oscar buzz.

The quibble with the second half is as follows: sadly, age doesn’t improve the acting of Coltrane and it shows. Linklater is going for something remarkable in his method of directing with the time gaps. His screenplay is aiming for nothing so grand. This is life filled with small moments and very occasional big ones. It’s certainly more grounded in realism than most others and we remain highly involved in the family’s story well beyond watching Mason’s hairstyle change. Still, I can’t pretend as if the limited acting ability of Coltrane isn’t sometimes a distraction because it was for me.

Boyhood takes its time with its characters and isn’t foolish enough to try some big reveal about the “meaning of it all.” It doesn’t try to wrap everything in a tidy bow at the conclusion either. Life will go on. Sometimes it’ll be boring. Sometimes you’ll get to have a moment where you may even realize it’s a meaningful one. The picture itself is one in which I’ll remember mostly for the cool way it was made and the occasional moments where it rises to near greatness. I’ll go ahead and admit that I believe some critics have overrated what my Boyhood experience was. I’m glad I got to spend time with these people though.

*** (out of four)