Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Deadlocked Duel of 2007

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Deadlocked Duel is the fourth 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 after the Oscar nominations are announced, there’s at least one category where two nominees end up in a heated battle for the award right up until Oscar night, dividing predictors and keeping Oscar watchers anxiously in suspense. This series is devoted to analyzing the biggest and most intense of those battles each year, in any category.

The Deadlocked Duel of 2007:

Julie Christie (Away from Her) vs. Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) for Best Actress

The background: The veteran Oscar-winning Brit vs. the French breakout. Christie had won on her first try back in 1965 (ten years before Cotillard was even born) for “Darling” and earned two successive nominations, in 1971 and 1997. Cotillard had appeared in a few English-language films like “Big Fish” and “A Good Year” and had been nominated for three César Awards, the last of which she one. By comparison, of course, Christie had been nominated for seven BAFTA Awards, winning once for “Darling.”

Why it was just the two of them: Two of the eventual Oscar nominees were surprises and therefore weren’t likely to end up the victor. Cate Blanchett had received Golden Globe and SAG nods for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” but few expected her to end up on the final Oscar ballot. She hadn’t won for her initial portrayal of the monarch nine years earlier, and the follow-up film was enough of a flop to cancel out her chances. Laura Linney’s nomination for “The Savages” was her award. Young Ellen Page might have had a shot if “Juno” didn’t have so many haters and wasn’t going to definitely go home with the Best Original Screenplay prize.

Setting the stage: The Golden Globes were hardly helpful in determining a frontrunner, as both actresses took home awards in their respective categories – Christie for Drama, Cotillard for Comedy/Musical. Christie steamrolled around with a good deal more critics’ awards and the SAG trophy, but Cotillard eked out one major victory: the BAFTA.

Oscar night: Neither film got a big boost in terms of nominations. “Away from Her,” somewhat surprisingly, was up for Best Adapted Screenplay, replacing the strangely-snubbed “Into the Wild,” while “La Vie en Rose” was up for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup. Cotillard ended up clinching the Best Actress award, becoming the third person to earn an Oscar for an entirely foreign-language performance, and the first French thespian to do so.

Consolation prize for the loser: Nothing really. Besides a memorable small part in “New York, I Love You,” Christie hasn’t done much since. Cotillard, on the other hand, has done extremely well for herself with great roles in “Nine” and “Inception.”

Other notable duels: Cate Blanchett (I’m Not There) vs. Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) for Best Supporting Actress (victor: third nominee Tilda Swinton)

Come back next week for a look at the Deadlocked Duel of 2006. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments. There were a lot of surprises that year but only one duel that I can recall.


Greg Boyd said...

I wasn't blogging at the time, but in my own Oscar predictions I switched from Page to Cotillard at the last minute after reading some stuff about it online.

I did not like "La Vie En Rose" at all (it's in the B-/C+ range with me), but Cotillard was very good. Still, I preferred Christie, Page, and Marketa Irglova in "Once" to her performance.

Greg Boyd said...

Good choice, by the way. The only other competitive race was Supporting Actress, where Swinton came out of nowhere (she deserved it, though).

I still don't understand how "No Country" won that year when there were so many better films to choose from ("Once", "Ratatouille", "Juno", the unfairly overlooked spy thriller "Breach", etc...)

Jorge Rodrigues said...

2007 was really a fantastic year for movies and if it were for me, "There Will Be Blood" would have won Picture and Director by a landmile.

I liked "No Country" but I feel it's not in the same degree of quality as "Blood".

Well... This certainly was the deadlocked duel of 2006 alright. I remember putting all my bets on Cotillard for an upset. And she pulled it off. Liked the performance, hated the movie (I actually think we Portuguese did a better job honoring a national icon in "Amália" than Dahan to Piáf with his "La Vie en Rose").

And I actually would have given the award to Laura Linney or Julie Christie.

Deadlocked Duel of 2006 HAS TO BE supporting actress, right? I remember when Ruby Dee won the SAG and everyone was SO confused - there was even a time when Abigail Breslin was considered one of the frontrunners!

But one could also make a case for Sup. Actor, Photography and Animated Film.

Movies with Abe said...

Jorge, I'm afraid you've got your years a bit mixed up. Jennifer Hudson was always the frontrunner in 2006. Ruby Dee won the SAG for the 2007 year, not 2006. I put Blanchett vs. Ryan as an alternate duel, but Dee winning the SAG and then Swinton winning the Oscar ultimately means it wasn't so deadlocked after all, just wildly unpredictable.

I did go with one of your alternate choices for 2006, but I won't spoil it just yet.

Greg Boyd said...

Jorge, I thought "There Will be Blood" was frankly mediocre. Much like "La Vie En Rose", it had a great lead performanc. That's about it. The film was too long, and was quite frankly a mess.

2007: great year for movies. But both "Blood" and "No Country" would rank in the 10-15 range for me. The best movies that year ("Once" and "Ratatouille") weren't even nominated for Best Picutre, which was a joke.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

Well, I can't agree with you about "There Will Be Blood". I loved it immensely. I loved "Once" and "Ratatouille" as well, but "Blood" is in my #10 of the decade and I really think it should have won more Oscars than it did. We'll have to agree to disagree, I suppose.

And you're right Abe, I have mixed up my years. Yes Ruby Dee won the SAG in 2007 precisely, and that's why this was the year in which the Sup. Actress category was a big confusion. You're right.

But I am also pretty positive that in 2006 Abigail Breslin was once considered for the prize, and then Jennifer Hudson started collecting awards and won the Oscar as well. But hey I don't remember it all that well.

Thanks for correcting me :)

Movies with Abe said...

I think Breslin deserved the award a hell of a lot more than Hudson, but I think she was pretty much a lock from the time "Dreamgirls" was announced. Looking at the IMDB awards page for Breslin, it looks like she picked up three critics' awards but little else, while Hudson picked up considerably more and won the Globe and SAG.

To offer my own take on 2007 films, I thought "La Vie en Rose" was good (a B) and didn't really like "There Will Be Blood" (C+). I agree with G1000 on why I didn't like the latter film, but it was much better than "Breach," in my opinion.

My top 25 films of 2007: