At this juncture, the first post of the New Year 2012, I’m beginning to think of the Oscar landscape as sort of a roiling seascape. It’s most fascinating aspect is the tides, their ever-changing ebb and flow. And it does change, this Oscar race, we are all so avidly following. And if you’re not, why are you reading this???
So what’s changed since yesterday? Well, certain box office numbers came in, and came in lower than expected. Like for instance, the holiday numbers of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” which are OK, but not the blockbuster figures Sony was hoping for with a $100 million budget. This hurts Rooney Mara’s nascent Oscar campaign, I’m afraid. Right at the time the voters have received their ballots in their homes.
Most send them RIGHT BACK, making sure that they are counted. You can check out the stats at www.boxofficemojo.com And “The Iron Lady” opened strong, but not THAT strong. Everybody these days feels that the first weekend is everything, and especially in the middle of the Oscar campaigns, that is not necessarily the case.
But “Dragon Tattoo” is not measuring up, and I think that dooms Rooney Mara’s chance to crack that locked and loaded Five SAG women, who are nominated for Best Actress. I think that on Oscar morning, we’ll find out that Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Michelle Williams and yes, Tilda Swinton, are going to repeat their SAG nomination victories. If you consider the SAG nominations a victory. And they are of sorts.
Of course, it’s an honor. It is after all your peers voting for you here. And it’s the first glimpse we get into what the all important Hollywood guilds are actually thinking and feeling right about now. And the above ladies are who they are feeling for.
Rooney Mara is the newbie, the upstart outsider trying to get in, but…with those numbers at the B.O. I’m afraid “Dragon Tattoo” is not going to make it into that very locked-up-for-ages category.
You always wish they could expand the category just a LEEETLE bit, but, of course, they never do. It’s against the rules.
Then there’s the Five SAG men. And last night I finally got a chance to watch Demian Bichir’s out-of-the-blue nominated performance in the leeetle-seen Indie “A Better Life.” It starts slow, but then BANG! It blew me out of the water and Bechir held me in the grip of his powerful, moving performance as a Mexican father, an illegal immigrant in today’s L.A., who is working as a gardener and trying to make “A Better Life” for his son. He was heroic. No anti-hero here. And troubles galore do ensue, as he is always trying to do the right, moral thing in the immoral, or amoral world of the hispanic underclass.
It’s a terrific film and a great performance by Bichir. Summit Entertainment, the film’s distributor, did the smart & impossible that usually is associated with Sony Pictures Classics or Lionsgate, by sending out the DVD screeners of this film to the entire SAG membership, and most especially the 2100 members of their nominating committee EARLY. REALLY EARLY. Like SPC did last year with “Animal Kingdom” that just as unseen-in-theaters film that got Australian actress Jackie Weaver an Oscar nomination in Supporting Actress last year. She didn’t win, but in her very unlikely case, it was a honor just to be nominated. And like Lionsgate did so famously with “Crash” upsetting “Brokeback Mountain.” That was in 2005. And the strategy still works.
Oh! Those September screeners! Those first out-of-the-box DVDs to arrive at a time when the voters have time to watch them. Like in the REALLY early fall. Like Labor Day. And it seemed EVERYone in SAG watched “A Better Life” and were equally wowed, as I was, by Bichir’s heart-wrenching performance.
He didn’t repeat this at the Golden Globe awards. He was replaced there by Michael Fassbender for “Shame” And much as I adore Michael F. and his constant full frontal nudity didn’t faze me in the least, I think it WILL faze the S.W.O.R.M, The Straight White Old Rich Men, who make up the Academy. Yes, as I’m always pointing out, THEY are the majority. Like it or not, that’s what we’re dealing with here. ALWAYS.
And sadly, the double standard is still in effect. The naked young girl, like for instance, last year’s Natalie Portman, almost always wins over the older actresses who are also nominated. I think, as I’ve said many times, this “Babe Rule” is going to apply once again this year in a close race for Best Actress between Michelle Williams and her older cohorts.
But oh no! MEN can’t be seen naked in Hollywood films! Especially not from the front! And especially when shown urinating! And yes, you don’t just HEAR it happening! You see the actual, physical process taking place RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! Michael Fassbender is facing upstage(and totally naked, again, natch) but you get the picture.
But the Academy won’t get this picture. They are nothing, if not closet prudes and homophobes as we know (See “Brokeback Mountain” NOT winning in 2005) So no, to Michael Fassbender, and yes, to Demien Bichir. As the SAGS have already said.
Also, “Shame”s box-office is not registering with movie-goers despite the constant sex scenes and the as-noted nudity. See BoxOfficeMojo, again. Which is, well, a shame.
What is doing WELL at the Box Office surprisingly is “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” which is a British film that boasts a terrifically understated performance by the great actor Gary Oldman, who has never ONCE been nominated. He could sneak in here and replace Bichir, if the large British voting bloc within the Academy votes for him and not Mexican Bichir. But George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jean Dujardin of “The Artist” I think are as equally locked and loaded in their category of Best Actor, as the five aforementioned ladies are in their category.
The Supporting races, especially Best Supporting Actress, are usually not SAG matches and are usually all over the place. So much so that I will discuss them separately. But the SAG 5 & 5 rule!