The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Sunday night’s Oscars will be drenched in the usual glitz and glamour of Hollywood. But there, among the nominees, is some earthy authenticity that will be familiar to Kentuckians.
Most years, there is some rooting interest for the Bluegrass State in the Academy Awards. But this year, the odds and the status make it particularly interesting and promising for Kentucky.
Nothing may be more interesting than the race for best picture. As awards season started, it seemed Steven Spielberg had made a slam dunk in Lincoln, an invigorating tale of 16th President and Kentucky native Abraham Lincoln.
But then a funny thing happened at the Golden Globe Awards. Argo, Ben Affleck’s well-regarded tale of the rescue of six American diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, won best dramatic feature. Affleck won best director. This came after the Academy’s well-publicized snub of Affleck in the best director category when the Oscar nominations came out the previous week.
At the time, I wrote it off as one of those Golden Globe-Academy splits. The Globes are a press award while the Oscars are given by artists and industry people. And the Globes are celebrity obsessed – to be polite – so of course they award Affleck.
But then Argo went on a roll.
It got the best ensemble cast prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Affleck, who again was not nominated for the director Oscar, won the award for direction of a feature film. The Producers Guild named it best picture. It won scads of critic polls.
Agro became a frontrunner.
Lest we think this would be a Kentucky loss, check the credits for the producers, who get the best picture Oscars: Affleck, Grant Heslov and George Clooney … is a beautiful man, the Kentucky for Kentucky folks have conditioned us to say. It would be Clooney’s second Oscar. (And we thought he had a quiet year.)
If Lincoln won, there are no Kentuckians that would actually receive the Oscar, but it would be the idea that biggest biopic of the Commonwealth’s No. 1 son won best picture that would give us a nice warm feeling.
But it just does not have that winning track record. Now Daniel Day-Lewis is a mortal lock to win his third best actor Oscar playing Lincoln, gathering up everything on his way to Sunday night. That will put him in extremely rare company with other three-time winners Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Walter Brennan, and Ingrid Bergman. And Day-Lewis will be the only one of that group to win all his Oscars – including My Left Foot in 1990 and There Will Be Blood in 2008 – for lead actor performances. That would leave him only one peer to look up to: Katherine Hepburn, who has four Oscars, all for leading actress performances. With Day-Lewis still a youthful 55, he has a shot at joining her.
But what will win best picture?
Despite Argo’s momentum, Lincoln still feels more like a best picture Oscar-winner to me. And the director snub really makes me hesitant to stamp Argo with a “will win,” because even if the best picture’s director does not win, he or she is usually at least nominated. But then the dominant narrative coming from experts like Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times’ Carpetbagger blog is the snub generated sympathy for Affleck and his film.
Here’s what ultimately persuades me to pick Argo: The Oscars are an industry award, and Hollywood likes movies about movies — last year’s The Artist, anyone? And Argo is about movies, or the specter of movies, doing something really good. Look for that beautiful man and his Argo compatriots on the podium at the end of Oscar night.
Now to another Kentucky rooting interest: that whippersnapper from Louisville, Jennifer Lawrence. She started the year – March to March — big playing reluctant revolutionary Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games and is ending it favored to win best actress for that act-off Silver Linings Playbook. And she has been gathering up the trophies on the way to Oscar night, including the Golden Globe and SAG best actress awards.
This is her second nomination, and she is only 22. Once again, watch out Kate Hepburn.
Our other rooting interest in all likelihood won’t have such a great night. Sally Field had the good sense to come to Lexington, hometown of her character, Mary Todd Lincoln, to prepare for the role. So we would love to see her win. But best supporting actress is where Les Miserables has been getting love for Anne Hathaway’s performance, and that will probably continue here.
That leaves us with two wildcard categories among the Big 6: best supporting actor and best director.
Best supporting actor has three very real contenders: Tommy Lee Jones in a highly-regarded turn as adamant abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln, Christoph Waltz (who had a much better Saturday Night Live turn than Jennifer Lawrence) in yet another supporting turn in a Quentin Tarantino film with Django Unchained, and Robert De Niro in a Silver Linings Playbook turn that reminded us he’s a great actor.
Oddsmakers are all over the place. Some favor Waltz, though as a winner in 2010 for Inglorious Basterds, it seems too soon for a repeat. There is a belief that how you act in awards season counts, and Tommy Lee Jones’ scowling through the Golden Globes probably did him no favors. De Niro, on the other hand, seems to have been revived by his Silver Linings performance and playing the game perfectly, so I am betting on him for the feel-good award of the evening.
Best director … If you think Argo will win best picture, then this field is open. Love for Lincoln with a Spielberg win? Honoring Ang Lee for wrangling the many elements of Life of Pi? David O. Russell as a great director of actors for Silver Linings? Or the surprises: Michael Heneke for the compelling quiet of Amour or Benh Zeitlin for the indie achievement of Beasts of the Southern Wild. I would love to see Zeitlin win for the most astonishingly original thing on this list. I will put my bet with Russell, because the biggest voting block in the Academy is actors, and with four acting nominations, there seems to be a lot of love for what he got out of the Silver Linings cast.
And, I take a deep breath, because this feels like one of the most unpredictable Oscar races in years. But if it goes this way, three Oscars for a film starring a Kentucky native, who wins herself; the other top acting Oscar for a man playing our most celebrated son; and another Kentuckian taking home one of the prizes for best picture, this would be a very Kentucky Academy Awards.
- Best picture – Argo
- Best director – David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
- Best actress – Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
- Best actor – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
- Best supporting actress – Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
- Best supporting actor – Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
George Clooney’s two Academy Award nominations solidify his status as a perennial Oscar nominee and distinguish him a regular multiple nominee.
In this year’s nominations, announced with considerable charm by Louisville’s Jennifer Lawrence Tuesday morning, Clooney was tapped for best actor for his performance as an out-of-touch dad in The Descendants, also a best picture nominee, and he received a nomination for best adapted screenplay for The Ides of March, a taut political drama filmed primarily in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas. While it was considered a contender in other categories such as best picture, best director and best actor for star Ryan Gosling, the screenplay award was the only major category nomination Ides received.
Still Clooney will go to the Academy Awards Feb. 26, like he did in 2006, with more chances to win – which he did then, picking up the Oscar for best supporting actor in Syrianna. He was also nominated for best director and best original screenplay that year for Good Night, and Good Luck, his film about legendary TV newsman Edward R. Murrow.
And once again, Clooney is considered to be in the hunt for the actor honor. On NPR Tuesday morning, longtime Hollywood reporter Kim Masters framed the acting race as between Clooney and fellow Hollywood hunk Brad Pitt, nominated for his performance as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball, who also received a best picture nomination as a producer of the film and could be named as a producer nominee for Tree of Life.
On the Today show, Pitt said it would not be strange competing against his good friend, Clooney.
“It’s more fun to have a freind there,” Pitt said. “No one does it better that George. I say, give him all the trophies, and when you run out of trophies, make some new ones and give him those too.”
Pitt and Clooney will face a formidable contender in Frenchman Jean Dujardin, star of The Artist, the silent Hollywood homage that received 10 nominations and is currently considered the frontrunner for best picture. Also nominated are Demián Bichir for A Better Life and Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Joining The Artist, Moneyball, The Descendants and The Tree of Life in the best picture race are five other films: Warhorse, Midnight in Paris, The Help, Hugo, which has the most nominations with 11, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Among pleasant surprises, the Academy seemed to get a bit more youthful and lightened up with nods for Jonah Hill as a best supporting actor nominee in Moneyball, who is primarily known for his work in bawdy comedies, and a pair of major nominations for the bawdy comedy Bridesmaids: Melissa McCarthy, who won an Emmy last year for her role in the sitcom Mike and Molly, and best original screenplay for Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo.
A little sign of hope for announcer Lawrence, a best actress nominee last year for Winter’s Bone, to possibly be in the running next year was a best actress nomination for Rooney Mara for her performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lawrence will be the heroine leading another action-drama series when The Hunger Games opens in March.
Joining Mara are Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis for The Help, Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn and Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady. Two-time winner and 17-time nominee Streep is considered a frontrunner to pick up her first Oscar since 1983, when she was honored for Sophie’s Choice.
It was not too long ago George Clooney had not even attended the Academy Awards. The Lexington-born, Augusta-raised Kentuckian said he was not going to go until he was nominated.
Now, Clooney is an Oscar winner and something of a perennial – at least biennial nominee. Sunday night, he won one of the bellwether honors for the Oscars: the Golden Globe for best actor in a drama for his performance in The Descendants. That begged the question, is Clooney in line to add another Oscar to his trophy case, which includes the 2006 statue for best supporting actor in Syriana?
In a normal year we’d say yes. But the Oscars-Golden Globes equation is a little off kilter this year because everyone in Hollywood seems to be in love with The Artist and its star, Jean Dujardin, which won the Golden Globes for best motion picture comedy or musical and best actor in a comedy or musical, respectively.
The French film, which has not played in Lexington yet, created instant buzz as a silent and black-and-white movie that showed decades after its demise the format is still a delightful forum for storytelling. It is the sort of film and performance Oscar loves – different and kind of gimmicky. Given the buzz out of Hollywood, you have to think Dujardin is the frontrunner for the Oscar for best actor. But Clooney should be part of the conversation, if he is not Giamattied.
Here’s the omen: The Descendants was written and directed by Alexander Payne who also wrote and directed Sideways in 2004, which featured a widely praised performance by Paul Giamatti. To this day I feel like an idiot anytime I drink merlot thanks to Giamatti’s performance as Miles, a struggling author and wine snob whose life is unraveling.
When the Oscar nominations were announced, certainly Giamatti was going to be in the hunt. But noooooo. In what is now viewed as one of Oscar’s great snubs, Giamatti was not even nominated in the year that Jamie Foxx won best actor for his performance in Ray.
With a lot of praise for his performance as a Hawaiian land baron who’s fallen out of touch with his family and that Golden Globe in hand – accepted, like his 2006 Globe for Syriana, with a dash of locker room humor – Clooney looks like a safe bet to be named when the Oscar nominations are announced next Tuesday by Louisville’s Jennifer Lawrence. He will probably have more chances too as he is likely to receive nominations for writing and directing The Ides of March, which is also mentioned as a best picture contender, and Gorgeous George didn’t do a bad acting job in that one either.
So Clooney could add to his Oscar total this year. But in the best actor race, this will probably be the year for another artist.
UPDATE: The Artist opens Friday, Jan. 20, at the Kentucky Theatre. Shame, which had previously been announced, has been pushed back and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy will be held over.
Feb2Filed under: Film, George Clooney, Oscars; Tagged as: Anna Kendrick, Avatar, Crazy Heart, District 9, George Clooney, Golden Globes, James Cameron, Jason Reitman, Jeff Bridges, Kathryn Bigelow, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Oscar, Scott Cooper, Screen Actors Guild Award, Seabiscuit, Sheldon Turner, Simpatico, Star Trek, Syriana, The Blind Side, The Dark Night, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Hangover, The Hurt Locker, Up, Up in the Air, Vera Farmiga
Lexington native George Clooney is once again an Oscar nominee, this year for Up in the Air, a movie that got a lot of love from the Academy when nominations were announced on Tuesday morning.
The film, about a man who has untethered himself from any personal commitments, also got nods for best picture, best supporting actress for Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, best director for Jason Reitman, and best adapted screenplay for Reitman and Sheldon Turner. It is the third acting nomination for Clooney, who won best supporting actor in 2005 for “Syriana” and was also nominated for best actor in 2007 for “Michael Clayton.” He was also nominated for best director and screenplay in 2005 for “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
In addition to “Up in the Air,” Clooney’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” was nominated for best animated feature.
If precedent-setting awards are any indicator though, Clooney will probably end up applauding Jeff Bridges on Oscar night, March 7. The veteran actor, who filmed two movies in the Lexington area in the last several years, “Simpatico” (1999) and “Seabiscuit” (2003), has already picked up the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award among several other honors for his performance as an aging country musican in “Crazy Heart.” The movie, which is scheduled to open Friday in Lexington, also has Kentucky ties in writer and director Scott Cooper, who grew up in Somerset. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays a reporter who interviews Bridges’ character, also earned a nomination for best supporting actor.
That’s the local interest in Oscar, though the world will be buzzing about the Academy’s new 10-feature slate of best picture nominees, and which blockbusters made it in along with the art-house fare that has dominated the category the past decade.
Among the surprises was “The Blind Side,” Sandra Bullock’s based-on-a-true-story film about a man who rises from poverty to become a professional football player. The hit joined “District 9″ and “Up,” also nominated for best animated feature, as films the Academy hopes will draw more viewers to Oscars, which have suffered declining ratings in recent years.
The best picture contest though seems to come down to a David-and-Goliath race between James Cameron’s “Avatar,” now the all-time box office champ, and his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow’s low-budget “The Hurt Locker.” If Bigelow beats her ex in the best director race, it will be the first time a woman has won the Oscar for best director.
Despite 10 nominees for best picture, there are some notable snubs, primarily “The Hangover,” which was a surprise winner of the Golden Globe for best picture comedy or musical. It also would have brought some populist interest to Oscar as “Hangover” is the highest grossing R-rated comedy in history. Of course the whole 10-picture, let’s-get-more-blockbusters-in-the-race thing started when critically acclaimed Batman film “The Dark Knight” was shut out last year. This year’s well-received “Star Trek” reboot was expected to be the best shot at a franchise film making it into the race, but it was left out of the running.
Join me in following the Golden Globe Awards on Twitter tonight. How will our own George Clooney and “Up in the Air” do? How will Ricky Gervias do as the host? Will he be allowed to drink and host, or are you only allowed to drink and accept awards? Will James Cameron become “King of the World” again – or the world and Pandora?
Of all the award shows, the Globes are usually the most unpredictable, so let’s chat in real time. I’ll be using the hashtags #Globes and #GG. Click here to go to my Twitter profile, or follow tweets in the green window on the far right.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich