Thursday, February 18, 2010

History Makes a Case for Gabby

I saw The Blind Side today and spent the train ride home thinking - thanks to Melbourne's glorious public transport system (/sarcasm) I was able to spend a lot longer thinking than I normally would, too! - about the Best Actress race. While I am most definitely one of the few people who thinks Julie & Julia has far more worthy aspects than Meryl Streep (remember, I actually think the Amy Adams parts are a good representation of a blogger's life), I actually I think I'm in the Sandra Bullock camp when it comes to who to give the statue to out of the pair.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think either deserves it - neither would make my final five Best Actress lineup - but I've never particularly seen Streep's "Julia" as being much more than a good performance, and it's hardly the best alternative to Bullock of there must be one. Bullock doesn't exactly knock it outta the park the way that one might be lead to believe after all the last-minute hysteria that's been bandied about, but she is more than acceptable in the role and she feels like a natural for the part. Actually, "more than acceptable" is a backhanded compliment since I think she definitely more than acceptable, but actually quite good. You can bet that if Streep gave the exact same performance then people would be giving her an Oscar nomination and let us not forget that Streep isn't exactly adverse to BROAD acting much like Bullock is doing here.

If I were voting in the Oscars then I would definitely be ticking the box of Carey Mulligan, but I can't help but get a nagging feeling lately that it is Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe from Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire that could pull off a surprise win over Streep and Bullock. However, thinking about the category closer today allowed me to see parallels between this year's Best Actress battle and the one from 2001/2, which saw an African American actress in a gritty movie triumph over an acting legend and a comeback actress.

One could go further and make the comparison between Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones' Diary and Carey Mulligan in An Education, too. Both are British, starring in what are essentially romantic comedies and look to have big futures on the horizon. And anyone who needs me to tell them the similarities between Helen Mirren, nominated for The Last Station this year, and Judi Dench, nominated for Iris in 2002, clearly has no need to be reading this entry since they obviously don't give two hoots about the Oscars.

Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom feels very similar to Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia. Both had "give them another statue!" momentum, a second for Spacek and a third for Streep, and at the start of each respective awards seasons there was more than enough evidence to support that was going to happen. Of course, both seasons had a "comeback kid" of sorts in the forms of Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. Both had been languishing in years prior and both came back with a vengeance, each starring in two box office hits in the same year, both of which garnered Golden Globe nominations on each side of the Drama/Comedy divide (each won one). Of course, Bullock's one-two punch of The Proposal and The Blind Side buries Kidman's combo of Moulin Rouge! and The Others from a purely box office objective, but Kidman also had the "woman wronged" edge that gave her an extra push since her divorce to Tom Cruise had just finished taking up pages and pages of tabloids.

And then there is Halle Berry and Gabourey Sidibe. Perhaps it's slightly racist to lump these two together, but they share more similarities than just the colour of their skin. How about they both star in movies from the Lee Daniels wheelhouse. Monster's Ball, for which Berry won her Oscar, was produced by Daniels, while Sidibe's film has Daniels' directorial fingers all over it. Both deal with black women who have been wronged by society in many ways and have horrendous things happen to them and their children and both film's feature villainous armchair-bound parental figures who heap abuse upon their children. And in a strange coincidence, both films have a running time of 110minutes.

The obvious differences come in that Berry won several big awards, including the Screen Actor's Guild Award, which this year went to Sandra Bullock. And Bullock has a greater shot at Oscar glory than Kidman probably ever did and all of this basically proves nothing and I am sure that when either Streep or Bullock win the Oscar next month that this will all look like over-thought gobbledygook. I do think this though: No matter what the outcome next month, I am confident in predicting that Sandra Bullock will have an Oscar statue on her mantle within 5 years. It happened to Nicole Kidman one year later when "we really just want her to have an Oscar" sentiment overflowed and she took out the prize for her role in The Hours over the likes of Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven and another comeback kid, Diane Lane in Unfaithful. Bullock has amassed enough goodwill this season to project her to instant-nomination status for the next time she manages to get anywhere near a prestige project.

Unless, of course, she wins a few weeks in which case... umm... that'll be nice, I guess.


J.D. said...

1. Zellweger isn't British (tho the character is obviously)? And they're two separate kinds of films besides 'romantic comedies' (which I wouldn't argue for An Education at all - it's sort of a comedy, but that has little to do with the romance portions)?

2. Streep isn't a histrionic hurricane of ACTING from all sides? And there's no plate-smashing?!

3. Kidman was actually, you know...not generally one-note or populist-angling?

Mirren = Dench is pretty much yeah, tho.

Glenn Dunks said...

1. Duh me, but they're both in British movies. I don't consider An Education a "romantic comedy" in the traditional sense, but it seems to have developed a reputation as just a fluffy piece of British romance (which I do not agree with at all, it's my favourite of all ten BP nominees).

2. STOP BEING PEDANTIC. Besides, Streep's Julia mightn't have smashed a plate, but she did drop an omelette and that's the same thing, really (both are disastrous in a kitchen!)

3. Neither's Bullock in The Blind Side. Kidman was, obviously, much better and more deserving, but Bullock isn't "one note" at all.

Glenn Dunks said...

BTW, I'd chuck out Spacek AND Berry from that lineup (and I haven't seen Dench, so she's gotta go too) and replace them with Watts, Swinton and Birch. Swinton, at least, is another similarity since she gave a great performance that was snubbed in both years (The Deep End and Julia respectively).

tony d said...

I wouldn't be shocked if Gabby won it but there are several key differences between the 2001 race and 2009, Berry had the strong support of Roger Ebert that has helped carry Theron and Crash to victories. Sissy Spacek had racked up many wins, but the buzz was strong on Berry after her SAG win. There was also the strong historical sentiment to break down the race barrier in the Actress category. I think Carey Mulligan has more of the goods to pull of the upset in case of a vote split (Adrien Brody in 2002) She's young, pretty, talented and a chance to reward a movie they like.

J.D. said...

I said GENERALLY. :P Bullock's performance really isn't anything more than above-average for a mindless, pandering studio popcorn flick.

And I wouldn't say An Education is fluffy, just a bit cliched and unimaginative, though it's intensely well-made and performed.

I agree about Swinton though! FFS. She should be like, a five-time nominee and two-time winner by now.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Glenn, really? You'd chuck out Sissy? Damn, that hurt. Your comparisons are quite good, but it was a pretty tight race between Kidman, Kidman and Sissy for me.

I could see this happening because Gabby is the anti bullock and Streep. Even though Carey is anti Streep (she's young and upcoming, not a legend); Gabby is the same AND she's black and fresh. And we all know that Oscar's voting is racially inclined and whatnot. Still pushing for Carey though, even though I DO NOT like Streep's Julia I don't know if I can pick Bullock Leigh Ann. The movies just did NOTHING for me. This is the best review that explained my thoughts.

Still, good and interesting post (Although I'm with J.D's protestations on 2 & 3 especially).

maxx said...

I think we have to look outside the category too. Mo'Nique is surely going to win for Best Supporting, and the screenwriter has a good chance for Best Adapted. Arguably, in the voters' minds, that will be "enough" awards for Precious. As this is the only movie that Bullock will ever probably be nominated for (think Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich), I think she will take home the trophy.

Anonymous said...

Did maxx forget Roberts had two nominations before Erin Brockovich?

Glenn Dunks said...

Andrew, yeah, I've never been taken with In the Bedroom as much as others and I think Tom Wilkinson is the true star of that movie.

I think Watts, Kidman (for The Others), Swinton, Birch, Rampling and Witherspoon are all better than Sissy from that year (of those that didn't get a nomination).

Maxx, Julia Roberts had two previous Oscar nominations before Erin Brockovich came along (for Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman).

maxx said...

I guess I did forget about Julia Roberts but my point was more along the lines that Erin Brockovich as a Best Actress role was really the only Oscar-ish dramatic role that came along, received the critical attention, and earned her a nomination and a win. Pretty Woman was too "light" for the Academy to give her more than a nomination. Sandra Bullock's performance in The Blind Side is really the first Oscar-ish role she has done--hopefully not the last but the Academy can't be sure of that.