Monday, January 23, 2006

Best Actor Commonalities

Since the 5th slot for Best Actor seems to be a tight race between Russell Crowe who is doing very well in the precursors but lacks as much fresh "buzz" as his rivals Terrence Howard, Jeff Daniels, and even the last-minute surge from theConstant Gardener himself, Ralph Fiennes ... let's look at the possibly meaningless (?) statistics from the past 5 years of Oscar (that's 25 nominees for the math-challenged) to see who most benefits.

Average age of nominees in this category:
46. The youngest recently was Adrien Brody (The Pianist @ 29) and the oldest Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby @ 74). 2005's Oscar bunch looks to be the youngest in some time (more on that here). Who is closest to the average age this year? Fiennes (The Constant Gardener) is 43. Next closest in both directions are Crowe (Cinderella Man) @ 41 and the never-nominated Daniels (Squid and the Whale) hoping for some career achievement 'thank yous' at 50.

Most common roles:
01. Creative types (writers being the most frequent sort) compose 36% of this category's recent nominees. That might give a leg up to Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale but it didn't help Michael Douglas, also playing a blocked formerly celebrated writer five years ago. It might also suggest that Terrence Howard's music dreams in Hustle & Flow might play resonantly to voters.
02. Physical or Mental Ailments of Significant Magnitude also score with voters. That matches up with 20% of the nominees. Surprisingly none of the contenders go that Oscar-bait route this year.
03 Grieving dads suffering the loss of children or spouse account for 16% of nominees. If you extend that to include characters fighting to keep their children alive/with them or those with deep regrets at lost relationships with their children the number expands to a weighty 28% of nominees. The most grief stricken of our possible nominees is Ralph Fiennes having lost his wife and unborn child in the first few minutes of The Constant Gardener. Both Jeff Daniels and Russell Crowe also get to milk emotions both complex (former) and overtly sentimental (latter) from the fear of losing their family.

Does it help to play an actual person, living or dead?
Does it ever. They make up nearly 50% of the nominations in this category. There was only one year recently without real figures. In 2003 all of the nominees played fictional characters. Not so surprisingly the corresponding snubbed actors were also playing fictional characters. To stand a chance in this category, you better be aping a real person...preferrably a famous one. The only fifth slot competitor playing a real characer? Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man.

Commonalities of Snubs ?
To understand the Oscars you have to have context of the year and the other people Academy voters could have selected. So, who, in recent years seemed like the 6th or 7th slotters (list below indicates precursor support and media attention followed by Oscar snub)? And why did they miss out?

2000 Michael Douglas Wonder Boys and Jamie Bell Billy Elliot
2001 Gene Hackman The Royal Tenenbaums , Ewan MacGregor Moulin Rouge! , and John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch , and Billy Bob Thornton in either Monsters Ball or The Man Who Wasn't There
2002 Richard Gere Chicago
2003 Russell Crowe Master & Commander
2004 Paul Giamatti Sideways and Liam Neeson Kinsey

Aside from the fact that nearly all of the snubs are fictional characters and most are in comedies, is there anything else that connects them? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Reminder: My final predictions have begun...Best Picture and Best Actor. And previously: Best Actress Commonalities because I can't stop. But you knew that already, didn't you?


Glenn Dunks said...

Well, Jamie Bell's snub is clear. He's was a kid and except for Skippy they don't like that.

Russell probably got passed over cause he would've been 4 from 4 years.

THe rest are either in ensembles or were overshadowed by the women in the movie.

But, really, there's no common thread for all of them, really.

Anonymous said...

I think not nearly enough of has been made of the facts that

a) Ralph Fiennes has not been nominated for an Oscar in 9 years

b) He only has two nominations, which ties him with John Travolta, and leaves him one behind Robin Williams

c) Everyone would include him in a discussion of the top 10 actors of the last twenty years or so alongside Crowe, Penn, Denzel, Hopkins, Freeman, Hanks, and the rest so where is the freaking Oscar love?

also, I love me my Terrence Howard and Jeff Daniels, but do you really think we could have five first time Best Actor nominees? From my quick research, this has not happened since 1970, but in that year 3 of the 5 had previous supporting actor noms, whereas only Phoenix has one this year.

adam k. said...

I don't think Daniels is happening. It seems a lot like Gene Hackman in Tenenbaums to me (very flawed paternal figure that isn't quite a leading role, in a quirky dramedy)... and the competition is too great. His main pull, the writer/creative type thing, has been covered this year twice over with the two globe winners.

The other three all have pluses, though.
Crowe: average age, baity, precursors
Feinnes: average age, grieving, overdue
Howard: breakout, creative type, plus wouldn't he be the only african american actor in any category? it would seem odd to have none in this heavily political and Crash-loving year.

I think you've got the right order there, but none of the three would surprise me. Daniels would surprise me.

I think the snubs basically were in comedies or were kids or were lacking in the usual baity things like real person, disability, accent, grieving, etc. And being a "creative type" is nullified and then some if you're "lover boy" (Ewan, Leo) or a drag queen (Mitchell).

Andy Scott said...

I always wondered if some voters overestimate a performer's chances. Like last year, for example. Maybe people said to themselves "Giamatti's a lock, so I'll give Clint a boost instead". It's a stretch, but you never know.

Glenn Dunks said...

Daniels would surprise me. Just don't feel that's happening.

"plus wouldn't he be the only african american actor in any category?"

Ever since the film was released I've had Howard in my predix for Best Actor and for the first month or so it was purely based on the fact that AMPAS is probably loving their cultural diversity right now so it'd seem odd to have a year with no african-american actors in the mix. Is that wrong of me?

Gilidor said...

Michael Douglas and Ewan McGregor were CRIMINAL snubs. McGregor, especially, will still be delighting cinéphiles with his Moulin Rouge! performance 50 years from now, mark my words.

adam k. said...

Well the worst part about the McGregor snub was that it wasn't even really a snub, because he was never even in the running. Sad.

Glenn Dunks said...

ya, true. Odd thought the is that there are two Golden Globe WINNERS in there and they still couldn't mustre up a win. Richard Gere though... well, that's completely understandable.

Anonymous said...

Peter Dinklage was snubbed in 2003. I'd much rather he have been nominated than either Bill Murray (who I can't seem to ever stand watching, Rushmore excepted, and I actively dislike Lost in Translation); or Ben Kingsley, in a rare clunker of a performance.

(That they nominated Shohreh, though, was faaaantastic; what wonderfully singular decisions they made that year! Shohreh, first nom for Patty Clarkson (terrible film, but she is the best there is, anywhere), first nom for the great Djimon Hounsou, a bunch of out-of-nowhere citations for BuenoHombres over there.

I wanted the Best Actor list to shut the latter two out in favour of Mr. Dinklage and Mr. Crowe (who was magnificent in Master and Commander; he gave twice as good a performance as Gladiator or A Beautiful Mind. Or both combined.)

Glenn Dunks said...

I'm glad to see someone who liked Russell Crowe's performance in Master & Commander as much as I did. As great as I thought he has been in movies like The Insider and so on, in M&C it felt that, for the first time in a while, he was truly enjoying himself and it showed on screen. Thought he was great - as was the movie.