The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Something nudged me after Louisville’s Jennifer Lawrence accepted her Oscar for best actress last night: watching a Kentucky native walk off with a major acting award was not an exotic thing to see. And no, I am not going back to George Clooney’s 2006 best supporting actor win for Syriana.
I’m just going back to last June, when Ashland’s Steve Kazee took home the Tony Award for best actor in a musical for Once.
The question I had to answer for myself before I went to bed this morning was, has any other state, aside from the usual suspects of New York and California, produced two major acting award winners in the past year? We’re talking Emmy, Tony, Oscar — I tried to find a comparable Grammy category and could not.
The answer was no, even drilling down to supporting player awards, and not even California. Now if you want to win a major acting award, being born in New York is a really good idea — particularly Manhattan. But after that, at least in 2012-13, having an old Kentucky home seemed to be as helpful as anything.
Of course, we have long known there is talent in the Bluegrass State, from the music of Loretta Lynn to the performances of the late Patricia Neal.
But what I really like about these two wins is Lawrence and Kazee probably wouldn’t have been the two performers you’d expect to create a one-two hit for Kentucky just a few years ago. Before breaking out in Winter’s Bone, then teenage Lawrence was relatively unknown. And Kazee had the chops but was struggling to find that breakout Broadway role.
It’s a nice message to send to aspiring performers across the Commonwealth: As much as we are subject to stereotypes and self-loathing, there is a rich culture here. And it is entirely possible to come from Kentucky and reach the pinnacles of artistic success, even without a last name like Judd or Clooney. Just watch the big award ceremonies.
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
According to Google Maps, there are 2,143 miles between the Kentucky State Capitol and the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, where the Academy Awards are presented.
But somehow, the Bluegrass State always seems to have a rooting interest in the Oscars with names like Clooney, Depp and Shannon in contention.
With today’s nominees though, maybe the biggest name in Kentucky dominates the Oscar field: Lincoln. The 16th President of the United States’ bronze visage dominates the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort, and Daniel Day Lewis is just one of 12 Oscar nominees for bringing Lincoln to life in Stephen Spielberg’s epic film. What’s more, Sally Field is a best supporting actress nominee for her portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln, probably the biggest name in Lexington history — a history Field knew well enough she came to Lexington to research the icon she portrayed.
That’s a lot of Kentucky history on the silver screen and in the running for Oscars in a year dominated by historic films including the hunt for Osama bin-Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, which opens Friday in Lexington, and the Ben Affleck Iran hostage drama Argo.
But we also see new history being made this year with Louisville-native Jennifer Lawrence, 22, receiving her second Oscar nomination for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook. The honor caps a heady year for Lawrence, who started 2012 playing the world’s new heroine, Katniss Everdeen, in The Hunger Games – a role she’ll reprise later this year in the sequel, Catching Fire.
Lawrence’s first nomination came for playing another gritty mountain girl two years ago in Winter’s Bone. Back then, the prevailing thought was it was a great, breakout nomination for Lawrence, but obviously Natalie Portman was going to win for Black Swan, which she did.
But this year, even before the nominations were announced, Lawrence was getting some strong discussion as a potential winner. The best actress category is really interesting with the oldest and youngest best actress nominees ever: Emmanuelle Riva, 85, for Amour and Quvenzhané Wallis, 9, for Beasts of the Southern Wild, respectively. Rounding out the field are Naomi Watts for the tough tsunami drama The Impossible and Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty. Chastain may be a strong contender, but the way the nominations played out, it appears the Academy may be a bit cool to her movie, which has sparked controversy for its portrayal of torture by American agents searching for the 9/11 mastermind.
Director Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman to win the Oscar for best director for The Hurt Locker (2009), was not nominated for Zero. Also snubbed was Tom Hooper for Les Miserables. The snubs and generally anemic hauls for the films that were considered contenders make Lincoln look like an even stronger frontrunner than it did before 8:30 this morning.
At this point, Spielberg’s American epic has to be considered the favorite in numerous categories including best picture and director, and Lewis seems a lock to win his third Oscar. Field could well win her third as her strongest competition is Anne Hathaway from Les Mis.
And wins for Lincoln could be strong sources of pride for the Commonwealth, from being the President’s home state to the participation of Kentuckians from the Kentucky History Center and members of The President’s Own band in making the film.
More than ever before, Oscar nomination day has been a great day for Kentucky.
Before taking a holiday break, Saturday Night Live announced that Louisville native and white-hot movie star Jennifer Lawrence will host the show’s first edition of 2013 on Jan. 19. The musical guest will be Denver-based folk rockers The Lumineers.
Lawrence was catapulted to A-List status in the past year with her starring role as Katniss Everdeen in the post-apocalyptic blockbuster The Hunger Games. She has since gained rave reviews and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for her performance in the quirky comedy Silver Linings Playbook. She is considered a strong contender for an Oscar nomination for the same role. It would be the second Oscar nomination for Lawrence, 22, who was nominated for best actress in 2011 for her performance in Winter’s Bone (2010).
Silver Linings Playbook is about an odd relationship that forms between Lawrence’s character, Tiffany, and Bradley Cooper as Pat, who is undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder as the movie opens. The film has not opened yet in Lexington but is playing in Louisville and Cincinnati.
Jan. 19 will be Lawrence’s first turn hosting Saturday Night Live.
Rolling Stone is primarily known as a music magazine, but Kentucky seems to have a habit of getting its movie stars on the cover.
This week, Louisville’s Jennifer Lawrence, star of blockbuster The Hunger Games, joins that list which includes Johnny Depp (numerous times) and George Clooney. Like most Stone interviews, the online excerpt of Josh Eells story indicates this will be a … ahem … revealing tale. (Note to Jen: When you shout the F-bomb into your cell phone while talking to a Stone scribe, you are on the record.)
But for a woman who is building a reputation for playing gritty heroines, she has to appreciate Stone’s declaration that she is “America’s Kick-Ass Sweetheart.” Just remember that the folks at Kentucky for Kentucky beat the pop culture icon to the punch when they declared Lawrence and her Kentuckian co-star Josh Hutcherson “Kick-Ass Kentuckians.”
The story is in the April 12 issue of Rolling Stone, due on newsstands Friday.
Though Louisvillian Jennifer Lawrence is the Oscar nominee among The Hunger Games leading actors, Josh Hutcherson is the old hand at movies. According to the Internet Movie Database, the 19-year-old actor has been performing on camera since a 2002 TV movie called Becoming Glen, the same year he appeared on an episode of ER, though fellow Kentuckian George Clooney had already left the show by then.
In particular, while big, physically demanding spectacles were new to Lawrence, Hutcherson had been through that mill several times with films such as Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) and Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005).
“It definitely has some physical elements that I’m kind of used to ion a shoot,” Hutcherson said in a March 4 phone interview. “The story is something like I’ve never read before, let alone done. So in that respect, it was something brand new to me.
“I just got done shooting Journey to the Mysterious Island right before that was running around in a jungle trying to survive. This was just running around in a forest trying to survive.”
Asked if he prefers a jungle or forest, he chose forest, in part because he said being from Kentucky, it’s a more familiar environment.
As for his co-star and fellow Kentuckian, he said, “She did great. She literally didn’t have one day off, except the weekends, obviously, for the entire shoot. Everybody else had a few days off here and there, but she worked every single day.
“She was amazing. To come to the set every single day with the same energy and enthusiasm for her job that she did is so impressive. She’s so humble and down to earth and real, and it was an honor to talk to her.”
Hutcherson did get the worst of things in one instance. Wednesday night, on The Late Show with David Letterman, he recounted how Lawrence gave him a concussion when she kicked him in the temple while practicing fight choreography.
Click the play button above to hear our entire interview with Josh Hutcherson.
- Kentucky-born Hunger Games stars already know their lives won’t be the same
- Album review: The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond
- Kentucky Hunger Games stars find stark difference: She’s Louisville fan, he roots for UK
- Review: Adaptation from teen novel is a winning mix of violence and drama
A little over a month ago, Louisville’s Jennifer Lawrence and Union’s Josh Hutcherson were enjoying the revelry of the Oscars and awards season. Now, they make up some of the most Kentucky-centered movie casting since Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon paired up in 2006′s Bug.
Lawrence and Hutcherson will star in the big screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, the first film based on the hit trilogy that includes Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The series is set in a future country where the United States used to be in which selected teenagers must compete in a deadly game. But the casting is somewhat appropriate as Lawrence and Hutcherson’s characters, Katniss and Peeta, hail from the District of Appalachia.
Joining them will be two-time former Miley Cyrus beau Liam Hemsworth as Gale completing a love triangle that is frequently compared to Twilight’s Bella, Jacob and Edward.
Directing The Hunger Games, and adding to its Oscar pedigree, will be Gary Ross, director of 2003′s Seabiscuit, which was partially filmed in the Lexington area and nominated for the Academy Award for best picture.
Lawrence was an Oscar nominee for her performance as another mountain girl fighting for survival in Winter’s Bone. Hutcherson was part of the ensemble cast of multiple nominee The Kids are All Right.
Feb24Filed under: Film, Louisville, Oscars; Tagged as: Aaron Sorkin, Anna Paquin, Annette Bening, Black Swan, Chris Nolan, Christian Bale, Colin Firth, Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, Director’s Guild, facebook, Golden Globes, Hailee Steinfeld, Harvey Weinstein, Hilary Swank, Inception, Jennifer Lawrence, Melissa Leo, Michael Clayton, Natalie Portman, Oscar, The Fighter, The Hurt Locker, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, The Piano, The Social Network, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hooper, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
The 10-film best picture Oscar field has become such a tease.
In just two years, it has created the illusion of a lot more — and a lot more popular — films vying for the top honor. But in the end, it still boils down two or three movies jockeying for the finish line.
It would be wonderful to see an inventive and challenging Chris Nolan film like Inception or Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan get the prize when it is handed out Sunday night. But we know that’s not going to happen.
It would also be wonderful if the voters got over their anti-animation snobbery and gave some of the outstanding studios like Pixar, nominated this year for Toy Story 3, a real shot. But we know that’s not going to happen.
And speaking of snobbery, could any of these award shows give an honest-to-God, unpretentious comedy a shot? I won’t say it.
Old Oscar habits die hard, and it will probably happen again this year.
If ever there was a movie tailor-made for Oscar, The King’s Speech is it.
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