Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Nominees Are...

I'm old enough to remember when they used to come out in the afternoon.  Tuesday, January 24th, we will all find out who's been invited to Hollywood Prom Night. The Oscar® nominations will be announced very early in the Los Angeles morning. As a longtime film fan, I still get excited about hearing the nominees and watching the Oscars pre-show and awards telecast.  This coming Tuesday, careers could be changed instantly due to the words "The nominees are..."  Amazing, the power of those words in Hollywood.  Look at 2006.  I was the movie critic & entertainment contributor on Whoopi Goldberg's syndicated weekday morning show, Wake Up With Whoopi.  It aired on Premiere Radio stations.  I reviewed Oliver Stone's September 11th drama, World Trade Center, starring Nicolas Cage.  A bit player in that film moved me so with her brief performance that I stayed to find out her name in the closing credits.  I wrote it down in my notebook. The Mother In Hospital was played by Viola Davis.
 Another bit player in World Trade Center was actor Michael Shannon as a Marine.  His name too was a good distance from Nicolas Cage's in the closing credits.
Two years later, those two bit players were Oscar nominees in the same year -- Viola Davis was a Best Supporting Actress nominee for Doubt, a drama about democracy and suspicion in a strict 1960s Catholic environment.  Doubt paired her with Meryl Streep.  The two were terrific together.
In the Oscar category for Best Supporting Actor of 2008, Michael Shannon was up for his intense, memorable work in Revolutionary Road,  a suburban marital meltdown drama set in the 1950s.
TV viewers now see him on HBO's Boardwalk Empire as the fiercely Catholic federal agent during the Prohibition of the 1920s. In 2006, he and Viola Davis had minor roles in a major movie starring Oscar winner Nicolas Cage.  Just two years later, no one cared what Cage was wearing on the Academy Awards red carpet, if he was there.  Entertainment reporters wanted to talk to current nominees  Shannon and Davis.  And no entertainment reporter I saw made the connection that the two were minor veterans of the same Oliver Stone drama.  Besides the immediate impact an Oscar nomination can have on an actor's career, another thing that fascinates me is the performance of entertainment reporters that we have on television.  Especially at Oscar time.  If you're a political reporter, you're going to do your homework.  If you're a sports or consumer affairs reporter, you're going to do your homework.  But how much research and creative thinking are TV's entertainment reporters doing?  Are they missing golden opportunities for great answers by tossing out standard, unimaginative questions and comments?  It's expected that Viola Davis will be a Best Actress nominee for The Help.  Viola would make Oscar history with that nomination.  As of now, Whoopi Goldberg is the only African-American woman with more than one Oscar nomination for acting to her credit.  She was nominated for The Color Purple and Ghost.  I'd mention that if I was on TV covering the Oscar nominations and/or awards show.

Entertainment reports missed some big opportunities for juicy Meryl Streep soundbites when she was a Best Actress nominee for playing famed TV chef Julia Child in Julie & Julia.  I mentioned this to Whoopi on her radio show one morning.  She's a hardcore Hollywood history and classsic film fan.  When Whoopi and I were kids, if a Hollywood film was released and it was directed by a woman, that woman was Ida Lupino.  Starting in the early 1950s, this acclaimed screen actress took a glamorous hammer to the Hollywood glass ceiling by becoming a respected film & TV director.  She wore high heels into the Boys' Club and made her mark when women directors were quite rare.
Streep was asked several times about how it felt to be costumed like Julia Child.  Here's what the reporters missed:  In a town in which very few films released for decades were directed by women, Meryl Streep had two big releases in one year and each was directed by a female.  Nancy Meyers directed It's Complicated.  Nora Ephron got Streep to Hollywood Prom Night for the record-breaking 16th time by directing her in Julie & Julia.  Another female, Kathryn Bigelow, would make history for that same year by being the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar.  Her film, The Hurt Locker, would also win Best Picture.  Three directors in the same year who contributed to Women In Hollywood  history. I would've asked Streep about that.  I would've asked her about being one of the few women to have been directed by another woman to a Best Actress Award Award nomination.  (The first was actress Ruth Chatterton for the 1930 film Sarah and Son directed by Dorothy Arzner, the woman who preceded Lupino behind the camera in Hollywood.)  And I would've mentioned Ida Lupino.  My point is, if you're going to be an entertainment reporter, do what the good actors have done when they've earned Oscar nominations.  Commit to your role and do your homework.  Mix something different, nuanced and original in with "Who did your dress?"  Make your work stand out.  In a good way.  Thanks for reading this. Feel free to leave comments and Oscar predictions.

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