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If Your Name Is Not Down You’re Not Coming In

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated Maggie Gyllenhaal for Best Supporting Actress for Crazy Heart, it was fair to say it was a bit of a surprise. I am not saying she did not deserve it, but having come from nowhere, and with all due respect, she hijacked that category.

There was a feeling Diane Kruger and Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) would not make the cut, in spite of the former’s SAG nod. And Marion Cotillard was cancelled out by her Nine co-star Penelope Cruz it seemed. Also doing well in the awards season, Samantha Morton (The Messenger) was being called in some circles for an Oscar nod, but most would agree Julianne Moore‘s absence for A Single Man was more notable. The impact of Jeff Bridges‘ push campaigning for the Best Actor award may have brought some heavier attention to the movie Crazy Heart (also nominated for, and winning, Best Song), which may have given Gyllenhaal some traction in regards to her eventual nomination. This is not necessarily exactly how it went down per se, but that is how I felt at the time. Those that believe Colin Firth should have won Best Actor for A Single Man rather than Bridges can perhaps appreciate the love for the latter perhaps contributed to Gyllenhaal bumping Moore out at the last minute.

If you can nail down an acting nomination at the Oscars, you get a default invitation to the party – which can often mean you get to bring a plus one. Of course this is not literally the case in Hollywood, and I do not particularly begrudge many of the nominee more than I would whenever someone I think is deserving does not get in. You can see what I am getting at, and this is not really about deserving or not, it is a notion that perhaps if a performance gets a good run (or even snowballs) it can aid the movie’s awards success in other areas. Namely, other actors or actresses. Does that make sense?

Do we think Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets & Lies), Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry), or Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) would have got nominated for Supporting Actress in their own right (again, whether deserved or not) had Brenda Blethyn, Hilary Swank and Cate Blanchett not blown our socks off? Ethan Hawke (Training Day) was considered a surprise too (for me the surprise was that he was nominated in Support and not Lead) being nominated opposite the electrifying Denzel Washington. And Jonah Hill has in recent years been a plus one twice – for Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street. I know he has his doubters, but he was great in both. He owes Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCarpio a big thank you though. Yeah right. Do we think Taraji P Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Alan Alda (The Aviator) benefited as well from from Mr Pitt and Mr DiCaprio’s respective great performances those years?
A lot can determine a nomination for any given actor or actress. Being in the right place at the right time is a common one. Often the performance is just so compelling no other factors matter, nor will they stop a runaway train. Sometimes their names simply get swept up with the ebb of the movie’s momentum. But sometimes a fellow performer stands out so much they shine a light on their co-star. Or the sheer love of the movie. Actual winners Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) and Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) pop into my head as those that perhaps reaped mention because of the coverage of their co-stars, but also the fact the movies went on to take several Oscars including Best Picture. And that often helps too. Not sure if it is worth noting, but of course I will anyway, that James Coburn (Affliction) and Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock) both came from nowhere to win Oscars for movies when the lead actors in the same movies where at one time touted as potential winners themselves.

Without a Hilary Swank in sight to stop her, Annette Bening‘s high praise for The Kids Are All Right put her in front-runner status for a long while. The previously ignored Mark Ruffalo managed to get himself a Supporting Actor nomination partly on the strength of Bening’s buzz. But then where was Julianne Moore? Again. I guess the notion I am trying to give a bit of airtime to is not always valid. Of course it is not. It is just something to think about.

Look at Jim Carrey, he was The Truman Show, and his performance helped give that movie a certain appeal to those who thought he was just someone who made his ass talk. But Ed Harris was nominated and Carrey wasn’t. Ask Helen Hunt who she would like to thank the most for her nomination in The Sessions. The not-nominated John Hawkes? Saying that, his nomination for a terrific turn in Winter’s Bone contributed to the breakthrough of one of the most influential actresses (lover her or hate her) in movies right now.

Jennifer Lawrence went on to own Silver Linings Playbook. Regardless of whether we liked the movie or not. Regardless of whether that Oscar she won for Best Actress was a Supporting role or not. Whether that Oscar was hers to win or not. Do you think Bradley CooperJackie Weaver and Robert De Niro were that good in the movie with everything else that was on offer that year? Or was is the movie’s ever-increasing buzz that dragged them along for the ride? Who do you think was driving that buzz? Jennifer Lawrence. Sure, David O Russell played his part, and maybe he knew exactly what he was doing casting Lawrence (or mis-casting as some put it) in American Hustle, because low and behold, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper (that’s two now for him) all get nominated for Oscars. For the record, I think Lawrence was the best thing in both those movies.
So then, what is happening this year? Who are we referring to when we say “Well, yeah they are great in that movie, but what about so-and-so? If she gets in then he has to get in.” Is Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) bringing Felicity Jones to the party? Sure, but she has her own invite. Same can be said for Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), who is not seemingly in the shadow of Benedict Cumberbatch‘s nailed-on nomination – in fact with Begin Again (and a pregnancy announcement) looks like Knightley is having a great year. It’s a funny old race though, as even with the certainty of Reese Witherspoon being a Best Actress nominee for Wild it still might not be enough to save Laura Dern.

The ones we are not sure on, but are building up a stronger case by the day, are Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) and David Oyelowo (Selma). It does not take a genius to figure out the possibilities of Rene Russo and Tom Wilkinson grabbing late Supporting nominations should Nightcrawler and Selma continue to soar. At the expense of who is the morning after’s headline movie news and snub debate no doubt.

It looks like Amy Adams’ chances of a consecutive Best Actress mention (Big Eyes) are waning, which does not then look good for Christoph Waltz. Or is he going to sneak in without Adams a la DiCaprio for Django Unchained? I doubt it, but I like to keep my eyes open for these late entries. Can Sienna Miller (American Sniper) take advantage of another Bradley Cooper nomination? I doubt that too.

Who is carrying Inherent Vice? I know why, but why is this not getting the awards coverage it might warrant? Having been nominated for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, even after attempting to repel the Hollywood awards system, I thought Joaquin Phoenix was leading the line for Inherent Vice. It then looked more like Josh Brolin was the main contender in that ensemble, but even he is now struggling to maintain a stay in that predicted Supporting Actor five. The movie’s coverage as a movie lacking credible awards coverage may actually work in its favor. Let’s not, then, rule out Katherine Waterston as a Supporting Actress nominee. You never know.

So with J.K. Simmons looking to have Supporting Actor all sewn up for Whiplash, and Julianne Moore not too far off with Still Alice, what of their young co-stars? Miles Teller, as far as I have seen or read, is outstanding in Whiplash, and in keeping with his character he seems to be able to keep up to some extent with Simmons on the acting front. Then there is Kristen Stewart who, as well as Still Alice, has broke free from the Twilight persona and now taking on juicier adult roles. Can J.K. and Julianne use their excellence to get them into party?

I am less confident about Oscar Isaac for A Most Violent Year. Which sounds bonkers when you think he was ignored last year for Inside Llewyn Davis, and he has the incomparable Jessica Chastain on his team – in this a movie she would not be campaigning for it seems, and might not even get in herself. With Interstellar stepping up the acting side of its own campaign this can either be a good thing for Chastain or mean she draws a complete blank. There really is no business like show business.

Foxcatcher’s Steve Carell was once upon a time was winning Best Actor at the Oscars. That was it, done deal. Feathers started ruffling about Channing Tatum, really showing his acting muscles, and people were like “Oh  yeah.” And then the cries of “What about Mark Ruffalo? He was great too.” It has been a long, unknown journey for Foxcatcher, and it now looks like Ruffalo might be the only one invited. Carell’s is seemingly lost in the post, or buried under fresher, newer mail. And Tatum was bouncing between people’s notion of Lead and Support so much, was was he ever in with a shout? I’ll stick my neck out in spite of all I have just said and say Carell, now a distant outsider, is getting in.

Ellar Coltrane of Boyhood is just not the sort of stand-out, showy performance that has separated him from the Best Actor candidates this year. But he really ought to be. He ages and grows too as a boy, and as an actor, just as the movie does over those twelve years. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are in without a doubt, the adults, but the boy of the title is nowhere to be seen. Such a shame. Though I suspect Boyhood the movie will get the last laugh.

I know I mention it maybe a little too often (because nothing else about the Oscar race is repetitive right?) but the Gone Girl herself Rosamund Pike might well be my personal pick for Best Actress, and I still feel (without any disrespect for the great Julianne Moore) she may well be victorious come Oscar night. If Gone Girl, which is plodding along at a steady pace at the moment in the Critics’ awards mentions, can continue to build momentum then it may still grab some serious nominations. Pike is leading the way for the movie (standing alongside Gillian Flynn surely), and whether she and Gone Girl can still appeal to the Producer’s, Director’s, and Writer’s branches is soon to be seen. Holding a firm place come Academy Award nominations might follow. Can it stretch so far beyond potential Picture and Director invitations to find a place for a Supporting Actress plus one for Carrie Coon? Wouldn’t that be nice.



  1. Al Robinson Al Robinson December 19, 2014

    What a unique look at how this game can work!! I've never really thought of this idea before but now that you've pointed out all of these great examples, yes, I think your right. I think the buzz of one person's performance can help propel another actor's award nod.

  2. Al Robinson Al Robinson December 21, 2014

    Robin, if that happens this year, what film, and what actor/actress?

  3. Al Robinson Al Robinson December 21, 2014

    I feel like maybe that could happen with Laura Dern in Wild.

  4. Robin Write Robin Write December 21, 2014

    What do I think? Well, what I think does not always materialise. But here goes nothing.

    As far as their big co-stars giving them a potential helping hand, whether through their appeal or the weight given to the movie, I think you have to look at Rene Russo and Tom Wilkinson are totally capable of hijacking their category. That said, Nightcrawler and Selma might come away with no acting nominations at all. Inherent Vice is a really interesting one too as it is popping up here and there and everywhere. Probably no room for Joaquin Phoenix unless he really can surprise everyone and nab that fifth slot. I would not be as surprised if Josh Brolin AND Katherine Waterston. Would take a brave pundit to call that though. I think Steve Carell is in. Sadly, I don't think Carrie Coon is. Besides she swears so much in the movie they would struggle for the nomination clip.

  5. Al Robinson Al Robinson December 21, 2014

    I'd love the Rene Russo nomination. Nightcrawler was fantastic! Wilkinson could maybe, but so far, I've mostly just heard talk for Oyelowo. Could change after it's fully in theaters.
    Inherent Vice might bomb theatrically, and find it's audience after the award nominations. 🙁
    That would be too bad for Carrie Coon, since she's practically the heart and soul of Gone Girl. But I agree, she swears way too much to find a great clip.

  6. Robin Write Robin Write December 22, 2014

    They'll edit something together for Carrie Coon. They managed it for Joe Pesci in Goodfellas somehow.:-D

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