Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Deadlocked Duel of 2005

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 2005:

George Clooney (Syriana) vs. Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man) for Best Supporting Actor

The background: Two overdue actors vying for one prize. Clooney was getting serious (growing a beard and everything) and Giamatti was finally getting lead parts. Giamatti had been snubbed two years running for his critically-praised breakout role in “American Splendor” and then his Golden Globe- and SAG-nominated performance in “Sideways.” Clooney had earned a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical for “O Brother Where Art Thou,” but otherwise had just earned TV nods for “ER.”

Why it was just the two of them: Buzz for all three of the other nominees didn’t pick up until late in the race. Matt Dillon scored a Golden Globe nod but his film “Crash” didn’t peak until well after that. Jake Gyllenhaal started with a SAG nod, but all the attention for his film was elsewhere. And William Hurt was a surprise nominee at the Oscars for a film few people saw, so his chances were slim at best.

Setting the stage: Originally Clooney was campaigned as a lead before dropping down to supporting. Giamatti was accompanied at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards by costar Russell Crowe in the lead category, giving him an extra boost. Clooney took the Golden Globe and Giamatti took the SAG. Giamatti picked up a few critics’ awards as well. Neither film racked up many nominations aside from these two performers.

Oscar night: As Clooney himself pointed out right away when he won, it was a consolation prize for not winning Best Director. Clooney was also nominated for helming Best Picture nominee “Good Night, and Good Luck,” which went home empty-handed. “Syriana” lost its bid for Best Original Screenplay after it had originally been campaigned as an adaptation. “Cinderella Man” scored surprising nods for makeup and editing but lost in all three of its nominated categories.

Consolation prize for the loser: Many follow-up roles, including lead parts in films like “Lady in the Water” and “Cold Souls,” and a boatload of awards (Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG) for the TV miniseries “John Adams.”

Other notable duels: None. The big surprise that year was “Crash” for Best Picture, but that was an huge upset rather than a duel.

Come back next week for a look at the Deadlocked Duel of 2004. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.


Jorge Rodrigues said...

I completely agree with everything you wrote, even with your opinion of Best Picture.

That was not a duel. No one (ok, ALMOST no one) saw it coming. And it couldn't have been a duel because it was the only time when Crash faced Brokeback and won.

But I'm not going to start my long speech about how it was unfair and how it was a product of the media and how it was a shock and unpredictable because never in the history of the Academy and award-giving this had happened, so... I'm just going to talk about Giamatti and Clooney.

Two performances I liked. Even though I had assumed Giamatti would end up winning (Oscar bait and all), Clooney is such a powerful Hollywood figure that in a race so slim like that year's, I guess I should have seen his victory coming.

Movies with Abe said...

I think I actually predicted "Crash" for Best Picture that year, but that's more because I like to predict upsets ("Sideways" and "Juno" did not win even though I predicted them).

I personally liked "Crash" more than "Brokeback Mountain," but I won't argue with you on that.

I do think that Clooney didn't need to win for "Syriana" (though I liked the film) and I would personally have preferred that he get his first Oscar for "Up in the Air" or even "Ocean's Eleven" (not over Russell Crowe from that year and everything, but based on the effectiveness of the performance in the role). Another point I won't try to argue; just stream of consciousness thinking...