Mark Harris has a fascinating article in New York magazine this week about the pressures and absurdities of Oscar-season campaigning — a season which, for all intents and purposes, is already over. Harris points out something that I’ve long suspected: While in Hollywood it is considered perfectly justifiable to campaign hard for an Oscar nomination, under the guise of “promoting my movie” (even if your movie is already out on DVD), it is consider a little tacky to push for a win. So, now that the nominations are out, everyone’s taking a bit of a breath, after a crazy December/January rush of award shows, red carpets and interviews. A few tidbits from the story (which is long but well worth reading in its entirety):
— Jeff Bridges will win best actor, because he is in possession of the most powerful Oscar narrative: It’s his turn.
For actors, other narratives include The Foreigner We’re Discerning Enough to Single Out (that’d be Inglourious Basterds’ Christoph Waltz), The Kid With a Future (Up in the Air’s Anna Kendrick), and The Comeback (unused this year–perhaps The Wrestler’s Mickey Rourke is still holding on to it). But only one is bulletproof: It’s Time. This year, the owner of It’s Time was supposed to be [Colin] Firth, who gave one of 2009’s most admired performances. But with Crazy Heart, possession shifted to Bridges, who is seen as having been more unfairly ignored (an essential element of It’s Time), having lost the Oscar four times, whereas Firth has never been nominated and therefore has never lost. Get control of It’s Time and make it sing (rather than whine) to voters, and, whether you are Kate Winslet for The Reader or Martin Scorsese for The Departed, you have the Oscar in your hand.
— James Cameron’s apparent inability to rave about his film without sounding arrogant (one producer notes, “He makes it incredibly hard to vote for him”) is dissected here, including a passage in which Cameron disses Meryl Streep to reporters. Which is simply Not Done.
— Speaking of Streep, Harris observed a sweet scene at the Critics Choice Awards, where Streep and Sandra Bullock tied for best actress. At the press conference, Streep was asked what she thought of Bullock’s peformance. “You have an amazing gift,” Streep tells Bullock, “You really do. There are things that look effortless that are the hardest things to do.” Harris, who was at the press conference, writes that he could see tears in Bullock’s eyes. These two, he notes, make for the most interesting acting face-off of the awards season: “since the excellent narrative behind Streep (namely, There Is No Way on God’s Green Earth That This Woman Should Have Fewer Best Actress Oscars Than Hilary Swank) must now fight off Bullock’s, the much simpler Who’da Thunk It?!”
— Finally, a pair of fun Oscar facts: If “Avatar” wins best picture, it will make history by being the first movie since 1933, for heaven’s sake, to win the top prize without any acting or writing nominations. If “The Hurt Locker” wins, it will be the lowest-grossing Oscar winner since the 1950s.