Sunday, September 15, 2013

OSCAR WORTHY VS. OSCAR DUE


Robert Redford is getting a lot of Oscar buzz already this season. His movie ALL IS LOST hasn’t even opened nationally yet, but those who’ve seen it at various film festivals and screenings are suggesting he’s a lock for a nomination. And he’s likely the favorite to win too. At age 77, it would be his first acting Oscar. He’s won an Oscar for directing ORDINARY PEOPLE and an honorary one for Sundance, but he’s never taken home the gold as a leading man. And he’s been a leading man in six decade of movie acting. 
Robert Redford in ALL IS LOST
If he wins, it will likely be for a terrific performance, but most likely for a lot of other factors. The Academy always considers a number of things when voting. It’s seldom just about the performance.

The idea of winning an Oscar outright because the performance is so amazing is almost never the way the voting goes. Instead, it’s all about who’s due and for what reason. A number of other considerations sneak into the mix too. Is the movie still fresh in the memory of the voting members? Does the film have momentum or did its talk value peak months before the awards voting? Who’s won before? Who hasn’t? Who’s the most likable? Who’s the sexiest? (A big consideration when voting for actresses. Sadly.) There are so damn many things to consider, it’s no wonder Oscar prognosticating has become a cottage industry online. (Just ask the folks over at GoldDerby.com or AwardsDaily.com)
James Stewart in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
It’s always interesting to me to see who gets a ‘make up’ Oscar. That's the Oscar they’re due because for some inexplicable reason they were passed over before. Jimmy Stewart immediately springs to my mind, as he didn’t win in 1939 for his landmark role in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. He lost to Robert Donat in GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS that year. It's a good performance in a good movie, but it's hardly in the league of Stewart's classic role. Apparently enough Academy members realized their oversight immediately and gave Stewart the Best Actor Oscar the very next. His win for THE PHILADELPHIA STORY was fine, but it was no Mr. Smith.  
Renee Zellweger in CHICAGO
That happens a lot in the Oscar balloting. Very seldom to people win for the performance they should have. Shouldn’t Renee Zellweger have won a supporting actress Oscar for JERRY MAGUIRE in 1996? (Heck, she wasn’t even nominated!) How about a lead Oscar for her incredible singing and dancing turn as Roxie Hart in 2002's Best Picture winner CHICAGO? Nope, she lost there too. Instead, the Academy finally awarded her a Best Supporting Actress statuette for COLD MOUNTAIN the very next year. It was a performance that drew bad comparisons to Granny Clampett in THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES but at least the Academy corrected their errors, right?

The Academy's timing is pretty bad. The last 20 years alone are filled with people who didn't win for the right film. Nicole Kidman didn’t win for MOULIN ROUGE, but did THE HOURS. I’d argue that of the three female leads in that weepie  she was the least worthy of award consideration, but alas, Kidman was due. And she won. Finally. But for the wrong movie. Similarly, the incredible Denzel Washington was passed over for his towering work in both MALCOLM X and THE HURRICANE, so when the Academy finally got around to giving him a Best Actor Oscar it was for TRAINING DAY, a film nobody thinks Washington won outright for. But that's how Oscar make up balloting goes. 
William Holden in SUNSET BOULEVARD
My favorite actor of all time is William Holden and he won Best Actor for STALAG 17 in 1953. It’s a good performance in a solid film but his Academy Award worthy turn was three years earlier in SUNSET BOULEVARD. The winner that year was Jose Ferrer, a terrific actor in a good performance as CYRANO DE BERGERAC, but what film has stood the test of time? What performance is still talked about today? It’s Holden’s, no question.
Al Pacino in THE GODFATHER
And when you think about films that actors don’t win for versus the one they finally nabbed Oscar gold for, it’s more than a little ridiculous. Al Pacino didn’t win an Oscar for either of THE GODFATHER movies, SERPICO or DOG DAY AFTERNOON. He finally won, after eight nominations, for his bellicose “Hoo ha!” in the overwrought SCENT OF A WOMAN. Likewise, the Academy didn’t deem Dustin Hoffman’s landmark work in THE GRADUATE, MIDNIGHT COWBOY or LENNY as Oscar worthy. They finally got around to honoring him for KRAMER VS. KRAMER. Seriously, Ted Kramer versus Ratso Rizzo? You tell me which one he should’ve won for.

Which brings us back to Redford. He’s only been nominated for one acting Oscar before and that was for THE STING (1973). Redford’s terrific in that movie, and he carries the frothy bubble of a caper film on his capable shoulders, but it’s not an Academy Award worthy role or performance. Redford could have won for two that definitely were - BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and THE CANDIDATE. Yet Redford wasn’t even nominated for those two biggies.
One could argue that Redford could have and should have also been nominated for THE WAY WE WERE, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN or THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN. But he wasn’t. Now, 40 years after his last Oscar nod for acting, Redford may very well win for the adventure film ALL IS LOST. It's a lost at sea saga where Redford apparently is the only one on screen for virtually the entire movie.  

Better get that speech ready, Bob.

2 comments:

  1. Robert Redford is as good a choice as the Academy could probably get, even though I have not seen the film, only the trailer. He is a consummate professional, and humble enough at this point in his career to accept whatever accolades come his way with grace and class; he is that kind of human being AND artist.

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  2. Well said, Anonymous! It looks like a very good movie. And indeed, Redford may be the frontrunner because it's such a remarkable achievement. I think other factors only help his chances. And I think he should have won the Oscar for THE CANDIDATE. And he should've been nominated a number of other times too. He's always been one of my faves. And you can read my appreciation of him here in case you missed this earlier posting here on the site from August 18, 2012: http://theestablishingshot.blogspot.com/2012/08/happy-birthday-robert-redford.html

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