Oscar Watch: Dark Waters

Director Todd Haynes has guided Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett to previous acting nominations in Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, and Carol. His latest effort is the corporate legal thriller Dark Waters, based on a true story. Mark Ruffalo stars and produces, playing a lawyer taking on the DuPont conglomerate.

Somewhat surprisingly, Waters skipped the late summer and autumn festival circuit ahead of its November 22nd release and reviews are just trickling out. They’re decent and the Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 75%.

Critics have praised Ruffalo’s work. He is thrice nominated in the Supporting Actor race for 2010’s The Kids Are All Right, 2014’s Foxcatcher, and 2015’s Spotlight. He would stand the best chance at recognition for the first time in lead – over the film itself and costars including Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, and Bill Pullman. Yet, as has been discussed before on the blog, Best Actor is packed. I believe there’s eight thespians at the moment with legit shots at nods. Ruffalo isn’t in that mix.

Bottom line: chances for Dark Waters in the awards conversation are murky at best.

Same Year Double Oscar Nominees: A History

It’s a rare occurrence at the Oscars and it hasn’t happened in over a decade – one actor being nominated in the same year in the lead and supporting categories. To be precise, this has occurred 11 times in the 91 year history of the Academy. Eight women, three men. And if you think this rare honor might lessen the chances of the performer winning, seven of them did. The first four of them emerged victorious for their supporting roles. The last three won for lead.

One of them gets an asterisk and a rather fascinating one for awards trivia buffs. In 1944, Barry Fitzgerald was a double nominee for the same movie! That would be Going My Way. He won for Supporting Actor, but lost out to Bing Crosby in lead. What did Bing win for? Going My Way. After that, the Academy changed their rules so that could never happen again and we didn’t even see another double year individual until almost 40 years later.

That brings us into the modern era when Jessica Lange took gold in Supporting Actress for Tootsie. She came up empty handed in lead for Frances, losing to Meryl Streep (Sophie’s Choice). Somewhat surprisingly, Streep is not one of the 11 designees despite her record setting amount of nods.

1992 saw Al Pacino finally win a statue for his lead part in Scent of a Woman and he was also nominated for Glengarry Glen Ross. The following year, Holly Hunter won for The Piano and got a supporting nod in The Firm. And our last double year winner was Jamie Foxx in 2004 for Ray with supporting recognition for Collateral. Cate Blanchett is currently the last performer with this rare honor. She heard her name called in 2007 for Elizabeth: The Golden Age (lead) and I’m Not There (supporting). She’s won two Oscars, but not that year, despite the double play.

So why write about this now? In 2019, there are two legitimate possibilities for inclusion to this short list. And both of them have decent shots at winning one of the categories. Let’s start with Scarlett Johansson. She’s somehow never been nominated for an Oscar. And with Marriage Story, it seems that streak is going to end. That would fall under lead and she is a contender to win. Yet she could also find herself in the mix in supporting for Jojo Rabbit.

And how about Brad Pitt… who’s been nominated but never won? He’s already achieving front runner status in Supporting Actor for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Could his momentum also propel him to a lead actor nod in Ad Astra? Unlikely perhaps, but it’s feasible.

There are plenty of Oscar years where this double nomination thing isn’t even a realistic proposition. 2019 is a different story.

Here’s the full list of the double nominees:

1938:

Fay Bainter: Actress (White Banners), Supporting Actress (Jezebel – WON)

1942

Teresa Wright: Actress (The Pride of the Yankees), Supporting Actress (Mrs. Miniver – WON)

1944

Barry Fitzgerald: Actor (Going My Way), Supporting Actor (Going My Way – WON)

1982

Jessica Lange: Actress (Frances), Supporting Actress (Tootsie – WON)

1988

Sigourney Weaver: Actress (Gorillas in the Mist), Supporting Actress (Working Girl)

1992

Al Pacino: Actor (Scent of a Woman – WON), Supporting Actor (Glengarry Glen Ross)

1993

Holly Hunter: Actress (The Piano – WON), Supporting Actress (The Firm)

1993

Emma Thompson: Actress (The Remains of the Day), Supporting Actress (In the Name of the Father)

2002

Julianne Moore: Actress (Far From Heaven), Supporting Actress (The Hours)

2004

Jamie Foxx: Actor (Ray – WON), Supporting Actor (Collateral)

2007

Cate Blanchett: Actress (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Supporting Actress (I’m Not There)

Oscar Watch: Wonderstruck

The Cannes Film Festival started this week across the pond in France and that means some likely Oscar hopefuls are receiving their first screenings. One such picture is Wonderstruck, the latest from director Todd Haynes. It’s based on a 2011 novel by Brian Selznick, the same author who wrote the Hugo series in which Martin Scorsese’s 2011 Best Picture nominee is based upon.

Wonderstruck features Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams in supporting roles and child actors Oakes Fegley and Millicent Simmonds in lead parts. Reaction from the Cannes screening has been mostly positive and it currently stands at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. Haynes’ three previous efforts have all garnered Oscar nods – 2002’s Far from Heaven, 2007’s I’m Not There, and 2015’s Carol. However, none of them got Best Picture nominations. Instead, the focus was on acting. That will likely apply here with some potential for attention on down ballot categories.

Based on early buzz, I’d keep an eye out for Simmonds, the teenage deaf actress said to be a standout. Wonderstruck could also make a play for Adapted Screenplay as well as Costume Design and Original Score. The film hits theaters stateside in October.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…