Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Surprise Inclusion of 2009

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Surprise Inclusion is the third in a series of projects looking back at the past eight years of the Oscars, dating back to the first ceremony I watched and closely followed.

Each year, the Oscar nominations announcement presents several shocking names and films. This series is devoted to analyzing the biggest and most surprising inclusion of all (in any category). It has nothing to do with personal opinion but rather with what was considered a surprise at the time compared with what most people were predicting. Once again, this is a film/director/actor whose nomination was unexpected.

The Surprise Inclusion of 2009:

Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart) for Best Supporting Actress

Why it wasn’t going to happen: “Crazy Heart” was all about star Jeff Bridges and his career-topping performance. The film wasn’t even on anyone’s radar until Fox Searchlight suddenly announced at the beginning of November that it would be released the following month. No one was quite sure whether Gyllenhaal should be classified a leading or supporting contender, and she also had another performance, in Sam Mendes’ “Away We Go” from the summer, eligible in the supporting category, though she surely had no shot at a nomination for that. Gyllenhaal’s name was thrown around early on, but by the time Oscar nomination day rolled around, few were predicting her (though Nathaniel of The Film Experience managed to call it the night before).

How it happened: The Golden Globe and SAG lineups shared four actresses in common – Penelope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), and Mo’Nique (Precious). The fifth nominee at the Globes was Julianne Moore (A Single Man), and she likely lost out due to her limited screen time. SAG-nominated Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) probably split the vote with her costar Melanie Laurent. Since everyone was seeing “Crazy Heart” based on the positive buzz surrounding Bridges, it seems to make sense that they noticed Gyllenhaal as well. Additionally, Gyllenhaal had earned Golden Globe nominations and good reviews for her performances in “Secretary” and “Sherrybaby,” and some may have felt she was overdue for a nomination.

Was it deserved? Bridges’ performance is definitely the one that carries the film, and Gyllenhaal’s doesn’t even compare. It’s very much like Ethan Hawke earning a nomination in 2001 for supporting Denzel Washington in “Training Day,” something that doesn’t necessarily represent the work of the lesser performer but instead demonstrates how well the film worked. I’m not sure I agree with the recognition for this performance of Gyllenhaal’s (though she was a runner-up on my list for her turn in “Away We Go”), but she’s definitely an actress who should have at least one Oscar nomination by now.

Come back next week for a look at the Surprise Inclusion of 2008. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.

1 comment:

Greg Boyd said...

2008 has to be "The Reader". Right?