The Oscar nominations will be announced this coming Tuesday, and we will surely hear the acting names called that have been dominating awards show competitions and movie website chatter all season long. And those recognized will be quite deserving. Film critics and movie bloggers have been trumpeting these actors for months now, and the Academy members will follow their lead. And the Academy members do follow conventional wisdom. It saves them time and face for not actually making the effort to watch all the DVD screeners they’re sent.
But no matter how rich some performances are, every year there are those that remain egregiously overlooked. Somehow critics, even though they see everything, decide to jump on certain bandwagons and everyone else follows suit. For example, this year’s front-runner in the best supporting actress category, after a couple of key wins, is Melissa Leo for her turn as the smothering and clueless mother in THE FIGHTER. It’s a good performance, albeit a bit two-dimensional. (We get everything from her performance in the first 10 minutes and the script doesn’t give her role much of a character arc.) But for my money, I cannot understand why this is the performance to beat.
Olivia Williams not only plays a much more complex supporting character in THE GHOST WRITER, but she added nuance and shadings to it that made hers one of the great performances of the year. And yet it’s largely gone unnoticed and unrewarded. (Though she did just score a coveted BAFTA best supporting actress nomination.) In her work, you’ll see a villain who is by turns vulnerable, vicious, witty, secretive, sexy and smarter than anyone else in the room. So why has she been ignored by awards voters while Leo is everywhere? Is it laziness? An obligation to go along with the status quo?
Sometimes a performance gets overlooked if it’s in a film that didn’t do well at the box office. Both Michael Douglas in SOLITARY MAN and Jim Carrey in I LOVE YOU, PHILLIP MORRIS gave exemplary lead actor turns in 2010, but they haven’t been recognized properly, most likely due to the fact that their films weren’t big business. The same could be said of the lead work done by Tilda Swinton in I AM LOVE or brilliant supporting turns by both Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas in NOWHERE BOY. But it's a shame that the critics and bloggers who raved about these performances haven't done more to keep them top of mind. Instead they've listed the likes of Nicole Kidman and Jeff Bridges and others as the contenders to beat for months, long before anyone even saw their performances. They should have been doing a helluva lot more to keep the performances that they had seen top of mind. Now, it's too late. The awards season is coming to a close and many worthy nominees aren't even in the running.
But explain to me how the star-making performance of Noomi Rapace in the international and American hit THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is not a lock for a best actress Oscar nod. Hers was one of 2010's seminal performances, and was talked about by everyone for months and months. Yet she remains the darkest of dark horses for a nomination. Why? Is it because Hollywood just doesn't want to push her performance knowing that the American made version debuts in late 2011 and they're focusing on that?
Obviously there are politics and lack of fairness in everything. And far more horrible injustices instigated throughout the globe in more important arenas than award shows. But in the movie world, I wish there was more proper due given. If there was, Olivia, Michael, Jim, Tilda, Anne-Marie, Kristin and Noomi would have been making room for many trophies on their mantles. And they might be getting ready to sail over the moon upon hearing their names called this Tuesday morning. Along with me.