We’re just days away from the 2015 Academy Awards. Before host Neil Patrick Harris does a little soft-shoe, belts out an opening number, and trophies are handed out to contenders from films including American Sniper, Boyhood, and Birdman, The Daily Beast’s resident film nerds Marlow Stern and Kevin Fallon debate who they think will win and should win in the major categories.
In the second installment of the series, they take on the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress races. Check back throughout the week for more.
Marlow: We’ve already gabbed about the male statuette suitors, now it’s time for the women. It’s no secret that women are still—in 2015—treated like second-class citizens in Hollywood. Don’t believe me? Check out New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis’s eye-opening series unloading on Tinseltown for its sexist double-standards, the recent revelation unearthed by The Daily Beast that Jennifer Lawrence was compensated less than her (less famous) male colleagues, and a disturbing study concluding that women only made up 12 percent of all lead protagonists in the top-grossing films of 2014 (down three percentage points from 2013). The situation, needless to say, is dire.
Kevin: It’s a sad state of affairs, especially when you consider that, as depressing as representation is for women in Hollywood in general, the situation is even worse for minority women. Not a single Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress nominee is a person of color. As a gangly white boy with the inner spirit of a strong black woman, this infuriates me. Granted, the situation is such that I can only think of one minority contender who ever really stood a shot—Selma’s spectacular Carmen Ejogo—and even that was a long one. That right there speaks volumes.
Marlow: Right. A recent interview with Mo’Nique, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2010 for Precious, really shed light on many of the problems facing minority women. That was a powerhouse performance, but after reaching the pinnacle of her profession, she says she was “blackballed” by Hollywood due to the prevailing perception that she was “difficult” to work with. Historically, it seems like many of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar winners that drift away from film are black women (see: Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique, Octavia Spencer). It’s fucked up. Hoping Lupita Nyong’o will buck the trend with upcoming roles in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Jungle Book, and the biopic Queen of Katwe, opposite David Oyelowo.
Kevin: But even taking race out of it, what a drab group of performances we’re saddled with in the supporting category. C’mon, did anyone really watch Keira Knightley, who is perfectly lovely in The Imitation Game, and think, “THAT! That is an award-worthy performance?” And as for the Jennifer Aniston Memorial Award for Best Actress, I think we all already know how weak that category is this year.
Marlow: Oh, Keira. “I got served some tea and crumpets today by a waiter who would not be there, if not for you.” “I saw a man flash me on the Tube today who would not be there, if not for you.” Apparently if you, like Keira, repeat the tag line from the movie poster enough, each time more lip-quiveringly committed than the last, you will be nominated for an Oscar: “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” Props to Harvey Weinstein for pushing that one through, though. The man is an awards beast, and the only reason why a perfectly OK stately biopic like The Imitation Game can somehow collect eight Oscar nominations.
Kevin: “Why The Imitation Game Should Win the Best Picture Oscar.” Remember that Washington Post article from yesterday? LOLOLOL.
Marlow: Hilarious. But you gotta give it up for Patricia Arquette. The performance she delivers in Boyhood—over the course of 12 years, no less—is remarkable. She made me want to tell everyone to lose the “horseshit attitude,” and the sequence where she finally confronts her abusive husband floored me. Go, Alabama!
Kevin: Yep, Arquette losing this would be the biggest shocker of the night. None of the other nominees come close to her. Aside from Meryl Streep—and fight me on this at risk of your life, Marlow—who gave the epitome of a movie star performance in Into the Woods, the other three women were so…blah. There seems to be a late-game movement for an Emma Stone win for Birdman, which…what? She’s like Knightley. She’s great in Birdman, but that is not an Oscar-winning role. Stone has an Oscar waiting for her at some point in her career, but she shouldn’t get one now just because it’s cool to say you liked Birdman.
As for Laura Dern, I’m going to assume—and I’m probably right—that this nomination is a reward for delivering a duo of devastating mom performances this year, not just in Wild but in The Fault in Our Stars, too. I almost wish she had gotten in for Fault in Our Stars instead, which was a showier role for her. Plus, it would’ve been a gutsier move by the Academy to honor a mainstream Hollywood film that was surprisingly good, respectfully made, and made me cry so hard I’m still on a strict regimen of Gatorade and water pills to rehydrate myself, instead of a so-so indie. And speaking of so-so indies, let’s talk about the Best Actress race.
Marlow: I was there for those glorious Fault waterworks! I know speaking ill of Meryl Streep is even more sacrilege than speaking ill of Beyoncé, but at this point the Academy is just giving away nods to her. There is no way she deserved to be nominated for Into the Woods, which was one of the most grating, snooze-worthy movies of the year, and her Oscar for The Iron Lady should be mailed to Viola Davis or Rooney Mara. As a huge David Lynch-head, I will always be Team Dern, too. Would’ve been great—again—to see the Academy exhibit even the smallest amount of imagination here and nominate a Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer) or Uma Thurman, who tore through her fiery sequence in Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 like Hurricane Katrina.
Kevin: A Hurricane Katrina reference! Bold.
Marlow: OK, Hurricane Uma. But alas, I digress. Best Actress. I mean… Julianne Moore is due, so this will be one of those classic “career Oscars,” a la Kate Winslet for The Reader. The difference here being, of course, that Moore is actually aces as a brilliant academic slowly losing her faculties to Alzheimer’s in Still Alice, whereas Winslet’s turn in The Reader was laughably, laughably bad.
Kevin: Marlow, you are out of your damn mind. Listen, I’m ready to admit the rubber-stamping of Streep nods over the years has been embarrassing, but this is one case where she actually deserved to get in. Her Witch in Into the Woods was surprising, sexy, and powerful, and chewed scenery with ravenous abandon as expertly as she mined nuanced, subtle emotion from Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics. And whatever sorcery that took her singing voice from the cat screeching in Mamma Mia to what we heard in “Last Midnight” deserves an Oscar in its own right. Now I digress.
Marlow: But it’s basically the same performance (only less so) than her saucy, seductive turn in Death Becomes Her!
Kevin: Yes, Julianne Moore is obviously going to win an Oscar. And it is obviously about time. And it is obviously a career award, because she should’ve won at least one other trophy by now. But it also isn’t, because she delivers the obvious best performance of the bunch. I’m glad she’ll win, but decades from now, I think we’re all going to feel a little embarrassed that her Oscar was for this movie that no one will remember come March instead of a film she deserved it for (I’m thinking Far From Heaven, especially). Can anyone even touch Moore at this point? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Sorry, that’s such a funny thought. I just reread the list of nominees—absolutely not!
Marlow: Absolutely not. Moore should have a few Oscar trophies on her mantle by now for Far From Heaven, The Big Lebowski, and most of all the “Are you my mom?!” cocaine-snorting scene in Boogie Nights, and thankfully her time has (finally) come.