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The Twenty: Your Acting Royalty... Until Next Year

I sometimes like to think of each year's Official Oscar Nominees as pageant winners or an ambassadorial relay team representing the Arts. In my imagination they reign for exactly one year until they have to pass on the tiara or the torch. This is probably why the old tradition of having the previous year's winner present the corresponding opposite sex category feels so satisfying on Oscar night and why it's so alarming when they mix it up (I wonder about Best Actor this year. Meryl Streep has supposedly never presented a competitive Oscar category -- can that be true? -- and if so will she finally do so next month?).

This is all a fancy way of saying I've updated the charts and republished. You can pretend you have a ballot and vote on these categories! So check out the charts...

"Anne" & "Hushpuppy" (Emmanuelle & Quvenzhane)BEST ACTRESS
Emmanuelle + Jennifer + Jessica + Naomi + Quvenzhane
We knew the media would eat up the spectacle of the Oldest (Emmanuelle Riva) and Youngest (Quvenzhane Wallis) Best Actress nominee in history sharing a category but I was surprised to see that that factoid got even more screen time than the Beauty Queen Showdown to come in Naomi vs. Jennifer vs. Jessica on these stupid infotainment shows that I watch approximately thrice a year (generally around the oscar noms, golden globes, and sag awards). I'm always interested to see whether the braindead infotainment shows even mention the arthouse nominees each year -- what on earth will they make of Amour? I guess this.

Bradley + Daniel + Denzel + Hugh + Joaquin
Two alcoholics, one crazy person, one poor soul who stole a loaf of bread and never stopped paying for it, and a President of the United States when they weren't so United. Can anyone beat Daniel Day-Lewis? I personally think that's a less worthy topic than this: how on earth did we get a category with this many stupendous performances in it? Even if one of your favorites was left off -- this isn't my exact lineup though it's close -- it would be churlish to complain. It might be my favorite full shortlist since 2003 (Ben + Bill + Johnny + Jude + Sean) without a dud or even an underachieving performance in the bunch. If only certain other categories *cough*thenextone* would have followed suit.

Alan + Bobby + Christoph + Philip + Tommy Lee
Presenting the only acting shortlist ever in the entire 85 year history of the Oscars that is composed entirely of previous winners. Several shortlists have eventually been composed only of Oscar winners as Joe Reid nerdily researched but that was all after the fact. Increasing the sting for those who like fresh blood at the Oscars, these performances aren't the most exciting. It's basically "good job, sir" and everyone moves on. For what it's worth this will be the category least like my own awards (I usually announce before the nominations but Oscar  threw me by announcing so early)

remember THR's actress roundtable? 5 of their 7 invitees were nominated

Amy + Anne + Helen + Jacki + Sally 
Another year, another set of whores, longsuffering wives, and concerned moms. Oh Oscar, you do love your types! In fact, had I stopped to remember Oscar's favorite types in this category (which I've researched and talked about so much in the past that it became common knowledge -- 'longsuffering wife, she's in!' )  I wouldn't have done so poorly in my predictions for this particularly category this year. I somehow forgot everything I knew in the face of the blinding brilliance of Charlotte Bless & such. Now, you might argue that Helen Hunt is a new type and her character makes a point of explaining that she's not a hooker. But that's splitting hairs for Oscar when you're onscreen receiving money for sex.

I bring Helen Hunt up because Thomas Williams on twitter caught an error on the page earlier. I had accidentally copied and pasted and under her photo it read...

Despite an often bizzare and thorny relationship with celebrity, no one can doubt his gift."

Thomas wrote "even though this caption was meant for Joaquin Phoenix, I actually think some of it works here too :-)" Ha! I would agree with that. 

SEE THE CHARTS AND VOTE YOUR VOTES. Unless you have something left to see. The polls will remain up until the Friday before the Oscars so you have some time if you have to catch up on your screenings. (I will be adding to the charts as we go so they're not boring to revisit. Hope you enjoy.)

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Reader Comments (22)

Sally Field no longer has two career nominations.

January 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I hope Meryl does present, if only because it would be so cool to have three time-actress winner Streep anoint three-time actor winner Day-Lewis.

January 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAkash

But the Supporting Actor lineup is actually very strong... despite Arkin and two category frauds. Still, Hoffman, Jones, De Niro, and Waltz give excellent performances.

Also, I agree the 2003 Best Actor lineup was aces. But I think you're also forgetting the 2005 one, with Strathairn, Howard, Hoffman, Ledger and Phoenix. Wowzers!

January 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

Oh and I don't know if you would agree, but I kind of love the 2004 one as well, even without Giamatti. Depp, DiCaprio, Foxx, Cheadle and Eastwood was very solid.

January 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

George -- see i don't think they're excellent so much as "good" and i require "excellent" :) I'm confused how i skipped 2005. haha though you are right that is amazing category.

January 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I love the 2003 lineup as well. It would be my exact ballot 100% (though I'd give the win to Depp).

Also, the Best Actress category is actually very strong as well, loved Riva, Wallis, Watts. Thought Chastain was great (though not a performance I particularly 'love' like I do the other three ladies), and thought Lawrence was quite funny and good even if not a performance you think 'Acting Achievement'

January 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

2003 Actor was fabulous. (2004 was more mixed for me.) Holding off so I can see Amour - after all the success, will they be smart enough to cash in by expanding faster?

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I don't think the supporting actor category is as underwhelming as you think. Compared to last year's disaster in the same category (Jonah Hill???? and a plethora of "meh" performances excluding the winner, Christopher Plummer), these are the greatest performances ever. All of the performances are very good, but two of them are excellent (Jones and Hoffman, and I suspect they will be the frontrunners).

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

Helen Hunt truly, surprisingly, and overwhelmingly deserves the BSA award this year; her stillness, strength, sadness, and warmth make so full and complete a person that it seems to me we truly have never seen THIS actress before. Sally Field deserves tremendous recognition, and would be a worthy award winner. Unlike Nathaniel, I felt Amy Adams entered fully and capably into her role's tricky structure, but was left alone by her auteur (still agree with the nomination, though others might not.).

Weaver? C'mon. We saw it all in the trailer and you know what we saw? Nothing. Lovely actress, lovely person it seems, but that should do little in a line-up like we have here. And Hathaway? For what? Best direction of one's self? Anne seems to be in her own film entirely; fine for her, but not for this category. Heave-ho, Hathaway.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I just keep pretending Alan Arkin is getting nominated for Thin Ice and that makes his default status okay for 2012. He was excellent in that film. Not as good as Billy Crudup, but worthy of praise for a strong supporting turn.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Amour might be a very "French" film. But the funny fact is: it's a film by an austrian person

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRon

Thanks for listing Les Mis in the correct alphabetical order. Most other lists put it before Life of Pi!

And remember that the tie for joint third place among the directors is a five-way tie - Woody Allen has seven directing nominations too.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I look at "The Twenty" the same way. Our class of 2012! I'm particularly happy for Hugh Jackman, as one of the very few joining the club for the first time.
I kind of want to stand up for the supporting actor lineup a little bit, too;
As much as I think the category you tossed out in a previous post (Fassbender, Henry, Hedlund, Redmayne, McConaughey) is a dozen times better AND even additions of Bardem or Jackson would improve this year's lineup (and could replace anyone)... Maybe standing up for it is the wrong word ;)
But at a job I recently left, a lot of people went to see Magic Mike for the skin, and left thinking it was great eye candy, but flimsier than Sex and the City. The stripping can be a difficult thing to look past, and if they saw a nomination for McConaughey on their Oscar contest ballots they would have found the fact HI-larious. And I suspect a lot of Oscar voters are wired similarly. It's easy to think he's not doing very much. Alternately, Alan Arkin, in a respectable movie, stands out in one's memory. He makes sense on a ballot, if you trust your memory and don't think too hard. I was actually partially hoping McConaughey could happen just to open people's minds slightly to where good acting can come from, but it probably would have remained a bit of an Oscar punchline. My tendency is to expect Oscar voter to be kind of narrow, and be thrilled when they aren't.
That said, Hedlund and Fassbender never really had a shot in their vehicles, so we get what we get, which isn't so bad. I don't think it descends into the low lows of last year, or the 2009 lineup. Jones is good. The two category frauds are unfortunate, but they're strong performances. Arkin is still better than Branagh or Nolte last year. My vote would go to De Niro, and I'm totally happy with that vote. I think he does more than not phone it in. De Niro/Weaver don't have the drama of Melissa Leo/Jack McGee, but they fit perfectly into this crazy Russell family, acting up and holding back as needed, not pulling focus. I bought Pat Sr. fooling himself into thinking he just wants to spend time with his son and feeding into his own disease. He's got the Melissa Leo part in the movie, it just happens to be way dialed down.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

When the actors are presented this way, I do realize how many of them I like, and I'm happy for them, and enjoy this period when they are all nominees, all appreciated.

I think that your standard actress "types" apply to best actress as well as supporting actress, with the addition of the type "cute kid (female version)". We have cute
kid (Wallis), concerned/longsuffering mother/wife (Watts, hey maybe she has a better chance than I thought!), longsuffering wife (Riva), longsuffering girlfriend/ provides sex to an unappealing decades older guy even though she doesn't get paid (Lawrence).

Then there's one actresses part that doesn't fit the stereotypes (Chastain).

Lawrence's character (not considering the performance) seems even sadder as a stereotype. She has to put up with all the bs of the older guy, without the acknowledgement of marriage, and she has to provide the services of a whore without getting paid for it. It makes me long for that old Altman western, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, where an exasperated Warren Beatty has to put his money on the dresser every, every time before getting into bed with Julie Christie.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteradri

adri: I must respectfully challenge your assertion that Jennifer Lawrence's character is involved with "an unappealing decades older" guy. First of all, I thought Bradley Cooper made Patrick both engaging and super-hot! Also, although Cooper is fifteen or so years older than Lawrence, I didn't think the age gap between them was jarring. I read an interview in which I'm pretty sure David O. Russell said that he was hesitant about casting Lawrence because she was too young for the role: clearly Tiffany as written is meant to be more like thirty or early thirties, which would put her at a closer age to Patrick. I thought Lawrence and Cooper were well-matched in the film.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

People have already discussed how the Supporting Actor lineup has guys who've all received Oscars in the past. Now, looking at the Best Actress lineup I wonder how long has it been since that category has been fully composed by actresses that haven't won an Oscar? Does anybody know this little trivia?

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJones

Jones, I think 2002 was the last time: Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman, Diane Lane, Julianne Moore and Renee Zellweger.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Adri: Are you describing Bradley Cooper with "unappealing decades-older guy"? Because I don't think their characters have sex, and Tiffany is nobody's long-suffering girlfriend. Manic pixie might be a cliche, but it's not a traditional Oscar trope.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Don't beat yourself up for being blinded by Charlotte Bless. As you say, the Academy loves "whores, long-suffering wives, and concerned moms" and Charlotte can definitely make a case for one of those categories. ;-)

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I can easily see Emmanuelle Riva winning her category.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

brandz -- don't tease me.! foreign performances almost never win and the only ones that win are the young beauty queens (marion cotillard, sophia loren)

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

@brandz I wouldn't say easily, but I can see Emanuelle winning too.

January 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

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