Thursday, June 21, 2007

Judge Jenny

Is Jennifer Hudson qualified to judge the art of acting? I have to ask.

She is among the newest invitees to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (The Oscar voters) which means somewhere down the road, Jennifer Hudson will help determine if the next challenging virtuoso turn (like Naomi Watts's in Mulholland Dr or Isabelle Huppert's in The Piano Teacher) is shunned or honored. She'll judge whether or not Meryl deserves her third Oscar or Kate Winslet her first.... and both of those women will undoubtedly have tough competition in future races. They'll certainly be up against some media friendly babes frumping it up for attention: the "Jessica"s are only five to seven years away from seeking out those "deglam" opportunities... mark my words.

I don't mean to rag on JHud. I love her I do. She's my favorite person to ever emerge from the otherwise bar lowering entertainment phenom known as... never mind. I'm sick of saying the name. I can't wait to buy her first CD. She's certainly a better choice as an Oscar winner than several before her. But I think it's worth discussing: Is she qualified to know who is and isn't crafting delicately nuanced portraits or boldly stylizing their star turns?

[I'm playing devil's advocate here --we all feel qualified to do this or else there wouldn't be so much discussion about who is or isn't deserving. But shouldn't the Academy have to be more qualified ;) ]

Does she know the difference between a performance that just underlines the script or one that elevates the material? I have to ask because she has almost no experience. (Note: They did not invite Michelle Williams or Rinko Kikuchi, recent nominees who have been acting a lot longer.) Yes, Jenny just won the Oscar ... it makes Academy sense. But I'm just saying.

She might excel at the job. She's risen up to other tasks. But, to me, Hudson's co-nominee Adriana Barraza (the nanny in Babel), who was also invited to join the ranks, makes more sense as a voting member. I hope she accepts their invite. She's a well regarded acting teacher when she isn't onscreen. My guess is she has practice discerning the success of various components within any given performance. If she doesn't her former students should ask for their money back.

In other invitation news... The rest of the AMPAS newbie list reads like their usual mix of apologies (sorry Daniel Craig! we love you we do), celebrity worship (Jennifer Aniston --an Academy member? WHY??? Seriously. What would the reason be?), people you thought were already members (Christopher Plummer), head scratchers (Peter Berg in the directors branch after only a few pictures and only one of them, Friday Night Lights, gets talked about. J.J. Abrams in the writing branch when his chief claim to fame is Lost --a television series. There's another Academy for that, people. Geez) and extremely random if not unpleasant names (William Fichtner, Maribel Verdu).

You can see the whole list at Awards Daily. It's fun to see these lists but it sure does make you wonder about the Hollywood networking game...


Anonymous said...

In a head's up completely unrelated to JHud here's the Margot at the Wedding trailer:

plenty of acting to judge there I guess. Keep up the good work Nate.

Edward Copeland said...

I just read the complete list and to me the biggest outrage is the invite for Danny Huston. He shouldn't even be allowed to "act" let alone vote on others' abilities.

Chinese Odyssey said...

No need to get worked up, this is what AMPAS have been doing since ever.

To me, the fun of Oscarwatch is alaways its hysterical process,
the only award show that could entirely satisfy you is your very own, and you're doing a pretty job of it, that should be enough.

Anonymous said...

So we're guessing Forest Whitaker was already a member, along with all the previous acting nominees nominated again this year.

But does this mean Wahlberg, Cruz, Breslin and Kikuchi were snubbed?

Breslin I can understand for obvious reasons (although she deserves membership more than Fanning does); Kikuchi, again, hasn't got a proper body of work yet. Wahlberg may need to prove himself once more.

But Cruz - hello? Is she already a member, or what? Cos if not, that is a major snub (along the lines of Michelle Williams last year). Does anyone know?

And the JHud love-in continues...

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Hudson earned her invite to the Academy. She was always going to get in due to the win, and she could always surprise in terms of the choices of films she makes and how her tastes evolve over time. What I find more questionable is how Christopher Plummer isn't already a member by now. He must have declined membership or something in the past, which I could easily see him doing. Daniel Craig definitely got the "sorry we didn't notice you in 'Casino Royale', but you rocked as Bond!" slot. As happy as I am for J.J. Abrams in general, he's in there b/c of "Lost", and something about that isn't quite right, no matter how great "Lost" is. I'm also happy for the character actors of the invites -- Chiwetel Ejiofur, James Rehborn (!!!), William Fichtner, Aaron Eckhart, Danny Huston, Jackie Earle Haley, Maribel Verdu, etc.

Aniston being in there is kinda lame, and where is Sacha Baron Cohen? Meh. I don't mind Antoine Fuqua too much, b/c I doubt there's many minority directors in the directors branch to begin with, and he struck gold with "Training Day" at least. I wanted to see Rinko in there for the diversity, but I'll take Adriana Barraza instead. I bet that Abigail Breslin would have been a pick this year if not for La Dakota's invite last year.

It's a decent list for the most part. Some great choices were thrown in there with some okay ones. It could have been a disaster, but it's not.

adam k. said...

I definitely just did a post about exactly this. But I won't beg for a link cause the photo of "Judge Jenny" simultanously frightened and amused me so much that I'll love you forever (I laughed out loud upon seeing it).

I think it's lame that Breslin was snubbed when Fanning, never a nominee, was invited. Perhaps this is their way of making her felt better about never being nomianted: "It's okay, you're still the only child we'll actually let in!"

I thought it was ridiculous that Santaolalla was not invited in LAST year, after he won the first time. You could argue that he was too new to filmmaking, but then they let in Jennifer Hudson. So, yeah.

adam k. said...

Do very many people turn down these offers of membership? Does anyone know?

Also, do over 100 academy members really die every year, or is the academy just always getting bigger? I personally would like to know.

Anonymous said...

On an unrelated note, I heard John Cusack's performance in 1408 is great. Maybe some buzz for the underrated guy?

Anonymous said...

While the academy is generally increasing, not decreasing, you don't have to die to be dropped. If you stop paying your dues, for example, you can stop being a member (I bet that's what happened to Christopher Plummer). That said, it's no where near the size it was at it's peak (around 9500 members)

Sean Penn turned down his first three invites (he wasn't a member until he won for Mystic River)

amir_uk, Cruz is already a member and has been for a few years.

As for Fanning/Breslin... well, I would like for all voting members to be of the age where they at least could convincingly sneak into R-rated movies. In general, though, I'd like to think if you're worthy enough for recognition, you have the talent to discern who should be recognized

Anonymous said...

this is the reason why i love you, nat!!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see that Gustavo Santaolalla's being let in this year - since I don't know if he's the best judge of what makes great film music. The fact that he was passed over last year despite winning, while Marianelli and Iglesias (other scoring nominees) were let in, was quite telling that that attitude might have been held more widely. Now a year later - with a new President of the Music Branch - with a second win, it seems they couldn't deny him again.

Fortunately Desplat, Navarrete and Carter Burwell were also invited in. Some consolation.

Anonymous said...

They always invite all of the winners, I believe, so not inviting her really would not have been an option.

Anonymous said...

and I'm SO excited Maribel Verdu got invited!

Cinesnatch said...

The Jessica's???? Okay, Jessica Biel, yeah, she's totally on the make for Oscar. But, Jessica Alba? Come on. That's stretching it. She can try, but she don't have a chance in Hades. Is there another Jessica?

Glenn Dunks said...

Yeah, there are some silly names on there - but it means they get a free ticket to the show and they can always trot them out for announce a song or something that way they feel included.

It's all sort of boring though. We never get to find out the voting tallies anyway so what's the point?

Anonymous said...

Don't understimate Alba. Time will tell...
Mirko S.


re: Alba.

stranger things have happened. and you almost have an advantage as an actress if they think you can't act and you suddenly learn how. kinda more valued than just being excellent all the time (see the many oscarless ones)

Anonymous said...

Arkaan - thanks for answering my Cruz query. Glad to hear it.

Does anyone know if Wahlberg is already member? Or was he one of the 3 acting snubees this year?...

PS. Is there anywhere one can obtain a list of current Academy members?...

Cinesnatch said...

Stranger things than Alba winning/ getting nominated/ stretching for an Oscar? Hmmn. Well, Halle Berry comes close. Okay, okay. I shouldn't write it off completely. I mean, it makes a good comedy anyway.

adam k. said...

Jessica Alba is about where Berry was ten years ago. So I wouldn't be totally shocked. Jessica Biel definitely seems like she could get some play in the near future. She's a good actress, and I'm sure they all wanna bone her.

Anonymous, why do you not think Santaolalla would make a good academy member? He wrote one of the best film scores ever for Brokeback, and wrote great stuff for Motorcycle Diaries and Babel, too. Is it just that he hasn't written scores? Or cause he's not American? I don't see why he would not be a good judge of music. As if the rest of the music branch IS...

It's kind of insulting that they made him win TWICE before deciding to invite him. I'd be pissed. Maybe some people voted for him this year again cause they felt bad about the non-invite? Hmmm...

adam k. said...


"hasn't written *MANY* scores"


btw, re: Berry, I was just thinking that she was probably helped by the fact that she'd broken through with the Dorothy Dandridge movie earlier. So they knew Monster's Ball wasn't a total fluke (well, some of us still think that, but most people didn't). I think it helps to have given some other indications, outside of a single performance, that you are a real actress who could have a real career. So Jessica has some work to do.

Whatever, I should shut up, I actually thought Berry deserved the oscar at the time. She was actually really good in Monster's Ball. But her career outside of that has been crap. And I just kind of hate her in general.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with adam k on Berry. She deserved that Oscar in what was a stellar Best Actress year. Also agreed that her career outside of it has been pretty rubbish.

But I still really like her. Here's hoping Susanne Bier gets another nom-worthy perf out of her later this year (if only for my contest prospects).

Anonymous said...

you stroke the point. Alba is the kind of actress Academy and all the rest can embrace in the right moment and for the right movie (or move, if you want, for example thanks to a deglammed performance, who knows?).
Well the things she's doing at the moment don't call for award recognition (I used to mention THE EYE as a possible vehicle, but for the moment it's a wild card at least, or maybe more apt for saturn awards...) but things can change. History of cinema is full of cases like this, as you said many times.
I must admit I love this girl really more than the people in the blog (I loved her since Max Guevara days, when she was an action girl much more convincing than her Sue Storm), but that consideration could work also for other celebrities. In the future we could have many Theron or Berry, and so for Streep, Moore, Kidman, Watts and Winslet there could be some little problems, even if I hope not...
Mirko S.

Anonymous said...

Jessica Alba/Biel aren't fit to shine Halle Berry's shoes, and both of them probably wish that they could have Halle Berry's career and acclaim. It's pretty insulting to mention Halle Berry alongside those two, who both have much to prove before they can shed their hacky, bimbo images. And Halle fully earned her Oscar as well.

Anonymous said...

About Jhud, umm If you guys haven't noticed a performance is subjective. If I can judge someone's performance so can guys take these things a bit too seriously.


yes we do ;)

but the academy really should, too. ;) ;)

sorry, couldn't resist.

Anonymous said...

This is the anonymous Australian poster who doesn't particularly like Baz Luhrman or Gustavo Santaolalla...

I guess I don't think of Santaolalla as much of a composer for film, as some of the most compelling scenes where his music has been used are the result of the actions of a good editor / music editor / or music-conscious director.

I think of MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, where the five strongest extended pieces in the film are heavily based on cues from Santaolalla albums. In particular the moving coda cue (previously heard on the RONROCCO cd), which is not even altered for its appearance in this film, which suggests to me that the scene was edited to the cue off the CD, rather than the music ever being conceived as something for the film.

Or I could think of THE INSIDER, where Santaolalla's (deservedly) famous 'Iguazu' - also from the RONROCCO album - is tracked by director Michael Mann under two key scenes in the film. Is it really Santaolalla that we can credit for the filmic effect of the piece, when it could be said to be an incidental by-product of his composition that it just happened to work for the film?

BABEL is perhaps the most controversial of all in a sense, because an Oscar was won for it. Leave aside for a moment the plethora of non-Santaolalla music in the film - even the instrumental material by Ryuichi Sakamoto that in any other film would have disqualified the score. (E.g. AVIATOR, RAY, COLLATERAL...) The score is still riddled with references to previously composed works - 'Iguazu' makes its fifth filmic appearance in the helicopter scene (after Insider, Collateral, Yes, and the pilot of 24). Also cues from 21 GRAMS appear in the Japanese story. (So who knows if any of the voters actually voted for this film for the right music!) Leaving all that aside, we're left with 16 minutes of music... and 11 of that consist of an oud playing the same four notes over and over. It has a spell-binding effect the first time it appears in the film (before Blanchett is shot), and even in the second (the entry to Tazarine), but by the tenth, my patience for it was exhausted. There's no arc to this composition, no attempt to register changes in the story, no compelling musical metaphor for the film's argument for barriers in communication... Santaolalla's not a storyteller, or even a strong composer, he's a gifted guitarist. His music can be inspiring when used in a film, but unless the film is intrinsically good he has shown that he cannot improve it with anything like the aplomb of the many fine film composers around. When I think that PERFUME: STORY OF A MURDERER, THE LIVES OF OTHERS, THE NATIVITY STORY, THE PAINTED VEIL and LADY IN THE WATER were all passed over for nominations in favour of BABEL, I can only scratch my head. Those films were uniformly made better by their musical scores - and a great deal of skill went into their production.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN I can't sling much mud at. Part of me wonders why on earth Ang Lee didn't stick with Mychael Danna - who wrote such extraordinary restrained music for THE ICE STORM and RIDE WITH THE DEVIL. (The latter is the best western score of the 90s.) Having said that, I see the appeal of the slow drawn-out guitar cues, and am not surprised in the least that he wrote most of the material without seeing the film - in advance. (Again, he doesn't react to filmic storytelling, he comes up with a few ideas, moves them around as the edit evolves.) Pre-composition can do wonders for a film - I think of Ennio Morricone (not an academy member!) in his hey-day. But the final score barely moves beyond two or three tunes, plucked slowly enough to draw the attention to every edit in the film. And it doesn't surprise me that Marcelo Zarvos (Door in the Floor, The Good Shephard) wrote the string material and 'orchestrated' the music... it doesn't seem likely from his previous cues that Santaolalla could have produced even that basic diatonic accompaniment on his own.

I suppose it's no worse than an Oscar for Giorgio Moroder... or even Harold Faltemeyer. But Ennio Morricone isn't a member of the academy, as far as I know. And Mychael Danna probably isn't either. Nor is Philippe Rombi, or Roque Banos, David Shire probably isn't... I could list a hundred better film composers than Gustavo Santaolalla who have not been honoured in the way he has.

Anonymous said...

How do you know that Ennio Morricone isn't already an Academy member?

Anonymous said...

Not nagging Nat, but it's only one vote. :-)

Anonymous said...

Berry earned her award? In a year where Nicole Kidman gave two astonishing performances and the stand-out tour de force of Naomi Watts in Mulholland finished unonominatted, I really don't know. It was an important moment for american culture, definetely. She was good in Monster's Ball, of course, and she rightly received many accolades (she was elected best actress at Berlin Film Festival and she won the screen actors guild award) and her selection was better than many others in Oscar history (Loretta Young, Shirley Booth or Luise Rainer's two-in-the-row, just to name fews) so Halle's fans have many reasons to say she received her due, but actually I like to remember Nathaniel's comment: Academy loves princesses.
That's why in the future Biel and Alba could have tha same spotlight. I'm not saying they are better actresses than Berry (actually, I don't even wanna say they are very worse than her), but they could benefit (I repeat: in the right moment and for the right film and perf) by the Academy as well.
Gwyneth Paltrow took advantage of the "princess effect". And before her two screen legends such as Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. Again, someone will say I'm wrongly comparing these two to the Jessicas or to Paltrow, but that's not the point. I'm just saying that there is a typology of actress (or role) which much more easily can get Academy consideration. I could mention also Thearon or Swank (in many cases victory helped by the de-glam), if you want.
And Biel and Alba could easily been put in that typology...
Mirko S.


mirko --exactly. you can never say never with the academy because they love to be surprised. consistent excellence can be a deterrent: see kate winslet, barbara stanwyck, michelle pfeiffer etcetera. There are so many examples of actors who are always assumed to have another shot coming and can never hold on to the buzz for the flavor of the year.

anonymous --thanks for the rundown. I love Santaoalla's music for Brokeback Mountain but you make a strong point and I really don't understand how Babel wasn't disqualified given the many many similar musical accompaniments to films that have been. It's a very odd case of the academy not following their own rules... and I'm not sure why they'd make the exception for that film. It's not like Innaritu is a behind the scenes mega powerful force in Hollywood like, say, Spielberg. Why was an exception made?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Halle Berry fully earned her Oscar win for "Monster's Ball".

Glenn Dunks said...

In terms of 2001:
1. Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive
2. Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge
3. Tilda Swinton, The Deep End
4. Renee Zellweger, Bridget Jones' Diary
5. Thora Birch, Ghost World
16. Halle Berry, Monster's Ball that's pretty much how I feel about Berry's win. I actually do have 15 others above her, I didn't just choose a random number.

BTW, Jessica Alba? Trash. Jessica Beil? She has something. And comparing Halle today with Jessica B today is utterly absurd (both at different points of there career).

Anonymous said...

That's you then. Halle Berry was still excellent, topped out my 2001 actress list, and earned her Oscar win.

Anonymous said...

amir_uk, I think Wahlberg was invited after Three Kings, but I don't know for sure.

As for getting a list of all academy members, I don't think the academy regularly publishes such information (I think the only reason they publish the new invitees lists is to shame the people into accepting). That said, in the mid 90's, I remember Miramax finding/buying these lists for thousands of dollars.


wait if kamikaze is playing i wanna play too.

(revised) 2001 list

1. naomi watts -mulholland drive
2. nicole kidman -moulin rouge!
3. charlotte rampling -under the sand
4. renee zellweger -bridget jones diary
5. kirsten dunst -crazy/beautiful
i think i have berry at about 11 but i can't remember the people competing for spots 11 & 12

Anonymous said...

All righty...

01. Charlotte Rampling
02. Tilda Swinton
03. Sissy Spacek
04. Naomi Watts
05. Kerry Fox/Nicole Kidman

Anonymous said...

Again, thanks arkaan for answering that question - either way, though, not that fussed - not really a Wahlberg fan.

And can I play too? 2001 - best year for actresses in a while:

1. Berry
2. Spacek
3. Kidman
4. Swinton
5. Zellweger

Witherspoon comes a close runner-up to these lovely ladies.

Anonymous said...

at this point, I'll put also my line-up:

Judi Dench - Iris
Nicole Kidman - Moulin Rouge
Charlotte Rampling - Under the Sand
Sissy Spacek - In the Bedroom
Naomi Watts - Mulholland Drive

and the winner should have been:

Kudos also to Swinton, Berry, Zellweger and Kidman again (THE OTHERS).

Even if not included in the Oscar race, I'd like to remember also Isabelle Huppert (The Pianist) and Laura Morante (The Son's Room). Even if their movies opened stateside in 2002, in Europe they were seen (and much appreciated) in 2001.

Mirko S.

Anonymous said...

Adam - Brokeback one of the best scores EVER? Yikes. It deserved to win in 2005, but come on.