Oscar History

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What did YOU see this weekend?


Elle. Basically the same movie as The Piano Teacher but sillier. Huppert is great, but when is she not? -Jonathan

The Edge of Seventeen because I needed something light and fun. So delightful, and anchored by a wonderful Hailee Steinfeld performance. - Marina


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Entries in Oscars (11) (330)


Deja Vu: Oscar On Franchise Tides Pt. 2

Though I was about to pronounce 2011 unusually sequel-infested, it might not be much different than any other year. Perhaps it's just the Animated Feature category that has made it feel that way with so many high profile continuations. The difference might just be in how much it seems to be confusing the Oscar Prediction Process. Generally speaking in The Academy's 83 year history, they haven't been much for remakes and sequels and long running series. But times they are a-changing and have been since oh... Star Wars? You can't really stay totally immune to the repetitive charms of franchises if 65% of the movies released are series of some sort, as if the cinema were just one giant television and we all eagerly awaited the next episode of Fill in the Blank: The Further Adventures of That Pt.3.


Franchises have been part of Hollywood forever. From left to right: The Thin Man (7 films), James Bond (22+ films), Tarzan (80+ films), The Pink Panther (11 films), Star Wars (6 films), Batman (6+ features), Aliens (4+ features), The Godfather (3 films). But they haven't always been Oscar magnets

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas shook Hollywood up in the 70s, not just by creating "summer movie season" as we know it but also by opening the floodgates to repetitive Oscar charms. Previous long running franchises like Tarzan or James Bond hadn't managed much in the way of Oscar attention, perhaps viewed more as popcorn entertainments than quality filmmaking. The six-film Star Wars saga amassed 22 nominations and 10 statues, the four-film Indiana Jones adventures amassed 13 nominations and 7 statues. The most obvious ancestor and ultimate champion of this new form of long-form Oscar pull was The Lord of the Rings; over just three films it managed 30 nominations and 17 statues which was even more than The Godfather trilogy (29 nominations and 9 statues)

Two of the world's most popular franchises return this year. What will Oscar do with the Boy Wizard and Captain Jack this time around?

Jack Sparrow (3 films | 11 nominations | 1 win)

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
    5 nominations (Actor, Makeup, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects) 
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
    4 nominations (Art Direction, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects*)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
    2 nominations (Makeup, Visual Effects)

The Academy has been quite generous with this series though they snubbed its quite awesome first film costumes by the strangely never nominated Penny Rose. But will they tire of it now that it seems like the series will never leave us? Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides can probably count on a Visual Effects nod since the series has never faltered there but maybe it'll pick up Sound Editing and Makeup too if they're not shouting "Enough already!!!" in unison.

Harry Potter (7 films | 9 nominations | 0 wins)

  • Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (2001)
    3 nominations (Art Direction, Original Score, Costume Design)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
    2 nominations (Original Score, Visual Effects)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
    1 nomination (Art Direction)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix(2007)
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)
    1 nomination (Cinematography)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 (2010)
    2 nominations (Art Direction, Visual Effects)

As you can see from the list, there's not much statistical basis to support the wishful thinking (in some quarters) that AMPAS is itching to reward the entire series this year as it finally closes in its eleventh year of hogging the world's money with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2.  The series best bet for a first (!) statue is obviously an Art Direction career-win for Stuart Craig who has done marvelous work on the series. Here's how much they love his work on the series: they even nominated him last year the year in which he arguably did the least. The most perplexing nomination in the series history in terms of 'why then and what does it mean?' would have to be the cinematography nomination for Half Blood Prince. A cinematography get is a big deal and that one does make you wonder how many sixth place finishes, just outside of nomination range, Potter has managed over the years. If the answer is MANY then we might see them rewarding the franchise with a series best showing.

We can probably save the discussion of the third Transformers films and the tech situation with all those superhero films for a later time though let it suffice to say for now that the credits for Thor and particularly Captain America: The First Avenger are stacked with former Oscar players in categories like Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup and Film Editing. Who knew? Marvel ain't playin' around.

VISUAL CATEGORY First Oscar Predictions of Year new
AURAL CATEGORY First Oscar Predictions of Year new
Previously: Animated Feature | Actor | Supporting Actor | Screenplay


Will Glenn Close Become a Double Nominee at the Oscars?

Glenn Close has been fighting to get Albert Nobbs, the 19th century drama about a cross-dressing woman in Ireland, made into a film for some time. She starred in the play in the summer of 1982, the same summer that her debut film performance in The World According to Garp arrived in theaters. She was famously Oscar-nominated for that debut.

Not only is she playing the role again 29 years later for the screen but she's co-written the adaptation*. It's her first screenplay credit and it could theoretically win her another "first timer" Oscar nomination. Once I imagined this scenario and narrative (AMPAS does respect a dream project) I couldn't let it go. Sometimes Oscar narratives get stuck in my head for weeks, impervious to all logic**.

A play poster; Mia Wasikowska and Glenn Close in the film.

Oscar obsessing takes up an alarmingly large percentage of my cerebrum and this blog and the charts (SCREENPLAY Predictions are ready for you***) are the results. But sometimes it gets a little out of hand. Neurologists were alarmed to discover that that same gold shiny fixation has now drifted to my brain stem. Studies show that my Oscar obsession is now a completely involuntary function... like breathing. They've asked me to donate my gray-gold matter to science when I'm dead.

*If she accomplishes this it won't be the first time. At least four other actors have written roles that they were Oscar nominated for both writing and performing. Can you name them?

** Logic like this troubling fact: none of Rodrigo García's well meaning but muted films have attracted much awards recognition. My personal theory is that someone needs to jolt him with electric shock on ocassion. I really want to love his films and I suspect he's a kindred spirit given his devotion to actresses but there's something too sleepy about the movies. And I don't mean boring. Does anyone feel me here? I just think they need some filmmaking crackle that's not entirely performance-driven.

*** I felt weird about not excluding Carnage in the predictions but the more I think about it the more I'm unsure of how well it will transfer to the screen.

Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons

P.S. (God shut up already, Nathaniel.) How would you rank Glenn's Oscar nominations? I still don't get what that 1984 bid was about at all -- other than involuntary nominating reflex, blame the AMPAS brain stem-- but fuckyeah on her 1980s run all told, right? She was nearly as Oscar ubiquitous as Streep. if they're both nominated this year for Albert Nobbs and The Iron Lady it'll be their third head-to-head showdown.


Predix: Supporting Actor and The Matter of Young Leads

Jim Broadbent as Dennis ThatcherWhen it comes to blindfolded Oscar predictions, almost nothing beats the supporting categories. I have this vague fantasy of time travel and returning to propose all 10 supporting acting nominees correctly one April to reams of laughter from the internet. They can be so hard to see coming for so many reasons including: adaptations sometimes lean on different characters than the novels or plays that birthed them, ensembles are tricky because you don't know who will win "best in show" reviews, one lead films are tricky because the huge role at the center (The Iron Lady, J. Edgar) sometimes end up sucking up all the oxygen and other times have coattails. Then there's the small matter of Oscar being more diverse aesthetically when it comes to supporting work. Here is where comedy, horror, sci-fi, fantasy  and even comic book movies (Dick Tracy, The Dark Knight) can show up even though they rarely if ever get play in lead categories.

Kenneth Branagh? Christoph Waltz? Philip Seymour Hoffman x 2? Viggo Mortensen x 2? Armie Hammer or Josh Lucas? Ben Kingsley? Christopher Plummer? Jim Broadbent -- his Iron Lady performance already has tongues (and fingers) wagging -- Richard E Grant or Anthony Head? Nick Nolte? Brad Pitt? You can drive yourself crazy thinking about all the possibilities. Maybe you have?

The first predictions for 2011

NEW TOPIC: This is as good a year as any, I assume, to prove my frequent statements about Oscar's double standards with gender. There are at least three very high profile films with young male leads this year: HUGO CABRET (Asa Butterfield is 14 years old), WAR HORSE (Jeremy Irvine is ??? years old), and SUPER 8 (Joel Courtney is ??? years old).

Asa Butterfield, Jeremy Irvine and Joel Courtney

If you've ever doubted my assertion about this double standard -- some people have objected to the statements -- watch how these performances are treated this year while keeping in mind how Hailee Steinfeld's work was greeted in True Grit as if the heavens or the red sea had parted. The media, critics and Oscar voters are quick to shove aside experience and accomplishment in women when a "fresh player" enters but not so with male actors. My prediction: at least one of these three does work on par or better than Hailee's and doesn't get anything like her traction. Watch and see.

Obviously there are exceptions, as there are to every rule: There was no denying Haley Joel Osment's gift in The Sixth Sense (1999) although he did get demoted to Supporting and lost to somebody who already had an Oscar, and Justin Henry won a nomination at 8 (!) for Kramer Vs. Kramer. In both cases the films were absolute sensations at the box office. Dramas no longer explode with audiences like Kramer vs. Kramer did but in today's dollars its box office haul was truly insane. We're talking a domestic haul closer to the latest Harry Potter than a True Grit or King's Speech. In other words, even Oscar doesn't ignore the zeitgeist.


Oscar Predix: Best Actor and Leonardo DiCaprio

It's that foolish time of year - April Foolish to be precise. I try and suss out what's going to happen nearly a whole year from now without having seen any of the films. I am actually better than most at the year-in-advance thing... it's only later when my skills and prediction ratios put me a bit further back in the Best Prognosticators pack. Must be letting my familiarity with the films cloud the actual buzz! (They do always say that people who don't follow the race closely win Oscar pools just by casually parroting the buzz.)

The big year in advance question that people are already talking about of course is whether Leonardo DiCaprio can finally win for J. Edgar (if the film is released this year as I firmly expect it will be.)


Whether or not Leo is truly overdue is another matter. I was a very early disciple (1993, baby) but I have been losing interest over the years. I may be the only one who thinks that he's actually kind of bad in Inception. That performance just gets clunkier on repeated views, and he's not nearly as successful at making the exposition sound natural and conversational as the other actors are. But then again. That may just be the problem of "The Dead Wives Club," previously discussed. When actors get in role-ruts, it sometimes dulls the range of their imagination.

Still and all, biopics may suit him. (And they definitely suit Oscar.) He was very good in The Aviator (2004) but here's the other odd thing about his "overdue" status. It comes more from the fact that he's his generation's biggest star than from "should've won!" issues. I personally don't think he's ever come close to winning (which is usually when overdue status sets in). In 1993 the race was between Fiennes & Jones, in 2004 there was no race at all with Jamie Foxx sweeping in one of those Helen Mirren/Colin Firth style inevitabilities. 2006 was a "just happy to be nominated" situation and for the wrong film to boot.

Though he has to be considered a contender for a multiplicity of reasons, the year has barely begun. Other major stars that may have roles tailor-made for their persona or skill set include George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Mel Gibson, Ryan Gosling and there's always the reliably strong actors like Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Woody Harrelson or the rising stars like Michael Fassbender who already seems to be staking claim on 2011 and His.

I have lots more to say about the actors but I'll save some of it for the supporting actor post.

What do you make of The Film Experience chart or Leo's "winning" chances?


Too Much Adaptation.

Apologies: Having some computer maintenance issues today so it's slow going this weekend on these new Oscar predictions. Currently offline, I'm marvelling at the lack of Original material in the movies this year. It seems like almost all the major contenders are adapted from books or plays. For every 7 viable from a distance adapted contenders there's maybe one something that seems "original" screenplay-ish. Hmmmm.