* Well having done Supporting Actress and found it interesting, let's try Lead Actress (Yes, I'm still taking that break from the fb awards --but never fear they'll wrap up soon * a blitz next week* so that the way is clear for Oscar-mania when the nominations are finally announced (January 31st). As always you can see all of my Oscar Predictions here.
The Oscar race for Best Actress seems to be clear. Precursors point to a lineup that reads: Dench, Huffman, Theron, Witherspoon & Zhang. But what of Allen, Knightley, & Linney all of whom have been mentioned in this kudo-happy season if not as frequently? 2003 taught us (happily I might add) that sometimes one has to look beyond the usual suspects since it gave us two very surprising nominations in the category at the time: Samantha Morton, who had only a BFCA and Satellite nomination as precursor help (Joan Allen is in that situation this year) and Keisha Castle-Hughes, who had only a SAG nomination in the supporting category and a BFCA youth prize. So let's look at some meaningless (?) statistics from the past 5 years of Oscar (that's 25 nominees for the math-challenged) to see who most benefits from general trending.
Average age of nominees in this category:
38. The youngest recently was Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider @ 13) and the oldest Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream @ 68). Who is closest to the average age this year? Strangely there is an absence of mid to late 30s folk this year. That's the best age range these days for maximum fame and idolization for the leading ladies (think Kidman, Zellweger, Berry, Watts in the past few years). This year's contestants are either just crossing 30 (Witherspoon & Theron) even younger (Zhang, 26 & Knightley, 20) or in their 40s. There are two women close to the median age that are long shots. There's Laura Linney, 41 (The Squid and the Whale) and Maria Bello, 38 (A History of Violence) both women who have received precursor support in both lead and supporting categories. Category Confusion: Never a good thing.
Three Most Common Roles:
01. Creative types (actors, painters, singers, writers) make up 24% of the nominated roles in this category. But maybe this doesn't really help us in 2005. Reese's June Carter Cash is the only major contender who fits in this role and she's as secure as Fort Knox. If you dig into the longshots, writers and actresses appear: Laura Linney (The Squid and the Whale) and Naomi Watts (King Kong) both work this AMPAS friendly angle.
Runner Up: (TIE) Struggling single mothers and grieving mothers who've lost a child make up (when joined together) an impressively common 40% of the nominated roles. The only beneficiary this year of this maternal soft spot for Academy voters? Charlize Theron's poor divorcee in North Country.
What About Love?
The hystrionics surrounding dating, affairs, and marriages is always a big part of films. It's the scenery on which longer shots Linney, Bello, Allen (The Upside of Anger), and Knightley (Pride & Prejudice) all chewed memorably in 2005. But is it a draw for Oscar? It's so frequently there in all films that whether or not it has any natural pull for voters beyond any other elements is difficult to say. But only in 2001 recently was romantic drama a major or the major element of every nominated role in this category.
Does it help to die or be fatally ill?
It helps yes (20% of nominated roles) but it doesn't help anyone this year. [insert video clip of Morticia Addams closing the children's book with disappointment on her face: "Oh, they live."]
Does it help to de-glam
Do I enjoy Oscar night? Don't ask stupid questions.
[Actually, to be fair this doesn't mean much nomination wise. But it definitely helps to win and that's a topic for another day and hopefully another year *crosses fingers -says prayer to the gods of celluloid for this infernal trend to end*]
Commonalities of Snubs?
So, who, in recent years seemed like real contenders (list below indicates precursor support and/or media and critical attention followed by Oscar snub)? And why did they miss out? Which connections can we draw and how might this reflect on this year's race?
2000 Björk, Dancer in the Dark, Renée Zellweger, Nurse Betty, & Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
2001 Tilda Swinton, The Deep End, Naomi Watts, Mulholland Dr. & Charlotte Rampling, Under the Sand
2002 Meryl Streep, The Hours, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Secretary & Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher
2003 (ok here we go -crazy year. every which way in precursor season) Nicole Kidman, Cold Mountain, Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Evan Rachel Wood, thirteen, and Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. 1
2004 Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol 2.
I'd love to hear your opinion on what connects this grouping and how it might relate to this year's possible snub/s? Are the roles too outré? too sexual for prudish AMPAS? didn't inspire enough passion? not the right time in their careers? competing for same block of voters? etc...
Reminder: My Ballot (If I Had one)
Previously: Supporting Actress Commonalities
because I am always thinking about Oscar. sigh.