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NEWSARTICLE

Oscar Nominees: Win-Win

For the nominees who are expecting to lose, isn’t Oscar season a win-win? Our Oscar blogger suggests they settle in and enjoy the ride.


Oscar Statuettes

 

Parties. Global adulation. Ridiculous gift bags. Designers lobbying for your attention. Breathless media profiles. A place in movie history. Job offers. It must be tough to be an Oscar nominee!

 

In all seriousness though, and relatively speaking (forget for a moment that any working actor would trade places with any of the nominees), it probably is a little tough to be nominated. In addition to the months of wear and tear that undoubtedly come from endless handshaking, networking, sound bytes and flashbulbs, those who think they have a decent shot at winning are probably hopelessly racked with nerves.

 

Once you're on the campaign trail, all eyes are on you. And they're not always forgiving. Front-running nominees in particular are totally scrutinized from what they're wearing, to how they deliver a speech, down to the particulars of their campaign.

christian bale the fighter

They Want You To Want It. But Oscar Can Be Fickle.


Christian Bale
, Best Supporting Actor frontrunner, sailed through the first difficult test, which was making the media forget all about his previously-much-discussed temper. While he’s been racking up the wins, he lost the most recent contest for the gold this past weekend, when the BAFTA went to Geoffrey Rush for The King's Speech instead. Bale had no home court advantage, despite Rush being Australian, because Rush's film is the British darling of the year.

 

Natalie Portman, the Best Actress frontrunner, has been the most ubiquitous of all celebrities (the world loves a well timed pregnancy), but the “baby bump”, as entertainment reporters noxiously persist in calling it, hasn't saved the 29-year-old icon from some taunting. Naysayers object to her speeches (a video of her laughing during her Globes speech went viral), in which she often references her personal life.

 

Her movie choices have also raised eyebrows. It can't have helped her Oscar cause (though it may not have hurt it) that voters were so constantly confronted with her less than discerning career choices. While ballots were in hand, Portman was in theaters in a flop drama (The Other Woman), a somewhat poorly reviewed romantic comedy (No Strings Attached) and trailers to future silliness kept popping up (the superhero movie Thor and the medieval comedy Your Highness). The nonstop Port-Mania seems to have created at least a miniature backlash, and some pundits have been suggesting that her chief rival Annette Bening may be surging at just the right moment.

 

natalie portman at golden globes,

 

Melissa Leo, the presumed Best Supporting Actress frontrunner for The Fighter, has had it the roughest. It probably doesn't help that she's the oldest of the predicted winners (see Ageism at the Oscars) or that her race was always the most competitive. She’s up against a co-star who some feel is overdue (Amy Adams, also from The Fighter); a young, media-friendly star who has the unfair advantage of being in every scene of her film (Hailee Steinfeld, the lead player in True Grit); a longtime audience favorite who's having a great year and garnering goodwill with her wit and red carpet showmanship (Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech); and a critical darling in a very strong film (Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom).

 

Lately, things have taken a turn for the worse. Leo's obvious desire to be crowned has also been attacked—as if the other nominees don't want it just as badly! Once the actress paid for her own personal campaign ads, which simply read "Consider" and featured the actress glammed up to remind voters how different she is from her character in The Fighter, the claws came out. Things turned so nasty that one Oscar pundit felt the need to publish an impassioned vote of support.

 

melissa leo

 

This kind of scrutiny and heated conversation around frontrunners is the norm in Oscar season, unless the actor or actress has somehow been granted "immunity" in that great reality show that is the Oscars. Colin Firth, for example, isn't being scrutinized so much as merely propped up. His slow march to the Oscar stage is rather like Helen Mirren's inevitable bouquet-strewn journey for The Queen; everyone knows it's going to happen, everyone wants it to happen, and nobody gives a toss about the particulars. That’s what playing a royal will get you. As Helena Bonham Carter told reporters at the BAFTAs, “People do start treating you like royalty. It’s a bit hilarious.”

 

helena+bonham+carter

 

Relax. Enjoy It.

 

Yet for those nominees who have already won the industry's top prize or aren't expecting to take a golden boy home or can shake off the pressurized environment, it's a win-win. The films, usually labors of love, get more attention, and the actors get brand new or resurgent career heat.

 

Two stars that definitely seem to be enjoying themselves this season are Javier Bardem, a surprise Best Actor nominee for the Foreign Film nominee Biutiful, and Nicole Kidman, with her third Best Actress nomination, this time for Rabbit Hole.

 

Bardem skipped the BAFTAs this weekend to attend the Goyas, Spain’s Oscars. It was a smart move. He’s not likely to get any international exposure from the Goyas the way he might have by attending the BAFTAs, but he was all smiles on the red carpet, and the loyalty is definitely charming: the Goyas have been very good to him over the years. He won his fifth Goya that very night  "I dedicate it to my wife and son for awakening my heart and smile everyday," he said while accepting the trophy.

 

javier+bardem+and+penelope+cruz

 

Even if Bardem weren’t experiencing such applause for Biutiful, he’d have plenty to celebrate: he's an Oscar-winning actor and first-time father, with a gorgeous, Oscar-winning wife. [Trivia alert: though there’s a few other Oscar-winning couples out there, actor/actress marriages in which both spouses have Oscars are very rare. It’s only Bardem and Penélope Cruz and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones at the moment.]

 

Nicole Kidman, who also has a newborn at home, was similarly beaming this weekend. She wasn’t really out campaigning, either. Instead, she was the supportive spouse attending her husband Keith Urban’s big night, the Grammys. A televised cutaway to the actress dancing and singing along to Katy Perry’s performance of “Teenage Dream,” before she realized the camera was on her, was an immediate Internet hit.

 

“You make me feel, like I’m living a teen-age dream ”

 

nicole+kidman

 

The Twitterverse was in love.

 

Whether or not it’s accurate, the actress has often been deemed “chilly” and has been the subject of strangely vicious press and public response over the past few years. But the public has always been fickle with the biggest celebrities. Our collective adoration is cyclical: we build stars up, tear them back down, and pretend we loved them all along once it’s time for a “comeback.” Where people once saw a frosty Serious Actress, they were suddenly seeing a relaxed, warm, funny celebrity wife who likes to rock out to hit music. (She was also seen dancing during Mick Jagger’s performance.) On the red carpet, she’s projecting quite a lot of good cheer as well.

 

Perhaps, when you’re freed from dreams of winning, it’s easy to soak it all in and experience awards season as icing on their already delicious cake. Any actor with an Oscar nomination really ought to be dancing and singing—whether they win or lose.

 

They should feel like they’re living an act-ors dream.

 



Nathaniel Rogers blogs on The Film Experience. He is also a bit of an Oscar savant.

 

More in Tribeca's 2011 Oscar watch:
Oscar's Hit Parade
Oscar 2010: The Final Lap
Oscar Talking Points
The Winner's Speech
Wizards of Oscars
Ballots Are Out and the Heat Is On
Is Oscar Age-ist Re: Best Actress
12 Hungry Films; Only Room for 10
The Spirits vs. The Oscars
Too Many Screeners, Not Enough Turkey
Awards Season Begins

2010 Oscar Doc Shortlist: 15 Films

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