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January 10, 2006

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Don't upset the polyamorists, Edward.

Haven't seen the film yet but, given its romantic nature, perhaps in keeping with the Oscar tradition we might see:

Best Actor: Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Best Actress: Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain

Or, vice versa...?

Nope. That wouldn't work, now, would it?

(Sorry, Ed. Just kidding).

Well, just for the record: I regretted that one the instant I hit "post."

Bad joke. Sorry.

not at all Xanax...I thought the same thing, for most likely the same reasons...cultural conditioning.

Perhaps this would work better...

Best Actor - Seme

Best Actor - Uke

Yes, it's possible for both Ledger and Gylllenhaal to be nominated for Best Actor, but unless it's a tie, one would have to cancel the other out.

And why not?

Women are already sufficiently discriminated against in Hollywood that I'm really very reluctant for anyone to propose a means of removing the category "Best Actress" from the Oscars. (Even though I think it ought to be: "Best Actor (Male)" and "Best Actor (Female)".)

If there are two excellent actors in a film and their peers want to award them an Oscar for their joint performance - which would apply to The Fugitive or Casablanca or Thelma and Louise as much as to Brokeback Mountain - then why not have an Oscar for "Best Buddies" - which could be awarded any two actors, male/male, female/female, or female/male, whose mutual chemistry had made a good film into a great film?

Well, Jes, I would hope you'd know my intention was not to eliminate a category for female actors, but rather to adjust the categories so that same-sex leads stood the same chance of both winning as opposite sex leads do.

then why not have an Oscar for "Best Buddies"

I hate the term "buddies" when applied to same-sex couples. It's saccharin in the very worst way to my ears.

Best co-actors then. Best two actors of either gender in the movie. Or something like that. Best actor and best actress doesn't have to refer to a romantic relationship between them anyway.


Sheesh, I make a New Year's resolution to cut drastically back on blog comment posts and I'm online commenting on something that I don't have more than the slightest interest in. Got bored with what I was reading. This is going to take more willpower than I thought.

Edward: I would hope you'd know my intention was not to eliminate a category for female actors

Tricky, since you were in fact eliminating a category for female actors: there are two male leads, both stars, in Hollywood movies *far* more often than there are two female leads.

I hate the term "buddies" when applied to same-sex couples. It's saccharin in the very worst way to my ears.

Ah, but this would apply to mixed-sex couples, too... :-) And to two actors (whatever their gender) in lead roles, whether or not their characters were romantically involved. (Officially, anyway. Frodo and Sam?)

Anyway, I'm not wedded to the name. But I would definitely rather see a new category for "Best Twosomes" (however named) than see the Oscar category for women in a leading role eliminated.

At least three of these can be described as primarily romantically involved couples (with some possible debate on a few others)

Erm, fava beans?

"Best Ensemble" might make sense as a new Oscar category.

Could be awarded to any combination of two or more actors in a film who interact in a particularly compelling or noteworthy manner. There are many films in which the dynamic among the actors is what distinguishes the acting and the film, moreso, say, than any single performance.

"Best Ensemble" might make sense as a new Oscar category

That sounds promising.

Erm, fava beans?

I may be somewhat influenced by what happens in the sequel (book, anyway...hated it so much I didn't bother with the film).

At last a topic I can discourse authoritatively about :)

There have been several times where more than one person from a film got nominated in the same category, romantic or not. Until 1974, it was a truism that if three people got nominated, none of them one (Robert DeNiro won Supp. Actor for GODFATHER II, while Lee Strasburg and Michael V. Gazzo lost).

Peter Finch won for NETWORK, but William Holden lost for the same film.

So many factors go into selecting Oscar winners -- track record, how much the Actor is stretching, how they rate in the Hollywood community, prior nominations, etc. And it's rare that the two performances and actors are so tied together a choice can't or won't be made (THELMA AND LOUISE -- there was a tough choice, and neither of them won).

In this case, Gyllenhaal will lose out to Ledger, not based on the performances, just that Ledger is having a "breakout" couple of years. They like that kind of thing in Hollywood.

On the other hand, chances are that David Straithairn and Philip Seymour Hoffman will trump them. Both are "actors' actors" who usually do supporting roles but are getting a rare shot at the top slot. Either one would be a more popular choice than the BROKEBACK boys.

As for lead vs. supporting -- it's all perception. Was Samuel Jackson *really* a supporting actor in PULP FICTION while John Travolta was a lead?

zmulls: Thanks for your analysis. In your opinion is the Academy really as loathe to add new Oscar categories as they appear to be? It seems like such a no-brainer that it's time for several new categories related to Stunts (best performance by a stuntman, best stunt coordination, best special effects in a stunt sequence, etc). The idea of an award for Best Ensemble Performance seems pretty logical but I suspect we needn't hold our breaths. Any thoughts?

Either one would be a more popular choice than the BROKEBACK boys.

Because the BBM boys are too new or because they're disliked for some reason?

Well, there is also the perception (I would say fact) that certainly PS Hoffman and probably David Strahairn are superior actors to Ledger, based on body of work. And Oscars are somewhat similar to baseball HoF selections in that a groundswell of support leads to recognition for certain actors based on 'body of work' as opposed to performance in this film.

Best Ensemble: I'm all for it. (BTW, it's criminal that Frank Pantangeli (Gazzo) didn't get a nod, even though DeNiro was unreal.)

Best Stunts: Yes, let's turn the Oscars into pairs figure skating at the olympics...

Maybe Best Couple? To mean either romantic relationship or buddy pairing? Best Ensemble seems to open it up a little too much.

These are starting to sound a bit like categories in the MTV Movie Awards to me. The real problem is that cinema isn't a sporting event. I don't have a problem with handing out awards to the creators of extraordinary works, but the idea that you can weigh one exceptional performance against another that succeeds in an entirely different way and deem one the "best" is plain silly. Add to that the frequency with which the Academy just gets it wrong, and these awards ceremonies tend to just be an exercise in frustration for me.

From "best actor and actress" to "best couple" to "best ensemble"--further proof of the Santorum principle!

Edward, the Oscars are also structured to cut against any film with an ensemble cast, in which every actor becomes a "supporting actor," competes with one another for votes, and doesn't make the cut. In order to accomodate any of those films, they would have to eliminate the distinction between "Best" and "Best Supporting" and just have "Top Four Best Actors," which would be kind of silly, if for no other reason than the distinction between a lead and a supporting actor is a legitimate one (although the distinction that's made is often the wrong one - what made Travolta a "lead" in Pulp Fiction and Sam Jackson merely "supporting," beyond the fact that Jackson was black?).

And yes, Jes is right. Given the Academy's historic tendency not to nominate women, any degendering of the Oscars would likely result in fewer awards going to women.

In general the Oscars are broken. Neither Hitchcock nor Kubrick ever got one, but that schmuck from "Happy Days" did? The show is boring, the best movies never win - if they ever get nominated in the first place - the speeches are awful and saccharine, and even the most promising of hosts are almost always wretched. Screw the Oscars.

"what made Travolta a "lead" in Pulp Fiction and Sam Jackson merely "supporting," beyond the fact that Jackson was black?"

Travolta being a bigger star, or a better-established one, who appeared in more scenes that Jackson, and in scenes without Jackson (while v.v. was not the case I think)?

Well, having just seen the movie, I think it's pretty safe to say that although, yes, the film was about both men, it *did* focus primarily on Heath's character. I have no problems with Heath being "best actor" and Jake as "best supporting actor."

Doesn't the Best vs. Supporting Actor distinction rely on the old farce structure of most older screenplays in which the Supporting Actor could be glossed "character actor"?

If so, that opens up a whole other box of troubles, as the character actors in classical farce structure were lower class, which in early 20th-c screenplays is indicated by divorcees, poor/fat/old/ethnic/gay people, or more generally, people too human for the audience to identify comfortably with them.

From my admittedly limited knowledge of earlier 20th-c movies, the Oscar categories did once really reflect the narrative structure of the scripts. Today in big budget movies there still tends to be two big leads and a host of subordinate characters

I agree, though, that plots are loosening up. The two big leads can be same-sex--which is almost totally new--and there are more and more movies where it might be difficult to identify the two characters who embody the emotional center. Since the Oscars seem to be suffering from poor TV ratings, maybe they should consider shaking up their categories.

Travolta being a bigger star, or a better-established one, who appeared in more scenes that Jackson, and in scenes without Jackson (while v.v. was not the case I think)?

Travolta at the time was most certainly not a bigger star - he was a burnt-out has-been making a comeback as a result of that very movie (his last role before that had been a voice-over in a sequel to a talking baby movie). As for "well-established", Marlon Brando was certainly a more established name than Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now," but Marlon Brando was definitely not the star of the film.

More scenes really isn't the issue here; the issue is that neither actor was a lead, but one got treated as a lead and one got treated as support. "Pulp Fiction" is well-split between an ensemble cast, rotating perspectives between its characters as it goes (and ending ultimately with Jackson's). Neither actor was a "lead" in any traditional sense, and ordinarily would've ended up competing with each other for Best Supporting Actor. Instead one got nominated as a lead, which he definitely wasn't, within the context of the movie or within the traditional context of the Oscars.

"a sequel to a talking baby movie"

Wasn't that "a wildly successful talking baby movie"? And of course having been a big star and making a comeback might be considered better than being a big star.

Anyway, it seems to me that Travolta is the lead in that movie if anyone is, tying the diner and Brad and coffee and Uma and Willis segments together, and it's the Hollywood way to reward successful movies by nominating actors so even if he's not a conventional lead it's natural for him to have been chosen.

Just to let the fox in the chicken coop (and since we have some people who have put more thought into this than I have), what is the possibility of the Academy voting for the Oscar so as to piss off red-staters. Was Michael Moore's win such a message? If it is, how would we know?

I really don't know what the answers might be (a very common state) and futhermore have no opinions on what the answers might be (that's a lot rarer state), so I'm not making any claims, just wondering if it is possible and if it would come to pass.

I've always believed (based on what, I can no longer recall) that the distinction between nominations for leading and "supporting" actor and actress was: (1) essentially a decision made by the producers of each film (rather than critics, voters, &c.), and, as such (2) essentially based on politics and negotiation, e.g., do any of those involved have the distinction written into their contracts? (some do, I believe), or, if not, what are the odds of an outcome successful at the box office? (A nomination for Best Actor is good, but a *win* for Best Supporting Actor may be deemed better.) There are also individual egos to consider, e.g., someone who fancies himself (or herself) a star may wish to be nominated for "Best" (rather than "Best Supporting"), and the studio may go along in order to ensure his/her happy participation in subsequent flicks.

At any rate, as established over many years, this has NOTHING at all to do with the kind of substantive issue (who is actually "leading"? - who is "supporting"?) raised in this thread.

If you try to make actual sense of the Oscars, you'll only go crazy. Take them on their own (industry-specific) terms, or take the evening off and read a good book.

Dr. Ngo makes sense, as usual.

A friend of mine has proposed Best Stuff awards. Possibly subdivided into Best Stuff You Do On-Screen and Best Stuff Of Yours On-Screen, whcih would encompass cosmetic surgery along with music, set design, and such.

Just to let the fox in the chicken coop . . . what is the possibility of the Academy voting for the Oscar so as to piss off red-staters?

Marginal, I'd think. Despite the constant squawking from the pundits, the Hollywood establishment is notoriously conservative and/or populist; and what's more, they rely on a lot of that red-state money to buoy an already-troubled box-office.

All of this -- and there are comments I both agree and disagree with throughout the thread -- is predicated on the idea that the Oscars are anything more than a self-congratulatory industry promotional tool, which they aren't.

The Screen Actors Guild, by the way, does have a "Best Ensemble" award. (Something which I'd have no problem with the Oscars having; movies are not monologues, after all.) This year's nominees are Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Hustle & Flow, Crash and Good Night, And Good Luck.

As someone who's participated in award nominations with my local theater, I can safely say that the difference between "supporting" and "Lead" is sometimes subjective. And yes, spreading the nominations around the categories did come into play (even though it wasn't supposed to); it wouldn't at all surprise me if that factored into Brokeback's breakdown (I haven't seen it yet, so I can't comment on the performances itself).

That'll teach me to not check the comments until overnight.

The Academy doesn't like to play with categories. I remember the hue and cry when they added make-up as a category. And like "Sound" a lot of people who are voting don't quite know the difference between good and bad. (The nominations are made by people who know what they're talking about -- the winners are voted on by everyone in the Academy regardless of expertise). The "Sound" award usually goes to the "loudest" movie; the "Film Editing" award usually goes to the longest movie (which sort of suggests it wasn't edited); and the "Make-up" award goes to the "goops of old-person plastic" or "scary creature" movie.

For BROKEBACK, it's probably strategic to try to get both awards, and Heath Ledger has a better shot at the top one. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I don't know if there's an argument to be made for it being Heath Ledger's story, as opposed to Jake Gylllenhaal's story.

(And yes, John Travolta appeared in all the subplots, while Samuel Jackson didn't appear in any scenes that didn't have John Travolta, so there was the best argument there).

Certainly Hollywood sometimes gives out awards based on "blue-state" politics. Giving Dalton Trumbo a writing Oscar because he had been blacklisted. Giving Tom Hanks best Actor for PHILADELPHIA (he was good, but the content of the movie tipped it over to him, I think -- the movie also won Best Song for Bruce Springstein).

So BROKEBACK has an excellent chance for Picture, Director (making up to Ang Lee for CROUCHING TIGER and SENSE AND SENSIBILITY) and Screenplay, just because of the politics, and wanting to be seen supporting the movie. It will be easier to vote for that than MUNICH, regardless of the quality of the movies.

(That said, I can't wait to see BROKEBACK.....)

Come on. Travolta had his own chapter/story with Uma, and even showed up in the Bruce Willis arc, if only to be machine-gunned. And in any case, Pulp Fiction made Jackson a star, just as much as it remade Travolta. Or do you think Jackson's fine work as The Other Computer Guy in Jurassic Park or Sgt. Wes Luger in Loaded Weapon I had already broken him out?

Bah. The whole thing is nonsense anyway.

Ah, the old Marisa Tomei canard. :)

Look, I was as shocked as anyone. And there were at least two actresses that year who hands down deserved that Oscar. But Tomei is really amazing in MY COUSIN VINNIE. That's a delightful film which could easily have been a "don't rent, don't see" movie, and she's one of the main reasons it's so enjoyable. It's a brilliant, consistent comic performance with an honest characterization underneath. She was Oscarworthy, just not as much so as others.

I was rooting for Judy Davis that year, because she's my secret girlfriend.

But it's hard to look at Vanessa Redgrave and give an Oscar to anyone else. She breathes acting at a level that few reach. Just watch the title sequence of HOWARD'S END -- even before there's any dialogue at all, you understand so much about who that character is just from the way Redgrave walks around the house and communes with the plants.

Are you all so clueless about traditional Oscars? AN ACADEMY AWARD IS FOR A MAN AND A WOMAN! That's how it's always been in every society, do you think that's some irrelevant little coincidence that you can ignore? You try to downplay how you're RADICALLY TRANSFORMING and UNDERMINING the institution of Oscars, but look at yourselves: it took less than an hour and a half to go from proposing same sex Oscars to being in favor of giving Academy Awards to two FRIENDS, and within another hour you were already supporting POLYOSCARY for a whole ensemble. Pretty soon you'll be saying, "oh, well I don't see any reason why we shouldn't let an Oscar-winning Ensemble include kids, or box turtles." Then we're going to be living in a society where PARENTS have to explain to their KIDS, and ACTORS have to explain to their FANS, why CHILDREN and DOGS and TURTLES and SAME SEX COUPLES and all sorts of strange GROUPS OF PEOPLE are allowed to win Oscars. Yet you liberal atheist hedonists, blinded by the SAME SEX AGENDA, act as if it's no big deal to CHANGE THE DEFINITION OF OSCARS and start handing them out to whoever you feel like. The Oscars aren't some little GAME or CONTRACT -- we're talking about HOLLYWOOD and THE FOUNDATION OF OUR SOCIETY. You've gone too far. The people (those of us who aren't OUT OF TOUCH LIBERAL ELITES) are going to stand up and defend the Oscars.

That's great Edward. But it changes the whole dynamic. Maybe then, therefore, Greg Kinnear should have gotten the Oscar. Or Bruce Dern. Now I know why he really walked into the Ocean. Priceless!!

Bah again. She was funny, but in a broadly stereotyped, "Brooklyn chick" way that clunked after a while, for me anyway. An argument could be made, I suppose, that any comic performance has a hard time seeming substantial next to a host of heavy, dramatic emotive Streepish Merchantivoryisms.

By the way, it was never a secret about you and Judy Davis. We all knew about it.

And by the way, "canard" means "lie."

(There's an old canard that Marisa Tomei did not actually win the Oscar. Jack Palance came out and did the one-handed push-ups, and generally looked like he was not entirely sane or sober. The rumor is that he read the wrong name, and it was covered up by the accountants because it would be too embarassing for everyone to take the Oscar back and re-award it.

I admit that I thought you might be alluding to this rumor by posting the infamous picture, rather than just pointing out your opinion that perhaps she wasn't as good an actress or gave as good a performance as either V. Redgrave or my girlfriend -- or Joan Plowright or Miranda Richardson.

Anyway.....I *did* mean canard *g* -- sorry to make assumptions, though)

You're right that great comedic performances often get swept away by "serious" acting. (Many don't even get nominated). But there are those comic performances that are truly special -- I like Tomei in that film (YMMV), Lesley Ann Warren in VICTOR/VICTORIA and Peter Sellers in BEING THERE, to name a few).

Side note about people for whom category classification was difficult: Jaye Davidson and Linda Hunt were both seriously posited for the "opposite sex" Oscar. Andy Serkis was promoted heavily for Gollum -- while half of the performance was CGI, half was indeed a dedicated actor. There was even a movement to nominate Miss Piggy the year the Muppet Movie came out.

Ah, yes. I'd forgotten that rumor. I understand now - sorry for the unwarranted correction.

Speaking of great comic performances, I can't figure out if I'm way off in thinking that Steve Carell in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" turned in one of the year's best. I completely bought his character, and Carell put forth a touching picture of curdled innocence. I mean, just look at the poster - fresh eagerness and aging desperation all mashed together in a teal polo shirt.

Hey, if Dustin Hoffman could win for a comic role, I don't know why Carell can't. I mean, for god's sake did anyone that year actually see "Tootsie?" It's awful, and he was awful in it. My disbelief simply doesn't suspend that far.

My brain is still utterly out to the dry cleaners, and I made a major ass of myself writing something incoherent, on (prescription) drugs (specifically Ambien), to Edward on this subject in e-mail last night -- sorry, Edward -- but it's helpful to keep in mind that Academy nominations are pure politics, and nothing more. It's all about the strategy of who should be placed where so as to best help possibly helping the commercial chances of the film.

Looking at it any other way is just ignoring reality, and engaging in an obvious category error. It might be nice to be less cynical about this, but it would simply be utterly foolish and utterly pointless.

"In general the Oscars are broken."

Depends upon how one views them. Anyone who has ever had the notion that aren't simply a business proposition, largely unrelated to art, has never remotely been paying attention, I'm afraid.

Occasionally they do reward quality, to be sure, and it can be a fun show, as well, but that's purely incidental.

I like the show. Sometimes people do surprising things under pressure; that's often fun. It's one of the few examples of "reality" tv I enjoy, also because of the talent involved.

If anyone in this thread mentioned that Jon Stewart will be hosting, I missed that in my brief skim (sorry), but that also might be fun.

(My computer has been acting completely bizarre in various ways in recent days; I blame the NSA.)

"and the last time I posted on it, there were cries of "Spoiler!!," "

Don't be completely silly, Edward (unless that's fun for you).

There are several-decades old, simple conventions. When engaging in a spoiler, one notes "Spoiler Warning!" and puts the info below the next screen, while the visible screen remains blank.

Nothing more, nothing less. Not complicated. It's a bit simpler with a shell account, but we all have to make do with inferior blog technology, and the equivalent is hardly complex or mind-boggling. It's not a matter of needing to view the oppression inherent in the system, or to feel sorry for one's self for.

(What constitutes a spoiler is slightly more subjective, to be sure, but it's generally better to be safe than sorry, for the first year, and I'd certainly never claim that I'd not made errors in that area, myself; but stuff that begins "so in that last scene..." isn't complicated.)

Also, SPOILER WARNING

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it's a sled, and she was a girl, and Keyser Soze is just a story, and so there.

Hmm, that works better with non-broken software that doesn't eliminate linebreaks, but THAT'S NOT MY FAULT, actually.

Speaking of great comic performances, I can't figure out if I'm way off in thinking that Steve Carell in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" turned in one of the year's best.

The movie is one of the best. Only saw DVD, not on screen but the people-talking parts, especially in the 1st half are very good.

I don't see a lot of movies, but did the nomination of Capote for Best Ensemble strike anyone as a bit weird? A lot of the supporting players were very good, but Hoffmann was infinitely more important to the movie than the rest of them.

And Carell was very good in 40YOV. In fact, I'd say that it would be a better nominee for Best Ensemble; lots of great little turns by many people, and the whole cast worked very well together.

dr. ngo has it right; a couple of years ago Newsweek (I think) ran a piece on how the difference between Lead and Supporting has little to do with anything except where the nominee has the best chance of winning. There's no real requirements, though I imagine the categories came about like Jackmormon said, to give a character actor a way to get a statue.

Not even a screen time criterion. Anthony Hopkins only graced the screen for 21 minutes as Hannibal Lector.

In any case, I don't think Best Actress is necessarily co-extensive with 'female romantic lead', so I don't think there's an unfair competitive advantage to straight couples in movies. Lead 1 and Lead 2 would result in no women being recognized/nominated; there's often not many good roles for women..

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