Friday, January 22, 2016

Best Picture & Best Actress: Oscar Trivia Time!

Considering that we went through the list of women this morning who had received crucial roles in Academy Award Best Picture nominees, I thought it might be fun to make it a day of actresses and Best Picture, and take a look at the extremely strong correlation between Best Picture and Best Actress.  As I've mentioned before, whenever a Best Picture features a woman in a crucial lead role, they nearly always get nominated.  I have my own theories as to why this occurs (though sexism rears its ugly head a bit, in my opinion, and certainly the dearth of good roles for women is also a factor), but nonetheless it's a very common occurrence, even in the expanded field.  In fact, this year marks the first time ever since we went from 5 to 5+ nominees in Best Picture where an actress, Charlize Theron, is actually the lead of a Best Picture nominee but didn't receive a corresponding Oscar nomination (the other two female leads in Best Picture nominees this year, Saoirse Ronan and Brie Larson, are both nominated).  Since we now have Theron on the list, I figured it would be fun to count down the Top 10 most-recent actresses to star in a Best Picture nominee but not get a corresponding Oscar nomination.  Let's take a look, shall we?

(Note: I am giving the film a pass if it managed a nomination for Best Actress but had two leading ladies.  However, if I didn't make that exception, Emma Stone in The Help and Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right would be seen below.  Also, I'm making a few judgment calls regarding lead and supporting for films like Jerry Maguire and The Cider House Rules-the comments are there to correct or disagree).

1. Charlize Theron (2015)
Film: Mad Max: Fury Road
Number of Nominations the Film Picked Up: 10 nominations, though none for acting
Her Oscar History: Theron has been nominated twice, for Monster and North Country (does anyone remember that movie?), and won of course for Monster.
Precursors Won by Theron: Relatively minor-Theron received a BFCA nomination for Best Actress, but largely disappeared from the conversation despite Mad Max remaining a steady presence.
Best Guess as to Why She Was Skipped: Action films almost never can land an Oscar acting nomination, even with a female lead and when they are hailed amongst the best ever (see also Number 6 on this list).  Even still, I was partially wondering if Theron might make it to the Dolby if only because it truly had been seven years since a lead actress had last missed for a Best Picture nominee and I was starting to wonder if it was still possible (I came very close to predicting her).

2. Cate Blanchett (2008)
Film: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Number of Nominations the Film Picked Up: 13 nominations, including two for acting
Her Oscar History: Blanchett is an Oscar favorite-she had a trophy and five nominations at the point of this snub, and has since won another Oscar for Blue Jasmine and is up again this year for Carol.
Precursors Won by Blanchett: Blanchett did score a BFCA nomination, but was absent for most of the rest of the season which focused on Brad Pitt and Taraji P. Henson.
Best Guess as to Why She Was Skipped: Blanchett's work in the film was solid and filled with a lot of Oscar bait (including prosthetics), but she had just been nominated twice-in-one-year for I'm Not There and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, the latter of which was an eyebrow-raising citation.  I'm guessing the Academy needed a break.

3. Keira Knightley (2007)
Film: Atonement
Number of Nominations the Film Picked Up: 7 nominations, including one for acting
Her Oscar History: Knightley had received her first Oscar nomination two years earlier for Pride and Prejudice.  She has since received one nomination for The Imitation Game.
Precursors Won by Knightley: The Globes, BAFTA's, and Satellite Awards all nominated Knightley.
Best Guess as to Why She Was Skipped: First off, it's important to remember that 2007 was not one of Oscar's finest years for this category-Cate Blanchett's work in The Golden Age still being a bizarre inclusion and Laura Linney's excellent work in The Savages being a highly pleasant but unexpected one.  I think that youth (she'd just been nominated) and overall apathy toward this film (which was a far bigger hit with the Globes and couldn't get Joe Wright a Best Director nomination with AMPAS) meant that Knightley was probably in seventh (with Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart the biggest surprise miss with Oscar).

4. Toni Collette (2006)
Film: Little Miss Sunshine
Number of Nominations the Film Picked Up: 4 nominations, including two for acting
Her Oscar History: Collette has one Oscar nomination, for The Sixth Sense, which at the time was a bit of a surprise (most thought it would be Cameron Diaz for Being John Malkovich), but now we assume it made complete sense.
Precursors Won by Collette: Collette was nominated for Best Lead Actress at the Golden Globes, and then to add to the confusion she was cited for Best Supporting Actress at the BAFTA Awards for the same performance.
Best Guess as to Why She Was Skipped: Category confusion is always a rough go-with Collette landing in both categories, she's splitting what was already likely a weak base of support in what was a very strong list of female performers (Collette, though regularly a talented actor, would have been ousting a considerably better performance had she made it in the Best Actress field).  Plus, with only four nominations and nothing in Best Director, this was not a film with a wide range of support (it's the sort of film we'd assume wouldn't have made the Top 5 in the post-2008 era, which proves such postulations may not always be accurate).

5. Scarlett Johansson (2003)
Film: Lost in Translation
Number of Nominations the Film Picked Up: 4 nominations, including one for acting
Her Oscar History: Johansson has been favored by the HFPA and the BAFTA Awards, but Oscar has yet to call despite plenty of opportunities.
Precursors Won by Johansson: Johansson won the BAFTA for her performance and picked up a nomination at the Globes.
Best Guess as to Why She Was Skipped: Unlike Collette, I think that Johansson had a real shot at an Oscar nomination this year, but the Best Actress field was ALL over the map (for you AMPAS youngsters, think 2012 and add a bit more category confusion crazy).  Johansson also had a muddled campaign with two major strikes against her: one, that she had another award-worthy performance that year (her Golden Globe-nominated work in Girl with a Pearl Earring) and someone decided at the last minute to campaign her as supporting to not compete with the other performance, despite the Globes and BAFTA (and common sense) dictating this was a lead performance.  Strike either of those two issues, and you probably would have seen a nomination in one of the categories.  Instead, it's twelve years later and ScarJo is still waiting for that invitation to the club.

6. Michelle Yeoh (2000)
Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Number of Nominations the Film Picked Up: 10 nominations, though astoundingly none for acting
Her Oscar History: Michelle Yeoh has never been nominated for an Oscar.
Precursors Won by Yeoh: Yeoh received a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress.
Best Guess as to Why She Was Skipped: Like 2006, this was a very tough Best Actress lineup to break, and if it was going to go, it was probably going to be Renee Zellweger in Nurse Betty who was going to do it (she won a Golden Globe nomination over an Oscar nominee, a pretty rare occurrence).  However, Yeoh's problem may have been both that foreign language films have a notoriously rough go with the Oscars (as opposed to the BAFTA Awards, where actors are much more readily embraced) and action/fantasy films rarely can make it in leading categories (in this way Sandra Bullock is in an odd exception to the rule for Gravity recently).

7. Andie MacDowell (1994)
Number of Nominations the Film Picked Up: 2 nominations, none for acting
Her Oscar History: Ms. MacDowell had a brief moment of major fame in the early 1990's, but couldn't parlay any of her three Golden Globe nominations into an Oscar citation.
Precursors Won by MacDowell: MacDowell won a Golden Globe nomination, but lost to Jamie Lee Curtis.
Best Guess as to Why She Was Skipped: Trying to figure out what was happening in the 1994 Best Actress race is one of the great mysteries of life.  Honestly-you have the Academy skipping Meryl Streep for a performance both the Globes and SAG Awards nominated her for (only time ever that's happened), you have Jamie Lee Curtis winning the Globe over the star of a Best Picture nominee, and you have Jennifer Jason Leigh enjoying what would be one of several Academy snubs in the mid-1990's (her curse finally being lifted this past year).  Plus, there was that whole scandal about Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction being disqualified because the movie aired on HBO before it was in theaters.  Even though we know Jessica Lange won, it's hard to figure out who on earth ranked 2nd-5th (because I'm a sadist, I'm guessing Sarandon, Foster, Richardson, and Ryder).  As I mention in the linked review, I didn't care for MacDowell at all in this film (the worst major performance in the movie), but that hasn't stopped Oscar before, and lest we forget she was a fairly big name in movies at the time.  Who knows, I guess.  Forget it Jake, it's 1994?

8 (tie). Annette Bening (1991)
Film: Bugsy
Number of Nominations the Film Picked Up: 10 nominations, including three for acting
Her Oscar History: Bening has received four nominations, one of which came the year before Bugsy (which you would have thought would have built her some goodwill).  I've long believed that Bening has the terrible fate of probably being in second place all four times that she was nominated.
Precursors Won by Bening: Bening was nominated for the Golden Globe
Best Guess as to Why She Was Skipped: Of all the ten women on this list, this is probably the hardest to explain.  From what I understand, the Silence of the Lambs sweep was not expected, and Bugsy was actually a frontrunner for the Best Picture trophy.  Considering it was 1964 when a Best Picture winner had their leading lady skipped last, Bening's snub seems that much stranger.  Also, Oscar loves afterglow nominations and she had just lost the year before for The Grifters, and was married to a very popular member of the Academy.  However, whether out of genuine love for the performance (which has been called "tepid") or out of personal popularity (most likely) Bette Midler translated a Golden Globe win into a fifth place Oscar nod, keeping Bening out of the field.  If we want to postulate further, considering that Davis/Sarandon were splitting their votes and Laura Dern was in a little seen film, one could also make the argument that Bening would have ended up getting yet another second place for Bugsy, so perhaps this was for the best?

8 (tie). Barbra Streisand (1991)
Film: The Prince of Tides
Number of Nominations the Film Picked Up: 7 nominations, including two for acting
Her Oscar History: Streisand has an interesting history with Oscar, but she does have five nominations in various fields (including two for acting: The Way We Were and her winning role in Funny Girl).
Precursors Won by Streisand: Though she was cited at multiple awards shows (including the Oscars) for either producing or directing, from what I can find she wasn't nominated for any for her acting.
Best Guess as to Why She Was Skipped: As we've discussed on this blog before, Streisand has a pretty sketchy history with Oscar for someone who has two trophies.  Most people don't really seem to talk about her lack of a nomination for acting here; rather the focus is on how she missed in the Best Director field despite a citation from the DGA Awards.  This was a period, though, of pretty high profile snubs in the Best Director field, with Bruce Beresford and Rob Reiner also missing in widely-discussed instances.  I think that if we looked at the sixth or even seventh places in 1991 we'd surely find Bening's name but not Streisand's.

10. Demi Moore (1990)
Film: Ghost
Number of Nominations the Film Picked Up: 5 nominations, including one for acting
Her Oscar History: Demi Moore has never been nominated for an Oscar.
Precursors Won by Moore: I'm as surprised as you to find this out, but Moore did get a Golden Globe nomination for Ghost.
Best Guess as to Why She Was Skipped: I'm trying really hard not to editorialize with these different nominations, but does anyone actually think that Demi Moore deserved an Oscar nomination for Ghost?  The Academy chose one woman from this film to nominate, and I think we can all agree they chose the correct actress.  Moore also doesn't have a traditionally lead role in this film-that's definitely Swayze, and not only was she competing with Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Anjelica Huston, Kathy Bates, and Joanne Woodward (one of the extremely rare years where all five nominees either had or were going to have Academy Awards) amongst women who actually got nominated, but outside the nominations were Michelle Pfeiffer for The Russia House, Andie MacDowell for Green Card, and Mia Farrow in Alice.  Moore didn't stand a prayer.

Those are the Top 10 most recent actresses to miss when their film made the top prize lineup.  Which do you wager was the closest to making it (my money's on Bening)?  Which do you think was furthest away (my money's on Collette)?  And which deserved it most (I've seen eight of these, and Johansson is certainly my favorite)?  Share in the comments!

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