For some stars, it's always an Oscar bridesmaid ... never a winner
Martin Scorsese. Peter O'Toole. Kate Winslet. Kevin O'Connell. They're among the names you'll hear called as nominees at tonight's 79th...
Seattle Times movie critic
Martin Scorsese. Peter O'Toole. Kate Winslet. Kevin O'Connell.
They're among the names you'll hear called as nominees at tonight's 79th annual Academy Awards, and yet they belong to an even more exclusive club: Each has been nominated multiple times and never won. Each has many times dressed up and gone to the ball, and many times smiled a good-sport smile when somebody else's name was read. Each has an acceptance speech at the ready, presumably, but never used. Though they won't be dressed in polyester pastels, they are the Oscar bridesmaids.
Scorsese, up this year for best director for "The Departed," has been nominated eight times: six for directing, two for writing. O'Toole has been eight times nominated in the best actor category (this year, for "Venus"). Winslet, only 31, has five nominations. O'Connell dwarfs them all: He's been nominated 19 times, in various sound or sound-mixing categories (this year, for sound mixing for "Apocalypto") and has never taken home the prize.
O'Connell, in fact, has a special place on the Academy's official Oscar database, leading a list that's boldly titled "BATTING '0'." (The runner-up, art director Roland Anderson, died in 1993 after a career that included 15 nominations and no wins.)
None of these Oscar bridesmaids wants your pity, surely. Or maybe they do, if you're an academy voter. Randy Newman, accepting his first Oscar in 2002 after 15 previous nominations, said, "I don't want your pity" to the Academy audience — but he grinned widely. Newman went on to thank the music branch for "giving me so many chances to be humiliated over the years."
No doubt the Academy notices its snubs. Often, when a Hollywood great achieves a certain age and hasn't won an Oscar, the Academy will conjure up an honorary award. Such honors have been given, in recent decades, to the likes of Lillian Gish, Howard Hawks, Barbara Stanwyck, Myrna Loy, Federico Fellini, Deborah Kerr, Kirk Douglas and Robert Altman, none of whom won a competitive Oscar. Composer Alex North, who scored such films as "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Spartacus," was given an honorary Oscar in 1986 — the year after his 15th nomination without a win. This year, the great composer Ennio Morricone is getting an honorary award, after — unbelievably — five previous nominations without a win.
And sometimes, an honorary award causes an interesting effect: Paul Newman and Henry Fonda both won competitive Oscars in the year immediately after their honorary awards. For Newman, the eighth nomination was the charm. Perhaps O'Toole, who was given an honorary Oscar in 2003 (despite attempting to decline it with the hope that he might still "win the lovely bugger outright") is paying attention.
79th annual Academy Awards:
5 tonight on ABC.
In any case, the anticipation ends tonight for all the nominees, whether veterans or first-timers. Here's a look at whose names might be called in the major categories.
Everyone's still talking about the surprise win of "Crash" last year — and that "Babel," which has a similar interlocking structure, might surprise this year. Maybe, but I'm not sure "Babel" screens as well on DVD (which is how many voters will view it) as "Crash," or whether the academy members might just vote for variety instead. I'm thinking this is Martin Scorsese's year, and that "The Departed" will win here. "Letters from Iwo Jima" has an outside chance, but Eastwood has won this category recently. Less likely are "The Queen," a film whose overall excellence may have been overshadowed by all the ballyhoo for Helen Mirren's performance, and "Little Miss Sunshine," because comedies rarely take the big prize.
Prediction: "The Departed."
My vote: "The Queen."
Wish you were here: "Pan's Labyrinth."
Again, it's a Scorsese year — he won the Directors Guild of America award (often an Oscar harbinger), and I don't see the Academy denying him a win on his eighth nomination. The competition's tricky, though: Voters may be impressed by Eastwood's doubleheader ("Flags of our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima," though he's nominated for "Letters"), and those who watch Paul Greengrass' "United 93" may wish to honor the filmmaker's remarkable achievement in commemorating Sept. 11. Then you have Stephen Frears, whose meticulous direction of "The Queen" is spot-on, and Alejandro González Iñárritu, who could be in the best-picture hunt for "Babel." It's a crowded year, but I think Scorsese's the safest bet.
My vote: Greengrass.
Wish you were here: Todd Field, "Little Children."
Yes, Forest Whitaker has won every pre-Oscar award for his searing, scary portrayal of Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland," but never underestimate Hollywood sentiment. The talented Whitaker will have other chances; Peter O'Toole may not have another role as good as "Venus" ever again. I'm anticipating a charming acceptance speech, as only the Brits can give. As for Will Smith ("The Pursuit of Happyness"), Leonardo DiCaprio ("Blood Diamond") and Ryan Gosling ("Half Nelson") — well, it's just not their year.
My vote: Whitaker.
Wish you were here: Edward Norton, "The Painted Veil."
This just might be the year's easiest call. Anyone who's seen Helen Mirren's regal yet touching performance in "The Queen" is ready to hand her the Oscar, with a polite bow or curtsy. Every performance in this category is stellar — Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada," Judi Dench in "Notes on a Scandal," Penélope Cruz in "Volver" and Kate Winslet in "Little Children" — but barring some unforeseeable upset, Dame Helen will be crowned.
My vote: Mirren.
Wish you were here: Charlotte Rampling, "Lemming."
Best Supporting Actor
This is a category full of comebacks and inspirational stories, and whoever wins will make for a good headline. Eddie Murphy was long the front-runner, for his splendid work in "Dreamgirls." He could still win, but the unfortunate release of his tasteless, tacky comedy "Norbit" just before Oscar ballots are due could hurt him. In that case, look for an upset from sentimental favorite Alan Arkin for "Little Miss Sunshine" (whose last Oscar nomination was in 1969), or from Jackie Earle Haley, so good in "Little Children" after a 13-year absence from movies. Djimon Hounsou ("Blood Diamond") and Mark Wahlberg ("The Departed") have outside chances.
My vote: Murphy.
Wish you were here: Michael Sheen, "The Queen."
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Hudson has won every conceivable award for her soulful work as Effie in "Dreamgirls," and the Academy doesn't seem likely to break the pattern. Then again, little girls tend to do well in this category (Tatum O'Neal, Anna Paquin), and Abigail Breslin's performance in "Little Miss Sunshine" was a charmer. Cate Blanchett, who won this category two years ago for "The Aviator," can't be ruled out for her fine work in "Notes on a Scandal." And the "Babel" cast brings two wild cards whose performances were, for me, the highlight of the movie: Adriana Barraza as a faithful nanny and Rinko Kikuchi as a troubled schoolgirl.
My vote: Kikuchi.
Wish you were here: Emily Blunt, "The Devil Wears Prada."
On the screenplay front, my money's on Michael Arndt for "Little Miss Sunshine" for original screenplay. "Little Children," by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, is one of the best adaptations of a novel in years, but academy members won't know that unless they've read the novel; they'll probably give the adapted-screenplay award to William Monahan for "The Departed." Look for "Pan's Labyrinth" or "The Lives of Others" for the foreign-language film award.
Former Seattleite John Myhre could take home another Oscar for art direction for "Dreamgirls" (he's a previous winner for "Chicago" and "Memoirs of a Geisha"), and current Seattleites James Longley and John Sinno have a shot in the documentary category for "Iraq in Fragments" — if the film can nudge out Al Gore on a lectern in "An Inconvenient Truth."
And, of course, expect some earnest but dull speeches (let's hope someone's helping Jennifer Hudson come up with something new), some fabulous gowns (note to Penélope Cruz: Let's do something better than that big-yellow-bow thing I remember all too well, shall we?) and a few good one-liners from host Ellen DeGeneres. It all starts at 5 tonight. I'll see you then.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com
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